I do not own anything nor do I gain anything by doing this. Just happen to love writing. All is based upon biographies of her life, (and Tom's) and the 2007 movie Becoming Jane. I also used some lines from the movie.
The plot starts just where the movie ends. After watching the movie I just couldn't bear how the lovers ended up, so I decided to give them a little more time to enjoy each other's company. This is a fictitious account of the real relationship between Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy, just like in the movie…
Recalling the Past
Miss Jane Austen closed the book she had just finished reading out loud to the whole room. Everyone began clapping and commenting how wonderful her reading had been. As all present tried to move close to where she sat to express her their greetings, there was in the room one person who did not moved at all; a middle-aged man who had been standing in front of Miss Austen during the lecture, and who hadn't moved at all after she had finished reading one of her books. He was also gazing down at her with eyes full of tragedy, tenderness, and sadness. In his eyes, he was not looking at the grown-up Jane Austen everyone knew to be prim and proper, and obsessed with propriety, but at the fresh, feisty, very bright twenty year old woman he had fallen in love with in his youth.
This man was Tom Lefroy, a very successful Irish lawyer.
After some moments Miss Jane Lefroy, Tom's teenage daughter, found herself talking enthusiastically to Miss Austen about her reading, when her father quickly moved to where the two women stand and said, "Jane, it is time for us to go. Please say good-bye to Miss Austen and-"
"Oh father, can't we please stay just a little longer? I was just about to tell Miss Austen what a wonderful job she did with Sense and-"
"I said no, Jane!" her father retorted firmly.
His daughter bowed to Miss Austen and then walked away to get her coat, looking extremely down at the denial of her wish. But how on earth could she have suspected that her father and Miss Austen were more than just old acquaintances..?
Jane Austen had been observing this "dispute" and had kept quiet until Miss Lefroy had said her farewells.
"It was a pleasure to have met you, Miss Lefroy," Jane had replied.
The moment the girl was gone, Tom and Jane looked at each other and saw their own tragic inner feelings reflected in the other's face.
"Well, it really was very good to have seen you again, Mr. Lefroy. I hope you are-"
"Miss Austen," Tom interrupted her, in what was almost a hoarse whisper, "It's almost tea time. Would you- could you please meet me for tea in an hour at the Wagner House?"
This took Jane completely by surprise, but she did not hesitate in her reply.
"In an hour..? Why yes, I would like that very much, Mr. Lefroy," she answered calmly.
He beamed at her and said, "The Wagner House it is then. Good-bye until then."
Tom bowed and went out of the room to where his daughter was awaiting him.
Jane's older brother, Henry, and his wife, moved to each side of Jane and asked her, "Well? What happened?"
"He wants to meet me at the Wagner House in an hour for tea," Jane answered, as her heart began to beat wildly in her chest with that upcoming prospect.
"Excellent! We shall have the carriage ready in some moments and we shall drop you there on our way home," Jane's sister-in-law replied.
The Wagner House was a 19th century restaurant and cafe, and was widely known for its elegant decorations, delicious food and wonderful service. It was also a place where one could enjoy a pleasant talk with a friend without interruptions- which was exactly what Tom Lefroy wanted for this important meeting. He knew not what he expected of it, but now that he had seen her, he had to talk to her alone. Not in a crowded room packed with her admirers which made him feel intoxicated when all that he desired was just the pleasure of being alone in her company once again.
At the appointed hour Jane arrived at the Wagner House to find Tom already waiting for her. He had chosen a table in a corner in an attempt to give them a little more privacy. The "restaurant" was almost full, but Tom and Jane located each other the moment she stepped in on the threshold.
A waiter conducted her over to the table where Tom was, and he bowed when she had reached him.
"Miss Austen," he said, indicating her to take a seat.
"Mr. Lefroy," she returned, sitting down.
For some minutes neither of them spoke a word. They just gazed at each other longingly, and began drinking their tea when it arrived.
Then, since she could not bear the silence any longer, she said, "Your daughter seems like a very nice charming girl. I'm sure she'll become a great lady one day."
