"I must endeavour to subdue my mind to my fortune. I must learn to brook being happier than I deserve." - Captain Wentworth in Persuasion, by Jane Austen.

Marianne felt like lead.

It was the best way to describe it. She felt so heavy that she was unable to move simultaneously she also felt incredibly exhausted that she wouldn't want to move anyway. Her muscles felt sore, her head was killing her, and her throat felt as dry as sandpaper.

She groaned at the agony of it.


She groaned again in reply.


God, why wasn't Ellen leaving her alone? Wasn't it obvious that she just wanted to sleep?

"Marianne, wake up, please wake up," Ellen seemed to be pleading with her, "Marianne, please. Just open your eyes once."

Marianne groaned once again. If she had the strength she would honestly smack Ellen with her pillow before rolling over and returning to the wonderful world of dreams. She tried to tell Ellen to go away but it sounded more like a whimper much to her irritation and therefore she had to settle with a glare.

The light was blinding.

"Someone get my Mum!" Marianne didn't understand. Why did Ellen sound so hopeful but terrified at the same time? Why was she asking for their Mum?

"I'll fetch her," Chris' voice said quickly.

Why was Chris in her room? What on earth was going on? She blinked repeatedly as she tried to adjust to that god awful light, and immediately added another question to her list: why was it so fucking sunny? It's March. Surely it should be raining instead!

Ellen's face appeared above her, if she had the strength, Marianne would have gasped; Ellen looked awful. Her hair was a tangled mess, the shadows under her eyes were huge but they were further enhanced by the paleness of her face, and she had that worried but grieved expression on her face that Marianne despised. It was the look Ellen wore for months after their father died.

"Thank God, you're awake!" Ellen whispered as she slumped with relief, "How are you feeling?"

Marianne tried to reply but all that came out was a horrible croaking noise. God she was so freaking thirsty.

"You must be thirsty," Ellen murmured in realisation, "hold on a moment."

She disappeared from view and to Marianne's surprise it was Anne, who stepped back into view a mere second later, and held a glass of water under her chin and gently directed the straw to Marianne's lips. She greedily sucked on the straw.

"Slowly," Anne chided her, "or you'll make yourself sick."

Marianne gasped as she pulled away from the straw, water disgustingly dripping down her chin as she did so, and momentarily relished the fact her throat felt normal again before she asked, "What are you doing here?"

Anne looked pained for a moment. "Why shouldn't I be here?" she asked.

Marianne didn't know how to answer that. There were many reasons why Anne wouldn't be here ranging from Bath to London but there was no reason why she shouldn't…and well that made her want to cry for some silly reason.

Marianne would have been able to figure out something to say in reply but before she knew it she was surrounded by medical people, talking nonsense that she didn't understand, and asking rather irritating if a little too personal questions. It was like a circus only without the clowns (unless you count that particular doctor that had a very unfortunate nose) and finally a verdict was made that if Marianne continued as she was she should be discharged within the week. When this verdict was delivered her mother, who had rushed in not long after the doctors swarmed round Marianne with Chris at her heels, burst into grateful tears and flung her arms round Marianne.

"Mum," Marianne gasped, "Oh, Mum, don't cry, please don't cry."

"I can't help it," her mother wept, "I thought I was going to lose you as well."

She ended up trying to comfort her mother as Ellen sat beside her and hugged her tightly and silently as their mother wailed. Marianne couldn't squash down the guilt that was swelling up inside her. She did this. She caused her mother to cry. Not their father's death, not their brother's selfishness, her. It was her fault this time and it was probably her fault before.

After all, how worried must her mother have been when she ran off having adventures? How hurt was she when Marianne refused to come home or keep in touch properly? How upset was she when Ellen came home for Christmas and Marianne didn't? And how much stress, fear, and worry did she put her mother through with this?

