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Caught Adrift

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Her sisters would call what she’s doing mercenary, but Amy calls it practical. And being a good colleague.

It’s Friday night and instead of taking advantage of one of the many distractions Boston offers, she’s going to her coworker’s gallery opening.
Amy’s always said she’d marry rich, and you don’t meet moguls at the Middle East.

Besides, Sarah is an incredible photographer. Amy would want to check out her show even if it weren’t at a high end gallery on Newbury Street. The fact that there are likely to be a high percentage of wealthy men there is a bonus.

So Amy wore her nicest sheath dress to work - demure and classy, but also form fitting - and she hasn’t swapped her high heels for converse sneakers the way she usually does at the end of the day. Instead of taking the T back to the apartment she shares with two roommates, she walks up to a converted brownstone housing the gallery and into the rarified air of fine art aficionados.

Sarah's photographs look gorgeous in the stark white interior space and Amy accepts a glass of complimentary champagne to sip while she browses.

After a few minutes she finds several colleagues from the boutique design firm where she and Sarah work as graphic designers.

They’re standing in a knot chatting when someone taps her on the shoulder. “Amy?”

Amy hasn't seen Laurie in probably six months and now he’s standing in front of her, holding out a fresh glass of champagne to her.

Amy grins - her real smile that shows too much of her teeth and makes her eyes scrunch up - and exclaims, “Laurie!”

She accepts the champagne and hugs him, falling into his arms. He smells like home, a familiar scent that brings tears to Amy’s eyes before she quickly blinks them away.

It shouldn’t really be a surprise that they'd bump into each other at a gallery opening on Newbury Street, but Amy is.

He grins back at her. "Why, Miss March, what a lovely surprise! What brings you to a place like this?"

Amy briefly explains and then, linking her arm with his, they tour the show together. Amy whispers catty little stories about Sarah to Laurie as they walk, mixed in with praise for her use of shadow and color and interesting framing.

Laurie seems genuinely interested and Amy offers to introduce him to Sarah.

Sarah is a chubby woman with short asymmetrical dark hair and little use for men, but Laurie charms her.

"I especially liked that black and white photo of the winter tree silhouetted in moonlight," Laurie tells her.

Amy knows immediately which photo he means. It makes her smile. She likes it too, it reminds her of growing up, spending winters running back and forth between the Laurence estate and the March house.

He turns to Amy, "I was thinking of it for the foyer in the Concord house. What do you think?"

Amy blinks at him. It is a twenty five thousand dollar piece of art.

"It would look lovely on the left wall," she acknowledges.

"Yes! That's exactly where I was picturing it!" He says enthusiastically. "Excuse me while I go make arrangements with the gallery owner."

Amy watches him walk away. Sarah narrows her eyes at Amy. "I didn't know you had a boyfriend."

"Laurie? Oh no," Amy wishes, though. "We grew up together. My sisters and I spent a lot of time at his grandfather's house playing their piano and using their library."

"So he's rich-rich?" Sarah asks.

"Normal people don't buy fine art on a whim," Amy points out. "But, yeah, he's old, old New England money."

"Nice for some,” Sarah comments.

Laurie returns then, thanks Sarah for his new picture, and invites Amy to dinner.

"Um, sure." It's the end of the month so money's tight and Amy was planning on a peanut butter sandwich at home, but if Laurie's asking he's buying, and Amy isn't ready to say goodbye to him yet.

It's summer and the sky is still light as Amy and Laurie walk down Newbury Street.

It feels like they should be holding hands, and although that could just be her sixteen year old self’s crush talking, Amy lets her knuckles brush against Laurie’s as they go.

"Did you have somewhere in mind?" She asks as they walk.

"What are you in the mood for?"

"Are you up for weird?" Amy asks. "How about Lolita?"

Laurie laughs and nods, letting Amy lead him across the street, down into the tequila bar. It serves Mexican-inspired food and is dimly lit, lined with damask wallpaper, wrought iron, and art of women painted as skeletons. It makes Amy think of vampires.

There is a short wait for a table, so they get cocktails at the crowded bar and Amy updates Laurie on her sisters while they are pressed close together.

He looks away when she mentions Jo, freelancing in New York. It hurts Amy, too, whatever it is Jo so clearly did to Laurie. She doesn't ask.

They are escorted to their table and presented with sorbet and tequila smoking with dry ice.

Once they've ordered meals and another round of drinks, Laurie tells Amy what he's been up to, their legs tangled together under the table.

"The family business," he shrugs over lobster-laced guacamole. "It's not thrilling, but I don't have anything I'd rather be doing."

"And it makes your grandfather happy," Amy says.

"It does." Laurie ducks his head. In the low light she’s not sure if he's blushing, but he might be.

The family business is shipping. Or at least it was, two centuries ago. It has diversified since then, Laurie explains, and he's running a tiny portion of it.

"Not even running," he amends. "I have a boss, and a board of directors. And shareholders."

"Still, an executive before you're thirty is pretty impressive," Amy tells him. "Even with the nepotism."

"Nepotism!" Laurie exclaims, but he doesn't deny it. "I'm told it's good for business, being able to say the family is still involved with day-to-day operations."

