Author's Note: This story takes place in the first half of the book, but before Meg and John are engaged and Laurie goes away for college. I hope you enjoy!
Jo March wove her fingers in the threads of the hammock, rocking herself slightly with a foot on the soggy ground. The Laurences had given the hammock to their family, but it might as well been given to Jo. For she stuck it as deep into their yard as possible, making it a hidden spot where her stories could unravel in peace. But what often distracted her, or even called her to the hammock, was the view. Between several branches sat Laurie's house. No one could see her, or so she thought. But she could see all the happenings in the yard and in several of the windows including Laurie's study, where she often chuckled at his obvious boredom during one of Mr. Brooke's lessons. Jo wasn't a nose bone, and the great spying view wasn't the reason she retreated to the spot, but it was something she couldn't help doing from time to time. Or everyday. Especially when she was in a quarrel with the Laurence boy himself.
Last evening Laurie had joined Jo on her way into town. While she was off buying emergency apples for a pie Amy was struggling to make, Laurie slipped off and bought Jo a bouquet. Jo hadn't made much notice of the gesture for she was too frustrated by the fact that the apples she was buying were going to go to waste, Amy was no baker. However, as Laurie walked Jo to the door that evening, Jo with the flower in hand, Meg watched the boy playfully but kept her lips sealed till he reached his own door. She then began to tease Jo about the flowers Laurie had bought for her, which made Jo turn red and rant about her sisters' nonsense. The whole thing made Jo mad, he was simply buying a flower for her, nothing more whatsoever. Meg was most likely jealous that Mr. Brook hadn't bought her a flower. Or no, that Laurie hadn't. That was it. But for some reason, some part of the gesture stuck with her. Laurie's almost sheepish smile as he gave it to her, a smile Jo had hardly noticed in her annoyance with Amy at the time. But the image came back to her, and Jo pushed it from her head, ignoring any lingering curiosity about why her Teddy had done such a thing. He would do that for anyone, surely. But even that conclusion didn't fit right, and simply made Jo flustered and speculate the Laurence boy.
Jo looked down and realized the leaf she had been holding was now in pieces across her lap. She sighed, bored with the lack of activity at her neighbor's home, when movement caught her eye. Laurie was strolling down the driveway, whistling to himself. What was he doing? He seemed a little too proud of it whatever it is. The boy paused to admire an crimson amber leaf dangling from a nearly bare tree, before continuing on his way with what looked like a side glance in Jo's direction. Jo had to maneuver carefully to see where he was headed, while staying both in her hammock and hidden behind the bushes. She narrowed her eyes when Laurie stopped at his mailbox and pulled out a small package. He tapped it happily then made a quiet comment. He sure was acting strange for not knowing someone was watching him. Then he paused, apparently too excited to wait till he was inside to open the box. Jo leaned, trying to see what it was he had received, but Laurie seemed to turn his back to her. Almost purposefully. But the boy was now near enough that she could hear him chuckle to himself. What was so funny about what was inside? Jo was now in pain as she struggled to remain hidden while keeping a decent view. And just as Laurie turned about, Jo hoping to get a glimpse of what was inside, she was greeted by a wide smirk, his eyes fixed on hers. She gasped and flopped to the ground.
"Christopher Columbus." She groaned as she popped up over the bushes, dusting off her dress. Laurie strode to her, looking smug.
"You aren't a very good hider."
"Well you aren't a very good finder."
"Really, how so? I do believe I just found you without a problem." Jo walked the line of the iron fence till she was at the corner nearest to Laurie.
"I wouldn't dare say so. It only took you months to find me!" Laurie raised his brow.
"That's an exaggeration. It was more like 2 minutes."
"I think I would know, since I know a lot you don't know I know." Laurie hugged the package to his chest.
"Really, what is it that I don't know you know?"
"You didn't finish your mathematics in time last Tuesday, and Mr. Brooke lectured you about 'the importance of doing things in a timely manner.'" She said in a mimic of the man's voice.
"I watched it all from right here and you had no idea." Laurie fiddled with the tie on the box.
"You spied on me while I was studying? Now that Ms. March is an awfully peculiar thing to do. Do you often invade other peoples privacy?" Jo pushed away any guilt when she glimpsed Laurie's poorly hidden smirk.
"Its not an invasion, Teddy. You just didn't close your curtains."
"Well you're using an argument a Peeping Tom could use!" Jo's mouth fell agape as she scrounged for something to throw at the boy.
"I am not a Peeping Tom, Christopher Columbus!" Laurie ducked the stick and raised his brow.
"I suppose you don't get to see what's in here after all."
"I don't care." Jo turned her face way from Laurie, but desperately wanted to jump the fence between them and tackle it from his grasp.
