Beth March & Her Dark Angel
A Good Omens & Little Women Fanfiction
From the very first time Beth mentioned – rather offhandedly, as it had happened – her dark angel, her family – sisters, father, mother, and Hannah alike – were all comfortably convinced he was entirely fictitious.
Mr. Crowley, or the gentleman angel in black, as she sometimes referred to him, they were all certain, was nothing more than an imaginary companion for an anxious, overly sensitive, housebound girl.
Beth knew, of course, he was as real as herself – more real than herself, with a future and a purpose she would never have hope of understanding – as real as Jo or Meg or Amy or any one of her precious kittens. But they in turn thought him more akin to one of Beth's much doted upon dolls, and it was not in her nature to insist upon making her point or to quarrel regarding the matter.
There was little she could do if they refused to believe her.
Jo, with the needling curiosity of a writer looking for inspiration, was the only member of the family to ever ask Beth what her angel looked like.
She'd been taken aback, then begun with, "Well, a gentleman, in black." Like she'd always said. "He has high cheekbones."
"But what of his features other than cheekbones, Beth? Is he tall – has he got fair hair or dark?"
Yes, he was tall, to her mind, but perhaps Beth only thought so because she herself was not. "Oh, dark – his hair is red."
"He's got red hair like you, has he?" laughed Jo, folding her pen into the curled pages of the little book she'd been jotting things down in.
"Not quite like me," Beth said softly, playing with a loose thread on the dress of an old doll with a half caved-in head. "I told you, his hair is dark."
"Does he have eyes the same colour as yours?"
"He has yellow eyes."
"That must be an unsettling sight," Jo chortled.
Beth took it very seriously, shaking her head. "It isn't, not really. Plenty of my kittens have yellow eyes after the first couple of weeks" – once they changed over, as most kittens' eyes will, from their former blue – "his don't look much different."
"We – I – ought to write a play about him," was Jo's next suggestion. "He sounds so interesting, the way you describe him. We can perform it for Marmee."
"I wish you wouldn't," Beth whispered, glancing away rapidly.
It was so rare, such an odd phenomenon, for Beth not to encourage Jo to write something – Beth always the most supportive of Jo's talents – that she agreed to leave off the idea without a fuss.
She would write something else for them to perform for Marmee, if it would make her feel better.
When Beth first saw her dark angel, he was in the form of a snake.
She'd been searching under cushions and beneath sofas for what – then – had been her current litter of treasured kittens to fawn over and love and take pleasure from, only to nearly collapse with horror when she learned Hannah had been out of temper and put them outside. Perhaps Hannah didn't realise how cold it was supposed to get, or she thought the offspring of an old barn cat could fend for themselves, no matter how little they were, but Beth couldn't get their tiny faces – their soft, pleading mews – out of her mind and stumbled to the back door in a hurry.
She ought to have asked somebody for help – or taken a light – a candle or a lantern – rather than go out groping in the dark (regardless of a nearly full moon, it was nonetheless a good deal darker than a child alone should endure when the misadventure can be so readily avoided), only she didn't think of that until it was too late.
When she'd finally spotted one of her kittens, in a most unexpected state, she had opened her mouth to scream with no sound coming out.
Her kitten dangled from the mouth of what to anyone besides Beth March would have been deemed a monstrous phantom. An impossibly enormous black snake was holding her kitten – her own dear pet – by the back of the neck.
Trembling, she had reached for a stick. She'd no intention of hurting the snake, but she wanted to induce it to not eat her kitten. "Put him d-d-down!"
The snake's yellow eyes granted her a rare, slow blink. Then the snake set the kitten down as gently as a mother cat might, right into a shape in the dark Beth suddenly recognised as a makeshift basket with all her other kittens – she could hear them crying, now she listened – inside.
Poor snake, she'd realised, tossing the stick away guiltily. Poor innocent, good snake. Having one of her kittens for his supper hadn't been his intention at all.
