DISCLAIMER: The Facts of Life and its characters are the property of Columbia Pictures Television and Sony Pictures Television, no infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Beauty Crowds Me: Chapter 8 of 16 Chapters. Quotes in italics are direct quotes from the Facts of Life Series, Season 2, Episode 8, Teenage Marriage Pt. 2 and Season 1, Episode 2, Like Mother Like Daughter.
MEDIA LINK: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=192C5D50428674AB
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
THANKS: To Stacey for the Beta.

Beauty Crowds Me
8: Humpty Dumpty Had a Great Fall Part 2

By Slave2Free


Jo stood at a distance, her presence hidden by the trees bordering the cliffs of Cooper's Rock. She was mesmerized by the most beautiful sight she had ever witnessed. Blair looked more like one of her paintings than like a real person. The wind was whipping through her beautiful blonde hair and the fur on her coat swayed with the breeze. Snow had left a layer of white all along the granite rocks and new snowflakes swirled around the devastatingly attractive girl staring forlornly out over the landscape.

Jo was concerned about the snow-covered rocks. As usual, Blair had dressed more for fashion than for practicality. Her high heeled boots could easily slip on the glassy rocks and Blair stood precariously near the edge of the cliff. A memory flashed in Jo's mind, but she quickly buried it, intent on focusing on Blair.

Jo wanted to pull Blair back away from the edge, but she was afraid that approaching Blair might alarm her and cause her to fall. Blair had never seemed more unapproachable. Jo hung her head at her stupidity. She had held perfection in her arms and she had thrown it away. The look on Blair's tear stained face said it all. Jo Polniaczek was suddenly and irrevocably nothing more than a footnote in Blair's history. She would never again be allowed to be anything more.

Jo closed her eyes, trying not to recall the past few days.

When Jo entered Mrs. Garrett's parlor, Blair and Mrs. G. were already discussing ways to delay Jo's departure with Eddie until Jo's mother could be reached.

Blair shuddered at the mental image she had of Jo's future. She had no firsthand knowledge of what it was like to live in poverty, but she'd seen enough movies to be certain that beer and belching were in some way a prerequisite for impoverished males. She pictured Eddie reclining on a tattered sofa while Jo ran back and forth to the kitchen bringing him beer.

Once Jo arrived, Blair had every intention of leaving the room. She had done all she could do to talk sense into Jo.

"There is nothing more I can do."

Jo wasn't about to let Blair off that easily. She followed the dejected blonde from the lounge to the cafeteria.

"Would you put that in writing? You already insulted Eddie, accused me of being a poor stup and turned Bink Parker loose on us, that weenie. You didn't miss a trick."

"I must have. You're still getting married."

Blair was devastated. She couldn't fight with Jo any longer. Her words sounded as tired as Blair felt. She turned and left the other girls to deal with Jo.

After accepting an invitation to allow Mrs. Garrett and the younger two roommates to throw her a bridal shower, Jo went to her room to pack and change clothes for her trip. Blair was waiting for Jo when she entered their room.

Blair sat on her bed and watched Jo pack her suitcase.

"I can't believe Mrs. Garrett is throwing you a bridal shower."

"Well, that's what friends do for each other, not that you would know anything about how to be a friend."

"Right. I guess you could give me lessons on that, couldn't you?"

"Look Blair, just give me five more minutes here and I'll be out of your life for good."

"Just tell me one thing, Jo."

"No, Blair, I'm done explaining myself to you."

"Last night, when you came to our room, did you know that you were going to marry Eddie?"

Jo felt the bile rise up within her throat. How could she have made out with Blair the night before and be with Eddie tonight? Jo tried to push away the ache in her head by forcing out the memories of Blair's kisses. After she had been silent for too long, Blair gave up on getting an answer from Jo.

"Just tell me that you're not doing this because of anything I said or did at the restaurant."


"At the restaurant you said that you were going to tell Eddie 'no', but that after listening to me you changed your mind?"

"I didn't say that."

"Yes, you did. It's my fault you're doing this. You're only marrying Eddie to prove me wrong. Please, Jo. You don't have to prove anything to me."

"Is that what you think? You think that you are so important to me that the only reason I'd have to marry Eddie is to prove something to you? Your conceit has no bounds."

