Standard Disclaimer: I do not own Little Women, it's characters, or L.M. Alcott's anything. I'm just in love with Teddy – so sue me...no, don't really – well, you could but all you would get really is many battered but beloved books and an insane chancellor's fee.
Author's Note: I know, another one of my angsty ones...sorry, Amy – sort of. Haha. Inspired by a line from Roland Orzabal.
THERE'S A ROOM WHERE THE LIGHT WON'T FIND YOU
She loved this room.
It was the one place that no one ever bothered her. After she and Laurie had arrived back home their first residence was with Grandfather, in the stately Laurence home until they were secured in their own lodgings. She was diligent in being certain that they found the proper nest, going over each potential house with a fine tooth comb, checking every nook and cranny for imperfections. The first was too large, the second too cold, the third was too dark, the fourth too cramped. When their carriage had pulled up to the fifth, however, she knew immediately. She remembered glancing at her new husband and sharing the same knowing smile – this was it. This was to be their home.
After the flurry of floating boxes and furniture were strategically placed, she roamed the premises doing a final appraisement. Laurie had dismissed himself to rove the grounds, he was eager to get the croquet field set up, muttering about the need for it's implementation before the family was over the next day. Amy pretended to be ignorant of the fact of it's importance, though she knew full well who's favourite sport it was. A pang had stabbed at her heart as the old familiar insecurity swam over her, recollections of the many years that she watched her sister and husband gallivanting together over the croquet club. She had scathingly thought that Laurie was always falsifying his enthusiasm over a pastime that she had no doubt he would not engage in if not for his partner.
Amy had stumbled upon this small room, quite by accident as she was moving to leave the basement. A slit in the wall had caught her eye as she was about to depart back up the stairs and she turned to investigate. A milky white hand had pushed the hidden door open and her icy blue eyes had sparkled at such a find. For inside there was a perfectly sized chair, a sturdy half square table with an old candle atop. Curiosity filled her as she wondered as to the reason of such a small space and she tried out the chair to see if it was as obliging as it appeared. To her pleasure, it was. In the months that they had since occupied their new home, she had spent many stolen moments here. It was her little secret.
She wasn't sure why she had kept such a seemingly trifle matter from her husband. She hadn't intended to lie about it, and she was surprised the first time she did. She had just returned from her new found haven to find Laurie smiling at her when she entered the drawing room and when he inquired as to what she had been doing her tongue had answered before she had instructed. Just getting her box of drawing pencils out from the pack downstairs, she had said. He had patted her arm indulgently and signaled for her to be seated next to him and the oddest feeling of power had washed over her. He didn't know she wasn't telling the truth – he didn't know. If he didn't know when she told a lie, albeit a white one, how was she to know that she would be able to discern a truth from a falsehood from his lips? That knowledge was unnerving to her, and she wasn't sure why it hadn't fully materialized to her before. He could be lying to her everyday, and she wouldn't know it.
All of those burgeoning little pinpricks of doubt that plagued her, all of the inadequate streamers of suspicion that floated around whenever she witnessed her sister and husband together; they had taken an opaque form in her mind. Her meanderings to her private little harbour grew more and more frequent as the ambiguity of her comfort began to further thread. She would watch them talking together, walking together, sitting together, or worse of all – when they didn't talk but merely looked at one another. She didn't think Jo's poor Professor had noticed, or if he had he didn't let on. It had only grown worse when Prof. Bhaer had left Jo in the honourable pursuit that tore him away to the West for the next however long, while he fulfilled his obligations before he could return to Jo to marry. Jo was over more frequently since his absence and Amy was often hardpressed to locate her husband without discovering the two enjoying some sort of lark together. It was impossible to object to her sister's visits, Jo was so warm hearted and blithe. Laurie had a spark lit within when in Jo's proximity, and Amy did not want that to diminish, jealousy withstanding.
All of this vacillating came to a jagged point one evening. Jo had wandered over after evening tea and soon enough she and Laurie – no, Teddy, as she called him – were bent over her latest scribblings, both laughing and conspiring madly. When Amy questioned what the fascination was she was simply met with two very silly faces, both trying to keep from giggling. Jo had haltingly spoken first, explaining that it was a nonsensical story she had written in hopes of dispelling her writing block, barely contained mirth finally bursting forth at the end of her words. At Amy's blank look Laurie had elaborated that it was an old joke between the two from one rainy day years ago, and it wouldn't be funny if they attempted to explain. Amy stared at black and chestnut crowns as the two bent back over the writing again and she left the room unnoticed.
She had sought refuge in her room once again, still unknown to any but herself. By now it had acquired a few new knick knacks that she had bestowed it with. A delicate doily now ordained the plain half table and a small silk pillow rested in the chair. She swiftly lit the candle as she pulled the door ajar, plunking herself heavily in the seat. Her lids fluttered shut as she willed the night to draw to a close and she almost dozed off when she heard the heavy footfall of feet descending the stairs. She sat up a little straighter and listened, hearing the hushed voices of her husband and sister growing closer.
