Shadow

Everyone loved Jane Bennet. She was the beauty of Hertfordshire. Lizzy acted impervious to all attention, but her witty mouth drew attention to her in each assembly. Mary was known for the strenuous interest she took into pursuing knowledge, and Lydia drew the eye of officers everywhere with her coquettish ways. Kitty Bennet's story was never told, brushed under the carpet like dirt no one wanted to view. She was second best to all, only acknowledged for the imitation game she played in Lydia's shadow. She was no longer going to be that girl. People would remember her. Based off Pride and Prejudice. For the Project Remix competition, and for all those still trying to find their voice. Cover credit goes to the incomparable @C.H. Potter... show her some love!

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1. Shadow: Kitty's story

A Pride and Prejudice fanfiction: Kitty's story

 

Shadow

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the adornment of a colourful shawl really does do wonders for the brightening of complexion. Winter didn't suit Kitty's pale tone; she would blend with the background if she didn't act immediately. Now resolved, the shawl was in her possession soon after. With the warmth of a purchase warming her heart, she waded her way home, ignorant of the stares gossiping women slipped her way; the cackled whispers of her indelicacy at walking all the way to Meryton alone barely a mere murmur in the recesses of her mind.

Familiar dread washed over her- like the frigid water left alone for hours before she managed to bathe- at the sight of the grounds of Longbourne. Painting an unconcerned grin on her face, she paced to the parlour, draping herself over the closest chair so as to be the first thing her family would see as they entered.

Sooner than she had expected, the indignant cries of Mary erupted, Lydia having somehow aggravated her. Wickham's refusal to defend his wife came a few moments later, Mrs Bennet's cries of the injustice to her daughters and her poor nerves after that: Mr Bennet's adamant decision to remain a bystander only escalated the tension in the situation.

No one even looked her way as they brought their differences into the room she currently resided in.

Mrs Bennet was the first to notice her. "Oh, my dearest Kitty, I do feel ill indeed! My poor nerves are shattered with the stay of my dearest Lydia; Mary is reluctant to remain amiable with her. I do believe if we do not find a suitable partner for her this coming season, she will become an old spinster soon; we shall become the mockery of Hertfordshire! No man shall want you!"

"Oh, Mama," Kitty sighed, lowering her shawl whilst admiring the way it brightened in the weak sunlight that filtered through. "You do worry so. Mary and I shall be perfectly fine! My aunt is perfectly convinced she has at least three men waiting to dance with me so if Mary remains unwed, I shall by no means be left on the shelf! If Mary wishes, she can take one of the men I wish to dance with; I am sure of there being a vicar who would enjoy discussing sermons with her."

A truth half-told was not in the same class as a lie. In fact, her Aunt had informed her of three men coming specifically in season to attend any balls held to meet potential marriage prospects, but there really was no need to agonise her mother any longer. Taking calculated steps forward- she needed to be in prime position to showcase herself- Kitty presented her shawl with a flourish, enjoying the light weight of it slip through her fingers. By no means intended to be a winter purchase, she thought it would perfectly complement the outfit she planned to wear at the ball.

No one acknowledged her move.

The altercation that had been their main concern before her entrance continued with no major disruption.

She was thankful of Lydia's return to her marital home in a fortnight.

Being ignored was worse than knowing the only reason officers spoke to her was to know of her more accomplished siblings- in the way of beauty, wit, intellect and flirtatious conversation.

XxX

By the time her shawl was finally fit to be worn thee months later, Kitty Bennet knew the exact circumstance she would later put herself in so she would never be a sideline feature again.

Mrs Bennet busied herself wholeheartedly into making connections, her whispers no longer hidden from most of the inhabitants of Netherfield: "Oh, my Jane really was the prettiest girl in every gathering! She's to be with child soon," -this she added quietly to give some semblance of importance to her words- "And if it's a boy... well, it really would be a delight!" At Elizabeth's entrance, she was in raptures, pointing her out to anyone who hadn't already heard the tale. "Miss Elizabeth Darcy is, of course, my second eldest! Mary and Kitty are yet to be wed, but I doubt of any delay on their parts, especially with both the Bingley and Darcy names attached so firmly to ours!"

This was the cue Kitty had been awaiting so patiently, and Mrs Bennet had not disappointed. Determinedly stalking forward, she fanned her face excessively, drawing the attention of those surrounding her. Clasping a hand to a perspiring forehead, she complained of a headache, asking for some attention in private.

Now concerned- and rightly so- Mrs Bennet was close to frenetic as she hobbled over to an alcove adjacent to the ballroom, worried the conversation may drift to a topic that wasn't on how she had achieved so much with her daughters.