"I know what you said, Jo. This wouldn't be the first time you did something stupid just to prove something to me."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Face it, Jo, you never would have gone to the Chug-a-Lug bar your first night here if it wasn't because of me. You risked a scholarship to one of the most expensive schools in the country just to prove to me that you were just as good at attracting guys. You have more integrity than anyone I've ever met, yet you stole the school van that night. Let's not forget Mrs. Garrett's blouse. You stole that because you were competing with me. Don't act as if I'm crazy to ask if you are doing this to spite me."

"Marrying Eddie has nothin' to do with you. You can rest easy, Blair, you're not to blame for anything that I do. You don't rate that high in my life."

Blair didn't say anything more while Jo finished packing and changed clothes for her bridal shower.

Although the bridal shower was only a ruse to keep Jo in town long enough for Mrs. Garrett to reach her mother, each girl found an appropriate gift from her personal belongings to give to their betrothed friend. Tootie gave Jo a picture album and Natalie gave her a diary. Blair, who had been specifically uninvited to the shower, also showed up toward the end of the event with a gift. She didn't even look at Jo when she handed her the gift.


"You didn't have to give me any presents."

"It's not a present, just something I'm tired of."

Tootie spoke for everyone in the room after getting a look at the luxurious nightgown Blair gave Jo as a bridal gift.

"Whoa, look out Mama!"

"Blair, isn't that the nightie you bought from Saks Fifth Avenue?"

"If Jo insists on this madness, I want her to do it with style."

Blair offered Jo a weak smile. She didn't want Jo to leave on such bad terms. Jo examined the expensive nightgown, wondering what could possess Blair to give her something so nice.

"But this is brand new."

"So what? I was just going to unveil it at some slumber party. It will be much more effective where you're going to unveil it."

The innuendo brought gasps and whistles from the other girls. Blair had a way about her, that was for sure. Jo had seen this side of Blair before, the side that conformed to social etiquette no matter how personally demoralizing the circumstances. Blair would give the type of gift and say the things expected of a best friend during a bridal shower. Good manners were ingrained into the Warner gene pool.

Jo didn't know what to say. The Polniaczeks weren't particularly known for their good manners.

"Gee, uh, uh."



"Don't mention it. Well, enjoy your shower."

Blair started to walk out of the room, but Jo stopped her.



The sparks flying between the two girls as they stared awkwardly at one another couldn't be missed by anyone other than those who intentionally wanted to remain blind to the emotional tension between the two.

"You might as well stay. You don't take up that much room."

Blair hesitantly joined the other girls at the table. Jo's last gift was a Bible from Mrs. Garrett. Blair, in particular, was stunned by the gift. A Family Bible was something that you gave to a beloved member of your family and Mrs. Garrett was bestowing an honor upon Jo that Blair considered staggering.

For her part, Jo was reluctant to accept such a precious gift. It was just one more reminder of how much she had grown to love Eastland and the new family she had made there. Blair wasn't the only one she considered family. She could not love Natalie and Tootie more if they were sisters and Mrs. Garrett had become much more than a mentor. Jo was tearful as she looked down at the precious cargo she'd received from her Eastland family. She used the excuse of packing her gifts to leave the room so that the others wouldn't see the tears she knew would be streaming down her face in seconds.

As soon as Jo left to pack her gifts, her mother finally returned Mrs. Garrett's frantic calls. Mrs. Garrett was still talking with Rose Polniaczek when Jo reentered the room. Jo overheard Mrs. Garrett explain to Mrs. Polniaczek that they had been stalling Jo until they could reach her mother. Mrs. Garrett pleaded with Jo to wait for her mother to arrive, but Jo ran from the room and Blair felt the bottom dropping out of her world for a second time.

When Mrs. Garrett started to leave in order to track Jo down, Blair insisted on going with her. They found the engaged couple at a nearby hotel and Mrs. Garrett barged her way into their room. Blair had never heard Mrs. Garrett be so forceful; it was as if Mrs. Garrett was using every bit of her strength to hold down her temper when she shouted her mandate to Jo.

"You're staying here until your mom comes, or you've got ME on your honeymoon!"

As it turned out, Mrs. Garrett's mandate had not been necessary. Jo had realized, once she was alone with Eddie, that the two of them had very different expectations of what their future should be like.

