Saturday morning, Victoria set her violin down on her bed and stretched her fingers. After a grueling two-hour practice session on the Bach, she needed some fresh air. Outside, Louisa lay sprawled on the hammock in a green hooded sweatshirt, nose buried in a book— as usual.
“What are you reading?”
Louisa held up the novel. “Little Women.”
A smile spread across Victoria’s face. “Haven’t you read it before?”
“Yes, but it’s my favorite.”
Victoria laid down next to her sister. “If you had a choice, would you be a March sister from Little Women or a Bennet sister from Pride and Prejudice?”
The hammock swayed as Louisa popped to a sitting position. Victoria gripped the edges to keep from falling off.
“Well, Jo March has amazing literary ambition and doesn’t care a bit about fashion.” Louisa’s voice quickened with excitement. “Elizabeth Bennet is witty, classy, and doesn’t mind getting her feet dirty. She reads a lot and plays piano, like me.” Louisa’s forehead crinkled. “It’s a tough decision. Who would you choose?”
Victoria stroked her sister’s long brunette hair and stifled a laugh. Louisa took this so seriously. Not a typical fourteen-year-old, for sure. “Well, like both Jo and Elizabeth, I can’t wait to experience adventure beyond this town. Think of Jo dashing around New York or Elizabeth at the Pemberley estate. How exhilarating!”
Louisa fell silent for a moment. “Yes, I guess they both leave their families behind.”
“Isn’t that the point?” Victoria raised her gaze. “They leave home to achieve new levels of accomplishment.”
A frown spread across Louisa’s face. “At least in Jo’s case, I thought family helped her find success, not hinder it.”
Victoria shrugged. “Maybe you’re more like Jo and I’m like Elizabeth. You’re an amazing writer. For my part, I can’t wait to leave this place and experience something new. I just wish I could take you with me.” She planted a kiss on Louisa’s head.
She laid back on Victoria’s chest, and a flowery scent wafted from her hair. “Thanks, Victoria. I’m going to miss you.”
The familiar twinge cut through Victoria.
“I almost forgot.” Louisa jumped up from the hammock. “Earlier Marie said she wanted to have a movie night. We’d better go inside.”
“All right.” Victoria’s aching muscles protested leaving the comfort of the hammock, but Louisa had already sprinted halfway to the house.
“Maybe we can watch Little Women.”
“You’re here.” Stella jumped up from the living room floor where she was painting her nails. Her vibrant pink T-shirt matched her manicured fingers. “Now we can start the movie.”
“I really should practice. I still need another couple of hours.”
“Don’t be a party pooper, Victoria,” Stella retorted.
“Okay, I’ll stay for a few minutes.” Victoria settled into the plush navy couch facing the TV. “Which movie do you want to watch?
Louisa plopped next to her. “I just told you. Little Women.”
“We’ve watched that about a hundred times.” Adrienne’s loud voice carried from the kitchen. A moment later, she emerged wearing an apron imprinted with French cafés and Eiffel Towers. Marie followed, strands of dirty blonde hair hanging from her ponytail. She carried a plate of chocolate chip cookies.
“If we want a sister flick, how about Pride and Prejudice?” Adrienne sprawled on the love seat. “I’m dying to see the new version.”
Louisa scrunched her lips in protest. “Let’s take a poll. We each have to decide if we’d rather be a March or a Bennet sister. Whichever family gets the most votes determines the movie.”
“Ooh, I like it.” Stella waved her bright pink fingernails back and forth like a fan.
“Victoria, since you’re the oldest, why don’t you start?” Marie said as she set the plate of cookies on the coffee table.
“Yeah, Victoria,” Adrienne said. “You’re lucky to choose between the two most beautiful sisters—the lovely Meg March or the demure Jane Bennet.”
Victoria scratched the back of her head. “I didn’t realize we had to pick our corresponding birth order sister. I would have picked Elizabeth Bennet.” She glared at Adrienne. “Meg is sweet but not ambitious, as she just wants to get married and have babies. Not really my style, is it? But Jane travels to London to visit her aunt and uncle, so I think I’ll choose her.”
Victoria had always dreamed of exploring London. Maybe she’d have a chance to visit during graduate school. She visualized herself hopping on a double-decker bus to see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, strolling along the River Thames…
“Good choice,” Stella said. “Besides, Jane ends up with fun, rich Mr. Bingley, but Meg marries that poor, boring Mr. Brooke.” She stuck out her tongue. “But Mr. Bingley is much more exciting, with all his fancy balls.” She raised her arms and twirled a pirouette, then sank onto the love seat next to Adrienne.
Marie laughed as she fixed the stray pieces of hair back into her ponytail. “All right. One vote for Pride and Prejudice.”She hurried to the kitchen and returned with the bag of leftover chocolate chips. As she sat on the floor she tossed one chip on the table as a counter for the votes.
“I’m next.” Adrienne grabbed a cookie. “It’s tough to choose between Jo March and Elizabeth Bennet—”
Victoria rolled her eyes. “That’s because they’re both main characters. Lucky second-born sisters.”
“Jo’s a writer, which I’m not,” Adrienne continued, “and she has no sense of fashion.” Her eyes darted to the French apron she had yet to remove, then looked up again. “But Elizabeth marries Mr. Darcy, my favorite romantic character, so I choose her.”
Stella’s blue eyes sparkled. “Adrienne, if you’re Elizabeth, who’s Mr. Darcy?”
Adrienne laughed. “I would imagine a tall, dark, handsome European.”
“Aw, come on,” Marie groaned. “Pick someone we know.”
“Oh all right.” Adrienne straightened her shoulders. “Let’s see. I’ll have to choose someone attractive, serious, and accomplished.”
An image of Jerry in his handsome tux came to Victoria’s mind. Why couldn’t she stop thinking about him? She was being ridiculous.
