The music links I provide are mostly just for an extra experience if you’re interested, but I would consider the concerto referenced in this chapter to be almost required listening while you read. See the end of the chapter for links. You owe it to yourself to put yourself in Elizabeth’s seat in the concert hall.
 

From the San Francisco Chronicle, Saturday, November 3:

News story about William’s concert - 
describes the concert as a triumph; however, it was difficult to bring William back to the stage for an encore,
and when he played, it was a dark Rachmaninoff prelude. Orchestra members reported that it was supposed to be a 
piano/orchestral arrangement of ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’

Elizabeth dropped the newspaper onto the floor and leaned her head against the sofa back, closing her eyes. She had warned herself not to read the Entertainment section of the paper, but like the tendency of a tongue to probe a sore tooth, she hadn’t been able to resist. She felt a dull ache as she imagined William playing the somber Rachmaninoff prelude1 instead of the encore she knew he had chosen for her.

After two consecutive sleepless nights, she felt as wilted as the rose William had brought with him yesterday afternoon. She struggled to her feet, tripping over the belt of her terrycloth robe, and rescued the thirsty flower from the dining room table. Poor thing. None of this is your fault. Jane could put it in her bedroom, out of sight, if it wasn’t already too far gone.

Elizabeth studied the blossom on her way to the kitchen. It seemed impossible that only eight days ago she and William had made love in the rose-filled paradise he had created for her. Eight days ago? No. A lifetime.

Once the rose was safely installed in a bud vase, she fetched her teacup from the living room and returned to the kitchen to refill it. Then she sank into a chair and wrapped her hands around the cup, savoring its warmth.

“Lizzy, there you are. I thought you’d still be in bed.” It was Jane, dressed to go running. She inspected Elizabeth with obvious concern. “How are you feeling?”

“Like someone gave me a whopping dose of emotional Novocain.”

“Poor thing, you look tired. Did you get any sleep?”

“Not really. I had another nightmare.”

“Oh, dear. Michael again?” Jane sat down across the table.

Elizabeth nodded. “I was doing so much better, but now …” She sighed. “Everything is different. Thanks again for going with me last night.”

“Of course. I was glad to keep you company, and the show was outstanding. I felt bad for you, though, the way you couldn’t sit still.”

South Pacific - scene from end of movie “I had no patience with Nellie Forbush. So what if Emile turned out to be a widower with a couple of cute Polynesian kids? At least he was honest about it.”2

Jane had accompanied Elizabeth to the opening performance of South Pacific last night. Elizabeth had considered staying home, but the cast had expected her to be there, and she had seen no point in continuing to hide in her room, nursing her wounds. But she had spent most of Act II sitting outside on the theater steps, huddled in her jacket against the early November chill.

“I know this is hard for you, and William must be suffering too. He loves you so much.”

“I know.” Elizabeth sighed as the dull ache returned. As angry as she was, she didn’t like to think of him alone and melancholy.

“I didn’t want to ask yesterday when you were so upset, but … are you sure there might not be some sort of simple misunderstanding between you two, something that could be resolved with some conversation?”

“You bet there’s a misunderstanding. He thinks we’re all puppets and he’s the one holding the strings.”

Jane touched Elizabeth’s hand. “I know you’re angry with him. He shouldn’t have intervened in your job situation, especially not without telling you. But viewed in a certain light I can see it as a loving gesture on his part.”

“I wish I could. That’s his story, but love shouldn’t be about control and deception.” Elizabeth wished she could make her sister understand, but it was impossible. Jane hadn’t been the one looking on in horror when Bill Collins had opened his folder to reveal a copy of William’s check, the symbol of his betrayal finished off with his meticulous signature. Elizabeth had hurried to the sanctuary of home as soon as Bill left her office, postponing her meeting with Catherine de Bourgh on the grounds of sudden illness.

“Well, think about it this way. It’s been so good to have you here this summer and fall. I’m not making light of your concerns, but I can’t help be grateful to him for that.”

Yeah. He deprived you of your fiancée and delivered me in exchange. Jane didn’t know about William’s role in what had happened with Charles. “I’m not inclined to thank him, but I’m definitely glad to be here. Maybe I can find another job in the area.”

