KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
Fritz Bhaer sat up in bed, glancing at the clock on his nightstand. His tired brain took a moment to register the numbers.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
"Fritz!" A female voice hissed through the door. "Open up!"
Jo. Of course. What other neighbor would wake him up at the crack of dawn?
One part of him filled up with that familiar anticipation it did when he knew he was going to see her. A stupid, silly reaction but nevertheless it happened. The other part of him was deeply irked that she'd bothered him in the first place.
The floor was cold on his bare feet as he stepped out of bed. He checked his reflection in the mirror, hoping his dark hair didn't look too wild. It didn't seem timely to try and fix it so he made his way to the front door.
"What?" He said in a gruff tone as he opened the door on his vivacious neighbor. Jo March frowned, placing her hands on her hips and looking quite put off with him. Her wild brown hair stuck up as much as his so he didn't feel quite so bad. "What?" More softly.
Jo's frown flipped and she stepped into his apartment. She had far too much energy this early in the day.
"Guten Teg, Mr, Professor!" She exclaimed, practically bouncing around the room.
"It's Tag, Jo. The word is tag."
She hardly seemed bothered, "It's still a Guten Tag! A VERY Guten Tag!" Fritz folded his arms, watching her with curiosity. In the six months she'd been here she'd managed to upset the order of everything. Jo was loud and careless and passionate. She'd run wildly through the apartment complex and them lock herself in her room for hours. Often she'd come and visit him. Lately, her visits had become his favorite things.
Her plans were wild. Her mind was completely imaginative, but the stories she wrote were rather mediocre. When he'd suggested that that was why her stories weren't selling, she'd refused to talk to him for a week.
But somehow he'd been growing feelings for her. She was absolutely impossible, not at all the partner he would've thought for himself, but somehow she was all that occupied his mind. Her, with her rants and stories and passion. Her youthfulness brought him to life.
He missed her when she wasn't there.
"Do you want to know why it's a guten tag?" Jo had that playful little smile, like a child who knows they aren't supposed to tell you something but wants to desperately.
Fritz grinned a bit, "Tell me." He finally noted a piece of paper followed in her hand.
Jo spread her arms and smiles wide, "I, Josephine March, have sold a story!"
He came out of his shock, "That…that's so wonderful!" Laughing, Jo began spinning in a circle. "How…where?"
"Henry Dashwood," she said, lowering her voice into a low drawl. "My appointment was at three, which I though was ridiculous, but he's apparently a 'very busy man'. Anyway, I walked in and he told me to leave it on the pile. That's the twentieth publisher to tell me that! So, I stood up and I read it to him."
"You did what?"
"He loved it. They're publishing it in a new book that's a collection of short stories!" Her voice rose up at the end of her sentence. "And I'm getting paid, like, real money! I'M A WRITER!" Her joyous laughter was so contagious that even he couldn't keep in his smile for long. Suddenly, another light of fire appeared in her eyes. "I feel like dancing! Do you dance?"
Fritz backed up, "You want to dance?"
Jo bounded towards him, "I have so much energy! Let's dance!" She grabbed his hands and began to spin in a circle. Fritz tried to protest, but some decided to go with it. Somehow their arms ended up around each other, hers around his neck and hers on his waist. They still were laughing, hardly noticing it at all.
But then they did. Suddenly Jo looked keenly aware of how close they were. Much too close for friends.
Fritz felt it grow very warm. Jo must've too because she also backed away.
"I…" He was talking. Why was he talking? He was going to say something stupid. "We should celebrate. Go get coffee or something."
"Are you asking me out?"
"No. Yes. Maybe."
Jo considered it, "I'd love too."
He smiled, about to say something else. Maybe something witty or eloquent or…
"My phone," Jo said, reaching a hand into her jean pocket. A dark expression came over her face as she looked at the screen. Fritz watched her, "Hello, Marmee...No, I'm…Yes…Oh…Oh, God…Did they just…Yeah?...I see…Well, I'll be there soon…Tell Beth…I will…Bye."
She hung up and let her hands dangle to the ground, clutching the phone as if it held her soul.
"Not good news?" Fritz said, but regretted the words as soon as he did.
"Dear God, no," Jo's voice had lost all joy. "My sister Beth…the cancer's back. It's worse. The Doctors didn't know it had spread." Her voice cracked. He knew she was fighting back tears. "I have to go home. I have to go now."
Fritz's tongue felt as dry as cotton. Words floated all around his head but he couldn't find the thread to pull them together.
"Thank you," Jo said. "Thank you so much, for everything."
She turned to go but he caught her hand, "Jo," he said. Her hand was cold. "Maybe, I should accompany you. It's dark, maybe it isn't best to travel alone."
Stupid. What a stupid thing to say.
Jo gave a ghost smile, "I'll be fine, but thank you." He wasn't expecting her to hug him and his arms locked up. She pulled away too quickly.
"Jo!" He stopped her again. Say it. Say what you want. "I…Will you be back?"
"Of course," she said softly, "I'll come back. Bye, I'll call you when I get there."
And then she was gone.
He didn't even know how long she'd be gone.
Maybe he was just being idiotic. Perhaps she hadn't felt anything at all.
Nevertheless, the city would be far too quiet without her there.
It was a very selfish wish to have, but he wished she'd come back soon.