Boots & Backpacks Prologue

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Since the B&B blog tour starts tomorrow and there will be various excerpts posted, I thought I’d post the Prologue here as an unofficial kick-off. The excerpts will make more sense if people have read this first.

 

Prologue

Distance from New York City: 0 miles
Forced matrimony in: 0 days

William Darcy turned onto Tenth Avenue and ran as fast as his new Merrell shoes would let him, which was much faster than his customary designer shoes would have. Elizabeth had introduced him to Merrell when she’d taken him to buy heavy-duty hiking boots. He had made derogatory comments about the style, questioned how they could be as great as she claimed, and generally acted like the spoiled jerk she had known him to be. But his Merrell boots had turned out to be the perfect fit once broken in. They’d carried him comfortably for 300 miles over rocky ridges, down sodden, puddled trails, and along country roads while hitchhiking into tiny towns. He had more incredible memories associated with those boots than he did with his closet full of Guccis, Hugo Bosses, and Ferragamos.

When he’d returned to New York, depressed, rejected, and missing Elizabeth, he’d immediately sought out a store that sold Merrells. They offered an entire line of sporty “urban” shoes, and he had bought four pairs. She’d been right about his footwear, as she had been about so many other things.

Darcy arrived at Penn Station and headed for the NJ Transit trains. He waited on the platform, hoping no one would recognize him. He only had an hour or two before the hordes would be looking for him again. A copy of The New York Tribune lay on a bench nearby. He picked it up and, hoping to blend in, began reading about himself.

Saturday, November 6

Most Eligible Bachelor to Wed Today

Retrospective and Exclusive details

by Gwen Younge

Our day of mourning has arrived, ladies. After months of wild speculation about his decision, and despite countless red-blooded females’ best efforts to alter his choice, William Darcy marries Anne De Bourgh today, on his 30th birthday. Since I’ve devoted the better part of my career to following his every romantic exploit, I feel now would be the perfect time to reflect back on the groom’s fascinating life story.

William Darcy IV, was born with all the advantages one could hope for. His father, William III, was a successful high-profile lawyer and the next obvious standard-bearer in the storied Darcy political dynasty. His mother, Anne, was a celebrated stage actress who came from “old money.” His parents’ fairy tale love affair began when William saw Anne perform, and their union was the toast of New York high society. Into this fairy tale, William Darcy IV, was born.

But, as is often the case, the fairy tale ended. Tragedy struck when William’s parents died in a plane crash, leaving the 12-year-old an orphan. With no close family surviving, he was left in the care of two women. The first, Catherine De Bourgh—his father’s trusted business partner in the famed Darcy & De Bourgh law firm—ruled over young William’s financial and legal concerns, seeing that his inheritance was well managed and that he received a world-class education. Despite having a daughter—today’s lucky bride, Anne—no one could ever accuse Cat De Bourgh of being motherly. I didn’t start calling her the “dragon lady” for nothing.

Perhaps to compensate for this motherly deficiency, the late Darcys’ will named a second guardian: Miriam Reynolds. Mrs. Reynolds, who had served as nanny to both William and his mother before him, became the everyday caregiver to the boy. Though meek compared to her dragon lady counterpart, Mrs. Reynolds has been fiercely protective of her charge’s privacy (what little there is of it). I can tell you from first-hand experience: no good gossip or juicy tidbits will ever escape from that nanny’s lips. The affection must be mutual, for she still lives in Darcy’s luxury penthouse to this day.

Darcy’s life went on normally, if such a thing can be said for the orphan of one of the most famous couples in NYC history. Anne De Bourgh was considered his on-again, off-again girlfriend, but there was always speculation as to whether these two, who grew up almost like siblings, were romantically inclined. When Darcy went off to college—Ivy League, of course—he behaved as any handsome young man might. Only years later did these co-eds realize they had consorted with the legendary William Darcy. At the time, he enjoyed much more anonymity than he does now.

That changed the summer prior to his start at Yale Law. Yours truly, in the greatest scoop of this reporter’s career, learned of the more eccentric provisions in the late Darcys’ will. In order to permanently secure the family fortune—conservative estimates place it at over $400 million—William Darcy must be married by the age of 30. And not a marriage in name only, but a marriage with limits on the amount of time the couple can spend apart, and requirements for the issuance of children by a certain date. Failing to meet these conditions, or a divorce, would result in Darcy forfeiting his inheritance. Well, you can imagine the collective reaction of the female populace once this bombshell was known. A single man who absolutely must get married to preserve his fortune must be in want of a wife. Mustn’t he?