“Another job?”

“I can’t stay at the conservatory, not after this.”

“Don’t you have to stay till the end of your contract?”

“I’ll stay till the end of the semester, of course, but I don’t think Dr. de Bourgh will try to keep me longer than that. She never wanted me in the first place.”

“But now you’ve had a chance to prove your worth.”

“Not in her eyes. At least it’s a relief to know why she’s always treated me like something she scraped off the bottom of her Dior pumps.”

Jane sighed and left the table to pour herself a cup of tea. As she stood at the counter letting the tea bag steep, she asked, “What are you going to do?”

“About what?”

“About William. Are you going to call him or wait for him to come to you?”

Elizabeth rose from the table and crossed to the sink, dumping the remainder of her tea down the drain. “Neither.”

“What I meant was, when are you going to talk to him?”

“I’m not.” Elizabeth leaned against the counter. “I said everything that mattered yesterday.”

“But surely you weren’t serious last night when you said it might be over?”

“I was entirely serious.” No. I refuse to cry.

“Lizzy, I know you’re upset, but don’t be in a hurry to throw this away. He adores you, and I know how much you love him. That kind of love doesn’t come along every day.”

“So I should just overlook what he’s done? Would you have liked it if I’d given you that advice back in May?” Elizabeth folded her arms over her chest. It was a novel experience to be angry with Jane.

“That’s not what I’m saying,” Jane answered in a soothing tone. “I meant that you might be able to work through this if you’d sit down together for a talk. Be honest about your feelings, and get him to do the same.”

“That’s the problem. I can’t trust him anymore. There are other things he did, things I can’t tell you, that are worse than his involvement in my job. He insulted our family, and me, and even you.”

“Oh, Lizzy, I’m so sorry.” Jane hugged Elizabeth. “I wish there were something I could do.”

“You’re helping by being here with me. But it’s hopeless. William and I are just too different.”

“I think you’re more alike than you realize … in fact, that may be part of the problem. And where you’re different, you complement each other, like yin and yang.”

“Like oil and water, you mean.”

Jane shook her head, wearing a sad smile. “What are you going to do about the ring?”

Elizabeth grimaced. William had left the engagement ring behind yesterday. “I don’t want to think about that right now.”

The sisters stood together, sipping their tea, until Elizabeth couldn’t stand the silence anymore. “I need to get out of here,” she said. “Would you be willing to give up your run today, and go for a walk in Golden Gate Park instead?”

“Absolutely. And after that, why don’t we get some breakfast somewhere?”

“Only if you promise that we will not, under any circumstances, talk about William.”

The sisters went to their respective rooms to get ready. Elizabeth’s last action before leaving was to remove her cell phone from her purse and place it on the dresser. She knew he would try to call, and she needed a clearer head before she talked to him again. If I ever talk to him again, that is.

 

William checked his appearance in the small mirror beside the elevator as he awaited its arrival. Apart from his bloodshot eyes, courtesy of a sleepless night, and the lines of tension on his forehead, he liked what he saw.

Elizabeth hadn’t answered her cell phone, or the phone at the condo, when he’d called an hour ago, but he knew her habits well enough to be sure she hadn’t left home so early. Probably she’d been in the shower while Jane went for her morning run, and she would be dressed and eating breakfast by now. He would sit with her and they’d resolve everything over a cup of coffee—or as many cups as it took.

He had hoped to arrive during Jane’s absence, but getting ready had taken too long. His hair was finally tamed save one lock on his forehead, which for some reason Elizabeth found irresistible. He had scrutinized his wardrobe at length trying to select clothes she especially liked and bemoaning the fact that formal wear wasn’t appropriate at ten in the morning. His efforts might have seemed superficial to some, but he was determined to press every advantage at his disposal.

A few minutes later he stood outside her door. He raised his hand to ring the bell, surprised to notice it trembling, and his breathing quickened. This had to go well; there was no acceptable alternative.