She glanced up at Ellen's pale face….it wasn't just her mother she had hurt with her behaviour. Ellen looked like death warmed over and she was supposed to be the healthy one out of the two right now. A scan of her surroundings made her feel even worse; Anne seemed to have tears in her eyes and Chris looked exhausted.

To make her feel even worse Emma, Lizzie, Cathy, and Fanny came in right at that moment with a sobbing Meg amongst them.

Oh God.

"Marianne!" Meg cried out as she flung her arms round her neck. Marianne tried to not to choke as she leaned into her little sister's suffocating embrace. "I've been so scared. I thought I'll never see you again. But I tried to keep faith, like Fanny said, and you're better now. You're better!"

"I am," Marianne murmured soothingly as she tried to pat her sister's back, "just need lots of rest and I'll be good as new."

"You promise?"

"I promise."

Stuck in a very awkward group hug with her sisters and mother had slowed Marianne to examine her friends. She couldn't believe they were all here, especially Lizzie, especially the sulky way she had behaved for the last couple months. Fanny was in the corner, hands together, eyes shut, and her lips moving wordlessly. Marianne suspected that she was praying. Meanwhile Emma was smiling so wide that it looked like her face was about to split into two as she handed a tissue to Anne, who was definitely crying out of relief, Cathy seemed to be virtually vibrating with joy, and Lizzie was texting though her dark eyes kept flashing back to Marianne which suggested she was telling someone that Marianne was fine.

It was so incredibly heart-warming and guilt inducing all at the same time.

Marianne squeezed Ellen's hand tightly and Ellen squeezed back harder.

She had her eyes opened now. She had her epiphany; she had been stupid, and selfish, and far too careless.

It was time to grow up.


It was quite late at night when it occurred to Fanny that she should phone Tom. Oh that sounded dreadful! As if she had forgotten him on purpose or been putting it off! But actually, after staying with Marianne until hospital visiting hours were over, everyone's priority was to find something to eat, and then to have a drink to celebrate the fact that Marianne was going to be all right. Fanny had already thank God for it but she felt compelled to do so again, it was just such a relief to know that Marianne was safe, that Ellen was going to endure another loss, and that they could all breath again. It was then the thought occurred to her that Tom didn't know that Marianne was okay and that as far as he was concerned Fanny was still at a friend's dangerously ill bedside, that she reached for her phone and dialled without a second thought.

"Hey Fanny!" Tom greeted her warmly. "I was just about to phone you." She seriously doubted that. Nothing against Tom or anything, but she knew as much as he cared for her she wasn't that high on his priority list. "I know that silence!" Tom said with mocking indignation. "Don't have such little faith in me! I was…eventually," he relented sheepishly.

"It doesn't matter," Fanny shook her head fondly, "I was just calling to let you know that my friend is much better and is bound to make a full recovery."

"Hey, that's great news," Tom said cheerfully, "much better than my news, because you'd never guess what happened!"

Fanny would like to have guessed something pleasant, like Mariah's wedding went off without a hitch, or Edmund has secured a job on the career path he wanted, or even her godfather had gotten even richer and was buying Tom a new car, anything nice would do, but she knew from the mischievous tone of her god brother's voice that it was more likely to be something awful. As wonderful as he is, he did sometimes take pleasure in other people's misfortune. "Not something too horrible, I hope," she voiced eventually.

"Ah, you're no fun Fan," she could virtually hear the pout in his voice. "All right, it's nothing good for anyone on my side of the country."

"What happened?" Fanny asked worriedly. Had there been some sort of freak storm? A mini earthquake that managed to break something? Or had there been a horrible accident of some sort?

"Mariah has run off with Molly's brother!" Tom blurted out.

"What?" Fanny squeaked disbelievingly.

"I know! I can't believe it either," Tom said far too gleefully for his own good, "I thought she's definitely marry the boring rich drip, but no, she left a note and ran off to her honeymoon with another man!"

"Poor Jeremy," Fanny murmured, "how is he?"

