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can we always be this close (forever and ever)?

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Sterling wakes up with a smile on her face the morning after graduation. The morning after her engagement

Just the thought of the fact that April actually said yes, that April is officially her fiancée has Sterling feeling completely untouchable. Nothing at all could ruin the absolutely giddy mood she finds herself in, and she just wants to shout it from the rooftops that April said yes. That they’re getting married (someday). But considering nobody in the house (aside from them) knows it, she has to settle for silently screaming her joy into the pillow she puts over her face. 

Part of her is almost happy that April is still being forced to sleep in her own room because she knows her darling bride-to-be would tease her mercilessly for being such a sap. But how can she not be a sap? April said yes!

She knows she can’t stay in bed too long. A Sunday morning means church, and a Sunday morning after a big event like graduation means brunch at the club, so no unwashed dresses for her--not that April would allow her out of the house like that anyway. So, as much as she doesn’t want to, Sterling crawls out of the warm confines of her bed and walks to her closet to pick out a dress.

Opening the door and seeing all the school uniforms she’ll never have to wear again on their hangers brings a sort of melancholy to her. Sure, Sterling is glad to put khaki skirts permanently behind her, but even so, it’s not like her time at Willingham was the worst four years of her life. 

In fact, they were some of the best, if only because everything that happened led up to this moment, with her being a happily engaged woman to the love of her life, April Stevens.

Pushing the uniform hangers to the side, Sterling turns her attention to her mom-approved church dresses. She ultimately settles on one, navy with a white and blue floral print, and takes it on its hanger into the bathroom with her to hang on her door while she takes a shower.

In the time it takes to wash and shampoo her hair and (ugh) shave her legs, she gets to listen to the white noise of the running water and think about the implications of what happened last night. Until last night, Sterling hadn’t been able to see much further past April saying yes; because she didn’t want to get her hopes up for anything if she won her side of the debate and said no. But now she has to think about what happens next. Even if they don’t plan on getting married for a while, she’s going to have to tell her parents sooner rather than later. And she’ll have to let Blair know April said yes, probably much to her disappointment.

And then of course there’s the small matter of Sterling’s now-fiancée not knowing that her future wife personally threw her dad in jail. But Sterling’s hoping that if they can just make it through these next few months, maybe it won’t matter if she never tells April. 

Or the guilt will simply consume her. That works too.

Sterling finishes her shower, wrapping a towel around herself as she realizes she left her hairbrush in her room. Still dripping water onto the floor, she opens the door and walks into her room, feeling like she might jump out of her skin as she finds her mother sitting on the loveseat.

This is never good.

“Mornin’, Mom,” Sterling says as casually as possible as she cuts her eyes to her mother as she continues across the room to get her brush off her dresser.

“Don’t ‘mornin’ me. Where did you and April go last night and why are there car tracks going through the lawn?” Debbie says, her voice low, quiet, and completely intimidating.

“April was getting kinda overwhelmed at the party so we sort of...ditched and I took her to The Fun Zone,” Sterling says truthfully, shrugging because that was a part of the evening she doesn’t mind her mom knowing at the moment. Though she’s puzzled when Debbie closes her eyes, sighing exasperatedly as she pinches the bridge of her nose.

“Sterling Pearl, please tell me ‘fun zone’ isn’t code for something.”

Sterling frowns. “What? No, she just needed to blow off steam, so-”

“Sterling. I am not stupid. I know you’ve been...activated for a good long while now, but I will not put up with you and April doing those things under my roof. I don’t care if you’re both girls but y’all aren’t married, and-”

Suddenly it clicks for Sterling what her mother must think this conversation is about, and she’s mortified. “Mom, no! The Fun Zone is that mini-golf arcade place near the mall where DJ had his birthday last year, remember? I wouldn’t… April and I haven’t…” Sterling considers her words carefully before quietly saying through her teeth. “ I may be ‘activated’ but April is not, alright? I swear to you that nothing impure happened last night. And even if it did, do you really think I’d tell you about it that easily?”

