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one

Caroline is nursing her third rum and coke, wondering if she should down it and go for a fourth, when a handsome blond man slides in the barstool next to her, the one she’d been saving for whoever she ended up flirting with for her next drink.

“Caroline, right?” the man says, looking vaguely familiar.  “Drinking alone? Pathetic much?”

It takes her too long to place him, because he looks different when his face isn’t two inches wide on a grainy computer screen.  (Fine, that’s catty and patently false—Lizzie Bennet may be a judgmental, holier-than-thou prude without an ounce of originality, but purveyor of grainy Youtube videos she was not, even if her video quality was more the fruit of Charlotte’s labors than anything Lizzie deigned lift a finger for.  No, the real reason Caroline wasn’t able to extrapolate from the tiny pixelated abs on her laptop screen to the suave if slightly too polished man in front of her probably had more to do with the higher-than-usual rum-to-coke ratio in her last drink.)

“Of all the gin joints in all the world,” Caroline says, then downs the rest of her drink.  She’s too sober for this shit. “You’re the hot, dumb one. George something, right?”

“Better the hot dumb one than the hot bitchy one,” George something—Wickham!  That’s his name! —says carelessly, flagging down the bartender with a raised eyebrow and a flicked finger.  (Caroline is impressed despite herself. His smooth carriage and self confidence hadn’t quite come across on screen, but she supposes there is no way to really convey his charisma through a computer. She always wondered how two Bennet girls could fall so easily for nothing more than a pretty face—now she can see the appeal for herself.)  “Tell me, darling, how did that play out with the viewers? Didn’t Lizzie say you worked in PR? How did your Lizzie experience end up such a PR disaster?”

“Don’t call me darling,” Caroline says in clipped tones.  “And you’re one to talk. You went from hot dumb one to evil blackmailing mastermind.  How’d that go over with your precious viewers?”

Wickham smirks, a devilish curl of his lip that just makes him rakishly charming.  “Don’t let the Darcy/Bennet spin machine fool you. I made enough money off the sale of that website to keep myself comfortably in the lifestyle to which I am accustomed for another few years yet.  So to recap, I made bank off Darcy, fucked over the judgmental Bennet sister, taught the dumb Bennet sister a valuable life lesson, and still have a sizable Internet following of fans who think I was woefully misunderstood.  That’s how it went over.”

He slides another rum and coke to her from the bartender and raises his glass as if to toast his success.  Caroline waits a beat before picking up her drink, to make it clear she is not celebrating his ego. He's working his way up to something, she can tell.  His smooth patter, his charming wink, it’s all a part of a story he’s trying to sell. She wants to see where this goes. Even if he makes her skin crawl.

“Congratulations,” she says, and touches her lips to the drink.  She wouldn’t take an actual sip of anything George Wickham had handled if you paid her.  “So now you’re bragging in bars?”

“I saw a familiar face and thought I might introduce myself,” he says.

He’s taking too long to get to the point.  “Well, you’ve introduced yourself. Thanks for the drink.”  Caroline turns her back. If she has Wickham’s measure …

“Darling,” he whispers in her ear, suddenly that much closer.  Caroline refuses to flinch, because she knows it’s what he wants.  A man like Wickham doesn’t take kindly to being dismissed. She’d prefer it if his immediate reaction weren’t to invade her personal space, but a rattled Wickham is a vulnerable one, and she needs him to make a mistake so she can figure out his game.

He trails a finger down her bare arm.  Instead of punching him like she wants, Caroline turns on her smile.  “Didn’t I say not to call me darling?” she demands, faking an indignant huff that hides her utter revulsion.  Then she turns her head to look at him from under her lashes, so that her lips are inches from his. She smiles, parts her lips, and then she breathes, “Fuck off.”

She grabs her purse, and she turns to leave.

One.

Two.

“What would you say if I had a way for you to get revenge on Lizzie Bennet?”

“Why would I need revenge?” she asks.  She doesn’t turn around, but she stops.

“Because she humiliated you on the Internet, because she took your man, because she dragged your name through the mud?  Take your pick.”