"Very drunk right now," Tom said sympathetically, "I may have helped a bit there," Fanny would have scolded him for drinking while still on pain medication but Tom carried on before she could. "It's all kicking off over here. Dad is furious, he paid for everything and now all that money is down the drain, Julia is sulking, she apparently really fancied Harvey or whatever his name was, Edmund is pissed with Molly (apparently she knew it was going to happen), and Mum is in hysterics."

Fanny sighed. "That sounds awful," she murmured, "is there anything I can do?"

"I wish," Tom muttered bitterly, "I could really use my best gal's help, especially with Mum, but I wouldn't put you through this nightmare…that and….well…."

Fanny's eyes widened in realisation. "I'm not welcome there anymore," she finished Tom's sentence softly. He made an aggravated noise and tried to protest but she interrupted. "It's okay, really," she said reassuringly, "I don't really want to go back anyway. I was just calling to let you know how Marianne is and that I will be staying in Norfolk for the rest of the holiday to help get her back on her feet."

"That's good," Tom sighed in relief, "I was worried about you being on your own, 'cause I don't think I'll be back for a while, as much as I want to leave, I, well, can't….Mum needs someone," he admitted rather shyly, "she really misses you Fanny."

Fanny doubted that but she wasn't going to argue. Her godmother had never fully recovered from a serious bout of post-natal depression and since then had been extremely prone to hysterics to the point the smallest thing could set her off. It made being a child difficult for all five of them, Tom coped by being a social butterfly, Mariah and Julia took to ignoring their mother, and Edmund….well Fanny wasn't sure. He was always kind and gentle….he had been the one to help Fanny when she took the difficult task of comforting her own guardian and calming her down.

Aside from no longer having a sympathetic shoulder to cry on, something that she hadn't had for months as it was, Fanny doubted her godmother noticed that she wasn't there.

But that was okay, in fact, as Fanny said her goodbyes and hung up, she found that it no longer bothered her as much as it used to. She didn't mind that her god family didn't want her, or that they didn't notice her absence, or that only Tom bothered to check on her.

She wondered if this meant she was finally recovering from it all.

The idea made her smile.


Anne and Fred decided to take a stroll in order to escape Emma.

That might sound horrible but, with Marianne about to be released from hospital soon, Emma had turned into a controlling, bossy, matron and they needed a break from all the cleaning she ordered them to do. After all Mrs Dashwood and Ellen had been too worried about Marianne to think about doing the household chores, and Meg….well Meg was fourteen, of course she wasn't going to do chores! While everyone had no problem pitching in to help as they had been earlier this week, Emma decided it would be nice to surprise them with a proper spring cleaning, and make everything spotless for the Dashwoods.

"Why is it," Lizzie snarled as she put the hideous Marigolds on with a nasty snapping sound, "that we always seem to be cleaning other people's houses rather than our own?"

This was a valid complaint seeing as they also recently cleaned Chris' house as well. "Because we're being helpful," Emma replied far too cheerfully for her own good. "Weren't you ever a Brownie, Lizzie? We're supposed to be surprising people with our helpfulness and kindness."

"Yes but when I was in Brownies they never made me clean someone else's toilet."

It was then when Anne and Fred saw their chance to disappear. With Emma distracted with her argument about cleaning toilets, they could run off before she could rope them into something like descaling the bathroom tiles or polishing the cutlery. After all it was the first nice day since Easter and they hadn't had the chance to spend time with one another since Anne stormed out of her father's house. They had then been caught up in a whirlwind of worry, fear, stress, and annoyance as they waited on Marianne's sickbed in between dealing with work, being helpful and supportive to others, and having to just listen to that horrible Lady Katrina woman. Honestly Anne doesn't know how Lizzie could speak two words to such a disgustingly, vile, narrow-minded woman. Anne would have been speechless with fury if she had been in Lizzie's shoes! The sheer nerve…!

So Anne and Fred took advantage of the lovely meadows surrounding the Dashwood home, and the warm weather, and the distraction Lizzie caused, to be able to hold hands and walk peacefully together.