By the third time he pressed the doorbell it was obvious no one was home. His heart contracted, realizing the truth a few seconds ahead of his sleep-deprived brain. Elizabeth knew he had intended to visit her today. Had she wanted to see him, she would have been home. Had that been impossible she would have called, given what was at stake. Instead she had ignored his call, and was gone without calling him or even leaving a note on the door. Things were worse than he had supposed. Until now he hadn’t considered that she might refuse even to speak to him.

oncidium orchid He glanced down at the oncidium orchid he carried, hastily purchased from a local orchid grower Mrs. Hill had located for him. It was too valuable to leave unattended on Elizabeth’s doorstep. After a moment’s consideration he turned away from her door and paced toward the elevators. He would leave the orchid at the front desk, a silent ambassador charged with communicating what she wouldn’t allow him to say.

Five minutes later he sat behind the wheel of his car wondering what to do next. He couldn’t bear the thought of going home. Traces of Elizabeth were everywhere, from the package of her favorite home-baked cookies in the kitchen, sent by Mrs. Reynolds along with a note William had been sternly instructed not to read, to the bottle of shampoo she had left in his bathroom the week before.

He had to hold himself together sufficiently to survive tonight’s concert. Last night he had poured his agony into the music, but instead of dissipating, his emotions had magnified, washing over him in ever-larger waves that seemed to engulf the concert hall until the music nearly escaped his control. The enthusiastic reviews in the morning paper hadn’t surprised him; perhaps the audience had sensed the tightrope he had walked. He had left the stage weak and trembling, barely able to return for the encore the crowd had demanded.

Muir Beach A drive up the coast. He nodded with a thoughtful frown. It seemed like a good plan. The sun was out, the temperatures cool but pleasant: a good day for the beach, but not one that would attract crowds. The scenic drive would lift his spirits, and a long walk on a quiet beach, his toes digging into the sand, would soothe his soul. Almost like being at Pemberley.

 

It was almost dark by the time Elizabeth and Jane arrived home. The walk in the park had been followed by a window-shopping trip in Union Square that had consumed most of the afternoon. Each time an image of William had drifted into her mind, Elizabeth had shoved it aside and studied a jacket or a pair of shoes with exaggerated interest. They had ended the day on the western edge of the peninsula, watching the sun set over the Pacific, before heading home.

Jane went immediately to her room to get dressed for a dinner date with Jordan, while Elizabeth foraged in the kitchen. After finding something semi-nutritious to eat, she’d move on to her big plans for the evening, a date with a bowl of microwave popcorn and the Philadelphia Story DVD. A mournful voice in her head reminded her that she and William had intended to watch it together.

She opened the refrigerator, emptying the contents of the vegetable bin onto the counter. When she turned to retrieve a cutting board, she noticed the blinking light on the answering machine. She approached it and, reaching out with a tentative hand, touched the “play” button.

A man’s voice spoke, though not the one she expected. “Yeah, this is Tom, down in the first floor lobby. Someone brought you something, and it’s here at the desk.”

Something? Gee, could we be a little more specific, maybe? She stared at the machine, daring it to continue. It did, apparently oblivious to the dark menace hovering above it.

“Lizzy, it’s William. If you’re there, please pick up. I have to talk to you.” She drew in a quick breath during the silence that followed. “All right. Either you’re not home, or you’re standing there listening to this, refusing to pick up. And you didn’t answer your cell phone either. We need to talk. I have to explain my reasons for what I did and said. Please call me.” He paused, and when he spoke again his voice had a husky edge that made her ache. “Lizzy. I couldn’t sleep last night. I can’t think of anything but you. You have to give me a chance to explain. I love you.”

The line went dead. She closed her eyes and clasped her hands into fists until her fingernails dented her palms. All the optimism she had summoned during the day drained out of her. Why can’t I hate him? It would be so much easier.

There was one more message. “Lizzy, it’s William again. I haven’t heard from you, and you’re still not answering your cell phone either. I have to leave for Symphony Hall soon. I hope you’ll come to the concert tonight, in spite of … everything. I’ll be finished at intermission, and we can go somewhere and talk. Once you understand my reasons, I know you’ll see why I …” She heard him sigh, and then he continued. “I’ll leave your ticket at the ‘Will Call’ window. Your seat is down front. I’ll be looking for you.”

Though she hated to admit it, he was right; they needed to talk. There was unfinished business between them that needed to be resolved. Despite her dismissive comments to Jane that morning, she would have to see William again before he left for Australia.