"Right. Have a good day then, Tom." Jo narrowed her eyes at the boy. Laurie and his smug expression headed for his front door. "Grandfather look what I got. Its so magnificent!" Echoed out through an open window. Jo knew he was shouting as loud as he could.
"I'm going to find out what's inside whether he likes it or not." Jo growled to herself, stomping back to her home. But she paused when she saw Amy's "pie" sitting out on the porch. Its black burnt crust had been pecked open to reveal slivers of the desiccated apples inside. Though the pie was awful, and burnt, some of it most likely salvageable. But Amy had instead put it out for the birds to eat? This only made Jo's stomps louder as she marched inside. She could hear Hannah in the kitchen, bustling about. Why was she so busy? Jo popped around the corner to see several baskets being quickly filled by the maids' hands.
"What's all this?" Jo asked peaking inside one of the baskets. Hannah looked to her.
"My girl, its for the outing. Your mother, Meg, John and Mr. Laurence..." She stuffed a muffin inside a basket.
"That's today? Oh no..." This outing was something of an arrangement by Mr. Laurence, and though more than just Meg and John were attending, it was meant as a symbol. The gathering of the eldest of two families, bringing together a couple who hopefully would wed. "Has Meg left yet?"
"Do you think I made all this for myself? Of course not, she's upstairs." But just then footsteps trailed over head before Meg, Marmee and Amy came bustling down the stairs.
"Oh, you just look so beautiful, Meg. I wish I could paint your dress so I could keep it forever." Amy serenaded as her eyes took in the crimson ruffles on her oldest sister's dress.
"Meg, I'm so sorry. I forgot like a fool." Meg smiled.
"Its all right, Jo. Amy and Marmee did just fine preparing me." Jo sighed.
"I'm sure its a blessing they readied you instead of me. But you could have found me you know. I was only in the garden." Meg became distracted with adjusting her bun in a mirror, but Marmee turned to her, adjusting her own sleeves.
"We didn't want to disturb you, we know that's where you write." Jo felt a little more guilty, she hadn't been writing. She had gone their to spy. She bit her lip, looking to her older sister.
"Meg does look beautiful doesn't she, and so do you, Marmee." The woman kissed Jo's head.
"Be good while we are away. Beth is sleeping, and Amy needs to do her printing today." Jo could never get Amy to do her homework without threatening her first, but she simply nodded to her mother.
"Here I come." Hannah exclaimed as she turned the corner, piled high with baskets. Just then came a knocking at the door.
"Oh how do I look?" Meg asked nervously as they headed down the hall.
"Like an angel!" Amy cried stepping out of the threesome's way. Marmee opened the door and was greeted by Mr. Laurence's smile.
"Are we ready?"
"Oh yes." Hannah said, appearing beside Marmee.
"Wonderful." He stepped aside, allowing John to reach Meg. He kissed her hand and the couple followed Marmee and Grandfather to the carriage.
"Goodbye, goodbye to you all!" Amy waved, her eyes looking equally happy but jealous of her sister's attention. Hannah filled the carriage before returning to the home.
"They're just perfect for one another." Jo wished she could see what they were seeing. A happy couple, in love. For all she saw was a stranger taking away her sister. How was it that it was so easy for Amy, or even Beth to be joyous for Meg in her new-found romance? How did they not understand what it would eventually mean, her leaving home forever? Jo looked at Amy and Hannah's cheery faces and tried to mimic one as the group waved to them before the horses began down the road.
"Wait!" Called a voice from next door. Jo gasped, her eyes flicking to her neighbor's porch. Laurie skipped off of it and hurried to the carriage.
"Come inside, girls. We don't want to stare." Hannah said as she herded them back inside, closing the door. Why did Laurie have to go with them? It must be part of the tradition she didn't know about. Jo looked about, her house suddenly seemed eerily quiet and lonesome. Then it hit her. The Laurence home was now empty. A plan began to boiling inside her. With no one home, she could sneak inside and snatch the package or at least get a good look at what was inside.
When Hannah disappeared in the kitchen, Jo turned to Amy. She tried to start off sounding nice. "Amy, please go do your printing." Amy's blonde brows rose.
"No." She turned her back to Jo.
"Amy March, you're going to go in there and do your work!" She was too eager to infiltrate Laurie's home and her patience with Amy always ran out quick. She pointed to the study.
"I don't feel like it."
"Well you're never going to feel like it. Now go in there before I tell Hannah about the muffins." Amy's face stiffened, then her eyes fell to her own pockets, puffy and obviously full, the top of a pastry peaking out. "Or worse, I'll tell Meg that you stole her muffi-"
"Fine!" She barked, darting off to her desk, her pink dress fluttering behind her. Jo sighed, now Amy was dealt with. She tucked her loose hair behind her ears and went and told Hannah that Amy was doing her work, before announcing she was going out. Clearly Hannah hadn't even looked to Jo's bedraggled state whilst she cleaned the kitchen, or else she would have her clean up before seeing the public. But Jo was glad of it, and hurried for the door.