Debbie rolls her eyes. “No, I don’t. But I just want to make myself clear now. Your father and I are happy to have April stay with us but we would like you both to please accept our ground rules, and once you’re off to college… well, I still won’t exactly approve, but I can’t stop you.”

“Mom, can we please stop having this conversation?” Sterling all but begs. It was one thing talking to her mom about sex when she was actually having it, but defending herself when she’s not is something on a whole new level. Especially when she’s already got so much on her plate with the whole engagement announcement looming over her.

“What’s goin’ on?” a voice asks from the door.

Both Sterling and her mother turn towards the door but only Sterling feels her heartbeat double then triple at the sight of April. The lacy white dress only makes Sterling that much more aware of her ring on April’s finger. But, somehow, with her hair in rollers and her toothbrush sticking out of her mouth, Sterling has never found April more beautiful.

All three of them stand wordless for a moment before Debbie gathers herself and smiles at April. “Just making sure these two are ready for church. Fifteen minutes, Sterling, and make sure Blair is ready to go,” Debbie says, looking speculatively between Sterling and April before leaving the bedroom.

“What was that about?” April asks, watching Debbie walk down the hall before turning back to Sterling.

“Go spit so that I can kiss you good morning.” Sterling dodges the question neatly, but April doesn’t seem to mind as she winks, continuing through to Sterling and Blair’s bathroom. 

She spits in the sink and rinses off her toothbrush as she calls through the other door, “Blair, you better be up or we will leave you behind.”

“Yeah, I’m up, just can’t find my-“ Blair barges through the bathroom, walking behind April without so much as acknowledging her while in nothing but her bra and underwear. “Sterl, where’s that one dress I loaned you? The short burgundy one with the flutter sleeves?”

April stares wide-eyed at the exchange while Sterling gets the loaned dress from her closet, having sworn that this one was hers, but she’s not going to argue because the sooner Blair puts it on, the better.

“Thank you,” Blair says, her voice lilting at the end as she takes the dress and returns to her own room, slamming the bathroom door behind her.

“Has she no decency?” Sterling says to no one in particular as April chuckles and returns to her from the bathroom.

“Well, she’s not the only one decidedly lacking in clothes right now,” April says, voice sultry as she reaches out to teasingly play with where Sterling tucked her towel into itself to keep it around her.

“Oh, uh, this is pretty much exactly what my mom was concerned about,” Sterling says, gripping her towel more securely. “She thought we snuck out to have sex and that the Fun Zone was code for….well, you know.”

April’s eyebrows go up at Sterling’s reluctance to say the word. “What, ‘orgasm,’” April asks with a grin that makes Sterling very aware of the fact that she’s still wearing only a towel.

Sterling feels herself blush what is probably a very deep shade of crimson. “Um...y-yeah. Exactly. And my mom made herself abundantly clear that she doesn’t want us having sex under her roof.”

April nods, seemingly understandingly before developing a sort of devilish smirk. She leans in to whisper in Sterling’s ear. “I guess we’ll have to get creative then.” With that, April flits off out of the room, taking one of the rollers out of her hair as she goes. “Better hurry up, Sterling Pearl,” April says with a wink at the door, all but confirming just how much of Sterling’s conversation with her mother she’d actually heard.

Sterling sighs, leaning up against her dresser and wondering if she’s fully prepared for the kind of emotional rollercoaster ride being married to April will be, but knowing the life together will be worth it. With that, she returns to her bathroom to quickly finish getting ready.

After the thoughts April managed to put in her mind this morning, Sterling is surprised she hasn’t burst into flame yet, standing there in her family’s pew with April on one side and Blair on the other while seemingly everyone around her sings along to a hymn that she’s only mumbling through. Between April’s hand firmly laced in hers and Blair’s incessant whispering in her ear, it would be a minor miracle for her to be paying attention. Except maybe to listen to April’s gorgeous singing voice.