"My dear," she wailed, brushing Kitty's own shawl over her face to wipe away the blush gathered there, "Whatever is the matter? You do know how Mrs Long loves to speak of our inconsistencies and now those gathered here will be led to believe you have a deathly disease and can dance with no man!"

She had granted the perfect opening and set the stage fantastically. "I shall dance with no man, Mama." Kitty's resolve only strengthened at the horror withheld in the eyes that were a mirror of her own dull brown. "Nor shall I dance at any other event."

Mrs Bennet was incapable of voicing the fear that struck her heart in that instance. Her mouth could only open and shut fruitlessly, nerves fraught with heightened tension. She had only just been boasting of her ability to mould any woman into a housewife: her own daughter refusing to comply was unheard of!

"My dear, why ever not? I assure you there are a great many gentleman here willing to dance with you, including those with whom you are already acquainted! All of them are most distinguished fellows, three of whom are in the navy! Oh, imagine the status you would be host of!"

"I am by no means incapable of securing a husband, Mama. I am choosing not to. Being in the service of the country does not automatically give example of their good character. Lydia did, after all, elope with a man of the army."

"Oh, that I had died long ago to refrain from hearing the knives you throw at me disguised as words! You do tease me so, Kitty!"

"Mama, I assure you, I am of sane mind and most assuredly have the highest concern for you also. I only wish to have my own say on the matter. Who is to say my only worth will be that of my last name bestowed upon me by my husband? Do I not deserve identification through other means?"

Mrs Bennet grasped at her chest, fanning herself in the meagre hope of postponing the inevitable fever she was sure to be inflicted with. "The occupation of a man is to give his wife recognition; a woman does not aim to find it through- God forbid- employment. Where is my dear Mr Bennet? He shall knock some sense into your advanced mind- earning your own name indeed! I never heard of such rubbish. Not one woman has had such ridicule attached to them in the whole of Hertfordshire. Accompanying a brother or father on family business as the Miss Bingley's do is reputable, but for someone with no exceptional qualifications to their name? No, it simply does not stand. I shall not speak to you if this is the path you wish to pursue, Kitty. I swear it."

Kitty had presumed their conversation would lead to her mother claiming to ostracise herself from her: hadn't she did the same thing when poor Lizzy denied Mr Collins' hand in marriage? Brief terror gripped her heart at the thought of never being permitted to see her family again, but it was short lived. After all, hadn't her father intervened the last time Mrs Bennet had spewed such words?

"I remain firm to my decision, Mama. I shall not lower myself to be with any man; they are not worthy of me."

She pulled her treasured shawl off her shoulders, letting it linger in her possession for a sweet instant before pressing it into her mother's waiting palms. "This is my most beloved belonging. Treasure it, as I shall treasure you and Papa and all my lovely sisters."

"Kitty?" Mrs Bennet's face was a myriad of new emotions: the anger and bewilderment and sensitivity replaced by regret and fear. "You shall be with us. There is no use in you gifting this beautiful shawl upon me!"

Bitterness at Mrs Bennet for never paying attention dominated the sympathy she felt for the mother who had only ever craved praise, albeit in a way that predominantly harmed those she held closest. It was this that led her next move; a quick press of lips to her mother's cheek before exiting hastily through the door hidden away beside an unflattering tapestry.

As promised, Miss Austen lay in wait beside an unfashionable stagecoach, carrying only a brother of hers whom she tenderly chastised using his full name, Frank James Austen, and her sister with whom Kitty had already made her acquaintance with.

With gentle fingers, Miss Austen clasped Katherine Bennet's hand, inviting confidence without the conscious intention of it. "Leaving when accompanied by tears is a gesture of love. Leaving without is holding no heart towards your family."

Swift fingers wiped away the remaining tears from Kitty's flushed cheeks. "Crying to an extent where I no longer believe this is what you want is foolishness. Remember, this is only for a month until being at home is bearable for you. Do not fret, Kitty: you shall be home soon and they shall accept you for the young and intelligent woman you are growing to become."

"I will be forever grateful of your acquaintance, Miss Austen," Kitty exclaimed graciously, "And if there is anything I can do to repay your kindness, all you need to do is name it."

"Well." Miss Austen's eyes sparkled with a mischief Kitty had only associated with Lizzy until date. "I'm unsure if you would recall a matter I told you a mere fortnight prior to this conversation. I am aiming to pursue a career in writing, and I would be honoured if I may use your character."

"Of course! Pray, don't make it too accurate a representation; I wouldn't want the world to know of my flaws and whims!"

"I assure you," Miss Austen laughed heartily, "Once my vision is penned, you will be at a loss wondering as to which aspect of you I utilised aside from your name!"

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