Holidays with Zoe Burton: A Time of Remembrance
(I have so enjoyed getting to know Zoe Burton over the last week. I thank her for her willingness to share here at Darcyholic Diversions, and I thank her for the depth of emotions she has been willing to share with us in the short story she has written below. Wherever we go, there we are. Don't be afraid to share your feelings at the holidays. Hug a furry friend, find a friend and talk, write a story, sing a song and cherish your memories. I now turn it over to Zoe. Don't forget to comment below for a chance to win her drawing! Barbara Tiller Cole)
First, I would like to thank Barb for inviting me
to share with you! Thanks, Barb!! :)
For many of us, myself included, Christmas is a
difficult time of year. If you have hooked up with me on Facebook, you probably
already know that I put up my Christmas tree the other night. This is the first
time in years that I have decorated, and to be honest, I only did so because I
felt like I could not live in Burton Cottage and not decorate, at least a bit.
What you don’t know is that I was hit with a mass of unexpected emotions, and
sobbed my way through the assembly of the actual tree. Unlike Elizabeth Darcy
in my story, I did not have a Mr. Darcy to comfort me.
As my sobs lessened to merely tears running down
my cheeks, I began to pray and to consider ways that I could get through this
season without coming unglued on someone. In the end, I remembered the Reason
for this season.
I truly tried to write a fluffy, upbeat story full
of hope, because, quite frankly, I could use some myself. Sadly, that is just
not possible for me at this point in my life. Maybe next year. I
was not happy with this little tidbit when I wrote it, but I ran it past a
friend, who said that it was sweet, but not “merry.” What it is, is honest, and
possibly a bit raw. I dedicate this little one-shot story to all of us who
struggle, for whatever reason, to get through this season of unrelenting
Bingley-like creatures greeting us with cheer. Remember that there is hope that
one day, our pain will lessen and we, too, can be reasonable facsimiles of
Charles and Jane Bingley.
After you read, feel free to leave a comment. I am
offering one commenter two of my ebooks…if you win, you get to choose any two
of my titles and I will send you a link that allows you to download them. A commenter will be drawn next Sunday night 11:59 pm. Please include your email address in your post if you are not already connected to Zoe or Barbara. Thanks and Good
A Christmas for Remembering
last few Christmas seasons had been difficult for Elizabeth Bennet Darcy. Eight
years previously, her beloved father, Thomas Bennet, had passed from this earth
a mere fortnight before the celebration of the Savior’s birth. Two years after
that, just when she was regaining a sense of normalcy, her mother passed, on
the very day that marked Mr. Bennet’s death. Elizabeth held her breath the
following Christmastide, ending the season with a sense of relief that everyone
she loved had survived. However, the following year, four years after her
father and two after her mother, Elizabeth’s sister Lydia died in childbirth.
While she was not close to that particular sibling, she was a sister, and
Elizabeth had loved her. Within days of the notification of Lydia’s death, word
was received at Pemberley of the deaths of her Aunt Philips and her
cousin-by-marriage, Anne de Bourgh. All three had passed within days of each
other, in the same week that marked the passing of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet.
had been devastated to lose so many people she loved within such a short
span…five family members in as many years, and all during the weeks leading up
to Christmas. She began to dread the month of December,
and refused to participate in the decorating of the house. The housekeeper who
had replaced Mrs. Reynolds, Mrs. Baker, took over that duty. Of course, while
the family was in mourning, there were no decorations at all, but the following
years, Mrs. Baker did her utmost to assure that Pemberley was as festive as she
could make it.
was worried about his wife, though he tried not to let it show. Elizabeth was
still witty and charming, but there was a sense of sadness about her now that
had never been present before. He tried to talk to her about it many times, but
every time, she simply assured him she was well and changed the subject.
three more tense Christmas seasons with no deaths, Elizabeth began to once
again relax, and as this fourth December approached, she finally opened up to
her husband about her feelings. Darcy was relieved to see that his beloved
wife’s sadness seemed to lift after their discussion, and she began taking an
interest in some of the activities she had given up during her time of grief,
including making plans to decorate for the Christmas season.