Once the song ends the congregation sinks into the pews but Sterling isn’t allowed any respite. April pinches the outside of her forearm, making Sterling swallow a squeal of surprise. Her phoned in participation clearly hasn’t escaped April’s notice.

Pastor Booth steps up to the pulpit and smiles at his congregation. “Wasn’t that just a wonderful song? Let’s give our musicians a round of applause, huh?” he says as he claps vigorously. The clapping peters out and he starts speaking again. “I’d like to read to you all a verse from Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.”

Sterling barely suppresses her groan at the same moment that April elbows her. Somehow that simple gesture is chock full of schadenfreude. Sterling truly cannot say that her opinion on St. Paul is going to change any time soon.

“‘To the unmarried and the widows, I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.’ And this point made by Paul is exactly what I want to talk to you about this beautiful Sunday morning.”

Now that she’s paying attention, maybe Paul isn’t the absolute worst. Sterling knows a thing or two about burning, especially as April’s fingers are threaded together with hers. And the passion of her love is why she feels the ring on April’s finger. Never did Sterling think she’d be doing something the, objectively, worst apostle would condone, but here she is.

Pastor Booth continues his sermon, gesturing with his hands as he does. “Now, I’m sure a lot of you in this day and age know a little something about temptation. It’s all around us, in our music, in our movies, in the Netflix shows we watch,” He pauses for the polite laughter of the congregation that always coincides with him having his moments of being the cool, relatable pastor instead of your stereotypical fire and brimstone preacher everyone always associates with Southern Baptists. “Heck, I know that show Outlander makes my dear wife feel all sorts of temptation.” That gets more genuine laughter, mostly from the adult women in the room--including Debbie.

“What’s Outlander?” Sterling whispers to Blair.

Blair shrugs. “Some show for old people?”

Sterling nods. Their parents and the Booths are both old, so that would make sense.

“But even as we find ourselves surrounded by all this temptation in our everyday lives,” Pastor Booth continues, “We mustn’t lose ourselves to it. The world we live in may be changing, and certain values we once held dear in our scripture may seem outdated, but there are others that we should always try to uphold. Now I know for some of our younger parishioners, things like Riverdale and such may have taught you that saving yourself for your future spouse is a silly old concept much like wives being subservient to their husbands and fathers, but hear me out.”

Sterling and April share a look. It’s been somewhat easy to start to believe that none of what the bible has to say about relationships and marriage really applies to them since it’s all written under the premise of it being in reference to one man and one woman. And Sterling didn’t exactly subscribe to this particular belief of saving one’s self for marriage long before she ever got with April. But she can see a look of...conflict on April’s face.

“Giving in to temptation happens. It’s what makes all of us human, and those who don’t reserve their love and passion for their husband or wife before their wedding are not bad people who should be shunned. We’re sinners all and it happens. But at the end of the day, the sanctity of a union between two people married in the eyes of God is among the most precious and Holy things we should hold sacred. As is written in the book of Mark, ‘and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’ Which means to say that the joining of two people in marriage and in the...consummation of such is something more powerful than ourselves,” Pastor Booth finishes and looks out among everyone and smiles, far more lightheartedly than the words that proceeded. “All of this to say that we have arrived at the beginning of summer, which I’m sure a lot of you know is the beginning of a season-long boom in weddings. As some of you may be setting dates or anxiously awaiting a day you’ve had planned for months or even years, I want you to take these words to heart; marriage means giving all of yourself to your spouse, body and soul.”

April squeezes Sterling’s hand harder at that.

“But that brings me to my final point of the day, and then you can all go stuff your faces at brunch, alright? Because I know I will,” Pastor Booth smiles at his own words. “In the book of Ephesians, it says, ‘Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.’ Now I know some of you may be thinking, ‘Harland, that is one long quote for us to ruminate on over a stack of waffles’ but I swear to you it has a point.”

“Better be a short point,” Blair mutters and April looks across Sterling to glare at her.

