VIEWS: 14 PAGES: 118 POSTED ON: 12/26/2011
Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at http://archiveofourown.org/works/163688. Rating: Teen And Up Audiences Archive Warning: Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings Category: F/M Fandom: Pride & Prejudice--Austen Relationship: Elizabeth Bennet/Fitzwilliam Darcy Character: Elizabeth Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Charles Bingley, Jane Bennet Stats: Published: 2011-02-19 Completed: 2011-02-20 Chapters: 24/24 Words: 59496 The Fourth Estate by catie56 (catharsis) Summary There are people who believe that romantic connections are the province of fate and destiny, the result of an alignment of constellations and conditions that bring two people together. Others tend to discuss falling in love as the product of rational decisions that acknowledge attraction and compatibility. Some people, however, seem to think these two seemingly-opposite perspectives are really just two sides of the same coin. Sometimes, after all, destiny just requires that two people make a single choice. A modern/AU Pride & Prejudice. There are people who believe that romantic connections are the province of fate and destiny, the result of an alignment of constellations and conditions that bring two people together. Others tend to discuss falling in love as the product of rational decisions that acknowledge attraction and compatibility. Some people, however, seem to think these two seemingly-opposite perspectives are really just two sides of the same coin. Sometimes, after all, destiny just requires that two people make a single choice. For Elizabeth Bennet, choosing to eat at Terrace de la Sol that night was less about the celebrity-spotting potential of the restaurant, and had more to do with the quality of their fish tacos—grilled, not fried—and the mango salsa that accompanied them. The sangria was nothing to sneer at, either. Elizabeth felt it was the perfect place to catch up with her friend, Charlotte Lucas, who had just returned from an academic conference on the east coast. While Fitzwilliam Darcy was no regular at the West Hollywood eatery, he had dined there before, with a group of friends and assorted hangers- on. He hadn’t chosen the restaurant because he wanted to be noticed; he’d wanted enchiladas and a quiet conversation with his writing partner. Seated in the back, absorbed in plotlines and dialogue, he did not see the two women at a table near the front. Neither would have noticed the other if they had walked, taken a bus, ridden a bicycle to the restaurant, or even carpooled with their friends. But each had forgotten to be environmentally conscious that evening, and both had to cross the street to the parking lot where they stood silently next to each other, beneath a strangely bright street lamp, waiting for a man in a red vest to retrieve their cars. And that was where it happened. Elizabeth dropped her keys as she fumbled with her purse, and Darcy bent to pick them up. He pressed them back into her hand with a smile and a “here you go,” and she returned the grin and gave him a sheepish thanks. They both got into their respective cars (his: a BMW 330i Turbo, hers: a Honda Civic) and drove to their respective homes (his: a 1920s Spanish- style villa in the Hollywood Hills, hers: a two bedroom rental in Los Feliz). It was a completely unremarkable ending to a mostly uneventful evening. Really, that should be where the story ends. A chance meeting in a parking lot between two people who remained strangers. However, the forces of fate, or modern technology—perhaps even celebrity culture—intervened with different plans for these strangers. There are other, more rational explanations for what happened next. In fact, there are three. First, a completely deserving but embarrassingly unpopular film swept the Oscars, the Golden Globes, and all other foreign award ceremonies that the American press might deem worthy of attention. With a cast of veteran actors who all had squeaky-clean private lives or well- documented reckless pasts, there was little to report other than what everyone wore to the events—and as black seemed to be the color of choice, even that proved uninteresting. Second, the slate of summer blockbusters was still far enough away from release that entertainment columnists had either reported on early speculation regarding their success, or were waiting to screen the films before further comment. Aside from the three alien-invasion flicks, two films that espoused some dire apocalyptic vision, and four standard- variety action/adventure plots, the offerings for the majority of the tabloid-reading set were disturbingly bland. A smattering of romantic comedies featuring indistinguishable young actresses, one melodrama starring a set of older female actors who denounced Botox and plastic surgery, and two films that would appeal wildly to those who would have to sneak into the theater, but to only a handful of those who could legally purchase a ticket. Third, Charles Bingley broke up with his latest starlet girlfriend. This provided some fodder for the gossip industry, but it was a subsequent interview that really served as the catalyst for a series of life-changing events. “I’m just tired of the Hollywood dating scene,” the actor confessed to a popular talk show host. “I feel like the some of the girls in this industry date guys like me just to get ahead. I’d just like to meet a normal girl and settle down with her, you know? I guess I’m looking for the girl next door.” The boyish smile he gave at the end of this statement endeared him to thousands of women across the nation, especially as the talk show host patted his hand and replied, “I’m sure you’ll find her, honey, and I bet there’s a line of those girls outside the studio right now hoping to get your address!” There was no line, but there was a girl at a Malibu Starbucks only a few weeks later. And that was how Charles Bingley and his girl next door became media darlings. Taken together, these three unrelated incidents created a strange domino effect. After all, if Charles Bingley could sell thousands of magazines (and propel an uninspiring film to box office success) with a careless comment and a caramel frappucino, what might an even more eligible bachelor sell when an accidental meeting turned into romance? Of course, in a darkened parking lot on a Sunday night, no one was thinking about the Oscars, Charles Bingley, or box office records. Will Darcy was considering whether to take Laurel Canyon Drive or Coldwater Canyon Drive to get home. Elizabeth Bennet was contemplating something Charlotte had told her about a new research project. The valets were wondering how much the owners of each car would tip them. And North Hollywood resident Teresa Avila was trying to snap a photo of Will Darcy with her iPhone as quickly as possible. Seconds after their meeting, that picture, which captured the exact moment of their handclasp, appeared on Facebook: Teresa Avila: I just saw Darcy in the parking lot at Terrace de la Sol!!!!!!!! And shortly after that, it was posted again: Gaby Lee via Teresa Avila: Darcy and Professor Bennet on a date!?!?!?!?! When that piece of digital evidence fell into Brian Goldstein’s lap, he decided it was just what he needed to advance his position during his internship at Starz magazine, and emailed it to a staff writer just an hour after the picture first made its online debut. And that was how, only two days after this insignificant moment in the lives of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, Starz magazine broke the news of their burgeoning relationship. ----- Darcy in Love! Intrepid Starz reporters have uncovered the actor’s secret romance with the unknown Elizabeth Bennet. This exclusive photo of the happy ending to one of the couple’s recent nights out in Los Angeles sheds new light on a recent string of snaps that feature the notoriously camera-shy Will Darcy. That same day, our photographers caught him selecting a bouquet of flowers—for his lady, perhaps? “He’s so sweet with her,” a source close to the couple confided to us, and went on to add, “Darcy is much happier now that they’re together.” Maybe that explains this rare snapshot of Darcy smiling while talking on a cell phone outside a Santa Monica coffee shop last week. Darcy’s agent, Gina Reynolds, refused to confirm the relationship, but given Darcy’s well- documented desire for privacy, it’s no surprise to us that the two are keeping things under wraps at the moment. ----- The magazine sold 200,000 copies more than the previous week, and editors everywhere began scrambling to nickname “Hollywood’s Hottest New Couple.” Photographers began cleaning their camera lenses, and entertainment bloggers began scouring the web for new sources of information. And in a two bedroom rental near Griffith Park, Elizabeth Bennet unplugged her phone after the thirty-ninth reporter called to ask her for a quote on being Will Darcy’s girlfriend. On a regular basis, as she sat in her car on the 405 North heading toward Santa Monica Boulevard, Elizabeth Bennet wondered why she didn’t just sell her four-year-old Civic and buy a bicycle. She calculated rising oil prices, thought about how often she filled up her tank, pondered the Red Line connections, and chastised herself for her environmentally irresponsible choices. And then she cranked the stereo, continued to tailgate the car in front of her, and considered whether the Wilshire exit would be better today. The drive was worth living in Los Feliz. There, she was close enough to Griffith Park that she could jog or hike the trails when she wanted a bit of nature, and she could even walk to concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. The house she rented was basic, small but affordable, and a good middle distance between her teaching positions at Santa Monica and Pasadena Community Colleges, and the graduate degree she was completing at UCLA. This particular evening should have been nothing special, the end of another Tuesday at SMC, filled with student appointments, a writing seminar, and an introductory course on literary criticism. Instead, it had been a day of heated denials, forty-two ignored phone calls, and lots of giggling during her lectures. Initially, Elizabeth had planned on grading papers this evening, but she was so annoyed with her students it didn’t seem fair to subject their poor work to her bad mood. Instead, she was ready for a glass of wine, a good meal, and the novel she had been saving for the start of summer vacation in a few weeks. Halfway through her pesto, the phone rang again. The caller ID recognized the number as Charlotte, so Elizabeth reluctantly answered. “When you marry him, can I come and live in the pool house?” was Charlotte’s reply to her weary hello. “Only if I can call you Kato,” Elizabeth smiled. “That’s harsh, Liz,” laughed Charlotte. “But now you really have to tell me why you didn’t mention dating freaking Will Darcy when we had dinner five days ago. I think I’m entitled to hear this kind of gossip from someone other than my celebrity-obsessed students.” “Charlotte!” Elizabeth groaned, “I had no idea I was even standing next to this guy, and I hardly remember what happened. It’s all a big misunderstanding, and I’m sure it will blow over in about 30 seconds. No one cares about me.” “Maybe not, but they certainly care about him,” her forthright friend laughed, “and Will Darcy dating anyone is going to be big news. Sorry to burst your bubble, kiddo.” “Ugh. I just want it to go away!” Elizabeth whined. “I don’t even know who he is. I mean, I recognize the name, but I couldn’t pick him out of a line-up—obviously, since I stood next to him—” “And didn’t faint from the hotness!” Charlotte interrupted. “And didn’t recognize him,” Elizabeth finished. “Honestly, this has happened before. Remember when we saw that one woman at Andante’s and you had to use your cell to look her up on IMDB to prove to me that it was her?” Charlotte laughed, “Yes, I remember that; she won an Emmy later that year, and you had no idea who she was. But this is different. I can see not paying attention to a woman starring in a cable show you never watch, but Liz, Will Darcy is a fine specimen of masculinity. Did you even talk to him?” “Charlotte, he picked up my keys. I said thanks. That was it. There wasn’t time for more. Blame the incredibly efficient valets, if you like. I can’t figure out who took the picture, or who had time to take the picture. It was over in a second. I didn’t even remember the interaction until someone shoved the magazine in my face. It’s not like I’m going to bump into him again, so there will be no more opportunities for these kind of photo ops.” “Fine, but I’m disappointed in your lack of skills, Bennet. We’re going to have man-catching lessons when we meet up next. When are you free?” They set a date for a week or so in the future, and Elizabeth returned to her book and her wine, wondering what on earth Charlotte would try to teach her about catching a man, and if it would involve practicing on the unsuspecting patrons of their favorite diner on Fairfax. ----- Once again, what the glossies reported and what actually happened were two very different things. Elizabeth had agreed to watch her friend Mary play at an open mic night somewhere off Sunset. She and some other girlfriends had waited in line early in the evening, hoping for a seat close to the stage. One of her friends pointed out a semi-famous actor amongst the crowd—he was currently starring in some sort of crime-solving drama that Elizabeth occasionally watched while grading papers. They passed most of the time before the show began catching up on life, while Elizabeth deflected more inquiries into what her friend Sarah called “Lizzy’s big no-mance.” Darcy arrived well into the first act, sat at the bar, deep in the shadows, and resolved to leave after the only performance he cared to see. It was his sister, accompanying a different singer, and since he was both in town and free of obligations, he was happy to spend some time watching Georgiana do what she loved. For most of the day, Elizabeth had been waiting for a phone call. Her Aunt Gladys was having her gall bladder removed, and her mother had vowed to call when they had news of whether the procedure was successful. Elizabeth could not have known that due to a series of unfortunate traffic accidents, appendix ruptures, and one middle-aged man’s heart attack, the surgery had been pushed to late on Friday afternoon. The call she was expecting came just after Darcy’s sister finished her performance, as the stage was being set for a man who would (badly) perform a folksy rendition of “Major Tom.” And so it happened that Will Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet reached the door at the same moment. His face had taken on a strange shadow from the room’s dramatic lighting, while hers was lit with the glow of neon from a nearby window. Even if they had been paying attention to who was next to them, it was unlikely that either would have noticed the other; Darcy in a pair of aviator sunglasses and a day’s worth of stubble was trying to disguise his appearance. Elizabeth, in a rush to answer her phone outside, was looking at the caller ID. Darcy, ever the gentleman, opened the door to the club and waited while Elizabeth ducked out first. She, thinking that someone famous was arriving (a man and woman had been standing just outside the door), assumed the lenses and flashes of the paparazzi on the other side of the street were directed at that unfortunate individual. She continued on, away from the crowds and noise, oblivious to their calls of “Darcy! Give us a smile, man!” When Elizabeth heard her mother say, “There were some complications,” just as she rounded the corner at the end of the block, she stopped abruptly. Not realizing that Darcy was still following her, it wasn’t until he stumbled over her that she even registered the presence of another person. He hooked an arm around her as they both tried valiantly to keep their balance, while Elizabeth tried to listen to the rambling description of the surgery. Darcy pulled her closer for a minute as they both regained their footing, and then released her, muttering an “Oops, are you all right, then?” as he backed away. “Yes, sorry, my fault,” was the absent-minded response he received, and he nodded while moving toward the curb where his driver was waiting. Elizabeth ducked into a convenient nook six feet further along the wall. It’s possible the uninspiring conclusion of their interaction might have quelled the rampant rumors about their relationship had they been captured on film parting so dispassionately. Instead, an SUV pulled up, just after the two were photographed in their brief embrace, conveniently blocking them from the rabid pack of paparazzi, and when the vehicle moved a few moments later, the shutterbugs could only see the taillights of Darcy’s car as it pulled away. No one was taking pictures when Elizabeth walked back into the club, nor when she left with her friends just after midnight. Instead, the photographers were busy chasing a car containing a handsome, single actor on his way home alone. ----- Darcy and Lizzy’s Big Night Out The romance between Will Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet seems to be growing more serious, and hotter than ever. We’ve kept you updated on Darcy’s solo outings on the east and west coasts, buying more flowers, coffee for two, and even jewelry in New York! Last weekend, we spotted Will and his ordinary-lady-love at a small Hollywood club, just the kind of place for an intimate date. Witnesses said the two were very cozy in one of the back booths—so much so that they left just halfway through the show! Though they tried to play it cool when they exited the club (see photos, inset), Darcy’s dark shades and Lizzy’s downturned face couldn’t keep Starz photographers from capturing them only moments later in a loving embrace. It seems that even the stone-faced Will Darcy is capable of being charming and affectionate when out with the right lady! The two quickly sped off in Darcy’s car, undoubtedly for more privacy than such a small venue can offer. Next time, Darcy, maybe try taking your girl to a real concert—Starz knows first-hand how anonymous those crowds can be. If you don’t trust us, just ask Matthew Jefferies—we’ve got him on page 12 in a very compromising situation at last week’s U2 concert! Her mother called first. Elizabeth was in the middle of tweezing a particularly stubborn eyebrow section when the phone rang. It made her less patient than usual with the woman on the other end. “I know you denied it before, Lizzy, but the evidence is right in front of my face now,” Lorraine Bennet scolded. “Mom, I am not joking about this. I don’t know how it happened, but I was not on a date with Will Darcy last week,” Elizabeth said. “You cannot fool your own mother, Elizabeth!” “How about this? When that picture was taken, I’m fairly sure I was on the phone with you. Did I tell you I was on a date?” Elizabeth was exasperated by her mother’s questions, and by the tweezers, which were not as effective when one had furrowed one’s brows to deal with a stubborn maternal figure. “You were on the phone with me while you were on a date with Will Darcy? I raised you better than that, Elizabeth!” “No! I was on the phone with you when I was nearly trampled by someone who was apparently Will Darcy and we were photographed by people who have nothing better to do than to chase celebrities on a Friday night.” “Fine, if you were on the phone with me, what were we talking about?” “Aunt Gladys’ gall bladder. You gave me a particularly gruesome recounting of the procedure,” Elizabeth replied. “Oh, for crying out loud! You let me go on about Gladys’ silly medical problems when Will Darcy was standing there? Okay, we’ll need a signal for next time you see him and we’re on the phone, I’m thinking of something subtle like ‘Mom, I’ll call you later.’ How does that sound?” Elizabeth pulled the phone away from her ear to look at it blankly. “Mom,” she said, holding it up to her face, “I’ll call you later.” She hung up to her mother’s squeal of “Ooh! Is he there right now?!” ----- There were forty-three papers to grade, two exams to write, three lectures to prepare, and two end-of-term assignments to write. Elizabeth had scheduled her time carefully, leaving in time for breaks, for coffee, for phone calls to Charlotte. Yet, as she sat at her kitchen table, laptop in front of her, ready to prepare for her final classes the following week, the cursor blinked in the search bar, taunting her. She got up, got a glass of water, put on some music, sat down, stood up, ate a banana, and sat down again. Finally, she made a few keystrokes, hesitated, and hit enter. The results were, to say the least, surprising. Elizabeth Bennet news results: Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet—will they last? Elizabeth Bennet: Mystery Woman Revealed! Elizabeth Bennet—Wikipedia.com Elizabeth S. Bennet (born February 1985) is an American best known for her relationship with actor William Darcy… Elizabeth Bennet: Pics, Video, News, Links All the latest on Elizabeth Bennet Elizabeth Bennet Bio|Will Darcy Girlfriend Best known as the girlfriend of actor Will… Will Darcy Online Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet were spotted together… rumors of Elizabeth’s… Darcy 4ever.com Fan site dedicated to actor Will Darcy… Elizabeth Bennet in April 2010… Darcy Downlow—News and Info Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet revealed their affair in April when the two… After recovering her composure over how many fan sites were operating for a single man, Elizabeth turned her attention to the more overwhelming links: the images and videos. There were snaps of her from trips to the mall, walking across the campus parking lot, at a bookstore in Los Feliz last week. She found her professional photos from the community college websites, and the picture she’d turned into the university for their graduate student website last year. She also watched a camera-phone video, entitled “Darcy Embrases Lizzy,” which consisted mostly of him walking down the block, and less than thirty seconds of him holding her up as they both block, and less than thirty seconds of him holding her up as they both tripped. Underneath, a commenter had so thoughtfully added “Duuuuude, she looks super drunk! Guess Darcy likes to PARTY!” For a moment, her mouse hovered over the “report” button on the website, but she abandoned it in favor of another suggested video. This was a poor-quality video of her walking down the street in Santa Monica with Charlotte. Darcy was nowhere in sight, but as the video-Lizzy moved a hand up to brush a piece of hair out of her face, a box popped up on the video, helpfully pointing out the turquoise ring on her finger, with the caption, “A gift from Will D., perhaps?” She twirled the ring around her finger and thought of her grandmother, who had passed away when Elizabeth was sixteen. It was at this point that she realized reading amateur accounts of her romance with the famous Mr. Darcy wouldn’t give her much information, and would likely only make her angry. She turned to the news instead. There she discovered that “Friends say Elizabeth Bennet has been swept off her feet by actor Will Darcy.” She gaped at that, and had to click to find out what on earth they could be talking about. Will Darcy and gal-pal Lizzy Bennet may not be easy to spot together, but sources say the timid twosome are close as can be! “Lizzy’s always smiling these days,” a friend told us earlier in the week. “She won’t give us any details, but we’ve caught her daydreaming and having hushed phone conversations. She’s totally into him.” Elizabeth wondered which ‘friend’ had caught her daydreaming, and, more importantly, when she’d had time to float off into dreams. She found a photo of Darcy (complete with stocking cap, Ray-bans, and general scruffiness) captioned: “Darcy reliving his university days while visiting UCLA’s campus last week. Perhaps dropping by for a tutoring session with his latest love interest? Moments after this photo was snapped, he disappeared into the Humanities building, home to the office of none other than Lizzy Bennet.” These articles, with their untruths and artfully arranged scenarios, were enough to set Elizabeth’s frustration level to a slow boil. What pushed her over the edge, however, was an article that had only appeared the week before: Monday Makeovers! For today’s makeover, we’ve focused our attention on grad student and celebrity girlfriend, Lizzy Bennet. We’ve consulted our top stylists to find out what advice they’d give Lizzy if she called them up to plead for their help with her style. “Lizzy clearly has some knowledge of style and what looks good,” says Fred Reeves, style coordinator for Iris Clothes. “It’s clear why Darcy’s with her, they have a very similar sense of fashion, very understated and casual. But Darcy knows when to play it up and look good, while Lizzy seems to be stuck in a bit of a fashion rut.” “She’s got great features,” Diana Jacobson, of FashionGuru.com tells us, “but she doesn’t have a classical look, so she needs to really accentuate the positive and make it work for her.” So how can Lizzy go from grad to glam? We’ve got five easy steps! 1. Skirt the Issue “Trousers, trousers, trousers!” grouses Danny Baines, of Style House. “The girl must have great legs underneath all that fabric, and she needs to show them off! There’s nothing wrong with being a bit feminine.” Our picks for Lizzy B? The perfect classroom ensemble: pencil skirt, frilly blouse, and a tailored jacket complete the look. A pair of peep-toe pumps help this outfit go from Librarian Chic to Hot for Teacher! 2. The Eyes Have It! “Lizzy has great eyes!” gushes Jacobson, “You can see in the photos that Darcy’s drawn to them, and they’re very expressive, even when she’s not looking at the camera. With the right make up, no one will be able to take their eyes off hers.” We like the new MAC Smoke Screen color palette, in grays and greens for spring, with a strong liner, and new Lash Explosion mascara from Clinique to give those eyes some off-screen drama. 3. Give Them the Brush Off “If you ask me,” says celebrity style watcher Craig Cale, “Darcy loves running his fingers through Lizzy’s hair. It’s constantly a mess!” We agree, Craig! When she’s not pulling her hair up into a blah ponytail, Lizzy looks like she’s spent too much time cruising the coast in Darcy’s convertible. We suggest some deep conditioning, a shorter style, and a pocket touch-up kit like this one from Clairol. Because we understand it’s tough to go from a hot hallway make-out session to classroom cool without some help. 4. The Sky’s the Limit After seeing the photos of Lizzy and Darcy together, one thing is clear. She’s tiny! Then again, standing next to Darcy might make anyone feel small. “She’s snagged the perfect guy,” says Cale, “because not only is he rich and handsome, he’s tall! Pull out the stilettos, girl, you’ve hit the big time!” Lizzy, take our advice: go all out in the shoe department, and don’t be afraid to let Darcy sweep you off your feet! We like the look of Jimmy Choo’s new line of colorful footwear with vertigo-inducing heels, or these adorable strappy sky-high sandals from Max Azaria for summer. (And if you’re on a grad student budget, you can find similar styles at shops like DSW to increase your height without increasing your credit card bill.) 5. Act Your Age! “Lizzy is in her mid-twenties, she’s gorgeous, and she has one of the sexiest men around taking her out on the town,” notes Reeves. “So why is she dressing like a soccer mom or a college student?” asks Baines. We’ve seen her in photos wearing everything from boring work attire to slouchy sweatpants. “It’s time to dump the t-shirts, Lizzy, and invest in some great sportswear.” Baines agrees, “If I see Lizzy in jeans and a t-shirt one more time, I’m going to sneak into her closet and steal them while she’s out with Darcy.” For summer, we’re loving the new Michael Kors collection, and there’s always the stand-by triumvirate of Lauren, Hilfiger, and Karan. The sum total of Elizabeth’s browsing up to this point had convinced her of a few things. First, that the press were not so much interested in the truth of her liaison with Darcy—or rather, her non-liaison—but had stumbled upon a story they decided to manipulate. Second, that someone out there was getting a kick out of making her look stupid, and probably making a pile of money while doing so. And third, that it needed to stop. In the meantime, she copied the link into an email, typed “WTF?” into the subject line, and sent it to Charlotte. Then she closed the browser window and began compiling her lecture notes. If her fingers hit the keys with a bit more force than usual, at least there was no one to witness it. ----- Lane Pierce had been working at the Artists Management Agency reception desk for exactly six months. While Lane had not paid attention to several aspects of the AMA training, it had not taken long for one very important rule to stick: All calls to agents must be approved by their assistants. Whether or not Lane found this rule tedious or not was irrelevant. After the fourth time one of the senior assistants (an attractive, single female) had marched to the reception desk and threatened Lane’s job and health if one more call got through, the convenience of the AMA law ceased to matter. Lane wanted this job, and the potential for promotion that came with it. And since that was the case, every call from then on went through an approval process. Unfortunately for Elizabeth Bennet, when Charlotte helped her to track down the name and agency of Darcy’s representation (through a friend of a cousin of an ex-boyfriend), it was after Lane had received the lecture on job performance. Coupled with the fact that Elizabeth called at four in the afternoon on a Thursday, the call did not proceed smoothly. “Artists Management Agency.” “This is Elizabeth Bennet, calling for Gina Reynolds.” “Is Ms. Reynolds expecting your call?” Lane glanced at the paper taped to the reception desk to make sure the correct procedure was followed. “I’m afraid she’s not. I was hoping you could direct me to her office,” Elizabeth replied. “Are you on Ms. Reynolds’ list of approved callers?” Lane held a finger over flow chart box number two. “I doubt it,” Elizabeth answered frankly, “We’ve never met. Perhaps I can leave a message?” “May I ask what your call is in regard to?” Elizabeth cringed at the grammar mistake, but answered anyway. “I’d like to speak with one of her clients.” “I’m sorry, direct contact with our clients can only be approved by their agent.” “Yes, that’s why I’d like to speak with her.” Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Are you a member of the press?” “Absolutely not,” Elizabeth replied vehemently. “Will you be offering the client employment of any kind?” “No,” Elizabeth said slowly, “I just want to speak with him.” “Are you interested in scheduling the client for a public appearance, charity event, donation, or financial sponsorship?” “No,” Elizabeth was growing more irritated now. “I would just like to speak with Ms. Reynolds about giving a message to one of her clients.” “Are you seeking memorabilia, autographs, or head shots of the client?” “No. I just want to speak with her about her client.” “I’m afraid I cannot process your request unless I know why you need to speak with her.” They had reached the end of the flow chart, which was a first for Lane. “I need to talk with her about some rumors circulating in the press about one of her clients.” Elizabeth sighed. She had hoped to avoid this until she actually spoke with the agent. “So you are a member of the press?” Lane glanced back at the upper portion of the chart. “No! I’m involved in the rumors!” “Are you an agent with another group?” This question wasn’t on the sheet, but Lane thought it might be worth it to ask. “No,” groaned Elizabeth, “Can I please just leave a message? Or could I send an email instead?” “I’m able to take your name and telephone number, and a brief message about the nature of your call. However, Ms. Reynolds’ assistant typically checks messages from non-approved callers once per week. There is no guarantee that your call will be returned. We do not provide email addresses for our agents to outside callers.” Elizabeth sighed and gave the man her name and telephone numbers. She hesitated briefly, and then said, “My call is in regard to press reports of my relationship with Will Darcy.” “Thank you for your message and for calling Artists Management Agency. Have a nice day.” Lane hung up the phone before Elizabeth could respond. ----- The following Tuesday, Elizabeth received a voice mail on her cell phone after her last class of the day. “Ms. Bennet, this is Terrence from Gina Reynolds’ office at Artists Management Agency. Thank you for your message. I wanted to let you know that Mr. Darcy’s press is handled through a separate office and we are unable to comment on his personal life. Thanks again for your call.”Elizabeth deleted the message and turned back to the papers spread across her desk. She wasn’t sure what she had expected the result of her call to Darcy’s agent to be, but this wasn’t it. It had obviously been too hopeful to think that Will Darcy would have cared about how this whole mess was affecting her life. What was becoming abundantly clear was that he didn’t care, not at all. Elizabeth was starting to hate coincidence, serendipity, quirks of fate, and all other forms of happenstance. Previously, she had celebrated the unexpected, reveling in the opportunity to walk into a store and discover she was the thousandth customer on a special day. She had, as a teen, won free tickets to concerts in her hometown on more than one occasion as she had an uncanny ability to always be the one hundred and third caller to 103.5FM (“playing today’s hits and your familiar favorites”). Sometimes she wasn’t even trying to win the contest. Friends called her “Lucky Lizzy,” since she typically found spare change on the sidewalk, no one else stood a chance when she showed up for poker nights, and it was a rare day when she didn’t find a parking space close to the entrance of whatever place she was visiting. But now, all of those instances of luck were starting to look more like a curse than a blessing. Elizabeth might have even traded in her front row tickets and backstage pass to what was a very disappointing Matchbox 20 concert to reverse the situation she found herself in. The rooms at Cedars-Sinai were possibly the nicest she’d seen, certainly better than L.A. County Hospital, where she’d taken Mary (who had no health insurance as a struggling musician) during an allergy episode last year. The doctors were much friendlier, too, although it was hard to tell if that was because of the hospital, or because she was Elizabeth Bennet (assumed girlfriend of Will Darcy) and the other woman was Jane Gardiner (confirmed girlfriend of Charles Bingley). “Of all the jogging paths in Griffith Park,” Elizabeth sighed. She had joined Jane spontaneously on one of the many trails—without realizing who she was, or rather, whom the other girl was dating. Shortly after they rounded a bend that would take them down a steep path and back toward the park entrance, a group of aggressive paparazzos stepped in their way. Elizabeth, who was on the far side of the path, had no trouble avoiding the photographers, but Jane had tripped over her own feet, fallen, and slid along the gravel on the dusty path. Elizabeth had rushed to help her, and it was clear from the grimace on Jane’s pretty face that the woman had been injured. “Do you mind using my phone to call the park security?” Jane had asked quietly, while she held one of her wrists close to her body, amid continuing snaps and pops of cameras. “The number is programmed into my contacts. I’m Jane, by the way.” The two had not introduced themselves when they began jogging together, pacing each other naturally, if silently. Elizabeth introduced herself and described to the security officer what had happened. She attempted to ignore the swarm of men surrounding them to find the best angle to capture both Jane’s injury and her face, but wondered why no one offered to help. Jane seemed to take it all in stride, concentrating more on shifting out of the center of the path than on their crowd of observers. When Elizabeth returned her phone, Jane asked her to dial another preprogrammed number and then took the phone. “Hi honey,” Jane said, speaking quietly, so only Elizabeth, who was crouched next to her, could hear. “I’ve had a little accident this morning, and I was wondering if you could send someone to pick me up and go to the hospital?” The response was unintelligible, but Jane assured the person on the other end that she wasn’t seriously injured, and wanted to “just get checked out,” telling whomever it was: “you can meet me there later” (Elizabeth wanted to know where “there” was, but didn’t dare ask). “No,” Jane said softly, looking briefly at Elizabeth, “someone’s with me and helping with things. I’ll tell you all about it when I see you.” After she hung up, Jane smiled apologetically at Elizabeth and said, “I’m really sorry you have to deal with this. I hope I’m not totally messing up your day. Do you mind coming with me to the hospital? My boyfriend will probably want us to make a statement to the police about what happened, and it would be good if you were there.” Elizabeth, feeling that the entire accident was somehow her fault, what with her recent fame, acquiesced immediately, and then made a quick phone call of her own to cancel her morning office hours. At the first sound of a park security vehicle, the photographers fled, though Elizabeth suspected some lingered out of sight to capture a few more photos as they loaded Jane onto a golf cart for their ride down the hill. When they reached the bottom, a sleek black car was waiting for them, and once they were inside, it sped off to where she now found herself: an exclusive room in one of LA’s private hospitals. “I’m really sorry, Lizzy,” Jane said softly, while they waited for her ankle and wrist x-rays to be read. “I feel like it’s my fault that you’re here.” It was at least the fourth time Jane had said this since being wheeled into the hospital, and the sixth since they got into the car. If Elizabeth had been any less convinced of Jane’s absolute sincerity and regret over involving her, it would have been annoying. “Oh, please don’t apologize to me, Jane,” Elizabeth replied. “It’s my fault the photographers were there, and I put you in a horrible position.” “No, I can’t let you take the blame for this,” Jane answered, shaking her head. “I just hope I haven’t ruined your whole day. I feel bad for asking you to stay with me, but I didn’t want to be alone.” “It’s no problem,” Elizabeth said smoothly, and with Jane looking at her so earnestly, found she actually meant it. “I personally think we should blame the photographers. We shouldn’t feel responsible for their behavior.” “You’re right,” Jane smiled. Just then, the door to her room opened and in walked two attractive men. One’s face was alight with concern, and the other was on the phone, a stern expression on his features. “Jane!” The first man rushed to her bedside, and Elizabeth was touched by his anxiety over his girlfriend. He obviously cared for her very much. “Are you okay, baby?” After Jane assured him at least three times that they were waiting for the doctor, who thought it was probably just a bad sprain, he turned to Elizabeth. "Thanks so much for taking care of my Jane after she fell. I'm Charles Bingley, by the way," he said congenially. Elizabeth couldn’t help but smile at his friendliness, and as soon as he told her his name, she recognized him. “Elizabeth Bennet. It’s nice to meet you. It was my fault, really, so no thanks are necessary.” “I hardly think it’s completely your fault,” the other man chimed in, hanging up the phone. “You didn’t push her, did you?” “No!” Elizabeth said, just as Charles chastised him by saying, “Carl!” “Then we blame the damn photographers,” Carl said, settling himself in one of the guest chairs. “Sorry, Lizzy, but Carl gets rather grumpy when paparazzi are involved, and he hasn’t called them first,” Charles teased, earning a glare from the other man. He apparently decided that meant he could keep going, and added slyly, “And he’s a bit jealous that Darcy’s guy is going to get more press out of this one than he is. They’re in a bit of a competition.” “What?” Elizabeth gasped, looking up at the man called “Carl” for the first time. “You and Darcy’s publicist are doing this on purpose?” “Of course not,” was the disgusted reply, “Darcy would kick Jeff’s ass if he did anything like this on purpose. But we’d be pretty big fools not to take advantage of it,” he continued rhetorically. “And it’s nice to meet you, Ms. Bennet. I didn’t quite recognize you from your photos,” he added with a grin, just before he answered his phone again and ignored her in favor if someone he called ‘babe.’ “Lizzy—it’s okay if I call you that, right?” Charles asked, from his perch next to Jane on the bed. She looked slightly uncomfortable, with her injured arm pressed up against the bed rail and Charles’ arm slung behind her, but she didn’t say anything. “So, how is it being an international media sensation? Is your agent totally stoked that you’ve made the tabloids?” "Not exactly," Elizabeth said slowly, "I don't have an agent. I'm a teacher, not an actor. And I’m not really looking to change professions, either.” “Really?” Carl snorted, having just finished his call. “You expect us to believe you’re hooked up with Darcy and not looking to break into the business. Next you’ll tell me you’re not actually dating him.” “I’m not.” Elizabeth replied. “We’re not ‘hooked up,’ and I’ve never even met him! We’ve had some coincidental meetings that got blown out of proportion. I’m not sure why he hasn’t said anything, but I’m not even returning the calls to the so-called journalists who’ve been asking me to comment.” Carl sneered at this. “How’s that strategy working out for you?” “Honestly, not that great, but I think they’ll give up eventually, or Darcy will just start seeing someone new. He’s a movie star, right? They go through girlfriends pretty quickly, from what I understand. No offense, Charles.” Charles just grinned sheepishly at Elizabeth and gave Jane a kiss on the cheek. “Right,” Carl chuckled. “You have no idea, do you Liz? In the past five years, Darcy has never been photographed with a girlfriend. He never comments on his personal life, and he’s rarely in the tabloids, unless it’s because he’s suing them. Your relationship with him is the biggest Darcy story this year. Finally, he’s dating someone, and she’s accessible to photographers. Face it, you either have to get yourself an agent and start to handle the press, or make Darcy to do it.” “And you’d be happy to help with either, I’m guessing,” Elizabeth said pointedly. “For the right price.” Carl’s smile had all the kindness of a shark sizing up its prey. “After all, I handle all Charles’ publicity. And not just because he’s my brother.” ----- Lizzy and Jane: Double Trouble! Exercise can be dangerous for your health! When Jane Gardiner and Elizabeth Bennet are jogging, that is! The friendly steadies of Charles Bingley and Will Darcy were out for a run on Friday in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park, when Jane tripped and badly sprained her ankle and wrist. Starz has exclusive photos of the two just after the accident, showing Lizzy pitching in, keeping Jane calm, and accompanying her to Cedars- Sinai Medical Center, where the two were met by a frantic Bingley and Darcy. A source in the Darcy camp revealed that the initial phone call (see inset) from Lizzy reached the two while the men were in a production meeting regarding a joint project, scheduled to start filming later this summer. The source also confirmed that both men were worried for their girlfriends. “They weren’t sure at first who was injured,” our tipster said, “Darcy was trying to keep Charles calm until they could leave, but it was clear that he was just as upset, thinking Lizzy had been hurt.” The adorable Jane and Charles were seen leaving the hospital later that afternoon, where Bingley smiled at his girl-next- door, and commented, “I’m just glad she’s okay,” before pushing her wheelchair toward their waiting limo. Dr. Starz prescribes a weekend of bed rest for our two hot couples—STAT! ----- Photographers Sought for Questioning in Griffith Park Incident Several paparazzi photographers are wanted for questioning by the Hollywood Division of the LAPD in conjunction with an incident that occurred in Griffith Park on Friday morning. Charges of harassment and assault were filed by Jane Gardiner and Elizabeth Bennet on Friday, alleging that the photographers, names unknown, accosted the women on the Observatory Trail just after 7:30 a.m. Friday, while both were jogging. Court documents state that Ms. Gardiner received treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for ankle and wrist sprains which occurred during the incident, and was released the same day. Both women declined to comment on the accident. Ms. Gardiner has been featured regularly in gossip columns and magazines since she began dating actor Charles Bingley in April. Ms. Bennet has recently been romantically linked to actor Will Darcy, though representatives for Mr. Darcy refused to comment on his relationship status. Mr. Darcy featured prominently in a separate paparazzi harassment case earlier this year, involving a traffic accident in Malibu. That case was settled out of court. Elizabeth was really going to have to sit down at some point and figure out what it was about Jane Gardiner and Charles Bingley that made them so persuasive. It certainly wasn’t the allure of spending time with a Hollywood superstar—Charles was a pretty regular guy, he just had a job that earned him ten million dollars after only a few months of work. But when he and Jane turned nearly identical pleading expressions on Elizabeth, begging her to have dinner with them, she felt helpless to decline the invitation. The whole situation had a very surreal quality for Elizabeth, who had never pictured herself amongst the Hollywood elite. She’d grown up in Orange County, close enough to understand that Hollywood was not some mystical Wonderland. A tabloid-obsessed mother and cynical father had raised her to be skeptical of the truth and value of celebrity gossip, while her sister tried to emulate the lives of the rich and famous. Yet here she was, seated at the table with a media darling, his beautiful girlfriend, and a cast of characters that rivaled a Ken Kesey novel. To her left, Carl was trying to shove an avocado roll in his mouth between phone calls with what seemed like every reporter in the country (and some in Australia). When he wasn’t sucking up to the person on the other end of the phone, he seemed to be giving a lot of “no comments” and “it’s all pending an investigation.” To her right was aspiring filmmaker Jackson Hurst, who had all manner of subjects to tell her about; first, that her preference for the California roll was “plebian and utterly unimaginative,” while his choice of unagi was what “a serious connoisseur of Japanese cuisine selects as a measure of any dining establishment.” Unsurprisingly, the eel was found wanting. Elizabeth was tempted to tell him that she never ate raw fish at any restaurant that received less than an A on the LA Health Board Screening, but decided she’d let him take the risk. When he tired of his sushi lecture, Elizabeth was finally able to ask him how he knew Charles. “Oh, Charlie and I go way back, we’re bros,” he replied smoothly, giving ‘Charlie’ a chin-up gesture that was apparently meant to demonstrate their deep emotional bond. “Louisa introduced us when we first got together. Man, sometimes I think I love this family more than my own.” From her other side, Elizabeth thought she heard Carl mumble something that sounded like, “That’s because your family refuses to give you any more money.” “We’ve been together for about three years now,” Louisa added from the other side of the table. “We met at a party for one of Charles’ films.” She tilted her head and smiled a bit too sweetly at Jackson and added, “He was the cutest waiter there.” Jackson tossed her what he might have considered a flirty wink, but which Elizabeth found rather creepy. “I knew when I saw her that she would be my muse,” he preened, “and baby, I’m going to make you a star.” Louisa’s smile at this proclamation looked much more genuine. Elizabeth couldn’t help herself, and asked, “Are you a director, Hurst?” “I’m everything, man,” he replied, with a head toss. “I’m writing a screenplay that’s going to blow people away, and once it’s picked up, I’m going to direct the hell out of it, with Louisa as the star.” She could see the conversation headed in the direction of Hurst’s plans for his future success, and jumped in before he could describe his dream yacht. “What’s the screenplay about?” “It’s a post-modern coming of age story about the universal experience,” Hurst boasted. “I want to make a film about real truth, you know, about the human condition, and how we’re all just hanging on, how we only have each other. It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard of before.” Elizabeth thought that was probably about right, especially considering that post-modernists didn’t exactly believe in a universal experience, or necessarily in ‘real truth.’ Instead, she asked innocently, “How far along are you?” “Yes,” Carl chimed in, looking up from the phone conversation he and Charles were having with someone whose voice kept crackling through the speakerphone, “how far are you, Hurst? Getting close to the end yet?” “I’ve been pretty blocked lately,” Hurst shook his head sadly, “You know, with all the craziness in the world, all the sadness, it’s hard to find a good focus. Louisa’s been helping me with that, though. I’m trying to let the world inform my work, so then my work can inform the world. You can’t put a timeline on that, man. There’s just so much tragedy, you know?” “Yes, I’m aware of how tragic our world is. How nice for you that Louisa can be such a balm for your world-weary soul,” Elizabeth replied dryly. Before Hurst could expound further on the subject, Charles spoke up, “Hey, Hurst, can you shut it for a sec? Darcy’s trying to talk to us here.” When she realized who was on the other end of the phone, Elizabeth couldn’t help herself, and leaned toward the source of the deep voice. “Charles, the problem isn’t that you’re too interesting. It’s that you’re too available.” “Thank you!” Carl interrupted. “I’ve been trying to tell him that for months, but he won’t listen to me. You’re so much more media savvy than Charles. Are you sure you don’t need new representation?” Charles glared at Carl and flipped up his middle finger. Carl grinned. “I’m happy with my agents, as usual, Carl,” Darcy’s dry response crackled through the phone. “Obviously,” Carl rolled his eyes, “but it can’t hurt to ask. Jeff and I have talked before about joining up. If you and Charles are going to keep showing up in the press together, then it’s easier for reporters to just make one call to hear the words ‘no comment.’” “Why would the press publish more stories about the two of us?” Charles asked. “Because your girlfriends are BFFs now, obviously,” Carl said, “Just, when you break up with them, don’t do the whole ‘spouse-swap’ thing. It’s so overdone. At least bring in a third party or something. You could date Darcy’s sister, Charles.” “What are you even talking about, Carl?” Charles shook his head and glanced at Jane, who, thankfully, had been patiently listening to Louisa’s inane babble on handbags and wasn’t paying attention. “We were talking about a press strategy for what happened today,” Darcy’s voice sounded slightly more annoyed than before as he steered the conversation back on track. “What are your plans, Carl?” “Charles wants to—” Carl began, his voice laced with annoyance, but he was cut off by a glaring Charles. “I want Jane to go on one of the talk shows this week to tell her story. Lizzy can go, too, actually, since she was there. I think it will satisfy people’s curiosity about the incident. Otherwise they’ll just be accosted again. Jane’s really good with the press.” “Charles, what are you talking about?” Carl asked. “What do you mean, she’s ‘good with the press?’” “I mean that all the show hosts love her, and the journalists write great things about her, they ask her for quotes, and there are some really good articles about her—great headlines. It seems like normal people do better at this, because no one assumes they’re looking to get ahead by using the tabloids.” “I think you’re right about people’s assumptions,” Darcy said, “but I think you’ve bought into the lie yourself if you believe that most ‘normal’ people don’t want their fifteen minutes of fame. I’ve met maybe six people in my life who aren’t looking to be the center of people’s attention in some way. Everyone wants the spotlight.” “Absolutely,” Carl chimed in. “Whose fault is that?” Elizabeth asked pointedly, unable to stop herself from joining the conversation, “You must think so-called normal people find celebrity status irresistible and once they have a taste of the attention they can’t help but seek more.” “I do think that, yes,” Darcy said. “Why wouldn’t we think that?” Carl asked. “Look at all those C- and D- List reality show participants who think they’re entitled to have their pictures in magazines simply because they ate live spiders on national television. They make themselves into someone worth watching and then expect that people like them for that. And then they tweet about their fascinating lives.” “Don’t get me started on Twitter,” Darcy’s voice was a bit distant over the speakerphone, but Elizabeth could hear his disdain. “It would be refreshing to meet someone who’s not out to draw as much attention to themselves as possible through every media outlet they can—be it small or large.” “I’m surprised,” Elizabeth said, “that you know six people who fit your profile. I’m no celebrity, but I don’t know anyone who could claim to use social networking sites or media without wanting any attention.” “You doubt that there are people who think that sharing the unimportant details of their life is a waste of time?” Darcy challenged. “I’ve just never met anyone who doesn’t want some meaningful social connection, and these days, people are using social media to find it.” “Who is that, anyway?” Darcy’s voice grew a bit confused. “It doesn’t sound like Louisa.” “She sounds too smart for Louisa, that’s what you mean,” offered Carl, “It’s your girlfriend, Lizzy B.” “Take me off speaker, I want to talk with her.” Elizabeth was a bit flustered by his demand, but in the brief time it took Charles to make a couple clicks, and hand the phone to her, she composed herself enough to step away from the table to speak more privately. “Hello?” she asked, wondering what this man could possibly say to her. “Yes, hi, listen, I just want to say—” he paused abruptly. She soon heard a muffled, “Go ahead,” from the other end of the phone. “Hello? I hope you can hear me,” Elizabeth began, “I don’t think there’s really much for us to talk about. My biggest question is whether or not you’re going to do anything about all the publicity we’re getting for a relationship you know doesn’t exist.” “Yes. Just a minute,” Darcy’s voice was back to what seemed to be normal volume. Elizabeth paused, and upon hearing his muffled voice once more, she tried again, “Listen, I don’t really need to say anything else” –she chose to forego asking for an apology—“but, you know, I’m not trying to encourage the journalists, and I keep trying to deny it all. I just thought you should know that. I’m hoping it blows over soon.” “Yes—” Darcy replied shortly, his voice more direct again, then added, more harshly than before, “Just give me a minute, okay?” Elizabeth waited, and when he still didn’t say anything, she decided she was done with the imperious Darcy. “I really don’t have anything else to say about this, so best of luck, I guess, and, hey, this is probably the easiest break-up I’ve ever had,” she joked fruitlessly. There was no reply from the other end, and she waited a moment longer. Finally, without indicating that he’d heard any of the one-sided conversation, Darcy said, “Sorry, I need to go,” and hung up the phone. ----- International Sweethearts: When Travel Takes Its Toll Celebrities spend a great deal of time on the road, so how does this affect their relationships and their home lives? “I try to go on as normally as possible,” says celebrity wife, Jenny Lane, “keeping the kids on a good schedule and talking as much as we can. It’s hard, but we make it work.” (…) Established relationships are different than burgeoning romances, though. “It’s been difficult, when Charles has had to travel,” Jane Gardiner told us, about boyfriend Charles Bingley. “You want to be together, of course, but the other person’s job is taking them away, and you want to be understanding of that, but you worry how it will affect what you’re trying to build.” Conflict is inevitable, it seems, and difficult to hide from co-workers or fans, who often spend more time with stars than their families. “I was on a flight to New York with Will Darcy recently,” one crew member told us, “and it was clear there was some tension between him and his new girlfriend. He was trying to talk to her just before we took off, but there were tons of interruptions from other people on the plane, and he could hardly finish the conversation before we left the airport. He was upset for the rest of the flight, and I’m sure his girlfriend wasn’t too pleased either.” Elizabeth did not quite realize the repercussions of her newfound popularity until it interfered with her daily life. She had fielded questions from her students, answered phone calls from people she hadn’t spoken to in years (because apparently her mother was handing out her cell number), and once, at the pharmacy, had been asked if she were that Elizabeth Bennet. Thankfully, the clerk had shrugged off the question with a bemused, “of course you aren’t, she’s much prettier,” before Elizabeth could think to reply with something other than a fierce glare. All of these questions, comments, and interruptions had been inconveniences, of course, but she could understand them. It wasn’t every day your college roommate turned up in a tabloid. And most professors—especially not community college professors—did not have celebrity connections. She had denied everything and tried to explain to people that the magazines and internet sites were merely profiting off some strange coincidences, but her protests were waved off with a comment on her good fortune. Apparently, people wanted to believe in something like a modern-day fairy tale. It was just too bad that Elizabeth didn’t want a starring role in that story. Thus, it wasn’t until a photographer greeted Elizabeth from her front yard one morning that the level of inappropriate interest in her life finally registered. The man had not been particularly sneaky, but Elizabeth had assumed he was waiting in his run-down Bronco to pick up a neighbor. When he jumped out with a camera and telephoto lens to capture her walking toward her own car, however, she realized that something was up. “Hey!” she yelled, and stopped suddenly. “Aw, come on! That was a perfect shot!” he replied petulantly. “Why are you taking my photo?” she called out, moving to hide behind a tree so the picture would be further obscured. “Because I’d kind of like to make six hundred bucks today, that’s why! Now, just keep walking, I’ll take the picture, and you can forget this ever happened.” He crouched on the sidewalk, and yelled, “Okay, GO!” “I’m not letting you take my picture without knowing where it’s going to end up. Who is going to pay you six hundred dollars for a photo of me at my own house?” “Any number of legitimate or illegitimate publications. You’re worth more if you’re near Darcy, of course, but I’ll take what I can get. There’s not many solo-Lizzy pics, so it’s a safe bet that there’ll be a payday in it for me.” “If I’m near Darcy? What does that mean?” Elizabeth asked. “What do you think it means? If you’re with him, you know, eating, walking, doing whatever you two do together. There’s a bonus if there’s any kind of PDA, but I think we both know he’s not going to go for that. Stupid, if you ask me, now that I’ve seen you in person.” “Excuse me?” Elizabeth gasped. “Oh, come on, it’s not like you haven’t heard it before. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Darcy’s incredibly hard to catch doing anything even a little bit improper. But now that you’re in the picture—heh, no pun intended—I think that will change. Now, come on, Lizzy B, how about a picture for me?” He was moving closer to her, camera against his face, making a wide arc to keep the angle of the shot viable. “This is harassment! I could get you blacklisted, or file charges,” Elizabeth threatened. “You could try. It would be more persuasive coming from Darcy, though, so I suggest you call your famous boyfriend and have him file the charges. It might actually be a boost for me if the journos found out about it. It would show them I can get up close and personal with celebrities.” “You have got to be kidding,” Elizabeth muttered. “I’ve been trying to capture Darcy for ages, you know,” the man continued, seemingly oblivious (or accustomed) to the look of disgust on his subject’s face, “and I almost did, once. I’m a real photographer, you know, not like some of these hacks who just buy an expensive camera and stalk famous people. You should see the lighting on your hair right now. I’m going to make you look incredible. It’s a shame so few people appreciate my talent.” While the man began to wax eloquently on the subject of finagling a well- framed shot while sitting in a tree, Elizabeth hurried to where her car was parked in the driveway. After she slid in, she realized that the photographer was now trying to take pictures of her through the windows. Turning on the engine quickly, she pulled away from the house and drove around the block. Pulling out her phone, she dialed a recently added number: Jane. “I think I have to cancel our coffee date,” Elizabeth said when Jane answered. “A photographer found me at home, and I have a feeling he’ll be following me.” “Oh,” Jane said, “Well, I was really looking forward to it. You can’t shake him, can you?” “I don’t know,” Elizabeth said. “It’s not like I’ve trained to avoid people who follow me. He was really creepy, too, talking about how he’s a real photographer and how he’d make me look really good in the photos.” “Was he wearing one of those vests? You know, the kind with all the pockets, like the safari photographers wear?” “Actually, yes,” Elizabeth answered. “And a hat, kind of like the one in Crocodile Dundee…” “With the teeth on it?” “Yes!” Elizabeth giggled. “That’s Bill Collins, then,” Jane replied. “He’s harmless, actually, but you’re right that he’ll probably follow you. Once he told me that he could protect me from the other paparazzi guys! Why don’t you go to Coffee Bean first, and then I’ll come in a little bit, so it looks like a coincidence. If we meet at the one on Wilshire, I don’t think he’ll realize.” ----- Spotted! Lizzy Bennet and Jane Gardiner enjoy a coffee date without their significant others in Los Angeles last week. ----- One of the unexpected benefits of her jogging encounter with Jane Gardiner was their friendship. Whereas Elizabeth’s friendship with Charlotte had developed out of their shared scholarship, and her relationship with Mary started in college, Jane’s friendship was based on a different kind of kinship. None of Elizabeth’s other friends could fully commiserate with her feelings of being hunted by the press. But it wasn’t only that. Jane’s demeanor and outlook were so unfailingly positive that it was refreshing after spending so much time with academics and skeptics. Mary was always concerned with principles and ethics, constantly on a corporate crusade or attending a protest. And while Elizabeth respected that she held such strong beliefs, sometimes she didn’t want to talk about politics or the horrors inherent in the capitalist system. Charlotte, on the other hand, was unfailingly practical, and while she was a great source of advice and encouragement on careers and scholarship, Elizabeth always felt a bit like a pupil rather than an equal. With Jane, Elizabeth felt like she finally had a girlfriend. They could talk about fashion, or about Jane’s relationship with Charles, and it was in Jane that Elizabeth found a sympathetic ear over the trials and hassles of an unwanted public life. At least during those times they spent together, Elizabeth didn’t have to deny anything about her fictional relationship. Although Jane was only slightly acquainted with Will Darcy through Charles, she was fair-minded and able to listen to Elizabeth’s complaints without feeling she had to defend her boyfriend or his famous friend. When they met for lunch a week after Elizabeth successfully avoided Bill Collins, Jane surprised Elizabeth with an unusual invitation. “What are you doing next Wednesday?” Jane asked, running her finger around the rim of her coffee mug. “Grading papers, unless you have a better option,” Elizabeth smiled. “Charles has an extra ticket for a film premiere,” Jane said, and then hesitated before continuing, “Actually, it’s for Will’s new movie. Charles thought you might want to see it.” “I don’t know, Jane,” Elizabeth shook her head. “It feels like I’d be throwing myself in his path, seeking him out on purpose. Won’t it just generate more publicity? I’m sure he’ll think I’m chasing after him,” she added bitterly. Jane frowned. “It might, but I’d love it if you came for my sake. I still don’t know many people in Charles’ crowd, and it’s so intimidating to go alone. You don’t have to talk to Will if you don’t want to.” Once again, Elizabeth found herself caught by Jane’s pleading look and was unable to say no. With a sigh, she rolled her eyes, grinned, and acquiesced, “Fine! I’ll go, if I don’t have to talk to Will Darcy. But you have to help me find something to wear, or the deal is off,” she threatened. Jane smiled brightly. “I know just the place to shop!” ----- Tea for Two? Is Jane Gardiner playing secret agent? Still sporting crutches and an air cast from her recent Griffith Park jogging injuries, Jane, current girlfriend of actor Charles Bingley, joined new BFF Lizzy Bennet for lunch last week in L.A. After the two went their separate ways, Jane was seen speaking to Will Darcy, who was not-so-coincidentally dining with Jane’s darling Mr. Bingley in a nearby restaurant. A few minutes after Jane joined the two men, Darcy left abruptly, no doubt to join his own lady-love in a clandestine rendezvous. “They’re being very secretive,” an insider tells us. “Apparently Lizzy doesn’t want their relationship all over the papers. Darcy, of course, does anything and everything he can to make her happy.” Darcy and Lizzy, the press-shy couple du jour, haven’t been spotted together since their public display of affection at the beginning of May. Sources say, though, that the two are still going as strong as ever. “Lizzy’s been busy with upcoming semester finals, and Darcy’s been traveling and promoting his new movie,” a friend of the couple tells us. “They don’t have the time to be together and it’s frustrating them both.” Darcy’s newest film, Shadowboxer, opens next week, and the two are rumored to be attending the premiere together in what will be their first official public appearance as a couple. Having finished grading a giant pile of essays, Elizabeth felt she deserved a reward for her ability to stick to her personal deadlines. The L.A. news was uninspiring, but a commercial for one of the late night shows caught her attention. “Will Darcy talks about his new film!” the voice-over cheerfully announced, coupled with a picture of a smiling Will. Checking her watch, Elizabeth realized the show wouldn’t be on for another twenty minutes, and decided to do some independent research in the meantime. Pulling up her laptop, she navigated to a site one of her students had mentioned in class. “Professor Bennet, you have to check out the DailyBrat,” Jessica Rivera had confided as she left the classroom that day. “He gets all the best gossip. I’ve seen your picture on there before, and there’s a ton of stuff about Will Darcy, too.” Once she found the site, waited for the photos and graphics to load, and surfed through some of the appalling stories of the day (“Starlet found in club bathroom—what and who was she doing there?”), she noticed the search bar. Typing in “Will Darcy,” she bit her lip while it aggregated the results. Celeb Sibs: Special Report March 8, 20-- Photos of Will Darcy and his kid sister, Georgiana, typically show two happy siblings. But these days, the two are anything but warm. On March 6th, the pair was spotted in Ventura, Darcy looking stern and unhappy, and Georgiana hiding her face from the cameras (do we see tears, Miss D?). Sources say that Darcy is not pleased with his younger sister’s choices in life, but refuses to interfere. “She’s crying out for some attention, but he’s not giving her any,” says one close friend. The young Miss Darcy has received much attention from the rest of the world, though. Most recently, tongues were wagging over her involvement in a car accident in Malibu in January. Some reports indicated that alcohol was a contributing factor in the crash. Reminiscent of other high profile heiresses, Gigi blamed the paparazzi for totaling the brand new Mercedes she was driving. We’re sure her big brother has already lined up a replacement. Hopefully this one will have anti-lock brakes! ----- Moguls to Merge? December 13, 20-- We know what you’re thinking: “blah blah Anne de Bourgh blah.” Possibly the most bland Hollywood offspring in the last 26 years (notable exceptions include Ben Stein’s kid), rich-bitch Annie has done little to set tongues wagging other than famously sporting Dolce & Gabbana to Miuccia Prada’s 60th birthday party. But little Annie de Boring is, for once, smack in the center of something that’s actually interesting. According to mommy dearest, Catherine, Anne is finally ready to take on a bigger role in her mother’s media dynasty. The de Bourgh matriarch and Hollywood mogul was caught gossiping about Anne’s future production credits at a recent Getty gala. Apparently Catherine’s mini- me has been angling for exec producer status on a few films, including one of A-lister Will Darcy’s upcoming projects, and Mom says the paperwork’s all but signed. When we called to get the details, all Catherine would tell us was the very vague, “Anne’s a talented business woman who will be a valuable asset to any film she works on and, of course, to the directors of those films.” Rumors of forthcoming partnership between Anne and Will Darcy come on the heels of what Variety calls “a merger that would create an institutionalized system for artistic creativity.” It seems that de Bourgh’s Horizon Studios has been in talks with Aperture Pictures (owned by none other than Will Darcy) to absorb the historically independent production company. Is this a shameless bid on the part of de Bourgh to make Horizon home to a cache of avant garde moneymakers? Horizon’s latest slump in revenue after seasons of lackluster action flicks and lame rom-coms could use a boost from Aperture’s artsy-but-lucrative productions. Catherine may have inadvertently let the deal slip when we spoke: “Working with Will Darcy would be a great learning experience for Anne, and continue a great relationship between Horizon and Aperture.” ----- Publishing Deal for George W.? October 14, 20-- We wouldn’t be a very good gossip site if we didn’t include the dish on one of our own. DailyBrat contributor George Wickham is in talks with Hustler publishing over a new book deal. Part biography, part tell-all, the tome is titled Capable of Giving Information: My Life as a Gossip, Informant, and Tattler. “It’s a look at my career in the press, stuff that hasn’t made it on the website,” Wickham said in an exclusive interview with DailyBrat last week. Any tidbits he’s willing to share? “Since the book is about me, there’s also quite a bit in there about how and why I got my start in gossip rather than in journalism,” he told us. Why is that, we wonder? “Sometimes life just works out that way,” Wickham philosophized. “Mick Jagger said it best: ‘You can’t always get what you want.’” According to the book, Wickham’s dad was an accountant for the Darcy— yes, fangirls and boys, as in Will Darcy—family’s legendary production company, Aperture Pictures, and by all accounts, young George was encouraged to use the family connection to launch a career as in screenwriting, with Aperture agreeing to pick up the option on any future scripts. But after the untimely death of Will Darcy’s papa, Wickham found himself out in the cold, struggling to make it in a city full of aspiring writers. “What could I do?” George said, “I had to use what little know-how I had, and find a way to make it work. I started out with the tabloids, writing up bits of gossip I’d overheard at parties or in production meetings. Little did I know that I had a talent for sniffing out the rumors running around this town. Mine is a story of overcoming serious odds to get to where I am today.” The book is tentatively scheduled to release early next year. ----- The boisterous trumpet riff that broke into her reading signaled the beginning of the talk show. Elizabeth clicked idly through several more articles, but the mentions of Will Darcy were mostly related to his films, or a contract he’d signed, without including much depth. When the show host, Macy, called out his name, Elizabeth watched as he gave a brief wave to the studio audience, and took the appointed chair. He wore a dark suit without a tie, and gave off an air of careless elegance that Elizabeth suspected was the reason some of the women in the crowd were fanning their hands in front of their faces. She rolled her eyes. He was attractive, sure, but not hot-flash-inducing. “Darcy, it’s been a while since we’ve seen you on the show,” Macy began, and when Darcy nodded while sipping his water, she continued, “could it be because you were a bit upset after the last time?” Darcy groaned audibly and shook his head as Macy shouted, “Roll the footage!” It was video of Darcy being forced to judge a chili cook-off—an all-female event—where the prize was what the host referred to as a “five-alarm hunk.” In other words, a shirtless Will Darcy poster (that the actor publically denied posing for or providing to the show). Elizabeth thought the whole thing was pretty tacky, and expected more from the comedienne-turned-late-night host. “We didn’t realize how much you would dislike that experience, Will, or we would probably have repeated it for you again!” Macy chuckled. Darcy quirked an eyebrow in a distinctly un-amused fashion. The video reel had shown him growing more and more uncomfortable as the stunt progressed. He had still not said anything to Macy. “But this brings up a good question. You’re a very private person, right Will?” “I try to be,” he answered, with a shrug that was somehow both aristocratic and annoyingly casual. “And,” she went on, “you’ve been known to take a pretty hard line with the press when they’ve stepped over the line of what you think is decent.” “I believe it’s important to keep some things out of the media,” he said. “I’m unwilling to put my private life in the tabloids.” “See here’s what I find interesting,” Macy pointed an index card at Darcy as she spoke, “I’d be willing to wager—normally—that it’s people like you who don’t want their private lives public because they have a lot to hide. Is that why you keep things so quiet?” “I see your point,” Darcy smiled wryly. “But you’re not going to get me to admit I have a pile of bodies in the basement or a rash of addictions. I don’t, by the way. I just can’t fathom why anyone would be interested in the fact that I’m a fanatic when it comes to getting my hands on the latest video equipment, or that I have a music library that rivals the one at Sony.” “So then you don’t have anything to hide?” she prodded. “You’re the perfect, uninteresting celebrity?” Darcy turned serious. “It would be awfully pretentious to say that. I have plenty of faults, but they aren’t really the kind that you could write about in a tabloid.” “Name one,” Macy challenged. Darcy paused, and then said quietly, “I’m actually very obstinate. I like to do things my own way, and my staff will tell you that I can be very adamant about the way I want things to be done.” “I have to say, that’s not what I expected you to say,” she smiled. “I thought we’d hear something about having a fiery temper or holding grudges.” “Well,” Darcy answered calmly, “You only asked me to name one fault. If you want to know that I’m more easily offended than flattered, and not the most forgiving person, you shouldn’t have limited me.” He lifted his eyebrows in mock reproof and smirked. Macy laughed, as did the audience. Even Elizabeth felt her mouth involuntarily tilt into a small smile. As the host launched her next question, Elizabeth felt her shoulders tense, and leaned forward on the couch, the remote she had been unconsciously holding now gripped tightly in her hand. “So, since you seem to be in a very revealing mood this evening, what can you tell us about your romance with Lizzy Bennet?” Macy tossed a conspicuous wink to the camera as she said it. Darcy’s face hardened and he shook his head, covering his expression with another sip of water. “Not going to answer that one, sorry.” “Well, I figured I was pressing my luck anyway,” she shrugged off Darcy’s response and changed the subject. “Why don’t you tell us about your new film instead?” The conversation turned to the movie, before heading to a commercial break. When it was clear that Darcy’s segment was over, Elizabeth turned off the television and headed for bed. The more she thought about the stories she’d read, and the interview she’d seen, the more agitated she grew. Although stories on gossip websites were low on Elizabeth’s trustworthiness scale, something about these articles seemed more truthful than the ones she’d read about herself. She couldn’t believe they were completely accurate— she’d read enough drivel about her “boyfriend” recently to know that the press could paint vastly different pictures of him. Darcy didn’t help the problem by refusing to discuss his life and identity. Perhaps it was that these pieces described a Darcy familiar to her; concerned only about himself, unwilling to take an interest in those who might be impacted by his actions. He had not, from what she could discern, attempted to quiet the media frenzy over their mistaken relationship, subjecting her to invasions of privacy. It was hypocritical and uncaring of him, and she could easily see how a man who had no respect for the well-being of someone he perceived to be outside his circle would be equally hardhearted toward his peers. She lay awake for nearly an hour, puzzling over Darcy’s responses, and wondering, not for the first time, just what kind of man Will Darcy really was. “Ms. Bennet!” “Lizzy! Over here!” “Liz! Look here!” “Lizzy B! One question!” “Elizabeth!” The last voice was Charlotte. Elizabeth, overwhelmed by the crowd of photographers and reporters stationed between the curbside drop-off and ArcLight theater entrance recognized it only vaguely amidst the chaos. Charlotte nearly tripped over several gaping bystanders as she moved quickly through the throng of people. “You look great!” were Charlotte’s first words when they finally reached each other. “Which designer is dressing you tonight?” “Thanks,” Elizabeth replied, leaning in for a quick embrace. “I don’t know the designer, actually—I talked Jane into shopping at Saks instead of Rodeo Drive. And before you ask, it’s my dress, not a loaner. I’m not using any of this publicity for personal gain. I’m sure Will Darcy’s already assumed that I would do such a thing, and I can’t wait to disappoint him.” “You do recall that the man you’re currently hating on made the movie we’re here to see?” “How could I forget?” “So then you’re also aware that he’s going to be here tonight, and you might even have to talk to him?” Charlotte wobbled on her stilettos, grasping Elizabeth for balance, as a group of twenty-something hipsters pushed past them on their way to the non-red carpet entrance. “Not if I can help it,” Elizabeth answered sharply, scanning the congested sidewalk and taking in the controlled chaos of people milling around, reporters shouting, and flashbulbs popping. “As far as he’s concerned, I’m probably just another admirer in this huge crowd.” The noise from the reporters swelled again, and it didn’t take long to see why. Jane Gardiner, finally without any air casts, wrist braces or crutches, was making her way towards Elizabeth in a low-cut red dress. Elizabeth could see Charles, backlit by the line of headlights from the curb, fielding autographs and posing for pictures with the fans gathered there. Elizabeth introduced her friends, who greeted each other cautiously but warmly, covering the basic small talk required of new acquaintances. Stilted conversation couldn’t last long in such an environment, and one comment from Charlotte on the horrible outfit worn by a woman standing behind Jane launched the threesome into talk of fashion and clothes. Jane described how long the wait had been in the limo, and made them reassure her that her dress was not too wrinkled. “Oh, I almost forgot! Thanks for sending a car, Jane,” Elizabeth smiled. “It was so nice not to have to fight the freeway traffic to get here.” “I didn’t send a car, Lizzy,” Jane looked confused. “But I can ask Charles about it, if you want.” Elizabeth looked at her strangely, but there wasn’t time to say anything else about it, as Charles approached them and took Jane’s hand. “Lizzy, looking good! You have to walk in with us,” he said. “The press will want photos of you.” “Really, I’d prefer not to have my picture taken,” Elizabeth answered, looking skeptically at the mob gathered only a few feet away. At this, Jane’s eyes widened and Charlotte clucked disapprovingly. Elizabeth sent a pleading glance at Charlotte, who interpreted it in the correct way. “The front row always makes my neck hurt,” Charlotte joked, easing the tension. “I’ll go in on my own; I saw some folks I know and I can sit with them. I’ll catch you later. No big deal. It was nice to meet you, Jane.” Jane smiled kindly and returned the sentiment, and began walking away with Charles. Elizabeth waved her on, but held Charlotte back for a moment. “I’m really sorry, I had no idea you wouldn’t be able to go in. I feel like a jerk.” “Honestly, it’s not a big deal. I figured something like this would happen. You’re dating royalty now, remember?” Elizabeth grimaced at the joke. “Don’t remind me.” “Elizabeth,” Charlotte said seriously, “You’re probably going to see Will Darcy in there. Try not to be a total bitch to him, okay? Reading a few articles online doesn’t mean you know the guy. He might be a pretty cool person, and we know the media are a bunch of liars anyway.” “Right,” Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Anyway, I’m off to face the music. Wish me luck.” “Who needs luck? You’ve got the duds, and everyone thinks you’ve got the dude. Just don’t trip and fall, and you’ll be great.” With a quick hug, the women parted, Charlotte for the back of the theater, and Elizabeth for the red carpet. It was clear, when she managed to make her way over to Jane and Charles, that the film star was in his element. He laughed, he shook hands with the moguls, he waved to his adoring fans. The press loved him, and he shouted out answers to a myriad of questions while giving them his megawatt smile. Jane stood next to him, looking lovely, posing at appropriate times, and quietly allowing Charles to steal the show. Elizabeth hung back a bit, listening to the ebb and flow of the crowd’s voice as different celebrities appeared, and trying valiantly to compose herself before running the gauntlet alone. The brightly lit red carpet, she reflected ruefully, would probably showcase every pore and blemish on her face. She was amazed by Carl, who was carefully making his way down the line of reporters, correcting Charles’ information, giving details on which designers he and Jane were wearing, and passing out his card at the same time. Elizabeth had been trying not to squint under the glare of the lights, and noticed immediately when a shadow fell over her. “Elizabeth?” At the sound of her own name in Will Darcy’s quiet voice, Elizabeth stiffened. “Ready to go in?” He pulled back and held out his hand. Flustered by his sudden proximity, height and the tumult surrounding her, Elizabeth could only look at him for a moment, caught up in his steady gaze, before she placed her fingers in his. He walked forward with a gentle pull on their clasped hands, guiding her to each place he wanted her to stand. “Lizzy! Darcy!” photographers shouted. “Give us a smile!” Elizabeth obeyed, and occasionally glanced up at Darcy to find him making a variety of expressions for the crowd. He smiled briefly, sometimes he showed his teeth, and other times, he looked impassively into the flashes, seeming almost bored with the commotion taking place all around him. His grip on her hand wasn’t tight, but it was present, and no matter the flash of lights or the incessant noise of the press, her attention could not drift far from the feel of his fingers resting against hers. It was maddening, infuriating, to be an accomplice to dramatics she loathed. Not only had she thought she could avoid him, she had never expected that he would be so arrogant to assume the freedom to touch her, to act like a couple, to let the world believe that she knew him as anything more than a face on the screen and a quote in a magazine. It took a moment for Elizabeth to realize that although she was conscious of his every movement, every change in his grasp, he seemed unmoved by their proximity, the lights, or the crowd. He smiled at reports who shouted inane questions. “Darcy! How does it feel to finally be at your directorial debut?” “I’m very happy to be here,” he answered patiently, before taking three steps and repeating himself. The most embarrassing portion of their stroll towards the theater was their encounter with Bill Collins. He first yelled for Elizabeth. “Lizzy B! Come on, babe, you know I always take the best photos of you! Give me some of those great looks from the other day.” Elizabeth grimaced, and Darcy leaned down to ask, “Do you know this person?” “He accosted me on my front lawn,” she replied bitterly. Before he could respond, Darcy himself became the target of Bill’s enthusiasm. “Darcy! Give me a smile then! Remember those photos I took at your first premiere, when I was hired by Mrs. de Bourgh? Let’s recreate that magic!” Elizabeth stood on her toes to reach Darcy’s ear and hissed, “He’s been following me around, but it sounds like you two have history.” Darcy didn’t respond verbally, but pulled her away from Collins and toward the next group of photographers, tightening his grip on her hand in what felt like a maneuver to prevent her from escaping. There was a whole station of reporters who wanted segments for various news programs, both in Los Angeles, and for syndicated shows. They asked about how Darcy thought the movie would be received, his opinion on making it, and they all congratulated Darcy on his ‘beautiful date.’ He just nodded his thanks and turned to the next person. Elizabeth had her fair share of questions as well, and she often felt Darcy’s fingers press against the back of her hand more firmly when they were particularly intrusive. There were a lot of variations on “How is it going for you two?” and “What’s the future hold for you both?” They took turns answering, alternating between adaptations of “We’re not going to speculate on that” and “None of your damned business.” By far, Elizabeth’s favorite question of the night came when they were nearing the end of the red carpet, “Lizzy! How’s Darcy as a boyfriend then?” His hand twitched in hers, and she glanced up to see him watching her with raised eyebrows. She looked at the reporter and answered dryly, “Absent, mostly.” ----- Once they arrived inside the theater, he released his hold on her, but kept one hand against the small of her back. She was still trying to ignore how gentle his touch felt against her bare skin when the theater darkened thirty minutes later. They worked their way across the vestibule toward the theater entrance greeting fellow actors (some Elizabeth recognized and some she didn’t), media moguls, and one man Darcy referred to as “Buck.” He was perfectly polite, kissing the cheeks of actresses he knew and shaking the hands of their dates, discussing the film they were about to see. He introduced her with a cursory, “This is Elizabeth Bennet,” almost as an afterthought. At least he hadn’t called her Lizzy, which was currently the only thing in his favor. Darcy ushered her into a seat near the aisle in one of the middle rows, then abruptly walked away without a word. She turned sharply, gaping as her eyes followed his retreating figure up the center aisle toward the projection area. Settling into the plush seats, she resolved to ignore him for the rest of the movie. At least she was sitting next to Jane, who leaned over to talk with her. “How was the red carpet? Did you have to answer a lot of questions?” “Not too many, I’m not even sure which newspapers were here. There were a bunch of news stations, though. We didn’t answer anything very openly, lots of ‘no comments.’ What about you?” “Oh, we were fine. Charles does a good job with these things, and mostly they asked about my dress.” Jane sighed elegantly and smiled. “I’m excited to see the film. Charles said Will’s been working really hard on it. Did you decide about whether to stay for the reception after?” “School night,” Elizabeth shrugged and Jane smiled with understanding. Realizing she wouldn’t have another opportunity, Elizabeth moved closer to Jane. “I meant to ask you out front, but remember when I told you about those articles I read online? Did you have a chance to ask Charles about that guy, George Wickham?” Elizabeth broached the subject carefully, mindful of the eyes and ears upon them. Jane’s immaculately groomed eyebrows furrowed. “From what Charles remembers of the story, he’s not a very good journalist, and Darcy’s had trouble in the past over what he’s published. They don’t really trust him.” “Who? George Wickham?” Carl leaned over the seat and joined the conversation. “He’s an asshat. You know, right, that he and Darcy grew up together? Apparently he got his start telling tales about Darcy. I wouldn’t trust him, and don’t say anything to your man—he hates to even have Wickham’s name mentioned in his presence.” Elizabeth glared at Carl, and said, “Thanks for the news flash, Carl.” Carl just rolled his eyes and took his seat as the lights blinked in the theater. When Elizabeth turned to the front of the room, she was a bit surprised to see Darcy standing in front of the giant screen. She hadn’t been aware that he’d come back down the aisle, and she was close enough that she could see him squint a bit in the glow of a spotlight. He began speaking into a microphone, the theater immediately quieting and kept silent by his words. “I’d like to welcome you all to the premiere of Shadowboxer. It’s been a labor of love for everyone who worked on the film, and I’d like to thank those who played a part in bringing it to life. Thanks, as always, to the team at Aperture for their partnership with me and for the other executives who made this moment a reality. I hope you’ll enjoy it.” Darcy took his seat amidst the applause, and the lights dimmed to blackness as the film began. Elizabeth tried to relax into the comfortable chairs, but it seemed impossible with Will Darcy sitting stiffly next to her and Jane curled into Bingley on the other side. The cinematography was beautiful, and the story compelling, but Elizabeth could not ignore the drama that enveloped her real life for the one presented in the film. Realizing that Darcy’s placid countenance would be ruffled more by her talking than passively watching the screen, she leaned over a bit and whispered, “How long is the movie?” She could see the outline of his face in the bluish light from the projector, the sudden lift of his brow when she spoke. “Ninety-six minutes.” Elizabeth watched for a few more minutes as the on-screen Darcy experienced a series of flashbacks. Struck with another thought, Elizabeth tilted her head toward Darcy’s ear and asked quietly, “Should I prepare myself for a dramatic love scene? I’m sure if there are any, the press will ask about them later.” His eyes flicked over to take in her face before he replied, “No, it’s not that kind of movie.” “Ah. So you’re not a romantic then,” she said, turning to face the screen again. “I don’t write romantic movies, no,” he whispered. “I prefer realism. Romance isn’t real.” “It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain,” Elizabeth murmured. “If I never loved, I never would have cried,” he answered softly. She turned to look at him then, only to find that she was already the object of his steady gaze. A sudden white light from the screen illuminated his face, giving it a ghostly appearance, his eyes like two glistening pools of dark water. They stared at each other for a long moment, until Elizabeth blinked slowly. When her eyes opened again, he was watching the film, a more muted glow from a night scene casting his features in shadow again. ----- Standing By Her Man! She may not be in the biz, but Lizzy Bennet knows how to support her man when it counts. She and Will Darcy arrived hand-in-hand to last week’s premiere of Shadowboxer, Darcy’s latest film and directorial debut. The two refused to comment on the status of their relationship, but others couldn’t fail to notice their chemistry. “Lizzy would lean over to talk to him at key moments in the film, as though she was reassuring him,” one theater-goer told us. It wasn’t only in the dark that the two were seen getting cozy. “He introduced her to all his friends, everyone important at the premiere,” said one of our celebrity tipsters. Apparently, he couldn’t keep his hands to himself either! According to our A-List gossiper, “Darcy was always touching Lizzy, holding her hand, resting his hand on her back. He has totally fallen for her.” Starz wonders where these two lovebirds will show up next! In the meantime, you can catch Darcy in Shadowboxer, which opens nationwide this weekend. Empirical evidence demonstrated that Professor Bennet’s students performed much better on essay tests when they were graded after their instructor had consumed at least one double cappuccino. Subsequent Italian coffee drinks improved their scores further, with a leveling off at four cups, and a decline in overall averages after five servings. Well-versed in the coffee-to-scoring ratio, Elizabeth often elected to tackle her most arduous grading chores at an independent coffee shop a few blocks from her home. Immersed in the rhetoric of Jin-Mae Park, Elizabeth failed to notice that the large window she sat near was not only allowing sunlight in, but also granting a lone photographer some excellent footage of her morning exam-reading. When she finally glanced outside only to meet the camera lens, she motioned for a staff member and asked to have one of the window shades lowered. She didn’t realize that the paparazzo was determined enough to enter the café. In fact, it wasn’t until the man, dressed in a leather blazer, well-fitting jeans and beat up Chuck Taylors, sat across from her that she looked up from the blue book she was reading. “Let’s make a deal,” he said, plunking his Canon on the table hard enough to nearly topple Elizabeth’s glass of water all over a stack of completed essays. Without waiting for a response from a speechless Elizabeth, he continued. “You know I’m going to use this photo of you, so how about a quote to go with it? Something about you pining for Will Darcy, perhaps?” He paused, the tip of his index finger resting on the bit of scuffed wood that wasn’t covered by Elizabeth’s papers. “No comment,” Elizabeth responded dryly, and turned back to her essay. She held out a little hope that if she ignored him, he would get the hint that she had nothing to say. “Well, then I think we should probably talk about setting up an interview so you can tell your side of the story.” He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. “I think you’re overestimating the amount of interest people have in my life,” Elizabeth said, refusing to be unnerved. “I’m a woman with a normal life, and a photo of me alone in a coffee shop is about as interesting as, well, these exams I’m reading right now. An interview about my love life is only slightly better.” The man shrugged and gave her a crooked grin. “You can believe that if you want, but you’re wrong.” Elizabeth narrowed her eyes, but when she opened her mouth to speak, he cut her off. “I grew up in this business, and I’m telling you, the story of Lizzy Bennet isn’t going anywhere. You can spare me the diatribe on how you’re normal and boring—I don’t care about any of that. You could be a publicity stunt or the love of his life, and it wouldn’t matter a bit. You’re advertising gold, a modern-day fairy tale, and the sooner you realize it and make it work for you, the better off you’ll be.” “Are you really naïve enough to think I could translate a flimsy connection with a movie star into a successful media campaign?” Elizabeth rolled her eyes and sighed. “I think you’ve made a few erroneous assumptions about how much I want to take part in celebrity culture.” “Whether you want to or not, you already are,” he said. “The point is that you define your own involvement. Do you want a column on dating a celeb? A reality show about your life? Cameo on your favorite TV show? You can have those, Lizzy.” “I don’t want them. That’s my point,” she said. “I’ve never been the kind of person who hoped I’d be ‘discovered’ at karaoke night or thought that if I just bumped into the right person I’d wind up with instant fame. I’m happy with my life as it is, and I don’t see the need to try to turn it into some example of how a normal girl can become a superstar, if only she dates the right guy.” “Fine, don’t do it for yourself, but what about doing it to show Darcy what you’re made of?” Elizabeth stared at him. “What are you talking about? I don’t have anything to prove to Will Darcy either,” she said. “You might not think that you do,” he said. “But I know how things work. Even more, I know how Darcy works. Look, the guy is a Hollywood player because he wants to be, and he puts effort into it. That means he manages every aspect of his life, including the people he dates. Whether you’re a fling or not, you’d better wise up to the fact that Darcy is manipulating the situation so he gets the most out of it, and right now he’s getting a mountain of great press. Do you know how much money that’s worth?” “So what you’re suggesting is that I capitalize on his publicity skills to… what, exactly? Use his good press to get some cash of my own? Or break up with him and watch his media empire come crashing down?” “Frankly, I don’t give a damn. Either way you spin it, I’ll get a story out of it. I just think you should have someone on your side, helping you make the most of this opportunity.” “Nice to see you have my best interests at heart.” “No one has your best interests at heart, honey,” he smirked. “This is an entire business of independent contractors; everyone is in it for themselves. People believe the lies about ‘talent’ or ‘being discovered,’ but most of it is who you know, and once you’re in, you struggle to stay in. Darcy’s a professional, not just because he’s a good actor, but because he runs a studio as well, so he’s a moneymaker for a lot of people. He’s very interested in maintaining what’s been passed on to him in terms of property and influence, and in making sure his family stays among the Hollywood elite. It’s why he cultivates a relationship with Catherine de Bourgh, for crying out loud.” “Enough with the lecture on Hollywood politics. Your point is…” “My point is that in this town, Darcy knows everyone. When people aren’t of use to him—and I know this from personal experience—he drops them.” “Look, I don’t know who you are, but you’ve wasted enough of my time today. I’m not sure how else to say that I’m not providing an interview, I don’t want a starring role in any production, and I really don’t want to talk about Will Darcy anymore.” He pulled a business card from his pocket as he stood and handed it to Elizabeth. The name ‘George Wickham’ was printed on the front, with contact numbers and an email address on the reverse side. “You don’t have to like me, and you don’t have to believe what I’ve told you. I understand that this is a whole new world for you. But you’ve got a limited amount of time, LizzyB, until your expiration date hits. If I were you, I’d make the most of it.” With a wink, George turned and walked out the door. ----- Stars! They’re just like us! They eat chocolate… lots of it! Let’s hope Elizabeth Bennet isn’t consoling herself after a fight with Will Darcy by eating the pound of fair trade dark chocolate she picked up at Whole Foods last week. (see photo, inset) ----- “I don’t suppose they make organic mayonnaise, do they?” Gary Bennet grumbled as he piled turkey slices on whole grain bread. “Yes, Dad, but I thought you deserved a break. Here, try the cheese, and mustard,” Elizabeth said, giving her father a kiss on the cheek as she set a glass of lemonade in front of him. “I don’t understand why you insist on feeding us this health food when you know it’s only going to prolong our lives so I can withhold your inheritance and your mother can meddle in your affairs.” He winked at Elizabeth as she took a seat across the table. “Gary!” Lorraine cried. “I don’t meddle! I just want to see my daughters happy. And I know you want them to settle down and give us some grandchildren while we’re still young. I can’t believe Elizabeth hasn’t even been engaged once by now. When I was your age, Elizabeth, I had two little girls already!” Lorraine continued to cluck over Elizabeth’s advancing age as she made her own sandwich. Elizabeth just smiled at her father and rolled her eyes. “How’s Katie?” She changed the topic as smoothly as she could, hoping that her younger sister’s collegiate exploits would sufficiently distract her mother from marriage-related prattle. “That girl!” Lorraine exclaimed. “She’s decided to get an apartment with your cousin Lydia here in the city, apparently because of some internship with a big business—” “An advertising firm, actually,” Gary added pointedly. “It’s a very competitive program.” “But I think it’s just so that she and her boyfriend can see each other during the summer. Nevermind that I wanted her to come home! It’s the last summer we’ll have before she gets a job or gets married. At least one of my daughters should be home with her parents. Besides, if she’s going to marry this boy, she had better start planning now. These things take time if you want them to be done right.” Lorraine shook her head as she took a bite of her sandwich. “Are Katie and Jake getting married?” Elizabeth asked. “I didn’t think it was that serious.” “Oh, you know how your sister is,” her father replied. “She barely tells me when she’ll be home for a visit, let alone any details about her personal life.” “Well, she certainly tells her mother!” Lorraine said through a mouthful of turkey. “Personally, I think she’s a little afraid of how serious they’re getting. You know, Elizabeth, how she’s been with boys in the past. The two of you are so different, I always expected you to settle down first. Of course, now that you’re dating a celebrity, I don’t know what to think. How is Will Darcy?” “Mom, we’ve been over this—” “Yes, yes, you’ve told me I shouldn’t ask, but I’m having lunch with your aunt this week, and she’s gone on and on the past few times about your cousin, so it’s time I had my share in the conversation. It’s quite unfair, you know, that I have to get all my information on your love life from a magazine. You’d think you would tell your own mother some of these things. Did he really take you to The Ivy last month?” “Where did you read that?” Elizabeth asked. She had spent the past month secluded in her house or office, grading papers, writing exams, and working on her own papers. She responded only to urgent emails from students or other instructors, and had refused to read newspapers and magazines, check internet gossip sites, and only allowed herself to listen to the AM traffic reports. Charlotte had been told to restrict all celebrity gossip to mentions of potentially defamatory stories, and to otherwise wait until the second week of June before sharing anything else. “Some internet site,” Lorraine said with a hand wave. “Your father showed me how to set up a Google Alert—” she said this very carefully, as though pronouncing the name of a foreign country—“so I can keep track of all the news about you. I’ve been printing off the stories that mention you and making a scrapbook. Then, at the wedding, we can let people read it!” Elizabeth pressed her fingers against her temples and squeezed her eyes shut. “Mom,” she said quietly, “I’ve told you that none of the press is true. Please, I’m begging you, stop talking to people about it.” “Fine, Elizabeth,” Lorraine sighed, “we don’t have to talk about it anymore. But don’t expect your father and me to allow you to just elope with this man. He’s going to have to meet us sometime. I’d better not find out about some Vegas wedding or crazy elopement on an island. I want to be there!” “Lorraine,” Gary said softly, “Elizabeth will tell us if anything significant happens, I’m sure. Right, honey?” Elizabeth nodded and gave her father a small smile. “Now,” he continued, “how about you serve us some organic mung bean paste for dessert before we head off to our afternoon at the Hollywood Bowl?” ----- Separated by Summer? We can hardly believe it ourselves, but it might just be true. After weeks of speculation on their romance, Will Darcy and Lizzy Bennet have been as elusive as a well-plotted summer movie. Oh, we understand that Darcy’s been traveling the globe premiering his new film, and Lizzy has to deal with a ‘real job’ like the rest of us, but the two haven’t been spotted together since the Shadowboxer premiere in May. That’s at least a year in Hollywood time. The only consolation in all of this is that neither of the golden couple has been spotted with anyone else, and reps from the Darcy camp have remained tight-lipped about his love life. However, it’s summer now, and we think it’s time the two lovebirds took a little time for themselves—but with Starz on hand to make sure they’re having a good time! Alert Starz readers can log onto starz.com and track your favorite celebrities— including Will and Lizzy—with our interactive world map. Look for the “Summer Starz Sightings” logo and show us where your star sightings are this summer, and of course, win hot prizes! After all, those of us taking a staycation have to make life at home just as exciting as weeks in the Hamptons, Bermuda or Rio. Somewhere between the security checkpoint and final boarding call, Charlotte had decided it would be funny to keep a running total of the number of magazines they saw with Elizabeth’s face on the cover. “Twenty-seven,” she said. “You can’t count that one,” Elizabeth replied. “It’s not fair to use different copies of the same magazine. You’re artificially inflating the number of hits.” “Not really, if you figure that we’re more interested in the volume of magazine sales your face generates, rather than the number of publications that feature stories about you.” “Says you,” Elizabeth replied. “I want to know who’s responsible for buying my photo from Collins—who’s been around for the last two weeks, by the way. I’m worried he’s going to find a way to spoil our vacation.” “You could always wear your sunglasses on the plane,” Charlotte said. “Oh, and twenty-eight.” “Yes, that would make me delightfully inconspicuous. Nothing says ‘you can’t see me’ like big black glasses in the dimly lit interior of a metal tube.” Charlotte grinned. “Look out, then, because I think another Gossipy Gert is headed this way. Twenty-nine.” The woman in question was even more intrusive than the ones who had walked by before, people who had at least discreetly done a double take upon noticing Elizabeth before staring for long moments and moving to their seats. This woman, however, whipped out her cell phone to capture a photo of Elizabeth and Charlotte. Elizabeth hoped that by hiding behind a newspaper, she would have some degree of anonymity. Alas, a few moments later, they heard a loud voice from a few rows behind them. “I know, right? Can you believe she flies coach?” “Of all the times for your pseudo-boyfriend not to buy you an upgrade,” Charlotte said. “Doesn’t he realize that people like us can’t fly with the unwashed masses?” “Actually,” Elizabeth answered, “that girl does look rather unwashed.” She gestured to a poorly-groomed woman wearing all black and seated in the last row of first class. “Ew,” Charlotte said. “She could have at least combed her hair before subjecting anyone else to that mess. Then again, people who fly first class can afford to make their own rules, can’t they?” On that philosophical note, the flight attendant closed the curtain that separated the two cabins, and began his presentation on safety information. Elizabeth leaned back in her seat and continued to read the international section of the LA Times, thankful to at least be spared the parade of gawkers for a few minutes. ----- Women in Hollywood: Catherine de Bourgh Hollywood insiders will tell you that being a media mogul is a man’s job— and has been for decades. However, the same people will also tell you that Catherine de Bourgh, President of Horizon Studios, doesn’t shy away from playing with the big boys. In her eighteenth year as chief exec at the studios, the highest earner under the Horizon Entertainment Group umbrella, de Bourgh has negotiated deals as diverse as bringing Academy Award-winning Rupert Boyd to Horizon for a three-picture series when he was an unknown director, to optioning a script that would eventually produce a top-grossing film, transforming a genre and making screenwriter Alex Strait a household name (Understudies). “When Catherine de Bourgh started at Horizon, people said she wouldn’t last six months in the CEO spot,” says retired Variety journalist Bob Koss. “But she surprised everyone with the changes she made, and made herself essential to keeping Horizon at the forefront of the Hollywood movie-making culture.” From her early days on the business side of Horizon management, de Bourgh […] These days, de Bourgh has set her sights on cultivating relationships with well-known artists and directors, with the goal of creating art house pictures that have broad appeal and cut across markets. “We aren’t trying to do anything revolutionary,” she said to shareholders at a large gathering last year. “At Horizon, we are trying to make money, and we recognize that as entertainment mediums evolve and grow, we’ll need to be at the forefront of those changes to appeal to consumers. We want to make good movies, and when we make good movies, we make good money.” Loyalty is important to de Bourgh. Famously widowed when husband Lewis, a real estate tycoon, perished in a car accident in Malibu in the 1980’s, she has never remarried, preferring to raise daughter Anne on her own rather than “dishonor my husband by tarnishing the memory of our relationship by taking up with someone inferior to him.” Her fidelity extends to other aspects of life as well. While the fashionable crowd prefers to vacation at the year’s newest hot spot, de Bourgh remains committed to her beachfront residence in Oahu. She and Lewis bought the home in the 1970’s, and de Bourgh continues to use the scenic retreat for both business and personal reasons. “Jetting off to whatever place is currently in vogue may work for other execs,” de Bourgh says, “but I prefer to show people that a studio like Horizon, with its history of creativity and success, is just as exciting. What better place to do that than in my own home, with all the wonderful memories it holds for me?” ----- It was easily the strangest event Elizabeth had ever attended. Instead of a hum of voices over a steady drone and whatever light jazz or string quartet was playing in the background, there were only a few soft murmurs, people standing in small groups, almost whispering to each other while they sipped their drinks. Charlotte gave Elizabeth an eloquent look and the two made their way to the bar. “With a house like this, I was expecting something more… fun,” Charlotte said as they waited for the bartender. Elizabeth nodded, and scanned the room for signs of interesting conversation. The décor was a strange mix of island-inspired art, modern furniture pieces, and 1970’s architecture; guests gathered under overhangs and in front of floor-to-vaulted-ceiling windows. Elizabeth spent a moment appreciating the way the final moments of the evening’s sunset filtered through the windows, casting an orange glow over the room. “I’m so glad you could make it, I was worried that you wouldn’t arrive in time.” A petite woman in tailored linen pants and a beaded top grasped Elizabeth’s forearm, nearly spilling her mai tai. “I’m sorry, have we met?” Elizabeth asked. “We’re meeting now! I told him to bring you so we could get to know each other, but he never really gave me an answer, you know how stoic he can be when he wants to be! Now, where did he go? I hope he hasn’t left you to fend for yourself here. Do you see him?” She surveyed the room, while Elizabeth played at glancing around, bemused at what was obviously a case of mistaken identity. “I’m right here.” Elizabeth stiffened as she felt Will Darcy rest his hand against her lower back. The touch lasted only a moment before he stepped around Elizabeth leaned forward to kiss the cheek of Elizabeth’s new friend. “Elizabeth, this is Catherine de Bourgh. She runs Horizon Studios. Catherine, meet Elizabeth Bennet.” Elizabeth gave the executive a tight-lipped smile and a firm handshake before turning to Darcy and deciding she could also play the introduction game. “Will, you’ve never met my friend Charlotte Lucas.” Looking at Charlotte with raised eyebrows, she said, “Charlotte, this is Will Darcy, and Catherine de Bourgh.” “It’s nice to meet you Charlotte. I’m glad you could make it to the party. Elizabeth, Will tells me you’re a student, is that right?” Catherine turned ever-so slightly to face Elizabeth, but it had the effect of cutting Charlotte out of the conversation and focusing both Elizabeth and Darcy only on her. “Yes, Charlotte and I are in the same graduate program.” “Excellent. It’s nice to see Will with someone who’s more than just a pretty face.” Elizabeth wasn’t sure how to reply. Fortunately, Catherine didn’t require any acknowledgement and carried on, stepping between Elizabeth and Darcy and taking their arms to lead them into the throng of people. Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder to find Charlotte still standing there with a bewildered look. She mouthed “I’m networking,” and watched Charlotte roll her eyes and turn back toward the bar. Elizabeth felt the scrutiny of the other guests as they passed through the crowd. Catherine continued chatting, mostly to Darcy, about this or that person in attendance that he simply had to speak to later, her voice easily carrying over the low noise in the room. Elizabeth watched well- manicured brows rise in judgment and collagen-plumped lips purse at their appearance. She squared her shoulders and tilted her chin confidently, reminding herself that she hadn’t asked for the attention or respect of anyone there, and would undoubtedly survive even if it wasn’t offered. Catherine stopped her march across the room when they reached a solitary woman standing near the windows. Elizabeth nearly gasped when she realized it was the same person from the first class section of her flight—though at least she had washed her hair for the party. It didn’t improve her appearance much. Her skin looked ashen underneath a poorly-matched foundation makeup, and her overly-bright concealer didn’t hide the dark circles and distinct redness about her eyes. Her hair fell listlessly around her jutting collarbones, and her shapeless black sheath dress only accentuated her thinness and pallor. In dark green linen, Elizabeth felt vibrant in comparison. “This,” Catherine announced magnanimously, “is my daughter, Anne. I’m so pleased you get to meet her, Elizabeth. Anne, meet Darcy’s girlfriend! I’m sure you two will be great friends.” “Nice to meet you,” Elizabeth said tentatively, and received a blank stare in return. “Anne, it’s always a pleasure.” Even with her limited knowledge, Elizabeth could tell Darcy wasn’t completely sincere. “You may have heard of Anne before, Elizabeth. She is going to be helping Darcy on some of his films as an assistant producer. We’re all very excited.” Anne offered a barely audible “mmm-hmm” as she sipped her martini. “The finer details still have to be worked out, Catherine. Perhaps we should wait until the contracts are signed before we announce it.” “Well, of course, but telling Elizabeth isn’t making it a formal announcement. If I know you Darcy, you’ve already shared everything with her about your next film. She could probably fill me in on the details!” “Actually, Catherine, he’s told me very little. You know the artistic temperament—so focused, so secretive. I can barely get a word out of him, even about everyday things.” Catherine laughed. “No, she’s right.” Darcy’s quiet voice caused Elizabeth to look at him. When she did, she saw his eyebrow raised in a peculiar kind of challenge. “Then again, Elizabeth’s been so busy with her own work lately, it’s been difficult to get even a moment alone with her. I don’t think we’ve been on a single date since the Shadowboxer premiere.” Elizabeth smirked. Apparently he was better at this than she thought. “Then you must take some time for yourselves while you’re here,” Catherine said. “There are simply a thousand things for young couples to do on the island. We can’t spend all our time talking business, Darcy. As a matter of fact, Anne and I were thinking of hiking Diamond Head tomorrow—” “I really don’t think I’ll be up for that, Mother.” Even Anne’s voice sounded brittle. “I imagine not,” Darcy murmured. Elizabeth looked at him sharply. He shook his head almost imperceptibly. “Yes, well then you must go for us! We reserved a time with one of the trail guides, and the hike begins at five sharp, so you can see the sunrise at the top. It’s beautiful, and so very romantic.” Elizabeth silently wondered why Catherine would reserve a romantic sunrise hike for herself and Anne, complete with a guide. “Elizabeth isn’t really a morning person, Catherine.” “Oh, no, Will, I think I’d love to go, unless you’re not up for it.” Elizabeth wasn’t going to let Darcy put the blame on her, fake relationship or not. “Then it’s settled! Darcy, I assume you’ll arrange it with your hotel? I don’t know why he didn’t insist on the two of you staying with us, Elizabeth.” “Oh, we didn’t want to be a bother, you know how couples can be.” Elizabeth smiled sweetly at Darcy, who just rolled his eyes. “Yes, we’ll take care of getting there.” “And I want to see photos at our meeting tomorrow afternoon! Now don’t move, I’m going to go say hello to Robert over there, but I will be right back. Anne, why don’t you come with me?” The two wandered off, leaving Darcy free to take Elizabeth’s elbow and guide her a few steps into a corner. “Should we draw straws to see who has to get up at five to go hiking?” he asked. “Or is it something you really want to do while I sleep in like a normal person? After all, I tried to get us out of it.” Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “Not a chance. You’re the one who gave her the idea that we’re shacking up together at the hotel. She seems like the type to come knocking on your door to make sure you’re actually halfway up a mountain. Plus, you need to take the photographs.” “I did not tell her we were together. She made those assumptions on her own. I always arrange to stay at a hotel when we do business here. I made the mistake of staying at the house once. Have you ever been force fed tropical fruits? It isn’t pleasant.” Darcy folded his arms and stared down at Elizabeth. “How important is Catherine to your next film? You can’t just blow her off?” “I’m trying to get her to finance fifty million dollars of my next project. Plus distribution.” “So you need to go hiking.” “We need to go hiking. She’s going to want a photo of us, together, at the top.” Elizabeth sighed. “She comes across all friendly, but she’s manipulative as hell, isn’t she?” “Oh, yes. This is one of her smaller endeavors.” “Well, I’m bringing Charlotte.” They had planned to go later in the week anyway. “I’m bringing Mark.” He shrugged. “Mark?” “My manager. And we’re going at eight. With coffee.” “What about the sunrise?” “We overslept. We’ve barely seen each other in months, remember? You know how couples can be.” Elizabeth couldn’t help but answer Darcy’s smirk with a genuine smile. Catherine breezed back over, full of apologies for abandoning them, once again taking them by the arms and sweeping them across the room. “Now, one of the reasons I’m glad you’re here, Elizabeth, is that I’m hoping you’ll talk some sense into your boyfriend. He’s absolutely set on filming his next movie on location in Topeka—of all places! And in the middle of the winter besides. I told him a girl like you would much rather travel with him to Vancouver. Much more romantic, you know, all those great restaurants, the beach, the forests—not to mention cost- effective. With all that money he’s going to save on production, he could take you on a vacation after. Have you been to Mauritius?” “Catherine, I’ve told you that I’m not going to film this movie in Vancouver.” “And why not?” “The movie is about Kansas and the Depression. You can’t film winter in the dust bowl on the Pacific Coast.” “You can use stock footage,” Catherine replied with a wave of her hand. “Not if I want it to look authentic—and I do.” “A good DP will make it look authentic.” “A better DP will insist on the correct setting.” “So send the better one to Kansas and film the rest in Vancouver.” “Vancouver is soulless. It’s as bad as LA. Every street corner is in some film or TV show. If you want the film to feel real, you have to go to the location where you’re setting it. It’s not about budgets, it’s about artistic integrity.” “Darcy, you’re thinking too much like an artist. If you want to make it in this industry, you have to think like a businessperson.” “If I want to run a studio, I do. But I make films. I can afford to think like an artist.” “When you spend my money you can.” “I always return what I borrow. Usually with interest.” “You see what I have to deal with, Elizabeth?” Catherine shook her head and stopped near a cluster of people who were gazing out a side window at a small garden. With little preamble, she announced to her guests, “I have some people I want you to meet.” Elizabeth caught Darcy’s quiet sigh before they were forced to mingle. ----- Mark and Charlotte were busy taking photos of the panoramic view from the trail summit, chatting happily about f-stops and light filters. Elizabeth stood off to the side, content to savor the trade winds and watch the sunlight refract off the water, a million tiny crystals spreading toward the horizon. A slight shadow and the faint smell of citrus told her that Darcy was leaning on the rail next to her. “I’ve hiked up here before,” he said. “But I’m still amazed at how incredible it is—to think where we’re standing was an active volcano and now… it’s this.” He gestured at the expanse of water and sky. “It’s humbling,” Elizabeth replied. “To even try to comprehend how far we can see, and then how much more there is beyond that. It makes you feel remarkably insignificant, a bit of nothing in the vastness of everything.” Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Darcy nod. “Sometimes I hike up in Angeles Crest, or out in Malibu. Not as often as I’d like, but occasionally. It reminds me that despite what I deal with every day, the number of people who think they know me, there are places that don’t care who you are, that offer you the same thing as everyone else, provided you care to look.” “Things that aren’t beautiful because you found them, but things you found because they’re beautiful.” She turned then, and saw a slow grin spread across his face. “Exactly.” She smiled back at him, and although they were both wearing sunglasses, she imagined she could see his eyes crinkling at the corners, his genuine pleasure at being well understood. A few moments later, he straightened, and took two steps closer to Elizabeth, before turning back to the sea. He was close enough that she could tell he hadn’t shaved, light stubble glinting in the late morning sun. Elizabeth stared out at the ocean, watching the waves break along the coast, comforted by their cadence, letting her pulse settle in time with the sound. “I didn’t want any of this to happen,” Darcy said quietly. “You should know that.” “Did you do anything to stop it?” “I tried. I—” “Hey lovebirds!” Charlotte’s voice caused Elizabeth to flinch, and Darcy reflexively placed his hand on her back. “Time for your close-up,” Mark added. “You know, Darcy, I think this is the first time I’ll get to see a photo of us before it ends up in print,” Elizabeth said. “Smile pretty for the subscribers?” She laughed as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Hawaiian Hideaway? Are Lizzy and Darcy holed up on Oahu? Several reports suggest that the two are taking advantage of schedule breaks to spend some quality time on Hawaii’s sandy beaches. Darcy is said to be combining business with pleasure, meeting with studio head Catherine de Bourgh to push forward contract negotiations for his next film. Rumor also has it that Catherine’s daughter, Anne, is somewhere on the island, no doubt trying to catch a glimpse of the Darcy physique and seething with jealousy over Lizzy Bennet’s up-close-and-personal view of that body in the Hawaiian surf. We feel your pain, Anne. ----- The foursome sat on the restaurant’s terrace, the sound of the ocean providing a rhythmic backbeat to their conversation. Charlotte and Mark traded barbs amidst an ongoing competition over their outlandish travel adventures, and Elizabeth entertained them with tales of her student’s antics. Darcy remained quiet, but attentive, chuckling at the stories, and alternating between glaring at Mark and correcting his manager when the tales of Darcy’s more rabid fan encounters became increasingly unbelievable. Elizabeth watched Darcy over the rim of her wineglass, taking in the way the dim candlelight accentuated his sharp features. The ocean breeze ruffled his hair and she was struck by how pensive his expression seemed as he looked past her, into the night. She knew he was handsome, of course, but in the soft light, he was less intimidating, simply a man of above-average attractiveness sharing a meal with friends. She wondered if he would have preferred that life to one in the spotlight, if perhaps his appearance might even be something he regretted. Intent on observing him, it took her a moment to realize he had turned back to the table, and they were now staring at each other. She continued to watch him, caught up for a long moment in the conflicted emotions in his dark eyes. Charlotte’s fork clattered onto the slate tiles beneath them, startling Elizabeth out of her reverie. She set her wineglass on the table, quickly focusing on her half-eaten mango sorbet, trying to regain her composure. When she looked up, he was still watching her. Mark’s phone beeped and he excused himself when it became obvious he would need to have a lengthy conversation with the person on the other end. Charlotte stood, offered a polite, “I’ll be back,” with a meaningful look at Elizabeth, and headed inside the restaurant. Flustered at the combination of Charlotte’s expression and Darcy’s proximity, Elizabeth stared out toward the ocean for a moment. Darcy cleared his throat. “I heard from Charles earlier this week. He’s taking Jane with him when he does some location shoots next month. Did she mention it to you?” Elizabeth shook her head. “I haven’t heard from her since I left L.A. last week. Where are they going?” “Vancouver,” he grinned, and Elizabeth couldn’t help but return the smirk, especially when he added, “the best place to film nondescript city scenes.” “On a budget,” Elizabeth contributed knowingly. “Precisely,” he nodded, taking a sip of his wine. “I’m sure Charles will find some way to make it a romantic getaway as well,” Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Vancouver is for lovers,” Darcy smirked, crossing his arms. Elizabeth tossed her head back in a surprised laugh. His eyes were bright with amusement when she looked back at him, and she leaned forward, resting her elbow on the table and settling her chin in her upturned palm. “So your aversion to Vancouver is because it’s too romantic? I should have guessed, after our conversation at your premiere.” “My aversion to Vancouver is that it pretends to be something it isn’t. Much like romance,” he replied. “Ah, yes. Because Darcy doesn’t do romance,” Elizabeth said. “Darcy doesn’t do formulaic,” he corrected, leaning toward her, a forearm resting on the table, and his fingers idly toying with his dessert spoon. Elizabeth gave him a challenging look in response. “I know you’re familiar with the three-act structure of screenwriting. Setup, confrontation, resolution.” Elizabeth nodded. “Well this is how nearly every Hollywood script is written. It encapsulates the drama, creates coherent story-telling, and in terms of romance, is utterly unrealistic.” He paused to look out over the sand, gathering his thoughts. “Lived-out romance is never as simple as three acts with one specific point of conflict. Relationships are messy and people constantly change. To superimpose the experience of falling in love over three acts is shallow, it’s unbelievable, and frankly, it’s cheating.” “So it’s unfair for audiences to find enjoyment in watching two people overcome at least one point of difference or conflict because the structure of the storytelling is too simplistic? You can’t deny that escapism is a valid viewing motivation. Several theorists—and, I suspect, media moguls—have staked their reputations on it,” Elizabeth replied. “That’s an interesting response,” Darcy smiled at her deliberate misunderstanding, “but my point is that it’s the screenwriters who are cheating. Audiences are as smart as you allow them to be. Most writers pander to them and—perhaps unintentionally—set up unrealistic expectations for romance that imply that there’s one big conflict to overcome before some happy resolution can be achieved.” “And you think there should be innovation in romance? That audiences want to see the mundane reality of falling in love, the stops and starts of relationships and a qualified happy ending? Are you suggesting documentaries are more romantic than fiction?” “Not at all,” Darcy replied, his voice dropping an octave as he answered her, his gaze settling on hers again. For a moment, she felt challenged, and then she was drawn in by the quiet conviction in his tone. “I’m saying that the inner conflict of letting yourself fall in love is more compelling than an imaginary relationship roadblock. The process of transcending our innate selfishness to care for someone else is far more interesting than pretend interferences in our lives. Love stories are about two people, not about a plot that drives them toward each other. We make the drama external because we’re too afraid of exploring the internal conflict that, when it’s resolved, is what makes falling in love something beautiful. It’s why we should write and tell stories about love. Why we need to—so we can stop being so frightened of it.” Elizabeth sipped her wine for a moment, letting the crisp, sweet taste settle on her tongue. “Can a film really lead us down that path? How much can we really feel during those three acts? I’m not sure movies can sweep us off our feet anymore. I’m not sure we want them to.” “A good director—the kind who can film a romantic comedy in two months with two big names and ninety minutes of run time—makes you want to believe that it might actually be easy to fall in love, makes you think you can have your dream relationship with the next guy you meet at the laundromat. A great filmmaker, a great storyteller, turns two people you’ve never met into your best friends, takes one hundred pages of someone else’s dialogue and makes you think they’re speaking your thoughts, and creates a story—a moment— so real that you fall in love yourself.” A gust of wind rippled through the dense palm branches, creating the sound of furious applause all around them. They let it fill the brief silence, then Elizabeth smiled and said, “Our audience seems to agree with you.” Darcy grinned. “Ah, but what does our resident literary expert think?” “You’ll always have a difficult time convincing me that the best visual effects can ever compete with the landscapes of imagination you find in literature. You’re demanding too much from the medium. Film isn’t built for inner character exploration. The most captivating love stories are found in books.” Elizabeth leaned farther over the table, watching the flicker of the candle flame reflecting in the deep red wine swirling in his glass. Her free hand ran over the edge of a plumeria flower that had fallen from the centerpiece. Darcy set his wine glass on the table, stretching his fingers toward hers, lightly brushing them against her fingertips, over the silky texture of the flower petals. Very quietly, he asked, “Are you suggesting that I read a romance novel, Elizabeth?” Raising her eyes to him, she smiled enigmatically and replied, “Oh, no. I’m suggesting you write one.” He chuckled. “Perhaps I will, if I suddenly decide to quit the film industry.” She turned her hand over in his, letting him trace the lines in her palm. Darcy leaned forward, and they were inches apart, the table between them. His eyes took on a golden glow in the candlelight. “You know,” he said. “This is actually pretty romantic.” Elizabeth’s smile grew wider. “Yes,” she said. “It is. Does that frighten you?” The sound of Charlotte’s wrought iron chair scraping against the stone floor made Elizabeth wince and jump back while inhaling a deep breath of salty air to regain her composure. Mark’s laughter was another reminder that other people existed. He returned and boisterously invited everyone to a beach party hosted by a friend on the other side of the island. Charlotte accepted eagerly, but Elizabeth, pleading fatigue, declined and asked her to provide a full report in the morning. “I’ll make it an early night as well,” Darcy’s quiet voice startled her, his sudden formality a sharp contrast to that intimate, low timbre he’d used before. Elizabeth looked at him curiously, having assumed Mark’s invitation included—or was perhaps due to—his client. Mark just shrugged and returned to the text message he was sending. “Why don’t I walk back with you, Elizabeth?” The question hung in the air for a moment until, under the table, Charlotte tapped her toe against Elizabeth’s leg. “Sure,” Elizabeth managed to answer, tacking on a hasty, “thanks.” As they walked the short distance to Elizabeth’s hotel, Darcy maintained the more distant tone he’d used in front of their friends, asking a series of travel-related questions—when was Elizabeth leaving, what airline, any plans for when she returned to Los Angeles? He mentioned that he and Mark were leaving the next morning, stopping in L.A. for a few days before taking a trip to Europe with his sister. They passed through a brightly-lit part of town, with restaurants and a bar that advertised karaoke and ladies’ night by hassling women who walked by. One of the staff, as well as a few patrons, called out increasingly rude invitations to Elizabeth. A large older man lurched toward them on the sidewalk, nearly losing his balance but capable of making an off-color comment. Elizabeth moved fractionally closer to Darcy as she saw the man give her a drunken leer, thankful that she wasn’t alone on the street. Darcy dropped his arm across her shoulders and after letting his glare sweep over the small group, said forcefully, “That’s enough.” Grimacing, Elizabeth turned her head away from the scene. Just then, a series of camera flashes erupted not far from where they were walking. “Shit,” Darcy muttered, and removed his arm from around Elizabeth. Taking her hand instead, he began walking faster and Elizabeth, after a hop step to get started, kept pace with him over the last few hundred yards to her hotel entrance. Darcy glanced over his shoulder to ensure they weren’t being followed, and was apparently convinced that they had evaded further scrutiny. Elizabeth felt the air of the lobby pass over her skin like a crisp, cool bed sheet. Her leather-soled shoes made a soft brushing noise against the polished floor as she moved toward the elevator, a pleasant, comforting sound after the furious scuffing they had created against the sidewalk during their hurried escape from the press. The large, open room was oddly silent, and it wasn’t until the elevator doors opened with a ring that she realized Darcy was still next to her, holding her hand. He seemed to notice her sudden awareness of him, saying, “I’d like to see you to your room.” Before she could think to refuse him, they were inside the elevator, the mirrored walls of the doors reflecting Elizabeth’s curious expression and Darcy’s serious gaze. While they climbed toward the tenth floor, Elizabeth studied their appearance, their profiles, the refracted view of them—absurdly, still standing close together, despite having plenty of room to move apart. As she watched his face, it took her a moment to notice that Darcy was looking not at the blinking numbers at the top of the car, but at her. He turned toward the front of the car, and met her eyes in the reflection, offering a brief smile. The doors parted, and Elizabeth stepped out first, finally releasing his hand. When they reached her door, she methodically slid the key in the lock and turned to face him, leaning back against the door as she opened it. “Thank you for walking me home. And, I suspect, for dinner,” she smiled as she said it, only just realizing that she’d never seen the bill. “You’re welcome,” Darcy smiled in return, and added, “I’m sorry about the incident on the way back.” Elizabeth traced the floral carpet pattern with her eyes and replied, “I’m pretty used to the press invasions by now.” “No,” he answered, and his sharp tone prompted her to look up. She was struck by his gaze, how open it seemed just then, when it was normally so hard to read. Elizabeth wondered if it was because he was standing so close to her. “I meant that I’m sorry I was so possessive when you were being harassed. I couldn’t think of anything else to do, but I’m sure you can handle yourself. Even so, I felt that I had to do something to make them stop.” “Oh,” Elizabeth said, not really knowing how to respond. “It was distressing, but it was unexpectedly… comforting to have you there.” They stared at each other for a beat, and then his hand was low against her hip, the edge of his ring finger resting on the band of her skirt and the pad of his thumb caressing her silk top. She unconsciously arched her back and shut her eyes as he bent towards her. Then his lips were on hers in a tender first kiss, only sliding away as she gasped at the feel of his touch. It had only been a moment, but it felt like longer, like something more than the incidental contact that it was. “Was that something you had to do, too?” she asked, somewhat breathlessly. “Oh, no,” His voice was a husky whisper, and she nearly missed it, lost to the sound of her pulse thudding in her ears. “I kiss a lot of women because I have to, Elizabeth. I don’t kiss very many because I want to.” Then they were kissing again, with a languid passion, her hand against his neck, fingers just brushing the soft hair at his nape. She felt the gentle pressure of his hand, now moving to rest on her back, his mouth still grasping hers, and she could smell the soft citrus of his cologne. He inhaled sharply as he lifted his head, a kind of inward sigh that pulled her toward him, searching for his mouth. His lips moved to her neck and she felt him exhale, soft, warm air tingling against the skin below her jaw. She felt him rest his lips against her ear. “Goodbye, Elizabeth,” he breathed, and she bit her lower lip as his hands slid along her waist and the cool air of the hallway replaced the warmth of his body against hers. When she opened her eyes, all she could see of him was the silhouette of his broad shoulders and lean body in the bright glare of the hallway lights. “Goodnight,” she said, and watched as he turned away and walked toward the elevator. She released her grip on the door handle and backed into the dark hotel room, letting the heavy door slam. Elizabeth methodically moved through the room, gathering pajamas and putting away jewelry, her thoughts absorbed by their evening, by that kiss, wondering when she would see him again. It wasn’t until she stood in the bathroom, splashing the first handful of warm water onto her face, that she realized what had happened. Water dripped onto her tank top and ran down her arms in long, steady rivulets as she stared at her reflection. “When did I decide I wanted to date Will Darcy?” The girl in the mirror could only look back at her in mute surprise. If Elizabeth hadn’t known about Charlotte’s alcohol-induced clumsiness before they shared a hotel room on their vacation, she would have learned about it that night. Sometime in the early hours of the morning, Charlotte fumbled with the door lock, tripped over the shoes she’d just kicked off, and stubbed her toe on a chair. Elizabeth had been lying in bed, staring out the window, intermittently closing her eyes and futilely willing herself to sleep. When Charlotte let out a whispered profanity after banging her elbow against the bathroom doorjamb, Elizabeth said, “It’s okay, I’m awake.” “Thank God,” Charlotte said. “I’m turning on the light, or I’m going to be one giant bruise tomorrow.” She flipped the switch, and by the time Elizabeth rolled over, a disheveled Charlotte was attempting to wrestle her pajama bottoms out of her suitcase. “How was the party?” Elizabeth asked, sliding a hand under the pillow and curling her legs beneath the covers. “Eh,” Charlotte replied, “Mark only knew a few people there, so it was kind of awkward. Oh! Want to go snorkeling tomorrow? Manny said he can take us at 10.” “Who’s Manny?” Elizabeth yawned. “Long story,” Charlotte grinned. “I’ll tell you in the morning.” She wandered into the bathroom and Elizabeth heard the water running. Charlotte asked her something, but it was garbled. “Hmm?” Elizabeth asked, snuggling farther into the pillows. “I asked how it went with Darcy,” Charlotte said. She stepped outside the bathroom, toothbrush in hand. “Mm. It was fine.” Charlotte raised a single eyebrow, one hand resting on her hip. She shook her head and disappeared into the bathroom. Elizabeth heard running water again, and closed her eyes, hoping to avoid Charlotte’s next question. Soon, Elizabeth heard Charlotte moving through the room, then, with a flick of the light switch, the world outside her eyelids went dark. There was a rustle of bed sheets, Charlotte adjusted her pillows, yawned and, “’Night, Elizabeth.” Charlotte’s breathing was a gentle sound over the soft hum of the air conditioner. In the cool darkness, Elizabeth rolled over and stared at the ceiling. Very quietly, she said, “I like him, Char.” “Yeah,” her friend answered in a kind voice. “I thought you might feel that way.” “I’m not really sure what to do about it,” Elizabeth confessed. “I didn’t expect this to happen.” “If it’s any consolation,” Charlotte answered, “I’m not sure he did either.” ----- Three Darcy-less days later, Elizabeth was browsing the newsstand at the airport while waiting for Charlotte, when she saw Darcy’s face staring back at her from a magazine cover. Glancing around to see who might be watching, she lifted the copy of Vanity Fair from the rack and flipped through the glossy pages. She stopped when she found a photo of Darcy, his face in profile, his expression oddly similar to the one he’d worn a few nights before when he was staring into the darkness. Impulsively, she purchased the magazine, tucking it into her carry-on, and left to search for Charlotte in the crowded terminal. She found her, sitting near their gate, watching the news with a frown. Elizabeth took the seat next to her and arranged her bags before looking up to see the anchorwoman beginning a story on Pakistan. “Elizabeth—” Charlotte began, but stopped when an announcement came over the airport loudspeaker about not leaving luggage unattended. Elizabeth continued to watch the news scrolling along the bottom of the screen, as they transitioned from world news to entertainment. When they had been sufficiently warned not to accept bags from strangers, Elizabeth looked over at her now grim-faced friend. Charlotte started to speak again, “I think you should probably hear this from me.” “—Elizabeth Bennet, his girlfriend of the past few months.” The news anchor, Sarah Something, distracted Elizabeth from whatever Charlotte’s revelation might have been, and she turned to the television, watching as images of Will Darcy filled the screen. The story caption now read “Will Darcy splits with girlfriend!” “In a statement released this morning, Darcy described the split with Elizabeth Bennet as ‘amicable, but inevitable.’ He went on to say that ‘someone like Elizabeth Bennet has no way to prepare for the intense focus of the press on a celebrity relationship.’ When asked if the media played a role in their separation, Darcy replied, ‘The scrutiny of the press has been a factor in this relationship from the start and it still is. That’s all I have to say on the subject.’” Sarah Something closed the story by saying, “Elizabeth Bennet has been unavailable for comment on this matter,” before segueing into a story about a television star who had adopted a child. Elizabeth could feel Charlotte’s concerned glance, and imagined that her friend was fighting valiantly not to say something well-meaning and sympathetic. She shook her head, and said, “I don’t even know what to think.” She paused, watching a woman struggle with her carry-on luggage, a stroller, and an unruly toddler. “We weren’t together,” she said, “but I guess I thought we could be. Or something,” she whispered, adjusting the clasp on her purse. “I know,” Charlotte said. “I was so sure that he liked you, or was going to ask you out again once we got back to LA.” “I guess not,” Elizabeth said. She sat there silently until they were called to board the flight, ignoring Charlotte’s anxious looks and staring straight at the television, not even flinching when the story played twice during the wait. ----- Lizzy Loses It! Will Darcy stunned fans by announcing yesterday that he and girlfriend of four months, Elizabeth Bennet, have called it quits. Calling their separation “inevitable,” Darcy told reporters that he and Lizzy were hoping to remain friends despite the split. That’s not the full story, though—seems Lizzy knew nothing of the break- up before Darcy announced it at a press conference, and Darcy’s revelation prompted the typically tight-lipped teacher to tell her side of what happened. Brace yourselves, it’s a shocker. “I’m not sure what you people are expecting to hear from me. Am I surprised? Yes. Am I heartbroken? Not at all. For the first time in four months I’ll get my life back. I might be able to walk outside without worrying I’ll be photographed, or go to the store without being asked if Will Darcy likes crunchy or smooth peanut butter. People told me that dating him was the best thing that would ever happen to me. Well, guess what? Breaking up with him is pretty freakin’ awesome.” All we have to say to Darcy is look out! Dumping your girlfriend via national media is a new level of jackass behavior. At the very least, make sure you park your Bentley somewhere Lizzy and her posse can’t find it to slash the tires. Also: watch video of Will Darcy and Lizzy Bennet’s statements to the press, and pick up special “Team Will” and “Team Lizzy” gear. ----- Breaking Up Is (Not So) Hard To Do? One of Hollywood’s hottest couples has split up, and it seems neither party is mourning the loss of the relationship. Despite never publicly confirming or denying their relationship in the media, both had plenty to say about their break up yesterday. Will Darcy delivered a prepared statement to the press in a solemn tone, dashing away from his press conference and refusing to answer questions. Lizzy Bennet launched into a tirade on the steps of her Los Angeles home, slamming the door in the face of gathered media after she’d finished her rant. “I find the fact that Will Darcy took this long to make it clear that I wasn’t fit for public life utterly reprehensible,” Lizzy told reporters, perhaps in reference to Darcy’s comments on her ability to handle the pressure of a celebrity relationship. Insiders say that Darcy did not inform Lizzy of the breakup before going forward with the announcement. Darcy’s reps declined to comment on the breakup, and Lizzy’s friends say she’s holed up at home and won’t respond to phone calls. Maybe these two are more miserable than they’ve let on? ----- Relationships as Publicity Stunt? When two celebrities start dating, the accusations are sure to follow soon after. One star has a movie opening next month. He needs to rehab his ‘bad-boy’ image. She’s only in it for the length of his (ahem) column inches. Since the days of Rock Hudson and Doris Day, Hollywood Matchmaking Services has churned out publicity-ready couples, with big box office impact. But when half the couple brings little notoriety to the table, well, we’re much less skeptical about those affairs. When Will Darcy announced three days ago that he and girlfriend Lizzy Bennet were splitsville, the collective gasp of tabloid readers could probably be heard on Mars. Darcy—perennially eligible yet unobtainable—and Lizzy—an unknown, non-Hollywood name—were this spring’s tabloid darlings, regularly appearing in gossip columns and features. But was it all too good to be true? Internet video, along with statements made by the couple make it seem like there might be more to the story. Darcy blamed the press as “a factor in this relationship from the start,” which sounds like it might be an oblique reference to media manipulation. Lizzy’s comments during her much-publicized press tirade are easier to interpret: “You’ve made a mess of my life, probably jeopardized my professional credibility, and for what? You stood to gain in so many ways, while I’ve had to deal with constant interruptions and speculations without making a dime. People tried to warn me, about the media machine, and about Will Darcy, but I refused to credit their statements as anything but another ploy to get me to exploit this non-existent relationship for other people’s gain. Now I know better.” ----- It wasn’t a misquote. None of them were, actually. Elizabeth had sworn that the journalists camped out on her front yard had simply patched together excerpts from the vitriolic words she’d spewed at them that day and printed them to sell more papers. She spent a good fifteen minutes ranting about journalistic ethics while vacuuming the living room. Then she called Charlotte to share a bit of righteous indignation and discuss defamation lawsuits. At which point she discovered that her entire diatribe was posted on YouTube. One enterprising video editor made it appear that she was actually facing off with Will Darcy, yelling at him. Elizabeth had cringed as she watched her heated words and angry outburst played against his cold, business-like statements. She had wanted to handle the press with the same level of detachment that Darcy did—to walk past the small gathering on her lawn with head held high and only a brief, cordial acknowledgment of the end of their relationship. Perhaps she would use the word “regrettable.” Somewhere over the Pacific between Oahu and LAX, Elizabeth had resolved to be an example of breakup etiquette; she would give them nothing to report, other than that she looked tanned and healthy after her tropical getaway. Instead, Bob and Alice (retired vacationers from Glendale) and Tyler and Amanda (honeymooners from Silver Lake) spent the thirty minute shared van ride from the airport asking insipid and intrusive questions about her relationship with Darcy, and then attempting to soothe what must have appeared to be a broken heart (instead of a nearly bitten-off tongue). While Alice and Bob took the route of reassuring her that true love would eventually see her through this ‘bump in the road,’ Amanda detailed the past relationships that had served to ‘weed out the losers’ before Prince Tyler arrived on the scene. If it had been any other day, watching Tyler’s facial expressions during Amanda’s soliloquy would have been entertaining. For hours, she’d been able to think of little else beyond Darcy’s voice describing their breakup as ‘inevitable’ and George Wickham’s words about her ‘expiration date.’ Elizabeth didn’t want to believe a man whose journalistic credits were less-than-reputable, but in this, it seemed he might not have been stretching the truth. She let herself remember how Darcy had treated her, first ignoring her completely when the media frenzy began, then actually using her to make it seem they were together, and finally, that kiss in the hallway, their casual intimacy at dinner, the way he’d made her believe in a future, and then ripped it away—in front of a national audience no less. When Elizabeth stepped out of the van and pushed past the photographers, all of her calm responses had been used up and her well- intentioned plans deteriorated rapidly into humiliation and fury. “Lizzy! How do you feel?” “What happened with Darcy in Hawaii? Did he dump you there?” “What caused your breakup?” “Is there any truth to the rumor that he refused to let you star in his next movie?” “Was Darcy cheating?” “What will you do now?” By the time the front door was unlocked and the last question asked, Elizabeth had impulsively decided that it was time for the public to hear her version of events. Unfortunately, the rational, coherent and eloquent statement she had crafted during her flight disappeared when the first microphone was thrust in her face. It was all downhill from there. When she ran out of synonyms for “imaginary” and “exploitation,” she had slammed the door so hard her suitcase fell over, into a prime toe- stubbing location. Still seething, Elizabeth hobbled over to the answering machine (“You have one hundred twelve new messages”) and after the first caller identified herself as a reporter for an internet gossip site, Elizabeth deleted the rest of the messages without listening to them. Then she unplugged the phone. She lay down on her bed, staring at the ceiling, hands tightly fisted in her comforter, letting her frantic pulse rate drop back to normal. She squeezed her eyes shut and bit the inside of her cheek until she tasted blood. Still, two tears escaped and she felt them run into her hair. With one deep, shaky breath, Elizabeth turned onto her stomach and buried her face in the pillow. The headache she had the next morning (from not crying, not. crying.) was far worse than the hangover she’d suffered following her twenty- first birthday. When she looked outside, Bill Collins was standing at the edge of her driveway, holding a camera in one hand and a Red Bull in the other. Elizabeth added a dose of Kahlua to her coffee and started on her post- vacation laundry. It was only supposed to take an hour. She probably could have put it off for a bit longer, but the coupon for the oil change (complete with air filter discount) was only good until the middle of the month, and expired in two days. Unfortunately, everyone else in the Los Feliz area had decided they absolutely needed their oil changed at 10 a.m. that Tuesday, and the expected wait time was now two and a half hours. Getting out of line wasn’t an option, either. She had already invested thirty minutes into this process, and Tuesday was her only free day that week. Elizabeth had scored a chair directly beneath the wall-mounted television currently blaring last night’s episode of SportsCenter, giving her a good view of the other patrons sharing the waiting room. Sadly, after another ten minutes, she was nearly out of amusing anecdotes regarding strange behaviors to share with her friends at that evening’s planned dinner, and was downright annoyed. Elizabeth opened her bag, hoping to find a stick of gum or a breath mint to casually offer the mouth-breather next to her who clearly wanted to share the garlicky remnants of last night’s Indian food fest with the rest of the room. Instead she found a magazine. One of the corners was a little dog-eared, but it was otherwise unharmed after its trip from Oahu to Los Angeles. Which was really too bad, as it meant that Will Darcy’s face was unblemished and the headline “Darcy: The Man, The Myth, The Mystery” was as attention-grabbing as it had been in the middle of an airport bookstore. Elizabeth turned to the first page, vowing that in her recent boycott of Darcy-related media, she could read all the stories except those that mentioned Darcy. Her adherence to the boycott faltered around page five (she’d never had much self-control where reading materials were concerned). After all, it would be better to read a story about the man who had cruelly rejected her via national news outlets somewhere foot stomping, paper shredding, colorful cursing, and magazine chucking would be off-limits. And if she really couldn’t control her anger, she could always give the four-year-old throwing a temper tantrum and demolishing a Starz magazine (with her face on the cover, no less) a run for his money. ----- He’s quite the enigma, and his identity is even less clear in his upcoming film Shadowboxer. Will Darcy, Oscar-winning actor and now writer/director, sits down with Michael Ford to discuss life, love, and making movies. Not many things compare to studying the effect Will Darcy has when he walks into a crowded restaurant. If I hadn’t been watching for him, I wouldn’t have noticed him come through the door, but once he was there, he seemed to fill the place, earning appreciative glances from other diners, and wearing the inscrutable expression that caused his friend and sometimes co-star Charles Bingley to remark a few years ago, “I never know what Darcy’s thinking, but I always know he’s got something going on upstairs.” Indeed. On this particular day, Darcy is casually attired in jeans and a white button down shirt—both of which probably cost more than my children’s private school tuition, but manage to be fashionable and unremarkable. His is a unique look. We settle in with coffee and it’s clear that after the initial pleasantries, Darcy is prepared for this to be more of an inquisition than an interview. Sadly, I failed my High Inquisitor exams, so I tell him we’ll just talk like normal people, but I’m going to write down all of his answers. This earns a grin. Darcy’s known for his wry sense of humor, deadpan delivery and quick wit. He’s even managed to work it into his new film, which is where we start our discussion. Darcy co-wrote the script, acts in the lead role, and makes his directorial debut. He’s officially become a triple threat. “I’ve been very fortunate,” he says seriously, “to be able to have such freedom with this project to tell the story as I first conceived it. I’ve had wonderful people who worked with me to bring this vision to life on the screen and championed it with the executives. I think some people may not see the similarities to my other work, but for me it’s that this is a real story, and we’ve chosen to tell it very honestly, as honestly as we can given the limitations of film and narrative structure.” The film, Shadowboxer, is about a man living in partial seclusion once he is taken into the witness protection program. But action fans beware, this is not your typical shoot ‘em up. This is a portrait of what shifts in identity can do to a man who is left alone too long. The film is a sensitive, but not melodramatic, examination of personality and self- knowledge, and a commentary on how we understand ourselves outside the framework of social networks. “The genesis for this project took place quite a few years ago, when I was filming Dividing Lines. That film was much different than this one, though I’m still grateful for the opportunity I had in that picture, and the things I learned there.” Darcy played a young U.S. Marshal in that film, which earned him his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (at age twenty-two, no less). His character undergoes a moral conflict as he deals with increasing pressure to take money as an informant to the mob while struggling to make ends meet for his family. “The story in Dividing Lines was really about things external to the witness, about right and wrong, ethics of the system. This film is not about any of those things. I wanted to tell a story about someone who loses their identity and how they come to grips with that in the midst of isolation. Fundamentally, I wanted to ask the question: How do we know who we are when no one is there to tell us?” The parallels to Darcy’s career are easy to spot. I ask if his profession provided any insight into the character. He gives a sardonic laugh before he answers. “It would be easy to say yes to that, but I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate.” He doesn’t elaborate until I prompt him. “I’m an actor, a storyteller. The job allows me to wear many different personalities and identities for a short time. But underneath, I’m still the same man. If I didn’t know who that man was, then I wouldn’t be a very good actor. In that sense, I can only draw on the instances of leaving one role behind to take on another. It’s similar, but it’s a much more shallow experience than what the character in the film goes through.” But, I protest, don’t you have to assume a public identity as well? Isn’t that the same thing? Darcy stares at me with an exacting gaze for a moment before he replies. “Perhaps,” he muses, “but I’m not willing to equate how I present myself publically with how others choose to label me. That’s a very different set of circumstances than what happens in the film.” He’s opened the door to his press-shy behavior, so I decide to take advantage, asking him about his recent ubiquitous tabloid presence. “Yes,” he sighs, and shifts in his seat, as though he expected to address this and isn’t at all comfortable. When he looks up at me again, he has the expression my kids usually have before they dig into the pile of broccoli I’m forcing them to eat. “There’s a symbiosis between the press and the film industry—you and I are more like colleagues than strangers, you know,” he says thoughtfully, before continuing. “Previously, it wasn’t so important to me to use that relationship in a mutually beneficial way. But in the past six months, there have been things in my life, both personal and professional, that changed my outlook on being the object of attention on a large scale.” Can he describe what those are? Darcy is notorious for the quiet life he leads, so my journalistic instincts tell me that whatever put him in the spotlight is a big story. “Professionally, I had this film coming out, and I wanted to guarantee its success. It’s absolutely terrifying to have this project that you’ve thrown all your creative energy behind and to not know how well it will do. Not to mention that I had people who worked with me on the film, and will continue to work with me. I felt an obligation to them to use all of my resources to make this as big as it could be. I have more of these projects lined up, but the only way to ensure that they will make it into theaters is to have the first one do well. So I did what I had to do, which was to use my face and popularity to help the audience gain interest in the film before it came out.” And personally? “I never wanted to be an actor,” Darcy says. “It was a vehicle to achieve something else, and along the way it’s been fun and taught me a great deal. But always, from a young age, I wanted to be a filmmaker. For many years, I tolerated the attention I received because I was more focused on pursuing my personal goals than dealing with the trappings of fame. I learned how to manage things, and my staff had very strict instructions on how to deal with the press. I’ve been accused of being a chameleon before, because I’ve done my best to blend in and not draw attention to myself.” Darcy takes a deep breath and a sip of his latte, and it looks like he’s steeling himself before revealing something big. I find that I’m leaning towards him in anticipation. “I’ve kept things about my life very quiet for a long time, though certain aspects made the news, but I’ve had very dangerous, physically dangerous, interactions with the media in the last year, and so have people I love.” He’s talking about his sister, Georgiana Darcy, who was involved in a high-speed car accident in Malibu in January. The story was picked up by several internet reporters, and Darcy sued one site in particular over libelous claims they made regarding the accident and other incidents. “These bloggers said that Georgiana had been involved in reckless behavior, which couldn’t be farther from the truth,” he says with disgust. “They blamed the crash on her, even though accident reports clearly showed that she was followed by another vehicle, causing her to drive at dangerous speeds on a slippery road. She broke her leg in three places and needed emergency surgery.” The consequences are farther ranging than just what Darcy mentions. Ms. Darcy is a pianist, mainly working in Los Angeles’ music industry as a sought-after accompanist and studio player. An injured hand (she also suffered a wrist sprain in the accident) and a reputation for out of control behavior could irreparably damage her career prospects. Darcy filed a lawsuit against the website and its writer, George Wickham, for libel and damages up to one million dollars. “It was never about the money. It was about the fact that this site would engineer a patently false and hurtful story about someone who has not sought out the attention, and who doesn’t want it. They did it to get to me, hoping to make money by mentioning my name. It’s abhorrent.” The case was settled out of court when the site agreed to pay damages, and to remove the initial article and related coverage from its archives. This is the first Darcy has mentioned it publicly, though George Wickham, who wrote the piece, created a firestorm of controversy when the story first broke. “The price of fame is that people care about what you do,” he said. “If Darcy can’t handle that, he’s in the wrong profession. He doesn’t get to decide what we print about him, or about his sister. We’re a site dedicated to showcasing Hollywood rumors, and most of what we find is true. Darcy needs to understand how the world works these days.” After spending just a few hours with Darcy, it’s clear he does understand, as we delve into the subject of his love life. Our interview is just after photos of his appearance with Elizabeth Bennet at the Shadowboxer premiere have hit the tabloids, and for someone who has famously never commented on his love life, he’s surprisingly open (yet also paradoxically tight-lipped) on the circumstances surrounding their very public romance. “It’s such a strange situation, to have your love life out in the open like that. I’ve never experienced that before. Well,” he reflects wryly, “I’ve never let myself experience that.” It’s surprising to discover that nearly all of what has been reported thus far is basically fiction. “Elizabeth is a normal person whose life has been disrupted by this farce that’s called journalism.” What’s even more surprising is that I’m not offended by this remark, though he’s quick to apologize. “She’s completely innocent in all of this, and I really wish there were some other way to make that clear than to use the media—again—to do so,” Darcy pauses in here and stares out the window for a moment. “I suppose a more press-savvy actor would have seen the way this started and recognized how it would snowball into something uncontrollable. Honestly, I didn’t think that it would turn into the media juggernaut that it has, and I’m still surprised when I see these articles about how sweet we are together or which pretend to reveal the hidden details of our relationship.” In a moment of bizarre verisimilitude, a woman across the restaurant is holding up a copy of a tabloid, with Darcy and Bennet pictured on the front. The headline reads “True Love at Last?” When I point this out, Darcy rolls his eyes. “I really think I’m less concerned