Talking to him at Symphony Hall seemed like a good idea. Both the condo and the penthouse were haunted by too many memories, but his dressing room at the symphony would be a neutral setting, a much safer place to say what needed to be said. She would be calm and rational, but firm.

The intercom buzzed, and for a moment her heart leapt into her throat, but it was only Jordan. She buzzed him into the building, nodding to herself. Yes. I’ll eat my salad and then drive over there to see him. And when I get home, my DVD will be waiting to keep me company.

Satisfied with her plan, Elizabeth went to Jane’s room to alert her to her date’s arrival.

 

Symphony Hall at night Elizabeth entered the lobby of Symphony Hall, clutching the ticket William had left for her. The concert had started 15 minutes ago. Judging from the low-pitched hum of voices in the audience, the orchestra had finished its opening selection and the piano was being placed onstage in preparation for the concerto.

She didn’t plan to watch the performance. Sitting in her seat as William’s guest seemed inappropriate under the circumstances. Instead, she would wait here until he finished and then present herself at the musicians’ entrance, requesting that a message be delivered to him.

Given the length of the Rachmaninoff concerto, she had at least half an hour to wait. The upper lobby would be a pleasant place to sit, with its curved glass wall offering a view of City Hall, a stately Beaux Arts structure on the opposite side of Van Ness Avenue.

City Hall at night Elizabeth was about to go upstairs when she heard a voice call her name. Turning, she saw Jenna Woods, one of her students, standing by the doors to the auditorium, a small flashlight and a stack of programs in her hand.

“Hi, Jenna.” Elizabeth approached her, forcing a smile onto her face.

“Hi, Ms. Bennet. I was so excited when I heard Mr. Darcy was playing!” Jenna’s eyes sparkled. “Of course you’re here to see him. Can I help you find your seat?” She reached for Elizabeth’s ticket.

Elizabeth drew back. “No, that’s okay. I’m just going to …” She pressed her lips together, puzzling over how to explain her refusal without wandering into sensitive territory.

Jenna peeked in the auditorium doors. “Come on, Ms. Bennet. We have to get inside. It looks like he’ll be coming onstage any second.”

“I’d better not. My seat is way down front. I’d never make it there in time.”

“You can sit with me, then. There aren’t any empty seats tonight but they set up a few folding chairs for the ushers. You can run down to your seat after the first movement.”

“Oh, no. Thank you, but I shouldn’t.”

Jenna pulled the door open, standing aside for Elizabeth. “It’s fine, really. Nobody will mind, and I know you don’t want to be stuck out in the lobby, listening through the doors.”

It hadn’t occurred to Elizabeth that she would hear the concerto even out in the lobby. And besides, who are you trying to kid? No matter what William Darcy the man did to you, you know you can’t resist seeing William Darcy the artist play. She surrendered to the inevitable and slipped into the auditorium with Jenna, settling into a folding chair just as William came onstage.

The sight of him halted her breathing. He looked almost godlike bathed in the stage lights, his expression solemn as he accepted the audience’s warm greeting. She had always found him irresistible in formal wear, though recently she had discovered that he looked best in nothing at all. Stop it. You’re heading down a dangerous road.

The applause continued, the air electric with anticipation. She thought she saw him glance down at the front row of seats, and she bit her lip. If he’s disappointed that I’m not sitting there, too bad. It’s his own fault. But in spite of that she hated to think of him in pain, especially pain she had caused.

He flipped back his coattails as he seated himself, a gesture she had always found unaccountably sexy. It was her last chance to escape before he began to play, and although she knew she should leave, she couldn’t seem to move. After a brief pause during which she held her breath, he lowered his hands to the keys.3

The concerto’s opening chord sounded quietly on the solo piano, followed by another and another, imbued with a tragic dignity that expanded until at last the orchestra joined in and the opening theme swept through the hall. The moods in the music were like quicksilver, in turn mournful, brilliant, majestic, and passionate. Elizabeth sat frozen, lost in the music, the poignant melodies melting her composure one drop at a time until she began to blink back tears. William’s hands flew over the keys in the movement’s agitated final moments, and a teardrop splashed onto the program balanced on her lap.

