Lucy turned a page of her journal and stole a glance from under her lashes at Mina, who was sitting by the fire and poring intently over her medical texts, winding a single lock of hair around and around her long, slender fingers. She was so engrossed (in what, Lucy couldn't say, nor could she ever comprehend her best friend's utter fascination with the messy details of the human viscera) that she hadn't noticed the steadily growing collection of crumpled bits of paper surrounding her chair, which Lucy had been flicking at her for the past half-hour from her position on the bed. Lucy quietly tore another scrap from Girl's Own Paper, beaded it with the tips of her fingers, took careful aim at Mina's thick, dark curls, and sent the tiny missile flying. It zipped past the back of Mina's head, missing by a centimeter, and landed at the edge of the rug before the fireplace.
Lucy rolled her eyes and dropped her chin onto her stacked fists, sighing; her gaze drifted to Mina's face, what little of it she could see with the girl's profile to her, and her heartbeat picked up considerably. Backlit by the firelight, Mina's pale skin seemed to glow, and her hair shone like oiled wood. Lucy suppressed a grin at the slightly furrowed brow and the lip Mina had taken between her teeth; she recognized the signs of Mina struggling with a particularly difficult concept. The slowly twining fingers had worn the curl right out of the hair. Suddenly Mina gave a sharp exhale and closed the book.
"I give up," she declared, turning tired blue eyes on Lucy, who quickly schooled her smile into casual innocence. "I can't bother with this right now, Lucy, I've still got such a terrible headache and the professor wants me up at five tomorrow—" Mina ended on a groan and rubbed her face with her hands, so that her next few words were muffled "—I simply can't be bothered to learn the implications of the redundancies of the Circle of Willis—why are you laughing?"
"I'm not laughing," said Lucy unconvincingly, trying to squash the smile bubbling up across her face in response to Mina's anxious chattering. Try as she might though, her eyes gave her away. They always did around Mina. More gently she said, "Look, if you're that tired, come to bed. Just rest, and tomorrow I'll help you figure out William's Circular Whatsits—"
"The Circle of Willis, Lucy, and a fat lot of help you'll be." But she was smiling as she stood up, stretched, and yawned. "I suppose you're right. Budge up, then, let me in," and Lucy's heart raced again as she shifted to the head of the bed, on the right side like always. Mina was just starting to undress, sitting bent over on the edge of the bed and unlacing her boots, when there was sharp knocking at the door. Both girls turned to look at each other.
"Who on earth could that be?" Mina said, looking perplexed.
Lucy looked at the clock on the wall. "It's nearly midnight!" she exclaimed, affronted. She turned back to Mina as another series of knocks echoed up the stairs. "What's someone doing calling at this hour?"
"I suppose we'll have to go and find out," Mina said, bemused, redoing the laces she'd just undone and standing up. "Coming?"
"Mina, I'm in my unmentionables!" said Lucy, scandalized, drawing up the bedclothes as though to protect herself from imaginary intruders.
"Fine. Stay here then. I'll go see what all the fuss is about," muttered Mina, striding quickly out of the room.
Lucy heard her call "Coming!" in response to the third round of knocking as she hurried down the stairs, and then the sound of the door opening. Lucy gleefully sprang off the bed and stopped at the doorframe, trying to see who the unexpected visitor was. She peeked around the doorpost, but could only see the top of the front door and the lintel. Clutching her shifts dramatically closer to her chest and stifling a giggle, she crept down the hallway and closer to the balustrade; she could hear voices, Mina's own sweet one, and a familiar male one, lowered and hurried.
At last, she found herself looking down at the back of Mina's slight figure leaning against the doorpost and, standing on the stoop across from her—him. That fool, Jonathan Proper-English-Wife Harker. Lucy's heart gave a sudden lurch, and she felt slightly sick. What was he doing here? Had he come to try and win Mina back? Lucy's lip curled as she watched him blubbering what was no doubt some pathetic attempt at an apology; there was no way Mina would take him back. She'd been telling Mina for months that he wasn't worth her time, and now the idiot had gone and turned out to be just like every other cocky London bastard who learned of Mina's medical ambitions and the near-certainty that she would achieve them. He was just another insecure, immature, uncultured churl who—
Suddenly Harker leaned forward and kissed Mina.