“Effective immediately, I’ll be requiring pre-marriage counseling sessions with yours truly for any couple looking to get married in this church. I believe that going into a marriage with the right tools to effectively talk through the inevitable challenges that all married couples will face can be nothing but a good thing. Now, y’all go and enjoy the rest of this beautiful Sunday.”

While the pews at the back of the church empty quickly, the Wesley family always stays seated a little longer. Their parents say it is to allow the message to sink in better. Blair always says it is to avoid the traffic jam in the aisle and the parking lot.

But, for once, Sterling actually contemplates the message instead of pulling out her phone. It feels like God is giving her a bit of a shout out; because, really, He’s the only one (besides her and April) that knows about their engagement. And this sermon felt like it was tailored to them, on this day of all days.

“Some sermon, huh?” April says, turning to Sterling and absently playing with her ring.

“Yeah, it was very, uh,” Sterling thinks of something to say now that her parents are very obviously watching her. “Enlightening.”

“I’d say so,” Blair scoffs. “Who knew Pastor Booth even knows what Riverdale is, let alone that it has teenagers boning.”

“Blair Aspen, this is a house of God,” Debbie scolds her as Sterling and April snicker.

Most weeks, brunch at the Club after church would be the highlight of Sterling’s Sunday. She loves the bougie food with poached eggs on top of everything, just waiting to be popped like a yolk balloon, and drinking orange juice out of a champagne glass has been making her feel grown-up for years now. But today is not like most Sundays, because today of all days is one when Mother and Big Daddy have decided the family should eat together. The whole family.

“Krissy, do you know what classes you’ll be taking in the fall?” Big Daddy asks as Kristina smiles smugly, always satisfied to have things revolve around her--Sterling knows a whole party about herself and Blair and April must have been torture for her dear older cousin yesterday.

“Why yes, I do. I’m taking an advanced communications course, a digital journalism class, a religious studies class, and to keep myself centered, I’ve taken it upon myself to take one extra class: expert yoga.” Kristina sounds quite satisfied with herself and this answer, but Sterling hears April make a sort of patronizing sigh next to her, which she only does when she’s about to make someone--usually a debate opponent but sometimes Hannah B.--feel incredibly stupid.

“Really? Because my Daddy always said that yoga is for heathen Buddhists,” April says casually, and Sterling has no idea if she’s kidding or not as April proceeds to take a bite of her eggs florentine while looking Kristina dead in the eye.

For his part, Big Daddy laughs a full-bellied laugh. “Ain’t that the truth, little lady. I don’t know how much tuition you and Cordelia are paying for that, Deacon but you best be seeing about getting your money back if she becomes one of them college socialists.”

Deacon chortles. “Here’s hopin’. The way these tuition rates keep going up, this guy’ll have to go to community college,” He reaches over next to him to rumple the hair of his son, 12-year-old DJ, who Sterling doesn’t think has looked up from his Nintendo Switch once this whole meal.

“Oh, that’s just nonsense,” Mother waves Deacon’s statement off. “As if we haven’t been saving for Deacon Jr. since before he was born.”

“Yeah, it’s a good thing I got that lacrosse scholarship or who knows where I’d get my MRS degree. Right, Mother?” Blair smiles sweetly at their grandmother while her words say something else entirely.

“Ya know, I still remember when Deacon and I met at that UGA football game. He was handsome enough back then that I didn’t even care that he spilled beer all over me,” Aunt Cordelia cuts in to change the subject, never one to deal well with any kind of tension lingering over a conversation for more than a few seconds as she laughs nervously. She’s always reminded Sterling of a more passive Hilly Holbrook, perfectly-styled red hair and all.

“That’s almost exactly how Brayden and I met and that’s how I knew it was fate,” Kristina says, swinging the conversation right back around to her like it’s a superpower. “Gosh I’m gonna miss him like crazy this summer, but he’s helping the less fortunate.”

Sterling rolls her eyes and looks to Blair. “Ugh, why is she always trying to seem like she’s such a good person when everyone knows she’s not. I once caught her doing coke in our bathroom over the holidays.”