I’ve got to get out of here. During the brief pause between movements, she could tiptoe out of the hall, unobserved by anyone but Jenna. But her feet refused to move, and then it was too late.

Later she would remember that it was the introspective second movement that burrowed through the armor in which she had clad her heart since yesterday’s confrontation. The main theme sang of unfathomable longing, and the pain she had held at bay nearly doubled her over with its force. She leaned forward, elbows resting on her knees, and tears began to slide down her cheeks. How could he have done this to me? To us? I loved him … love him … so much.

The music continued, relentlessly laying waste to Elizabeth’s defenses as William bared his soul for all to see. She heard regret and yearning and a deep well of loneliness as his hands caressed the keyboard. Tears continued to fill her eyes and dampen her cheeks as his pain seeped into her heart, magnifying her own.

Wiping her eyes, she glanced at Jenna, who had not yet noticed her tears, and at the faces of nearby audience members. Although they watched with rapt attention, it seemed that only she could hear his cry for help. Only she knew the magic that could heal him, make him whole again. Pictures flooded her mind of the two of them in moments of intimate communion, clasping hands across a table for two in a candlelit restaurant, gazing into each other’s eyes as they made love, drifting asleep entwined together.

But that’s over. He destroyed it, all of it. I can’t make him whole, just like he can’t do that for me. We have nothing left. The words were cruel, but she couldn’t deny their truth, and fresh tears spilled from her eyes.

Elizabeth was grateful for the energetic opening of the third movement, since it offered her the opportunity to regain control of herself. Jenna glanced over, obviously worried. Elizabeth attempted a reassuring smile, though given her damp face and trembling hands she doubted her success. She surreptitiously removed her compact from her purse and peered into the mirror, worried that she was testing the limits of waterproof mascara. But there were no black rivulets adorning her cheeks. Even in the dim light she could see that.

She grabbed a fresh tissue and dabbed her eyes, beginning to feel like herself again. William and the orchestra were playing a musical game of catch, tossing notes and phrases back and forth, the pace ebbing and flowing but always retaining a restless edge.

Just as she began to relax, a fierce crescendo in the orchestra gave way to the piano, restating the poignant theme of the movement. She seemed to hear William’s voice threaded through the melody, begging her for another chance. Her cheeks grew wet again, and when she licked her lips she tasted the salty tang of her tears. Her gaze was locked on William as the hall vibrated with the concerto’s finale, all fiery emotion and breakneck speed. As he thrilled the crowd with his virtuosity, Elizabeth cried for herself, for him, and most of all for what might have been. She found that her worst fear had been realized; now that she had started crying, she seemed unable to stop.

The concerto ended with a flourish and the audience jumped to its feet in unison, cheering. Shouts of “Bravo!” rose above the din as William stood and faced the audience. Jenna was on her feet with the others, alternating between worried glances in Elizabeth’s direction and fervent applause. Elizabeth stood as well, brushing away the tears that flowed at an ever-faster pace. “I have to go,” she said.

“But Ms. Bennet, what’s wrong?”

Elizabeth shook her head. “I’m fine. I just … I have to go. Good night.” She escaped the hall, hurrying out into the damp night air.

How she made it to her car Elizabeth wasn’t sure, but she unlocked it and slid into the driver’s seat, trembling. Then she buried her head in her arms, resting them on the steering wheel, no longer able to contain her sobs.

 

William leaned his head back against the limo’s soft leather headrest and shut his eyes, exhausted from the effort of keeping them open. His sleepless night was part of the problem, but the larger source of his weariness was his despondent heart.

Elizabeth hadn’t come to the concert. He had incited himself to unreasonable optimism while sitting in his dressing room, but reality had come crashing down when he strode onstage and saw her empty seat, trumpeting its cruel message: “You’ve lost her. She wants nothing more to do with you.”

He remembered few details after that. He had engulfed himself in the music, pain streaming from his fingers onto the keys in inexhaustible supply. The orchestra, the lights, and the standing-room crowd had all faded away, present but invisible as though obscured by fog.

