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What He Would Have Done

By Elise Baie


Chapter 1

He would have arrived at her house ten minutes early, only to keep driving around in circles, killing time while his nerves stretched to nearly breaking. He would have put entirely too much thought into what music should be softly playing when she slid into the creamy leather seat of his sleek black car, and whether or not he should have the seat warmer on.

He would have hesitated on her front door step for a moment (once he’d parked and gotten out of the car precisely one minute before the appointed time), his pointer finger hovering over the bell. After he pushed it, he would, in a panic, try to figure out what to do with his hands, shove them deeply into his pockets first, and then immediately decide that that was the wrong choice, so when she finally did open the door, his hands would be flapping around his waist like birds. He would feel foolish, but she would smile at him in a way that made her eyes sparkle and his skin tingle all the way down to his toes. She’d turn around and tuck her clutch under her arm so she could lock the door, and then turn back to him and take his arm before he could give any further thought to the placement of his limbs.

He would look down on her and breathe in the sweetly floral scent of her shampoo and drink in the sight of her milky skin in contrast to the dark blue silk of her dress and wonder if it was possible to get drunk off someone’s perfume. He would memorize the feel of her fingers pressing into his arm through his jacket as she deliberately made her way down the steps to his car, intent on each placement of her high-heeled shoes so as not to slip. He’d open the door for her (obviously), and she’d duck her head and smile as she folded herself into the front seat.

He would let out a deep breath and shake out his hands as he lightly bounced on the balls of his feet on his way around to the driver’s side. When he turned the key in the ignition and the haunting sound of the husky singer’s voice filled the car, she’d laugh a little as she said “I love this song!” and he’d be so pleased that he’d made the right choice. He would have trouble keeping his eyes on the road because, in the corner of his eye, he would see her: elbow resting on the windowsill, head resting in a hand that was tangled up in her auburn hair, watching him, a smile playing on the corner of her lips because she was never-endingly amused by his careful driving and the way he kept his hands constantly at ten and two, or maybe because she was finally starting to understand the worth of the man before her and to appreciate what it must be like to live in a mind that gave each and every decision so much weight and importance.

He would pull up to a little Italian trattoria that was close to the theater, small enough to be intimate but not overly posh in a way he thought might make her uncomfortable. After they’d parked, he’d lead her up under the awning and hold the door open, and a warm gust of garlic-and-oregano spiced air would welcome them in and set their mouths to watering. They’d share a decanter of Chianti, and she would get lasagna, and he would have spaghetti with meatballs, and he might even get a little sauce on his tie, but he wouldn’t even care because the woman he loved was sitting across the table from him, touching his hand as she laughed at his jokes, and he’d be utterly delighted because conversation between them had never been this effortless. They’d split dessert, something chocolate and decadent, and when the check came, she would reach for her purse, which was perfect because so often the women he dated just assumed he would pay, and even though her reluctance to let him treat her annoyed him at times, it also secretly made him love her all the more because she was independent and didn’t expect him buy her things. He’d stop her hand and say, “No, I insist,” and she’d smile and let him throw down his credit card, but she’d also say, “Okay, but really, the next one is my treat,” and he would feel as if his heart would explode from happiness because she’d just said there would be a next time.

He would be disappointed when they reached the door of the restaurant because it would have started to rain and, of course, he had left his umbrella in his trunk, but before he could offer to bring the car around, she would have grabbed his hand and run shrieking into the storm, pulling him along behind her, and he would think to himself, “I would follow this woman to the ends of the earth if she’d let me.” He’d go to open her door, and there would be a moment when they just stood there, panting slightly as the water dripped down into their eyes, and suddenly, she would be closer to him than she had ever been before and all he’d feel would be the warmth of her body pressing against his through the silk of her dress and the cotton of his shirt, and all he’d see would be her blue eyes with their flecks of gold getting bigger and bigger as she got closer and closer until he could count the droplets of water that had caught in her eyelashes. And then she’d kiss him, right there in the V-shaped space between his car and the door in the parking lot of a cheap Italian restaurant in downtown San Francisco. It would be short and sweet and feel like a promise against his lips.

He would crank up the heat in the car and offer her his jacket as they both shuddered and shook as they tried to get warm. She’d drape the coat over her shoulders, and he’d muster up all his remaining courage and move his right hand from two-o’clock to her knee and give it a squeeze. She’d place her hand over his and lace their fingers together in a move so natural, it would feel like they’d done it a hundred times before, and before he could help himself, he’d imagine a lifetime of nights and days like these, driving rain-slicked roads or sunbaked roads with her by his side.

They would get to the theater just before curtain, and stumble their way up to his private box, trying to stifle their laughter at the obviously contemptuous glares from the other patrons at the overall dampness of their attire.

They’d get to the box just in time to hear the orchestra warming up, and she would lean over and whisper in his ear, “That is my favorite sound in the whole world,” and he’d smile and say it was his too, even though that wasn’t exactly true, not anymore, because ever since she’d entered his life, the sound of her voice had become his favorite sound in the whole world. His hand would find hers again, and he wouldn’t let go until he had to so that they could applaud, but as soon as the clapping died down, their hands would tangle together again. He’d spend about half of the evening enjoying the show and the other half enjoying her reactions and the look of sheer rapture on her face as the story unfolded, because storytellers always appreciate good stories, and he, he appreciated her face.

After the show, they would walk slowly back to the car, and then he’d take her home the long way so that he could prolong the amount of time he got to be near to her and because part of him was afraid that as soon as he dropped her off, he’d wake up and realize that this had all just been a dream.

He’d pull into her driveway, and he’d walk her up to her door. The storm would have blown over by then, but the air would still be cool and damp, and she’d shiver slightly as she stood there on the stoop, fiddling with her keys. She’d look up at him and say, “I had a really nice time tonight,” and then she’d say his name, softly and like a question, testing the feel of it in her mouth, and then his mouth would be on hers and her hands would be in his hair and she’d taste like chocolate and feel like heaven and he’d think to himself as time stopped still, “I could die happy right now,” but also that this was just the beginning, the beautiful beginning to something extraordinary that he hoped would last far longer than this, the most incredible kiss of his life.

Yes, in his mind’s eye, William Darcy would have done a lot of things if Lizzie Bennet had only had the chance to say yes.

But he guessed now he’d never know.

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