Between the Lines
By Laura Schiller
Based on Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
(Author's Note: The regular type is the letter Jo actually writes, the cursive type is what she's holding back.)
Sehr geehrter Professor Bhaer,
(That is how the German formal salutation on a letter goes, isn't it? Have I spelled it right? Somehow I can't get up the nerve to call you 'dear'.)
I received your condolence letter upon the passing of my sister Beth. Thank you for your kind words; they meant a lot to me. A great many things have happened since I saw you last in New York; for one thing, I got married. Remember Teddy, my friend whom I mentioned to you? He's the one. (His letter came pat to the moment – I'd been feeling so lost and hopeless after Beth died. I needed someone to hold on to, and so when he asked me to marry him again, this time I said yes. And dear Teddy was so happy, I couldn't bear to take it back; I'm not as heartless as he used to think me.)
I was sorry you couldn't come to my wedding. It was a grand affair – white silk and orange blossoms galore. Laurie ordered a gown and veil for me all the way from Paris. (He insisted. I thought he knew me, but evidently love is blind – as a friend I was all right, but as a wife I have to uphold my husband's reputation. God forbid Mrs. Theodore Laurence should wear her mother's unfashionable wedding dress!)
It looked like half of Concord showed up, at least the wealthy half. (Parasites.) Marmee and Meg were quite distracted, rushing around in their secondhand silks, trying to help and getting hustled away by the hired waiters. I wish Amy could have been there, she would have loved all this. She and her husband, an English gentleman named Fred Vaughn, are currently taking a honeymoon in Valrosa. (The mercenary little could she not stop to think that we'll likely never see her again if she settles on the other side of the blasted ocean?)
Anyway, here I am, mistress of Laurence Manor. I hadn't realized how much work it took to run a house this large. It's quite bewildering, but I'm sure I'll learn it eventually. My husband is very good to me, and I am willing to put up with his house (not to mention the servants) for his sake. (His housekeeper is an old poke. If looks could kill, I'd be in my coffin by now.)
Your school in California sounds fascinating! Fresh air, wholesome exercise, boys and girls playing together like siblings … (It sounds so free. Nobody to judge you for your clothes or your manners, everybody given the same chances to learn and grow … how I should love to be there with you, and help you look after all those children.) It's dreadfully unfashionable, of course, but don't be discouraged. I know that with your intelligence, kindness and patience, you will succeed.
When you mentioned taking walks with the children in the forest or along the beach, it reminded me so much of New York. Do you remember us in Central Park with your nephews and my students? What jolly times we had! Do you remember the funny old man selling hot dogs, and the dogs running through the grass, and the time we bought balloons from the stand, and Kitty was so disappointed that hers couldn't make her fly? (If only flying were as easy as taking hold of a balloon.)
You asked about my writing. As a matter of fact, I've given it up; as a married woman with many demands on her time, there's simply no place for it anymore. (In fact, Laurie doesn't like it. He loves me so much, he says, he wants to spend every moment with me that he possibly can. He's like a child with a sweet that way, and looks hurt when I say I need my privacy. But whatever else I've given up, I shall not give up writing to you!)
Well, I'm afraid I must keep this letter short. I'm expecting a call from the Moffats, who are business contacts of my husband's.
(I just whisked this letter out of sight as soon as Laurie came in. If he knew I was writing to 'that devilish Professor', as he calls you, we would surely have another fight.)
Keep well, Professor, and do write often – I want to hear all about your exciting life out West!
(Don't forget me, Friedrich. I'll never forget you.)