For a girl who has always known what she thought she wanted but never understood how to get it, Jo has no concept of how to handle newfound adulthood, and with that, newfound celebrity as an author.
Her husband is the first to call her an authoress, and she chides him near immediately, chin too proud but that is one of the things he thinks he likes best about her: "Author," she tells him, "my sex does not matter." (But it does, it does, her sex does matter in every way it ever could - femininity and desire, the venus and mars duality that keeps her and the Professor ever apart and never completely whole).
She takes to Plumfield the same way Amy took to Europe (took to Laurie), and Jo builds a home, a school there, a place for her to keep her boys. And she does. She keeps them there and she teaches the boys and she teaches other boys, but a part of her finds it too difficult to grasp. Jo can remember the cold draft of the attic that tried to catch her by the neck, her flannel nightdress no protection against the night, and she would write, scratch out stories her husband told her were fairy tales. But all stories are fairy tales. All stories are an attempt to believe in a reality alternative to the one occupied in the present. He did not understand it then, and he does not understand it now. He tells her that reality should be enough, that the happiness of the now is all a person needs.
Jo thinks that a dream as well, but she does not tell him that. She bites her tongue. Aunt March would be proud.
Jo visits Beth less and less as time wears on. She gets older. They all get older. The boys grow taller and her husband slower and Jo’s refusal to believe in age does not stop it from progressing. One October the snow comes early. Jo leaves the boys with browned pumpkin pies Meg helped her make and she leaves her husband with a tome of Emerson. Her coat is wrapped warm around her but the slush still seeps and dampens the bottom hem of her dress and petticoats, finds the small cracks in her black boots to enter and chill her toes. The cemetery is not far from Plumfield, and Jo draws her chin to chest as she marches out into the snow.
The plot is small and she stands there empty-handed. There are no birds this afternoon, too fearful of the cold, and perhaps they have already flown south. Jo used to keep better track of these things, she used to log nature and human behavior as observations to be used later, to be written as half-truths and twisted into something grander and greater than anything she had ever known. She did the opposite when she wrote Little Women. She took the truth and laid it bare. She took a man and diminished him.
That same man she finds standing at the gate of the cemetery.
“I thought I saw you,” Laurie says.
“You did,” Jo says and smiles, small and suddenly anxious.
“It has been a very long time,” he tells her and Jo’s grin grows in size. The snow is falling gentler now, a thick blanket of it beneath their feet, and when he offers his arm, she takes it.
“It has,” she finally says, “it has.” They walk slow, his arm warm and entwined with hers.
(“I want to be brave,” she told Laurie once, and he had nodded serious before his mouth cracked open in a rapscallion’s smile.
“Then brave we shall make you,” he said, then he leaned in. The rafters in the attic had creaked with the wind while evening threatened a wet purple across the sky, and Laurie’s nose had nearly brushed hers. Jo had inhaled sharply, bared collarbone and chest heaving with it, and his eyes had darted down and then back, bored straight into her eyes, dark on dark.
“Are you afraid?” he had murmured, and Jo had shook her head.
“Never,” she challenged. He closed the distance between them).