Mrs. Garrett and Blair both let out a sigh of relief as Jo went on to explain why she felt that she shouldn't marry Eddie, then they left to allow Jo and Eddie time to say their goodbyes privately. When they returned to the motel room, Jo had been crying and both Mrs. Garrett and Blair had embraced her. At first, all Blair could feel was relief that Jo had changed her mind about running away with Eddie. It wasn't until later that night that she wondered why Jo had been wearing the night gown Blair had given to her for her wedding night, since she and Eddie hadn't gotten married.

Mrs. Garrett had been in such a hurry to get Jo out of the motel, that she didn't even give Jo a chance to change clothes. Jo rode back to Eastland in the car with Mrs. Garrett and Blair, planning to return for her motorcycle later. Once they were back at Eastland, Mrs. Garrett was still acting a little overprotective, insisting that Jo stay in Mrs. Garrett's bedroom until her mother arrived instead of returning to the room she shared with her other three roommates.

Blair sat at the end of Mrs. Garrett's bed, listening to Mrs. Garrett and Jo talk. Neither the older woman nor Jo seemed to mind or even notice that Blair was still in the room; it was understood that she wouldn't be returning to her own room until Jo's mother arrived. Finally, Mrs. Garrett felt comfortable enough to leave the two young girls alone while she went to make some hot chocolate. It had been a long night, and Rose Polniaczek was still over an hour away from arriving at Eastland.

Once they were alone, Blair glanced over at Jo. She looked so different from how Blair normally saw her. In the feminine nightgown, with her hair hanging loose instead of pulled back as usual, Jo looked much younger. Her eyes were red from crying, which made her also appear very fragile. Even Jo's voice, when she spoke to Mrs. Garrett on the way back to Eastland had sounded young and childlike. Blair was having trouble reconciling the image in front of her with the confident, swaggering girl who had won her heart at first sight.

Jo remained on the opposite side of the bed, only glancing at Blair occasionally. The silence was deafening.

"I guess you're pretty mad at me, huh?"

"Not really."

"Oh, well, I'd understand if you were."

"I'm not."

"That's good. I guess you want your present back?"

For the first time, Blair looked directly at Jo, her eyes traveling the length of the sexy lingerie.

"It belongs to you, Jo. I don't expect you to give it back."

"But it was a bridal gift and I'm not a bride so I should give it back."

"I bought it for you."

"It was nice of you to give me the nightgown, Blair, but we both know that you bought it for yourself and only gave it to me so that you'd have something to give me at the shower."

"No, I always intended to give it to you. I bought it for you, not for me."

Jo looked down at the luxurious gown. Blair had bought this for her to wear one day when the two of them would be together, but she had given it to Jo to wear for Eddie instead. Jo buried her face in her hands and rubbed her eyes.

"Nothing happened between Eddie and me. I only put it on because he wanted to see what I'd look like in it. We were only in the room a few minutes before you and Mrs. Garrett arrived."

Blair wanted to act like it didn't matter to her one way or the other, but she was glad that Jo had explained why she was wearing the lingerie and couldn't stop herself from saying so.

"Thanks, I wondered."

"I've been acting kind of weird, huh?"


"You must think I'm pretty mixed up?"


"You ever gonna talk to me in whole sentences again."

Blair smiled.


Jo walked over to Blair and gazed directly into her dark eyes. She wondered if the anguish she saw there was new or if she had been oblivious to it until then. Blair looked defeated, as if all the fight had gone out of her and Jo knew that she was responsible.

Jo sat down beside Blair, but didn't break her hold over Blair's gaze.

"Blair, I"

"Jo, don't."

"I said some things."

"It's okay, I understand."

"It's not okay and I don't think you understand. I didn't mean any -"

"Jo, please don't. Not tonight. Please."

Blair was begging, so Jo relented.

They sat in silence for a short time, until Blair's eyes wandered over toward Jo again.

"You look really nice."

"It's the silk. Expensive clothes can sure make you look special. They can even make you feel special."

"You are special. You make that peignoir look good, not the other way around." "Blair."

Jo reached out to take Blair's hand, but Blair quickly pulled away from her and stood up, walking toward the door.

"I don't know what could be taking Mrs. Garrett so long."