Amy rolls her eyes. "The Marches have been in New England just as long as the Laurences. Just because my ancestors were idealistic fools who went into preaching and teaching instead of shipping..."

Laurie laughs. It's an old conversation, one Laurences and Marches have been having for decades, maybe generations.

"I missed you," he tells her fondly.

For as much as Amy's family frustrates her, "We are pretty great."

"No. I mean, yes, you are, but," Laurie meets her eyes, "I missed you. Specifically."

"Oh." No one ever misses Amy, specifically. At least no one who knows Amy as the youngest March, who has Meg and Jo and Beth to compare her to. "Um, thank you. It's really good to see you, too."

The waitress brings housemade cotton candy with their check and Amy and Laurie gorge themselves, reminiscing about county fairs past.

When they stand to leave, Amy is wobbly on her feet and Laurie steadies her with his hand at the small of her back.

"Uber back to my place for coffee?" he offers.

"Coffee sounds great," Amy nods. She can sober up a bit before taking the T home to Jamaica Plain.

It occurs to Amy that Laurie has sought her out tonight, found pretexts to extend their time together. She wonders what he’s looking for.

Laurie orders the car. Amy doesn't know exactly where he lives, Beacon Hill someplace. But it's Laurie. She can trust him. She’s safe.

He helps her in once the car arrives, sliding into the backseat next to her. It's a short drive in theory, but all of the one-way streets means they have to go around the public garden and up to the state house before making it into the warren of Beacon Hill proper.

Amy rests her head on Laurie's shoulder. She feels him take a deep breath.

"Tell me if I'm reading this wrong," he whispers, and puts a warm hand on her bare thigh.

Amy lifts her head to look at him and then they're kissing. Laurie's pulling her closer and she's opening her mouth, getting lost in sensation, and then the car's stopping.

"We're here, kids," the driver says. He's a white guy in his fifties with maybe the heaviest Boston accent Amy has ever heard. He seems mostly amused by them.

Laurie slides out of the car, taking Amy's hand and helping her out after him.

"Thanks," he says, sounding distracted as he shuts the car door and fumbles for his own keys.

He kisses Amy again. It feels frantic and Amy can't think, she wraps her arms around Laurie to keep herself steady - mentally and physically - as she kisses back.

"Inside, inside," Laurie mumbles against her mouth and Amy lets go enough for them to walk up the few steps to the door and for Laurie to let them in.

Amy probably should have realized that the Laurences own a whole house on Beacon Hill, not just the apartment or condo she assumed, but she doesn't think about it for more than a second when they could be kissing.

Laurie finishes locking the door behind them, pulling the deadbolt and entering an alarm code, and then Amy tugs at him, impatient to be kissing him again.

She's trying not to get ahead of herself. To stay in the moment. Where she and Laurie are kissing and his hands are at her waist pulling her closer. Amy's own hands are tight on his biceps like if she holds on tight enough she won't ever have to let go.

Their mouths part to catch their breaths and Amy looks Laurie in the eye. "Take me to bed."

He looks a little surprised, but not alarmed. "Yeah?"

"Yes."

*

Amy wakes up naked, on crisp white sheets with sun streaming into the room. It is most definitely not the twin bed in her apartment.

"Oh no."

She's laying on her side and kicks her foot out tentatively to see if she's alone in bed. She is not.

Amy braces herself, makes sure the sheets are in place so that she's sufficiently covered, and rolls over.

Laurie is blinking awake when she rolls to face him.

"Amy, hey."

"Hi," she says softly, looking up at him through her eyelashes. This may have been a mistake, but she doesn't want it to end. They're both adults. No one is doing anything wrong here.

"So, um," Laurie hesitates and Amy crashes back down to earth. Last night wasn't just her mistake and Laurie feels differently about this morning than she does.

Amy sits up, "I'll get out of your hair."

"No!" He reaches out, touches her bare back. "This is just… weird. Why is it weird?"

"Because you're still in love with my sister?" Amy guesses.

Laurie sighs heavily. He's still touching her.

"That's not a no." Amy's heart hurts. She wants to cry, but she won't, not in front of Laurie. She'll put on sunglasses and cry on the T like any self-respecting Bostonian.

"I'm not in love with Jo, Amy," he says. "I'm messing this up. Let me - I need - Can I make you a cup of coffee?"

"Offering me coffee is how we ended up here," Amy points out. "But, sure, I'll have a non-euphemistic cup of coffee with you."

"Thank you," Laurie says, rolling out of bed and quickly pulling on boxers and a t-shirt. He points, "The bathroom is through there, and the kitchen is just down the hall. You can't miss it."

"Okay."

He leaves and Amy takes a minute to just breathe.

The dress she wore last night is crumpled on the floor and putting it back on feels like a walk of shame. Instead she slips her underwear back on and buttons up Laurie's discarded shirt.

In the bathroom she washes her face to procrastinate. She looks good in Laurie's clothes, natural and long-legged even short as she is.

She can smell coffee brewing and time is up. She has to go talk to Laurie.

*

“Jesus,” he says when he sees her wearing his clothes.

She crosses her arms across her chest, but says mildly, “You can call me Amy.”

Laurie laughs weakly and walks around the kitchen island he’d been standing behind. He wraps her in a hug and, against her better judgment, Amy melts.

