"Woman was taken out of man;
not out of his head to top him,
nor out of his feet to be trampled underfoot;
but out of his side to be equal to him,
under his arm to be protected,
and near his heart to be loved."
Of His Lady's Lilies
"Good evening, Mrs. Benson."
"Oh, Mrs. Laurence, I do say you look lovelier each time I see you, dear," the elder Mrs. Bernice Benson said. Amy dipped her blonde head and thanked the elder woman kindly. "Wherever is that husband of yours, dear? He always seems to run off before I have a chance to say one word to him."
It was the house-warming party of the newly wed Laurence couple. With the help of the senior Mr. Laurence, Amy and Laurie were able to buy a home to call their own. It was large and grand, the exterior made of gray bricks, and a roof tiled in red. It had taken the new wife weeks of meticulous decorating to make the house as presentable as she deemed fit. Each corner of the ten guest rooms, library, dining room, kitchen, sitting room, and great room had an artist's touch like how the curtains fell to the floor or how the couch in the library was slightly crooked to create the best lighting for the lounger to read. The flooring was a dark mahogany throughout the whole house with matching wainscoting in the main entrance and dining room. Expensive rugs filed the hallways in their splendor, adding a touch of sage, maroon, and tan to tie together the beige colored walls. The kitchen was large to allow the Laurence's cook enough room to prepare meals fit for all of the guests of their gatherings with a large fireplace in one corner made with cobblestones. The master bedroom was Amy's highest pride. It was large, just like the rest of the house, with floor-length windows covered with white tulle. The bed was the centerpiece of the room, a colossal structure with dark navy, gold, and plum striped drapes hanging from the center of the ceiling, falling down and around each bedpost with a majestic air.
Once each book was tilted just so in the shelves, the kitchen's pans were shining with cleanliness, the windows were nearly invisible they were so clean, and each of the mirrors looked like windows opening to a new room, Amy was satisfied. It was hard work, to be sure, keeping together such a grand house, but she loved every moment of it. It was to no one's surprise when the young couple planned a date to allow their family and friends a night to help warm the house.
Amy took the duty of planning the night upon herself. She set to work picking the meals, silverware, wines, and even the colors of napkins to be served at dinner. She listened to countless scratching cellos and horribly out of tune clarinets to pick the musicians coming to play the background music during the meal and then the music to dance to when the tables were taken down. She drew out the invitations herself, her white hand turning black after using so much ink to perfect her calligraphy. Laurie was pleased that she was so thrilled for the night so he allowed his little wife to fuss over the small things even when he would have rather had her accompany him to bed ere the moon was overhead. It made him happy to see her happy.
"Oh, Mrs. Benson, I apologize I did not understand what you said. Could you please repeat yourself?" asked Amy, pressing a white glove to her forehead. She was looking for her family to come to her fête – or so she called it as she had spent countless hours preparing for it – but she had yet to see a familiar face in the pool of Laurie's friends from college and acquaintances through his father.
"Oh it's quite all right, dear," Mrs. Benson replied, raising her glass to see the young woman in front of her more clearly. "I was merely asking where you ever got the recipe for that wonderful soup this evening."
"France," Amy replied easily. Many of her ideas had come from her favorite place she visited on the vacation with Aunt Carrol. "It's called Soupe au Pistou."
"Is it terribly difficult to cook? Minnie, my new cook, can hardly crack an egg without spilling and I don't want to bother her too much with a new recipe."
"Oh no," Amy commented, "I daresay I can cook pistou and I am very unskilled in the kitchen."
Mrs. Benson beamed. "Then you simply must give me the recipe, dear heart," Mrs. Benson rambled on about how Mr. Benson usually hated soups but that night she simply found it so humorous that she couldn't tear him away from eating another dish. Amy found herself nodding without paying much attention to the woman's words. Her eyes were distracted. She saw her husband at the top of the curved stairway, hurrying down, looking quite handsome in a dark suit with tails. His eyes were not on his wife, however, and it took Amy a moment to see where he was looking.
It was Jo.
Jo, dressed in a plain colored frock that had a hideous bow sewn onto the front, her hair wrangled into a tight bun beneath her bonnet if only to stick out at odd angles, her hands awkwardly at her sides, but her mouth open and laughing as Laurie bounded to her and hugged her tight. Amy tried not to stare. Meg and Mr. Brooke following shortly, Meg's hand on her husband's arm.
"Excuse me, Mrs. Benson," Amy said in a small voice, not noticing if she had interrupted the elder woman, "my sisters are here." Without waiting for Mrs. Benson to reply, Amy hurried away and found her eldest sister's cheeks underneath her lips. "Oh, I am so happy to see you Meg!"
