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Love and Leaving

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“Elinor, Elinor!” Margaret raced up the staircase to Elinor and Marianne’s room, pirate boots clomping on the wooden stairs. A man on horseback had just come into sight from the front lawn where she had been practicing her duelling, and although she didn’t recognise him, she could clearly see he was carrying a package. “Elinor, your wedding dress-“ She stopped short at the open doorway. “What are you doing?”

Elinor looked up from where she was sorting her clothes into piles. “I’m packing, dearest.”

Margaret came further into the room, staring at Elinor’s hands, ring shining on her finger even as she gently placed a dress into one pile before picking up another. “But why are you packing? It’s your wedding soon, shouldn’t you be preparing? You could write to Edward!”

Elinor involuntarily smiled at the name. Edward had left two days ago in company with Colonel Brandon, so he could go to Delaford and see his new living. They were expected back within a few days, but for such a newly engaged couple, Margaret had thought they would be constantly writing letters. She was sure that’s what Marianne or their mother would do. Yet Elinor replied, “I wrote to him yesterday. He won’t have even had time to read that letter yet, Delaford is too far.”

Margaret bounced lightly on the bed. “What does that matter? You can still write to him!” She stopped bouncing, turning onto her stomach and putting her head in her hands as she resumed staring at Elinor. “What are you packing for, anyway? We haven’t yet been here a year, why would we need to move? Is it so there is room for Edward?”

Elinor turned to her, brow creasing. “What do you mean, room for Edward?”

“You’re marrying him, aren’t you? So he’ll live here with us.” Margaret smiled excitedly at the idea, already looking forward to future adventures together. He was the only one who would call her Captain Margaret and really mean it, not like her sisters who would only do it to humour her. Having him there all the time would be excellent, if a little strange at first.

An idea occurred to her. “What room is he going to live in? If he’s in your room, where will Marianne be? Will she have to share my room?”

“Margaret, no.” Elinor dropped the dress she was holding, turning around completely so she could sit facing Margaret.

“Oh, good. I like having my own room, even if it is very small. But where will Marianne sleep?”

“Darling, Marianne will sleep here,” Elinor said gently. “Edward and I will be living at Delaford. That’s why I’m packing, we’re leaving after the wedding. He and the Colonel are looking at our new house to check what needs to be done before we move in there.”

Margaret could feel her eyes filling with tears. “But I don’t want you to go so far away! When will I see you?”

“Oh, Margaret!” Elinor reached for her. Margaret hesitated for a moment, wondering if it would be better to cry by herself, so nobody could see, but then rushed into her sister’s arms. She let her tears fall, feeling them sink into her sister’s soft dress. At first, the familiarity was comforting, but then it hit her that Elinor was leaving. She would not be able to do this anymore, because Elinor would be going away, living all the way in Delaford. Her tears increased.

Elinor rubbed her back, offering soothing platitudes, and eventually, Margaret felt herself start to calm down. With a final sniffle, she drew back, wiping at the wetness around her eyes. “Do you have to move so far away?”

Elinor smiled at her, keeping one arm wrapped around her shoulders. “Delaford is not so far from here. You’ll be coming to visit all the time. And in a few years you’ll be old enough to go to London, and then I’m sure you’ll be far too busy to miss me.”

Margaret shook her head, unwilling to be distracted even by such a tempting thought as visiting London. “Never!” she said adamantly. It wouldn’t be the same without her sisters anyway. They had been there her whole life. It was scary to think of either of them going away, especially Elinor, who had always been the sensible one of them all. Even their father hadn’t had as much sense as her.

Margaret was comforted by the thought. They had survived her father’s death, and it had not broken them as a family. Even leaving Norland to go to Barton had not been as bad as she had feared. As tragic as it was to leave the only home she remembered, Barton had brought new delights and interesting people. Elinor leaving, though it would be miserable for a time, would still allow her to see Elinor again, and now she would have a brother as well!

“Will you promise to come back and visit a lot?” Margaret asked, settling down beside her sister on the floor. The wooden floorboards were cool under her, and she pressed her hands against them gratefully. Crying had made her hot, and the wood provided welcome relief.

Elinor squeezed her shoulders. “Of course.”

“Edward as well? He is to be our brother, he has no excuse not to visit.” Margaret frowned. “I do hope he’ll still play pirates with me.”

“I’m sure he will,” Elinor reassured her. She picked up a dress, ready to resume folding, when a cough sounded from the doorway.

Mrs Dashwood looked down on them from the doorway, a secretive smile on her face. “Elinor, a package has arrived for you. I think you’d best come open it.”

“I’ll be right down, Mother,” Elinor told her. Mrs Dashwood nodded and left again, her footsteps on the stairs coming moments later.

Margaret stood up. She had forgotten why she had come up here in the first place, or she would have dragged Elinor downstairs earlier. However, she was quite willing to make up for that now if Elinor insisted on continuing to pack. “Let’s go, Elinor! It’s your wedding dress, I’m sure of it!”

Elinor laughed, also standing. “Alright, let’s go!”