Jo stood and walked toward Blair, just as the door opened and Mrs. Garrett walked in with Rose Polniaczek.

"Your mother got here in record time, Jo."

Mrs. Garrett stood to the side as Rose went to embrace her daughter. As soon as Jo was in her mother's arms, the tears started again. Blair took that as her cue to leave. She mouthed good night to Mrs. Garrett and reached for the door.

"Blair, wait."

Everyone, most of all Blair, was surprised that Jo had even noticed that Blair was about to leave.

"Uh, thanks for what you did tonight."

Blair wasn't sure what Jo was thanking her for, she'd done so many things that night, but she smiled in response.

"You're welcome, Jo."

Rose Polniaczek looked over at the other girl in the room for the first time.

"It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Polniaczek; I hope we'll have a chance to visit with one another during your next visit to Eastland."

Jo recognized the formal manners. Any time Blair was particularly nervous, the impeccable Warner etiquette would surface. Rose Polniaczek was a little taken aback by the very proper young girl who seemed to be such good friends with her daughter.

"It's, uh, nice to meet you, too, miss?"

"Warner. I'm Blair Warner. I apologize for not introducing myself earlier; I felt that you would prefer to have some time alone with Jo. She's had a very difficult day and I'm sure she appreciates having you here tonight."

Blair looked directly at Jo as she made her exit.

"Not all mothers would drop everything at a moment's notice and drive through a winter storm - Jo's very lucky."

Mrs. Garrett tried to hide the tears forming in her eyes. She had never loved Blair more. She knew how strained Blair's relationship was with her parents. The last time Blair's mother had visited Eastland, her scandalous affair with another classmate's father had almost ruined parents' night, not to mention how her indiscretion had distressed and publically embarrassed Blair. Neither Mrs. Garrett, nor any faculty member or administrator at Eastland, had ever met Blair's father. He was always too busy to make time for his daughter.

Jo's mother didn't quite know what to make of the young woman who had made such a unique first impression. She didn't dwell, however, on the stranger. Instead, she turned her full attention back to her daughter.

Like Blair, Mrs. Garrett decided to leave mother and daughter alone to sort out their differences. Feeling exhausted, Mrs. Garrett went into the girls' room and stretched out on Jo's empty bed. She was half asleep when she felt a blanket being spread over her. When she opened her eyes, she saw Blair tucking in the corners of the extra covers she had taken from her own bed and given to the older woman. Mrs. Garrett smiled up at Blair - that was the exact moment she started thinking of the attractive young blonde as if she were her own child.

"I'm very proud of you, Blair."

Blair beamed from the warmth of Mrs. Garrett's praise. Jo wasn't the only one who had needed the comfort of a mother's embrace that night, and she wasn't the only one who got one

When Mrs. Garrett woke up the next morning, Blair was gone. Mrs. Garrett, Natalie, and Tootie prepared breakfast, allowing Jo and her mother as much time as possible to talk things out with one another.

When Jo and her mother finally came downstairs for breakfast, Mrs. Garrett noticed two things immediately. The first was Jo's constant perusal of her surroundings, looking for Blair but refusing to ask about her. The second was Rose Polniaczek's habit of pulling at her shirt sleeve in an attempt to cover the bruises on her wrist. Edna Garrett was getting a pretty good idea as to why Jo had reacted so strongly to finding out that her mother had invited a man to move in with her.

Tootie opened her mouth to speak twice during breakfast, but the only word she was able to get out was 'ouch' as Natalie pinched her hard before she was able to say anything more. Tootie looked pleadingly at Mrs. Garrett for support, only to find that Mrs. Garrett seemed happy that Natalie had taken it upon herself to silence the young girl who had trouble controlling her tongue.

It was only after Mrs. Polniaczek left and Natalie no longer felt the need to monitor her youngest friend that Tootie managed to once again put her foot in her mouth. She was only trying to make Jo feel better about her mother. She knew that Jo was particularly sensitive about Blair's opinions and she wanted Jo to know that Blair had no room to judge Jo about her mother.

"Look, Jo, you shouldn't be embarrassed just because your mom is shacking up with her boyfriend. No one around here is going to think any worse of her for it, especially not Blair. I mean at least your mom waited until she and your father were divorced to get a new boyfriend. Unlike Blair's mother who has cheated on every man she's ever married. You know she's been divorced three times. There's no telling how many other marriages she's broken up."

