Finding Mr. Darcy
by Kate Willoughby
Gillian wished that gloves weren’t part of her costume. She was nervous and her hands were sweaty.
“I’ll never find him,” she said to her friend Sue.
“Yes, you will. He’s already checked in. Look for a top hat.”
Sue was an up and coming party planner. This Valentine’s Day costumed mixer was her promotional brainchild, a brainchild that had gone viral within the singles community of Woodland Hills. The rules were simple. If you wanted to go, you paid the fee and RSVP’d online. The catch was that you had to come as one half of a famous pair—Antony and Cleopatra, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Bonnie and Clyde, etc. When you arrived at the party, you were supposed to find and dance with your other half.
Gillian had always loved Jane Austen’s work. Pride and Prejudice was her favorite, so she wanted to go as Elizabeth Bennett, but although she’d posted her character/costume choice early, no one signed up as Mr. Darcy. Finally, on February thirteenth, Sue called—a Mr. Darcy was coming.
“Thank goodness!” Gillian had exclaimed. Even though Sue had planned other ways for people to mix and meet besides destiny, Gillian had imagined how romantic it would be to interact with a man in Regency clothing and who probably liked Austen as well. She speculated about the type of man he was. Tall, hopefully. Funny. Humble. Not living with his mother.
Now at last, the moment of truth had arrived. Gillian tried not to be obvious as she made her way around the room, searching, but although she spotted Romeo, Superman, and Indiana Jones, she saw neither hide nor hair of Mr. Darcy. Until...
“Pardon me,” a voice said behind her.
Turning, she saw a man magnificently dressed in a cut-away coat, brocade waistcoat and boots. No top hat, but a nicely tied cravat that looked like it might have been a wedding veil in another life.
She curtsied and managed to stammer, “Y-yes.”
His smile was warm and his bow, utterly romantic. “I came especially to meet you, Miss Bennett. Would you care to dance?”
She focused for the first time on the music, a techno club song that didn’t lend itself to the gentility of their costumes. “I’d actually rather talk if you don’t mind,” she said.
Offering his arm, he suggested they venture outside. The night air felt refreshing as they exchanged real names. She discovered that Thomas had been born and raised in Los Angeles, like she was. He managed a pub not to far from where she lived. She told him about her job as a pre-school teacher.
“So, let me get this straight. You make a conscious choice to spend the day with small uncivilized children?”
She laughed. “It’s my job to civilize them. Besides, you make the choice to spend the evenings with intoxicated adults...”
“Touché,” he said with a wry, Darcy-like smile. “You’re absolutely right.”
They spent an hour there, away from the party, discussing Jane Austen’s work, more recent fiction (they were both avid readers), and their mutual wish to visit England someday. Just as they were about to go inside, his phone rang.
After glancing at the screen, he apologized, checked his watch, and texted a reply.
“I’m sorry,” he said afterward. “My mom wanted to know what time I’d be getting home.”
Oh, no! Gillian blanched and her heart sank. He did live with his mother. This was a disaster. He was such a mama’s boy he even had a curfew.
She must have let her emotions show on her face because he frowned. “What’s wrong?” Then it dawned on him. “Oh, it’s not like that. I have my own place. Mom’s recovering from a hernia operation and since Dad passed away and I’m an only child, I’ve been helping her out since she got released from the hospital. In fact, that’s the reason I waited so long to RSVP for this dance. I wanted to make sure she was healing up all right.”
Smiling in relief, she said, “I think it’s wonderful that you take care of your mother like that. I’m afraid I jumped to the wrong conclusion.”
“No harm done,” Thomas said, laughing. “Say, my house may not be as grand as Darcy’s, but maybe you could come over next Friday for dinner. Mom should be fine by then and I’d like to show you that book I was talking about.”
Gillian was happy to accept his invitation. In fact, a few months later, she accepted another of Thomas’ invitations—this time not for dinner, but for a lifetime. The next Valentine’s Day at Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, she and Thomas got married, dressed in the very costumes they’d worn when they first met.