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Carrying Torches

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"Lydia, you are not coming! You got perfectly ossified at the last one, you know you did!" Lizzie said, pacing up and down the room.

Lydia rolled her eyes and switched on the radio on the table. She tinkered with it until jazz filled the room.

"Lighten up, doll," she replied, flipping her bobbed hair, "You've no reason to stop me. I'll go if I darn well please."

"Language, Lydia," Jane said from the couch, where she was altering her dress.

"You can come with me, if you like," offered Mary, "I'm sure the meeting will be very interesting tonight."

"Who wants cocoa and bluenoses when they could be hoofing it all night?" demanded Kitty.

Lizzie sighed. Lydia would be going to Mr. Lucas' "tea party," and she'd no doubt have far too much tea. Again. Lydia might be the youngest but she was always ahead of her sisters - the first to get her hair bobbed, the first to start smoking, the first to use all the newest slang. Papa didn't care and Mama just wanted her favorite daughter to be happy. And with Kitty always supporting her, Lydia never felt the need to listen to her older sisters.

Mary and Kitty were still fighting, and Lydia had turned away from her sisters and was dancing the Charleston to the music from the radio. There seemed to be little point in arguing any further. Lizzie picked up her new cloche hat and fit it over her bobbed hair, examining the effect in the mirror.

"...and anyway, Mama wants her to go!" Kitty yelled at the end of a tirade.

Lizzie looked up. "Why?" she asked.

"Didn't you hear? There's a new swell in town. He's the Real McCoy - rich, handsome, you name it," Kitty replied.

"What's the moniker?" Lydia asked, pausing to look at her sister.

"Bingley, according to Mrs. Lucas. Mr. Lucas invited him," Kitty explained.

"Huh. Well, there you go, Lizzie. Mama wants me to meet Mr. Bingley," Lydia said. She lit up a cigarette and threw herself down on the couch.

"Butt me," asked Kitty, sitting down next to her and holding out her hand.

Mary tutted and left the room. Lydia handed her sister a cigarette and helped her light it.

Jane shook out her dress and held it against herself. The hem was a good two inches shorter than it had been. "Do you think that's all right?" she asked, looking anxiously at Lizzie.

"Looks swell to me," Lizzie smiled. "Maybe I should do mine, if we're getting dolled up for the new big shot."


"Ladies and gentleman, we are Curtis Carlyle and his Six Black Buddies! Now you all just syncopate a little..."

The jazz wasn't as hot as the big clubs in New York, but it was still enough to get people dancing. The floor was covered with couples when the door opened and three people the girls had never seen before walked in.

Lizzie happened to be dancing with Charlotte Lucas when they came in, so she stopped when she saw them. "Do you know which one is Bingley?" she asked.

"The blond one in the middle. The woman must be his sister. He told Papa he might bring her. I don't know who the third is."

"Just as well, really. He doesn't look like a fella worth knowing."

Mr. Lucas went over to welcome the newcomers. Mr. Bingley introduced his sister and friend. His sister smiled and simpered. His friend just scowled at the room.

Mr. Bingley turned away, and the music took over. Lizzie watched Mr. Bingley and his sister each collect a drink in a tea cup. Bingley's friend refused a drink and just stared around the room.

Charlotte slipped away through the dancers to speak to her father, and then came back to tell Lizzie that the woman was indeed Caroline Bingley, and the third man was Will Darcy, a friend of Bingley's who had especially asked to come tonight.

"Well, you'd think if he wanted to come he'd live a little. He hasn't even had a drink. Any dough?" Lizzie asked.

"Oh, loads. He's even richer than Bingley."

Lizzie danced a little longer, and then when the band rested, she went over to Jane to fill her in. While they were talking, Bingley came over and introduced himself, towing Darcy behind him.

"Well, baby, you want to dance?" Bingley asked Jane, holding out his hand.

Jane smiled her brightest smile and put her hand in his. Bingley started to lead her away, but turned back to Darcy.

"Oh, come on Darcy, don't be such a wet blanket. Dance with Lizzie," he said.

Darcy looked at Lizzie and turned his scowl on his friend. "You have got to be kidding, Bingley. You've got the only girl here who isn't a total pill."

Lizzie scowled back at him. "Says you", she replied.

He glanced at her, and then stepped away.

Jane let go of Bingley's hand to go back to her sister, but Lizzie waved her off. "Everything's jake, Jane. Go dance," said Lizzie, taking a step back.

Charlotte came up and grabbed her arm. "What's eating you? You look furious!"

"That Darcy of yours said I'm an absolute pill! Right to my face!"

"He didn't!"

"Well, close enough," Lizzie amended, "He said Jane was the only girl who wasn't a pill when Bingley told him to dance with me."

"Well that's just baloney, and you know it," replied Charlotte. "Come have some giggle water with me."

"Sure thing," Lizzie walked with her towards the bar. Kitty was drinking what was clearly not her first cup, but Lydia wasn't in sight.

"Kitty, where's Lydia?" Lizzie asked as she sat down.

"Dunno. She went off with some sheik to neck, I think. He said he had a hot breezer outside."

Lizzie rolled her eyes, but she knew she couldn't stop Lydia from doing whatever she wanted. "Don't drink too much, Kitty," she warned.

"Oh, pipe down, Lizzie," Kitty whined.

Lizzie sighed and took a sip of her own hooch. It was pretty good. She sat down next to Charlotte and let the music wash over her.