“What if I’m not a vengeful person?” she asks.  She turns around this time, cocks her hip, props her hand on her waist, eyeing him carefully.  She looks like a model, or like she’s posing for a movie, not a hair out of place. She knows, because she can see herself reflected in the mirrored panels behind the bar.

Because there is always someone watching—in this case a sleazy douchebag.

“Oh Caroline, darling,” he chuckles.  “You can lie to yourself, but don’t lie to me.  You and I both know that what you are at heart is a vengeful bitch.”

Caroline contemplates him, rakish charm and all.  “You know,” she says wonderingly, “I rather agree.”


four

“A little more to the left,” Caroline demands imperiously when she spies the unbearable Bennet matriarch approaching.  The staff ignore her completely, but the camouflage has served its purpose. Seeing and dismissing her, the officious Mrs. Bennet goes after her youngest daughter instead, Lydia having unwisely chosen to sit down at a table to play games on her phone instead of helping set up.

God, she really needs a cigarette.  Instead, Caroline exercises extraordinary strength of will and does not bite her thumbnail.  She hasn’t bitten her nails since middle school, when her mother had started inspecting her nails every night and threatened to shave her head if she ever found evidence of biting.  Anyways, she’d paid too much for her fucking manicure to ruin it with an attack of nerves.

“Ugh, fine!” the littlest Bennet huffs in the background, and Caroline immediately bends to pretend to inspect the floral centerpieces as if she were some kind of botanical quality control, until Mrs. Bennet passes behind her.  Mrs. Bennet is determined that the Bennet/Darcy union go off without a hitch. Unfortunately, she is driving everyone crazy in her quest for perfection.

Fortunately, the doors have closed behind Mrs. Bennet by the time Caroline’s phone chimes.  She doesn’t even need to check to know what it says, but she does anyways.

From a number she has saved as 笑里藏刀:  

here where r u

She waits five minutes, because men like him don’t respect you unless you make them kick their heels a bit, and then replies:

Be at the back door in five.

She looks around, but nobody is watching her.  The staff are busy setting every table. The wee Bennet had reappeared at some point, presumably having completed whatever task her mother had set her in the first place, and had learned from her earlier mistake—she is still absorbed in her phone, but is sitting in the back corner, partially hidden by a plant, making her much easier for Mrs. Bennet to miss.

Caroline sails on by and through the door.

Caroline visited the botanical gardens when the venue was first selected to get the lay of the land, taking care to pop by the greenhouse-turned-wedding-hall where the reception would be held.  She needn’t have bothered. In the last week, she’s been back for the venue walkthrough last week, the wedding rehearsal last night and the Mrs. Bennet freakout later last night (that had resulted in a panicked midnight trip to the venue and a small amount of breaking-and-entering, since the botanical gardens weren’t exactly open at that time of night).  

For someone not officially part of the wedding party and who wasn’t particularly fond of either the bride or the groom these days, Caroline’s been more involved in this wedding than she had anticipated.  But it was all for a worthy goal.

Now, as Caroline makes her way down the hallway to the back entrance, ducking out of sight of the security cameras and avoiding the bridal dressing rooms, she is more than satisfied with her level of preparation.  She doesn’t meet another soul. Point to Caroline.

She discreetly checks to see nobody has emerged into the hallway and is in sight, before she deftly unlocks the back door and looks into the gorgeous blue eyes of George Wickham.

“Took you long enough, darling,” he smirks— ugh she wants to punch him in the teeth —and then swings his arm around her shoulder to pull her in for a smack of his lips.

She shoves him away in disgust.  “I am working with you for one reason and one reason only.  Keep that in mind or I’ll fucking tear your balls off myself.”

“Kinky,” Wickham grins and she suppresses a shudder.

“This way,” she bites out, and takes him down a left, and then right, then through a door.  Mrs. Bennet had insisted on using almost every room in the Gardner Pavilion for some sort of purpose—one as a dressing room for the bridesmaids, one as a modified photo booth for the guests later on, and so on.  Caroline had taken note of the one the botanical gardens had already earmarked for their own storage, the only one Mrs. Bennet couldn’t invade.