And Mina let him.
She stayed there, leaning on the doorframe as he smiled at her and murmured something Lucy couldn't catch for the sound of her own heart beating in her ears. She struggled to inhale normally as he turned and walked out of view, but when Mina straightened up and walked out after him, Lucy tore her eyes away and forced herself to stumble back to the bedroom, the sound of his name from Mina's lips echoing in her suddenly empty heart.
She grasped the doorpost, fighting to stay grounded, and her traitorous eyes went to the curtained windows directly ahead of her; and though her mind screamed at her to get into bed and forget about everything she'd just seen, her feet carried her of their own accord across the room. She drew back the curtain a few inches, just in time to see Mina throw her arms around his neck. A sob escaped from her throat then, though she clapped a hand over her mouth to stifle it. Tears blurred her vision as she replaced the curtain, leaned back against the wall, her fist against her heart, and clenched eyes shut, gasping for breath. This could not be happening…
She heard Mina's voice, soft and warm like candlelight, and lifted the curtain again despite herself, to see them kissing passionately, their arms around each other; see him smile at her, twirl her in the middle of the misty lamplit street; see her laughing so easily, as if he hadn't just shattered her heart only days before; see them come together again for a dipped kiss—
Suddenly Lucy wished she had never gotten out of Mina's bed; that she was under the covers and already falling fast asleep. She wanted to be anywhere but here, she thought, shoving the curtains closed and spinning to slam herself back against the wall, crying with her fists in her hair; anywhere but in this small cozy green room where every single thing smelled and looked and felt like Mina and everything she could never have…
When Mina finally came back inside, shut and bolted the front door, and giddily ascended the stairs to their room, she hadn't expected Lucy to be in bed, much less asleep. It was highly unlike her friend to let anything get in the way of juicy gossip, even plain tiredness; and come to think of it, thought Mina, Lucy didn't even seem that worn out tonight.
"Lucy?" Mina said softly, approaching the bed where the blonde was lying, facing the opposite wall. "Are you truly asleep, Luce?" She put one knee on the bed, leaned forward, placed a soft hand on Lucy's arm, and shook her gently. "Luce?"
Lucy didn't stir. Mina dropped her hand with a soft sigh, but smiled when she remembered what she'd been about to tell her friend. "He wants to marry me, Lucy," she said shyly, running her fingers lightly through Lucy's golden hair. "He really, truly does. He gave me his cross to wear to prove it," she said, fingering the pendant around her neck.
She stood up and began undressing for the second time that night, humming; but ever so quietly, so as not to disturb her roommate. She couldn't believe it. After all she'd done, he still wanted to take her back, he wanted her to be his wife! She tossed her clothes carelessly onto the chaise by the fire, giggling softly when she saw the screwed-up bits of paper on the floor around where she'd been sitting earlier, and recognizing the telltale signs of Lucy's favorite game of "Sabotage Mina's Studying".
"Oh Lucy," she said fondly, picking up a few scraps and tossing them into the flames.
When she had removed her corsets and stockings and hairpins and all the rest of it, when she was dressed only in her fine cotton sleeping shifts, she lifted the covers and slid into bed beside Lucy's sleeping form, facing the ceiling and sighing happily. "I'm so glad it worked out alright. I told you he was a good man," she said, turning her head towards Lucy; in an almost disbelieving voice she whispered, "He loves me." A pause. "And I love him," she said decidedly, rolling onto her side to face her friend completely and sliding an arm around her waist. She drifted into a dreamless sleep feeling Lucy's soft golden hair against her face.
On the other side of the bed, another tear leaked from the corner of Lucy's eye and continued to soak the pillow under her head. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried not to let her sobs escape her; tried to ignore the freshly gaping wound in her heart; tried not to notice Mina's soft warmth against her shaking body; tried, really, not to feel anything at all.