Tom smiled sarcastically. "My daughter is one of your most avid admirers, as I commented earlier. By the way, thank you for having made the exception today of reading to us out loud."
"Oh, it was a pleasure. A favor to an old friend," she assured him.
"I did warn her not to ask you as I've heard you like to remain anonymous, but apparently she couldn't control herself…"
Jane smiled. She was about to inquire about his other children when he asked her bluntly, almost rather rudely, "Aren't you going to ask me why she is named like you?"
Jane looked at him, and blushed.
He saw his mistake and said, "I apologize. It was rude of me to-"
"Why," she interrupted him quietly, "Why did you called her Jane?"
He gave her a bitter-sweet little grin, and answered, "Well, my mother-in-law was called Jane, and so my wife-…" he suddenly stopped, as if he had realized he had made yet another blunder.
Jane smiled sadly. "Go one, you can say it. Your wife."
"Yes, well, she wanted our first daughter to be named after her mother, and when I heard she was called Jane, I couldn't refuse… for I had my own personal reasons to be very fond of the name."
This touched Jane very much, and it was with great difficulty that she avoided succumbing into tears. Tom meanwhile only kept on smiling at her.
"So, you did acquire to thoroughly understand how characters must be like when writing them, didn't you?" he commented, keen to change the subject, as he could see his last comment had upset her. "I bet your realism and biting social commentary will continue enchanting young girls and shocking their mothers a hundred years from now. For I don't think people really realize how funny and modern you are."
She laughed. "You are too kind… But I think that people think of me in the world I represent in my books, while in reality I am a person of wider experiences than they realize."
"Oh, I have no doubt of it. Just because you write about comedies of manners, it doesn't mean you don't know more than that."
She laughed again. "Indeed, though now that I think of it, I really must thank you for that."
"Me? Why?" he asked, a little puzzled.
"Well, for one thing because it was really you who made me understand human nature. Without it I could never have thought of most of my most complex characters, Mr. Lefroy."
A thousands things he wanted to say to her where rushing through his mind, but he couldn't find his voice, and so he sat there, staring at her, struggling to say something until she came to his rescue.
"The grim reality of my actual life," she continued, "would highly disappoint my readers... That's another reason why I prefer to be coy and remain anonymous, I guess."
Tom Lefroy found his voice at last. He relaxed, leaned back in his chair, and said, "I've always admired your honesty, you know. I mean, out of your small world that you have closely observed all your life, you are able to produce exquisite books that are not only witty but very sharp and very realistic. You write completely from your heart… I still highly admire your independence and determination. I'm," he paused here, and then, gulping, went on, "I'm talking about your decision not to marry anyone without affection."
He waited patiently for her reaction to this, but she only said, "It's deploring just to marry simply as a financial arrangement between one- or two- disinterested parties. I write in my novels about that quite a lot."
"Yes, I recall your views on that matter quite perfectly."
"The good thing about my books is that the characters can get what they desire after a little bit of trouble, while in reality that cannot always be the case."
Both knew perfectly well what she meant by this, but that did not make it less painful for either of them.
She took her cup and drank some tea. He was starting to look at her in a very peculiar manner, so, in order to avoid wondering what that could possibly mean, she put her cup on the table and said, "I believe you live in Longford now, Mr. Lefroy?"
"Jane!" he suddenly hissed at her, in a tone that clearly implied he couldn't bear it any longer. "Please drop the formalities. I can't stand them. I'm still the Tom you knew in Hampshire."
He looked shaken, almost troubled.
She took her time before answering him, but finally she smiled at him, her eyes filled with the love she still had for him, and said, "Oh, Tom, do you remember when we danced together for three whole dances in a row without even realizing it and shocking everyone present? Or the first time we meet, and you fell asleep at my reading."
Her hand was resting besides her cup, and suddenly he took it in his, chuckling and saying, "I remember when you beat me at cricket too."
Both realized at the same moment that he had taken hold of her hand, but after seeing this, they only contemplated each other; he did not remove his hand, and nor did she removed hers.