Jo looked at Tootie in shock.

"I can't believe no one told you, especially after what happened during parents' night last year."

"Maybe no one wanted to spread rumors about Blair to her new roommate, Tootie. Did you ever think of that?"

Natalie hoped her admonishment would be enough to shut Tootie up, but Jo was already showing a great deal of interest in whatever Tootie had to say. It was hard enough for Tootie to hold back gossip at any time, but when given a captive audience, holding back her tongue was impossible.

"It's not a rumor if you see it with your own eyes and I saw Blair's mom kissing Mr. Branch with my own eyes."

Tootie paused and looked at Jo for effect, delivering the juiciest tidbit of gossip the young girl had ever had the gleeful pleasure of sharing.

"A very married Mr. Branch. There I was, minding my own business and right there by the water fountain was Blair's mom making out with Nina's father. Natalie was with me, she saw the whole thing."


Mrs. Garrett's reprimand was firm, but Tootie felt like Jo deserved to know that her mother wasn't the only one who did embarrassing things. Jo looked over at Mrs. Garrett, confusion filling her expression.

"What's Tootie talking about? Who is Nina? I don't know any girl here named Nina."

"That's because the scandal was so bad that Nina had to change schools. I guess it wouldn't help Blair to change schools since her mother has boyfriends scattered all over the place."

"Tootie, that's enough. Not another word, I'm warning you."

Tootie looked around the room, trying to figure out what she had done wrong. She only wanted to make Jo feel better. Mrs. Garrett's voice would normally have stopped the young girl, but Jo's interest was so strong that Tootie couldn't stop herself.

"I'm just saying that Jo doesn't have to be embarrassed about anything around any of us. At least Jo and her mother get along with one another."

"What does that mean?"

Jo was still trying to figure out why Tootie thought that the affairs Blair's mother had were relevant to anything going on between Jo and her mother. Tootie's assumption that Jo's anger toward her mother was related to her mother's desire to live with a man while not being married to him couldn't have been further off target.

"Blair's mother smacked Blair across the face during her last visit - hard. You should have seen it Jo, you'd have died laughing."

Jo didn't laugh. She didn't smile. She turned a little pale and looked like she might get sick.

"Blair's mother hit her? In the face?"

Mrs. Garrett felt the need to explain. Tootie made the incident seem worse than it had been.

"Blair was upset when she found out about her mother and Nina's father. Blair confronted her mother and said some things she shouldn't have said."

"Like what?"


Mrs. Garrett hadn't expected Jo to ask questions about the incident. She thought back to the day in question, trying to recall what Blair had said. Natalie, who remembered everything very clearly, jumped into the conversation and relayed the events of the previous year to Jo.

"Mother, may I please speak with you?"

"Sure. Blair, why aren't you wearing the dress I bought you?"

"That's your kind of dress mother, not mine."

"Well what do you want to look like?"

"I'm trying to change my image. I want to become as unlike you as I possibly can."

"Blair, what is this about?"

"You know what it's about. I'm talking about you sneaking away for a romantic evening with a married man!"

"Sweetheart, if you're talking about Justin and myself, we've been friends for years. What is wrong with a harmless little get together between friends?"

"If it's so harmless, then why did I hear you whispering about a romantic evening together? I heard the whole thing."

"Blair, you're not a child. Men are attracted to beautiful women and whether you like it or not you're going to have that same problem, too."

"No I won't because I'm not going to be like you! No wonder you've been married three times. I'm ashamed to even have a mother like you."

"Blair said that she was ashamed of her mother and that she never wanted to be like her, that's when Monica whacked her."

"Blair's mother hit her?" Jo asked again, still trying to process the new information.

Mrs. Garrett shook her head. Jo was getting the wrong idea.

"It wasn't like that, Jo. Blair's mother slapped Blair, she didn't hit her."

"What's the difference?"

"Uh, oh, um. Well, I guess that if you close your fist, it's hitting or punching and if you use your open hand, it's slapping."

"They both hurt just the same."

"No, Jo. Slaps don't hurt as much as being hit."

Tootie explained.

"You ever been slapped in the face?"

"Uh, no."