“I don’t have any regrets about last night,” Laurie tells her. “I guess I’m just not sure where you are.”

Amy snuggles against his chest. He feels solid and smells like clean laundry.

“I’m here.”

“Yeah?” He asks, catching her meaning.

“Yes. Now give me coffee. I am massively hungover.”

*

Amy leaves after breakfast, does not cry on the T, and goes about her life.

She gets a text from Laurie a couple of hours later checking to make sure she made it home alright. It makes Amy laugh.

All good. Have you ever actually ridden the T? she responds.

Usually just walk or drive. Why?

Which makes sense geographically, but is also such a rich person thing to say.

Doesn’t usually take two hours to get from Beacon Hill to JP.

Laurie doesn’t respond to that, but the message leads to sporadic texts between them. A cute dog Amy sees, an annoying thing Laurie’s grandfather said.

So it’s not completely strange when Amy gets a text from him at about 10:30 p.m. the next Friday night while she’s watching Hulu on her laptop in bed.

Come over?

Amy is wearing leggings and a Concord High Drama Club t-shirt that she’s pretty sure was Meg’s originally. She wonders if Laurie realizes he’s booty calling her. He has to, right?

Sure. Give me like half an hour.

Amy throws a toothbrush, hairbrush, a change of underwear, and deodorant into a tote bag with her wallet and keys before requesting an Uber.

She’s in the car before he replies.

Looking forward to it ;)

The nerd, not even using emojis like a real person.

*

“Hey,” Laurie says shyly when he lets her in, like between texting her and now he’s had second thoughts.

Amy March did not take a 30 dollar car ride in the middle of the night to not get laid.

“Hi,” Amy kisses him.

He relaxes against her and kisses back. He’s a very good kisser. If Amy hadn’t already been hopelessly into Laurie for a decade, making out with him in his exquisite marble entryway would get her there.

“Thanks for coming,” he says after awhile and Amy steps back to leer at him.

It surprises a laugh out of Laurie. “Come upstairs.”

Amy is weirdly nervous as she follows him up the curving stairs. She’s eager - of course - but also, last time kind of just happened and the idea of just walking into Laurie’s bedroom and getting naked is a little scary.

She runs into Laurie’s back, so distracted that she hadn’t noticed he’d stopped.

“Okay?”

“Yeah,” Amy knows her smile is shaky, and it’s Laurie for god sake. “Just a little nervous.”

He looks relieved. “Me too.”

“Oh good. Wanna watch tv and make out?” She offers.

*

Amy has no idea what they’re watching. She’s on Laurie’s bed straddling him, his hands on her waist. They've been kissing for what feels like hours. Amy’s lips are tingling and Laurie is hard under her.

He tucks his hands under Amy’s shirt and slides them up her sides and back down. It makes her shiver.

“Can I?” Laurie tugs at her top.

“I wish you would,” Amy murmurs, leaning back to help.

Laurie slides the garment over her head and tosses it off to the right before leaning forward to mouth at first one nipple and then the other.

Amy grips his shoulders and sighs, arching her back as Laurie sucks one breast and fondles the other. She rolls her hips, making Laurie groan.

He tips her to one side and rolls them so that he’s on top. The look in his eyes is too much so Amy closes her eyes.

Laurie hooks his fingers in the waistband of her pants and kisses his way down her stomach. Amy opens her eyes as Laurie mouths at her over her clothes. Her legs fall open.

He looks up at her. “Yes?”

She nods.

“Ames?”

“Yes, please, eat me out,” she tells him, figuring one of those is the magic word he’s apparently looking for.

He’s careful tugging her leggings and underwear down. He settles between her legs and kisses the inside of her thigh before licking her confidently.

“Oh,” Amy sighs. It figures Laurie would be as good at this as he is at kissing.

He licks and sucks at her patiently, sticking his tongue into her in a move that makes her jerk her hips into his nose.

“Shit, sorry!”

Laurie pats her thigh.

“All good,” he assures her before diving back in.

“Yes, it is,” Amy murmurs, before getting lost in sensation.

She’s getting close when Laurie adds a finger, gently caressing until he finds the spot he’s looking for.

“Oh!” She cries out, “There!”

He does it again and sucks at her clit.

“I’m-“

Laurie replaces his mouth with his fingers. Amy opens her eyes to see him looking at her intently.

“Come for me, baby,” he whispers.

Her eyes slam shut and her hips jerk as Amy’s body arches and she follows directions.

Laurie’s thumb slides over her once and then again as Amy relaxes.

“Wow,” she murmurs as her breath starts to even out.

“Yeah?” Laurie asks.

“Fishing for compliments?” Amy asks. She feels amazing, relaxed and tingly. “Well done. Very good. A plus. Would come again.”

Laurie laughs, knee walking up the bed to kiss her. “Fuck, you’re so hot.”

“Want me to return the favor?” Amy asks between kisses.

Laurie shakes his head. “No time. Can I fuck you?”

“Definitely,” Amy murmurs. “Get naked. Condom?”

“Drawer,” Laurie says, muffled through his shirt. So Amy stretches across his comically large bed to fumble through the nightstand for a silver packet. She feels like she’s moving through molasses.

Settling behind her Laurie runs a hand up Amy’s back.