After the concerto he had again played the Rachmaninoff prelude1 as an encore, the desolate landscape it painted suiting him even more perfectly tonight. Afterwards at least two dozen fans had waited on the sidewalk outside the musicians’ entrance to the hall, CDs and Sharpie markers thrust toward him, their greetings shrill and insistent. A symphony intern had held them at bay while William ducked into his limo, blessing his decision not to drive the short distance to Symphony Hall. It was too easy to imagine an undignified procession down Hayes Street toward the parking garage, the tails of his coat flapping behind him while he tried to outpace the most determined of his admirers.

“Excuse me, Mr. Darcy?” It was the driver’s voice. Only then did William notice that the limo was no longer moving. “We’re here, sir, at your building.”

“Wait. There’s somewhere else I need to go.” He gave the driver terse directions to Elizabeth’s building and leaned back, closing his eyes again.

He had to see her, yet the necessity of begging for her attention lacerated his pride. He had suffered agonies of embarrassment after leaving his first, pathetic message on her answering machine that afternoon. His ego had stepped in at that point, holding him firmly in check during his later message, determined that no hint of his inner turmoil would be audible. After all, I’m trying to talk to my girlfriend, not get an audience with the Queen. Although that was actually easier to arrange.

Ten minutes later he walked through the main doors to her building. He nodded to the guard at the desk, who returned the greeting with raised eyebrows, probably due to William’s concert attire. Elizabeth had introduced William to most of the front-desk personnel so he could gain admittance to the building without needing to call upstairs. He couldn’t begin to remember their names, but they recognized him and that was the important part.

No one answered the doorbell at the Bennet condo, so he returned to the lobby. “Have you seen Elizabeth Bennet this evening?” he asked.

“Yeah, a couple of times. I think the first time was around dinnertime.” the guard said, frowning. “She came down to pick up a plant someone left for her.”

Good. She got the orchid, at least. “Did she go out after that?”

“I saw her heading for the parking lot on the basement security camera, I don’t know, maybe a couple of hours ago. I don’t think she’s back yet.”

The residents’ parking lot had a separate entrance downstairs with direct access to the elevator. “In that case I’ll wait for her down there. If you see her, would you tell her where I am?”

The guard shrugged. “Sure.”

William had misgivings about this solution. If he tells her I’m downstairs, she may hurry off to barricade herself in her condo. Seized by inspiration, he trotted down the steps and crossed the lower lobby, his patent leather shoes clacking across the tile floor. He propped the door open with a wastebasket and then, his means of re-entry secure, checked the parking lot. Her car was missing. All right, then. Sooner or later she’s going to come through these doors, and I’ll be here.

Back in the building, he settled into a wicker chair with pale peach cushions, prepared to wait as long as necessary.

------
1 “Prelude in C# minor, Opus 3, No.2,” by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Performed by Van Cliburn. From My Favorite Rachmaninoff, © 2000, BMG Entertainment. Listen to a sample on iTunes.

2 If you’re unfamiliar with the plot of South Pacific, Nellie Forbush is a U.S. Navy nurse stationed on an island in the South Pacific during World War II. She falls in love with a French planter named Emile deBecque who lives on the island. After agreeing to marry him, she learns that he has two children from a marriage to an island woman who has since died. Due to her prejudice against the natives (which is mirrored in another storyline), Nellie refuses his marriage proposal and breaks off their relationship. With nothing else to lose, a heartbroken deBecque agrees to take part in a high-risk reconnaissance mission on another island. After his departure she realizes that she loves him and nothing else matters. He returns and they are reunited as the curtain falls.

3 Piano Concerto #2 in C minor, Opus 18, by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Performed by Van Cliburn with the Chicago Symphony, Fritz Reiner conducting, on Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 - Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2, © 1958, BMG Music. Movements: 1. Moderato, Allegro (listen to a sample on iTunes); 2. Adagio sostenuto (listen to a sample on iTunes), 3. Allegro scherzando (listen to a sample on iTunes). You really need to hear the whole thing, though; the samples don’t begin to show you the astounding emotional range of this music. You can do that bylistening to the concerto on Youtube or buying the entire Grammy-winning album, which also includes his recording of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #1, one of the pieces that won him Russia’s Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958.

You can also watch Van Cliburn perform the concerto with the Moscow Philharmonic in 1972, or listen to Rachmaninoff himself performing the concerto (both on Youtube).