Jo turned from Tootie to Natalie and Mrs. Garrett.

"Either of you ever been punched in the face?"

Both shook their heads no.

"Well then I guess I know a little more about it than you do and I say they both hurt the same."

Mrs. Garrett thought back to the bruises she had seen on Jo's mother's arm and wondered just how much Jo knew about being hit.

"A mother shouldn't slap her daughter in the face, Mrs. G., no matter what her daughter says. It's not right. I would never laugh about something like that."

The girls found it odd that Jo would talk about it not being right to hit someone when Jo hit people all the time, but Mrs. Garrett understood that just because violence often begets violence, it doesn't mean either party condones it.

Tootie was suddenly feeling ashamed of herself.

"I didn't think about it really hurting Blair. You know how Blair is and it was kind of funny to see her mother put her in her place. Everyone always caters to Blair. I didn't mean anything by what I said. I wouldn't want Blair to really be hurt by anyone."

Jo was reeling. She had spent the last few days trying to figure out and then come to grips with her feelings about her mother and Eddie; she hadn't given much thought to Blair. It was easy for Jo to see the character flaws in both her mother and Eddie. It was just as easy to understand how much both of them depended upon Jo's strength. Jo had never believed it possible that Blair might come to need her one day. Tootie's revelations had caught Jo off guard. The thought of someone, anyone, physically hurting Blair made Jo physically sick. It was bad enough that Blair's mother had apparently humiliated her in front of her friends, but to actually slap her.

"Natalie, would you and Tootie please give me a few minutes alone with Jo?"

Once the other two girls left the room, Mrs. Garrett reached over and patted Jo on the hand.

"It really wasn't as bad as they make it sound, Jo."

"But it was bad?"

Mrs. Garrett wouldn't lie. She could still hear the sting of that slap and see the shock and hurt on Blair's face before the young girl ran from the room.

"Yes, it was bad. Relationships between mothers and daughters can get complicated."

"That's why Blair said what she did to my mom last night, about how some mothers wouldn't have driven up here like my mom did."

"Jo, I've known Blair a lot longer than you have. She has learned to deal with her parents' limitations. My concern right now is for you. Jo, can you tell me why you really wanted to run away with Eddie?"

"Thanks anyway, Mrs. G., but my mom and I talked things out."

"Well, that's best, but if you need someone else to talk to I want you to know that I am always here for you, Jo."

"Thanks Mrs. G. Uh, do you know where Blair is?"

"No, she wasn't here when we woke up this morning. Jo, you don't have to worry about Blair."

"I said some very mean things to her."

Edna Garrett smiled. She was glad that Jo was concerned about Blair.

"Oh, I'm sure she'll forgive you, Jo. Blair says mean things to people all the time and she has never meant one single word of it. If anyone can understand why someone would blurt out something hurtful without meaning it, it's Blair. She is a very forgiving person."

Jo didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Mrs. Garrett had no way of knowing the magnitude of Jo's transgression, nor of how hurt and betrayed Blair felt.

"What's Blair's mother like?"

Surprised by the turn of the conversation, but sensing that Jo needed her questions answered, Mrs. Garrett did her best to explain Monica Warner.

"She's a lot like her daughter. She's beautiful, creative, talented, flirtatious,-"

"Vain, shallow, condescending?" Jo filled in the last adjectives.

"I think I'd use somewhat different words."

"But that's where Blair gets it, right? I mean, Blair didn't just pop out of the womb vain, someone put it into her head that her looks meant that she could get away with things less attractive people couldn't get away with."

Mrs. Garrett was shocked that Jo was so perceptive when it came to Blair.

"Yes, I suspect Blair focuses so much on outward beauty because her mother taught her to use her beauty as an asset. Don't get me wrong, Monica Warner is not a bad person, but having met the both of them I'd have to say that Blair is by far the more mature of the two."

"Wow, that's saying a lot."

Jo thought about all she had learned about Blair's relationship with her mother. Jo should have confided in Blair about her own mother. She should have told Blair why she was so upset about Jack. Blair would have understood. Instead of trusting Blair to help her figure out a way to actually help her mother, Jo had done what she always did – run away.

"Jo, what I said about a slap not being as bad as a punch, I shouldn't have said that. I'm sorry."