“Yeah, that was one White Christmas. So hey, what’s the deal with you and April?”

“Huh? What are you talking about? April and I are just like we ever were.”

“Oh my God, you did it, didn’t you? You freaking asked her! Ugh, that’s why she’s been acting so high and mighty today--like more than usual.”

“Hey! Don’t talk about my fiancée like that!” Any anger Sterling would have had at Blair’s prying is overshadowed by getting to call April her fiancée.

“Oh, disgusting.”

“Did you guys know that April and I are the first Valedictorian and Salutatorian from the same graduating class at Willingham to be a couple? I think that’s super cool,” Sterling says, turning away from Blair to speak to the rest of the table.

After a short silence, Mother smiles patronizingly. “Sterly, whatever happened to that nice boy you used to date? The tall, handsome one.”

“Luke and I are just friends now,” Sterling says, trying to stop herself from exploding on behalf of April, who she can tell is seething in her seat, fingers tightly grasping at the table cloth. “April and I are very happy together.” Sterling reaches over to take April’s right hand and hold it on top of the table.

At this, Aunt Cordelia puts her hands over DJ’s ears as if he were a small child and not a preteen playing Fortnight. “I’m not sure he’s quite old enough to learn about these things just yet.”

Without looking up from his game, DJ says in a monotone voice, “I know what lesbians are.” Sterling thinks she can see him smile just a bit as his mother gasps.

“Thank you, DJ, but I’m actually bisexual,” Sterling happily corrects him.

“Oh, my bad,” he says in that same monotone.

“Is this really an appropriate conversation to be having over brunch?” Big Daddy asks, effectively ending any talk on the nuanced spectrum of sexuality--or any conversation, period. The silence is actually a little refreshing for all of ten seconds before April reaches for her orange juice with her free hand that’s not holding Sterling’s and Kristina gasps like a soap star.

“What is that?” she asks, pointing quite rudely at April’s hand.

April tries to play it off, feigning confusion as she puts down the glass and quickly puts her left hand back under the table, out of sight. “Uh, it’s orange juice?”

“There’s a ring on your hand on a very important finger. Why do you have a ring?” Kristina sounds unhinged, bordering on hysterical.

All eyes at the table land on April and then Sterling, but Debbie closes her eyes and shakes her head, laughing it off. “Kristina, sweetie, April always wears a purity ring from her father.”

“She wasn’t yesterday at the party; I know she wasn’t. And what she has on is no purity ring. I’d know,” she says firmly, and the rest of the table (even DJ) looks back at Sterling and April, waiting for either of them to laugh it off like Debbie had.

Sterling and April share a look and for once, Sterling wishes desperately that they could read each other like she and Blair can, but what they manage to get across with their eyes is enough as April sighs, turning away from Sterling and bringing her hand up from under the table, wiggling her fingers to show off the ring. “Surprise!” she says, sounding less than enthused that this is how the announcement is to be made. “We’re engaged.”

There is a long moment of silence that has Sterling looking around at her family. 

A slight smile has curled onto Blair’s face like she can’t wait to see what happens next. Her grandmother, on the other hand, looks like she has bitten into a lemon and found the taste too much. And as for Kristina, her face is getting redder and redder, like a toddler about to throw a tantrum.

The air is tense around them like an explosion is about to happen, though whether it will come from her cousin or her grandmother is anyone’s guess.

But Debbie must sense the impending blow-up and averts it with a show of (only slightly forced) enthusiasm. Squealing loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear, Sterling watches her mom stand up and scoop April into a tight hug. “I’m so happy for y’all! This is so exciting!” she says, squeezing April tight enough for her to shoot a concerned look Sterling’s way, but then it’s Sterling’s turn for a hug and when Debbie whispers into her ear,  “Sterling Pearl Wesley, we will discuss this when we get home,” in what is perhaps the most threatening tone Sterling has ever heard, she’s less than surprised.

