A/N: Okay, so this is a filler chapter (sorry about it!) to get things moving along-because I couldn't take the physical obstacles (ie: Bhaer and Amy) any longer haha. Thank you (thankyouthankyouthankyou) for all your continuous support and reviews and favourites and alerts despite my very few-and-far-between updates! For the record, I am making an effort to update my stories midway through the semester (as you would've noticed if you see that my Old Kingdom/Abhorsen story has been updated)-aren't you proud of me? :D
Disclaimer: Louisa May Alcott's.
Too Much of a Gentleman
In putting off sharing the news with her family, Jo was purposely avoiding finalising their engagement: Professor Bhaer knew this for a fact—just as surely as he knew that Jo's decision not to announce their engagement had something to do with her young neighbour. Her very expression during that particular conversation had sent invisible tremors of foreboding through his soul.
"I'm sorry," she told him, mournfully, as Jo-like as he had ever known. "Please understand; I don't take well to change—I never have. And marriage is as large a step as there is."
Wordlessly, he eyed her earnest, pleading face as she rambled on in feeling.
"I don't mean to hurt your feelings or anything, dear Fritz—it's just," She exhaled in frustration, her dark eyes revealing a sincere inner conflict. "Please, I need some time to think about this."
He had consented readily that afternoon—but a day after his proposal had been accepted. Yet, he had known that despite the authenticity of her claim of an aversion to change, part of her hesitancy took root in the form of the young Laurence chap.
His comfort stemmed from the knowledge that the boy was engaged to Jo's sister.
Growing up, Josephine March had always prided herself on her independence, thriving on her role as the pillar of support for her sisters. While she never seemed to be able to attain the feminine grace they had ingrained within their behaviour, she comforted herself with the knowledge that none of them bested her in her duties as protector and sentry; and that had always been enough for her vanity.
She took her role very much to heart, distancing herself from any exceptionally ladylike behaviour that etiquette did not deem compulsory; and devoted heart and soul into an existence straddling a great literary daydream and her life, the latter of which revolved around a self-imposed responsibility to see to the happiness of loved-ones—something which she had always been able to place above her own yearnings…up till now. For it seemed that she had fallen prey to what she once regarded as silly and impractical: a fancy—and the subject of which was her sister's beloved and her childhood playmate, no less.
What she once only took to in her fictional realms and had previously avoided at all costs in real life, she now underwent with a tinge of self-disgust and helplessness. The irrational jealously and possessiveness, the overly-ardent affection—she knew it well from the nib of her pen, yet it was only now that she experienced it all in Jekyll-Hyde fashion: one moment on the brink of declaring her undying love, the next reflecting on her actions in horror and self-scorning cynicism.
A more level-headed and emotionally-controlled individual would have possessed the patience to sift through these convoluted emotions and circumstances—and Sensible Jo would have steadily worked through such a tangle from the point of view of one of her many lovelorn heroines on any normal day. But Sensible Jo seemed to have presently taken a long hiatus just as the Jekyll-and-Hyde affliction set in, and so it was rather unsurprising that the second March daughter found a constant companion in hysteria in the days following the confrontation with her neighbour.
She did, however, gather enough of her wits between spells to mitigate the situation to the best of her ability; namely, by delaying the announcement of her engagement to her family.
She knew, of course, that fancies would pass-and she was fairly certain that this particular persistent affliction was exactly that: a passing fancy, albeit an overpowering one that seemed to be getting the better of her.
Her main concern was how she would be able to resist the temptation of succumbing to her foolish, emotional heart in the wake of Laurie's ridiculous romantic notions.
However much she loved her boy; however much he thought he loved her, Josephine March knew for a fact that she was the complete antithesis of the wife that a gentleman of his social standing ought to marry. He'd be better off with someone who cared for the latest fashion, who would be able to garner acceptance from other ladies of the upper-crust, regardless of how contrived that amiability would actually be. She'd be miserable doing just that; and then she'd be grouchy and moody and they'd row over consecutive days because she would be in such an irritable mood from some dinner party or other.
No doubt she loved Laurie-but it wasn't the type for 'lovering', as he wished. It just wasn't practical for them beyond friendship.
She only cursed the fact that her fancy had taken root at this juncture in her life; and that she had so carelessly let Theodore Laurence get wind of it.
And so Jo March decided to wipe the chalk scribbles off the figurative slate and relinquish the Professor's offer of marriage, while conjuring a sense of renewed determination in resisting a certain neighbour's stubborn ideas as well as that of her emotional psyche until the fancy faded.
Professor Bhaer left for New York three days after Amy boarded the ship to Paris.
Whether or not they noticed the coincidence, no one mentioned anything about the sudden departure of the German Professor so soon after the youngest March daughter's. In particular, not a word was uttered about the fact that the announcement of Amy and Laurie's broken engagement preceded said abrupt departures.
Yet, the implications remained glaringly obvious to the people in the March and Laurence households; and it cast them into a viscous clay of awkwardness-or at least it felt thus to Jo. And so, heeding one of Marmee's philosophies about the importance of busying one's self, she threw herself into her everyday activities; writing and gardening and cleaning and baking with renewed fervour-the latter to the amusement of Hannah.
As her days fell into a pleasant rhythm, the awkwardness had seemed to have almost dissolved completely until the tranquil facade shattered one afternoon.
She should've seen it coming, really-she'd initially been conscientious in taking pains to avoid being alone with Laurie for long, but soon took for granted his acquiescence to her efforts in minimising personal interaction between themselves. Lulled into a false sense of security, she gradually let her guard down, only to be accosted while she sat in the garden one day, book laid face down beside her as she basked, shut-eyed, in the afternoon sun.
So engrossed was she in her meandering thoughts, that she barely registered footsteps in the grass until the person settled beside her and spoke.
A/N: ...and that sets the stage for the drama I'm all excited about. Hee :D
Anyway, I've been trying to evolve Jo into someone who's trying (albeit struggling, but trying nonetheless) to articulate her feelings; because I always felt that it would've been more reasonable for her character to behave such given her attachment to Beth (and Beth's subsequent death). I wanted my Jo less emotionally invulnerable because she had to have an outlet for emotional dependency given the blow of a sister's death, and her loneliness with the house (her previous emotional stronghold) suddenly much emptier. At the same time, I wanted her to remain the independent-thinking, logical heroine I've always admired, hence the head and heart thing-which is essentially the crux of the Jo/Laurie loveliness. Does this make sense?