“I guess I’d have to say Jerry.”
“What?” Victoria exclaimed, leaping from the couch. The blood rushed to her face, and a fainting sensation made her sit back down.
Adrienne frowned. “You don’t think he’s attractive or accomplished?”
“I do, but—”
“Then what’s the problem?” Adrienne raised her eyebrows.
Stella jumped up and down, a flurry of pink. “Victoria’s jealous that you get to marry Jerry.”
Victoria chucked a pillow at Stella. “That’s not it,” Victoria lied. “I don’t think Jerry seems very British.” It was a lame excuse, confirmed by Marie’s pointed look.
“That’s two for Pride and Prejudice.” Marie tallied another chocolate chip on the table. “Louisa, how about you?”
Adrienne frowned as she set down her half-eaten cookie. “Louisa, you can’t be Jo. You have to choose between the younger ones, Beth and Kitty. How about Beth? She’s sweet, shy, and plays piano, like you.”
Louisa’s face fell. “But Beth dies. Is that how you see me? Sick and frail?”
“Of course we don’t see you like that,” Victoria patted her back.
“Besides, you shouldn’t be Beth—she’s the third sister,” Marie said. “That’s my spot.”
“But I don’t want you to die either.” Louisa’s green eyes darkened.
“I’ll take my chances. My other choice is Mary Bennet.” Marie grimaced. “She’s such a prude that, let’s face it, I’m better off as Beth.”
Louisa laughed. “Okay. But who should I be?”
“You can be Jo.” Victoria said pointedly. “No one cares about the birth order. Miss Elizabeth Bennet didn’t pick her anyway.” Adrienne’s nose raised a few inches.
Eyes darting between Victoria and Adrienne, Marie pulled out two more chocolate chips and placed them on the opposite side of the table. “We’re tied—two for Pride and Prejudice and two for Little Women.”
“What are we voting on?” Mom asked as she entered the room.
“Which sister story we like better: Pride and Prejudice or Little Women,” Marie said. “Which mom would you choose, Marmee or Mrs. Bennet?”
“You’re definitely Marmee.” Louisa reached for Mom’s hand.
“Yeah, Mrs. Bennet is a nut job,” Marie laughed.
“What about me?” Dad appeared in his medical scrubs. “Who would I be?”
“Mr. March or Mr. Bennet?” Louisa asked.
“I have no idea who they are.” Dad chuckled. “You’re the bookworm, Louisa. Which one do you like better?”
“Mr. March is absent most of the time, whereas Mr. Bennet is witty.” Louisa scratched her head. “I guess I’d have to pick Mr. Bennet for his humor.”
“Great. We’re still tied.” Marie snatched the other half of Adrienne’s cookie. “Stella, who do you pick? Lydia Bennet or Amy March?”
Stella laughed, a light, tinkling laugh. “Do you have to ask? Lydia is so scandalous, running off with that scumbag Mr. Wickham. Amy March is fashionable and moves to Paris where she marries heartthrob Laurie. It’s so romantic.” She batted her eyelashes.
“Hmmm, maybe I should have been Amy,” Adrienne mused. “She’s an artist and speaks French, like me.”
“You can’t change your mind,” Victoria said. Her sister had some nerve. “Besides, you’re the one so hung up on the stupid birth order.”
Adrienne folded her arms across her chest.
“Who would be Laurie?” Louisa looked at Stella.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Marie exclaimed. “Eddie.”
Louisa nodded. “Yeah, he’s like our brother.”
“Ugh.” Stella scrunched her nose. “There’s no way I’m marrying Eddie someday. He’s such a nerd.”
Marie jumped to her feet. “What’s wrong with that? I’m glad he’s smart.”
“Then you marry him,” Stella said.
“You forgot, I’m the one who dies.” Marie swooned onto the couch on top of Victoria and Louisa.
“Get off.” Louisa giggled as she pushed Marie to the floor.
After clambering back to her feet, Marie tossed out another couple of chocolate chips. “It looks like we have a winner—Little Women.”
Louisa beamed. Adrienne scowled.
“I’ll make popcorn.” Victoria stood up and stretched her legs before heading to the kitchen, where she tossed the popcorn bag into the microwave.
A few seconds later, Marie joined her. “So, Jerry’s Mr. Darcy, huh?”
“No, he’s not.” Victoria wished she could steady her racing heart.
“Really?” Marie turned on the oven and pulled a pizza out of the freezer. “I’m not stupid. I saw how you blushed when Adrienne mentioned him. You’re jealous.”
“I am not. I don’t want her clinging to him all the time, that’s all. Can’t she choose the new Texan guitar player, Matt whatever-his-name-is?”
Marie laughed as she grabbed the popcorn bag out of the microwave. “Just keep telling yourself that.” She dumped the mounds of fluffy kernels into a bowl and pulled butter and cheese from the fridge.
Victoria frowned. “What are you doing?”
“Spicing things up a bit.” Marie dropped the ingredients into another container, then grabbed garlic salt and another seasoning shaker from the cabinet. “It’s Italian popcorn.”
“What’s that?” Victoria wrinkled her nose.
“I promise it’s good. Sometimes you have to try an old standby with a new twist to really appreciate it.”
She zapped the mixture in the microwave for a few seconds, before dribbling the yellow substance over the popcorn. “Taste it.”
“Here goes nothing.” Victoria dipped her hand into the messy mixture, then raised a couple bites to her mouth. A blend of the familiar popcorn taste and exotic seasonings danced on her tongue.
“Good, right?” Marie popped a handful into her mouth, and placed the pizza in the oven.
Victoria grinned. “Delicious.”
“You have to try it, before someone else snatches it up.” Marie scooped up the bowl. “And I’m not just talking about the popcorn.”