[Becoming Jane Eight metaphors of grief for the impossible. (Tom/Jane).
A/N: I just wrote fanfic for a movie based off real life… Nerd. And the lyrics were chosen not because they mention London (okay maybe a leetle), but mostly because it's a soft, quirky beat. ; )
Morning brings rain and the slow weary march she now knows as grief. Cassandra is there, the other half on the other side of the bed, asleep at last. She has stopped crying, and Jane is glad that sleep has brought comfort, the only one they are afforded at this particular time in her life. (She will call it mourning eventually, but for who? For the nascent relationship? For her sister's now long-dead fiancé? Or worse, for herself? Her answers are as lost as her words.)
Already up, a pen in her hand - for its assurance rather than writing - she sits down on the bed, and strokes the side of her sister. In the middle of night, or perhaps early morning, she turned towards her and held on.
(She told herself she would never fall in love, and now look.)
A beam of light hits blonde curls.
"Are you alright?"
A nod, but already there is wetness along her chin, and her sister is there, a presence around her shoulders, a warmth along her neck.
"Comfort, dear sister, should be mine to dispense," she says, thickly and through mounds of hair. "If we were to weigh our losses, yours would hold far more weight"
Her sister shakes her head.
"In the art of love, loss has no ranking."
London has never seemed larger, the road never as long. This is the longest walk he will ever take, and there is a thrill in knowing the finality of an action while it is, not was.
(Oh, Mr. LeFroy, I do agree.)
His uncle knows of course, but takes his time before arriving downstairs. Already the old man knows that he has sent away a boy, and he has now trudged back as a man.
"Tom, how good to see you." He says, and goes into his study, and closes his door with shaking fingers. There is too much of his mother in the boy.
The baggage is sent upstairs to be unpacked, and when he walks into his room, it is just the same as before. Had he expected it to change? To shift and become untempered, to molded both outside and in? He might as well have just come back from some party, perhaps with Henry, both too drunk to sing.
He touches the desk, letting the dust settle thickly like snow on his fingers, and sees.
Look, there lies his walking stick won from a vigorous game of croquet. And someone has laid out his glove, hung up his hat.
In the closest, there is his coat, freshly laundered for the grime. He takes it down and smells nothing but lye and the scent of London air. Below lie his boots, polished as he can see his lone face distorted back at him.
He shuts the door quickly, and closes his eyes, leaning back against the cross marks of this life. Her fingertips are still on his throat, her moonlight lost in the hollows of his eyes, the stolen memories of forest still stretched across his shaking hands. And her words? Lost and lingering in the echoes of his ears.
It is a Monday, and today, she is happy to wash every cloth, and press out each stain, for once enjoying the soothing aspect of monotony. Cassandra is upstairs, unwell again, and agitated, too unbalanced for anything but gazing towards the west.
Their cousin has come to meet them, bringing them each some pretty ribbon, and Jane has taken back whatever offense the woman has sown. Here is family, or soon-to-be, and here be tokens of understanding.
She tells them of her husband, her now first husband, and the strange sensation she felt after his death.
"At first, it was as though my heart could not move, but eventually it fluttered free."
A poor metaphor, thinks the (truly despondent) woman/girl – in heartbreak is there a difference? This is unlike any malady she has suffered, and she thinks that her everything will never mend. She gives in. Perhaps, women are weaker creatures, fragile birds whose feathers cannot be stitched back in place.
Then she looks at her cousin, now smiling coyly at Henry, and changes the firmness of it to some women. Perhaps some women will rise up and allow themselves to see the sun, bloom their pretty flowers again. But she prefers the trees, the woods that she (they) have (kissed) walked in between. There is a birch not far away from the church, that was struck by lightening during one tempestuous storm, and has never blossomed again.
She is not some women.
"A proper husband does not duel, instead funneling all of his endeavors towards sustaining the life he has promised in a ring." His uncle is there, as the physician rubs the foulest most despicable concoction named medicine into the wounds.
"Then lucky I am not one…yet." He answers, wincing as the needle digs into his shoulder. It is at once like ice and fire, but it is a relief to blame pain on a physical manifestation again.
His uncle motions away the doctor, and it is now two serious men, one who has mended, and the other still freshly bleeding.
He looks away.
"There will come a day when you will be rewarded for the sacrifices you have made. Men such as us"
Exception, he wants to shout.
"We are bound by law, and duty. Mine as kinsmen is to procure you a future, one brighter than I will ever know."
"Uncle-" He says, but his uncle waves it away.
He pauses, and takes off his glasses, and he notices how peculiar it is that they share eyes.
"Boys who give away hearts often find they are returned broken, barely intact through the vicious fangs of time. Men who are cautious will cage theirs, and slowly allow it to find amicableness, thoughtfulness, sympathy, and care will also find passion."
He does not say that his fiancé is a good choice, a pretty shy thing with a generous allowance, and in everything the opposite of another plainer, poorer choice.
"Society, this civilized society, runs on order, thrives on the discipline that we men must so strongly adhere to. Marriage is but another aspect. The connections, the dowry, the pragmatism of the match is a high consideration, and I hope you will prize it as it is another guarantee. And life has so few. Much like our well-meaning, but often erring emotions."