“So hot,” he murmurs almost to himself.

“Back at you.” Amy rolls back into Laurie’s arms. She can’t resist kissing him a quick peck that turns into a series of quick pecks that turns into Laurie groaning.

“Babe, please.”

“Okay, okay,” she soothes, opening the condom packet and rolling it onto him. “Come here.”

Laurie straddles Amy on hands and knees and she tilts her hips up in invitation.

He guides himself into her, exhaling slowly.

She wraps a leg around his hips, nudging him to move.

Laurie kisses Amy, gently rocking into her.

Amy shivers and clenches around him, making him groan and move faster. She arches against Laurie as he moves, breasts brushing against his chest and making her moan.

“Amy,” he says.

“Hmm?”

“Amy.” She nips at his bottom lip and his hips stutter for a moment.

She runs a hand down his back and kisses him for real. He’s moving just right and she’s getting close again.

“Laurie,” she murmurs, fumbling between them to get to her clit.

She groans as she pinches at herself. “Fuck, I-“ her hips jerk up.

“Close?” Laurie asks, kissing the side of her face sloppily like his fine motor skills are shot.

“Yeah. Oh! Oh, oh, oh, oh oh,” Amy spasms around him, arching up and digging her free hand into Laurie’s back.

He thrusts a few more times before crooning low, stilling, and then collapsing. He slips out of Amy and flops to the side.

“Whoa,” Amy murmurs, staring up at the ceiling.

“Yeah,” Laurie agrees, slinging an arm across Amy’s belly.

“Was it that good last time?”

She remembers the first time as a series of snapshots. It felt good and was fun, but this was… intense.

“Mmm,” Laurie mumbles against her shoulder, eyes closed.

Amy elbows him gently, “Get up and clean up before you fall asleep.”

“Sleep,” Laurie mutters, but he gets up to deal with the condom and turn off the tv. He brings Amy back a washcloth.

“You’re the best,” she tells him, wiping herself quickly. She should get up to pee, but Laurie is climbing back into bed and wrapping himself around her.

She drifts off to sleep instead.

*

Amy wakes up to crisp white sheets and sun streaming through the window. She reminds herself not to get used to this.

Laurie’s still asleep and Amy considers waking him up with a blowjob, but it feels like too aggressive a move for their second hookup. Instead she grabs her phone.

There’s a text from Jo that Amy can’t deal with while she’s naked in Laurie’s bed, and Marmee has emailed plans for a week down the Cape later this summer. Amy adds the dates to her calendar and tells her mom she’ll try to join for a long weekend. After that she checks Insta, liking the pictures of Desi and Daisy covered in mud that Meg has posted, and wondering for the thousandth time while she’s still mutuals with Freddy.

Then she scrolls Facebook until Laurie wakes up.

He wakes slowly, stretching and curling around her and nuzzling at the back of her neck.

“Mmm, Amy.”

He makes her smile and she rolls to face him.

“Hey.”

Laurie hasn’t quite made it to the eyes open stage of wakefulness. He’s so cute. Amy loves- Amy likes him a lot.

“Morning,” he mumbles, looking at her. His brow furrows. “You been up, long?”

Amy shrugs. “I’ve messed around on my phone a little.”

“You could have helped yourself to coffee or food. Explored,” Laurie says. “Made yourself comfortable.”

Amy scoots closer to Laurie. “I’m plenty comfortable.”

Laurie kisses her forehead.

“Give me, like, a minute. I’ll get you coffee.”

“Take your time,” Amy reassures him. “How did you sleep?”

“I was worn out and slept very well, thank you. Now who’s fishing for compliments?” Laurie asks.

Amy laughs.

“How about you?”

“I’m pretty sure your bed is magic,” Amy says without thinking. She has slept very well and had good sex there, anyway.

“Sure, give the bed all the credit,” Laurie yawns and stretches. He sits up.

“I guess you’re okay too.”

“Do you want to go out?” Laurie asks abruptly.

Yes! Amy thinks, but says, “Um?”

“To breakfast, I mean. I have coffee, but, not, like, real food,” he says quickly.

“Oh. Sure. Yes. Breakfast sounds good,” Amy agrees. “I could use a shower first, though.”

“Take this bathroom. I can clean up in one of the others.”

Amy grew up sharing a single bathroom with five other people, now she shares with two roommates. “...How many bathrooms do you have?”

“Uh,” Laurie looks embarrassed.

“Laurie?”

“Several? Plenty?”

“How many, Theodore?” Amy asks sternly but she’s smiling.

“Fine. There are nine. But two of those are only half baths,” he says defensively.

Amy closes her eyes. She feels slightly dizzy. There aren’t that many bathrooms in her apartment building. “Nine…” she says weakly.

“Are you okay?” Laurie asks.

Amy opens her eyes. He looks worried.

“That’s just… so many bathrooms. Like a comical amount of bathrooms. You know that’s a ridiculous number of bathrooms, right? I was expecting you to say three. Maybe four.”

Laurie laughs at her. “You’ve been to Grandfather’s. Why is this so troubling to you?”

“Because this is Boston. And that is a mansion,” Amy says. She thinks that’s a pretty reasonable argument.

Laurie kisses her. “Go take your shower.”

