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Mein Hertz

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Two black words in beautiful flowing script appeared on the curve of Jo’s right breast on her eighteenth birthday, and she decided, immediately, to hide them.

She didn’t have time for a soulmate. Not now! She was going to be going to New York at last! She wondered bitterly why it hadn’t shown up during the long, miserable lean days after Meg’s marriage, when Amy and not Jo had been picked to dance off with Aunt March to France. Then a soulmate would have given her direction and purpose, or at least grist for her writing. Now that she had New York, the hope of a real writing career and a whole burgeoning social career ahead of her, the last thing she wanted to do was leave it all behind for the yoke of motherhood.

So she told no one. Not Meg and John at the train station, nor Marmee in her letters. Definitely not Amy, who kept delivering Jo cloyingly sweet stories of her life in France. If Beth were well…but no, she wouldn’t want to burden her delicate sister with such news. So she held the truth close to her vest and settled happily in to care for the Kirke children.

A week into her stay she’d been bustling in from a lecture and a heavy rainstorm when she bumped chest-first into something tall and blustery and fell back against the vestibule wall.

“Ow!” she exclaimed, landing on her bottom.

“Mein hertz!” he replied.

And all at once the meaning of the words on her breast took on a new significance.

She looked up and into his face and saw a dark handsomeness in his blunt features –and the fact that he was trying to school the joy out of his features. Oh no. No no no no! “Miss March, your head is in the clouds?”

“Not so high that I didn’t see you,” she said crossly. “Why didn’t you stop?” she asked.

“I have a class to attend,” he said firmly. “Are you still interested in your German lessons?”

“Yes,” she said. He extended a hand and helped her up. She had no idea what to say to him. The feeling of being close to him was unmistakably electric. But he bustled out the front door, his black umbrella over his head, and after she changed clothing and dried up, the Kirkes were so busy that she didn’t have time to think about it again until they were sitting in the Kirke’s front room with the man’s enormous, forest green German phrasebook spread before them.

 

Friedrich. She’d heard him say his name twice when he shook her hand upon her introduction. The man’s name is Friedrich and she ought to be frightened of the fact that they’re going to spend a lifetime together, but he's a foreboding yet provoking face. Fun to spend the day with. The hour. A lifetime with him might work out splendidly. Before she knew it the parlor clock struck midnight and she jumped at the sound. And he gently chuckled, drawing her back into her seat to sit beside him once more.

“Miss March,” he said, “you are the most delightfully confounding woman I’ve ever met.”

“I could say the same about you, though you’re no woman,” she said blithely. Then her eyes fell to the inside of his left palm. She barely saw the two letters that had been stamped there as if by a printing press but knew well what she had said that morning.

She met his dark eyes, traded her bemused smile for his own. “I don’t suppose you have a ‘mein hertz’ on your body somewhere?”

Jo realized she was leaning closer to him, leaning into the solidarity of his neat form. “If I do, what does it mean?” she asked, leaning close to him, feeling the heat pouring from his body and warming her bones.

“My heart,” he said, and cupped her cheek before giving her a kiss.