A Little Women Fic
"He loves you," Amy Laurence blurts out one day as she sits talking with her elder sister in the parlor of the Bhaer household. Jo, taken aback, has to calm herself before she can inquire as to what her younger sister means.
"Laurie," Amy says, almost breathlessly, with a still hint of regret and despair coming into her light eyes. "He loves you. I have seen it."
Jo takes in her sister's expression and then shakes her head a few times, determined that Amy should not be unhappy. "No," the elder March sister says, "he does not. He used to, but now you and he are married, and he loves you."
Amy frowns. "He may love me very well," she says, as though it is of no importance. "But he loves you, as well. I can see it in his eyes."
"He does not, Amy, I assure you," Jo states. "And even if he did, it would not matter, for you know I refused him years ago and have no intention of going back on what I said."
"I know that," Amy answers. "But you cannot deny, Jo, that he loves you almost as much—if not more—than he does me."
Jo shrugs, feeling very much as though she has been placed on a tightrope and cannot quite figure out how to balance. She says no more on the subject.
After Amy leaves, Jo sits in the window seat of the front hall, gazing out at her sister's retreating carriage. As she sits, her mind wanders back to the glorious days of her youth—the summers spent gallivanting about town as she dragged her sisters and the Laurence boy on grand adventures, the winters cooped up inside with hot cocoas and stories to tell, the long nights spent writing fantastical things that she dreamed up in her sleep. She misses those days.
Age has changed her; she is no longer the uncontrollable youth that longs to run around, wild as a boy-child, dressed in trousers and her father's boots. She has become a mostly-sensible woman who still gets the strangest impulses but who has learned to control them better.
She misses the old Jo. It is not that this new Jo is bad in any way; in a thousand ways, she is, in fact, better. But Jo misses the freedom she had when she was young and knew very little of the world. She misses more than anything her childhood.
There are many people in the world who grow up too quickly, but Jo knows she was not one of them. She grew up too slowly, if you ask some, but she grew up nonetheless. And she often thinks that her first step in growing up was her refusal of a certain marriage proposal.
Even as she refused him, she had to admit that Laurie was a good match. He was wealthy, handsome, young, and the best friend she had ever had. And most of all, she loved him—loved him more than she knew then. He was, essentially, her other half and still is, to this day, though they are both married now and have other obligations than the ones to each other.
But back then—well, back then she was young and foolish, so determined to be free to do whatever she wanted that she couldn't see what was right in front of her own face. He had proposed to her too soon, she thought afterward. She was too young, then, not ready for anything so big. She refused him as gently as she knew how (though how gentle that was back then could be argued), but he was broken-heart and she unintentionally drove him from Concord. From her.
She left too, after that, for everything she saw reminded her of him. She needed to start fresh and had, therefore, moved to New York, to rid her thoughts of her best friend.
Amy is right, though. More right than even she herself knows. She claims that Laurie loves her—that it can be seen in his eyes—and Jo knows it for she has seen it for herself. She has seen the way his eyes light up when she comes around and that he always pays extra attention to her at family gatherings. But there is a part that Amy does not know, it seems, and that is the fact that Jo loves Laurie in return.
Yes, she loves him. Has loved him from the very beginning. She was simply slow in realizing it. But another thing that Jo has slowly come to realize is that there is a difference between those one can love and those one can marry. It is only when you find a person who fits both qualifications that one should contemplate marriage.
Oh, dear boy, it would never had worked between us, Jo thinks, and she knows only too well how much truth this holds. She and Laurie could never have made it—they would have been doomed from the start. They fought too much; they were both only children. They had needed to find people to make them grow up.
That does not mean she cannot love him, though.
Jo's thoughts travel to that fateful day—the day Laurie proposed. She hesitated before answering him, and she now knows why. Because, in that spilt second that occurred between his declaration and her answer, she had thought about saying yes. She had wanted to say yes. She almost had said yes.
But almost, she has quickly learned, is never really enough.