Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six, Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine, Chapter Ten, Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve, Chapter Thirteen, Chapter Fourteen, Chapter Fifteen
The first week following Jane and Elizabeth's return was soon gone. The second began. Alison and Elizabeth both strove to behave as if all were normal, and it made the former feel not so isolated in this Pride and Prejudice world as she had. Furthermore, Elizabeth's knowledge of her identity served as a reminder of it. She was no longer at liberty to completely forget her true self, and that was a relief, but the details of the modern world continued to slip away day by day. She knew details of her children lives, but they were confused, and Tom was starting to disappear all together. The only thing she continued to clearly recall was Austen's novel. It was her whole world.
Mr. Bennet had again come to her room in the evening, this time to express the private sentiment that he thought it an excellent thing that she and Lizzy had come to an understanding. Alison was not nearly so taken aback by the second visit, and she realized that had he been interested in an amorous encounter, she probably would not have had the presence of mind to say no. Then she would have been guilty of cheating on her husband, or would she? The truth was, while Thomas Bennet's face had become more and more familiar, and she could no longer describe what Tom Bateman looked like. Tall and kind of dark, she thought.
She and Lizzy got in the habit of taking long walks alone, where they could confide their concerns, discuss their predicament, indulge in useless speculation, and ask each other dificult questions.
"What is the 21st century like?"
"I feel like I'm hardly an expert anymore. I was born in 1970, I'm pretty certain, but the 20th century is a complete blank, at least visually. I remember my parents faces, but I can't recall their clothing or our house or any detail to create a solid picture. All I can conjure in my mind is the house in Baltimore and my immediate family." Alison was not ready to admit aloud that her memory of her husband was also slipping. "I do know we have a great many conveniences you do not, but even the details of those aren't clear. I know that the world is soon going to start changing, and once it gets going, it will just keep on changing faster and faster. It's hard to explain," she trailed off, looking out from Oakham Mount and contemplating the vast calm of the scenery before her.
"What sort of conveniences?"
Alison looked into her hand and imagined a rectangular device nestled within it. She moved her thumb about, as she knew one needed to to press the keys, though she couldn't recall the terminology she needed to describe the object. "We're able to speak to each other all over the world. Once Tom traveled to Japan on business, and I remember speaking to a picture of him with the girls. We could see each other and talk as if before one another, half way across the world."
Elizabeth was properly astonished. "How dreadful for him to have to travel so far! How long was he away from you."
Alison replied without hesitation. "Ten days."
"Ten days! To Japan and back!"
"Yes," Alison pondered the matter, when suddenly a huge smile broke upon her face. "He flew!" She announced with great satisfaction.
"Flew? In a balloon?"
"No. It's called an airplane!"
"It is really quite marvelous," Alison began to gush a bit. "You can get on an airplane in New York and be in London seven hours later, or something like that."
Elizabeth found this information difficult to fully assimilate. "That is fast!"
"There are so many other marvels, I wish I could share them all with you," she struggled to remember more about the future, while Elizabeth wondered if she still really wished to know anything more about it. "Movies!" she suddenly shouted, startling the already shaken heroine. "We have movies, film, um ... moving pictures! Actors put on a kind of play and they capture it on film, edit it and make a movie."
"Does it hurt the actors?" was the horrified response to this description.
"Not at all!" Alison laughed. "No more so than having your portrait painted. You have been in several yourself."
"I have been in several?! What do you mean?"
Crap! Alison thought. She still often thought in modern american, though she couldn't recall all the vocabulary. You sure stuck your foot in your mouth this time! What's wrong with you? She looked to Lizzy sheepishly. "Not you! My Lizzy. She has a friend who makes movies, art films, they call them, and she has starred in several. That is what I meant."
"Your daughter is an actress?" Elizabeth smiled, apparently both satisfied and amused by Alison's explanation.
"Not a professional one, but you mustn't misunderstand: there is no longer any stigma associated with acting. Actually, it is a highly regarded and powerful profession. Amongst British actors, several are from very old and powerful families. Their ancestors would be appalled to know it."
Elizabeth laughed in agreement, and harmony was restored.
While Alison and she walked and talked, Lydia, unable to account for the sudden bond between her mother and Lizzy, was not slow in using it to her advantage. The matron was not as quick as she had been to forbid voyages into Meryton, and as long as Kitty accompanied her, Lydia was almost as free to goto and come from the small town as formerly. Kitty, however, was no longer the same companion as she was, as illustrated on a day not long before the militia was scheduled to depart.
Confronted by united parental opposition, Lydia had given up her hopes of following the militia to Brighton, until she and Kitty met Mrs. Forster outside the milliner's. The relationship has somewhat cooled, but Lydia was so effusive in her admiration for Mrs. Forster's new bonnet that Mrs. Forster was reminded what a pleasant companion Miss Lydia could be, and before many minutes had passed, she was being invited to accompany her to the watering place as her particular friend.
Lyda was in raptures and only kept from immediate acceptance by her particular friend's reminder that she needed her parent's permission. This somewhat dampened her spirits, but snot so much as a piqued Kitty's next statement. "There is very little chance Mama will let you go. She does not want you running after officers, and following them to Brighton must be construed as doing just that!"
"I would not be running after the officers if I were Mrs. Forster's particular friend!" Lydia indignantly replied.
"No she would not," Mrs. Forster seconded with mock severity, revealed when she concluded with a giggle, "for the officers will be running after her, instead!"
This was uproariously funny to two of the three ladies. Kitty protested instead of laughing. "No they wont, for she shan't be allowed to go."
"You are just jealous that I am Mrs. Forster's particular friend and you are not." Even the particular friend had the sense to blush, and suddenly seeing someone she must speak to across the way, she quickly said goodbye and left the sister's to battle it out alone.
"I suppose you think you ought to have been asked for being older!"
A beet red Kitty turned rapid steps in the direction of home, defending herself as she walked. "I know she will not let you go, because my mother said you should not be!"
"How could she when I have just been invited?" Lydia scrambled slightly to keep up.
"She said it weeks ago, when we first learned of the militia's departure. My father asked her if she was satisfied they were going, and she replied. "As long as Lydia does not go with them, all should be well."
"She did not! Why should she single me out so? Why should I be the only one forbidden."
"Perhaps because it is you she least trusts!"
"I won't believe it!"
"Then ask her yourself and find out."
Read Chapter Seventeen