Amy does.

She’s trying not to think as she washes her hair with Laurie’s shampoo. They are friends. Sex friends. Amy is an adult. Amy has had other sex friends. Or, Amy has had boyfriends she had regular sex with. She can be sex friends with Laurie and ignore that she used to have a crush on him. She totally can.

It’s kind of, like, good that she already had feelings for Laurie. It means she doesn’t have to worry about catching new ones. She has, like, a feelings vaccine and this friends with benefits thing can’t possibly backfire.

She rinses off, pulls on yesterday’s clothes, and puts her hair up in a messy bun.

Laurie is puttering around the kitchen.

For a moment, Amy considers “forgetting” her toothbrush or something as an excuse to come back, but that’s ridiculous. She can just ask Laurie if she wants to come over.

“Ready when you are,” she calls instead, grabbing her bag.

Despite the number of cute cafes in Laurie’s neighborhood, they walk towards the T stop and eat at a divey diner across the street from Mass General. It’s dark and the food is greasy and it’s a perfect place to recover from a hangover. Whether it’s alcohol or a person that you’ve been indulging in more than you should have.

*

Somehow, spending Friday nights with Laurie becomes a thing.

Coming over tonight? Laurie texts one Friday afternoon a couple of months in. It throws Amy for a loop because she’s just been assuming and maybe she should have been checking every time.

She bites her lip. Was planning on it.

Meet me at Marliave at 6? He asks.

Marliave is one of the oldest, nicest restaurants in Boston.

Is this a date? Amy asks, trying not to smile at her phone.

...Maybe.

*

Amy calls her mom every Sunday at 7 p.m. and they talk for a couple of hours. It’s not inflexible, but it mostly means they don’t usually call each other outside of that.

So when Marmee calls on a Saturday afternoon while she and Laurie are hanging out at a craft-and-farmers market, it makes Amy nervous. She has to take the call.

“Hi Marmee,” Amy answers, stepping out of the flow of traffic and tugging Laurie with her.

“Hi sweetie. I know it’s not our usual time to talk, but the beach trip is coming up and I wanted to know your plans. Are you taking the train down?”

Amy sighs. She’s been so caught up in Laurie that she hasn’t really thought about how to get down to the cape.

“I don’t actually know yet,” Amy admits. “I’m hanging out with Laurie right now, so I can’t look at the train schedule, but -“

“You’re with Laurie?” Marmee interrupts. “We haven’t seen him in such a long time! Invite him to come with us!”

“Um, okay,” Amy says and turns to Laurie. “Do you want to go down the cape next weekend with the Marches? They’ll actually be there two weeks starting Monday. I have to work, but you’d be welcome the whole time.”

Marmee hadn’t said all of that, but Amy knows her family. Their invitations are wholehearted.

Laurie looks at her and at her phone and seems like he’s trying to communicate with his eyebrows before giving up and saying. “I’d like that, I’ll see if I can get away.”

“Laurie’s in,” Amy tells her mother. “We can drive down. Oh, and, um-“

“I’ll let Jo know to expect him,” Marmee says gently. “We can talk more later.”

Because Marmee knows her better than anyone and of course can tell that ‘hanging out with Laurie’ isn’t just hanging out. “‘Kay. Love you.”

“Love you too,” Marmee says and ends the call.

Amy puts her phone away and looks back at Laurie.

“You can still get out of it,” she assures him. “You don’t have to come. I can take the train.”

“I want to go,” he says calmly, like hasn’t just been blindsided by the Marches for the thousandth time.

“Jo will probably be there,” Amy warns. She doesn’t know why she’s trying to scare Laurie off, she wants to spend four straight days with him.

“I’m not worried about Jo,” Laurie says, almost defiant, and then softens. “Do you not want me there?”

“No! I just don’t want you to feel obligated to come,” Amy assures him. “Or to be blindsided by Jo. I know she hurt you.”

Laurie ignores that. “We can drive down Friday after work.”

Amy bites her lip, raises her eyebrows. “Or first thing Saturday morning. Close quarters down the cape..”

Laurie laughs. “Saturday morning it is, then.”

So sue Amy if she wants to get laid before she spends 72 hours with her parents and sisters.

*

“Are you nervous?” Laurie asks as they exit 28 on to the surface streets that will get them to the beach house. He asks it, but Amy can tell he’s stating a fact.

She reaches to put a hand on his ‘Nantucket red’ clad thigh. “It’s just my family. You saw them at Christmas.”

“We weren’t fucking then.” He doesn’t say it unkindly, but it still makes Amy wince. “Do they know?”

Amy sighs, takes her hand off Laurie’s leg, and looks out the passenger side window. She and Laurie have never actually talked about what they’re doing, so how was she supposed to explain it to her family. “They know we’re ‘hanging out.’ They’ve probably made some inferences.”

“Even Jo?” Amy knows, she does, that Laurie’s asking so that he’s prepared to see her, not because Jo’s feelings matter more to him than Amy’s, but it still stings a little.

“Jo knows you’re coming,” Amy says firmly. “But we don’t talk super often, so I don’t know if she knows how much time we’ve been spending together.”