"Nah, I guess most people feel that way. It's just that, well, I'd rather have the shit beat out of me by a stranger than be slapped by someone I love."

"I suppose you've experienced both?"

"Yeah, but it's no big deal."

"Oh, I think it's a very big deal. Don't forget that you can talk to me about anything."

"I won't forget."


"Hey, would it be okay with you if I went looking for Blair?"

"Do you have any idea where she might be? I wasn't worried at first, but it's not like her to stay gone for so long, especially in this cold weather."

"I know some places she likes to go. I can look around a little."

"Thank you, Jo."

Jo had no idea how long Blair had been staring blindly into the distance, but the winter storm was growing in intensity and as much as she knew that she was the last person Blair wanted to see, Jo couldn't allow Blair to put herself in danger by remaining on the exposed ledge any longer. She walked away from the shelter of the trees so that Blair would be able to see her when she spoke, but she didn't venture out onto the rocks.


Blair either didn't hear Jo, or decided to ignore her.

"Blair. Mrs. Garrett is concerned about you. You've been up here too long."

Blair glanced in Jo's direction, then returned her attention to the distance.

"I've been worried, too. Please come back to Eastland with me."

"I've never been up here in the winter before. I don't think I could ever imagine anything this beautiful. It's perfect. Looking out over all of this majesty, I feel like maybe God painted this picture so that I'd know I wasn't all alone. Is that why you go to church, Jo, so that you won't feel so alone?"

Jo wanted to see the majesty Blair spoke of, but all she could see was the danger.

"Sometimes. Blair, sometimes beautiful things can also be dangerous. You need to pay attention to where you're standing. Yeah, it's beautiful, but it's icy and the rocks are very slippery. Please come back."

Blair looked down at her feet and at the surrounding snow covered rocks.

"My mother is getting married again and she wants me to attend the wedding. Mr. Parker is allowing me to take my semester exams early so that I can fly to Monte Carlo tomorrow night. There won't be any snow in Monte Carlo."

Jo was overcome. Not only had she broken Blair's heart, she wouldn't see her again until after Christmas break. Jo had not expected Blair to ever forgive her, but she had hoped to have some time to make up for some of the pain she had caused before they would be separated.

"Blair, I need for you to come over here and stand by me."

Blair turned and looked at Jo.

"You need me?"


Blair shook her head.

"You don't need me, Jo. You don't need anyone."

Jo hesitantly started walking out onto the ledge.

"What are you trying to prove now, Jo, that you can break your neck? Wait there and I'll come get you. I can't believe you sometimes."

Blair inched back toward Jo. The rocks were icier than she had expected and she almost lost her balance a few times, but she was slow and careful as she inched along. When she reached Jo, she took Jo's hand and helped her back to solid ground. Jo had overcome her fear of heights to a large degree, but walking out onto a snow covered ledge by herself was still beyond her ability.

"Are you really leaving tomorrow night?"

"Yes, as soon as I finish my exams."

"Are you going to have to take all of them on the same day, that's a little crazy?"

Blair half smiled.

"I'll do well, I always do. Mother wants a bridesmaid and what mother wants mother gets."

"I um, I guess it will mean a lot to her to have you there."

Blair laughed.

"She'll be at fittings and pre-wedding celebrations. I won't see her until she walks down the aisle. We'll chat at the wedding reception for a few minutes until she and her newest husband leave for their honeymoon."

"Where are they going?"

"I don't know. I don't think it matters. I'll be staying in Monte Carlo."

She gave Jo another weak smile.

"We have a home there. I'm sure that the servants and I will have a very merry Christmas."

"What about your father?"

Blair finally smiled in earnest.

"Daddy will call me and he'll send me a million presents."

"I wish I'd known you were leaving early, I'd have your Christmas present ready."

"You weren't planning to be here after yesterday, Jo. You weren't planning to give anyone Christmas presents. You weren't planning to return to school after Christmas. The only difference now is that you're around to see what it would have been like if you had left."

"What do you mean? I'm still here. I'm not going anywhere, Blair."

Now that Jo stood securely on firm soil, Blair walked past her and toward Mrs. Garrett's. She didn't turn around when she spoke.

"If you ever cared anything about me Jo, you'll stay as far away from me as you can get."

9: Courting Blair

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