about my personal life than most of America is, which is why I’ve declined to comment about it for so long. This case was no different; I figured by not saying anything, all the gossip would evaporate. There was no real story there, so I thought it would all fade away fairly quickly. I handled it the way I had in the past, trusted my staff to do their jobs, which they did, but this was something different, and I was wrong in the way we approached it. I do feel like I’ve learned in the process, but it’s at the expense of someone else’s private life, which I will always regret.” It’s real remorse that Darcy shows here, and I genuinely feel sorry for actors at this point. Coddled and pampered as he may seem, there’s a point at which I almost want to tell Darcy he’s earned it, what with living in the spotlight for so long. When I mention this high cost of fame, Darcy shrugs it off. “If I looked at it as something that I was owed, or that I had to pay, then I wouldn’t last very long in this industry. It’s another aspect of my work, something that’s to be managed well and used when I can.” Stealing another glance at the woman with the magazine, he continues. “I do, however, think it’s too much to ask of someone like Ms. Bennet, who didn’t choose this life or profession. It’s clear to me that she doesn’t want any of the attention, that she’s not using it for personal gain. I respect the way that she’s handled it. Not many people would have borne up under such scrutiny. She’s done so, and admirably.” Before we sat down together for our interview, I had planned to dig deep into Darcy’s love life, and draw out a real scoop. I even planned to phone Ms. Bennet and see if she would tell me more about the reclusive actor and their relationship. But Darcy asks me not to do that. “In some sense, I do feel like I’m in a relationship with her, because I’m trying very hard to respect her privacy and her personal life, more than I would my own,” he tells me. “I haven’t dated anyone else, because that would be humiliating to her if it came out in the press. I’ve tried to live even more quietly than usual, so that her life wouldn’t be any more disturbed than it already has been.” I warn him that it sounds like he’s in love with her already, and he just laughs. I’ve respected his wishes and haven’t contacted Ms. Bennet. Like Darcy, I expect that by the time this article goes to print, the story will have died down. In Shadowboxer, Darcy’s character has to confront people from his past who have hurt him, but as a stranger, rather than the man they knew. I ask him how that might apply to the situations he’s found himself in this year with the press. “When I wrote those scenes,” he begins, “I was thinking of some very specific situations in which I was hurt by someone close to me.” From my background research and his earlier demeanor, I assume he’s talking about George Wickham, whose friendship with Darcy was made much of in the press during their very public falling out. Darcy doesn’t deny that he’s discussing Wickham, but doesn’t confirm it either, in that frustrating but effective way Darcy has about him. “When there were first problems with this individual, I was almost powerless to do anything about it. There were very few options open to me then, because I was bound by some other agreements and to other people. So I was forced to deal with that situation in a particular way. You might be able to loosely interpret that incident as occurring when I was a different person.” He pauses and takes another sip of his coffee before going on. “But what happened this year was very different, and I was able to handle it much better than I did before. I wrote the scene long before this year, but it was a very strange instance of my writing foreshadowing my own life. In the film, the character I play is burned twice by the same person. At the end of the film, they are strangers, and the way the character is treated is even more hurtful, because it can’t be excused by the connections or emotions that exist in relationships. It’s an almost random, senseless act that provokes a great deal of pain.” Darcy stares at a family with small children who are laughing on the other side of the restaurant. “In order to feel the character’s pain at the end, you have to understand the depth of what he felt before he lost his identity, all the baggage he brought with him into this new situation. Without that, the audience won’t fully participate in the journey, won’t understand the questions we’re asking, the way the character transforms through the plot. “Sometimes I feel that way about my own life. Without being able to share the things that have shaped me, people are bound to draw the wrong conclusions, are so much more likely to believe the wrong things. It’s why public life is so difficult for me. I’m never fully myself, but I’m not completely someone else, either.” My final question for Darcy is whether or not he is able to be such a mystery to his fans and to the press because he really is a chameleon, changing so often to keep us all guessing. He smiles enigmatically at that and replies, “I think the chameleon’s answer would be that he doesn’t change at all, in essentials. He just blends in so well that no one notices who he really is.” ----- Elizabeth read through the article twice. Then, after staring out the window for five minutes, watching workers in red shirts wander through the parking lot, she read it again. She was just finishing it for a fifth time when she felt a hand on her shoulder. “Miss?” The manager’s voice shocked her into looking up. “Is there a problem?” she asked. “Your car’s been ready for about twenty minutes,” he said. “Shelley was trying to get your attention. Do you mind moving it if you’re going to keep sitting here? We’re starting to back up out there.” Elizabeth sheepishly closed the magazine, paid for her service, and drove home. By the time she pulled into the driveway, she had gone over the timeline again and again. Darcy had likely given the interview after the premiere, before they met in Oahu. He knew the lead time of the magazine, and knew that the issue would come out at some point while she was on vacation—not that he had any idea of her schedule. Perhaps he had even received an advance copy of the article, and knew what portions of his interview would be quoted. All of this thinking left her with a startling conclusion. Darcy had planned to break up with her before they met in Hawaii. After everything, though, why had he gone through with it? Hollywood Breakup Basics Question: what’s a celebrity to do when he’s just been involved in the biggest breakup of the year? Answer: It depends. If you’re Kevin Sorell, you head to Hollywood’s skankiest strip club with twelve of your closest friends, and any other guys who happen to be standing around at the time (photos, page 5). Then you proceed to get wasted, call your ex (listen to the audio at starz.com), and spend the rest of the night crying in the arms of a dancer named Lola. We couldn’t make this stuff up, people. If you’re Will Darcy, you go to ground, and hide yourself so deeply that directors complain you’re not available for pre-production meetings (see story, page 12). Then you get your agent, your manager, and your sister to tell anyone who asks that you’re working and can’t be disturbed. ----- Where’s William? It’s been three weeks since the epic Will Darcy-Lizzy Bennet split and except for an all-too brief sighting last week (see photo, inset) Darcy is nowhere to be found. While his former lady-love seems to have returned to her blissful pre-Darcy life, we can only speculate that the perpetually private actor has resumed his bachelor habits and will surface at black- tie events or in pre-arranged publicity settings. While we certainly love seeing a Dapper Darcy out on the town, we’ll definitely miss sightings of a casual, even scruffy Darcy. “He is seriously pining,” a source close to the actor has said. “He’s, like, not doing anything but working. If you ask me, I think he’s started writing again.” Dare we hope that a film version of the Darcy and Lizzy story could be hitting theaters someday? And, if it does, is Darcy going to play himself? ----- Elizabeth was considering asking Jane what celebrity ex-girlfriends did after a break up. Did they surf the internet, looking for mentions of their former love interests, hoping every day that the guy they had dated wouldn’t be spotted with some younger, thinner actress? Did they act aloof and go to fabulous parties, hoping to bump into their ex while flirting with someone a little farther up the Hollywood food chain? Or did they teach uninspiring summer classes to bored students and spend the evenings holed up in the one air-conditioned room in the house, wondering which of their ex-boyfriend’s films to bump up in the Netflix queue? She seriously hoped it was the latter. Her Will Darcy Film Fest had started innocently enough. A film she’d requested some time ago had finally appeared in her mailbox on a day when staying home sounded like a much better option than braving L.A. in the summer. Halfway through the movie, when Darcy stepped onto the scene as a fast-talking gun-for-hire, Elizabeth sat up and pressed pause. There he was, in her living room, looking a little older and a little more worn than when she’d last seen him (she credited a good make-up artist with the transformation). His voice had taken on a harsh Eastern European accent, and she didn’t particularly like his character (perhaps she wasn’t meant to), but after staring at still images in a month-old Vanity Fair article, having a live-action Darcy in her house was a shock. When the movie ended, she went in search of his other films. She found twelve. So she watched as Paul (the dishonest cop), Noah (a struggling author), Aaron (a scientist for a biomedical company), Stephen (a thief), Dmitri (in a modern Midsummer Night’s Dream), Mark (a soldier and single father), Samuel (a farmer), Agent Strange, Seth (a bike messenger-turned-spy), Charlie Hexam, and Ben (a college student) all spoke with something like Darcy’s voice and wore some variant of Darcy’s face. Then she watched them again. She pillaged the special features of each DVD, watched inane director’s commentary for the brief moments when he would add something brilliant (and sometimes also rather boring). She skipped to scenes she knew he would be in, watched as he cried, as he raged, as he killed a man in Reno, as a hundred emotions rolled across his face and his voice cracked with feeling. She wondered if he’d worn any of those looks while thinking of her. When he kissed his co-stars, she watched, fascinated, cataloguing the angle of his head, where he placed his hands. He was cold, and proud, and sensitive. He was impulsive, and witty, and misanthropic. He was twelve different people all at once, a pastiche of different characters. None of them were him. Three nights a week she awoke on the couch at 2 a.m., the screen of the television emitting a blue glow in her dark living room. The DVD remote was always trapped beneath her cheek, or neck, or wrist. Finally, on a mid-August afternoon, as she sat on the couch with her laptop while the late-afternoon sun slipped through her blinds and battled with the A/C wall unit for temperature dominance, she determined she was finished spending her nights staring at Will Darcy. Elizabeth slipped the DVDs back into their paper sleeves, and felt a satisfying swell of feeling accompany the thunk each made as they clanged against the metal bottom of the mailbox. The next day the Shadowboxer DVD arrived. She stared at it for a moment, indecisive and ambivalent. She placed it on the coffee table and caught herself glancing over at it while she made dinner, when she chatted with Jane on the phone, when she poured a glass of iced tea. She took a shower and climbed into bed with wet hair and strong resolve. Thirty minutes later she climbed out of bed and padded into the living room. Elizabeth had forgotten how excellent this film was. All of his films were good, some were outstanding, but Shadowboxer was something more, both personal and deeply moving in a way the others didn’t quite achieve. The man on the screen now wasn’t her Will Darcy—not that she’d ever truly had one of her own—but the last time she’d watched this film, he’d been next to her. She’d been able to hear his breathing, feel him tense before the moments when he knew the audience would react. She had been annoyed—it was awful to sit next to someone who had every line in the film memorized. She had teased him, taunted him, tried to impress him in some sort of payback for all the things she’d thought he deserved. Now, she wished he were here, wished their arms would brush up against each other, wished for the static electricity it would have generated in the dry heat of her house. When the movie ended, she turned it on again, this time with his voice describing the decisions that he’d made as a director and actor, the process of writing the film, production decisions and casting calls. He sounded tired. Weary. Maybe even a little wistful? Perhaps she was imagining that. After all, it wasn’t like she knew him well enough to be sure. In fact, she didn’t know him at all. In the aftermath of that realization, Elizabeth turned off the DVD player, returned the silver disc to its mail pouch, and returned to bed. When she finally fell asleep sometime in the quiet hours of the early morning, it was after admitting to herself that what she felt was no longer humiliation, it was regret. “Elizabeth!” “Mom, I just got out of the shower. Can it wait?” “Well your phone was ringing, and it’s a reporter, so I thought you’d want to talk to her right away!” The bathroom door opened and a cell phone was thrust into the steamy room. Elizabeth reluctantly took the mobile and sighed as she answered. Staying with her parents for a weekend had sounded like a good idea in theory. Now she wasn’t so sure. “Hi, Elizabeth, sorry to be an inconvenience. Was that your secretary?” “Not exactly.” The woman chuckled. “I’m Megan Gardiner, I work for a radio show on NPR—” “Oh! Culture Wars. Yes, I know it.” “Good, it’s always nice to meet a listener. I won’t presume to call you a fan.” “Your piece last week on Jake Westley’s new novel was excellent. I really enjoyed your review.” “Thank you. It’s rare that we get a chance to be so candid, but Jake’s a friend, so I knew we could be a bit bolder with our comments.” Elizabeth found herself smiling as she tucked her towel around herself and sat on the toilet lid, then cringed as the cool porcelain met her still- warm skin. “Anyway,” Megan continued. “I know you’re probably sick of interview requests, but I’m going to try my best to persuade you to come on the show in a couple weeks.” “Oh, I don’t know,” Elizabeth said. “I’m really not sure what I could contribute—” “Well, let me tell you what the show is about, and then you can decide. Please. We really think your viewpoint is valuable. It can’t hurt to listen, right?” “Do your worst,” Elizabeth smiled into the receiver. “It’s pretty clear to those of us who don’t work for a gossip rag that whatever was going on with you and Darcy was completely overblown by the tabloids.” “That’s a polite way to say it,” Elizabeth agreed, flipping her wet hair over her shoulder. “Honestly, I don’t really care about the details of your relationship— that’s private. But it is an interesting example of how public and private spaces are increasingly conflated and what the media’s role in reporting on those things should be. So what we want to do is have a sort-of roundtable or panel discussion with folks about why your story happened.” “I agree, it’s a fascinating topic,” Elizabeth said. “But it’s not like I could speak without any personal feeling on the subject.” “I think that’s precisely why you should be included. We can invite all kinds of media experts on the program, but none of them have lived through the experience of what we’re talking about. For them it’s all theoretical.” “Who else will be included on the panel?” “Well, my assistant is making those calls, but I wanted to talk to you personally. I gave her a wish list—a few reporters that I know, a professor from USC, and a few other people. My producer also gave her some names, but I’m not sure who he put on the list.” “Would I need to come into the studios or could I phone in?” “We like our panelists to be there in person. Doing these kinds of sessions by phone gets really complicated—people tend to speak over each other. Our studios are located in Culver City.” “And when is the show taping?” Elizabeth couldn’t believe how quickly she was thinking about agreeing to this. But the chance to tell her story, to tell it calmly, with people who might understand, and even possibly in a way that might get back to Darcy was tempting. Too tempting. “Next Friday, at 10 a.m. What do you think?” Elizabeth paused. “We had an intern here, Celia Flores, who took a class with you a few semesters ago. She said you’re very intelligent, articulate, and funny. She recommended you for another program, actually, but it was too late for us to ask you. When all of the stories were in the press, she was the one who told us that she thought it was mostly a hoax, or at the very least embellished. She’s not working here anymore, but I thought you’d like to know that we respected her opinions, and the fact that she respects you tells me a lot about your character. I’d love to have you on the program and give you a chance to tell your side of things.” “Well…” Elizabeth was on the verge of agreeing, flattered by Celia’s recommendation and Megan’s enthusiasm. “Honestly, Elizabeth, from everything I’ve seen and heard about you, I really want you to be on the show. I’m happy to resort to begging and pleading, but only if it’s really necessary.” Elizabeth laughed. “I’ll spare you the indignity of that. I’m happy to do the show.” “Fantastic!” Megan replied. “My assistant, Jen, will call you tomorrow with the details, directions, and everything. I’m looking forward to meeting you next week!” “See you then.” “And, thank you, for not making me grovel.” “Anytime,” Elizabeth laughed as she hung up the phone. She sat for a moment, in the dissipating steam, thinking about the strange twists in her life recently. If this gave her the opportunity to explain some of it, the unpredictability, the unpreparedness, the uncertainty she’d felt for so long. More than anything else, that was what she wanted to tell people. Also, she wanted to tell her mother to stop answering her cell phone. Perhaps explaining the concept of voice mail would be helpful? ----- Summer Lovin’ As the kids assemble their new supplies and pack up their bags to get ready to head back to school, Starz takes a look at our favorite summer romances this year—fictional and celebrity. Who knows, maybe one of our favorite real-life couples will have a Danny-Sandy style reunion? #6: Will Darcy and Lizzy Bennet When these two got together in April, we thought it was love to last a lifetime. He was smitten and she seemed like a refreshing addition to Hollywood’s stable of beautiful people. So what happened to the filmmaker and his grad student amour? While after their very public breakup the two revealed that most of what they shared was a hoax, Starz still believes that the kind of connection these two had can’t be all invented. We’re hoping that back to school means back to chemistry class for these two. Maybe some Bunsen burners and a few strong reactions will be enough to rekindle their romance—this time for real? ----- Megan, it turned out, was married to Elijah Gardiner, the show’s producer, who introduced himself with a wink and said, “No relation to your best friend Jane.” Elizabeth liked him immediately. They showed her around the studio and explained the magic of radio. “You mean,” Elizabeth said, wide-eyed, “Rush Limbaugh can’t actually hear me when I yell at him?” “Sadly, not,” Elijah replied, with a slow shake of his head. “Don’t tell my father,” Elizabeth warned. “He listens to those shows purely for the pleasure of calling the hosts uneducated philistines, among other things.” “There’s one exception, you know,” Megan whispered. “Dr. Laura totally hears everything.” “How is that possible?” Elizabeth asked. “I didn’t think she ever stopped talking!” The three laughed as they rounded a corner. A small group of people was standing near the elevators. Megan gasped. “Will!” “Meg!” Elizabeth actually stumbled when she realized that the ‘Will’ in question was her ex-fake-boyfriend. He was currently embracing Megan and asking about her sister. The two made a strange picture, tall, attractive movie star and plain, short, radio host. Elizabeth and Elijah hung back a bit, observing. “They went to high school together,” Elijah explained. “Megan was three years ahead of him, but they met working on the school paper. They see each other maybe once a year.” “I just…didn’t realize he would be here.” Elijah shrugged. “We weren’t planning on it, but Megan called him a couple days ago to ask. I guess he had an opening.” “Did he know I’d be here?” It was suddenly very important that she know the answer to this question. “From the look on his face right now,” Elijah said. “I don’t think he had any idea.” “Elizabeth,” Darcy said. He took four steps toward them and leaned forward, then rocked back and started to move to shake her hand before nervously putting his hands in his pockets. “It’s, um, it’s good to see you again.” He cleared his throat awkwardly. “Hi,” she said, but her voice came out in a strange rasp. She swallowed. “I had no idea you’d be here. I didn’t really think it was your kind of thing.” “It’s not, usually,” Darcy said bluntly. “But I know Megan from Harvard- Westlake, and she practically begged me to come. Someone dropped out, I guess.” “Aaron Rhodes.” Megan said. “You’ll be a much better guest.” Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. Aaron Rhodes had been a tabloid fixture and Tiger Beat cover boy in her youth, but as an adult he tended to feature in seedier reports of celebrity behavior. “I’ll certainly smell better,” Darcy said. “Why don’t you two wait in the green room,” Megan said. “We’ll come get you once we’ve finished the prep.” Elijah pointed out the room a few doors down the hall, and Darcy gestured for Elizabeth to go first. He coughed again. “How have you been?” he asked. “Fine. Summer school,” she answered. “You?” Darcy was staring at his feet as they walked, and Elizabeth had to grab his wrist so he didn’t pass the green room. At her touch, he looked up and they stood for a moment in the doorway, his Rolex warm and smooth beneath her fingers and his eyes searching hers. She smiled nervously. “I think this is it.” Darcy shook his head quickly. “Ah, yes. It is.” She was both relieved and surprised to find that there were already people in the room. “Elizabeth, this is Gina Reynolds, my agent,” Darcy said. “And this is Harry Goulding, who writes for the Times. I’m sorry,” he added, looking at the room’s final occupant, “but I don’t know who you are.” He held up a finger in response, before returning to tapping away on the keys of his Blackberry. Then he jumped up and said, “Douglas Jenkins, at your service.” He even effected a little bow. “I write for Star Tracker magazine. It’s great to meet you both, hopefully you can answer some questions for me later.” Harry stepped in and said, “I don’t think that’s the point of this exercise, Dougie.” Darcy coughed at the nickname. “I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t write anything about us, Douglas,” Elizabeth ventured. “We’re here to talk about how things were misrepresented in the media to begin with, not do an interview.” Douglas held up his hands in surrender. “Fine, fine, I see which way the winds are blowing here. I’m just looking for a story—our circulation’s down lately and my boss is on my ass trying to get ahead of some of the other guys.” “I’m sure there’s no story here,” Darcy said, his tone frigid. “In any case, I don’t think Meg invited you to write about this.” A phone beeped, and after they all checked their pockets, Gina waved Darcy out of the room with a look when he took the call. Elizabeth, Gina, and Harry sat down across the room from Douglas, who had returned to tapping away at his screen. “Gina,” Harry said. “I tried to get in touch with you last week, but you never got back to me. I was looking for a quote on Jack’s new movie. Did you get the message?” “No, I didn’t. When did you call?” “Thursday, probably. You’ve missed the press deadline, though, sorry. Did you get a new number?” “I got a new assistant,” she sighed. “I fired Terrence a few months ago in the midst of the cluster—excuse me—all the frenzy over Darcy. The prick wasn’t giving me messages, just returning calls from people we didn’t know and saying we didn’t comment on Darcy’s love life, as though he has any idea about the arrangement I have with Darcy—I was expecting half those calls, hoping to talk them out of covering most of what they did. And of course, his complete incompetence meant we missed calls from Ann Ryan, Richard Polk, and Diana Sheridan. Idiot,” she spat. Harry chuckled. “The kid didn’t tell you the editor of Starz called? I hope he didn’t want a future at AMA.” “He certainly ruined any chance he had. I almost didn’t want to ask who else called.” “Actually,” Elizabeth said. “I called to talk to you, right after everything happened. He told me you didn’t handle these kind of stories.” “Shit! If that dumbass wasn’t already fired, I’d rehire him just to fire him again.” Gina’s face was a mix of incredulity and rage. “What a moron. I’m sorry, Elizabeth. He never gave me the message.” “It certainly explains a lot,” Elizabeth said. “So who’s the replacement?” Harry asked. “A kid called Brian. Wet behind the ears, of course, but it means he’s so afraid to screw up he checks with me about everything. After the Nightmare of Terrence, I’m actually grateful, even though it means he calls me constantly.” She held up her cell phone as it rang, Brian’s name displayed as the caller. She, too, took the call outside the room. “How are you holding up, Elizabeth?” Harry asked. “Life finally getting back to normal?” Elizabeth hesitated, and he must have sensed the reason behind it, because he said, “I’m asking as someone who’s just met you, not as a reporter. I write the Entertainment section, not the gossip. Who you eat dinner with on Friday nights doesn’t interest me unless it’s filmed and rated by the MPAA.” Darcy walked back into the room then, and caught her eye. He gave her a small, hesitant smile as he opened a bottle of sparkling water. The pop and fizz might have come from her stomach as it flipped at Darcy’s warm look. Harry shifted in his seat, and the collection of people—Darcy and her unsettled feelings, Gina’s revelations, Doug’s determination—made Elizabeth’s answer incoherent. “I’ve learned a lot—found friends in places I didn’t expect to—it’s been a confusing few months. I’m not sure what normal is anymore.” She couldn’t look away from Darcy as she said it, and watched as his mouth slowly formed a real smile then, one of common understanding and shared, secret knowledge. Elizabeth felt a tiny grin tug at the corner of her lips in response. When she finally looked back at Harry, he, too, was grinning and only said, “Why don’t you two talk while I make sure that my staff has delivered my section to the printer on time.” He left the room, dialing his phone. Darcy sat next to her, close, but without touching. All the casual grace that she had appreciated in Hawaii had been replaced by tension and rigidity of movement. She wondered if he sensed her restraint as well. The room was windowless and plain, and Elizabeth thought they could sit here forever trying to work up the courage to converse. Words and phrases lined up on her tongue, waiting to be said, but none were exactly right for a beginning. “How was Europe?” Elizabeth asked, conscious of Doug’s furtive glances at them. “Quiet,” Darcy replied. “We rented a lake house in Switzerland, hiked in the Alps and ate too much pain au chocolat. I didn’t answer my phone for two weeks.” “You weren’t afraid to miss any important calls?” “I was with my sister—who hid the phone—and Mark, who screened for emergencies. Anyone else I wanted to talk to wasn’t likely to call.” There was just the faintest emphasis on “else” and Elizabeth felt her stomach clench reflexively. There was so much she wanted to say—too much, really—in too small a room with a too nosy reporter, waiting for Megan and Elijah to return at any moment. But she had to start somewhere. “I watched Shadowboxer again,” she said, and he turned to look at her, an open, pleased expression on his face. “Did you enjoy it?” “Oh! Yes. It’s brilliant. Even more the third—I mean, more with every viewing.” He smiled at her, pleasure and pride crinkling in the corners of his eyes. Elizabeth blushed and looked away for a moment. “I wanted to ask you, before—” Elizabeth understood this to mean before Hawaii, before the kiss, before everything that now filled up the small empty space between them, “—what you thought of the film.” “I always liked it,” she said. “I appreciated the cinematography right away, the unique angles you captured, that shot in the mirror was genius.” Darcy smiled. “We worked hard for that shot, and I would have given up but John, the DP, got it on the last take.” He paused. “What about the story?” They stared at each other for a long moment, and Elizabeth thought maybe they were both searching for something in the other. Absolution, maybe, or something like approval. From the other side of the room, Douglas coughed. Elizabeth blinked and took a chance. “I still don’t quite understand why Sam didn’t—or wouldn’t—let the shop girl, Marie, help him. They had such a connection, but it didn’t go anywhere. It built up to something, but then you never settled what it was.” “It’s the most unsatisfying part of the film, isn’t it? When we wrote it, the scenes wouldn’t fit together, it was either too much relationship or too little.” He drank some water, and she watched his Adam’s apple move as he swallowed. “As an actor, trying to clarify Sam’s motivations, I think it was something he wouldn’t let himself have. He was rebuilding his life, trying to sort out what was real, if he was still real, after all the changes he’d been through. He couldn’t see how she fit into those gaps, and when he couldn’t understand it, he couldn’t make it work.” “What about her character though?” Elizabeth asked. “What if she was just as unsure, but willing to try?” Darcy shook his head. “We’d already scripted it to keep them apart. The characters can only work in the frame provided by the screenwriter. The story wouldn’t allow us to bring them together and resolve the narrative conflict. We tried some extra scenes, but I’m rubbish at improvisation, and none of it felt right, everything was so false. The emotion felt wrong somehow.” Elizabeth’s hand closed around the silver art deco pendant that hung around her neck. She fingered the cool metal, gliding the piece along the chain, letting the metals rub and grind together so the soft vibrations it caused tingled against her neck. She stared at a photo print on the opposite wall, suddenly certain that Darcy wasn’t looking at her, that they were both staring straight ahead. “It wasn’t a love story,” she said soberly. “No,” Darcy said. His voice was rough when he continued. “I don’t write love stories, remember?” For some reason, Elizabeth wanted to cry. It was time to face facts: she was probably going to stab Douglas Jenkins. Not fatally, of course. For one, there was nothing in the room that would really do that kind of damage. Plus, being in jail would seriously jeopardize her future career plans. No, a nice sharp jab to his thigh with the ballpoint pen she’d been given and Dougie would be forced to leave the room and give the rest of them some peace. From some of the dark looks she’d intercepted between Megan and Elijah (in the production booth), Elizabeth could tell she wasn’t the only one miles past exasperated. “I don’t see why the press should safeguard the privacy of actors who use the free publicity to improve their personal image and parlay that into endorsements and income. We’re doing most of these people a favor. They end up on our pages so often that businesses come to them with plans to build advertising around their behavior.” Douglas carried on defending something seemingly indefensible, with some interruptions by Megan, but Elizabeth’s attention shifted to Darcy, who was seated beside her. He apparently had a habit of doodling in the margins. Elizabeth wondered if he’d been that way as a child, pencil idly etching images into schoolbooks or desks. He was drawing geometric figures, angled lines and shaded cubes. The cheap pen he held scratched against the call sheet they’d been given when they entered the studio. Against the carefully printed timestamps, Darcy’s blue scribbles looked chaotic and mesmerizing. “I can say this because I’ve known you forever, Darcy,” Harry said, changing the topic. Darcy’s pen stopped as he looked up. “You’re not an easy person to interview or put in a story. You don’t do fluff pieces, your tastes are virtually unknown. Without meaningless trivia to fill up articles, reporters have to find something to write about. What kind of music do you like? What’s your favorite food? If people knew more about you, they wouldn’t like you so much.” “I like all kinds of music. And I love crunchy peanut butter,” Darcy said. Elizabeth felt his trouser leg brush hers under the table. “Wow! A Darcy disclosure. And on our little show,” Megan said. “What else can we get him to tell us?” “Dogs or cats?” Harry asked. “Boxers or briefs?” Douglas chimed in. “Favorite Beatles song?” Elizabeth asked. At this, Darcy smiled. “A Day in the Life.” Elizabeth grinned. So did Megan. “I’ve always been a private person,” Darcy said. “Fame hasn’t changed that. Honestly, I’m impatient with small talk in any situation, doubly so in an interview. If people are going to pay so much attention to what I say, I’d like them to learn something interesting, if not meaningful. How I take my coffee, the details of my personal life aren’t in those categories for me.” “So by refusing to play the game, you’re trying, to some extent, to remain in control of what people know about you.” At Darcy’s frown, Megan added, “Not to hide it, but so you have a way of letting people understand what’s important to you without letting them too close.” “To some extent, yes,” Darcy agreed. “It is purposeful. I think sometimes all the filler isn’t there to flesh out what people know about you, it’s to make you a character in the story the press is writing about your life. I refuse to play that role for them.” “I agree,” Elizabeth said. “Aside from privacy issues, that’s been my biggest problem with the press invasion in my life. They wanted me to play a part for the papers—to be eager for the attention, or protective of Darcy, or fawning all over him—but it wasn’t real. We were scripted into some consumer-ready drama manufactured for the masses. Honestly, I think most of the people who read these magazines and stories understand little about Hollywood or Los Angeles, and the tabloids capitalize on that ignorance. I was cast as a modern Cinderella, to liven up the true story: that we were two strangers who seemed to connect briefly. The tabloids make you forget that meeting a celebrity, especially a celebrity lover, isn’t as easy as going to the Laundromat.” Darcy looked at her sharply, recognizing his own words in this context. Elizabeth gave him a small smile. He grinned and looked back at Megan. “Along with that,” Darcy said. “Is that once you’re part of these little news-dramas, you’re in forever. It’s very difficult to change your image. Only by opting out of all news can you retain any shred of truth. If I’d gone along with the media portrayals, if I’d played this part, I would always be known as a certain type of person or actor. People don’t have extremely long memories, but the news media forgets nothing, and they dredge up old stories all the time.” “Do you think that by denying your relationship with Elizabeth you made the speculation worse?” Megan asked. “Why did you choose to handle it the way you did?” Darcy shook his head. “We all—my staff included—thought that when we said nothing, ‘no relationship, no story, no comment’ it would make a difference. You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t, it turns out. People thought we were hiding something, they thought we were trying to generate publicity. If we’d come out and announced it, we would be accused of the same things, and my staff were also trying to coordinate schedules and publicity for the launch of a film. There are only so many hours in a day you can ask people to work, especially issuing denials about your personal life. Doubly so when you believe the story, with no basis in reality, can’t have a very long life.” “Harry, why do you think the story ended up gaining so much momentum, especially without any support coming from either party?” “Honestly, I’m not sure. I think we can look at other celebrity couples and see how at certain times the interest of the reading public has been captured, but they typically participate more. Charles Bingley and Jane Gardiner in the last six months have been another example, though they’ve done a bit more to facilitate the story.” “Not to be crude,” Douglas began. Elizabeth saw Megan roll her eyes and give a long-suffering look to Darcy. “But part of what happened is that Will Darcy, recluse and Hollywood Hermit finally became accessible. Since everyone wants to know about you, Darcy, they jumped onto this story and saw no reason to let it go. Not only could they report about you, but about Lizzy as well, about how you might be earning money from the story. They could attribute all kinds of motivations and actions to you—or to your character, as you say—without much effort. Your public break-up didn’t help that.” “We’ve drifted a bit from the topic at hand,” Megan said. “The question is still not what happened, but what should have happened—why the media seems to report private stories as public information. We’ll do that after a short break.” ----- Spotted! Will Darcy, in black Armani, and his sister, Georgiana, in an aubergine Prada gown, at the premiere of Simon Ranks’ new film, Minutiae. ----- Elizabeth leaned against the wall drinking a soda—anything for caffeine —contemplating all she thought she knew about the events of the spring and early summer. “And your favorite Beatles song, Miss Bennet?” Darcy asked, leaning against the wall next to her with his arms folded across his chest. “At the moment? Hello, Goodbye.” Even with their emotional discussion before—or perhaps because of it—she could not quite keep the bitterness out of her tone. Rehashing all their missteps, all the almosts and should-haves made her feel helpless and out of place. Darcy cleared his throat. “I owe you an apology. That is, for what happened in July.” “In Hawaii? Or after that?” Elizabeth looked up at him, and saw him wince slightly. “After. I’m not sorry about Hawaii.” He looked at her for a moment, eyes roaming over her face. She wondered if he, too, was thinking about their kiss. “What did happen?” Elizabeth asked quietly. “I mean,” she added, “from your perspective.” “Nothing went the way I wanted it to,” he said, and the shake of his head and tightening of his lips made her believe it. “Gina was going to release a statement and that would be it. When I hadn’t seen you in a month, when the stories were dying down, that was fine. I didn’t think the repercussions would be too bad.” “But then there was Hawaii.” “Yes,” he said, and looked at her seriously. “When we were followed, I knew there would be a story, and I knew a statement released by my publicist would do nothing. Besides, it felt cowardly. After I’d just spent time with you, and enjoyed it, how could I let someone else deliver that message? If you were going to hate me, I wanted it to be because of me, because of what I’d done, not because of someone else.” The look he gave her then was half-regret, half-plea. Elizabeth had always had a problem with attractive men. She liked them well enough, until they opened their mouths and convinced her otherwise. Will Darcy, she was discovering, was quite the opposite. When he’d been just a face in a magazine, a handsome stranger, she’d thought of every reason to dislike him. But here, now, when he said these things, when he seemed as disappointed as she was in how events had unfolded, she could hardly stop the spark of interest, of tenderness that flared inside her. Elizabeth stared at her feet for a moment, unsure of how to tell him everything she wanted to say. “I don’t hate you,” she said. When she looked up at him, Darcy was smiling, and he pushed off the wall, shoving his hands in his pockets as he moved to stand in front of her. “That’s good,” he said. “I never wanted you to hate me. I just wasn’t sure how to avoid it.” He moved fractionally closer, and she could smell him again, the citrus scent she remembered from Hawaii tempered with fabric softener and traces of coffee. He reached out, one finger running over her hand, still clutching the soda. She shivered as a drop of condensation fell from the can onto her sandal-clad foot. “Elizabeth,” he said. His voice was silky and low, tracing the syllables of her name as softly as his finger ran over her skin. “Could we—“ “Darcy! Elizabeth!” Elijah’s voice was as effective as a gunshot at separating them. “Sorry to break up the party, but we’re about to start on the second segment.” Darcy sighed, and Elizabeth bit the inside of her mouth, closing her eyes against the disappointment she knew she’d see reflected in his face. “We’ll be right there,” Darcy said. Giving Elizabeth a rueful grin, he walked with her into the studio. ----- Hollywood’s Legal Eagles Finding it difficult to remember which legal trouble your favorite star is in now? Starz understands how tough it can be to keep track of it all, so here’s your monthly rundown of Starz Gavel Busters. Jessica Newell pled guilty to charges of shoplifting from a swanky Beverly Hills boutique. Lawyers alleged that Newell stole over $1,000 of jewelry from the small store last March. We wonder if she took the next logical step and wore it to dinner with ex-boyfriend Cody Lang? Mike Markley and Cheryl Brent have filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. We think this