Maybe she should have prepared her family for this. But what was she supposed to do, send a text to the family group chat LAURIE AND I ARE FUCKING ON THE REGULAR BUT IT’S PROBABLY NOT A THING and brace for the fallout?

“Got it. Do you want to pretend we’re not together?” Laurie asks.

Are they together? Amy wants to know but doesn’t ask.

“You've got a lot of questions for the last ten minutes of a two hour drive,” she says instead.

Amy sees Laurie clench his jaw. She puts her hand back on his leg. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to fight. We don’t need to pretend anything. Let’s just be normal.”

Laurie lets his breath out slowly. “I don’t want to fight either. And I’m sorry to dump all this on you right now. I guess I’m freaking out a little.”

Amy squeezes his thigh. It’s a non-sequitar, but Laurie deserves to know what she’s thinking, which is “Fuck, I like you so much.”

He laughs. “I like you too. Like-like you, even.”

Laurie’s teasing, but Amy’s stomach flips anyway. Having your decade long crush reciprocated will do that, she guesses.

“We’re here,” Amy tells Laurie who is already slowing the car to a stop and pulling up at the curb.

“Try to sound a little more excited about that,” Laurie suggests.

“I am excited, it’s just-“

“C’mere?” Laurie leans forward for a kiss, but the front door of the house is opening and Beth and the twins are running out. Marmee and Meg are right behind them, Jo, John and Father trailing behind.

“Later,” Amy promises, unbuckling her seatbelt and opening the car door.

“Amy!” Beth yells as she hugs her, pinning her against Laurie’s car. She feels small collisions as Daisy and Demi collide with her too. “Aunt Amy!” “Aunt Amy!”

“Hi everybody!” Amy laughs, her frustration swept away on the sea breeze.

It’s a cacophony of voices and Amy gets lost in the tangled hug of eight people trying to greet her and loses track of Laurie.

“It hasn’t been that long,” she protests to Meg and Beth. “I saw you for Fourth of July!”

She leans over Demi and Daisy to hug Jo, who she actually hasn’t seen since Easter. “Hi, Jo.”

Amy is nervous about Jo’s reaction to Laurie, to them - whatever that is. She’s always wanted Jo’s approval.

“Ames,” Jo hugs back hard and Amy is reminded that whatever this weekend brings, at the core of it all, her sister loves her.

“Alright, alright,” Father claps his hands, stilling everybody. “Let’s give Amy and Laurie some room to unload while we get ready to walk to the beach.”

Everyone scatters and Amy finally gets a chance to hug her parents.

“I’m so glad you could make it down,” Marmee tells both her and Laurie. “Let me show you your rooms.”

They don’t need a tour, Amy and Laurie have been coming here their whole lives. It used to be Amy’s aunt’s and now it is technically one-quarter hers, left to all four March girls in her will. They’d offered it to Meg and John and then to Marmee and Father, but ultimately the family had decided to leave it a beach house, co-owned by the girls and rented out on Airbnb whenever it wasn’t being used.

“Just tell us where you want us,” Amy says gently. “I know you’re both dying to get down to the beach with the twins.”

“We missed you,” Father tells her, kissing the top of her head. “It's good to see you, kid.”

Amy leans into her dad. He is always an oasis of calm. “Missed you too.”

Laurie has grabbed both of their overnight bags and is walking ahead with Marmee.

“I hear you’ve been spending a lot of time with Laurie,” her father says.

“We’ve been seeing each other,” Amy acknowledges. Her father is the last person in the world Amy wants to have this conversation with. She would rather look Mr. Laurence in the eye and tell him she’s been fucking his grandson, than be tucked under her dad’s arm examining her intentions towards Laurie.

“Oh.” Father seems surprised. “Not just friends, then?”

“We haven’t really discussed our relationship,” Amy confesses, “but it’s more than friendship.”

“Hmm.” Father is silent for a moment. “I wish you all the best, but do be careful, Amy.”

“I know. Jo-“

“Not Jo,” he clarifies. “You.”

Her confusion must show on her face, because father continues this. “You’ve wanted someone, specifically that someone, since you were a very little girl, Amy. And I hope it works out, all I’ve ever wanted for you girls is to be happy.”

“I’ll try, Father,” Amy steps into the house.

She’s lying, a little. They haven’t talked about it, but Amy knows her heart is already laid bare in the palm of Laurie’s metaphorical hand. There’s no way to be careful at this point. She will either get hurt or she won’t.

“Meg’s family is in the big room on the left, Amy you’re in with the girls on the right, and Laurie, that leaves the little room at the top of the stairs for you,” Marmee instructs.

“I don’t need a bedroom, Mrs. March,” Laurie protests. “We’re just here for the weekend, I can crash on a couch.”

Marmee puts her hands on her hips. “How many times, Theodore? You call me Marmee or Margaret.”

Laurie hangs his head in feigned shame. It makes Amy laugh.

“Sorry, Margaret. But, really, I don’t need a bedroom.”

“Nonsense. You’re not putting anyone out of a bed and it will be good for the girls to have some sister time,” Marmee says decisively. “Go put your things down. Have you eaten?”

Amy knows that Marmee won’t consider the breakfast sandwiches and coffees they got at Dunkin on the way down to be food, but she isn’t hungry and Marmee probably has a huge meal planned once everyone is ready for a break from the beach.

