For the first time all day, Meg had managed to slip away from the loving eyes and arms of her family, and steal a few minutes of much needed silence. In just a few hours her wedding would commence, and she had never in all of her life felt so many conflicting emotions at once. Though outwardly serene and composed, she wanted at once to jump and leap for wild joy, and dissolve into tears.
She was in a little dressing room, simply furnished with a chair, a table, and a long mirror. She imagined that this was what it was like to be an actress, waiting backstage for a play to begin, and she wished she had not sent Jo rushing out to get her some water, so that she might tell her. She could see herself in the mirror, freshly and modestly turned out in her new white dress, her hair done up by her sister's loving hands. Though Meg did not like to be vain, she could not help but assess her appearance closely, and the impression she came back with was mostly favorable. She looked pretty, sweet, and altogether too innocent for a young woman on the verge of being a wife. John would be happy to see her.
Even so, she could not help but think of another night, long years ago. She had not been Meg then, but a doll, overflowing with borrowed finery and something else that she could not quite name. Meg could not remember that night at Sallie Moffat's ball, when Belle had dressed her up and made her up in high fashion, without a tinge of humiliation, and an even stranger tinge of disatisfaction. The funny thing, was that she thought of it far more often then she was willing to admit. There had always been times, over the years, when Meg had looked in the mirror and imagined she saw a shadow of a girl with earrings and rouged lips, a girl who romped, and flirted, and thought too much about boys --- a girl who was not her mother's daughter.
And tonight, more than ever, Meg knew that she could never be that girl, or any sort of girl again. No, what little was left of her girlhood would disappear once John slipped the ring onto her finger, and kissed her for the first time, in front of the loving audience of her friends and family.
The time for flirts and follies was over, though for Meg it had hardly begun. The time for wondering what it was like to be touched by a man would soon be over too, for John was a man, and he was in love with her. The time for confusion, and wanting things that she could not quite understand, would end as well…or at least Meg hoped so.
"Here you are!" Jo said, quite effectively interrupting Meg's thought as she burst into the room. Jo leant down to kiss her cheek, and Meg leaned into it gratefully, thinking that sisterly affection must be the sweetest thing in the world, better by far than silk stockings, new gloves, or even gold.
"I won't have you sitting in here alone like a goose," Jo scolded. "Are you quite nervous?"
"A little," Meg admitted, "but I'm so very happy as well." Meg lifted her head to smile brightly at Jo, who looked at her with a funny expression that Meg could not quite make out.
"There's a girl," Jo said, too heartily, in a way that only Meg would know meant that she was sad.
"Don't worry," Meg said, taking Jo's hand, "Things won't change a bit once I'm married. Just you wait and see…"
And quite suddenly, Meg felt a little chill of terror at that, for she knew that she had spoken truly. That's what this wedding would do -- lock her in to what she was, and what she would never be.