When Amy got her gift, the first change she noticed was how her art came out. It was like something new clicked in her brain, and suddenly she could accomplish what she pictured. Every painting was picturesque and homey, and she leaned into that style of perfect little landscapes, distant cabins with cheery smoking chimneys, idyllic lakes and pastures, and treelines with tiny perfect leaves. It certainly pleased her aunts and impressed her peers.
What she wasn't a big fan of was how it changed the way the other kids treated her in school.
It didn't stop anyone from disliking her, but they didn't dare show it now, since most people adored her. Perfect little Amy.
But even when the other kids did like her, love her, even, if you could even call such a detached feeling love, they always held her at arm's length, not quite sure what to do with her. It was like they walked on eggshells.
Until she met Laurie. He didn't care about the gifts, any of their gifts. He wanted to be Jo's friend, and be a nuisance to Meg, and he thought that she was the annoying little sister. He dared to tease her, have actual conversations with her, and even included her in some of his and Jo's outings.
When she traveled to Europe, she was met with the same reverent attitude she was used to. Fred Vaugn worshipped the ground she walked on. Like everyone else, he lauded those landscapes and the paintings of the buildings they saw, that looked almost as if she had taken a color photo of the place. They were all compliments she heard before, about her color mixing and the composition of her pieces. He wondered at how graceful she was in a ballroom, how light on her feet. She wasn't sure if he adored her or her gift. And she nearly married him.
Nearly. Something happened, something that baffled and excited her. Laurie asked her to paint something else for a change. She had scoffed at the idea of going outside of the box when she was so good at what she did already but the result...
Four figures with hands clasped in each other's ran up a grassy hill. They weren't the figures of the statues around her, not elegant or poised. One's hat was flying off, and she had ink splotches on her pinafore. One's golden curls were escaping the pins. But they all laughed. Messy shapes and colors made up their skirts, and the grass that surrounded them. When she was finished, she felt as if she were coming out of a trance, smudges of paint all over her apron, her fingers, and even on her face, which Laurie wiped away with a laugh when she ran to show him.
"This one is my favorite," he said.
"But it's... I don't know. It's not as realistic and it's quite messy," Amy said, beginning to feel self-conscious.
"Well, it looks..." Laurie trailed off, studying it closer. "It looks like the four of you. I can almost hear it. It makes me happy."
That was a week before their argument. The argument, looking back on it, hadn't been all that bad. She hated scolding him, but as he had done for her, it seemed to pull him up into clearer air. Something had begun the day she had made that painting, and it seemed it was still shifting into place.
Only Laurie looked past the flowers and frills and dared to agree with what she felt inside. She could be a better person. He was the only one she could have conversations like that with. They could both be better people and held up mirrors for each other. Mirrors that were slightly uncomfortable but at the same time a relief.
Amy March seemed perfect in every sense of the word. She married the only man who had told her she wasn't.
From the moment she got her gift, Jo tried her very hardest to keep it under control. It was exhausting, to be honest. She had to read The Wide Wide World under an umbrella so when she cried, the pages weren't damaged. While writing, she kept a tight hold on her papers and pinned down the ones with drying ink so her tempestuous emotions wouldn't send them flying.
When Amy burned that manuscript, the worst storm Concord has ever seen rolled in. The family could hear the wind in the attic, the windows banging open and shut, but not Jo's muffled screams and prayers, wishing she could stop feeling so angry.
That storm was nearly topped a few years later. Laurie had been expecting light showers, warm breezes, and maybe a rainbow. It poured that day, and the rain was driven sideways by the coldest winds he had ever experienced, that seemed to slice through his layers and make him shiver. The sun didn't shine until he left for Europe.
The family expected another storm after Beth passed, but woke up to the entire Earth frozen over. Spring was put on hold for another week until Jo's grief thawed.
Meg didn't have the gift of foresight, but she knew from the moment that man stepped through the door and the temperature went up a few degrees that this could go one of two ways: a wedding or a hurricane. Jo was swatting clouds away all evening, ones with rainbows that kept sneaking back as soon as he looked at her. Laurie helpfully swiped a few away when she was too absorbed in looking at him to even notice they were back.
Mrs. March watched the weather carefully the day Jo went shopping. She was quite baffled. It grew colder and more miserable with every minute, until suddenly the sun peaked out, only for rain to come down in a few minutes.
Friedrich watched Jo taking deep breaths in the shop, muttering 'clear skies' and trying not to soak the clerk. Small pieces of hail hit the ground as he draped the shawl over her shoulders, asking if 'his lady' may prefer this.
If he asked now, what might happen? He could only hope that the sun may come out, but what if he accidentally caused a disaster?
There was only one way to find out. "Heart's dearest, why do you cry?"
The light sprinkle turned into a downpour, and Jo shouted over the thunder: "Because you're going away. I'm sorry, it's awful, I'll make it stop now."
"No! No, this is so good, Jo, I have nothing but much love to give you. I came to see if you would care for it, do you?" The sound of the storm only grew louder, but Friedrich gripped the umbrella tighter and soldiered on through the last of his little speech. "Can you make a little place in your heart for old Fritz?"
