River watches, on the world Mal
(Shakespearan reference, a character from Love's Labour Lost)
when the woman they were transporting named Jane
(no y, English form of Jehanne, an Old French feminine form of Johannes, the Latin form of the Greek name Ιωαννης (Ioannes), itself derived from the Hebrew name Yochanan meaning "YAHWEH is gracious")
laughs and dances with her new husband, whose name River ain't heard, and who's missing two teeth
(sign of a history of syphilis in his ancestors)
and looks at her dress.
(Hittite goddess from Earth-that-was, known for seducing men and locking them up in her home)
had helped dress her, in a red dress that ain't no one on this rock ever seen the like of, and ain't likely they'll ever see again. Fine stuff, all silk and embroidered, pretty sort of thing a girl wears once and keeps in a cedar chest til her daughter's ready to get hitched, and hopes her girl ain't so far along in pregnancy, gods forbid, that she can't wear it.
River watches the scarletcrimsonpinkrosered dress, and how the light reflects off of it, and thinks of her brother Simon
(from the Greek form of the Hebrew name Shim'on which meant "hearkening" or "listening", the name of the man who carried the cross for Jesus of Nazareth)
and how when she was little he promised to dance at her wedding, even if he's got two left feet, and River thinks that she ain't ever gonna see that now, because River thinks--River thinks--
River knows River ain't ever gettin' married.
"Shattered," whispered to the dancers, and not one of 'em hears her, not the crew, not the guests, not the bride, not the groom. "They shattered her, and she was tied to dreams, and the dreams broke free, and she can't ever catch them again. They took them and sold them to the highest bidder. Ain't a red dress coming for her. Just a red letter, if that." Beat. "Reference. Puritan tradition. Inspired a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne."
River climbs back into Serenity, and curls up in her bunk, and closes her eyes.
Outside, a girl dances and twirls in a red dress.
Inside, River dreams in blue, and weeps in her sleep.