It was Fred who finally broke the silence.

"I've been thinking," Fred said quietly, "I don't want to do telesales for the rest of my life."

"Well no one can blame you for that," Anne replied. While it was an easily done job for someone in Fred's predicament, and, unlike many other telesales positions, it came with a basic hourly wage that supplemented Fred's pension and enabled him to pay his rent and bills, it was a tiresome job, monotonous, dull, and filled with rejection after rejection. "It's not something anyone would want to make a career out of."

"Have you given much thought on what you'd like to do?" Anne asked.

"I have," Fred admitted, "I quite like the idea of teaching."


"There's been talk," Fred explained, "An initiative the minister of education has put forward, that veterans should be trained as teachers. It's a silly idea really. This man is entirely out of touch with everything to do with children and education, he seems to think if we acted like a drill sergeant the children will learn faster, but it's an opportunity. More than that, I can do something more, for myself, for others…It's something I think I'd enjoy."

"I think," Anne said quietly, "that it is something you could be very good at. After all you are patient, kind, strict but fair, and a good role model to all. You would make a marvellous teacher."

She was certain she could see a faint tinge of pink on his cheeks. His quiet smile, however, was so radiant that she couldn't be sure if he was blushing. "I hope I could be," he said, "but I worry about my arm," he gestures to the lack of arm with his one remaining hand. "How it could hinder my ability to do…well anything."

"An arm doesn't make a man," Anne argued. Perhaps a little testily as well as she still remembered her aunt's disdain of Fred and his lack of an arm. "You still have your mind, your patience, and your ability to do anything you wish. Don't let anything hold you back from what you want to do, not your arm, not your family, not even-"

He cut her off by entangling his hand into her hair and pulling her in for a soft kiss. "I won't," he promised her, "I don't want either of us to be held back by anything in the past," he carried on as his eyes bore into hers. She couldn't help but flush underneath such an intensive look. It was close to a certain look he gave her in the bedroom. "I want to look towards the future instead. I want to plan a future for you and me."

"I want that too," she whispered.

They kissed again. This one was less gentle and more jubilant, as they celebrated the fact they were going to have a future together, and this time nothing will stop them. Anne was certain that nothing could ruin this moment…

"So how is your Dissertation?"

And now the moment was now officially ruined. "Don't ask," Anne groaned.


By the end of the week Emma was forced to go home.

And by forced, Ellen really meant forced. She was virtually packing Emma's bag for her rather than just helping her. Not out of maliciousness! God no! (Though if Emma did make the girls do one more chore they may give into temptation and kick her out.) It was because…well, every day since Emma had arrived in Norfolk she had been bombarded with phone calls from her father. According to Lizzie it had been twice every morning, once every lunch time, and again in the evening, sometimes even another call before they go to bed! And to make matters worse it was the same topic over and over again….

…Emma's health. The poor man just simply couldn't abide the idea of Emma being in a hospital, no matter what the reason is, and was constantly questioning her.

"I know that look, Emma," Ellen said sternly as she shoved Emma's recently laundered underwear into her bag, "you feel guilty for abandoning your father, which, I must add, you did not."

"I sort of, kinda, did though," Emma argued, "I just took off without a word to him. He didn't know where I was, for all he knew I could have been murdered or something, and then I'm tell him I'm in the one place that he's scared of most…I haven't exactly been a good daughter to him."

"You've been a wonderful daughter," Ellen said fiercely, "Lord knows I would have lost my patience with your father years ago. Most would feel smothered with his constant phone calls, desperate need to have you home, and always, always, wanting to put an extra jumper on you, but you bear with it, and take care of him, and reassure him each and every single time. It's not fair to put you through this strain by keeping you here. Go home and relax."


"Go home."

"A girl could start to feel a bit unwanted," Emma said lightly. But there was an undertone of sadness, and Ellen couldn't help but notice that Emma's smile wasn't as radiant as it should be, that it didn't reach her eyes, and her whole body seemed to be seized up with tension.