It’s pretty roomy for now—they’ve taken out all of the tables and most of the chairs to set up in the greenhouse/ballroom.  Fortunately, as Caroline ascertained in advance, there’s still a few folding screens set up.  Caroline immediately shoos Wickham behind one. “Stay there and don’t move an inch until your cue.”

“How long ‘til they get here?” Wickham wants to know.  “I don’t have all day.”

“Have faith, I’m setting the wheels in motion now,” Caroline says, and fires off a few texts.

“God, I can’t wait to see the look on-“

“Shhh, I think I hear someone coming,” Caroline says.  It’s a lie—she doesn’t hear anything, but the less she has to hear Wickham’s sleazy voice the better.

A few minutes pass, and she can tell Wickham is gearing up to say something again. She’s wondering how she’s possibly going to shut him up when the door creaks open.

“William?” Lizzie’s voice comes as she steps inside.  She’s in her wedding dress, a sleek white thing with an empire waist and cap sleeves and unnecessary amounts of lace—a little outdated as wedding dress trends go (like something out of a period drama) but yet she makes it look fresh and chic.  How disgustingly Lizzie of her. She’s only half-zipped, had clearly been halfway through her toilette before she came to the storage room.

Lizzie steps in, barely sweeping her train out of the way before the door swings closed behind her and then draws to a stop, visibly surprised to see Caroline perched on one of the few chairs left in the empty room, scrolling through her phone.  “Hello, Lizzie,” Caroline says, not even bothering to fake surprise.

“Caroline,” Lizzie says stiffly.  A detente had been negotiated after The Unspeakable Vlog Incident (as Caroline refers to it in her head), but neither of the two are happy about it and each have only bothered to make this effort for the sake of their respective siblings.  Caroline may be at the woman’s wedding but she’s not friends with Lizzie or anything.  “Have you seen William? Lydia said he-”

The door opens behind her.  “Lizzie? Gi-” William steps inside as well, and then pauses at the tableau.  “Caroline,” he says, as stiffly as Lizzie had. A pity. He used to be a good friend, once, but Caroline doesn’t think they’ll ever be more than distant acquaintances again.

“Hello, William,” Caroline says coolly, inclining her head in his direction.  “You’re both here. Good.”

“What a surprise,” a voice says from behind her, and Caroline sees both William and Lizzie visibly recoil as Wickham presumably steps out from behind the screen in the most theatrical way possible.  “Isn’t it bad luck for the groom to see the bride on the wedding day?”

“What are you doing here, George?” Lizzie demands.  “How did you get inside?”

“How could I miss your special day?” Wickham says, and Caroline hears his voice get closer before he places his hand on her shoulder.  Caroline suppresses her flinch of disgust.

“Caroline, what is this?” William’s voice is tight.

“When Caro darling approached me about making sure your happy day goes off without a hitch, how could I say no?”  Wickham is ad-libbing a little, and Caroline frowns. Things have been set in motion and Wickham better not do anything to screw things up.  

Lizzie inhales sharply, and Caroline rolls her eyes.  Lizzie sounds awfully shocked and betrayed for someone who doesn’t even like her.

“What, did you think everything would be sunshine and roses after you stole her man, just because your sister convinced her brother to join her in a life of financial irresponsibility?”  Wickham presses his lips to Caroline’s hair, and she makes a moue of distaste. “No, Caroline’s like me. She knows how to hold a grudge.”

Wickham is really off-script now.  It turns out that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

“Enough with the pleasantries, we’re on a schedule,” Caroline says.  “George is here to congratulate you on your special day. He’s not here to ruin it … necessarily.  He just needs one thing. George?”

“A check,” Wickham says, taking his cue for once.  “I’m not the wicked fairy here to gatecrash your wedding because I wasn’t invited.  Like Caro says, I’m here for one reason, really. Blackmail.”