In those times people didn't really touch. They bowed and talked when greeting each other, or when they said good-bye. So then, the mere action of taking hold of her hand was quite something for both of them: it was the first time they had touched in years, and it produced in them pure and perfect feelings of contentment and peace of mind.
They remained like this for a long time; silent, for no words were necessary when their eyes could say so much, and grabbing each other's hand. They had the feeling of being at ease with the world after such a long time of repentance and loneliness, and neither cared that there were people around that could see them holding hands even if they were not husband and wife or of members of the same family. Not that anyone really looked at them, but still, even if they had, Mr. Lefroy and Miss Austen wouldn't have cared at all in that moment…
Finally Tom sighed deeply and sorrowfully, and bowed his head. She caressed his hand, knowing he was distraught, until he said, still with his head bowed, "Good God! It's been fifteen years since we last meet, Jane, and it still hurts!"
She was feeling exactly like she had felt when she had told him that she had decided not to run away with him after all. She felt that she had to be the strong one of the two, and strong for him also, and so she did not succumb to her tears; that could wait until tonight in the safety of her room.
Tom looked up and Jane was moved beyond words when she saw that a tear was slowly sliding down his cheek.
"The marriage would have been unpractical, Tom, as you very well know it. You had an obligation to your family- you were their only hope of survival. They depended on you. It was the right thing to do."
He said nothing, so she went on.
"And see how good life has treated you since! You have a successful career as a lawyer, (Jane would not live long enough to see him become Lord Chief Justice of Ireland), and I'm sure you have a wonderful family-"
"Yes, but at what cost, Jane?" he interrupted.
"All I care about- all I've ever care about- was that you became successful. If sacrificing the love we once knew helped you made your way in the world, then I regret nothing, Tom."
By way of answering he put his other hand on the table so that she should take a hold of that one too, and then another long silence followed.
Both had many things to think about concerning the past, but as he realized it- as he had always know but had just forgotten in the excitement of being with her again- thinking about the past was all they could do now. There was nothing for them but recall memories of long ago. Nothing else could be done where the delicate matter of their hearts was concerned.
Almost ten more minutes passed by until Tom regained his composure, and then he asked her, "And how is your family?"
She smiled at this change of subject, for it meant that they had passed the difficult part of the reunion.
"Well, father died years ago, but my mother is as well as can be expected. Cassandra decided to stay at home with her. Though I miss her terribly. She is my best friend."
"Yes, I remember her. She was a wonderful girl."
"Yes, she was. And now she has become a wonderful woman. And she knows me so well, Tom. When I was writing Pride and Prejudice she instantly realized who was my inspiration for Mr. Darcy, you know."
He laughed. "Oh, I thought I saw the resemblance as well when I read the novel. Both Darcy and me began their acquaintance with our love interests by looking down at country folk and-"
"And were very arrogant," she said, teasing him.
He laughed again. "Yes, arrogant! I remember you thought me to be a very arrogant young rascal when we first meet. Almost a villain! But I think you are forgetting that you were no angel, Jane."
She blushed. "Yes well, I think it was our imperfections that made us so perfect for one another."
"Like with Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet?"
"Yes, the difference is that they got their happy ending while we got this…"
She smiled sadly at this and looked down at her hands which were still joined with his, thinking that this was probably the last time they would see each other.
And she was quite right.
So that's it. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. It had to end sad because that's the way I like stories to end. But by the way, if you were disappointed in the way I did not let them share a kiss or something like that, I apologize, but I wanted to capture the true spirit of that century, where I don't believe two old lovers would have just kissed after meeting again, no matter how much they had once loved each other. They had to act as grownups, and Lefroy has a family, just as Jane has a sense of what is right and proper. They are mature and have reached the age where they have come to accept how their lives ended up like- though that does not mean that they can't talk about what-might-have-been when they saw the opportunity. Again, this was my first story so please don't be too mean in the reviews. Still, I love comments, so if you liked it, please write some.