She wasn't Emma right now.

And it may just be because, while Mr Woodhouse phone constantly, George hadn't even sent a single text.

To any of them.

Ellen took her friend's hand and squeezed it reassuringly. "I do want you," she said as clearly as possible to make her point. "We all do, my Mum especially, you're like a godsend to her," Emma's smile was a lot smaller than before but at least this time it was real. "But your father both wants and need you more, and it's not fair on him for us to keep you. Especially since we'll see you in two weeks for the last bit of the semester, and he won't see you till the summer."

"I suppose," Emma mumbled.

"Go home, Emma."

Emma sighed, and protested a little more, but eventually she did give in and before Ellen knew it they were saying goodbye at the train station. The others said their goodbyes before they either returned to their coursework or went to visit Marianne so it was just the two of them. "Everything will be fine," Ellen said for the thousandth time when she caught yet another anxious look flutter across Emma's face. "You'll see."

"You'll tell me if anything happens, won't you?" Emma persisted. "Good or bad,"

"I promise," Ellen said for the twenty eighth time this morning, "I'll keep you updated. I'll even tell you what the farmers are up to if you like."

"I'd rather you stop teasing me!" Emma retorted.

They shared a smile but it vanished at the sound of the train arriving. Emma quickly flung her arms round Ellen's neck, and she hugged back tightly. She didn't really want Emma to go. Emma had kept everyone going, kept them busy, and distracted, and laughing, and she was rather worried with Emma gone, everything will fall apart rapidly.

"You'll let me know the moment Marianne is out of the hospital, right?"

"Yes," Ellen said exasperated, this was the eleventh time Emma had asked that question, "Now go before I push you onto the train and ask the attendant to tie you to a chair."

Emma disappeared rather quickly at that. Though she waved from a window and kept mouthing something (Ellen wouldn't be surprised if they were obscenities but it was likely just Emma begging her to remember her promises) until she was out of sight.

Ellen kept to her word though. It might have taken over a week before Marianne was allowed to leave the hospital, as the doctors wanted to ensure there was no regressions in her recovery, but the moment she was free, Ellen texted Emma the good news.


Marianne couldn't help but sigh in relief when it was the last day of the Easter holidays. Not because she didn't enjoy the company, or even the attention – okay, it was some of the attention that she didn't like. She felt increasingly suffocated by the worry, concern, and persistent questions on her well-being.

There was always a watchful eye on her and it made her skin crawl a little.

She knew they meant well, she knew they had good cause to watch her…but still she'd like her breathing space back!

Her mother, rightfully so, felt that the girls needed a good send off, and threw a going away party. The first one since Ellen left for Uni almost three years ago since Marianne didn't give anyone a proper chance to say goodbye when she went on her travels. The party was a quiet affair, apart from the girls and the Dashwoods, only Chris and Fred were invited. Unfortunately the Jenkins had also been invited but luckily they were busy; Marianne strongly suspected that they will be in her company constantly in the near future. Actually it wasn't a suspicion, she knew they were going to be in her company constantly because –

"You're not coming back to London?!"

"I'm not quite sure how this is a surprise," Marianne said defensively, "surely you have noticed that I haven't exactly packed my bags or brought a train ticket!"

"Yes, well, you haven't exactly unpacked either," Ellen mumbled, "and your ticket to home was an open return. You didn't need to buy another!"

"I don't understand," Cathy said, her wide-eyed expression made her look even younger and more innocent than Meg. "What about your life in London?"

"What life?" Marianne snorted. "I have no job because I kept skiving, I have no classes to attend, or a boyfriend to date, and I can't keep leeching off of you guys."

"It hasn't stopped you before," Lizzie muttered.

Marianne ignored her because she knew that was Lizzie's way of saying 'I love you' and….well, she was right. Marianne never minded leeching off of Austen House before. "I need some time away from the city to pull myself together and figure out what I want to do," Marianne shrugged. "Besides what the hell am I supposed to do while you're all busy revising, working on your Dissertations, and handing in your last assignments? I won't be able to have any fun at all."