Finally.


three

“No,” Caroline says.  “I refuse to participate if you’re going to be that cliché.”  She shudders exaggeratedly.

“I’ve just always wanted to stop a wedding dramatically,” Wickham sighs, and steals one of her fries.

They have a crappy booth in a crappy diner because they needed a certain amount of anonymity and seclusion for this but there was no way in hell Caroline was letting him in her apartment, or going to his.  Ergo: a crappy booth in a crappy diner that was probably a money-laundering front for some mob or other. Wickham already finished his burger in record time and has spent the last 20 minutes stealing her fries.  She’s been deciding whether she’s annoyed enough to stop him.

No, she needs to stay on his good side for now, until this thing is over.

“First of all,” she says patiently, “brides and grooms in modern weddings can choose or otherwise provide input into what the officiant says, so most weddings no longer have the ‘Speak now or forever hold your peace’ line, and I can guarantee you that this will be true for Darcy and Lizzie.  They’re not stupid.”

“Aww …” Wickham says absentmindedly, and steals another fry.

“Second of all, we don’t live in a Bronte novel or a romantic comedy—there’s very little you could say that would actually stop the wedding, unless you think doing so will convince the bride or groom to run off with you or someone else, which is unlikely ... or you have evidence of a prior marriage that is still legally binding. Is that it?”

Wickham shakes his head.  Wickham has refused to share with her what his dirt on William and/or Lizzie is.  He says he doesn’t trust her. It has become untenable. Time to do something about it.

“Without knowing what you’re planning on confronting them with, it’s hard to make a game plan.  Have you at least thought about what your end goal is?”

“Stopping the wedding,” Wickham says without hesitation.

“But why?” Caroline demands.  Lord save her from nincompoops.  “Do you want to stop the wedding for its own sake?  Do you have some vested interest in Darcy remaining single?  Were you hoping to steal away Lizzie? Or did you just want to publicly embarrass him?”

“That last one,” Wickham says.

“Now we’re getting somewhere,” Caroline says.  “Why?”

“I want him to know how it feels,” Wickham says savagely.  “I want him to think he’s about to get everything he wants—and then I want him to lose it all in one fell swoop.  I want him to suffer the way I did. I want him to lose his friends, his family, his reputation. And I want to take that bitch down a peg, too.”

Caroline lets out a tinkling-bell laugh, hiding her discomfort with his outburst.  “That’s rather a lot to accomplish in one day,” she says, and thinks—This could go very badly if I let him lead.  “All this because … you have evidence of infidelity?  Or tax fraud? Or something?”

“I have a sex tape.”  Wickham mimes dropping a microphone, and Caroline is not sure she has been more actively disgusted by his character before now.

“I think the entire Internet is well aware that you made a sex tape with the youngest Bennet,” Caroline says.  “I’m not sure that’s the ace in the hole you think it is.”

“Not the one with Lydia,” Wickham says irritably.  “Darcy bought all the rights to that when he bought the website, so I can’t make any money off that video.  And like you said, everyone on the Internet knows about it already.”

Ah, yes.  If you can’t sell the video, you can’t make money off it.  And there’s no real way to blackmail someone into giving you money to keep quiet about something if everyone already knows.  Anyone who Googles Lydia Bennet can find out about the sex tape in the first page of Google results. It’s on her Wikipedia page.  She’ll probably never live it down, but it does mean she can’t really be blackmailed about it.

“Are you saying that Lizzie and Darcy made a sex tape and you got your hands on it?”  Caroline is skeptical. She doesn’t like the couple, but they’re not stupid and post-Lydia-scandal, they would, or should, know to be extra cautious.

“No,” Wickham says.  “You’re forgetting someone else I got up close and personal with once upon a time—Gigi Darcy.”

Caroline doesn’t betray what she’s thinking.  She knows he’s watching her for weakness. He has just revealed his trump, and he needs to know she won’t recoil in outrage, won’t walk away, won’t ruin his plans.  He needs to know she won’t tattle. He needs to trust her.

Caroline allows her lips to curl into a smile.  “I see. That, I can work with.”

