#11 from The 3 A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kiteley
The young girl opposite her at the restaurant isn’t Jane. Her name, in fact, was Elizabeth, a fact we all knew, but Cathy was nervous, and her favorite author was none other than Jane Austen.
“He may very well be your Mr. Darcy,” Elizabeth said softly as she sipped her coffee and glanced about for the waiter. I waved one over. Cathy was oblivious.
“Do you really think so? Do you really think that he has planned this specifically to engage me in marriage?” her face was so bright that I couldn’t bear to say no so I said nothing. Elizabeth, after all, was the one she was asking. Or Jane, if Jane chose to answer.
“Sure,” Elizabeth has an uncertain gleam in her eyes as the waiter fills the coffee. Any thought of ordering is lost on us, however, as Glenn was slated to arrive soon and Elizabeth and I would slip off to a different table, waiting patiently for us nearby.
“Oh, Jane! What a delight! What an absolute pleasure! What shall I say, should he ask for my hand? Oh, Jane, I am at a loss!”
Elizabeth sips her coffee and looks toward the entrance. “Say yes,” she states, as she rises and takes her coffee cup in hand. I mimic her actions and we move aside and sit at a table distant enough to be ignored yet close enough to see clearly, as Glenn sweeps into the room with great ease and a broad smile upon his mustached face. He is wearing the tailored suit of a wealthy businessman. Would he ask Cathy to marry him? I did not know but I believed not. I had seem him wrapped up in the arms of a young woman at the theater not four nights ago. He was a rogue that would not settle down as quickly as Cathy dared hope.
For reasons unknown to anyone but myself and Elizabeth, the Mr. Darcy comment was cruel and could only have been conjured up by a callous heart, though Elizabeth would never claim that about herself. She is all charity and good virtues. One sees only what she presents for them to see. Only those that look closer can note the flush upon her cheeks at Glenn’s arrival and recall, with minute clarity, that she had a dress much like the one the trollop wore to the theater and a hat much like the one clutched at the back of Glenn in the midst of the passionate embrace.
Cathy isn’t smiling anymore and Elizabeth is looking at her coffee cup. I see the panic in Cathy’s gaze as Glenn reaches for the bread. He has the audacity to remain and dine with her. It is something one expects from Glenn. It is Elizabeth who appears to be unnerved with every passing moment. She nibbles at her lips and fiddles with her coffee cup. I could see Cathy growing rigid in disbelief and rage while Elizabeth seemed to take on the nervousness her friend possessed prior. I look for the waiter.
“Oh, Jane,” mutters Elizabeth softly. “Oh, Jane, you have woven a tangled web and I have chosen to fall into it. Oh, Jane, whatever shall we do?”
The waiter brings our check and I watch Cathy turn her head slowly toward us, pleading with her eyes for rescue. Elizabeth is stationary. She dare not approach the table of her lover and her best friend, who are in the midst of chaos, and I can’t leave Elizabeth muttering to Jane in despair. Though, what comfort I can offer, no one knows. Silently I pay the bill and watch Glenn do the same, rise and leave. Cathy crumbles.
“Oh, Jane, would my condolences be false? Would my friendship be harsh? I never should have compared him to Mr. Darcy. And yet, now, the faith of my friend, who loves you more than herself, is lost to love. Oh, Jane, how you have failed her!” Elizabeth and I rise and cross the room. I watch Cathy weep on Elizabeth’s shoulder and I wonder when Cathy’s love for Jane Austen had transferred over to Elizabeth, so that Elizabeth spoke to Jane as Cathy does. But, I recall the subtle difference in their pleas. Though Cathy seeks wisdom from Jane, Elizabeth seeks blame, and that only proves that nothing changes in the course of life. Elizabeth and Glenn will marry but it won’t last longer than most. Cathy will find her Mr. Darcy, for Jane has assured her happiness. I know this. I have great assurances about Cathy’s happiness.