“We’re all set Mr-Margaret,” Laurie catches himself. Marmee beams.

“Great. Why don’t you both get ready for the beach and we’ll meet you there?” Marmee suggests. She turns to Amy, “You remember how to get to the beach?”

Amy rolls her eyes fondly.

“We’ll find it,” she teases, following Laurie upstairs and into his assigned room.

He looks surprised to see her.

“Hey.”

“Hi.”

“Did you, um, need something?” Laurie asks.

“Well, you still have my bag,” Amy points out, “but mostly I wanted to finish what we started in the car.”

“The fighting?”

“The kissing,” Amy clarifies and steps closer.

Laurie gets onboard quickly, enveloping her in his arms and kissing her thoroughly.

It’s a short interlude before they separate to get changed for the beach.

As she unpacks she idly wonders if Jo ever kissed Laurie. She can’t have, Amy thinks, because resisting that would be impossible.

It’s probably weird to think about your sister and your ...whatever kissing, but Amy figures it means she’s coming to terms with the fact that Laurie chooses her now, even if he might have made a different choice four years ago.

Plus, also, Amy is distracting herself from being nervous about Laurie seeing her in a swimsuit. It’s stupid. He’s seen her naked. A lot. And he clearly doesn’t hate what he sees. Really, what Amy’s nervous about is everyone else seeing Laurie seeing Amy in a swimsuit. She tells herself it won’t be weird if she doesn’t make it weird.

Laurie knocks on the doorframe as he opens the door. “Ready?”

Amy pulls her coverup over her head and grabs the bag holding her sunscreen and some magazines.

“Yep.”

Marmee has left beach chairs by the door for them and Amy and Laurie walk down to the beach quietly, nudging each other as they walk.

*

Amy’s skin feels tight and itchy as she helps get dinner ready. She definitely had too much sun and not enough sunscreen earlier. She’ll be more careful next time.

“Are you avoiding me?” Jo asks, striding into the kitchen.

Amy’s been standing here for fifteen minutes slicing lettuce and tomatoes to put on the burgers Father is grilling, so, no.

But she hasn’t actually seen much of Jo today, now that she thinks about it. “Are you avoiding me?”

“Maybe,” Jo admits.

Amy looks up, surprised. “Why?”

Jo shrugs. “Laurie, I guess.”

Amy opens her mouth to say - she’s not really sure what - but Jo continues.

“No, I know you don’t want to talk about it. I don’t either. It’s just weird, is all. I don’t like when things are weird.”

Amy snorts. It’s true, Jo does tend to avoid awkwardness. Or feelings at all. It’s why she moved to New York after whatever happened with Laurie happened. Why she came barging in to accuse Amy of something she herself is doing. “Yeah, I know.”

“Can I help?” Jo offers. Amy knows a peace offering when she hears it and hands over the heavy jar of Marmee’s homemade pickles.

“You can slice these up. Lengthwise first-“

“-otherwise it’s a choking hazard,” Jo choruses, repeating instructions Meg has been giving since before the twins even had teeth.

Amy and Jo work in companionable silence until Marmee walks in to check on her baked beans.

She doesn’t have to say anything for them to know she’s pleased with them, proud they resolved their conflict peacefully.

It’s a nice feeling, but Amy doesn’t think anything has been resolved.

*

“I was thinking after dinner we could walk up and get i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m,” Beth says, scooting back from the table.

Amy glances over at Meg who is wide-eyed and shaking her head. The twins will clearly not be joining them.

She feels eyes on her, Laurie asking wordlessly if they will be going. Amy doesn’t know what he’s doing, but she wants to eat ice cream under the stars with her sister. “I’m in.”

“Yeah, sure,” Laurie echoes.

“Jo? Marmee and Father?”

“We’ll stay,” Marmee says. “Meg, John, we can get the twins to bed if you want to go out.”

“Sure,” Meg agrees looking grateful. “Thanks Marmee.”

“I’ll come too,” Jo pipes up, once it becomes clear that she’ll have options for company beyond Amy and Laurie.

“I thought tomorrow evening we could all go play Putt-Putt and have supper out,” Father suggests.

Amy grins. It’s tradition and she can’t wait, although it will be interesting to try to play with four year olds.

*

“Did you and Laurie fight?“ Beth asks as Amy walks up alongside her.

Laurie’s somewhere behind them, probably talking to John, his old tutor. Sometimes Amy forgets how interlaced all of their lives are. Or maybe he and Jo are making tentative overtures at rebuilding their friendship.

“No. We don’t need to be together every second,” Amy says, linking arms with her sister.

“Hmm,” Beth says. “It’s good to see Jo.”

“It is. I’m still not used to living on top of everyone all the time.”

Beth looks over at her seriously. “Are you okay?”

“I am! Honestly, Beth, I’m good. It’s just weird, when we all get together. Switching to March-mode, remembering that life’s not always like this.”

Amy doesn’t know how to explain to her sister that she sometimes feels like opposite sides of the same coin: City Amy with her grownup job and professional clothes and getting cocktails after work and Country Amy with her family, being known without ever saying a word. Laurie helps her bridge those aspects. It’s not the only reason Amy likes him, but it does make being around him feel effortless.