“Work with?” Wickham says.

“Well, first of all, you need to rethink your approach.  You’re not going after Darcy for what he has done, but for his sister’s indiscretions.”

“So?”

“So we need to refine our parameters.  You said what’s important to you is not the disruption of the wedding, which would cause public humiliation, sure, but then it would be over.  You said you want to to stick it to Darcy. You want him to feel the sting of it every time he thinks of you. You want him to suffer not just once, but every day afterwards.”

“Yes,” Wickham says, leaning forward.  “Exactly.”

“The wedding is a red herring.”

“Is it?” Wickham says.  He probably doesn’t even know what a red herring is.

“We’ll want to plan your confrontation for the wedding day itself, of course, because then you can forever color his memory of what was meant to be the happiest day of his life.  But you don’t want to confront him at the ceremony.”

“I don’t?”

“No, too many variables in play.  But if you approach him on the wedding day, before the wedding ceremony, he’ll spend the entire time before the ceremony stressed and the entire ceremony itself thinking of nothing but you.”

Wickham’s eyes light up.

“Additionally, because this relates to his sister’s indiscretions rather than his own, you don’t really want to publicly humiliate him.  If you published the video, it would end up hurting his sister rather than him—he would be sad, but in the long run it wouldn’t affect him or have much longstanding impact on his life.  It’s not a video he’s in. It’s not his secret exposed. He would get over it. However, the fear that you could release a video—that is a fear that will keep him on his toes for as long as you dangle the threat in front of him.”

“Even if I never follow through?” Wickham frowns.

God, you can lead a horse to water but it really shouldn’t be this hard to make the horse fucking drink.

“You would need, of course, the right incentive,” Caroline says, and then looks meaningfully at him.  

It still takes him a few beats.  No one could accuse Wickham of being the sharpest tool in the shed.  Finally, his eyes light up. “Ah. I see. Darling, did I ever tell you that you have a brilliant mind?”

Caroline smiles again.  This time it’s genuine.


five

“We were friends once,” William says, voice tight with anger.  “You watched my sister grow up. And then you broke her heart. Now this?”  Lizzie used to joke on camera about William Darcy’s expressions being robotic, but Caroline had never had any trouble reading his face. Now, especially, anyone can see the anger in his jaw and the coldness in his eyes.

Caroline is growing impatient.  William and Wickham have been going back and forth like this for the last fifteen minutes.  William tries to appeal to Wickham’s principles (ha!).  Wickham tries to rile William up.  Rinse and repeat. Any second now, there will be another ...

“She was such a sweet lay, too,” Wickham says, right on cue.  “Gotta tell you, Will, Gigi’ll make some lucky guy real happy one day.  So hungry for validation she’ll do anything.”

Caroline decides to intervene.  William looks like he’s two seconds from punching Wickham and while that would be a sight to see, it will put them behind schedule.

“George, stop playing with your food,” she reprimands.  “Name your terms.”

“Easy,” Wickham shrugs.  “I have here a USB drive with a copy of the video.  I want you to write me a check for $50,000. In exchange, I will not share this video with your wedding guests.  Once the check has cleared, I will mail you this USB drive. If the check doesn’t clear, well … the Hiltons and the Kardashians managed to get reality TV shows out of their leaked tapes.  I’m sure if Gigi is entrepreneurial enough, she can do the same for the Darcy name. I can assure you she has the screen presence to pull it off.”

William makes as if to lunge forward at that last remark, but Lizzie holds him back with a hand on his arm.  “A copy,” Lizzie repeats.  “But not the only copy.” She was always the smart one.

“No,” Wickham acknowledges.  “I’m mailing you a copy when the check clears so you know what’s on the video.  So you can’t tell yourself it’s not that bad, so you can’t lie to yourself that you can weather the storm.  When you get this copy in the mail, it’s so you know what’s at stake.”

“So I can remember what’s at stake each time you come back to me for more,” William says dully.

“I’m glad you understand.  I intend for this to be an ongoing revenue stream.”

