Laurie left the garret and climbed down the two flights of stairs required to exit the March home. He quickly passed the sitting room which housed Amy, Beth and Mother March. Laurie could not risk speaking to anyone at the present as the well of emotions in his body was threatening to overflow. Leaving the little house, Laurie began his short trip home. He thought of Jo telling Meg and John that they had interrupted nothing. Was it nothing, was he mistaken by what he heard. Had Jo not just admitted to wanting him? It was not exactly what he wished to hear, however, he would gladly take want from Jo any day.
He stopped at the hedge between their homes and realized that he had really put Jo through quite a bit this week. He would do anything to please her, and for the sake of his idiotic pride he had just walked out on her in front of family. Laurie turned back toward Orchard House, he needed to apologize. She had said that in marriage they would only quarrel, and he was doing a fine job of affirming that. Approaching the door, he placed his hand on the knob and decided that this would be best saved for the morning. Neither of the pair had slept well recently, and Jo was surely still with Meg, it would not do to interrupt them. Laurie turned once more toward his home and quickly fled, lest his heart were to overtake and change his mind.
Jo was left all alone in the garret after her sister and brother-in-law left for the evening. Meg's words were not likely to leave her anytime soon.
Would you rather lose him, Jo?
Jo's eyes swelled with tears at the thought of losing her boy. Like Meg said, he will not remain next door as only her friend. Laurie had told her tonight that he needed more, and though it was what she had been fighting for, what they were in the past could no longer satisfy her. She could not lose him, she must speak to him. Afraid that the events of tonight may have injured him unnecessarily, Jo vowed to go to him first thing in the morning. No, she would not lose him and she would do anything to keep him.
Jo awoke very early the next morning, pleasantly surprised to have finally found some rest. The war between Jo's head and heart had been settled and there was finally peace among adjoining nations. The daylight that poured through the window washed over her, allowing her to revel in the beauty of the day. Jo bathed and dressed, taking a little extra care in her appearance. Quietly descending the stairs, Jo was met by Hannah and Marmee who were both shocked to see the girl up so early. Hannah had just started on breakfast for the two and Jo was told that an egg or two could easily be added. The ladies ate in a comfortable silence. Once they had finished, Hannah took the plates to the sink and Marmee stood to pour a cup of coffee for herself.
"What are you doing up and dressed at this hour?" Marmee asked with a knowing tone. She understood her daughter better than anyone and realized that there had been a noticeable change in Jo.
"Marmee, I am going to speak with Laurie. I am not sure how or what to say yet, but I am going to." Jo blushed and looked toward the ground for only a moment. "I love him. I really do, and it has taken a lot of convincing on Laurie's part and self-reflection on mine, but I do truly want him." She sighed, "I do not feel ready to marry, Marmee, and I worry for his reaction. After speaking with Meg last night, I realized that I need to communicate my reservations."
Mother March smiled at Jo, placing her arms on her shoulders and a kiss on her crown. "I think that a wise thing to do, my dear. I am so happy for you and will support you in any way that you need. I am certain that once you share the contents of your hearts that you will find the best path already laid before you."
"Thank you, and thank you for the breakfast, Hannah. This was a perfect way to start this day." She did not leave before offering a kiss and warm embrace to both women. Jo left through the back door and decided to enjoy her morning outside while she waited for a decent time to visit next door.
Laurie thought that he may need to take to sleeping days if his nights were going to continue on this restless path. He awoke before the sun but stayed in bed until the full light of morning had saturated his room. He could not shake the incongruities in their last conversation. Jo had said that she wanted to remain friends, then that she wanted him and she told Meg that she had walked in on nothing, nothing. Despite the number of times that he replayed this in his mind he could not make sense of it. The only thing that he could assimilate was that he misheard her when she had uttered those soft words.
Dressing, Laurie decided that today would be a good day to truly give Jo space. It is what she craved, time to think, time to decide his destiny. He went downstairs and took a slice of bread from the kitchen and left the house. He needed time to think as well, he needed time to time to reformulate his plan. He needed time to consider a life without Jo.
From her back step, she could see Laurie leave the house. He walked with steps of determination. She began to call for him, but his swift pace was too quick. Jo decided to follow him into the woods and see where he would lead them. After a few minutes on this path, their destination suddenly struck Jo, she was following Laurie to the grove. She suddenly felt like an intruder and wondered if it was right to continue following him. Jo was never one to give up on a pursuit once she had settled on an idea and continued to follow. Once Laurie finally reached the old fence post, he turned and sat with his back against it. He then laid his head down on his enfolded arms. Jo watched for what could not have been more than several minutes, yet the time trickled by so slowly. She saw no movement of any type, and felt that it would be far better to approach him than to leave him. She swallowed deep and mustered up all of the bravery that she could find.