might be some sort of code for “he likes younger women and so does she.” It’s not every day that we get to mention Will Darcy in this column. The actor and producer is listed as a plaintiff in a civil suit against a group accused of leaking and distributing copies of films created by his production company, Aperture Pictures. We’re hoping this might inspire Will to take a turn in some Grisham-inspired legal thriller. Darcy in a suit screaming “you can’t handle the truth!” sounds like just the thing to make next summer even hotter. In a case that made our cover last month, Chris Krand’s trial on charges of reckless driving and vehicular manslaughter opened last week. Prosecutors say that Krand was intoxicated and this contributed to a collision with a pickup truck full of teenagers in Ventura on May 9th. Despite argument from Krand’s lawyers, bond was set at $1 million after his indictment in May. The athlete posted bail, but with his contract suspended pending the trial’s outcome, we assume he’s had to cut back on his legendary spending on collectible bobblehead dolls (see story). It was only when they were in the lobby, away from Douglas Jenkins’ eavesdropping, Megan’s knowing smile, and Elijah’s wink that Darcy invited her to go for a coffee with him at a small café on Melrose. He’d promised her the drive was worth it. Standing in front of the bank of televisions offering news from every channel, Elizabeth had a brief moment of indecision about being seen with him in public, but his restrained, “please?” coupled with a hopeful look convinced her. When they walked in and a middle-aged woman with a parrot tattooed on her bicep asked, “Hey, Will, you want your usual?” she knew this was more than just a coffee date. She also felt safe. They sat at a corner table, where it was cool and shadowed. For a moment, Elizabeth recognized the man she’d spent time with in Hawaii in the face across the table, the same fleeting hesitance laid over certainty in his expression. “Tell me something,” she said. “Something about you, something that’s true.” Something you haven’t told anyone else, she thought, something I will know is really you. He looked at her for a moment, eyes narrowed in thought. Glancing at the empty sugar packet he was twisting in his hands, he said, “I have an avocado tree in my backyard.” Elizabeth took a sip of her coffee and waited. “I pick the fruit one or two at a time, so there’s always one on the kitchen windowsill, ripening. I have a guacamole recipe my mother gave me, so that’s what I usually make. I think they taste better than the kind you get at Whole Foods, but no one else agrees with me. I’m horrible about sharing the avocados, actually. If I’m having a dinner party, I buy some from the market rather than using my own.” He grinned, a boyish, charming expression that elicited a breathy chuckle from Elizabeth. She bit her lip to hide the wide smile that was threatening to escape. “I love sliced avocado on grilled cheese sandwiches. On the first day of school, I used to come home and my mom would make grilled cheese sandwiches with avocado on them. We ate them on the patio, and the Santa Anas were blowing, so it was hot and dry, always sunny, and she would ask us about my day, the new teacher, my friends. For me, that’s what September tastes like—melted cheddar cheese, avocado, and sunshine.” She could see it: a little boy, hair falling in his eyes, missing a front tooth, eating a sandwich and kicking his legs against a wrought iron table in the harsh late afternoon sunlight of Los Angeles in August. He carried on, his voice changing from lighthearted and earnest to serious and fervent. “A couple years ago, there were mudslides near the canyon where I live. Do you remember those? It rained for two weeks straight. Anyway, we had to evacuate.” He shook his head, obviously lost in the memory. “I packed up my car with anything we had in the house that I really cared about: photographs, books, my music. I mean, I’m not like other people, most of my stuff I can afford to replace if something happens. But I was so worried about that tree. They told us we should get some sandbags or something to put around the foundation. I got extra and put them around the avocado tree, trying to make sure I covered the roots well enough that they wouldn’t pull up. Everyone thought I was worried about the house, and they told me that I could build something better, more modern, more expensive.” The disdain in his tone was obvious. “But for two days, I couldn’t stop thinking about that tree, wondering if it would be okay, if it would be there when I went back.” When he looked at her, she could see the soft lines in his forehead were deeper than before, subtle evidence of the worry that still obviously affected him. “My sister was the only one who understood. We didn’t talk about it, but we don’t really have to, with these kinds of things. I was standing by the window at Mark’s house, where we were staying. He lives in this awful place on the cliffs in Malibu, so I was watching the traffic on PCH—you know how it backs up in the rain—and thinking about home, and my family, and just everything. And Georgiana came up behind me and just put her hand on my shoulder, she didn’t say anything, and handed me an avocado. It was the one that had been on the windowsill the day we packed everything, the last one until spring. It was still a little unripe, but we sliced it up and ate grilled cheese sandwiches in Mark’s kitchen while it was pouring down rain.” “And the tree survived?” Elizabeth asked. “The house survived,” he smiled, finally. “Including an original Sarah Vaughn album I forgot to take with me. But yes, the tree is still there.” “So there’s an avocado on your windowsill now,” Elizabeth said. “Yes, it’s comforting to see it there.” He shrugged. “And in a couple days I’ll go out and grab another, and Georgiana and I will eat guacamole from the ripe one, drink Dos Equis and listen for the coyotes.” His fingers wrapped around the bright red coffee mug as he brought it to his mouth for a long drink. Early in their relationship, Elizabeth had understood that Will Darcy was someone more than a film star and chameleon. She’d seen him as a man with a strange profession, who lived half his life in character and the other half as the intriguing man behind the pretense. Now, though, she could see beyond even that, see the things she’d ignored before: see roots spreading out before her, tying Darcy to something stronger than what she knew; to a sister, a family, a childhood. She felt the flare of interest she had long felt for him spark into something bigger, something she might even call affection. ----- Top 100 Starz We’ve really been missing Robin Leach lately, and his champagne wishes and caviar dreams. If you were born after, say, 1990, you can think of Robin as the father of Cribs, but with fewer flat screen TVs. You may have also seen that Forbes released their list of the world’s top celebrities, and while we applaud their use of multiple criteria to rank how awesome our favorite stars are, they forgot a little something we like to call The Hotness Quotient. Obviously, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to remedy this problem. So, just who are the richest and hottest celebs this year? … #6: Will Darcy So how does Mr. Darcy make use of all that cash? He’s not frivolous. You won’t find garages of luxury cars, a private jet, or outlandish spending from Will. He has some property, notably a house in Los Angeles that his parents purchased in the seventies, which is now worth an estimated $14 million. He also has apartments in Manhattan and London, and at least one island hideaway. Friends say he’s an audiophile, and that his collection of vinyl albums and historical musical memorabilia is worth millions, not to mention his investments in the latest high-end stereo equipment. Darcy is also a quiet, but notable philanthropist, supporting numerous arts foundations, international poverty relief, scholarships and educational funding for inner-city schools, and environmental charities. Still aren’t convinced that Darcy deserves a top spot on our list? Look at his picture, and just try not to melt. Go on, we dare you. ----- At some point during the afternoon, Elizabeth switched to drinking tea, and then shared the pot of ginger tea with Darcy. Darcy excused himself for a moment, and Elizabeth checked her cell phone, which had been on silent since the start of the radio program. Missed calls: Seven. New voice mail: Four. Most were from her sister, Katie. Frowning, Elizabeth called back without listening to the messages. “Liz? Oh my god, you have to come over, right now. Where have you been? Say you’ll come, you have to come.” It was clear from the sound of her voice that Katie either was, or had been, crying. “Katie? What happened?” “The police just, like, showed up at our apartment, and they forced me to let them come in, and now, they’re like, I don’t know, like going through all our stuff, and they’re putting things in bags, and I told them which computer was mine, jackass, but they’re trying to take it anyway, and can you just come over and help me? I don’t want to deal with this shit on my own.” “Katie, why are the police at your apartment? Where’s Lydia?” “Did you listen to my message? She’s in jail! The police arrested her this morning when we were leaving to go to Coffee Bean.” “What?” Elizabeth struggled to keep her voice even and quiet in the small café. Across the room, Darcy emerged from the restroom and pause to answer his phone. She saw his eyebrows narrow and jaw set, but couldn’t tell what he was saying. “What did she do?” “God, Liz, where have you been? She’s been stealing from the company where she’s working, taking the master copies of their films and selling them. Her boyfriend got her into it, I guess.” “Where was she working? How long has this been going on?” “Since the beginning of the summer, I guess. I mean, it’s not like it wasn’t happening before she got there, and I told her she shouldn’t get involved with it, and she did anyway. But I don’t understand why they’re taking my stuff too. I didn’t do anything wrong!” “Does Mom know about this? Aunt Phyllis? Where was she working?” “I’m sure Phyllis called Mom when she found out. And then, when I couldn’t get a hold of you, I had to call mom, too.” Katie’s tone was accusatory. “Lydia was working at Aperture Pictures, and I can’t believe she blew it. She was totally lucky to get the internship there at all. I wouldn’t have screwed it up,” Katie added bitterly. Elizabeth looked up sharply, catching Darcy’s eye. He was leaning against a wall, and she could see that his eyes were on hers. His expression was still serious, and Elizabeth couldn’t find any traces of the smiles that he’d been wearing since their second cup of coffee. “Liz? Oh, shit, I just realized, that’s the place Will Darcy owns, isn’t it? Do you think he’ll be mad?” “Yes,” Elizabeth said, watching the play of shadows across his face, how they emphasized the stiffness of his jaw, the tightness of his lips. “I think he’ll be upset.” “So, are you coming? I feel totally lost here with these officers and I don’t want to be alone.” She sniffed pathetically. They didn’t have a close relationship, but the sound, and Katie’s suddenly small voice reminded her of a time when being the ‘big sister’ had meant something. “I’m coming over,” Elizabeth said, not taking her eyes off Darcy. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Elizabeth felt the emotions washing over her, as cold and strong as the tea remaining in the bottom of her cup. She closed her eyes against the tears she didn’t want him to see, the embarrassment of having entertained some kind of hope for their relationship, shame over what her cousin had done. “Elizabeth,” Darcy said, in a flat, controlled voice. “I need to go; I need to take care of some things.” “Will,” she said, and looked up at him, a single tear sliding down her cheek. “I’m so sorry. Lydia is—she’s my cousin—I didn’t know, didn’t realize she was—I had no idea she would do something like that.” Elizabeth shook her head. “Hey,” he replied, his voice taking on a bit of the friendly tone she’d heard earlier, his hand touching hers fleetingly. “None of this is your fault.” She nodded, closing her eyes tightly. “But Elizabeth,” he said, and she heard something tighten in his voice that made her look at him again, this time in confusion. “You need to leave first, without me. I don’t think we should be seen together right now.” His eyes were cool, and his face had lost any expression as he said it. Elizabeth felt whatever was left of her belief that they might turn these few conversations, a single kiss, and pages of rumor into an enduring relationship slip further away. Elizabeth fumbled awkwardly for some cash, insisting on leaving something to cover her part of the bill. Darcy tried to wave it off, but her incoherency and pleading must have worked in the end, though later she would find several of the bills tucked into the outside pocket of her handbag. She paused for a moment, in the doorway, and turned back to see him staring at their empty teacups, one hand covering his mouth. He looked up and saw her watching him, and lifted one hand in a sad wave. She nodded and turned to go. The sun had nearly set on that September evening, the buildings glowing in the waning light, turning shades of pink and orange, red bricks glinting rust. Elizabeth sat in her car for a moment, letting the heat that had built up inside settle on her skin and seep into her, and although she felt a trickle of sweat run down her back, inside, she still felt cold. Does Something Smell Funny to You? Here at DailyBrat, we pride ourselves on finding not only new scandals, but scandals behind familiar stories. Does it make us beloved and popular with the subjects of these stories? Almost never. But we carry on, in the pursuit of journalistic excellence. Okay, fine, it’s because we’re stubborn like that. Case in point: take the recent arrests of five employees at Will Darcy’s Aperture Pictures. On the surface, it looks like another crusade against piracy by the always-concerned-with-integrity Darcy. Dig a little deeper, like I did, and you’ll start to see something more interesting. Like any good scandal, it involves an intern, a romance, and big money. First, let’s look at who’s in jail. A collection of people from the production company were arrested yesterday, a handful of middle- management types and entry-level employees, including one who sticks out like a very cute, very young sore thumb. Lydia Phillips, a summer intern at Aperture and student at Loyola Marymount, was charged with conspiracy to violate federal copyright laws and criminal infringement of a copyright. What’s unique about Lydia is not that she’s first college student to be caught downloading copyrighted media from the internet, it’s that she’s probably the only one who was caught downloading media created by an almost-family member. It seems that Lydia is the cousin of Elizabeth Bennet, who until recently was seen keeping company with none other than Will Darcy. The connection, of course, begs several questions: how did Lydia find herself with a job at Aperture, and did her cousin put in a good word for her? Did Elizabeth know about the illegal activities that her cousin was allegedly aiding and abetting, and did she tell Darcy or hide it from him? With the link so closely connected to Darcy, is it even possible that he was benefitting from the scam? For now, it seems there are more questions than answers. Whatever the outcome, the DailyBrat team is sure this is just the tip of the scandalous iceberg. Let’s just hope Aperture Pictures doesn’t turn this into a Titanic-style moment and go under with a big splash. ----- She couldn’t really blame Will Darcy for the publicity this time. Since she had arrived at Katie’s apartment and a lone photographer had snapped her picture, Elizabeth had been unsuccessfully trying to avoid once again becoming a tabloid feature. It wasn’t easy. Before, when she was just Will Darcy’s assumed sweetheart, the paparazzi had been, if not polite, at least not openly hostile. Apparently, when your cousin has implicated you in a criminal scandal, whatever dubious code of conduct once existed between amiable celebs and their rabid photographers was no longer in effect. More than once, she caught herself thinking fondly of the good old days. Instead, Elizabeth endured snarling reporters who were desperate to make a story about piracy into something intriguing. Daily, she dodged questions about her motives in dating Darcy, about whether she had manipulated Darcy for her cousin’s schemes, and if he knew about the illegal activities taking place at his company while they were together. Her withering stare was getting a great deal of practice, but it was still not as effective as she would have liked. After all, no one actually withered when she used it, they usually just repeated their questions, occasionally more belligerently. Lydia was, apparently, denying that she’d done anything wrong, and certain that her corporate litigator father would be able to take care of everything. Katie had stayed four nights with Elizabeth after realizing she couldn’t afford to pay the rent without Lydia’s contribution. When it became clear that she had no idea how to handle the media and that she was unwilling to spend more nights any farther from her boyfriend than a distance of five city blocks, Katie went to sleep on someone else’s couch. Elizabeth spent the days in the rhythms of university life that she’d come to know so well, teaching, meeting students, grading assignments, reading textbooks and journal articles. But underneath the familiarity and the comfort of routine, something nagged at her, reminding her that not everything was as it should be. When people asked, she told them she was worried about her cousin and her family. Most people gave her sympathetic nods and put their hand on her shoulder in a gesture meant to convey comfort. She knew that when they turned around, they rolled their eyes. But it wasn’t Lydia she thought of at night, when the work was finished and the house was quiet. In those moments, she thought of Will Darcy, whom she hadn’t seen and who hadn’t called. She didn’t expect him to; after all, his lawyers had probably advised him against it. But not expecting something doesn’t mean you can’t want it all the same. And if the absent way that she stared at her cell phone was any indication, Elizabeth was firmly in the realm of wanting Darcy to call, even while believing it wouldn’t happen. It didn’t help that every time the phone rang—and that was often—it wasn’t his voice on the other end. Katie called regularly, to give Elizabeth unsolicited updates on The Jailbird. Elizabeth’s mother called to give her the updates again, minus salacious details and color commentary, but with the added bonus of probing questions into her personal life. Elizabeth figured this was partially designed to troll for information that could be used to demonstrate to Aunt Phyllis just how superior the Bennet girls were to the wild Phillips clan. Charlotte called, and graciously did not mention how many times Mark’s summary of events overlapped with Elizabeth’s. Charlotte also made the excellent suggestion of meeting for pizza and beer on Larchmont. When Jane called, Elizabeth extended the invite, crossing her fingers that Charles wouldn’t seize the opportunity to tag along, as he had on a dim sum night the month before. Trying to talk to Jane about her complicated feelings on the topic of Darcy, the media, and her privacy was difficult in the face of Charles’ relentless optimism and Jane’s affectionate indulgence. Not to mention the attention the two garnered from other restaurant patrons. Watching Charles try to sign an autograph while holding a dumpling with chopsticks had been fairly entertaining though. As it happened, Charles was out of town for a film premiere and Jane was available. When they arrived, the pizzeria wasn’t terribly crowded and the threesome nabbed seats that didn’t flaunt the presence of Jane Gardiner, celebrity girlfriend and Elizabeth Bennet, tabloid scandal du jour. Elizabeth thought this might be a sign that her good luck was returning. Elizabeth was also grateful that her friends didn’t simply treat the evening as a chance to pounce on her recent difficulties, offer sage advice and coax her into a tearful admission of her passionate love for Will Darcy. Instead, they talked about their own problems, allowing Elizabeth to listen and shed her own self-pity for a while. It seemed that Mark, while sharing Charlotte’s love of networking, swanky parties, and all things glamorous, also shared what Elizabeth referred to as a ‘the shortest emotional attention span in the world.’ While Charlotte didn’t mind not receiving a daily phone call from Mark, or as she called it, “the freedom to live my own life,” she did take issue with the fact that their on-again, off-again tendencies seemed to be completely out of sync. One of them was at all times annoyed and felt smothered, while the other was needy and insecure. “It’s no way to live,” Charlotte said. “I turn into this caricature of myself, wanting him to call for three days, then pissed at him because he hasn’t, so when he finally does, I don’t answer and then make him wait three more days until I feel my anger has been avenged. Then the cycle starts again. We’re averaging one date every three weeks.” Jane, it seemed, had very nearly the opposite problem. “Everything is fine,” she said. “Charles is great, I’m great, we’re in love, things are just fine.” “And you’d like them to be a little less fine?” Charlotte asked. “I’d just like to know how long they’re going to be fine,” Jane said. “I know Charles has had lots of girlfriends, I’m not stupid. And he seems really happy, I don’t think there’s any reason he would break up with me now, and I don’t want to break up with him, but I just don’t know what he’s thinking. He doesn’t say anything about the future, and we spend all this time together, but I don’t know how committed he is to me. I just wonder how much I’m going to invest in this relationship before I find out he’s not a long-term guy.” It took a few drinks and a lot of melted cheese before Elizabeth felt ready to share anything about Darcy. She waited until the other women were slightly distracted before venturing a comment. “At least you both know that Mark and Charles are interested. I still can’t figure out how Darcy feels about me. Or how I feel about him. Especially now.” “What?” Charlotte asked. “He’s totally into you. Has been for ages, according to Mark. I thought I told you that.” She resumed her attempts to signal a waiter. “Oh, yeah,” Jane agreed. “Charles told me a long time ago he thought Will was interested in you. But he did say it would probably take Will awhile to do anything about it. I gather he’s not exactly a quick decision- maker, unless there’s some sort of crisis.” Elizabeth wasn’t sure what to say. Of course she knew that Darcy had some feelings for her; the almost-kiss in the hallway at the radio station and their afternoon of tea and coffee were solid indicators of interest. But those had all been before. “Well, I meant that I don’t know how he feels now, after what my cousin did. You didn’t see his face when he found out.” “No, but Mark told me what he said, that it wasn’t fair that you would be back in the news after things had finally calmed down. Maybe he’s staying away so you can have your life back?” “I think that’s probably true,” Jane added. “Charles told me once that Darcy can be a little more self-sacrificing than he needs to be sometimes. Then again, he was talking about Call of Duty, so I’m not sure if it applies in this context.” She giggled, which set them all off on an unrelated but hilarious tangent involving ex-boyfriends, brothers, and Jane’s gamer credentials. When Elizabeth arrived home late that evening, she was so cheered by their conversation that she didn’t even bother to check her voicemail or email to find out if Darcy had contacted her. ----- Bite Size: Celeb News and Sightings You Can Take With You! Her mother’s voice probably brought most of the precinct to a screeching halt when Anne de Bourgh was arrested on a DUI early Tuesday morning in Hollywood. Not only alcohol, but cocaine, methamphetamines and prescription narcotics were found in the car Anne was driving. Though lawyers for Catherine de Bourgh’s previously-perfect offspring claimed the drugs belonged to sitcom actor Max Shelley, Anne’s passenger, police filed charges against both, including a drunk and disorderly against the typically-sullen younger de Bourgh—a hilarious interaction that can be viewed on the Starz website! Out for more innocent fun, Jane Gardiner, Elizabeth Bennet, and an unnamed friend were spotted in Larchmont Village on Tuesday night on what we can only presume was a girl’s night out, complete with ice cream (see photo). Bill and Jill—our latest favorite reality show squeezes—were spotted canoodling over cannoli in SoHo yesterday. Looks like these two might have won not only fabulous prizes, but true love as well! Aren’t they cute? Nothing about that Wednesday was routine. For one, it was gray and cloudy, and around three in the afternoon, it started to rain. Anywhere else, that might have been normal for the beginning of October, but this was Los Angeles, and rain was a November phenomenon, if not a post- Christmas event. The morning traffic crawled along at a pace that made sloths seem hurried, and Dallas Raines proclaimed that StormWatch would keep travelers updated on just when those killer drops would begin falling from the sky and how long they would torment the general populace. By afternoon, cars were either at a standstill on the 405 or careening toward each other on the slick, wet asphalt. One slight benefit of the downpour was that the paparazzi, wary of damaging their precious equipment, seemed to disappear into the clouds and mist. Sometime that morning, the phone call Elizabeth had been expecting for two days came. Lydia had reached a deal with the federal prosecutor, agreeing to testify against some of the others involved in the scheme for reduced jail time, a lengthy probation, and hefty fines. Elizabeth cringed when she thought of how this would impact Lydia’s ability to finish her course of study. Lydia had never been overly invested in formal education, but to Elizabeth, who was collecting diplomas like some people collected art, a degree meant something in knowledge and experience that was difficult to find elsewhere. “Phyllis and Greg aren’t thrilled with the plea deal, obviously,” her father told her when giving her the report. “But they are thrilled that Aperture won’t file a civil suit against Lydia. The money they would have lost in damages and legal fees would have forced them to sell their house. “ “They aren’t going to sue for damages?” Elizabeth was incredulous. They had all expected that Greg and Phyllis would have to settle for an exorbitant amount with the studio, and the two had been investigating the best way to help their daughter afford the expenses—second mortgages, equity loans, liquidating assets. They were flighty and indulgent parents, but they loved their daughter, and were clearly willing to sacrifice for her. “I think they’ll sue some of the others involved, but what the lawyers told Greg was that it wasn’t worth it to pursue a case against Lydia when she had a small role in the whole thing, and when the likelihood of recovering the losses was so slight.” She could almost hear her father shrug his shoulders over the whole business. The vagaries of trial law didn’t interest him as much as international politics and constitutional debates. “Wow,” Elizabeth said. “I didn’t expect that to happen.” “Well,” Gary replied. “I’m sure it doesn’t help them that if they sue, they’ll look like another big bad corporation going after a young, impoverished college student for millions of dollars.” “That’s true,” Elizabeth said. “And I’m sure Will doesn’t want more media attention.” “Will?” Gary asked. “As in, absolutely-not-your-boyfriend-don’t-ask-me- any-more-questions-Mom-Will?” Elizabeth was thankful he couldn’t see her blush on the other end of the phone line. She watched the raindrops chase each other down the windowpane for a moment before she answered. “He’s still not my boyfriend.” ----- Yo-Ho-Ho and a Bottle of Forgiveness? It seems that Will Darcy doesn’t mind piracy as much as he used to. After the arrests of several of his employees last month, Darcy said in a press statement that his company, Aperture, “would seek to recover its property and its losses from those who perpetrated these crimes.” Now that the police are out of the picture and the lawyers have taken over, is that still true? Of the defendants, only one has not sought a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s office. When that case goes to trial next month, several of the other employees allegedly involved in the conspiracy will testify against their former ringleader. After that, several of them will spend time in prison, then on probation, and undoubtedly they’ll be forced to work minimum wage jobs until they repay the court fees and fines they’ve racked up in this legal battle. All but one, that is. Oh, Lydia Phillips will serve her time and meet regularly with her probation officer, but she won’t be serving fries or bagging groceries to pay back the boss. Darcy and his legal eagles have reportedly decided not to file a civil suit against the darling Lydia, even though they’ve filed against all of their other former employees. Here at the DailyBrat, what we want to know is: did Will Darcy call of his troops because he didn’t think it was worth it to go after the nearly empty bank accounts of a college student? Or, did Will Darcy decide that his not-quite-girlfriend, Elizabeth Bennet, would be more inclined to help him garner some favorable press if he left her cousin Lydia alone? Not that we’d ever suspect King of Good Publicity Will to have an ulterior motive. ----- When Meg Gardiner called, Elizabeth was curled up on the couch wearing an old college sweatshirt, grading papers. The two had kept in touch after the radio program, and when they both had found room in their schedules, Meg had introduced Elizabeth to her native Cuban food at a little place off La Cienega. “I heard about the plea bargain,” Meg said. “How?” Elizabeth asked. “My dad just told me today. I didn’t realize it made the news already.” “Behold, the beauty of the internet,” Meg quipped. “It’s Will, so of course the blogs are going crazy, and they’re sneaky, so they find things out before the rest of us mere mortals.” “Which one is it this time?” Elizabeth asked. Meg had described the different sites and their contributors in colorful terms over their lunch, so Elizabeth had some idea of Meg’s opinion of each of their staff writers. “It was your friend, Wickham, at the DailyBrat.” “Of course it was,” Elizabeth groaned. Wickham had been writing nearly libelous articles ever since he discovered that Lydia and Elizabeth were cousins. “But that’s not all. I emailed you an article; I was sure you would have seen it already.” “I’ve been grading,” Elizabeth said. “I haven’t checked for awhile.” “Okay, well, I think you should read it. Will wrote it, and…it’s good.” Elizabeth hung up the phone, pulled up her email and discovered that Jane, Charlotte, and Meg had all sent her the same article. Pulling her hands into her sweatshirt sleeves, leaving a single finger to scroll through the story, Elizabeth began to read. ----- My publicist recently told me that I’ve been in more news articles this year than any other, including the years I won an Academy Award. This year I released my first film as a director, the culmination of nearly half a decade of effort and commitment. I expected most of those articles to describe my success, my burgeoning talent as a director, or even to be filled with detailed and harsh critique of my work. But no, most of these articles were about, of all things, my love life. Oscar Wilde wrote, many years before the advent of the modern tabloid or the internet, “We are dominated by Journalism.” He went on to say, “The tyranny that it proposes to exercise over people’s private lives seems to me to be quite extraordinary. The fact is, that the public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.” That curiosity is something that, fueled by technology and our own desire and increasing capability for instantly available news and information, has exploded since Wilde wrote about it in 1891. I doubt even he could foresee the transformations in the practice of journalism that would take place in the past fifty years. I don’t just mean tabloid journalism, which has always been a thorn in the side of the famous— from the scandal sheets of bygone times to the sensationalized yellow journalism of Wilde’s age up to the present—and does not appear likely to abate anytime soon. The emergence of the internet as a powerful (but less-than-profitable) platform for news and editorializing has transformed the way we find and use information. Even micro-blogging sites like Twitter as a source of content or updates on world events have altered our perspectives on reporting, objectivity, and immediacy of the news. We are not only permitted to be curious, but the mediums we use encourage it. Onto this stage, then, step those peculiar notions of celebrity and fame. Pursuing them has become easier than ever it seems, and require only that one cultivate a personality designed to shock or scandalize, using these tools of mass media to publicize one’s own desire to be in the spotlight (or in some cases, the opposite, which ultimately achieves the same ends). Andy Warhol would be so proud of us, and likely himself, for correctly predicting the nature of ephemeral popularity. It’s a twist on the old Hollywood model of promoting fame through tightly controlling the public’s access to information. Instead of holding back all the scandalous information that agents and producers once feared their audiences might learn about popular film stars, now the “stars” themselves (or at least a certain group of them) are opening themselves up to the scrutiny of media consumers, offering private information as public currency, hoping that to be famous is a gateway to being hired. For many young actors and talents, celebrity is something you earn. In my case, just like the old saying, celebrity was something that happened to me while I was busy making other plans. This is why it’s so startling to me that a romance with an unknown woman—unknown to me and to the public—would create the volume of media coverage it has. Before I had even met this woman, magazines were speculating when I’d “pop the question” and photographers were chasing us (separately) for a glimpse of one of our “passionate displays of affection.” The invasions of our privacy were not only abhorrent because they were unnecessary, but also because they were unfounded. It was a romantic pretense full of potential, but doomed by the media’s choice of actors to play the leads. I was ashamed to be part of an industry that would allow itself to sacrifice its ethics and its at-least- minimal level of respect for others at the altar of profit. I’m ashamed now to say that I benefitted from it. When that episode ended so abruptly in the summer, I thought that what I had learned about dealing with the machinations of modern celebrity journalism would prepare me for what I knew would be another onslaught this fall. I’ll make it clear here in the press so that there can be no further confusion: I was aware that individuals in my company were being investigated by the federal government for their roles in copyright infringement and distribution of bootleg films. Let me only add this: like many of my fellow business owners, I don’t concern myself overmuch with the familial connections of my employees, particularly part-time or temporary employees whom I’ve never met. It sounds cruel and heartless, and maybe it is, but my business is about making movies, not about making friends. What is curious to me now is how the media have taken two stories—one I assumed was resolved and one I was prepared to live through—and twisted them together in a manner that suggests some nefarious behavior on my part, and on the part of others. Certainly there is much to condemn when there are allegations of serious criminal behavior, but it’s the role of judges and juries to do so, not supposedly impartial and objective reporters. When we allow our trials to be held in the press, we’ve lost something more important than journalistic integrity or even privacy. We’ve lost the fabric of our criminal justice system, and what’s worse, we’ve allowed an industry with a financial motive to determine what is right and what is wrong. Once again, we’ve subscribed to an ethical code created on the basis of what is profitable. In this case, perhaps it doesn’t seem as striking as it does in other trials, particularly criminal cases. There have been many people who have criticized me (and my business partners and legal team) for refusing to bring civil charges against every defendant in the case. What I thought was a decision made in the best interests of my company and those accused of crimes against it has become fodder for journalists to use in their attempts to seduce a willing public into believing that even the most impersonal of decisions is motivated by greed, sex, or something other than a rational cost/benefit analysis. How do they manipulate us into believing their tales of deceit and scandal? Their stories unravel slowly, the way one experiences a particularly awful film, meandering along with exposition that never quite reaches a truly satisfying conclusion, just an ending designed to manipulate our emotions somehow. You know the movies I’m talking about, with dialogue that sounds like it was written by the high school AV club, where the dramatic tension comes mainly from wondering how much longer you’ll be able to sit through the film without leaving the theater. Celebrity journalists like to use tools of the screenwriting trade (such as irony and foreshadowing) to embellish their tales, to make you feel like you’re watching a carefully crafted story arc. What you’re really watching are the real lives of people. And those are rarely molded into a three-point plot structure. Really, what I’ve tried to do was to tell the truth. In this case, this small bit of truth on the stage of fiction and lies is the only ending that fits this story, even if it creates an unsatisfying conclusion for the media. Truth is often much more valuable than a manufactured happy ending. ----- On the first read through, Elizabeth felt grudging admiration that he could manage to address every issue he needed to without ever mentioning her name. On the second, she considered the cost/benefit analysis he mentioned, and pondered the likelihood of him doing a similar exercise before submitting the editorial. After that, she let herself spend the rest of the evening vacillating between regret and longing that she’d not stayed in that coffee shop and made him promise to call her when it was all over. It was in the shower that night that Elizabeth finally admitted the truth to herself. She had been holding it back ever since he kissed her in a too-bright hallway in Hawaii, had let it grow and expand in her chest during their thwarted interactions in LA, but now, in the fog of steam and amidst the smell of her citrus shower gel, she could no longer escape it: she could have loved this man, and she could have let him love her in return. They would have been good for each other and good together. She felt something sink inside as she wondered if this was what he meant by an “unsatisfying conclusion.” The next morning, after the despair had faded to bleak thoughts about the prospects for any kind of romantic relationship between the two of them, Elizabeth sat in her kitchen, drinking tea and staring at a printed copy of the editorial. It was terribly impersonal, full of cynicism and pointed commentary on the media. But even in its disdain for the very medium in which it was published, it was charming. Well-written, fluid, with a cohesive argument and sparkling imagery, the article was passionate, incisive, and brilliant. Even if she had been an unbiased reader (and Elizabeth had no problem admitting she was not at all unbiased), she would have wanted to sit down with the author over a cup of coffee and talk for hours. Then, as she continued to sip her tea, reading over the passage in which he called their relationship “a romantic pretense full of potential,” she had a startling thought. Will Darcy would write a beautiful love letter. That moment of inspiration was followed by a swift reminder that, unfortunately, he would probably address it to someone else. Even the rich and famous lack the power to overrule certain universal truths, especially where bowling alleys are concerned. Like the almost unbearably loud volume. Or that no matter the cost of renting out the establishment to throw a private party for two hundred of your nearest and dearest friends, it still smelled vaguely like feet. It was Charles Bingley’s birthday, and he was celebrating in style, amassing a crowd of well-wishers to bowl, dance, consume copious amounts of alcohol, and launch another year of career success. Elizabeth had already met several people she recognized from television and film, but each time someone recognized her, she felt awkward all over again. It didn’t help that Darcy was standing across the room, and, without fail, after telling people that yes, she was that Elizabeth Bennet, they asked if she knew he was there and offered to call him over to talk to her. She tried to pretend that the flush on her cheeks was from the temperature in the room, not from her embarrassment. No one seemed to believe her. Darcy had spoken to her, briefly, when he had arrived. He’d said hello to Charles, who was seated next to Jane, who was talking to Elizabeth, so it was unavoidable. A rude, slightly intoxicated guest—whom Elizabeth suspected was trying to get more than an introduction to Charles—had bounced up and interrupted Darcy and Charles, giggling and slurring something about the best birthday ever. When Charles laced his fingers through Jane’s and stood to help the lost fan find better company, Darcy took Jane’s seat. “How are you doing?” She almost didn’t hear him over the sound of bowling balls rolling over hardwood. “Fine, things are… calmer.” “Oh, that’s good.” He grinned and leaned forward, closer to her. “But I meant your score.” He gestured to the televised score sheet, where a bowling pin was doing a dance for Jackson Hurst’s spare. “Hoping to break a hundred. Fingers crossed.” She held up her hands to demonstrate. “Darcy!” Elizabeth didn’t recognize the voice, and wasn’t sure how the scruffy man using a nearby lane made himself heard over the roar of partygoers and the sound of pins crashing to the floor. “You’re with us! Get over here and bowl!” Will smiled ruefully, and stood to go. Before he was too far, he turned and said, “Elizabeth, I almost forgot to tell you. I like your shoes.” He winked, and without waiting for a response, walked to his lane, where he clapped one of the men on the shoulder and took a drink of beer. Elizabeth was so distracted, first by their interaction, then by studying her pink and green shoes, that Carl had to remind her that she was due to bowl. It was hardly fair, now that only a few lanes down, she could see Darcy, just throwing his first ball. Her first roll went straight into the gutter, no thanks to her inability to throw straight while also looking to the right. For her second attempt, she endeavored to forget his presence at all, staring straight ahead and hoping the force of her look could compel the pins to fall over. She managed to knock down seven, but her footwork was clumsy and she almost fell over the line. When she spun around, wearing a self-satisfied but sheepish smile, she could see Darcy, grinning broadly and holding up two crossed fingers. Game on. Elizabeth couldn’t see his score, but she could watch and try to guess. He wasn’t by any means a bowling superstar, but he was stronger than she was and had more control over the ball. Apparently, he was also immune to distraction. She, however, was not. In her completely biased opinion, Darcy was second only to Charles in popularity at this event. She lost track of the number of people who stopped to speak with him, men who gave exaggerated laughs at what she could see from his facial expression were dry, pointed comments. Women touched his forearms, tried to look demure or made flirtatious eye contact, and Elizabeth even saw a pair of blondes have a nonverbal sparring match for Will’s attention. She caught herself staring, eyes narrowed, fists clenched, and on one occasion, she flung her ball down the lane hoping only to hear the particularly satisfying explosion of sound the pins made as they struck each other. Only when the noise cleared did she realize she’d bowled a strike. When she turned around, Will was smiling at her—smiling!