This, too, had been Caroline’s idea.  Wickham had loved it.  I’m going to slowly bleed him dry for every penny he has, Wickham had said, eyes alight, under the mistaken impression that the idea had been his own.

“So is that a yes or a no?” Wickham asks.  “Your wedding is set to start soon, so you don’t have long to decide.  Tick tock.”

“Of course I’ll write the check,” William says, already pulling out his checkbook. When he hands the check to Wickham, he is literally trembling with anger.  “You will take this check and you will leave. Any future correspondence can be by email,” he says. “I cannot be held accountable for any damage I do your face if I should see you again.”

Wickham smirks.  “It was a pleasure doing business with you,” he says, and he tucks the check into his jacket pocket.

“Perfect,” Caroline says.  “Did you get that?”

Wickham, William and Lizzie all turn to her, confused.

The door opens, and Gigi steps inside.  She is wearing the same bridesmaids’ dress that the youngest Bennet was in earlier, only in a different shade of blue, a floaty periwinkle thing that suits her slim frame, and gold open-toed heels. She holds something black in her left hand, which she clicks.

It was a pleasure doing business with you, Wickham’s voice comes out, crackling a little.

“Loud and clear,” reports Gigi.

“And the video?” Caroline says.

“Crystal clear quality,” the littlest Bennet says, as she steps out from behind one of the other screens.

“What is going on here?” Wickham says.  He’s confused, but he senses that something has gone wrong.

“Oh, George,” Lydia says, tucking away the phone she’d been using to record.  “Peaches.  Let me explain.  You see, we just caught you redhanded, trying to blackmail Darcy.  And I didn’t know this, but apparently blackmail is a criminal offense.”  She holds up her hands and shrugs.

“Oh really?” Caroline says, playing the straight man.  “A criminal offense?”

“According to Gigi’s lawyer, it’s punishable by up to three years in prison in California. So I’m sure there are a few people who would be very interested in this.”  She wiggles her phone.

“Lydia,” Wickham says.  “Baby. You don’t want to do this.”

“Oh, I very much do,” Lydia says, her voice brittle.

“But- this wasn’t even my idea!  It was her!” He gestures wildly to Caroline, having cottoned on.  “This is entrapment!”

“Entrapment is when it’s a police officer doing it,” Caroline says.  “Darling.”

“Anyways, we have you on tape bragging about your idea,” Lydia says.  “We have lots of tape where you talk about how brilliant you are, to come up with this.”

Wickham sees this line of argument won’t work.  He’s always been good at abandoning sinking ships.  Instead he turns to Gigi. “Gigi. Babe. You wouldn’t let them do this to me, right?  You still feel a little something for me, right? I was your first love! And anyways, you don’t want that tape out there, part of the public record, do you?”

“I did love you once, George,” Gigi say, and Caroline can hear the regret in her voice.  “And then you crushed my heart. I was an innocent before I met you.”

“You were so sweet,” Wickham says, and holds his hands out.

“I was so determined to be resourceful, to be independent, to be smart.”  Gigi shakes her head. “I cried for months after you left.”

“I had to, babe, I didn’t mean to,” Wickham protests, but Caroline sees the light start to dawn that it’s not going to work.

“I was so young back then,” Gigi says, “so naive.  And precocious.” She looks him in the eye. “You were my first love.  My first kiss. My first lover.”  She gestures at the USB in his hand.  “And my first sex tape, it looks like.”

“You don’t want this out there, Gigi,” Wickham says solemnly, holding up the USB.  “You don’t want to stain the Darcy name with this.”

“I was young, and I was precocious,” Gigi repeats.  “And I was smart. And you would remember this if you bothered to remember anything about me, but one of the reasons I was so excited about college was because I had graduated high school in three years instead of four to start university a year early.”

Wickham looks confused.

“That means I was 17 years old when we met, George.  It means I was 17 when I ran into you on campus. It means I was 17 the first time we had sex.  It means I was 17 when you made that.”

Wickham looks uneasy, but he clearly doesn’t understand yet.

“It means that within the definition of California law, what we did was statutory rape, and that tape is child pornography.”