Eve arrived, and with the help of the staff, Elizabeth began to place the
greenery, mistletoe, and kissing boughs
that she so loved in the yellow drawing room where the family and visitors
would all see them. She started out well enough, though rather more stoically
than might be expected. Suddenly, in the midst of arranging a spray of pine on
the mantel, Elizabeth began to sob. The pain of her losses, that she had thought she had overcome, attacked her senses
unexpectedly. The maids who were with her froze for a few minutes, uncertain
about what to do. Eventually, though, one took off out the door to find Mrs.
Baker, and another ran to the study for Darcy, while the third led her mistress
to the settee and settled with her there, wrapping her arms around Elizabeth
and speaking soothing words.
was seated at the desk in the study, reading a letter from his cousin, when
someone began knocking frantically at the door.
door swung open, and a panicked maid
stepped in, speaking even as she curtseyed. “Begging your pardon, sir, but Mrs.
Darcy needs you.”
the maid expected, that was all it took for Darcy to rise from his seat and
stride to the door.
yellow drawing room, sir.”
was gone before she finished speaking, bounding up the stairs to the indicated
chamber. He entered to find his wife held tightly by another of the maids and
sobbing as though her heart were breaking. The servant, having heard him enter,
rose to allow him access to his wife, whom he picked up. Seating himself with
her in his lap, he wrapped his arms around her shoulders and her waist and held
her tightly to himself. He let her cry her sorrow out until Mrs. Baker arrived,
and then, after quietly asking the housekeeper to finish the decorations
herself, rose with Elizabeth in his arms and carried her to their chambers.
her on the bed, Darcy joined her there, leaning against the headboard and
cuddling her beside him, once again wrapped in his embrace. Her tears had
subsided, and she began to explain to him her feelings. When she had finished,
they were quiet for a while, considering her words and working out in their
heads a method to get her through this
am so sorry, Fitzwilliam. I had thought I was recovered from my grief.”
no, you have nothing to be sorry for. You have done well in the last months,
and I see the renewed joy in your mien and in your behavior. This is simply a
minor setback.” Darcy paused while Elizabeth nodded, her hair rubbing his coat
and becoming mussed. “What can we do to
remind you of the joy of the season?”
do not know,” she replied in a small voice.
thought a while longer, and soon an idea came to him. “What if…Elizabeth, you
have heard of the Tractarians and the old Christmas traditions they have added
to their celebrations, have you not?”
I have. The group wishes to incorporate
more High Church celebrations than we have had in the past. My sister Mary has
written of the Eucharist being taken at the church in Meryton.”
do they do these things? What is the purpose of such celebrations?”
remember the gift of the Christ child.”
nodded. “Yes, a gift, the ultimate gift, to each of us. A new life, should we
choose to accept it.”
nodded again, not sure where he was going with it, but beginning to feel some
love, you have suffered great losses at this time of year, and it has been a
painful season for you for a long time. However, you have been given a gift, a
great and wonderful gift, and I believe that you may need a reminder of it to
help you retain your joy during this next fortnight. What say you to asking Mr. Sawyer to carve us a Nativity scene? You know he is able
to work quickly and still create quality items. He has made many toys for our
children over the years, some of them last-minute. We could set the crèche up
in the drawing room, where you can see it and remember.”
Fitzwilliam! I love that idea! Let us go find him now and make our request.”
readily agreed, and the couple rode out to the woodcutter’s house to describe
what they needed. Over the course of the next three days, Mr. Sawyer carved a
Christ child in a manger, a Joseph, and a Mary, as well as a small stable to set them in. The Darcys set the
arrangement up in the drawing room, just as they had discussed. They had many
visitors between Christmas Day and Twelfth Night, and the couple took great
pride in describing the scene and the reason for having it.
had other moments that season and in future Christmas seasons where grief tried
to overtake her. When it happened, she made her way to her favorite Christmas
decoration and contemplated the gift of the child given to all men by God. She
knew that she would meet Him in heaven one day,
when it was her turn to pass from this life, and she rejoiced in the surety of
Zoe Burton, Author
Member, Austen Authors, PAN member-Romance Writers of America, and Jane Austen Society of North America
Amazon Author Page