When she brought the kittens back inside – in a proper basket – she smuggled the snake, coiled up with them, into the house as well.
She dreamed a man-shaped shadow sat by the downstairs window that night, watching the snow fall and tsking at a houseplant Marmee hadn't kept in the greenest of conditions, but by the morning her snake friend was long gone.
She was pleased for the snake's sake, afraid Amy or Meg especially would have been frightened by him. Frightened and set to shrieking before she could explain the black snake was a friend.
She thought he might have had a very narrow escape, but she was just a little sad for herself.
A full day she'd had ahead, on her own mostly, of chores and household doings, once the others left for their various jobs and duties outside of the home, and she'd hoped for the snake's company in addition to the kittens'.
But, sometime later, after her last day at school – the day she'd concluded she couldn't bear to keep going there, that she was much too bashful for it to do her any good, the day she promised herself she would work up the courage to plead with Marmee to let her learn her lessons at home from now on – when she took a wrong turn and stumbled and, upon rising to her feet, wiping her stinging palms on her pinafore, saw a thin man in black standing nearby the low fence-line, she was instinctively aware – the same way a person knows the sky is up and the ground is under their feet – he was the same being as the snake who'd protected her kittens.
He offered her his arm, and she took it gladly, murmuring without making eye-contact – only looking him in the face long enough to be certain his eyes really were as yellow as a first glance suggested they were – she was pleased to see him again.
They talked a little, along the road, and Beth inferred from their conversation exactly what he was – as well as who – and she told him her name, told him she was Miss March, but he could call her by her Christian name if he preferred it, and was given leave to call him Mr. Crowley.
Marmee couldn't see him, when he left her at her own gate, but he was standing there.
So it began.
Beth would never have dreamed of letting a mortal gentleman into the house if the others were not present, it wouldn't have been proper, but she knew with a certainty it was a different matter where Crowley was concerned.
Besides, he could always slither in as a snake, if she didn't want to let him in by the door.
Sometimes he came and listened to her play on her old, painfully out of tune piano or helped her with heavier, more burdensome chores, and her sisters on arriving home were amazed by what she'd accomplished while they were out.
He was just like a fairy godfather in a storybook.
Meg, while lolling by the fire propped up on her elbow and perceiving a distant look on Beth's face one evening, asked her what it was she saw in her imaginary dark angel, when she could have thought up a more suitable fantasy playmate, surely.
A prettier one more like herself.
No point in arguing that he wasn't imaginary, Beth simply sighed, threading her needle with a pretty violet thread she'd bought so she could embroider a border of wild pansies on a table runner.
"He's lonely during the day when he can't sleep – a little like me," she said at last. "He did have a friend once, but they quarrelled – he's left him behind in London."
This was about as talkative and as close to gossiping as quiet, introverted Beth ever came, and she was soon in a silent reverie more like herself, comforted by simple home and hearth.
From this tranquil state, Meg could draw nothing further.
Being obliged to put on her hood, take up her basket, and go down to the Hummels' on her own, Beth was in low spirits. She had waited an hour in vain hoping one of her sisters would accompany her. Amy had not come home in time; Meg and Jo declared themselves too preoccupied; and although – feeling rather poorly as she did – she should have liked nothing better, Beth knew she couldn't be lying upon the sofa nursing her headache all day.
She was halfway to the Hummels' house, feet dragging however much she tried to buoy herself to lift them, to remind herself she was doing the right thing and making Marmee – poor Marmee who was away nursing poor Father, both depending on their all being good so much – when she spied Mr. Crowley standing under an apple tree.
Because she was so disinclined to talk if it wasn't necessary, her dark angel friend was accustomed to joining her in silence when he strode along at her side.
It was a ways down the road before he asked what the matter was.
No matter, she insisted, but she was trying to do something – bring some food and other necessities to the Hummels'; she was worried for the children. "But I wish I didn't have to walk so very far today – my head aches so."
Crowley was rather put out with her sisters for not coming with her.
