A/N: This is Jane Eyre meets the Butterfly Effect. They say a butterfly flaps its wings in a South American jungle and it starts off a chain of events that cause a tsunami in Asia. In this story, Jane calmly accepts her fate instead of speaking up on behalf of her own feelings and Rochester loses his nerve. Now the course of events in the book goes very differently.
I had a million ideas for "what if" stories for Jane Eyre in my head, but they were all focused on major events happening differently. This is the only one I have ever written down and instead of showing a major event change; it shows how a slight change in one scene can affect the entire story.
This story deviates a bit from Bronte's style as I wrote it in third person. Still, I hope it's believable enough.
As always, I use Jean Rhys's The Wide Sargasso Sea as my reference for the history of Bertha and her family.
A Fine Mess
When Mr. Rochester spoke the word, Jane's heart froze. Not only was Mr. Rochester confirming that her departure from Thornfield was imminent, but now we was also sending her far away from him.
She took a deep breath. She was supposed to be grateful. Her employer was under no obligation to find her future employment. He had not only done this for her, but had insisted on it. He would not force her to advertise and would not let her leave Thornfield without having new employment. He had done this much for her. She should be thanking him.
She blinked back her tears and said, "Thank you, Sir, for doing this for me. It really wasn't necessary." She tried not to think about how far away Ireland was, or how she was not likely to ever see Mr. Rochester again. She tried not to think about how he did not even seem to care enough about her as his friend – had he not called her such this night – to ever want to see her again. Thinking of this summoned enough anger and resentment not to cry.
Mr. Rochester looked down at Jane. She was so cool, so hard. She was going off to accept her fate and forget him. He was reminded of how she had left him so calmly when she left for the sick bed of her aunt. She simply said "farewell" and was gone. Had she behaved differently, shed a tear, upbraided him for marrying such a horrid woman as Miss Ingram, he would have taken her in his arms and assured her that he loved her and only her. He would have proposed marriage to her that very moment. But Jane was unmoved. She was cold and stoic. He could not know what was in her heart, so he lost his courage. There would be no marriage proposal tonight.
Now he had to follow this damned charade through! It was all he could do tonight until he could come up with a better plan. "You're welcome Jane. You have done your duty well and I feel an obligation to help."
"There is no obligation Sir, but I do thank you all the same." She looked up in the sky. Clouds were moving in and the wind was growing stronger. "It seems the good weather is turning tonight. I believe I will go inside if you would give me leave."
He would let her go tonight. Somehow she would be his. "I consent, Jane. Have a good night. I hope you know that I will always wish you well." He extended his hand as a gesture of friendship.
"Good night, Sir. I will do the same." She took his hand. Her fingers were cold and limp. As soon as he released her, she turned around and walked off toward the hall. He watched her go, never taking his eyes off of her until she was inside.
This was a fine mess! He had spent weeks feigning the courtship of Miss Ingram and coming up with a fake future employment for Jane in order to make Jane desire him. She was not moved by any of this. Maybe she truly was a wicked fairy sent to the world of men to taunt him.
Still, he could not help remembering the way Jane's face would light up when he spoke to her. He remembered the looks of longing she gave him when she thought he couldn't see. He had watched her transform from shy girl to a confident and witty woman during her tenure at Thornfield. She must love him. He knew she did. He just needed a new way to draw her out, but how?
When she reached the hall, Jane ran to her room and sobbed. Ireland! She was going off to a strange land to teach a group of spoiled wealthy girls in a family that would likely treat her as little more than a servant. The O'Gall family was friends with the Ingrams, had Mr. Rochester not said so? If they were anything like the Ingrams, they would be unbearable. Her career at Thornfield had been easy for Adele was not the spoiled pet of a wealthy family and her employer treated her as his equal. She would not have a situation like this again.
Then there was the other issue that Mr. Rochester was going to marry the awful Miss Ingram. She knew he didn't love her and had truly thought Mr. Rochester incapable of marrying only for a woman's connections. Perhaps he truly was so shallow as to fall for a woman only for her beauty? Madness! That was not Mr. Rochester. Yet Mr. Rochester had done everything she would never have expected him to do. How she wished she couldn't love him despite all of this. For half the night she was awake sobbing. Eventually she comforted herself that she had faced many difficulties in her life and could somehow face this one.
During the night inspiration came to her. She still had the letter from her Uncle John that Mrs. Reed had kept hidden from her all of these years. She had neglected to write to him to let him know that she was alive. She would do so now. Perhaps if she became his heir, finding employment would not be so urgent. She would not have to go as far as Ireland in any case. She wondered though if he would require her to come to Madeira. That would be even farther away, but at least she would have family.
That morning she composed a letter to her uncle. She explained briefly Mrs. Reed's deception and how she came to know about it. She told him that she was employed as Mr. Rochester's governess, but would be leaving for Ireland in the next month or so. She also inquired as to whether or not they had any other family living. Lastly she told him that she hoped to meet him soon and was happy to have found her family at last.
During the day she gave Adele a geography lesson. They pored over an atlas where they found Madeira on a map. Together they learned about the climate, the exports, and the character of its people.
"Why are we learning about this far off place, Miss Eyre?" Adele asked.
"Because I may go there some day," she replied.
"Will I go there too, Miss Eyre?"
Tears came to Jane's eyes. Adele would go to school soon and Jane would likely never see her again. She pulled Adele close for a moment. "I hope so, Adele."