"He'll be back, by and by, Jo. Then you'll be a married slave to love yourself, and join the ranks of the wretched," Laurie said cheekily.
"It isn't that, Teddy," Jo said quietly.
"Then whatever is it?"
There was a pause and Amy debated whether she should make her presence known, but Jo's voice stunted any decision before she could make it.
"I don't want to fuss, let's have no more about it and go back up."
"None of that, now. Come, sister dear – tell your old Colonel Teddy all about it."
"No, for then I shall throw a wet blanket over the rest of a perfectly splendid evening and I want none of it. You know how Amy frets about when she worries."
"That's why I led you down here, silly girl. Milady is atop, we shan't be disturbed down here. So spill your worries, you'll remember I'm a most eager listener to my patroness."
Amy involuntarily had leaned toward the door, straining her ears to hear. Guilt needled her at her eavesdropping but it didn't stop it. Her eyes darted to her small source of light and she wondered if any of the dim yellow pooled out through the slit from her alcove but she didn't think so as it barely even lighted the floor beyond her feet. Her thoughts were broken when the voices continued.
"Oh, Teddy, I don't know how to even say it," she whispered. "It's as if everything I've felt or thought I felt is getting so jumbled, in a thoroughly Josephine March way..." she remarked in a way that was supposed to be light but just fell flat. "I know it's my fault, I know I should be able to fix it but I just can't," she finished dejectedly.
"Whatever it is, it can't be all that bad..."
"I've entered myself into a promise that I just don't feel anymore and I can't do anything about it now." Amy heard Jo sniff loudly. "I love Friedrich, I do honestly, it's just not...how I thought."
Laurie said nothing for a few moments. "Really and truly, Jo?"
Something in his voice made Amy uncomfortable and she couldn't help herself from raising from her seat and stepping nimbly to the cracked door. She peered through the small slit, seeing Laurie and Jo standing a few yards away, only a feeble candle allotting them any light. Her heart raced at the thought of being discovered but she risked it needing to witness more.
Jo nodded her head weakly, not looking into his face but instead glancing to her left. For a brief horrible moment Amy thought that she had been spotted but Jo glanced back to Laurie without flinching. Her eyes widened as she watched her husband suddenly pull Jo into an embrace and she was even more startled when Jo didn't break from it.
"I know I must bear my cross and fulfill my duties...Friedrich really is a good man. And he loves me desperately, I know he does, I shall learn to feel the way I ought, I'm sure. I really do care for him, only this time apart has shown me that what I mistook for the true love that I bewitched myself to be in isn't so rosy as I had imagined it to be. Oh tell me, my confidant, I am being silly about this, aren't I?"
Amy looked on as Laurie circled his hand on Jo's back in a soothing manner, once again letting silence fall into the blackness surrounding them. It was only when he pulled away slightly from the girl in his arms that Amy saw his face clearly. The flicker of emotions penciled his Italian features and her throat constricted at his intense gaze that was focused on Jo.
" I think," he began slowly, "that you should do what your heart tells you to do."
"It tells me to grab a horde of my old book chums and hole up somewhere like a happy little rabbit..." Jo attempted to joke sadly.
"You should never, ever settle, Jo dear," Laurie said strangely.
Amy inhaled sharply at the look on both of their faces.
"Easy for you to say, you're happy in home and union. I know I've always talked grandly about being alone and untroubled to be so, but now that I'm older it just means more to me to be loved."
"We've always been kindred spirits, dearest, this situation is no different." The hitch in his voice on the word 'dearest' was not lost on Amy, and apparently it wasn't lost on Jo, either.
"You're happy, aren't you?" Jo asked softly.
Amy noticed he had taken Jo's hands in his own, she watched through narrowed slits as his thumbs drew circles on the top of her sister's hand.
"Don't ever settle, promise. It doesn't suit the heart or mind...particularly when it's a decision that you'll regret later," he advised sagely, with the weariness of one who knows.
Jo cleared her throat as she let out a strangled vow to try not to. A curious quiet snaked out from the dark once again and started to settle until Jo suggested they go back upstairs before Amy wondered where they had gotten to.
Amy retreated away from her obscured view once again as she heard the stairs creak when they trudged out of the basement. She dumped her body back into the chair as the conversation she had just borne witness to replayed in her mind. She wished that she hadn't overheard the voiced reality of apparent unhappiness in her marriage, that she had certainly sensed but had been terrified to confront. If she hadn't loved Laurie so much she would wish that she had married Fred Vaughn, instead, leaving Laurie free to marry Jo as he so obviously still yearned for. If she hadn't scurried down here tonight, she would still be wrapped in her bittersweet cocoon of semi-ignorance. She wouldn't have the almost tangible proof that he remained in desperate love with her sister. She cursed her secret hole in the wall where she now sat, finding it easier to transfer hurt and blame to an uncomplaining space.
She hated this room.
Ag, I know, another dark one from me. I just wanted to play with this idea of your little sanctuary, if you will, morphing into a place that unveils an ugly truth...I know, I'm strange.
If you've got the time I'd love to hear what you thought. Thanks for reading!