—even while a woman who might once have qualified for Playboy bunny status pouted next to him. Elizabeth couldn’t help it. She grinned. Darcy shook his head twice, walked away from his admirer without looking back, and proceeded to bowl his own strike. He was still smiling, a proud, satisfied grin, when he walked back to his seat, catching her eye on the way. Elizabeth bit her lip and held back a laugh that wanted to chase after him. When she saw one of his admirers take his arm and offer breathless flattery, her own broad smile faded to a grimace, and she turned away just as he narrowed his eyes. When she looked again, there was an offended trio of women standing behind him looking upset, and Darcy stood facing the lanes, arms crossed and jaw clenched. Elizabeth took two steps toward him before Charlotte grabbed her arm and pulled her off to meet one of Mark’s friends, the editor of a literary journal that Elizabeth had once contacted about publishing some work. When she dashed off a few moments later to take her turn, Darcy was talking with someone else, a serious expression on his face as he nodded along with the other man’s expressive hand gestures. She wasn’t sure what time Darcy left, but at some point, when she looked to see if he was still playing, he was gone. Elizabeth searched the rapidly growing crowd, which was migrating toward the dance floor upstairs. The thudding bass line of a popular song was already loud enough to echo through the rest of the building. Elizabeth’s stomach vibrated along with the beat. Instinctively she knew that Will wouldn’t be one of the many revelers getting his freak on that evening. With one last longing look across the bowling space, Elizabeth allowed Charlotte and Jane to lead her up the stairs and into the darkened dance club. She spent the next hour forcing a smile, halfheartedly dancing to songs she didn’t like or care about, and scanning the room for a man who wouldn’t be there. Elizabeth left the party amidst pleas from Jane and Charlotte that she would stay just a bit longer, dance one more song, or have one more drink. As she walked through the parking lot, through aisles of neatly arranged vehicles she thought of missed opportunities and of a moment by a valet stand months ago that had turned into something unexpected, terrifying, and, in the end, something she desperately wanted. A sleek black BMW pulled past her just as she opened the door to her car. Turning, she just glimpsed Darcy, their eyes meeting for only a moment before all she could see was the glow of his taillights before he turned the corner and sped away. With a sigh, Elizabeth sank into the driver’s seat and rested her head against the seat before starting the engine and heading home. ----- Bingley’s Birthday Blowout! Charles Bingley threw himself a monster birthday party last weekend, filling up a Hollywood bowling alley with hundreds of his closest friends and probably quite a few party crashers, several of whom were eager to share with Starz just what, exactly, the stars do with a bowling ball in hand. It seems like Bingley and his girlfriend, the lovely Jane Gardiner, remain happy, despite the break up buzz we heard a few weeks ago. Party guests said the two spent much of their time together, sharing affectionate touches while bowling and quite a bit more than that when the bash moved upstairs and morphed from sporting event to dance party. “As it got later, the two of them were definitely more focused on each other, dancing together and he couldn’t keep his hands off of her,” one of our inside sources reported. “I think they were even making out for awhile in the back.” The event was a star-studded occasion, with many familiar faces and some unexpected attendees—and hookups! Dodgers center fielder Gary Peak was there, flirting with reality star Trisha James, and the two left together early in the evening. Everyone’s favorite TV detective, Rick Martinez, spent a few hours bowling and getting closer to pop singer Sarah Solis, further greasing the rumor wheel that has been churning for months about the pair’s secret romance. Meanwhile, Zach Christensen showed up with new girlfriend, model Helena Prosoklova while his ex, Marianna Brinks looked on and apparently drowned her sorrows in a bottle of Patron. Friends say this has been her strategy of choice for dealing with her cheating ex since he reportedly dumped her by phone while on a date with Prosoklova last month. While petty jealousy and awkward first meetings are always entertaining, at Starz we can’t help but get our hopes up over the other prominent ex-relationship present at the Bingley Bash. Will Darcy was there, and though sources say he only spoke briefly with Lizzy Bennet, the two left separately around the same time. “They were totally ignoring everyone else,” one of the other guests said. “Whenever anyone would try to talk to Lizzy about Will, she would blush and hesitate. He was turning away girls all night, he wouldn’t even speak to anyone he didn’t know already.” While no one could say for sure what was going on between the pair, we can’t help but wonder if reconciliation might be possible for these two. ----- Darcy to Direct Again? In business, the best deals are settled on the golf course. In Hollywood, apparently this holds true for bowling alleys. Will Darcy and Malcom West were caught in tense negotiations last week—in the midst of Charles Bingley's birthday bash, no less—over a script in development at West's Trenchant Studios. Written by Diane Markus, the project has reportedly captured the attention of Allison Loh, whose role in a West- produced film last year earned her an Oscar nod. ----- Bowling Ball or Baby Bump? Jane Gardiner isn’t an actress or a model, so we expect that like most normal people, she won’t have the haunted look of constant hunger every time we see her out in public. But lately, Jane has been looking positively round (see photos, inset). Here’s our question: did the lovely Jane promise Bingley a baby for his birthday? ----- People We Love: The Starz List #12 Non-Celebrity Girlfriends We’ve known for years that the couples in Hollywood who actually stay together are the ones that are at least half non-celeb. But it’s only been this year that we’ve actually seen how the unfamous can have a star power all their own. Perhaps they make us think of our favorite fairy tales or maybe we can just picture ourselves in their shoes, but the regular Joe (or Jane) who falls in love with a star never fails to put a smile on our faces. Here are our favorite matchups this year: Jane and Charles: The Bingley/Gardiner pairing gave us another reason to spend far too much time and money on overpriced coffee: to meet our dream man! Of course we’ve all heard stories of love and lattes, but throw a celeb in the mix and it’s a real tale for the ages. Plus, Jane seems so nice that we could either hate her to pieces or love her to bits. We choose love, just like Charles. Brett and Jenna: To be fair, we’ve added a non-celeb boyfriend to the list. We love how Jenna’s wild ways have been tamed by Brett’s outwardly calm demeanor—though we do miss some of Jenna’s more hilarious antics (remember the flan incident of 2006?). While there are many days when we love to hate starlets who always seem to have perfect hair and never gain a pound, we’re always secretly glad when they find a nice someone and settle down. We may sound like our mothers, but it gives us hope that there’s another someone out there for everyone. Lizzy and Darcy: They told us it was all faked, but who could deny the sparks we saw flying off the page whenever these two were in a photo together? It was the story of the spring and summer: reclusive, reserved bachelor falls for pretty, bright, regular girl. It’s just too bad their very public break up reminded us that sometimes true love doesn’t last. Of course, this doesn’t mean we’ve given up hope for a happy ending! ----- When she heard high heeled shoes clicking along the corridor on a Tuesday morning, Elizabeth naturally assumed that it was a student coming to beg for help with her latest assignment. Instead, a well- dressed older woman appeared in the doorway of her office. “Lizzy! So good to see you again. I was on campus for an event so I decided to stop in and see you. I hope this is a good time.” Without waiting for Elizabeth’s acknowledgement, she sat in the chair provided for students. Elizabeth could only stare, flustered, at this intruder, whom she vaguely recognized. After a moment of silence and frantic recollection, she figured it out: Catherine de Bourgh. With a quick shake of her head, Elizabeth answered. “Now is fine, though if a student comes in I’ll need to give them priority.” “Of course,” Catherine agreed. “I only need a moment.” Elizabeth studied the tightness around Catherine’s eyes, the slight upward slant of her cheekbones that hadn’t been so prominent when they’d met in Hawaii. Catherine didn’t look ten years younger, but she did look smoother somehow, pulled taut like the skin of an apple, shiny and unnatural in the fluorescent lighting of Elizabeth’s tiny office. “When we met in Hawaii, I was so busy with Darcy and all the business things that I didn’t feel I gave you the proper attention. I very much wanted to get to know you, especially if you’re going to be in Darcy’s life for any amount of time. He’s very special to me; I was great friends with his mother. And of course you know his father and I worked together on many films.” “Oh, I really don’t think it’s necessary, Darcy and I aren’t, um--” she stuttered a little and Catherine interrupted. “Yes, well, that unpleasantness in the press aside, if you’re spending any time with him—Darcy is practically my nephew!—I want us to be great friends. You’ll join me for lunch tomorrow at the Ivy?” “I’m not sure I’m available, Ms. de Bourgh.” “It’s Catherine, and as I’m inviting you, please don’t worry about the cost. You deserve a little treat for all this difficult work you’ve been doing, educating young minds. I’ve already asked the department secretary and she said you don’t have a class at that time.” Elizabeth suspected that if she could have, Catherine de Bourgh would have raised her eyebrows in challenge. Instead, the permanent expression of surprise on her perfectly constructed face seemed to indicate some expectation of Elizabeth’s assent. A quiet knock on the door drew Elizabeth’s attention away from the question. A shaggy-haired young man was standing there, a hesitant expression on his face. “Professor Bennet?” he asked. “Just a moment, please, Greg.” “No, it’s fine, your students are your top priority. I’ll see you tomorrow at 12:15 then. I assume you know where the Ivy is?” Catherine stood and nodded, as if to affirm Elizabeth’s commitment to her job. Greg’s eyebrows lifted over the top of the thick, dark frames of his glasses. He stepped out of Catherine’s way as she moved toward the door. “Make sure you work hard, young man,” Catherine admonished as she walked out. “I trust you know how lucky you are to have a teacher like Lizzy. I’m sure she doesn’t appreciate students whose priorities lie outside the classroom. Until tomorrow, Lizzy." Catherine gave a curt nod and departed, leaving a faint trail of Chanel No. 5 as a physical reminder of her presence. Elizabeth and Greg stared at each other across the empty space for a moment before Greg awkwardly asked to see a copy of his previous exam. During their brief meeting, Elizabeth answered Greg’s questions with distant professionalism. As soon as he left, though, she gave into her feelings, crossed her arms on top of her desk, laid her head on them, and let out a loud groan. It’s for the Kids! Is Charles Bingley’s starring role in a new animated feature film tied to rumors that girlfriend Jane Gardiner is expecting a Baby Bingley? The actor, whose paycheck for the role is reported to be nearly $20 million, will voice the lead male character, Brock, in “Under the Rainbow,” which is scheduled to begin production early next year. When asked why he decided to take the role, Bingley smiled and said, “In a few years, it would be nice to show my kids a film and not have to explain why I’m kissing someone who isn’t their mother.” Though reps for the actor have only said, “We cannot confirm that Jane Gardiner is pregnant,” Starz feels that it might be a good idea to tag a teeny-tiny little “yet” onto the end of their statement. ----- Hollywood’s New Bad Girls? There are always bad girls in Hollywood. But every few years there’s one lady who puts the rest to shame, whose badness is extra bad. Whether they start out as a Good Sandy and turn into Slutty Sandy, or are Rizzos from the start, these Pink Ladies are anything but sweet and kind. They’re brash, they’re bold, and they don’t let anyone tell them what they can do—other than perhaps law enforcement officers. Some of our Bad Girls are notably bad by personality, others by association, and still others by their permanent record. But however they got their start at being bad, we’re confident they’ll stay bad for a long time. Here’s our list of the top 10 Hollywood Bad Girls of the moment: (...) #5: Anne de Bourgh Anne’s a recent Baddie, but she looks like a promising newcomer to the field. Unlike most of the others in the top ten, Anne has demonstrated very little of the traditional talents that would land her in the public eye. In fact, she’s probably most known for being, well…bad. Despite never having sung a note in public, she’s shown she can party like a rock star and rely on her trust fund to pay the bills. Her recent arrest doesn’t seem to have slowed her down either, as she’s been spotted keeping company with some of the other Big Bads on the Hollywood scene: even Rob Monroe says that Anne de Badd can “out-party some of the champions in this town without even blinking a Lancome-shadowed eye.” With a comment like that, how can we deny her a spot on our list? ----- “Ms. Bennet?” “Yes?” “My name is Jacob and I’m calling from Catherine de Bourgh’s office to confirm your lunch today at 12:15.” “Unfortunately, I’m not available today, as I tried to explain to Ms. de Bourgh. Please apologize for me.” Elizabeth crossed her fingers on the desk. “Is there a day when you can reschedule?” “No.” “Oh.” Jacob’s voice was hesitant. “Can I give her any other message?” “No, that’s all.” ----- Until exactly noon, Elizabeth had no plans to leave the office for lunch. A brown bag containing a turkey sandwich on wholemeal bread and an apple was stowed in the top drawer of her desk, and the day’s paper was hidden in her bag to amuse her while she ate. It was to be a quiet, solitary lunch. Catherine de Bourgh’s secretary had called, first at 9 a.m., then at 10, and again at 10:30, to try to confirm Elizabeth’s lunch plans with his boss, all unsuccessfully. Either Jacob was terrified to fail his employer or Catherine had forced him to annoy Elizabeth into accepting the invite— and it seemed likely that it was the latter explanation. Elizabeth wondered if this was Jacob’s dream job, or simply something he’d fallen into and couldn’t escape. The eleven o’clock call had been the one Elizabeth had finally refused to answer. When she listened to the voice mail, Jacob’s voice had taken on a slight edge of panic. Elizabeth felt sorry, for a brief moment, that he felt so much was riding on her acceptance. Then again, Catherine de Bourgh didn’t pay her salary, so the stakes were a bit lower on her side. At noon, the door to Elizabeth’s office swung open and Catherine de Bourgh walked in, wearing a neatly tailored gray pantsuit, black heels that probably cost as much as Elizabeth’s monthly rent, and a too-white, too-friendly smile. “I’m a bit late, Ms. Bennet, but The Ivy has agreed to hold our table for a few minutes so we can keep our reservation. You’re ready to go, I presume?” Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “I think you’re presuming quite a bit, Ms. de Bourgh.” The older woman’s smile fell, her plump lips a harsh contrast to her tightly stretched skin. She tilted her head in thought for a moment, speaking in a pleasant, measured tone. “You understand, Ms. Bennet, that I’m a very busy woman, with many commitments. Apparently, I have a much broader definition than you do of what constitutes a lunch engagement. I left here yesterday with the understanding that you were available to join me. However, even if you aren’t free today, I’m prepared to honor what I view as a commitment, whether that takes place today, tomorrow or some other day in the future.” Catherine’s demeanor changed abruptly, a bright smile chasing the unyielding expression from her face. “When are you free again, Ms. Bennet?” It wasn’t difficult to read the subtext in that comment: they would have lunch. Catherine de Bourgh would pursue the appointment with a single mindedness of a mortar and pestle, grinding Elizabeth’s sharpest defenses into a fine powder. Elizabeth could only call it déjà vu, the feeling that crept over her of having already faced and succumbed to one of Catherine’s manipulative demands. In a rush, she thought of Hawaii, and could nearly hear Darcy’s voice explaining that he needed Catherine, needed her money, to finance his next film. It didn’t mean that she had to go now, of course. Darcy could certainly find another investor, but Elizabeth couldn’t stifle the urge to do something for him, not to repay him for what he’d done for her, but simply to help him, maybe even to make him happy. She had hiked a volcano with him last time he’d asked her for a favor, and discovered something beautiful and precious at the end of the trail. Surely lunch with Catherine couldn’t be too terrible. Elizabeth stood, gathering her bag and cell phone. “In fact, Ms. de Bourgh, I’m free for lunch today after all.” “Wonderful!” Catherine was beaming. “My driver is just downstairs, and can take us now. Shall we?” As they made their way down the stairs, echoes from the clattering of their high heels bouncing off the cement walls, Elizabeth grimaced. Lunch with Catherine would probably be more akin to sitting in a crater full of hot lava than contemplating the vastness of the world from Diamond Head. Elizabeth resolved to order the most expensive item on the menu and to try not to get burned. ----- Spotted! Elizabeth Bennet, Will Darcy’s erstwhile heartbreaker, lunching with Hollywood Party Queen Anne de Bourgh at The Ivy. ----- The price for the lobster ravioli was obscene. The food, however, was delicious, and increased the level of challenge Elizabeth faced: to keep from devouring her meal as quickly as possible and thus revealing her desire to be finished with this meeting in under an hour. Unfortunately, her companions were trying to make their time together last as long as possible. Elizabeth couldn’t tell if Anne, a surprise addition to their party, had taken more than three bites of her Cobb Salad. Four Ivy Gimlets, however, had disappeared rapidly. Catherine had pursed her lips each time Anne ordered another, but only continued to take tiny bites of her grilled salmon, chewing methodically and asking inane questions as she carefully cut up her fish. They had covered the requisite “getting to know you” topics, and, forced to steer Catherine away from a grand inquisition on the state of her romance with Will Darcy, Elizabeth was certain that a more detailed description of her college coursework could only be provided by a printed transcript. “I invited Anne so you can get to know her a bit better,” Catherine explained, nearly forty-five minutes after they’d been seated. “You two have so much in common! I recall introducing you at my little party on Oahu, but obviously that’s not the kind of event where you really get to know someone. Especially with the way you and Will were looking at each other.” Catherine waved her hand dismissively and gave a sigh. “Lovebirds. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? It’s almost too much to pay attention to other people when you’re still in that stage.” Catherine’s smile reached all the way to the taut skin of her cheekbones. “Yes,” Elizabeth said, blushing at the implication that she and Darcy were in love. Grasping her chance to go on the offensive, Elizabeth said, “It was a lovely party. How long did you and Anne stay in Hawaii?” It sounded as though Anne mumbled something like “too long,” but Catherine’s voice was much louder. “Two weeks in total. It’s all the time I can take, you know. We plan to go back for Christmas.” Anne sniffed. Elizabeth couldn’t tell if it was a response to Catherine’s comments or something she did when nervous; it wasn’t the first time during their lunch. “You have a beautiful home there.” Elizabeth tried to think of a way to climb out of the black hole of boring conversation that had opened up underneath them. “You must convince Will to stay with us the next time he brings you to Hawaii. Do you two have any plans to travel again soon?” Elizabeth swallowed. “No. Actually, you should know that we aren’t really—” “The traveling type?” Catherine interjected. “Yes, my Lewis was that way at first, but after a few years and a few trips, I convinced him that traveling was a much better alternative to staying home and working all the time. He was so driven, but of course, a good wife—or girlfriend!— knows how to manage her husband. It’s all a matter of persuasion, right?” Catherine nodded knowingly. Elizabeth wondered if she was supposed to contribute some examples of how she had influenced Will’s decision-making. Reluctant to discuss the details of their so-called relationship with Catherine de Bourgh, she merely took a sip of water and offered a tight smile. “Anne, of course, is an independent woman,” Catherine continued. “I’ve always encouraged her in that direction, and since her father’s death, I’ve tried to be an example of what a career-oriented, highly focused and driven woman can be.” A manipulative bitch? Elizabeth wondered. “She is struggling, just a bit, though, right Anne?” Anne’s only response was to tip her glass a bit higher and finish her fifth gimlet. “Anne is simply determined to be a film producer, and while I admit I’ve supported her as much as I can—she has such a gift for management, and that’s not just a mother’s perspective—but it is difficult to break into Hollywood, and I’ve reached the limits of what I can do for her, unfortunately.” “Sounds like quite the challenge,” Elizabeth said noncommittally. “I’m so glad you understand, Elizabeth!” Anne sighed, then pushed some lettuce around on her plate. “Tell me, Elizabeth, when you have a student who comes to you for career advice, especially careers that are difficult to achieve, what do you tell that student?” “Well, I first tell them they need to work hard in their classes, and to try to find any personal connections that might help them find work in the field they’ve chosen. Failing all of that, try to find some other angle to work at, something that might help them end up where they want to be.” She turned to Anne, whose unfocused gaze was aimed at some table across the patio. “I’m sure there are lots of producers who started in some other field.” “That is very good advice, Elizabeth, I’m sure it’s led many students to career success.” Catherine offered a prim smile and approving nod. “I hope so,” Elizabeth answered. Catherine paused, frowning slightly, before turning to Anne. “Anne, would you mind changing seats with me, dear? I’m getting a bit too much sun on this side of the table, and you know how careful I am about my skin.” Anne hummed, which apparently meant she didn’t mind, and stumbled a bit as she stood and moved from the other side of the table to Elizabeth’s left side. Catherine signaled the wait staff, who moved the plates and glasses around quickly. When they had all settled into their seats again—and when Anne had received another cocktail—Catherine excused herself for a moment, leaving Elizabeth alone with Anne and desperately hoping that part of heading inside the restaurant involved settling the bill. The foursome occupying the table at the edge of the patio left the restaurant, giving Elizabeth an unobstructed view of the street. For the first time since their arrival, Elizabeth observed the clutch of paparazzi across the road. Bill Collins and his obsequious smile stood out amongst the leather-clad, camera-wielding group, and Elizabeth grimaced. Then, as she watched, the group lifted their telephoto lenses in a synchrony, aiming them directly at her. Elizabeth turned away as quickly as possible, hoping that the back of her head wouldn’t garner as high a price as her face. Anne leaned back in her chair, holding her glass with and smiling in a manner that suggested both complete sobriety and that Elizabeth had just delighted her. Then she leaned forward a little, toward Elizabeth and slurred, “Thanks for having lunch with us. My mother is going to be so pleased.” And she was. Elizabeth spied Catherine, standing toward the rear of the restaurant, her collagen-plumped lips framing a smug grin. It was suddenly clear: Catherine was using her. She’d known there had to be some angle, of course, and had assumed the veiled talk about persuading Will about vacations had been designed to further his business relationship with Catherine. Now, though, it seemed that this lunch had almost nothing to do with Catherine’s future, and everything to do with Anne’s. Catherine returned to the table and sat down, asking cheerfully, “Did you two have a nice chat while I was gone?” Anne laughed. Elizabeth looked at Catherine with narrowed eyes. “My favorite part was probably being photographed by the paparazzi.” “Sadly, yes, The Ivy is known for being on the tabloid radar.” “You might even say,” Elizabeth said calmly, “that’s why most people come here.” “You might,” Catherine agreed. “It’s a sad reality of my profession that it’s often necessary to keep the press interested if you want to accomplish things.” “What kinds of things?” Elizabeth asked, as innocently as possible. “Oh, promoting a film that might not be as compelling as you’d hoped. Helping push a particular person—usually an actor of some sort—into a more prominent position in the public eye so they’ll take a role you want them for. Things like that.” “Rehabbing a reputation?” Elizabeth asked. Catherine stiffened slightly. “Occasionally, yes. But that must be done very delicately.” “I see. Perhaps you might carefully arrange public appearances with people who generally receive favorable press.” “One might.” Catherine took another tiny bite of salmon, chewing thoughtfully. “Or look for ways to ingratiate the person with people who could help them overcome their bad rep. Say, find them a new job, maybe with someone who has a lot of industry clout?” “Well, obviously, Ms. Bennet, if it’s an actor who needs assistance, I don’t think finding them a new job will help much. Most actors are quite stubborn, I find. They’re very intent on doing things their own way, even if it isn’t the best.” Some bitterness crept into her tone here, and Elizabeth filled in what had been left unspoken: Catherine had had no luck convincing Will to employ Anne, and perhaps Elizabeth’s influence would make a difference. Elizabeth could actually feel her anger growing: a hot flush, creeping up into her face. She bit the inside of her cheek for a moment, unnerved by Catherine’s calm disclosure of her manipulation on Anne’s behalf. Elizabeth might once have felt sympathy, even pity, for a mother who so desperately pursued her offspring’s success and sobriety, but it was all subsumed by resentment at having been used, again, and by a near- stranger who clearly felt only avarice and envy at Elizabeth’s fame and its benefits. Elizabeth wanted to vent her feelings, to rave and rant, and tell Catherine all the reasons why it was not only inappropriate, but laughable, to presume that a graduate student who had barely been on a single date with Will Darcy could convince him to do anything. She wanted to explain how all the celebrity she’d earned had been the result of a mistake, a fluke, and to describe how willingly she would give that renown to Anne if it was something she could give. But mindful of a YouTube video, of countless articles and photographs that had borne her name in the past months, and of the respect she held for Will Darcy, Elizabeth took a deep breath and stood. “Unfortunately, Ms. de Bourgh, you’ll find that graduate students can often be quite stubborn as well, inclined to do things that are completely in our own interest, without worrying too much over the wider implications of our decisions. We have a lot in common with actors that way, I expect.” Catherine’s mouth had formed a wide “O” as she stared up at Elizabeth, but she quickly composed herself and said, “Really, Ms. Bennet, there’s no need to take offense. We were merely discussing possibilities, I thought.” “I’m afraid there is, Ms. de Bourgh. And you should know that I’m not someone who can be used as a pawn in your game to restore Anne’s reputation. I’m not willing to be used, not by you and not by anyone—” Catherine stood to face Elizabeth, clutching her linen napkin in a tight fist and resting her knuckles against the pristine white tablecloth. “Come now, Ms. Bennet. I think you’ve shown that you are willing to be used. Or are you forgetting how you influenced Will Darcy to drop the charges against your cousin?” Elizabeth glared at Catherine. “I think you’ll find the circumstances were rather different. I had no idea what Will was planning to do.” “Of course you didn’t.” Catherine’s grin was feral. “Just like you haven’t been playing along, like you haven’t been letting him use you to promote his own work, like the farce of a relationship you have with him hasn’t benefitted you both. Tell me, Ms. Bennet, were you one of those women hoping to break into the Hollywood business the old fashioned way? Flat on your back on the casting couch?” “That’s quite enough, Ms. de Bourgh. Really, I think it’s awfully low to cast aspersions on my character when you were so desperate for me to use my ‘fame’ and influence to help your daughter.” “I was merely doing what I had to. If you spend any more time around this business, Ms. Bennet, you’ll see just how often it’s driven by selfishness rather than altruism, and Will Darcy is no exception. I have a longstanding relationship with him; certainly it’s longer than your association, and he seems willing to throw it all away, callously rejecting my daughter for no reason.” Elizabeth looked at her curiously. “You can’t be hoping that Will and Anne end up together? She’s barely coherent most of the time!” “Don’t be foolish!” Catherine spat. “I don’t care who he marries. I care who he employs. Anne should be working for him, should be producing his films, and should be working with me on merging the companies. It was the plan all along, until Darcy got it into his head that he’d do better, have more creative control, if he stayed independent. ” Catherine stopped abruptly, seeming to realize how much she’d revealed, and sniffed disdainfully as she straightened her shoulders. “I don’t expect you to understand the complexities of our business, Ms. Bennet,” she said coldly. “I can see that you’re unwilling to help a mother who is concerned for the path her daughter has taken.” “Ms. de Bourgh,” Elizabeth said, her voice controlled and posture stiff. “I think you’ll find that the best person to help Anne at the moment isn’t Will Darcy, and it isn’t me. The only person who can really help Anne is Anne.” She swept a glance at where the heiress was staring into the distance, lost in a haze of inebriation. “Fancy lunches, paparazzi photos, and meetings with Will Darcy aren’t going to make her sober, and they aren’t going to help her realize your dreams for her. Refusing to be a part of the problem is probably the nicest thing I can do for her right now, whether you see that or not. Thank you for lunch.” Elizabeth left the two on the patio and strode down the street, ignoring the clicking and whizzing of the paparazzi cameras, and the shouts for comments that echoed behind, ducking into the closest coffee shop. Taking a deep breath, she pulled out her phone. “Jane, it’s Elizabeth. Are you busy? I need a ride.” ----- Poison Ivy? Oh, Lizzy Bennet, when will you learn? Confrontations and arguments are for behind closed doors, not restaurant patios! Will Darcy’s ex seemed eager to throw down with Catherine de Bourgh, media mogul, during lunch at The Ivy earlier this week in Los Angeles. Catherine’s daughter, Anne, was also present, but didn’t enter the fracas. “Of course I can’t discuss why Ms. Bennet was so upset,” Catherine said. “But I have to say I was surprised she would choose so public a location to discuss what she was concerned about. She’s a lovely girl, but I hope the other diners weren’t offended by her outburst.” Even though both parties remained mum on the reasons for Lizzy’s tirade—she stalked off and refused to answer any questions after the incident—we have our own speculations. Rumor has it that Lizzy’s been angling for a role in an upcoming film produced by Horizon Studios, where Catherine de Bourgh just happens to be President. Was their lunch designed to showcase Lizzy’s acting abilities, and was she so upset because Catherine rejected her for the role? We just hope that next time she’s turned down for a part, Lizzy expresses her displeasure somewhere other than the most well-known celebrity hot spot in Beverly Hills. ----- When the doorbell rang, Elizabeth cringed. Jane and Charles were early, and she’d barely finished drying her hair. They’d have to wait in her somewhat untidy living room until she finished getting ready for their dinner. The couple had agreed to pick her up on their way to meet Charlotte and Mark (in an on-again phase) in Koreatown. Elizabeth opened the door, smiling sheepishly. “Sorry,” she said, “I’m almost ready to go.” But it wasn’t Charles’ cheerful drawl that answered her. Instead, she stared straight into Will Darcy’s bewildered eyes, shocked when he stepped across the threshold, lightly grasped her upper arms and asked: “Elizabeth, what the hell happened with Catherine de Bourgh?” He needed to shave. Elizabeth had never seen him so unkempt, so disheveled. The stubble just under his chin was a shade lighter than the lock of hair that fell across his forehead. Had it always been that way? “Elizabeth?” Darcy’s expression grew confused, his mouth tilted in a frown. He pulled back, his hands skimming her arms and cupping her elbows. “Yes. Yeah, I--” She shook her head, struggling for clarity, and took a breath, allowing the momentum of it to push her back, leaving only their fingertips touching. “Maybe I shouldn’t have come,” he said, and stepped back into the doorway, filling the empty frame as he self-consciously rubbed his chin. The early evening darkness spread out behind him, a deep indigo, broken by the bluish glow of a television in a house across the street. Elizabeth could feel Darcy slipping away, drawn into the shadows that lurked just outside the warm glow her open front door cast on the lawn. As the December chill wound itself around her, all she could think was, I’m losing him, losing him again. “I’m glad you did.” This time, she took his hand and pulled him into the hallway, closing the door before letting go to wrap her arms around herself. “I want to be clear, Elizabeth,” he said, voice pitched slightly lower as he covered her upper arm with a surprisingly warm hand. “I don’t think you need to my help to deal with Catherine de Bourgh. I just… I’ve been writing for the last three days, I’ve barely stopped to eat, if it were just an article about me I would ignore it, but Gina just showed up, and told me, and I didn’t want this to start anything like before, didn’t want you to have to deal with it on your own this time. And then I was in my car, and I was driving here.” He sighed, closing his eyes for a moment, his brows furrowed and mouth in a tight line. He looked up, catching her gaze in his, and it was so transparent, so open, Elizabeth gasped. “If you want me to do something, I will. I just didn’t know what you wanted or what really happened that day.” He squeezed her arm, and then pulled back, shoving his hands in the pockets of his jeans, shoulders hunched, face expectant. Elizabeth stared at him, unable to speak. How to explain that she hadn’t meant to fight with Catherine de Bourgh over lunch at The Ivy? How to convey to him that she hadn’t even wanted to be there, except that she thought, for some reason, it might be better for him if she went? She couldn’t think. He leaned a little closer, his fingers now brushing the soft underside of her arm. Her knees trembled slightly, and the cool tile of the foyer prickled her bare feet. “We had lunch. It didn’t go well.” She shrugged and her lips twisted into a wry expression. Darcy smiled. “Yes, that much I knew.” Elizabeth laughed. The combination of his proximity and his smile, his obvious nerves and the longing that had settled into her stomach nearly prompted her to do something reckless, like kiss him. Instead, she sighed. “The second question is easier than the first. Catherine wanted me to persuade you to hire Anne, and she engineered the lunch so that the paparazzi could photograph Anne and me acting like BFFs in the hopes that it might improve Anne’s reputation.” Darcy groaned, tilting his head back and exposing the stubble under his chin and the smooth skin of his throat. He smelled like ginger tea and lime, and Elizabeth wanted to press her lips against the side of his neck, wanted to push her nose into the warm hollow of his throat and breathe him in. “Catherine has been after me for years to give Anne a production credit. But I prefer to hire people who are sober more than twenty percent of the time and who won’t blow their salary on cocaine and Valium.” Elizabeth could only nod. She felt a slow warmth blossoming in her fingertips, and looked at her bare toes on the linoleum to keep from blushing. “As for why I went in the first place, I kept thinking about when we were in Hawaii and you told me Catherine was important to financing your work. I wanted to—help—you, somehow, if I could.” “Elizabeth,” he said, reaching out to cup her face, one finger just touching the corner of her mouth. She felt him take her hand and thread their fingers together. The roar of a passing motorcycle rattled the door frame, startling Elizabeth. “Oh!” She stepped away from him and tried to explain herself in a mad rush of words. “Jane and Charles. They’re coming—” Elizabeth glanced at her wrist, where her watch was supposed to be. “Any minute. Would you—do you—if you’re not busy, that is—do you want to come with us to dinner? I’m sure they wouldn’t mind, but maybe you have other plans.” Her left hand was waving in front of her, and her right clenched into a nervous fist; her fingers didn’t quite know what to do once they’d been released from his. Will scratched his neck awkwardly, one hand shoved in his pocket as his elbow nearly brushed a spider web glimmering in the dim hallway light. Elizabeth felt a rush of affection at this evidence of how uncertain he was. “Actually, I told Charles that I’d take you. I, um, left the house rather quickly, and then I was already on my way before I realized I didn’t know exactly where you lived. I called him for your address, and he told me I could be your date. It’s a bit late to ask, but do you mind?” ----- Double the Dates, Double the Fun? What do you get when you take one hot celebrity couple, and add another hot celebrity couple? Apparently, you get a rousing good time. Jane Gardiner and Charles Bingley were spotted dining with none other than Lizzy Bennet and Will Darcy (Are they back together? See our article on page 3!) in Los Angeles last week. “They seemed to be having a lot of fun, everyone was laughing and joking, and they were here for a long time,” one of the staff at the restaurant told Starz. Rumor