Wickham is starting to look white.

“It means that you have created and distributed child pornography.  It means that the blackmail is the least of your worries. You’re going to jail for a long time, George,” Gigi says, and her voice is firm.

Wickham sinks to his knees in an overdramatic display of despair.

Lydia has been moving towards Gigi as she speaks, so that they now stand side by side before him, like avenging angels, victory and triumph writ across their brow.

(Lizzie and William sort of stand off to the side, clearly a bit confused, but letting their respective younger sisters take the lead.)

It isn’t over—Wickham is going to turn on his charm one last desperate time, she knows, and then he and the girls will have to come to an agreement on the price of their silence.  But those are all things she talked to Lydia and Gigi in advance about, and she know they have it handled it from here.

So this moment is the tableau she freezes in her memory, a Renaissance painting come to life.  

Caroline's work here is done.


two

Caroline looks out the cab as it wends its way back uptown, listens to the pitter-patter of the drizzle and watches the raindrops as they slowly make their way down the window.  As a child, she and Bing used to “race” during rainy car trips. They would each choose a raindrop and watch with bated breath to see whose raindrop would make it to the bottom of the window first.

Bing usually won.  He was charmed like that—everything he touched turned to gold.

(He probably cheated and used physics.)

She remembers one time, however, when the “match” had ended in a tie.  Three-quarters of the way down the window, their two raindrops had combined, forming one fat drop that slid the rest of the way down with ease.

Fuck, that was probably a metaphor for something.

Caroline watches the blurry streetlights and the street signs go past, checks her location absently on her phone.  ETA 2:05am, her rideshare app informs her.  Ten minutes until she can collapse into bed and pretend this night never happened.  God, why is she still so sober after three rum-and-cokes. (Was rum-and-cokes right?  Should it be rums-and-coke?  Or rums-and-cokes?  Maybe she was still a little tipsy …)

Fuck it.  

She flicks aside the rideshare app and pulls up her contacts, selects the number saved as 走为上计 and dials.

It rings once, then twice.  Caroline remembers that it’s almost 2AM and normal people are asleep.  Maybe she should just try in the morning.

On the third ring, someone picks up.  “ Caro-?” a voice asks, groggy with sleep.

Caroline’s shoulders relax, and for a moment she can pretend that nobody is watching her, that she doesn’t have to put on an act.

“Gigi,” she says, “you will never guess who just made the most intriguing offer to me …”

She gazes at her reflection in the car window, and smiles.


postscript :

“Cheers, bitches,” Lydia says, setting three glasses of red wine on the table that clink against each other.  She doesn’t even pretend to care when she accidentally spills some on her dress as she hands them out to Gigi and Caroline.

“To vengeance,” she toasts, raising her glass.

“To justice,” Gigi echoes, raising hers as well.

Caroline rolls her eyes, but joins them in raising her glass.  “To never having to look at Wickham’s fucking face again.”

As one, they drain their glasses.

“Thanks god it’s all over and done with,” Lydia says.  “Between wedding prep and our Quest for Vengeance, I haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep in ages.”

“I, for one, am not planning on getting a full night’s sleep tonight either,” Caroline laughs.

“Hey, Caro,” Gigi says, and puts her hand over Caroline’s.  “I know that George is a sleaze, so—thanks.”

“Yeah,” Lydia says awkwardly.  “Thanks.”

Caroline shrugs uncomfortably.  “It needed to be done.”

“But not everyone would have done it,” Gigi says.

“Speaking of,” Lydia says, and her eyes dart between Caroline and Gigi, “I have a friend of a friend whose dickbag ex is threatening to text her nudes to her friends and family if she doesn’t get back together with him.  She doesn’t know what to do. I was thinking … would you guys be up for giving her a hand?”

“I’m in,” Gigi says immediately.

Caroline catches Gigi’s and Lydia’s eye, and she cannot help but smile.  “I’m in, too,” she says, with only a little hesitation.

“Great!” Lydia grins. “Because I have some ideas …”

fin