Though the sun was out the autumn's chill still haunted the air, Jo could tell a cold spell was blowing in. She hoped the chilliness wouldn't ruin Meg's day. Fall leaves dotted the trail to Laurie's home, halfway there she spied down the road. It was quiet and empty. The carriage was long gone. Jo looked to the house, it stood tall and silent. No sign of life. She looked about one more time before making a run for it.
She immediately plopped down once she reached his porch, though she knew no one was home, for some reason she still felt uneasy and vulnerable. But it was just her, and the walls separating her from that package. Jo tucked her hair back once more, wiping her nose on her sleeve before opening the door. It creaked but she managed to slip inside. The clock in the hall ticked, but the room was silent. Her brown eyes flicked about, so many paintings were staring at her, she began to worry they would jump to life and tattle on her. She stepped forward, listening intently. What was she listening for? No one was home. Jo sighed, trying to relax. But she couldn't. She had sneaked into their home, this was much more intense spying then her view from the hammock. And she couldn't help but feel guilty about it, but she had to find that package. And the sooner she did, the sooner she'd be home free.
Jo scouted out all of Laurie's spots downstairs. The kitchen, the couch, the piano, the dining room. All package-less. If not in those places, where would Laurie put it? Jo bit her lip. His room. Jo dashed for the stairs. Wanting to be in and out of the boy's space as quick as she could manage. She trudged up the stairway and headed for Laurie's open door. At first she paused, taking in the mess. Empty plates were scattered about, hats and unfolded clothing carpeted the floor.
"Oh Laurie, you are a pig." She mumbled as she stepped over a pile of books. "Now where is it..." She looked about. His dresser was definitely not empty, but the package wasn't there. She then looked to his book shelf, and it too was package-less. Fear hit her when she realized he most likely had already removed it from the box and the thing could be sitting in plain sight. She began looking for something new, when she spotted a steaming cup of tea on his nightstand. "That's odd." She watched the heat rise from the mug. But not that odd, he is a Lazy Laurence after all. He probably just forgot to drink it. But fear grasped her as Jo caught scent of the tea. Peppermint. His favorite. He would never leave a cup of this sitting out, untouched. Could Laurie still be at home? No. She saw him go to the carriage. But she didn't see him get inside...
Jo panicked, dashing about the room. When there sitting just out of view below a sock was the package. She ran to it, careful not to touch the dirty clothing piece and looked about before reaching for the string, her fingers fumbling.
"Josephine March." Jo's heart slammed against her chest. "And I thought you spying on me from your yard was bad." She stiffened, slowly turning her head to Laurie. His arms were crossed, his brow raised. Jo panicked, trying to think of any excuse of why she would be in there, holding his package.
"I-I was just..."
"Breaking into my room? Normally I wouldn't mind you bursting into my bedroom but when I'm not in it, that's just sneaky."
"Oh Teddy I had to! You weren't going to show it to me!" She exclaimed.
"How do you know?"
"Because I know you, Teddy. You were just going to keep taunting me with it!" He stepped closer, and as much as Jo wanted to just hand over the box, her desire to know what was inside overcame her. Her grip tightened.
"Well now that you're trying to steal it I might not ever show it to you." He was now a foot from her, she tried backing up but immediately bumped into the nightstand. "Just hand it over, and-" Like a panicking deer, Jo darted around Laurie and headed for the door. She heard footsteps behind her and she quickened her could run laps in several of the rooms, then hide, throwing him off the scent before dashing downstairs at the right moment. But as soon as she thought she had lost him by ducking in a mess of hanging coats and made a run for the stairwell, something grabbed onto her, knocking her to the floor.
Laurie's face was an inch from hers as he used his weight to hold her down. "Let me go, Teddy!" She growled at the smirking Laurence. His hand wrapped around her own that was tangled in the tie of the package. For brief a moment, Jo's thoughts faded as she became distracted by his hand on her's, the heat of his body and the closeness of his face but she quickly came back to her senses as the box was yanked from her grip. Laurie rolled away cackling.
"Now you'll never know." Jo narrowed her eyes as she stomped to her feet.
"You're a fat smelly pig who squished me and I don't even care what's in there anymore!" She barked, turning her back to the boy. Something that had happened in the last minute had infuriated part of her mind, and that irritation swept her from the room and out the door of the boy's house. She refused to address what had triggered her anger and marched back to her home and into the arms of her journal, where she began doodling ugly versions of Laurie that more closely resembled pigs and rats than a person.