He could hardly hear Jo's enthusiastic 'yes' over the pounding of the rain on the pavement, but even if he couldn't, her expression would have given her answer away. As they walked back home, the clouds slowly cleared out. When she leaned in, standing a step above him on the porch, electricity crackled between their noses and Friedrich grinned, looking forward to feeling it for years to come.
Meg's sewing had always been better than her sisters'.
It wasn't vanity that made her say it either. It was just a fact. Her darning never came undone, her mends held even when Jo was so rough on her clothes that they really shouldn't have, and her embroidery...
At first, they thought she hadn't gotten a gift. Nothing had happened that they could notice and so she thought for years while thunderclouds appeared over Jo's head and Beth's eyes turned green that she had somehow been skipped. And then she embroidered that little fairy into the corner of a handkerchief for Beth, and she brought it back to her a few days later. "It changed."
Meg examined it. Huh. "No... I think we must have forgotten how it looked. It couldn't have possibly changed."
Then the little duck she stitched into the edge of a blanket started paddling his feet one night. Moving embroidery!
When she made her wedding dress, she stitched the white butterflies into the skirt with care, and they fluttered gently as she walked up to the alter.
Beth's gift scared her when she got it.
There were so many practical uses, their neighbors argued. Many wives and children wanted her to tell them when the men would be back from the war. Who would win? Would they die? They hadn't heard from him in months, would she please just look?
Even Jo had asked her once. "If you could just look ahead one month, at our house, and tell me if Father is there?"
She had been too afraid.
If she didn't want to look ahead for anyone, Mrs. March said, she wouldn't have to. So Beth's gift went unused mostly. She sometimes got curious and tested the limits early on, but it tired her, and she didn't like having headaches behind her eyes.
Of course, there were times when she wished she had used it. For the Hummels perhaps. If she had only looked ahead and brought that baby to the doctor sooner…
Too bad no one had a turning-back-time gift.
The last time she ever used it, she could feel herself growing weak. She had spent the evening listening to Jo's plans to take her to the seaside and had a bad feeling about it. She reached forward into her own future and found that she couldn't reach far. Her mind was grasping for something that wasn't there. It was an odd feeling, one she had never felt before. She focused on Jo instead, reaching forward there, and felt a shock of the worst pain she had ever felt. Frightened but not deterred, she plunged forward and found her whole family gathered around her piano, with a man she had never seen before. She took a closer look at him and knew all at once this was the professor Jo talked about. And they were singing quietly, the way they always did during the evenings, but there were tears in Amy's eyes.
Where was she?
Alarmed, Beth plunged forward into the future, further than ever. It felt like running her hands down the spines of the books at the library, opening them up to random pages. A small child with golden hair, Bess. She had Laurie's eyes, oh Lord, and she looked like Amy. She was so frail here. There, she was stronger, with a child who was Jo's, and it looked like the professor stuck around because she was lifting them up on his shoulders to reach up into the tree… Aunt March's house? No, not anymore. Jo's, Jo's house, and there were so many people there. Her parents grew greyer, as she whisked through the future so fast and out of control and where did John go? Was that fire? A tall blonde boy picked up another smaller- Demi, that was the small boy. They are cousins?
Where was she? Where was she when this happened?
Demi was pulling a wagon up the dirt path to Orchard House, with heads of lettuce carefully stacked up inside. Daisy held the back, easing the wheels over the bumps, flowers stuffed in her little apron pocket. They greeted their grandma, kissing her cheek.
"What's all this, my dears?" Marmee asked them, looking at the little wagon.
"It's Demi's lettuce, from his garden plot! Aunt Jo said it was ready to harvest."
"And I wanted to bring some to you because I thought you would like it. Do you?"
"I'm so lucky," Mrs. March drew her niece and nephew close, "I have such sweet grandchildren. Thank you, Demi. Will you help me bring them inside? I'll fix us a snack."
"I grew flowers in my garden," Daisy said, withdrawing her slightly crushed bouquet. "I thought maybe I could give them to Aunt Beth?"
There, I must still be here. I must be.
"Sure you can. We can... we can walk to the cemetery on your way back to Aunt Jo's." Marmee sounded a little choked up now. "For now we'll put them in some water to keep them fresh, and you must tell me how everyone at Plumfield fares."
Beth was jerked back to the present with a gasp.
No. The cemetery? To see her? She must be... but for how long? Daisy and Demi couldn't have been older than twelve in that vision.
She tried her best to explain it to Jo, watching the gathering clouds but pressing on in her explanation anyway.
"That's... that's so far off," Jo said. "It has to be. You can't be going soon, you're going to get better, right?"
"Jo... I don't think I have much time left."
"Well- can you look again? Look ahead, there must be something I can do."
"I can see the future, not change it. It's too late. It's not just my gift, I know it in other ways too. I can feel it."
Jo fell silent, drops of rain landing on their faces and on the sand around them.