If he still had a heart, it would have broken under this impossibly tender moment, but these days, his heart is squirreled away in some country manner, or perhaps lost in a small train station in London. He might find it someday at the bottom of his teacup, smeared across the soggy toast, or along some dusty pages – and he will smile and wave, more unsure than welcome, it is a stranger after all.
Her brother's wedding is marvelous in grandeur, well-meaning but ill-chosen in the spring. She imagines the season of youth is more for the groom than the bride, but he is in love, and she will never begrudge him.
A pen is tucked into her coat, and she now wears gloves throughout the day, her hands are so blackened by ink. It clinks around, and settles her greatly, almost as much as Cassandra's hand.
(They will be called spinsters, but it will never hurt as much as they are meant to. Both have lived their lives without a man, not in need of one.)
Her brother is smiling, and his happiness is radiating through his being. Any doubts she has carried are set free. He is happy, and so too is she.
Both sisters cry at the wedding, though Jane's is but a touch of wetness around the eyes. Their mother will assume it is for themselves, and her father for her brother. Neither is completely true, but neither is completely false.
Cassandra cries because her brother is marrying the woman he loves. Jane cries because her brother loves the woman he is to marry.
Summer is suffocating, but fall is worse. There are no forests in London, but leaves still scatter around, crushed underneath his feet.
In a year he has fallen out of favor, exiled into the countryside, fallen in love, and banished yet again.
The ring on his finger digs into him when it gets cold, and come Christmas, he will have to stay near the fires, and let the servants attend to his pregnant wife.
He hopes it will be a girl.
She takes out the box, and smooths out its small corners, letting herself smile a little at any tiny memory that dared to nibble.
It is unlocked, and shows signs of wear. Inside, she finds an invitation to a certain dance. A ball she has dusted off. A snippet of a dress she will never wear again. A misplaced glove. And notes that he had passed along a long year ago.
Her fingers stop before scrapping beneath.
For at the bottom lay a small golden ring.
She inhales deeply, and engages in the thrill of knowing the finality of an action while it is the present tense.
Without aplomb, she throws it all into the December fire, smelling the most splendid scent of past love and ink on parchment blister before bursting into the air. The window is open, but she will not throw the ashes into the wind, for that is an action for the youthful heart. She is twenty two, but could very well be eighty. (She has never been an emotionally forthright being, and it will not change now.)
And by now, she knows the benefits of an old and heavy heart. It can fit many things, like young romance, and the knowledge of this life and her many unhappy endings, but the quest, the choice for the other, for more.
In one hand, she has a manuscript returned unopened, and in the other she has another stack of papers, her scissors, and her pen.
The days are colder, the moon is asleep, but the fire burns brightly, and she hopes it is enough for proper English.
It finds him one chilly autumn afternoon, as he puts on a heavy coat to defeat the bitter English chill. At the bottom of the courthouse, a friend stood waiting, a small slender book enclosed in his hands.
He exchanges pleasantries, thinking of the warm meal, perhaps a cup of tea waiting for him in the comforting notion of home. (His Mary is not a witty girl, but she is handsomely domesticated - enough for other men to call him lucky.)
The man is speaking rapidly, and he nods only when necessary, until a small remark undoes him.
"… And she finds him utterly revoltin' a' first – which is no' a stretch, the man is a cold fish, aye. She calls him arrogant, selfish, and… ye kno' they're sayin' the author is a woman. Tis only a whisper, but imagine tat. A woman. Writing."
The wind has taken away his breath, and he struggles with the knowledge of intuition.
"May I borrow that book?" He says, and the man nods eagerly, handing it over. He smiles, thanking him, and telling him that it is good for a man to extend his knowledge beyond that of the law (and its pitiful mewling reach.)
On the carriage, he stares at the lettered title, and traces it, unable to open it.
Tonight, he takes his dinner alone. Finally, after every other exhaustible option is extinguished, does he reverently open the book, and read. He finishes within the hour.
(It is not him, not truly. He will not find himself until Mr. Frank Churchill is written and dried, but it is close enough to life that he has to put it down and chuckle. Such familiarity.)
"Papa? Mama says I shouldn't disturb you, but you're not disturbed are you?" Her head is large, and they say she will grow into it. He hopes instead that her mind will grow beyond.
"Never. Come here, and read with me." He says, and she nearly leaps into his arms. He kisses the crown of her head, and makes room on his lap.
"What type of story is it?" She asks, her hair still in curls and golden.
"A story of love." He says.
"Oh, tell it please." She claps her hands.
"It begins with a very insufferable man, and a very proud woman." He opens a page, and thinks of Mary, and his face curls into a slow-fused smile. They have grown into each other, and he finds that his uncle is right, there is a tenacity in time that knocks down (most) walls of the human heart.
"And the two hate each other very much, but soon find that they are not who they presume to be."
"And they fall deeply, madly, passionately in love? How wonderful." She sighs. "Oh, and the ending?"
He opens his mouth, and closes it rapidly afraid of whatever (confession) he could possibly say. There is a sharp division in this life and this fiction, but he will honor her story, the possibilities.
"…It ends in marriage, and happiness. Little Jane," He tells her. "In love."
And he imagines trees, and serpentine roads. The scent of fall, and a time of young, boyish love.
All the rain in this town and still the sky was blue
St. James Square was teeming with doves and at sunset they flew
Across the darkened city to an attic room for two