also has it that Lizzy and Will—who have been keeping us busy with speculations about whether they are on- or off-again—arrived not only together, but hand-in-hand, and only got closer as the night wore on. “Oh, yeah, she and Darcy could hardly take their eyes off each other,” our eye witness reports. “If they aren’t a couple, I’d be really surprised. They even shared dessert.” ----- The really awkward thing about first dates, Elizabeth thought, was the car ride. With most dates, she would have relied on small talk to see them through the twenty minute interlude, but the history between her and Darcy made nearly every subject feel like it might lead them down a potentially dangerous path—one twisting through their prior ‘relationship’ and all the mistakes and misunderstandings—ending when they arrived at the restaurant in a half-finished conversation just when all chance of privacy would be gone. Instead, she contemplated what she could say as they drove along Normandie through what remained of the rush hour traffic, a haunting guitar melody quietly filling the space. “Do you know,” Darcy said, “that in every interview I’ve given since July I’ve been asked if I’m going to write a screenplay about what happened to us?” Elizabeth turned to look at him, but he didn’t give her a chance to answer before he continued. “I thought about it, of course. It would make a great story, in some respects. But if I told it the way it happened, I’m not sure I could write it to redeem the male lead. I think the audience might think he’d acted too selfishly, maybe even unforgivably so.” “Maybe,” Elizabeth said, warming to the metaphor. “But you might just need to tell it from a different perspective. From his viewpoint, he did what he felt was right.” Darcy smiled ruefully. “Yes, but once he had all the information, he still made mistakes.” “He could apologize,” Elizabeth said. “And so could she. It might not be the most romantic conversation they ever have, but then again, you’ve made your feelings on romance very clear.” She grinned. “I guess that’s partly why I’ve been so hesitant,” Darcy glanced at her before turning back to the long line of taillights waiting at the intersection. “Since I’m not sure how the plot resolves, I’m not sure if the story is a romance.” “Not in the traditional sense,” Elizabeth said. “The attraction between the man and the woman would have to be palpable, though maybe they would deny it at first. They would eventually realize, though, if they thought about how they responded to each other even in the midst of conflict, how and what they sacrificed for the other person…they would know it was more than just romance. They would know it was real.” She paused, then added more quietly, “that’s much more compelling for an audience than empty promises and a passionate embrace.” Darcy was quiet for a long moment, and Elizabeth appreciated the way the streetlights and neon signs cast dancing shadows on his face. “I tried to script it out at one point,” he said. “The apology, that is. I tried to make the words into something beautiful, about misjudging the situation, about not trusting or consulting you. It’s such a simple thing to say, but I think like everything else, I’ve made it needlessly complicated, too caught up in what you would say to even make the attempt. But it doesn’t change the fact that I am sorry, Elizabeth.” “I’m sorry, too.” Elizabeth said. He turned to her and smiled, a brief flash of white teeth in the dark interior of his car. Then he laughed. “It’s so much easier for you, isn’t it? Why is that?” “No one bothered to give me any lines.” Elizabeth shrugged. “I’m just making this up as I go along.” He laughed again, and she felt the knot in her stomach, the weight of the tension they’d carried with them so long, lift up and float away, like a russet colored leaf in the first autumn breeze. ----- It was to their credit that none of her friends mentioned how odd it was that Elizabeth and Darcy came into the restaurant together, holding hands and unable to stop grinning. Darcy’s friends were less well-behaved. Mark leered and winked suggestively, which made Charlotte smack his hand hard enough to send drops of merlot over the rim of his glass and onto the white tablecloth. Charles laughed, ordered another bottle, and asked, “You finally sorted it out then? We’ve been waiting long enough.” It wasn’t clear if he meant the months between their ‘break up’ and this reconciliation, or just the time the other four had spent at the restaurant. Elizabeth hoped it was the latter. Darcy rolled his eyes and pulled out a chair for Elizabeth. Their eyes met when she glanced at him over her shoulder, and she couldn’t help it: she laughed. “So much for keeping it quiet,” she said. Darcy just shook his head and sat down next to her. As the waiter popped the cork on the next bottle of wine, Elizabeth took advantage of the men’s distraction and sent a not-at-all-discreet eyebrow raise and happy smile across the table to Jane and Charlotte. They ordered bulgogi, bibimbap, and a soup Elizabeth couldn’t pronounce. Mark requested extra kimchi over Charlotte’s protests, and Elizabeth noticed that when it got passed around the table, Darcy didn’t take any of the spicy condiment. Mark, Charles and Darcy were talking about some Gladiator-esque film that Charles had been offered. “They told me I’d have to grow my hair long. Really long. Think Fabio.” He grimaced. “You’re just making that face because you’d have to go to a real stylist, instead of Bob the Barber, or whatever his name is,” Jane said. “Does he give lollipops?” Elizabeth asked. “Or maybe balloons?” “Hank’s been my barber since I was ten!” “It certainly shows,” Darcy said. Charles sputtered out a half-hearted protest. “I’ve thought about growing my hair out before,” Mark admitted. “One of my college girlfriends suggested it.” “Oh, honey, no,” Charlotte said. “You’d look like a cross between Weird Al and a poodle. Not a good look.” Darcy leaned a little closer to Elizabeth, resting his arm against the back of her chair. “Are you going to venture an opinion on my hair?” Elizabeth grinned and turned to face him. “Nope. Then you can’t have an opinion on mine.” “Well,” Darcy said. “I was going to suggest you dye it blue.” “You have a thing for smurfs, Darcy?” He chuckled, then leaned in to whisper in her ear, "Their hair wasn't blue, Elizabeth" before he turned back to his plate. His arm, however, stayed where it was, and Elizabeth felt him brush his fingers ever so slightly over the ends of her hair. “Um, hi, Mr. Bingley? Is that you? Oh my god, it totally is, and like—oh my god! You’re Will Darcy, aren’t you? We are huge fans of yours!” Two college-aged girls were standing at the end of their table, and it was clear they weren’t sure who to look at first. One had let out a high- pitched squeal when they’d noticed Will. “Yes, that’s us,” Charles was as friendly as she’d ever seen him, but there was a measure of reserve there that she hadn’t ever noticed before. “Perhaps we could sign something for you,” Darcy offered. Elizabeth couldn’t believe how polite he sounded. His posture was stiff and tense, to be sure, but his face was relaxed. Mark wasn’t even paying attention to the fan interaction, focused intensely on a text message he’d just received. “Could we, um, could we take a photo?” The spokeswoman for the pair shakily held up her iPhone. “Sure,” Darcy said. Elizabeth noticed he wasn’t smiling, exactly, but he didn’t look at all upset. “And,” the second girl spoke up suddenly. “Do you think, well, could Lizzy be in the photo too? I’m a huge fan of yours.” “Me?” Elizabeth was shocked. Tabloid shots were one thing, but genuine admiration for nothing so much as being Will Darcy’s pretend girlfriend was a bit too much. “You’re totally cool,” the first girl added. “The way you, like, handled the press and everything. You’re awesome.” “I’m… flattered.” It was the closest she could come to an actual description of her feelings. She stood, joining Will, Charles, and their fan club. Will wrapped his arm around her, and she looked up to find him giving her a genuine smile. A few seconds later, and it was all over; the girls headed back to their table, tapping away on the iPhone screen and whispering about how someone called Phoebe was “not ever going to believe this!” “Jane,” Charlotte asked, once the photo session was complete. “How’s the bump?” Jane grinned at Charles, who gave her a knowing smile in return, resting his hand over her stomach. “I love it,” Charles said. Jane stuck her tongue out at him. “What?” he asked. “We made it together! Why wouldn’t I love that?” Charlotte’s face had frozen into an expression of shock, and Mark’s eyes were darting nervously at the exits. Jane rolled her eyes. “You mean the ‘Charles-and-I-ate-our-way-through-Barcelona’ bump? I think a few extra Pilates classes ought to take care of it.” Darcy was the first to break into startled laughter, but the others soon followed, Mark firing questions at the couple about why they’d let the press speculate so long. “It was too much fun, with the news about the animated movie coming out. We talked about it; Jane didn’t mind playing a little joke on the public, and the timing was perfect. I’m kind of disappointed no one’s mentioned that I gained “sympathy weight” at the same time.” Charles affected a fake pout. “So how are you going to reveal the truth?” Elizabeth asked. “Well,” Jane said demurely. “I was going to take advantage and wear some really unflattering clothes and lots of empire-waisted stuff for awhile, then suddenly go out every day in leather pants and tops that showed off my flat stomach. But we recently decided it would be much more fun for us to go on a bender in Cabo and make sure someone was there to take photos.” She smiled. “I’ll take pictures!” Charlotte volunteered, raising a full glass of wine instead of just her hand. Mark clinked his glass against hers and they smiled at each other. “Excellent!” Charles said. “Want to go in two weeks? Darcy? Liz? You two want to come as well?” “I can’t,” Darcy said. At Charles’ look of disappointment, he added. “Georgiana has a concert and she wants me to be there.” Charles turned to Elizabeth. “Liz? Do you want to go?” She didn’t look at Darcy, couldn’t, if she was honest. Setting aside the piles of work scattered across her living room, a weekend of drinking margaritas on the beach in Mexico didn’t sound like the worst idea ever. But doing it with people whose photos would undoubtedly appear in numerous tabloids seemed ill-advised, given what appeared to be developing with Darcy. “Lizzy B’s Fabulous Fiesta” didn’t seem like a great way to kick off what she hoped would be a relationship that didn’t exist solely in print form. And if he was in town, and she was in town… “Actually, I have plans with my sister that weekend, too.” It wasn’t a lie, but she could have changed dates with Katie, who would probably have encouraged her (or tried to finagle an invite) to go clubbing with the people she called ‘Lizzy’s celeb besties.’ Under the table she felt Darcy’s foot rest against hers, and tried to suppress the flush she felt creeping into her cheeks at the casual contact. The other four continued to make plans for their weekend away, but Will asked Elizabeth about her teaching and the two spent the next fifteen minutes in a quiet discussion, oblivious to the sly looks their friends were trading at their expense. ----- Love in the Air! We didn’t think it would ever happen after their fiery break-up in the summer, but Will Darcy loves to surprise us! That’s right, heartthrob actor Darcy is back together with his ex, Lizzy Bennet. The two were hot and heavy in the spring, but split suddenly after being spotted together several times in Hawaii. Since then, speculation over a possible reconciliation has been rampant, but Darcy and Lizzy stubbornly refused to appear in the same photograph. Now, however, we have the evidence to prove that they are definitely an item again! The photos, taken last week, show the two waiting outside a Los Angeles restaurant, and from the way Darcy has his arm around Lizzy, it’s clear that he’s not helping her walk off a sprained ankle. Starz relationship expert Michael Faille says, “the way that Darcy is touching her shows that he feels a bit protective of her, but it’s casual enough to also suggest that he trusts her as well. Lizzy is looking up at him, which also shows that she is not intimidated by him, and the fact that they’re making eye contact demonstrates that this is an honest and open relationship.” It’s only too bad that Faille didn’t see what our valet witness did. “When I pulled the car up to where they were waiting,” he told Starz, “Darcy was leaning down to whisper in her ear. Lizzy was laughing when they got into the car.” We think it’s pretty poetic that the first public sighting of these two lovebirds is eerily similar to how the news broke when they first began dating. That’s right, apparently Lizzy and Darcy have a thing for hanging out in valet parking lots. We won’t question it as long as it keeps our favorite couple happy! TAKE OUR POLL: Should Lizzy have taken Darcy back? ----- Elizabeth couldn’t stop laughing. It might have been the story Darcy was telling her or maybe it was the lingering giddiness that had swelled in her chest when he’d taken her hand in the restaurant parking lot. She had smiled from Koreatown to Los Feliz, while Darcy had grinned back at her across the car. Now his arm was across her shoulders, and hers hooked around his waist, and she thought maybe he was feeling a bit of the same combination of relief and lightheaded abandon she was— Elizabeth was certain it didn’t come from the wine. Darcy stood behind her as she unlocked the door, just that much too close, and Elizabeth felt her hands tremble as she turned the key. Elizabeth opened the door, and took Darcy’s hand to lead him inside. Once she’d closed the door, he turned around to face her. “When you opened the door earlier,” he said, as she slipped her hand out of his to rest it against his chest, “I didn’t want to talk to you at all. I wanted to kiss you.” He looked like a shadow of himself. In the dark of the hallway, she couldn’t see the warmth in his eyes; the low beams from the streetlights outside made his face look hard and angled, and for a moment, he was the cold, unapproachable celebrity he’d been so long ago. Elizabeth traced his profile with two fingers, feeling warm skin and rough stubble. She guided him closer, to an angle where he looked like himself again. “Kiss me now,” she said, and lifted up on her toes to meet him. Darcy braced one hand against the door and leaned closer. When their lips met, it felt like someone had shaken her up and spun her around: effervescence, champagne bubbles, a hundred butterflies loose and fluttering in her chest. She grasped his jacket, drawing him closer, pressing into him as much as she could through layers of coats and clothing. The incoherent delight bubbling in her veins distilled into a concentrated pulse of desire, and Elizabeth rested her weight against the door, feeling Darcy grab her waist to keep from crashing into her. For a moment, it was messy and fierce, and then Darcy moved to kiss her forehead, her ear, and their touches grew lingering, every movement a caress. Elizabeth’s fingers moved over his skin, finding that place on his neck she’d wanted to kiss only hours ago. There was a small line just along the skin of his jaw, a sliver of white visible only at this angle, in this light. She traced it, and felt Darcy breathe against her cheek. “I cut myself, when I was fourteen,” he said. He leaned back to look at her, smiling in the darkness. “It was the first time I ever tried to shave.” Elizabeth laughed, running her fingers over the scar again. “Will,” she said, tilting her head back as he moved to kiss her throat. She received a low “mmmm” in response, and the sensation of it against her neck thrummed along her skin like electric currents. “I’m not that busy next weekend,” she said. He laughed this time, and Elizabeth wrapped her leg around him, felt his hand slide along her thigh, and kissed him again. Celebrity Weddings We’re Waiting For! Will Darcy and Lizzy Bennet have never officially proclaimed that they’re a couple. That doesn’t mean that they haven’t been spotted together at no fewer than 12 events in the last three months. We keep watching that all-important finger for any sign of a ring, but so far Lizzy’s finger is as bare as Mr. Clean’s head. We wonder if she’s started dropping hints to her celebrity beau that what she really wants for Valentine’s Day is red and sparkly? ----- Are They or Aren’t They? Friends say Lizzy Bennet and Will Darcy are not only engaged, they’re planning a summer wedding! “Oh, they are definitely looking at dates in June,” one source tells Starz. “Lizzy’s been shopping for dresses and everything.” Despite the comments from those in-the-know, we still haven’t seen any evidence of the couple’s nearing nuptials, not even a ring! In fact, the two haven’t even been spotted together this month, leading some to speculate that the two have called it quits—again. So, are Lizzy and Darcy just keeping their engagement under wraps? Or have they wrapped up their two-year relationship instead? ----- Put A Ring On It! Sorry, single ladies. Apparently Will Darcy wanted Lizzy Bennet enough to put a ring on it, er, her. The two were snapped last weekend in a SoHo restaurant, something sparkly on Lizzy’s all-too-important finger. Reps for the couple have denied that the two are officially engaged, but the sight of that diamond was enough to make us throw our hands up in jealousy. ----- Darcy was standing on the patio, facing the canyons and brush, and from behind, Elizabeth thought he looked a bit like a statue: tall, stiff, unmoving, not even shivering in the January chill. Statues didn’t tend to wear worn NYU sweatshirts with fraying cuffs and ripped hoods, though. Elizabeth walked up behind Will, wrapped her arms around his middle, and reached into the pocket of his sweatshirt, entwining their fingers together. She pressed her face between his shoulder blades, breathing in the cool air trapped in the fabric, undercut by that strange combination of citrus, spice, and Will that always smelled like home. “Hey,” she said, her voice muffled by his body. “How did it go?” She felt his sigh. “Catherine refuses even to discuss financing the film.” “You’ll try again with the next one,” she said. “Or you won’t, and she’ll be pissed when it makes millions for another studio. Eventually you’ll find a backer who wants to make this movie.” “That or I’ll finance it myself.” “Do you have the cash?” “Not totally, but…” he let go of her hands as he turned to look at her. “I bet we could raise quite a bit toward the amount if we auctioned off our wedding photos to the highest bidder.” He smiled and shoved his hands into his jeans pockets. So he had been plotting out here, not sulking. “Absolutely not!” Elizabeth grinned. “If anyone is trading in wedding photos for cash, it’s me. I have loans to pay back.” She pulled her hands into her sleeves to keep them out of the cold wind swirling around them. Darcy sighed dramatically. “Fine. But if we have kids, we aren’t giving any money to charity when we sell their newborn photos. We’ll use it to make a kick-ass action movie and invest the profits in a college fund.” “Agreed.” Elizabeth said, and held out her hand to shake. Darcy pulled his hand out of his pocket and took hers. Something scraped against her palm. “Of course,” Darcy said, in a tone that aimed for casual but which made Elizabeth clench her toes in anticipation. “You’d have to agree to marry me first.” ----- Darcy’s Secret Marriage? Lizzy Bennet and Will Darcy have frustrated us for years about the status of their relationship. Some say they’re mired in long-term couplehood and have no plans to be anything more. Others say they are just trying for the “world’s longest engagement” record, what with the diamond glittering on Lizzy’s finger. (The record appears to be 67 years, so these two still have a long way to go) Then there are those who, noting the couple’s almost manic desire for privacy, believe that the two have been secretly married for at least a year—and maybe longer! “They had a big party last year just before Christmas, and it was all their closest friends and family,” says a source close to the couple. “Some of the guests told me that it was a very significant event, though of course they weren’t allowed to talk much about it.” Lizzy and Will were spotted on the Amalfi Coast over New Year’s, which if you ask us is a pretty decent honeymoon location. Of course, if the two are actually married—and their reps will only confirm that the two are in a relationship, not the details—theirs would be the most successful secret celebrity wedding, not to mention the most well-guarded pre-nup ever. Starz thinks these two might want to think about taking up second careers as agents for the CIA. Unless they’ve done so already? ----- For all that she loved living in Darcy’s house in the Hollywood Hills, somewhere in the two years since she had moved in, Elizabeth had discovered that the architectural design was incredibly inconvenient when you wanted to avoid someone. For instance, Will Darcy. Her stealth tactics clearly needed some work, as she was currently standing in front of him, apple juice dripping off her shirt, trying not to laugh at his shocked expression. It was a relief, actually, to be near him and experience some emotion other than anger, sorrow or regret. She’d spent two days vacillating between trying not to yell at him again and wanting to apologize. They’d slept on opposite sides of the bed, a gulf of misunderstanding and cold air between them, every shift in the mattress a possible chance at reconciliation, every silent moment a resumption of hostilities. When he turned to grab a towel, she stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. “Will.” He looked over his shoulder at her. “I’m sorry,” she said. She held out her hands in supplication. “I never should have said you cared more about your career than you do about me. It was unfair, and it wasn’t true.” Will sighed, and took one of her hands. “I shouldn’t have been so dismissive of your concerns. And I shouldn’t have called you irrational. I’m sorry.” He pulled her closer, and she let him gather her into a tight embrace. “I’m all wet and sticky,” she said. “Yes,” he said. “And in the words of my grandmother, ‘we should get you out of those wet clothes. Right away.’” Elizabeth laughed and pulled back just enough to see the sly grin on Darcy’s face. ----- Star Squabbles! The friendship between Jane Bingley and Lizzy Bennet is one of Hollywood’s most well-known. The two are spotted out and about together regularly, sometimes with their leading men in tow. But are these besties on the outs? Sources say the fight started when Lizzy wouldn’t agree to name any forthcoming female Darcy offspring after her closest friend. Apparently Jane, who with her husband confirmed last month that they were expecting a child in April, told Lizzy that a baby girl Bingley would be named Elizabeth, but received no similar acknowledgement from Lizzy. “They were in the middle of Petit Tresor (a swanky maternity boutique on Melrose) when Jane just lost it and started crying, saying that if Lizzy didn’t understand why it was so important, then why were they even talking about it,” a bystander told us. “She was really upset.” This is the first indication that Lizzy may be pregnant. The couple has been asked numerous times in the past few months if they are planning an addition to their family, and recent photos of Lizzy look like she might be sporting a slight bump. Representatives for Lizzy said they don’t comment on her personal life, and won’t confirm that she’s preggers. We just hope that whenever a tiny Darcy makes an appearance, he or she won’t have to apologize to a future Elizabeth Bingley for not being named “Jane.” ----- “We got champagne to celebrate,” Elizabeth said, passing the bottle to Darcy so he could open it. “But none for Jane, of course, since she won’t name her baby after me.” Elizabeth looked at Jane. “Is that why you’re mad at me?” “No,” Charlotte said, “You won’t name your baby after her. I’m not sure whose baby you’re naming, because it certainly isn’t yours but you know, you’re quite stubborn about these things, Elizabeth.” “Yeah, Liz, you should be nicer to my very pregnant wife,” Charles said. “It’s not her fault she cries over insignificant decorating details.” Jane smiled and rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe that woman was eavesdropping and we missed it!” “I can’t believe you cried over a sleeper set,” Mark muttered. “I can’t believe you know what a sleeper set is,” Charlotte said. They all turned as the cork popped out of the champagne bottle, and as Darcy poured, he added, “I can’t believe the eavesdropper missed the part where Jane mentioned that the baby is a boy.” ----- Oscar Hopefuls: Films and Actors We’re Rooting For Some people see the end of January as the death knell for their New Year’s Resolutions. Others think of it as the run-up to the Super Bowl. Here at Entertainment Review, it’s the start of Oscar season, that glorious time of year when we dream about pretty dresses, beautiful people, and a little golden statue. The field is more competitive than ever this year, with lots of past winners and a few bright newcomers. If you haven’t seen Tania Winslow in Looking North, you’re missing one of last year’s best performances. Perennial favorite Lucas Prince is back with his seventh nominated film, Price Point, and the early buzz says that he’ll get the nod in more than just the best directing category. Of course, there are also the dark horses. We wouldn’t normally cast Will Darcy as one of those, given that when he releases a film, the Academy practically hands him a Best Picture award at the premiere. This year, however, he’s a bit behind the rest of the field, hoping A Completed Solitude wrapped enough of the critics in its spell when it was released early last year to keep them enraptured come voting time. ----- “It is such a good thing I love you,” Elizabeth groaned. “And even more importantly, Georgiana made coffee.” “Only for us,” Georgiana said. “Will’s so wired I doubt he needs any additional stimulants to keep him awake. Can you imagine him with espresso?” Elizabeth reached across the bed to rub Will’s back in what she hoped was a soothing gesture. His muscles were tense, and he was checking his watch obsessively, waiting for the moment when he could turn up the television volume so they could watch the live broadcast of the Academy Award nominations. “If you don’t get nominated, do we still get invited to the party?” she asked, hoping to distract him. Will shrugged. “I bet they’ll ask you to be a presenter.” He shrugged again. Elizabeth had rarely seen him this focused outside of the times she crept into his office while he was writing or the one time she’d visited him on set and distracted him so badly he’d asked her to wait in his trailer. After that, they’d reached an accord: no interruptions during Writing Hours (his or hers), and on set (or lecture) visits were to be done silently, unless in the event of an emergency. From across the room, she saw Georgiana eyes widen over the rim of her coffee mug. “Why don’t I remember doing this last year?” Elizabeth asked. “I wasn’t eligible,” Darcy said. “And I was in London.” That was enough of a reminder; it had taken him years to write the film, and then, after finally finding someone to distribute the picture, he’d agonized over when to release A Completed Solitude to make it eligible for the previous year’s awards season, only to be told by the studio that they couldn’t swing it with the other films they were putting forward for consideration. He’d been forced to shelve it until after the new year, and had been on the press junket for the film when the nominations were released. Elizabeth had wanted to go with him but had been in Albuquerque presenting at a conference. She knew he’d watched, supported by Mark and other cast members, but when he’d called that night, he’d confessed how truly disappointed he was to have to wait another year and chance risking that the critics had a long memory. Elizabeth would never forget the moment he came home from that trip: she was in the kitchen, slicing avocado, and he’d grabbed her so quickly she’d almost forgotten to drop the knife before wrapping her arms around him. Only when Elizabeth realized there was blood smeared on his cheek did she notice that she’d nicked her finger. Now, nearly a year later, she was burrowed under the blankets drinking coffee and attempting to determine how to reassure her beloved that a golden statue in the shape of a naked man wasn’t worth starting the day in a state of agitation. It was probably bad for digestion. “Are you ready with the clipboard?” she asked. Georgiana nodded and waved it above her head. Apparently, The Oscar Clipboard was a Darcy tradition dating back to Will’s father, when everyone would gather ‘round the radio or television set as a family and tally the nominations for each film. Georgiana had served as the Keeper of The Clipboard since 1996, and her handwriting was so much nicer than Elizabeth’s that she was in no danger of losing the job. Elizabeth had once asked Darcy why he didn’t take a turn with The Clipboard. He’d looked at her in confusion and said, “I’m in charge of remembering the categories.” Elizabeth had immediately decided that her role in the proceedings was to inject a much-needed dose of reality. Copious note-taking at 5:30 a.m. wasn’t really Elizabeth’s idea of a great time, but since Will didn’t grimace when she reminded him about her family’s annual camping trip at Yosemite, she figured this was minor in comparison. Fortunately, the announcements, unlike the awards show, didn’t feature a long, pointless introduction. The acting awards were up first, and they shouted and cheered when his name was called as a best supporting actor nominee. Elizabeth kissed his cheek, and Darcy smiled, the tension around his eyes relaxing only for a moment. When the writing categories were called, Elizabeth reached for both Darcy and Georgiana, clasped their three hands together in her lap. As the first syllables of A Completed Solitude slipped out of Harold Markowitz’ mouth, Elizabeth jumped and screamed, flinging her arms around Darcy and pulling Georgiana into a boisterous group hug. Elizabeth wrapped her arms around Darcy, resting her chin on his shoulder. He pulled her closer, his hand on her hip, and when Haley Nunez smiled and read A Completed Solitude, Elizabeth gasped. All the coiled tension in Darcy’s body erupted in a great shout and he tumbled her backwards onto the bed, pressing kisses across her face and laughing in relief. He buried his face in the curve of her neck and let out a sigh. “I’m so proud of you,” she whispered, a tear sliding along her cheekbone and into his hair. The words he mumbled against her skin sounded like “I love you.” It’s been ten years since Will Darcy sat down with Michael Ford to discuss movie making and life. Now, in a rare interview, Ford visits Darcy at home with Elizabeth Bennet to again tackle the topics of love, movies, and success, as well as find out a bit more about how they manage life in and out of the spotlight. At first, Will Darcy’s home in the Hollywood Hills is like any other 20’s style villa on the block: beautiful, classic, and entirely out of my price range. When you step inside, though, it’s a different story. Darcy is still the same man who met me for coffee ten years ago in jeans and a plain white dress shirt, though he’s even more casual at home in a zip up sweater that looks more comfortable than fashionable. His house is tastefully cluttered and cozy, and there are books stacked up on every end table. I ask if he’s read all of them. “Not at all,” he laughs, “but between the two of us, we’re probably through about half of them. There’s an entire bookshelf in the library filled with books we’ll get around to reading one of these days.” The other half of this “we” is Elizabeth Bennet, who is arranging pastries on a plate in the kitchen. She gives me a knowing look and a smile and tells me the coffee is almost ready, which is nearly enough to make me fall at her feet in adoration. I’ve been in the house for five minutes, and I can already tell that the relationship between these two is much like their home: warm, familiar, and safe. We decide to do the interview on the back patio, which gives us a sweeping view of the brush and canyon vistas. Somewhere, on the other side of the Santa Monica Mountains, Sunset Boulevard is teeming with traffic, but the only sounds here are the occasional high-octane engine as one of the other local celebrities heads home in their Lamborghini. At this angle, Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley look like a model train village. It is frightfully peaceful, and I threaten to set up a tent in Darcy’s backyard to enjoy it more often. Elizabeth just laughs. “Watch out for the coyotes,” she warns. “It’s why we don’t have a dog.” “Also because neither of us would remember to feed it.” Darcy says. He’s at work on a new screenplay these days, an adaptation of J. Bryan’s post-apocalyptic romance Aisle of Man. It’s a departure from his previous original screenplay work, but he says he’s enjoying the challenge. “Part of the joy of writing is to see something of your own imagination take shape. I still have more stories to tell, but when I read this book, I could feel Bryan’s vision radiate through the pages. The opportunity to interpret that and then create it on the screen was too compelling to let go.” Darcy is notorious for being extremely focused on his work. He has one primary project at any time, and his schedule is often booked for years in advance to accommodate his various films. He’s been working on Aisle of Man for the past six months, and rumor has it that he stayed alone in a cabin in Iceland for a month and a half while writing the initial draft. Elizabeth laughs at that. “He would have run out of tea in about a week; he drinks it obsessively while he’s writing.” She looks at him affectionately. “I’ve seen the creative process at work enough to know that Will needs quiet and solitude to write and think, but he’s involved in far too many things to simply disappear for that long. He could get away with two weeks, maybe, but a month would be too much.” They trade a look that speaks of a secret joke, before Elizabeth continues with a sly smile. “Also, he’s a Californian through and through. Iceland is far too cold.” It’s statements like these that have kept “Will and Lizzy” at the center of rumors for as long as their relationship has been in existence—and even before that, the way they tell the story. When I met Darcy ten years ago, he had just been romantically linked to Elizabeth Bennet, then an unknown college professor and graduate student. However, it seems that when we spoke, Darcy had only just met Elizabeth. “We tell everyone that we met at a film premiere,” Elizabeth says. “But no one ever believes us when we say that it was the Shadowboxer premiere.” By the time they were spotted on the red carpet together, the tabloids had already been reporting their close relationship for over a month. Even at the time, the two said it was all coincidence. “I’m not sure we’ll ever really know why those chance meetings were of such intense interest to the news media or the public,” Darcy says. “In one sense, I can be thankful for it, because eventually we did meet and that gave us a chance to build a real relationship, one that wasn’t based on what the media reported.” The couple have managed to keep the details of their life together as private as possible, though they are routinely the subjects of scrutiny. “We have a policy,” Elizabeth says. “We don’t talk about our relationship with the press. I think that whole experience at the beginning [of our relationship] taught me how vulnerable true privacy really is, and how easily it can be lost. When you find someone you can be safe with, who you can really trust, that’s precious, and it’s worth keeping for yourself.” Other interviewers have asked Darcy how much his romance with Elizabeth has impacted his work, and he’s always refused to answer. I ask him why that is. “In part,” he says, “It’s exactly what Elizabeth says: we want to keep things private. But I also don’t want to cheapen what filmmaking is. While the stories and inspiration do certainly come from real life, films are more than just a single person telling a story; that’s a novel. The collaborative process of making a film means that everyone gets their hands dirty: the screenwriter has to put words and a story out there; the actors have to bring the emotions and develop the character; the director has to bring the vision and organization to the picture; the DP has to harmonize the visual aspects with the thematic, and the editor has to put the pieces together in a meaningful way. That’s not even a comprehensive list of all the different people involved. Additionally, the audience is a huge factor. People might choose to interpret the story in a particular way that has nothing to do with what the screenwriter intended. It might be a valid interpretation, but when you put your work out there, you let other people assign meaning to it, beyond what it means to you.” This is certainly a nice statement on artistic intent and the filmmaking process, but I have to remind Darcy that he hasn’t actually answered my question. Elizabeth smiles at me and remarks that I’m not the first interviewer who’s tried to pin Darcy down on this issue. I try again, reminding him that I do have a word limit for the article. This earns a chuckle from Darcy, as well as a more concise answer. “When you look at the whole experience of making and viewing a film, my personal life is just a fraction of what’s going on. It would be arrogant to say that my perspective and the events in my life were the main impetus for a film. I’d be wary of anyone who says otherwise.” This puts Darcy’s much-celebrated film A Completed Solitude into a new light. Many people, even critics, attributed its depth and the emotional resonance of the central love story to Darcy’s own experience—even if they knew little about it. “Certainly, my personal life impacted how I came to write A Completed Solitude,” Darcy says. “But it isn’t a story about my relationship with Elizabeth.” “I wouldn’t let him write that story,” Elizabeth jokes, earning a rueful smile from Darcy. “I think, with anything, the experience and maturity that come with age, and in my case, falling in love with Elizabeth, give more meaning and depth to a person’s perspective,” Darcy says. “For me, that meant that when I sat down to write A Completed Solitude, I had the emotional support and nuanced understanding of love that made it possible to craft that story. I couldn’t have done it before I met Elizabeth, not because of her, but because of what I learned about myself and about love from being with her.” The couple isn’t overtly demonstrative of their affection for each other, but when Darcy takes Elizabeth’s hand as he says this, it feels more intimate than a kiss. A Completed Solitude was nominated for five Academy Awards the year it was released, and it won four of them, including a Best Supporting Actor nod for Darcy. At the time, it was the first film he’d written and directed in which he didn’t take the starring role. “I was thrilled to be nominated for A Completed Solitude in the acting category,” Darcy says. “The role was challenging and when I wrote the film, it’s the one I wanted most to explore.” He looks at Elizabeth and smiles. “But it was the writing and the directing—creating this story and breathing life into it—where I the directing—creating this story and breathing life into it—where I really poured out my heart and soul. It took years to write it, and it’s the film I’m most proud of because of how careful I was with it, how hard I pushed myself to achieve something with it.” From my time with Darcy, it’s clear he is something of a Hollywood rarity. Certainly there are other actors who have his talent; other directors with his vision; other screenwriters with his storytelling ability. But Will Darcy is the full package: an articulate and intelligent filmmaker. “I got into this industry when I was very young, and learned as much as I could as I grew up,” he says. “I always knew I wanted to be a storyteller and bring things to life on the screen. This industry can chew you up in so many ways, but it’s brought me everything I’ve wanted.” He glances at Elizabeth warmly. As for the celebrity that accompanies his position amongst the Hollywood elite? “I’ve never asked for it, but it’s something that’s been given to me, and I’ve tried to do the best with that attention on me,” he says. In the ten years since our previous interview, Darcy has done something that many of his peers haven’t been able to: he’s stayed at the top of his game, and has even augmented his influence among the Hollywood elite. Attaching his name to a film instantly increases its revenue and critical accolades, and he is one of a handful of filmmakers an average moviegoer recognizes. This is due, in part, to the public’s obsession with his private life as well as his professional credits. Yet, it is also that the man behind that public image is fascinating, even as he remains so inaccessible to the rest of us. Perhaps it is that very remoteness, the ability to remain seemingly untouched, that makes us want so much more from him. It is Elizabeth, not Darcy, who ultimately reveals the secret to coping with the kind of fame and fortune she and Darcy have experienced in the last decade. “When you do what you love,” she says, referring to Darcy, “and you do it with people you love, then the world will notice. The intrusive questions and the expectations of the public become something that you manage. It’s when you let those distractions take over your life that you lose the joy in what you’re doing. I never expected to be comfortable in this life, but as we’ve discovered, and as we’ve agreed about what we’ll give up and what we won’t, I’ve felt more able to be myself and to relax and enjoy it all. I think we’ve learned that lesson together.” Please drop by the archive and comment to let the author know if you enjoyed their work!
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