One might think so, but Darcy has put up a fight over the last eight years. Perhaps it was his way of rebelling against his absent parents. Oh, there were women, LOTS of women (see my website for all the naughty details), but none lasted more than a night or two. Darcy and his law school pal, Charles Bingley, have caroused and canoodled with a multitude of Manhattan misses. Some hopefuls even made special trips to New York from far and wide for their chance at taming the savage bachelor. Dear old Mrs. Reynolds must have seen some things to make her blush.

Despite his extracurricular pursuits, Darcy managed to earn his Juris Doctor with distinction and began working, naturally, for Darcy & De Bourgh. To call his caseload light, however, is being overly kind. We mustn’t blame him though; his personal docket has been very full.
Where was Anne De Bourgh through all this, you ask? Just where she has always been: on the sidelines, but ever present. The notoriously press-shy heiress-in-her-own-right is nothing like her dragon lady mother. But whatever the relationship between Darcy and Ms. De Bourgh, neither of them would talk, nor would any of their closest friends and family. It was enough to drive a gossip columnist wild.

As his 30th birthday approached and the frenzy surrounding his marital status neared a crescendo, Darcy showed no signs of settling down. No one could imagine, however, that he would give up his birthright to continue his exploits, particularly when continuing them would be much more difficult without the lure of that $400 million. He had to give in, didn’t he? And Ms. De Bourgh was the safest choice. Some romantics theorized that he was holding out hope for Miss Right to come along, but this reporter doubts Darcy has ever believed in Miss Right.

In early September, the De Bourgh ladies, unable to cope with the circus their lives had become, made an escape for their island estate in the Florida Keys. Darcy did not go with them. An exclusive source close to Charles Bingley revealed that Darcy tried to convince his friend to accompany him on one last fling at an exclusive singles resort, but Bingley refused.

Then, the most amazing thing happened. About eight weeks ago, Darcy vanished without a trace. Believe me, this reporter was working her sources, calling in favors, and commanding the vast eyes and ears of her Twitter followers for any clue as to our dear boy’s location. But all to no avail. There were wild rumors and false alarms aplenty, but nothing that could be confirmed. After spending more than five weeks completely off the radar, Darcy resurfaced, offering no explanation. What a mystery! One last fling for the consummate bachelor before succumbing to matrimony! My readers were ready to give just about anything for the details, and I offered up a generous reward as enticement.

My ploy worked, and two days ago I published the exclusive pictures and details of William Darcy’s backpacking trip along the Appalachian Trail with one Elizabeth Bennet (24) of Ridgewood, NJ. To say I was surprised by this development would be an understatement, despite having received a tip from a reader who claimed to have given a ride to a buzz-cut, hitchhiking William Darcy and his female companion in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania. The prince of Manhattan slept in a tent on the ground and did his business in the woods? Indeed, he did!

Ms. Bennet stresses that she had only a passing acquaintance with Darcy before their trek together, but that he was desperate for a way to escape from the likes of yours truly. (Ms. Bennet disapproves of poor Darcy’s treatment by the press. Tsk tsk.) After her planned hiking companion bowed out at the last minute, she suggested Darcy go on the trip instead, as no one would look for him on the Appalachian Trail. Clever girl, that Ms. Bennet. She currently shares an apartment with her sister Jane (25), who, as it turns out, is the reason why Charles Bingley refused that last wild fling. The two are dating seriously.

With playboy Bingley finally tamed, could Elizabeth Bennet be Darcy’s long-anticipated Miss Right? I must say that even I thought it might be possible. But yesterday, Cat De Bourgh announced that her daughter and William Darcy will marry today in a small, private ceremony.

One person who will not be in attendance is Elizabeth Bennet. An avid outdoorswoman, Ms. Bennet plans to study forestry in grad school. She claims that Darcy made a great backpacker, and she wishes him much happiness in marriage.

And so, my dear readers, we come to the end of this saga. Today William Darcy will marry his long-time friend Anne De Bourgh, thus fulfilling the terms of his parents’ will in the nick of time. I’m not sure this is the fairy tale ending many people imagined, but it is real life. Happy Trails, Mr. Darcy. This reporter will certainly miss your exploits.

Darcy’s heart had begun pounding around the twelfth paragraph, and he startled at the announcement when the train arrived. It would take about an hour to reach Ridgewood, New Jersey. He had no idea what sort of reception he would get when he reached his destination, when he reached her, but he knew he couldn’t go through with marrying Anne. After everything he’d experienced in the last two months, he just couldn’t. He was a different person from the one described in the article, even from the one who had made this same trip only eight weeks ago. Darcy’s transformation had started well before he hoisted a 30-pound pack onto his back and stepped foot on the Appalachian Trail; it had started the first time he met Elizabeth Bennet.

 

And we’re off! The blog tour starts tomorrow with a guest post at Babblings of a Bookworm.

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