The ugly little man lay at Molly’s feet, pretending to be unconscious. She kicked him, rather harder than she had to, but she was angry at the mess he made of the books.
“Get up,” she said. “Now, or I’ll kick you again. Harder.”
He rose and straightened his jacket. “Mr. Collins?” she said, aghast.
“Yes, my good woman, it is I, the great friend of Lady Catherine and…”
“You’re a horrible person,” said Molly.
“I do beg your pardon, madame,” he said, briskly.
Darcy picked Collins up by the scruff and said, “Why did you take the plot?”
“Put me down this instance,” said Collins, turning bright red.
“Why?” said Darcy. “Why did you do it?”
“Why do you think,” he said, glancing at Bennet.
Darcy turned toward Bennet. “Her? You took the plot because of Miss Bennet?”
“Not only her,” he said. “You had everything. Everything I ever wanted. Height, money, power, looks, wealth, riches, family and Elizabeth Bennet. YOU had everything I ever wanted. I was sick of being hated by those who read the book. How they all looked down on me. Felt sorry for the woman who were FORCED to be in my life? Did you think I didn’t know that no one love me? That they couldn’t stand to look at me?”
“You’re pathetic,” said Darcy, dropping him to the floor.
“Yes, I am. I was WRITTEN THAT WAY,” shouted Collins. “I didn’t have a CHOICE. And you were handsome and daring and charming and everyone wanted you. So I took the plot because I couldn’t stand myself, and I didn’t know what else to do. It’s not fair that I could be written in such a vile way.”
“He’s kind of right,” said Molly. “Jane Austen wrote him that way. He couldn’t change, even if he wanted to.”
“I DID want to,” he said. “I did. And I saw how Elizabeth loved you, Darcy. She couldn’t think of anything but you. Couldn’t breath without you. And I saw how you loved her. How not having her love was destroying you, because you loved her that much. And what did I have? All those years, all those readers, seeing me the way I was written. All of them hating me.”
“You might not seem so weird if you came into my book,” said the White Rabbit.
“That’s very nice of you, Rabbit, but you know that can’t be done,” said Molly.
The Rabbit shrugged and went back to his carrots.
“Mr. Collins,” said Bennet. “We will all die if you don’t return the plot. Every single one of us, along with everything in the entire book. We will all disappear forever.”
“I want to die,” said Collins, softly. “Death will be better than existing as I was written.”
“Do you want to take everyone else with you?” she said softly. “Think of the horses and sheep, the cows and the pigs, the trees and the beauty.”
He stood there, looking at his feet.
“Mr. Collins,” said Bennet. “What if you restore the plot to our book, but we live outside the story. What if you can be the kind and lovely man you wish to be, behind the plot.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“You could come to dinner, we could get to know the you that you wish to be, but that won’t be part of the plot. It will be our own story, hidden from the readers.”
“But they’ll still hate who I am in the book,” said Collins.
“Perhaps it won’t matter, because the Mr. Collins in the book, will be an actor, playing a part.”
He looked at her, then at Darcy.
“I believe Miss Bennet has come up with a very sensible idea. One, I will do my best to make happen.”
“Where is the plot?” asked Molly.
Behind the fake tree in the Children’s section,” said Mr. Collins. Then he turned to Bennet and Darcy. “I have you’re word as a Lady and Gentleman?”
“You do,” they said, at the same time.
Molly returned with the plot, an ethereal looking thing. She opened Pride and Prejudice, placed the plot on the open pages, then scooped up the words and let them drop onto the plot. There was a rush of words, as they scrambled to get in the proper position. Pages fluttered and words bounced and flickered, until the three characters, became wispy.
“Thank you,” they whispered, toward Holly, waving at her. She waved back and blew them a kiss.
Suddenly they were pulled into the book and it snapped shut.
“I have to go said the White Rabbit. My book is calling me.”
“Love you Bunny,” she said, watching Alice join him as they raced toward the Children’s Section.
There was a flurry of activity, then everything calmed down and went back to normal.
“Hey, Molly. You’re here early,” said Amanda, putting down her coffee and hanging up her coat.
“You didn’t go home, did you,” she chided. “You have to get a life, woman. Libraries are boring, you need to go out and live a little.”
Molly smiled at her. “Have you ever thought about how many evil, or miserable, characters in books hate being that character?”
“No, Sweetie. Why would I. The characters aren’t real. They’re just words. You look beat. Why don’t you take the day off. I got this.”
Molly got up, said see you tomorrow, and thanks. then she put on her jacket and left the building. “They are more than just words. We make them real, by believing in them,” she said to no one in particular. “They have feelings and can’t change their lives. They are all trapped in cages made of words.”
She stopped at the bakery, bought six chocolate donuts, tapped the book in her pocket and went home to reread Pride and Prejudice.