Beth doesn’t look convinced of Amy’s okayness by the time they make it to Sundae School, the neighborhood ice cream shop that has been providing local high schoolers with summer jobs for probably fifty years. They’ll probably talk about it in whispers tonight, Beth trying to convince Amy to move back in with their parents and commute to work like Beth does. It won’t work, Amy’s always been too independent for her own good.

*

There’s a line to order and they all pretend to debate what they’re getting. Maybe Laurie and John really are, but Amy knows her sisters’ orders by heart. Meg will go back and forth between chocolate brownie and butter pecan, settling on butter pecan at the last moment. Beth will get the house specialty homemade peach ice cream, only served in August when peaches are in season. Jo will pretend to want something exotic, key lime pie or passion fruit sorbet, but really has been planning on mint ‘n chip since before she packed her bags for this trip. Amy’s getting malted milk ball. No one else does it the same and this is the version Amy grew up on.

Her sisters don’t disappoint, and Laurie pulls out his card to pay. Meg and John protest, but it’s futile and Meg pulls Amy aside while everyone else goes to find a picnic table in the parking lot.

“You just let Laurie pay?” Her sister asks in a whisper just verging on a hiss.

“I don’t let him.” Amy brought her wallet, was perfectly prepared to buy her own ice cream. “He likes doing it. And what is my picking up a twenty-five dollar ice cream bill going to prove except that I’m bad at budgeting.”

It’s dark out, but Amy doesn’t need to see to know Meg looks disproving.

Amy sighs. “It’s not like he’s bought me anything I couldn’t buy myself-“ really just meals and giving her a ride down here “-and comparatively a hundred dollars here and there are nothing to him.”

Meg sniffs an objection.

“Really, Meg. You should see the Laurence’s Boston house. I think they’re even richer than we thought,” they’ve approached the rest of their familyaround a picnic table. Amy says in a normal voice, “it has nine bathrooms.”

Laurie laughs, which was Amy’s goal, and she sits down next to him. “Thanks for the ice cream.”

They try to sit in the parking lot and watch stars, but it’s a still night and the mosquitos won’t leave them alone. They end up hurrying back to the house laughing with their half eaten cones.

*

Everyone goes up to bed soon after, and Meg joins the girls in their room “for a minute.” Amy’s unsurprised when she wakes up in the gray light of dawn pinned between her eldest sister and the wall.

She’s too uncomfortable to fall back asleep in that position and they went to bed early, so Amy decides to get up and climbs awkwardly out of bed.

Amy thinks about sneaking into Laurie’s room, but his door is firmly shut. Instead she steals someone’s sweatshirt and makes her way downstairs to the back porch overlooking the ocean.

It’s foggy and peaceful and Amy wishes she had her pastels with her. She has a sketchbook in her bag upstairs, but paper and pencil won’t do justice to this morning and her mood.

Eventually Amy hears noise behind her in the house, and a little while later Jo is handing her a mug of coffee and settling beside her.

“Morning,” Amy whispers, unwilling to shatter the silence. “Are we the only ones up?”

Jo shrugs. “Meg went back to her room and Father’s reading in bed, but they’re not up-up. Since when are you an early riser?”

Amy shrugs, she doesn’t think she is really, but. “Special occasion, I guess. Don’t want to waste a minute here. How about you? Why are you awake so early?”

Jo shrugs, “You weren’t in your bed.”

Amy doesn’t really know how to take that, whether Jo assumed she was with Laurie or wanted to corner her for the awkward burgeoning conversation they need to have, or whether Jo just wanted to spend time together. Amy decides to take the most charitable assumption and nudges her shoulder into her sister’s.

“I suppose now is as good a time as any to talk about Laurie,” Amy offers tentatively.

Jo sighs. “What are you doing, Amy?”

“I mean. I know Laurie had feelings for you, and they weren’t reciprocated. And now he has feelings for me, which are reciprocated.”

Amy pauses to let Jo put her two cents in, but she doesn’t say anything.

“I know it’s weird,” Amy says, “but-“

“Are you in love?” Jo asks. Amy can’t read her tone, doesn’t know what her sister is hoping for, but…

“Not yet, I don’t think.”

“But soon?” Jo presses.

Amy shrugs. “I’ve been a little in love with Laurie since I was twelve. Which is also weird, but I think we’re managing the low-key dating thing pretty well given our history.”

Jo touches Amy’s arm, looks her in the eye. “You really like him, though? He’s not just an interested rich guy?”

Something in Jo’s tone makes Amy think she’s trying to look out for both her and Laurie.

“Definitely not just some rich guy,” she confirms as someone approaches them.

“Who’s not just some rich guy?” Laurie asks, snagging Amy’s coffee out of her hands and taking a sip before returning it.

“You, evidently” Jo says wryly.

There’s a heavy pause and the silence feels loaded before Jo breaks into a smile.

“You have my blessing,” she says, standing up. “Be good to each other. Don’t make me pick a side.”

She walks away, leaving Amy and Laurie puzzled but relieved.

Laurie settles himself next to Amy. “Good talk?”

“Evidently. Morning,” Amy greets him, leaning in for a kiss.

He meets her in a gentle, fond, chaste kiss, both of them aware that their entire family may be watching.

It feels like the start of something real.