"Fancy meeting you here." Jo said with a smile as she walked toward him. Laurie's head bolted up, swiftly followed by his body.
"Jo, what are you doing here, and so early." He could think of little else to say. His heart began to race and he wondered why she had come. As she continued toward him, he realized that it did not matter why she had come, she had come here to him and there was nothing else in the world that mattered.
"I was just taking a little stroll, enjoying this fresh summer air, isn't the weather fantastic." Jo said in an unusually cheery manner.
"Jo, we are hardly those that talk about the weather, you expect me to believe that you woke up this early for a stroll and just happened to come here?" Laurie asked in a slightly accusatory manner.
Jo had finally reached him. She leaned her back against the fence post and turned her head to face him. "I was actually outside this morning and I followed you."
Laurie was taken aback by Jo's frankness. He leaned against the fence in the same manner that she had, their shoulders nearly touching. He looked straight forward and simply said "Oh." He was slightly embarrassed by the compromising position that she had discovered him in.
"I was waiting for you outside, well, for a decent hour to call on you actually. You left the house so quickly that you were out of sight before I could even yell for you." She explained.
"You can come to me at any hour, Jo, decent or not." He glanced her way for only a second and looked straight again.
"Thank you" Jo said. They both faced forward once more, neither finding words to save them from the awkwardness.
"I thought that today would be a good one to give you the space that you had requested." Laurie replied almost distantly.
Jo realized that they were not thinking in the same vein today. She was joyful and Laurie was sullen. Jo turned her body toward him and placed one arm over the post, laying the other on one of his crossed arms. She could feel the muscles in his arm release tension at her touch.
"I don't want space, Teddy, nor time." Jo said. Laurie looked at her, and then moved his hand atop hers, relieved when she did not try to pull from his touch.
"What do you want?" was his simple pointed reply.
"I want to talk to you. I want to put all of our cards on the table. I need to air my hesitations and concerns and I hope that we can come to a solution together. You may air yours as well," Jo said with a smile, "I think that we need to just be completely honest with one another."
"Alright, I will bite, what would you like to discuss first?" Laurie had completely softened at this point. He hoped that the anxieties that he felt last night had simply been a waste of time.
"Well," Jo took a deep breath, "I think that we should touch on this marriage mess, it is the one that I can't seem to get past."
Laurie laughed nervously, "This 'marriage mess,' as you so lovingly put it, is the basis of all of this and it is pretty important in my opinion." He took a deep breath, "Let me see if I can help dissuade any fears. What is it that you cannot seem to get past?" He paused for a moment, fully faced her and gently touched her face. He had to know, "Do you love me Jo?"
She smiled and pulled her mouth to his for a quick kiss, she drew her arms around his neck, "I do love you, Teddy." The joy that Laurie felt could not be contained, he attempted to pull Jo into a much more satisfying embrace, but was stopped by her hand on his chest. She placed one hand back on the fence post and said "Teddy, wait." She composed herself and attempted to begin, but Laurie covered her hand with his own and broke in.
"Jo, if we love each other, what reason could there be for us to remain apart another moment. I have loved you as long as I can remember and cannot live without you in my life. Please, tell me what I can do to persuade you?" Jo pulled her hand away and turned with her body against the fence post, folding her arms and resting them atop the board.
"I will not enter a marriage through persuasion." Jo took a moment to calm, laughed slightly at her knee-jerk reaction, and continued. "If it were only that simple. If I marry you, I marry into a world that is foreign to me, a world that I don't want." Jo paused and saw Laurie turn uncomfortably with his back against the post once more. "Teddy, could you imagine our first house party? Try to picture it. I would break our finest china and surely spill hot tea on your most important guest. You would no doubt be cast out of society on my accord and quickly regret your choice."
"Jo, really, regret my choice, and be cast out of society, you're being ridiculous." Laurie turned back toward her one hand on her back and the other resting on her arm.
Jo looked back at Laurie with a look that worried him. "Not that ridiculous. I could never be happy in that life."
Laurie pulled from Jo and began to pace the ground. The pair was silent for minutes. There was a tree stump nearby and Laurie chose to rest his feet and have a seat. He looked up at Jo who was facing the other direction.
"So what now? We go our separate ways because you don't want to host a house party?" Laurie said with more force than he had meant.
"No, we could never go our separate ways." Jo came to him and sat at the foot of the stump, resting her arms on his knee. "And it is not only that I am afraid of house parties." Jo said in a mocking tone. "I don't want to be governed by a man, I want to make my own, live by my own means, I want my contributions to mean something, surely you can understand that."