"Jo's only just got over a cold herself," rasped Beth, sounding less than well already by this point. "One can't blame her for not wanting to come."
"Your one might not," grumbled Crowley, straightening his black top hat – an article which appeared to be silken but might actually have been made of something else entirely, as Crowley's clothes often were. "This one does." A pause. Then, holding out his arm, "You can have me carry that basket for you if you like – you look as if you were going to topple over and drop it."
When they arrived, Crowley wincing at the ugly little place, Beth went inside first before rushing back out looking anxious and even more flushed than before.
Angels couldn't catch scarlet fever, could they? She was afraid all the children – especially the baby, who didn't look long for this world, the mother on her way for the doctor now – had it very badly.
Crowley didn't believe they could – and his sort, he added, being of the same stock probably couldn't either.
They were both inside with the children while Mrs. Hummel was away.
Crowley soothed the older ones – Heinrich and Minna and Lotty – telling them odd anecdotes until they fell asleep and forgot they were ill with empty stomachs while Beth held the baby in her lap.
However, by the time the baby stopped stirring and Beth suspected it had died, the poor thing, just moments before Mrs. Hummel was returned with the doctor, Crowley was gone, and she was by herself with the sleeping sick children.
While she suffered from the scarlet fever for herself, Beth seemed to say a great many odd things.
There was a great deal of incoherent babbling about objects and shadows on the wall moving, which neither Meg nor Jo paid any mind while they struggled to roll her over and change her linens and prayed Marmee would be able to come home soon, and some talk of a snake.
"There's no snake, darling Beth, it's the fever talking."
But no sooner did Jo leave the room, mopping at her brow and trying not to cry, when a black snake did slither out from under the bed, crawl up the post, and watch anxiously over a writhing and moaning Beth with worried yellow eyes.
Beth recovered though she was never strong. The next time she saw Crowley, she was eager to tell him about the wonderful piano Mr. Laurence from next door gifted her.
She played a favourite tune for him – something cheerful about Christmastime and bells – and tried her hardest to be merry and bright, but she found it impossible to hide her tears as they slid down her face and landed on the keys.
Coming up behind her, he placed a hand on her shoulder with such gentleness the tears only fell all the faster for it.
The next time she was sick, Beth knew she wasn't going to get better. It took a great deal to bring her sisters – especially Jo – around to the idea of her having no future in the world.
"I wish you'd let me write about your funny angel gentleman, after all," Jo murmured, sitting on the edge of her sister's bed. "A story, even if it wasn't fit for play-acting. I could read it to you so you could imagine you'd see him when–" She broke off. "Oh, Beth, don't just give up quietly like you always do! Please don't. Please fight."
"Mr. Crowley doesn't live in heaven – he isn't that sort of angel anymore." And it was too bad, for she would have liked to know someone wherever she was going – it might make her less miserable over everything she must leave behind. "Oh, I never wanted to go away. I want to be stupid little Beth trotting around home always." She took a folded note and pressed it into her sister's hand. "If he comes looking for me, you'll give him this, won't you?"
"He isn't going to come looking for you." She smoothed back a sweat-matted lock of her sister's carroty red hair. "He only exists where you do."
But he did come, less than a week later. A gentleman just like Beth always described – red hair and good cheekbones and all in black – although they couldn't see what colour his eyes were, for he had dark spectacles, and these covered his eyes entirely.
Jo was most astonished to find he was really real – indeed if Meg had not seen him also, she would have thought she dreamed it in her bereavement over Beth – and managed to say very little beyond, "You've come too late – far too late," handing him the note.
The demon, for only Beth March had thought him still an angel, unfolded this note only once he had quitted the place, walking away from their house, probably planning to walk straight out of Concord until he found his way to a boat – to passage back to England.
After briefly thanking him for being her friend, rather pathetically, Beth had written: I'm not afraid, not of dying, truly, but it seems as if I should be homesick for you even in heaven.