Beth March looked even rosier than usual on the happiest day of her life. She wore a white dress with lacy frills, her brown hair was pinned up with daisies in it, her pink cheeks dimpled, and her big blue eyes sparkled with joy. Laurie was very handsome standing beside her in a black suit, every black curl on his head perfectly in place, his dark eyes shining with happiness and love.
"Theodore Laurence, do you take Elizabeth March to be your lawfully wedded wife?" asked the minister.
"I do," Laurie said calmly.
"Elizabeth March, do you take Theodore Laurence to be your lawfully wedded husband?"
"I do," Beth said clearly and sweetly.
"With this ring I thee wed," said Laurie. His hand only shook a little as he slid the ring onto Beth's finger.
"By the powers vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife," the minister said. "You may kiss the bride."
Laurie lifted Beth's veil and kissed her lips for the first time. Beth kissed him back and hoped that she had gotten it right.
Beth remembered the first time she had met him. She had been thirteen and he had been not quite sixteen. Her sister Jo had met him at a party and had been to visit afterwards, and had gained permission to bring her sisters along on the next visit.
Laurie's house was right next door and was much larger and grander than Beth's. There was a conservatory with plants and a library with many books, paintings, and works of art, but what fascinated Beth most was the piano. Her fingers ached to touch it, but she was much too shy to ask permission.
"Do you play?" she asked Laurie.
"Some, but not much anymore," he said. "Grandfather doesn't like for me to. It reminds him of my mother. She was a musician, and he never cared for her."
Laurie shrugged. "I guess he felt that she had taken my father away from him. He met and married her in Italy. Christina and I were both born in Italy and spent the first few years of our childhoods in Italy and France. When our parents died we came here to America to live with Grandfather."
"How did your parents die?"
"They were attending theater when the building caught on fire. Everyone inside it perished."
"I'm so sorry."
"It's all right. I was so young that I barely remember them."
Jo had come looking for Beth then because it was time to go back home.
"Your new friend Laurie is so nice," Beth told her sister.
"I can't believe you actually got up the nerve to talk to him," Jo replied.
It was just as hard for Beth to believe it as it was for Jo to do so. There was just something about Laurie that instinctively put Beth at ease in a way few others outside her immediate family did. She had enjoyed talking to him so much that for those few moments, she had actually forgotten about being shy.
The ceremony had ended, and family and friends all came up to hug and congratulate Laurie and Beth. Grandfather Laurence, Mr. and Mrs. March, John, Meg, and the twins, and Jo were all there. The only one missing was Amy, who'd married Fred Vaughn and remained in London.
As soon as Laurie could tell that his easily overcome bride had had quite enough excitement, he made an excuse and left with her. Jo watched approvingly. She knew that she could trust Laurie to take good care of her Beth.