Meg laughed. "Do you find this huge manor lonesome compared to our old home?"
"Yes – and no," Amy replied hurriedly. "Laurie treats me so well here and I certainly feel like I've found the key to my castle in the sky but I miss you and Jo and Marmee and father and the twins… It's much like when I went to Europe, if only closer to home when I wish to visit."
"And you may visit me whenever you wish," Meg replied. "Why Daisy just won't stop talking about her 'pretty Aunt' and wanting you to come to do her hair again. And you know how much Demi adores Laurie."
"I am surprised you did not bring them," Amy said, "they were welcome to come." Meg laughed.
"So you say now that they are not ruining your vases of lilies. No, they stayed home with Mr. Bhaer kindly. Father and Marmee send their wishes and will come later; Hannah was feeling poorly and well – you know, Marmee just wouldn't leave without helping Hannah first." Meg surveyed her little sister's cream colored gown, looking as though it were made by a couture designer in France. In actuality, the elder sister felt dowdy in comparison, but when she looked at her John, all thoughts were eradicated by love. "It is so odd seeing you here as though you were a Queen amongst your subjects."
Amy shook her head. "I am still your little Amy." But there was something different to our dear little blonde-haired girl. She held herself differently, as though the immaturity of her childhood had fallen from her shoulders and now she was a real woman, tall and proud, beautiful and elegant. She was no longer the young spoiled girl who held her dreams higher than anything else, who threw tantrums at the drop of the hat, and used malapropisms to act older. Now she was eloquent and quite a lady.
"Maybe not 'little' but I know you are still my Amy," Meg agreed.
Amy offered a little smile, but her eye was still on the scene beyond her sister and Mr. Brooke, for Laurie was now tugging on Jo's sleeve as he had when they were younger, and they both were laughing at something Jo whispered in his ear. Feeling a little shudder in her bosom, Amy swallowed hard. She could not let Meg feel any of her insecurities. Not only would such a thing be improper, it would embarrass the mademoiselle of whom appearance meant the world.
Finally, Jo and Laurie scampered over, Jo reprimanding her 'Teddy' for tugging her bonnet ribbons loose and thereby messing her hair. Amy had half a mind to say her hair was mussed the moment she entered her house, but bit her tongue. It surprised Amy how jealous she was of Jo. Jo did not suspect a thing, however, and flapped about madly after kissing her youngest sister upon the brow.
"My, little sister, you have quite the château. I daresay it might even make Plumfield look like an anthill in comparison, mind the pun please for she is after all out Aunt," Jo laughed. "Poor Teddy has told me how you've slaved away over every inch of this cottage. It looks divine, dear."
Amy thanked them quietly, trying to keep her emotions from the surface as she was still trying not to think of Laurie going to Jo before he went to her. The five continued to chat together as though it were years ago when the Pitwick Chronicles were still in service. When a fast-paced roulette started, Jo excused herself to find a drink as she claimed she felt quite parched, Meg and John began to dance, and Laurie turned to his young wife with a twinkle in his eye.
"Would you give me the honor of dancing with the beautiful Mrs. Laurence?" he asked, giving her leeway to say something witty as they always enjoyed banter. Amy, however, did not say a word and nodded, accepting Laurie's hand. After they took off and began to sweep about the room in an elegant fashion, Laurie could not help but notice his wife's melancholy. "What is wrong, milady?"
"Nothing, good sir," was her only response as she ducked her head to hide her face. Laurie knew it was not 'nothing' but he did not confront her in front of their guests.
Finally, Mr. and Mrs. March came to see their daughter's new home and Amy felt at ease within the large château after to seeing her mother inside of it and feeling her arms around her lovingly. All too soon the festival was over and Amy and Laurie stood beside the doors, bidding their guests a good night. Amy had to say good-bye to her family last and she took it very well, although a few tears leaked down her cheeks. They promised to see one another very soon.
When the last guest had vanished from the house, Amy helped the servants a bit to clean up the house and then she and Laurie climbed the steps to their bed. While Amy changed into a light gossamer, Laurie lay in bed and watched his wife against the pale light. Something was wrong with her, he knew, and he wanted to know what it was. However, Amy stayed mum the whole way through her changing and when she got into bed she told Laurie she was tired and wished to go to bed when he started to ask her something. He nodded and moved to wrap an arm about her waist, but she rolled to her side and wrapped the blankets about her tight.
