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rome took all my vanity (and i gave up my foolish hopes in despair)

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When Aunt March said, “The young Mr. Laurence has been by to see you.” Amy thought her heart might have actually skipped a beat. She was walking in a daze, the rush of adrenaline that had given her the courage to deny Fred still pulsing through her. Laurie. Laurie. Laurie Laurie Laurie Laurie.

She knew what her answer would be now, and she pictured herself looking into Laurie’s eyes and telling him that she had declined Fred Vaughn’s proposal and he-

Aunt March’s next words sent that fantasy crashing down, and Amy into a chair right along with it. Her building hopes collapsed around her and her prospects disappeared from between her fingers.

Gone. Gone to London. Gone across a channel, gone away from Amy.

Amy March refused to seem desperate. Never mind if she actually was, she would not appear to be. Not under any circumstance. Not even when the man she loved for near on a decade had left the country, taking her heart and hopes with him.

 

…..

 

She had stormed away from Laurie in quite a state, and now that she was sitting in her hotel room with a cup of tea, Amy felt rather embarrassed for her dramatic refusal. Why did she not just say “no” gracefully, assert that no Laurie, I am in love with Fred? Why did she have to spill her emotions and secrets and insecurities all over him? And now, she was rather peeved that she did not have her charcoals or sketchbook, but her pride prevented her from walking back to the park to retrieve them. If Amy was going to make a dramatic exit- well, then she would commit to her dramatic exit!

Sometimes, Amy thought she had spent most of her life being jealous. Jealous of other people’s noses, the wealth of girls at school, her elder sisters going to glamorous balls, people who wore clothes that were not hand-me-downs from unfashionable cousins, Meg’s patience and Beth’s kindness and Jo’s genius. But mostly, Amy has spent hours and hours just plain jealous of Jo.

Jealous that Jo went to balls that Amy could not, when Jo did not even appreciate going! Jealous that Jo’s writing was praised by all, and everyone thought she would make her living, but Amy’s dreams of painting were condescended to. Jealous that Jo always knew exactly how to say words and exactly what they meant. Jealous that Jo was Laurie’s best friend, and that even though he loved all the girls, he loved Jo best.

Of course, now Amy had Aunt March’s wealth behind her, and went to truly glamorous balls in Paris dressed in the most beautiful gowns she could dream of (although her nose was still a great trial, and would always remain one). She had learned patience, and practiced kindness, and given up on genius very gracefully. But even here, a continent away, Jo’s specter haunted her, reminded her that she would always be second-best.

And it felt wicked, to be so envious. It was wicked. Amy had more than she could ask for, and would soon live in the lap of luxury all her life. She had taken an opportunity Jo had yearned for, but that did not even feel good. After all, this trip had been offered to Jo first and it was only due to Jo’s determination to misbehave that it was passed along to Amy. And now Laurie was offering himself up, another thing she could win over from Jo- but life was not that simple, and she was no longer a twelve-year-old girl with stars in her eyes. Laurie wanting her was no victory. Not when she knew it was only because Jo had rejected him first.

 

…..

 

Eventually, Amy March came to realize that Laurie did truly love her, and not as a consolation prize. He wanted her, was happy with her, loved the parts of her that were so different from Jo as well as the traits she shared with her sister. It was a delight, being with him- and not because he was a thing she had won from Jo. She loved Laurie because he made her laugh even on her worst days, because he delighted in her bossing him about, because he was certainly the best kisser in the entire world, because he bought her quality paints and played for her on the piano and took her dancing. Amy even slept beside him every night, and he would become quite cross if she tried to retreat to her own bedroom.

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, Amy would wake and she simply could not find sleep again. Her mind raced, thoughts spiraling through her head and down her throat and settling in the pit of her stomach. She lay in the dark beside her husband, feeling his heart beat against her ear and trying to take comfort in the steady rhythm. Because even though she knew that Laurie loved her, that last sliver of desperate jealousy remained lodged in her heart.

She did not want to ask the questions that circled her mind and choked her heart- do you love me best? Do you love me more than anyone else? Do you love me more than Jo?

She knew it was unfair of her to even think, and she would never let the queries fall from her lips. She might be Laurie’s wife now, but still- she would not seem desperate. Never mind if she actually was.

 

…..

 

Amy Laurence had to give her husband his credit, he was not a stupid man.

“You know I do not love her like that, right?” Laurie asked. Amy raised her eyebrows at him, biting back retorts and questions and every jealous ugly thing that wanted to spill out of her. Laurie must have sensed it anyways, for he went down on his knees with a hint of his old theatricality, and laid his head in her lap.

“I do not think I ever really loved Jo. As a man loves his wife, I mean.” Laurie’s eyes were solemn, face no longer holding any traces of teasing. Amy felt like her breath had caught within her chest. “I love her as my dearest friend, and as my sister. When I was younger, I confused that love with the other kind.”

“Oh,” was all that Amy could bring herself to say. Laurie could not help it- rendering his wife speechless was one of his favorite things in the world, and he simply could not resist smiling at her and clasping her hands within his.

“And you can never tell her this, but you are my favorite March sister. And I love you more than any other person in this world.”

Amy could only laugh, smile so wide it hurt her cheeks. “There’s no need to say things like that! But just to assure you, you have always been my favorite Laurence. And I certainly love you as a woman loves her husband, my lord.”

My lady. My wife,” Laurie grinned, and kissed Amy’s hands.

 

…..

 

Sometimes, Amy felt absolutely depraved. Finally having Laurie, after wanting for so long and dreaming of him so much, was so wonderful it at times bordered on unbearable. And she had thought her dreams would stop, with him lying in bed beside her, but he only visited her in sleep more frequently. Never mind that they were married, surely it must be a sin to want a man this much? She told Laurie as much once, and the look on his face assured her that she at least was not alone in her sin.

Maybe it was not very ladylike to want something so desperately, but Laurie liked her elegance all the more for being the only one to see it shatter.