"True," Ellen said uncomfortably. "But I don't like the idea of you sitting around here on your own either."

Marianne didn't know what to say to that. After all with Meg at school in the day, her mother at work, and the fact she had never been good at making friends here (she found them to boring, the girls disliked her, and the boys…well she definitely left a lot of broken hearts when she finished school), she had no one to talk to.

"I'll be more than willing to keep Marianne company," Chris said quietly, "I have little else to do other than wander aimlessly round my house after all."

Everyone gaped at Chris in surprise. Perhaps more so than they did to Marianne when she had announced her decision to stay. "You're not going back to London?" Fred, quite uncharacteristically, yelped.

"Um, no," Chris said startled, "I had thought best to stay here."

"What about your job?" Anne asked worriedly.

"I can get a transfer, in fact Ellen has already kindly put a word in for me at the local branch. She keeps doing that. I need to find a way to thank her."

Ellen blushed a bright pink that clashed terribly with her hair. "You really don't," she mumbled, "I'm just being a good friend."

"Her favourite flowers are cake daises," Marianne informed Chris mischievously.


This, of course, set off a long, spirited, debate on how Chris could thank Ellen. With everyone giving a more ridiculous, embarrassing, suggestion the longer the conversation was dragged out. Eventually Ellen went to 'die' in a corner and Chris soon found the sausage rolls so incredibly interesting, that he devoted his time examining them. After making some small talk with Fanny and Anne, reassuring her mother that she was fine for the umpteenth time, and swapping some snide remarks with Lizzie, Marianne finally approached the older man.

"So you're staying, huh?" she said casually as possible.


Unable to think of a subtle way of asking, and definitely lacking the patience to find one, Marianne just blurted out the question; "Why?"

"A couple reasons," Chris said as he kept his eyes trained on the sausage rolls, "the first one being that I feel too old for London. My friends are all much younger than me, I can't keep up with them, and as much as I enjoy the adrenalin, I really don't want a fast-paced life right now. I suddenly find myself wanting to rest for once."

"And the second reason?" Marianne prodded.

His eyes caught hers, and she was startled for a moment, when she realised just how beautiful they actually were. "I thought you might like an alternative choice of company," he admitted somewhat shyly, "as pleasant as they are, the Jenkins are rather exhausting."

"I'm glad," Marianne smiled softly, "I was a little worried that I wouldn't have anyone but the Jenkins to talk to."

"What do you plan to do?" Chris asked. "I mean while you're staying here."

"I don't know," Marianne shrugged, "help Mum round the house, look for some work, practice my music, read a little….I'm thinking of applying for university," she confessed.


"Yeah," she sighed a little and pushed her hair out of her face, "Do you think it's silly? I mean, I know it's late, and I'm not likely to get in anywhere but-"

"You never know until you try," Chris finished softly.


"I think you should do it."

"You do?"

"Of course," Chris said, "you deserve to have a chance to further your education, to be able to find what you want to do career wise, and to meet new people. I think it would be a good opportunity for you."

"Do you think I'll be able to do it?" she asked hesitatingly. She wasn't sure if she could. Not just because it was too late in the year to apply but because she wasn't sure where to begin, where she wanted to go, or what she wanted to do, either.

It didn't make a very good start.

"I think," Chris said with all the conviction in the world, "you could do anything you put your mind to."

And for the first time in a very long time, Marianne smiled, and she meant really smiled – a full blown grin that made her face ache with happiness.

Author's Note: I apologise for the poor quality of this chapter. I had been caught up with Real Life, and then Writer's Block reared its ugly head, so I know this chapter is probably not the best….again, sorry.

Back                         Home                              Emma Main Page                              Next

Your Name or Alias:      Your E-mail (optional):

Please type your review below. Only positive reviews and constructive criticism will be posted!