It was around midnight when it began to rain outside. The drops started slowly, making a soft pattering noise on the windows. Then, the wind picked up and made the loose shutters bang against the sides of the walls while the rain began to pour harder upon the château. Finally, the flashes of lightening brightened the rooms for split seconds before the deafening crash of thunder echoed. With each crack of lightening, Amy shuddered as she lay on her back. She had not been able to sleep at all, despite her snoring husband's comfort. She hated storms and she could not push aside the gnawing feeling that Laurie merely married her so he could remain close to Jo. That he did not love her for any other reason that she was Jo's sister. That he married her because Jo said no.
Finally, Amy's head was aching with her thoughts and her breath came out shaky, as though she might begin to cry. Married life was not treating Amy as admirably as she thought it would. She had found her whole heart belonged to Laurie and now that she was questioning where his lay, it was a crushing sensation.
The wind knocked a vase over outside and it made a huge crashing noise. Amy shot out of bed and grabbed a robe, tying it around her tight. She hurried downstairs and out into the twirling tempest of a storm. Her blonde hair immediately became a wetted mess against her forehead while her robe was soaked through to her skin. She was shivering in a second but she continued onward to find the broken vases and the lilies. She at once dirtied her hands in the turned over pots to collect all of her beautiful flowers that she had brought back from France. She pressed her collection to her chest as she began to pick up more and more, some of the damaged petals falling to the floor at once, while others smeared their pollen on her robe. Tears blended with the rain and Amy kneeled on her knees and bent over in misery.
It took her a moment to realize that the rain was no longer pounding upon her fair head and when she finally did look up she saw Laurie behind her, holding an umbrella over her fair head with a concerned expression on his face. Laurie reached down and grabbed her arm to bring her to her feet, but Amy recoiled and continued to cry while the lilies that she collected blew away.
"Amy, what are you doing?" Laurie asked and Amy could barely hear him over the roar of the wind.
"The lilies," Amy replied in a shaking voice, "they were blowing away."
"I will buy you more lilies tomorrow, dear, just come inside."
But Amy shook her head, tears spilling down her cheeks. "I don't want new lilies, Laurie." And suddenly, Laurie realized she was not crying over the lilies.
"Alright," he finally gave in, "I'll help you collect your flowers."
With Laurie's help the couple found all of the lilies they had brought from France and then they hurried inside their home while the storm raged on. One of the servants had started a fire and Laurie had Amy sit by it while her teeth chattered and face was white. Laurie's dark hair was falling on his forehead in a wet tangle while his coat flecked water spots onto the floor. He laid out all of his wife's lilies before the fire, shaking his head at what a mess he was making. The petals were already falling from the stems and the pollen seeds had burst, making terrible orange stains on the rug. However, with one look at his little wife, Laurie continued his work. When he was finished, he sat beside his wife near the fireplace and began to unbraid her hair and loosen the wet robe from about her shoulders in exchange for a thick quilted blanket.
"Would you tell me what that was about?" Laurie asked in a soft voice. Amy's eyes clouded again and she bit her lip.
"You don't love me anymore, Laurie, not like you did in France."
"Yes I do, dear--"
"Do you remember when you gave me those lilies? You loved me then."
"I love you, you know. Even with you wet and acting silly."
Amy shook her head. "You love Jo, Laurie. I saw you two tonight. You love her more than you could ever love me."
The accusation shocked Laurie. He sat for a moment with his eyes wide while droplets of rain drooled from his hair down his face.
"You love me second, maybe, but not before Jo. Never before Jo."
"Yes. I love you most of any other silly girl in the world. If you don't believe me, dear, just think. Could Jo have made such a successful fête this night? No, of course not. I loved her when I was a boy, or so I thought I did, but I did not know anything of marriage. I did not realize that Jo would never fit in with my world, just as much as I could never fit into her world. You and I, Amy, we're a match. These extravagant things suit us well. Why tonight when I saw you talking with Mrs. Benson I could hardly contain myself from flying down to you and kissing you, but I went to Jo because I thought I would embarrass you surrounded by Grandfather's stuffy friends."
"Truly?" Amy wondered aloud, her heart barely believing his words for fear.
"Truly, Amy. I love you with all my heart. Why else would I travel all the way to France when you just as much beckoned it? Not because I love Jo, silly. Because I love you. Why did I save these silly flowers when you were trying to gather them all up in that horrible storm outside? Not because I love the flowers, but because I love you."
Amy gave a pitiful sniff of her nose and Laurie wrapped his arms about his wife tight. "I love you too, Laurie."
As the fire crackled in the background, Amy settled herself in Laurie's arms as he leaned against the couch, placing his cheek on his wife's blonde head. Beside them were the small lilies of their past, before them was their bright future together.