She's sitting in Starbucks waiting for Mary to get there when she sees him.
Not George Wickham, someone else.
Tall, curly blond hair, bearded. She likes him at first glance, but her judgement has been wrong before, so she doesn't make a move. Doesn't even think about risking another broken heart when hers is just barely healed.
Mary comes in and they're sipping iced coffee and eating chocolate chip scones when Lydia decides to speak up anyways.
"Hey, have you seen that guy before? He looks kinda nice."
Mary shakes her head. "No, but I think you should go say hi. Step out of your shell a little."
Lydia inhales, holds her breath for a moment. "I don't know. Maybe."
"Just go. Say hey, ask him his name. He looks like a newcomer." Mary pushes her out of her chair. "Make him feel welcome."
Lydia raises her eyebrows, but steps over to his window table and hesitates before saying, "Hi, I'm Lydia. Are you new around here?"
He looks up from his book and smiles. "I'm Xavier. And yes, I'm new here. It's nice to meet you."
Lydia hesitates (she can faintly make out Mary giving her a thumbs up in her peripheral vision) before she says anything else. "Nice to meet you too. And, um, if you ever want someone to show you around town, I've lived here my whole life and would be happy to show you around."
He smiles and nods. "Thanks, Lydia. Can I get your number?"
She nods and nervously tells him the string of digits.
"I guess I'll see you around, then?" He says.
She nods. "See you around, Xavier."
Mary gives her a high five when she sits back down at their table. "You did great."
Lydia rolls her eyes. "I was a nervous wreck."
"He asked for your number." Mary smirks. "You can't have been too bad."
Lydia smiles. "Okay, you win."
"Just give love another chance, okay?"
Lydia nods. "Okay."
This is Xavier. I really would like that tour.
Like a date?
Yes. Like a date.
Would Sunday work for you?
That'd be great. Meet me at the Starbucks at ten?
Wonderful. See you then.
They meet at Starbucks on Sunday.
"Hello," he says when she sits down at his table with her iced coffee.
"So where are we adventuring to?" His bushy eyebrows move as he speaks and she finds it rather amusing.
"I thought we'd go to the library first," Lydia says, and then thinks about what Lizzie would say if she knew that lately, she's been reading quite a bit more than she used to. She finally understands why Lizzie always had her nose in a book - it's a glorious escape from mundane reality.
"That sounds excellent," Xavier responds, and on impulse, she grabs his hand. He doesn't protest.
They walk the three blocks to the library hand in hand, and Lydia doesn't think about how this is the first man she's held hands with since George. The librarian looks at them slightly warily when they begin to peruse the young adult literature, faces animated in their whispered discussion of the similarities and differences of John Green and Stephen Chbosky. (They're being far too loud, but the librarian doesn't reprimand them. Their happiness is almost contagious.)
They're sitting on a park bench when he kisses her on the cheek, blushing and shy. She's taken aback for a moment - she hasn't kissed anyone since George - but she tries to smile anyways. It can't hurt. Nothing can hurt like George did.
His beard is rough against her cheek and it feels too familiar and her breath catches in her throat for a moment. He notices.
"Lydia, are you okay?"
She nods hurriedly. "Yeah. Yeah, don't worry about me, I'm fine."
He looks at her, eyes full of concern. "No, you're not. Was it something I did? Would you like to talk about it?"
She hesitates, but she nods, slowly at first. "Okay. Yeah."
She tells him everything that afternoon on the park bench, everything about George, about all the boys and men before him.
He's excellent at listening and wiping away tears.
And afterwards, he smiles and says "Want to go to a movie sometime this week?"
She says yes.
She calls Lizzie that night.
"I met a guy." She's hesitant to share this, afraid of reprimanding from both her sister and her sister's, ahem, significant other, but the words need to flow out of her mouth and settle somewhere else.
Lizzie's response surprises her, though. "I'm glad," Lizzie says through the miles of telephone wire. "Tell me more."
"His name is Xavier," she begins, and she's already beginning to grow fond of the way his name rolls off of her tongue.
"Not a local?"
"No. Not a local."
"What does he look like?"
"Tall. Curly blond hair, green eyes, bushy beard. Certainly not up there with my top ten hottest men, but they're all celebrities and he's really nice."
"And I told him about George and he still asked me if I wanted to go to a movie, after all that."
"Sounds like a keeper."
"I kind of hope he is," Lydia confesses. "Is that wrong, Lizzie? Is it wrong for me to want forever with someone? Is it too soon?"
"It's been a year."
"Has it really been that long?"
"Yeah. You made it through this year, Lyds. I'm so proud of you."
"Thanks, sis. I'm proud of you too."
On the sidewalk, after the movie, she kisses him. Slow and sweet, not fearful, not angsty. Just a kiss.
The first, but not the last.
A month after their first date, Lizzie and Darcy come to town and Xavier comes for dinner. He's already met her parents, but Darcy has become the older brother she never had and he makes a point of watching out for her. (She appreciates it.)
And when Lizzie and Darcy head upstairs for the night (of course he's staying at their house), Darcy smiles at her.
"He seems like a really great guy, Lydia."
She nods. "I'm pretty damn sure he is."
Three months in and she takes the necklace George gave her and runs it over with her car until it's fake gold dust on hot black asphalt.
It feels unspeakably wonderful to crush the last thing he gave her.
Six months pass and they're still together, and happy.
Darcy has put a ring on Lizzie's finger and rumor has it that Bing isn't far from doing the same for Jane. Lydia's happy for them - she can't think of anyone who loves each other more.
Nine months and there's whisper of marriage between them when she tells him that Bing proposed to Jane and Lizzie's wedding is only a month away.
"Would you like to get married someday?"
"Is this a proposal?"
"Yes. I'd like to get married, someday."
Jane is the maid of honor at Lizzie's wedding and Lydia and Gigi are the bridesmaids.
Lydia catches the bouquet. Xavier catches the garter.
It's probably a sign.
It's Bing and Jane's wedding reception and they're sitting under a weeping willow on an old blanket that she dug out of the trunk of her car. Her head is resting on his shoulder.
"Can I ask you something?"
He hands her something and it's hard and velvety and box shaped. Her breath catches when he opens it and the ring reflects the moonlight.
There are silent tears running down her face and it's not a big and elaborate proposal but it means more than if he'd asked with fireworks and a proposal like poetry.
"Yes. Of course I'll marry you."
He kisses her and the past fourteen months flash before her eyes, each month better than the one before it.
She's found herself in love with life, and this man, and the promise of always.
They're married on a chilly November evening, stars clear in the sky.
The last of the day's light filters through the stained glass windows of the church as she says "I do" and he slides the ring onto her finger.
At the reception, Mrs. Bennet is crying tears of joy. "All three of my daughters married, and to such wonderful men! This is the happiest day of my life!"
It isn't the first time she has said that it is the happiest day of her life. It won't be the last.
But, Lydia thinks to herself as she talks and laughs and dances with all those that she loves, it might just be the happiest day of mine.