"Trust me Jo, there is no man that could govern you, so you have nothing to worry about there." He said with an injured tone. "Do you not see that you don't have to have money to contribute? You give so much to me now Jo, your love would be the greatest contribution that I could ever hope for. When we marry you can do as you please, you can write half of the night if you wish and I will be so proud if you publish and make a name for yourself. All that I ask it that you do it with me at your side and when you're finished with your mid night writing, that you return to our bed. I don't wish to hold you back, honestly Jo, my only desire is to love you and have your love in return. If you don't want to throw parties, so be it. God Jo, don't throw this all away." Laurie stood up abruptly and ran his fingers through furiously through his hair. "How often do you think members of society go to parties, anyway? Lands Jo, most of our lives would be spent comfortably at home with our family."
"Our family?" Jo repeated, remembering another topic that must be touch upon.
"We don't have to have a family right away," Laurie walked back to the post. "I'm fighting a losing battle here aren't I?" He had to lean against something as his world began to spin slightly.
"I don't want children, not for a long time. There are just-" Jo was interrupted,
"There are ways around that Jo. We wouldn't have children until you were ready, and if you never are, it will be alright. You are enough for me." Laurie's tone was desperate.
Jo stood up and walked to Laurie, whose back was toward her. She wrapped one arm around his waist and the other over his shoulder.
"I don't want to live without you." She said into his back. There was another silence between them.
Jo held Laurie tight and had no idea where they would go from here. They seemed to be exactly where they had been a week prior. Jo wanted Laurie with all of her heart, but she wanted the life that she had always dreamed of with an equal passion. She could not give up her freedom. Jo took in the scent of the man that she was pressed against. Talking to him was supposed to make things easier.
"Teddy, if I marry you I give up my dreams." Laurie lowered his head and curled his fingers around the rough wood on which he had been leaning.
"But, if I follow my dreams, I give up you." Jo pulled closer to him. She did not know why this was so hard
Laurie did not have the energy or power of will to pull away from Jo. He was exhausted by these conflicting emotions, he didn't know where Jo stood moment to moment. One of the things that he loved so much about her was her unpredictability, however he did not love this. He was asking her to choose between her dream and love, no, not love – marriage. She had declared her love. This was so much more difficult knowing that she loved him, why could she not have left well enough alone after the first time that they were here.
"I don't want you to settle for me, Jo." Laurie said, "We may be in an impossible situation you and me. You know where I stand, I believe that I have made that quite clear. I will stop pressing you, Jo. I don't understand it at all, but I am finished pressing."
They continued to stand, Jo draped around Laurie's back, and Laurie maintaining his grip on the fence. Laurie felt a dampness on the back of his shirt and knew that Jo was weeping. She tightened her arm around his waist and he reveled in the nearness of their bodies.
"If I agree, I can still write?" Jo said suddenly
He turned his head toward her and grabbed the hand that he found about his middle, "To your heart's content." Laurie was taken aback, and hope began to bloom once more.
"And if I make a fool of myself at our parties, you promise not to hate me." Jo said with seriousness in her tone that Laurie could feel.
"Possibly a little at first, but I am sure that I would not hold a grudge forever." As soon as he said that words, he regretted them, praying that Jo took them as sarcasm.
Jo laughed, "If I break the china?"
Laurie kept her hand as he turned to face her. "Jo, I wouldn't dream of allowing you to handle the nice china." Jo bit her lip, the look in his eyes was intoxicating. "I'm not made of money after all."
"I can still write?" She asked breathlessly.
"You've already asked that," He leaned down, his lips almost touching hers and he said, "and yes." Jo closed the gap between their lips and the two shared a kiss that was void of doubt and hesitation. This was a kiss that told Jo that whatever they encountered, they would face together. This was the kiss that sealed her fate. Jo knew without a doubt that she could not live the rest of her life without another one of these embraces.
Though their conversation had not assuaged her fears, Jo knew that she had to place her trust in this man, she had to trust her best friend. She looked into his eyes and realized that this was the right path. Laurie would not hold her back from her dreams, he would not oppress her. Neither choice would be easy, neither without sacrifice. Jo took a deep breath and did not take her eyes off of the man that she had only recently discovered that she loved.
"Teddy?" Jo said.
"Yes Jo." Laurie answered.
Their arms were wrapped around one another, in a position that felt so natural. Jo tried to speak but could find no words, she instead looked into Laurie's eyes with a smile and nodded her head yes.
Jo's simple gesture was all that was needed to heal the wounded heart of her boy. He held her for a length that neither could measure, and the two basked in the new-found love that they shared. It was with a more than a hint of sorrow that Laurie recognized that Jo was surrendering her dreams to fulfill his. As they stood beneath the ample shade of the maple trees in the quiet grove, Laurie silently vowed to do everything in his power to make it up to her.
A/N: Thank you very much for taking the time to read this story. I appreciate all of the reviews, kind comments and immense patience (I have been writing for 2 years!) that you guys have given to me. Please check out my other story The Letter.