“W-when did this happen?” Anderson asks, and Sterling can feel her heart break at the look of sheer devastation on her father’s face.

“Just last night. We were gonna wait until things settled down a bit to tell everyone,” Sterling says, subtly shooting Kristina a dirty look.

“Congratulations, Sterling,” DJ says, sounding perhaps the most genuine of everyone at the table.

Kristina leans in closer to April to get a better look at the ring. “Oh my god, is that a real diamond?” she asks in disbelief.

“Of course it is,” April says, sounding affronted at the insinuation that she would accept anything less.

“How did you afford such a thing, Sterling? Did the two of you help?” Aunt Cordelia asks, then directs her question to Debbie and Anderson.

Debbie shakes her head while Anderson shrugs exaggeratedly, and she elbows him gently. “We offered but Sterling wanted to pay all by herself from her yogurt shop money, right sweetie?”

Sterling wishes she hadn’t taken this opportunity to take a large bite out of her Belgian waffle, leaving her to only nod.

“I’m sorry, is nobody gonna address the elephant in the room here?” Uncle Deacon speaks up, looking around at the family in disbelief. “They’re eighteen. We literally went to their high school graduation party yesterday. And there’s not even a chance one of ‘em’s knocked up.”

“We can hope,” Kristina mutters.

“Neither of us is pregnant,” Sterling clarifies firmly as Kristina rolls her eyes. “I just love her, Uncle Deacon. I’ve been putting a lot of thought into what makes a family lately and I want April to be a part of ours.”

“Forgive me, but this is all to most of us with traditional sensibilities,” Big Daddy says finally, after having spent the last few minutes seemingly fixated on his bisque.

“Yes, and it goes without saying that you girls are awfully young to be jumping into something so permanent as marriage,” Mother adds, abusing that sweet voice all grandmothers are capable of putting on. “I think a nice, long engagement would suit you two well in case you change your minds.”

“Actually,” April says, speaking up before Mother can say anymore backhanded comments. “I’ve been thinking and I’ve come to the conclusion that, taking housing at UGA into account, as well as the fact that I don’t think it’s necessary for us to wait to start our lives together... it might be better for the both of us if we got married this summer.”

There’s a clang as Sterling realizes she’s dropped her own fork down onto her plate. That is certainly not what they’ve discussed--granted, they’ve had less than 24 hours to discuss much of anything related to their engagement, but it seems like everything is already imploding. She’s struggling to say anything to that as April lightly kicks her in the shin. “Uh, yeah. Yeah, that could be good,” she blurts out and sees even her mother’s facade of joy falter for just a moment as her father buries his face in his hands.

“Well I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m freaking stoked for the two of them. You guys aren’t always around to see how disgustingly in love these two are,” Blair finally speaks up and gives Sterling a look of assurance that quickly morphs into a clear message. “You are so stupid and you owe me big time for this.”

“I know, but I love you so much.”

“You better, bitch.”

“So what, are y’all gonna go down to the courthouse or Vegas or somethin’? There’s no way you’ll have enough time for a wedding,” Aunt Cordelia says, sounding quite condescending.

“As long as I get to be married to April, I don’t care either way,” Sterling says, hoping that’ll get her a good response from her fiancée but it...does not.

“I want a wedding,” April says to her sweetly, but Sterling knows she’s in trouble.

“I planned ours in three months; I’m sure with April’s help, we can give them their dream wedding in two,” Debbie shoots at Cordelia, almost as if she’s throwing down the gauntlet. 

If there’s one thing you don’t do, it’s tell Debbie Wesley what she can and can’t do.

“What in God’s name are the two of you thinking?!” Debbie shouts the moment the front door of the house is shut after one awkward car ride home.

“We’re getting married, Mom.” Sterling squeezes April’s hand tighter and gives her a reassuring look. Everything seems bad now, but it’ll be okay.

“You-you are not getting married. I forbid it, you hear me? I forbid it!” Anderson adds, more than a little frantic as he crosses the room to unlock the liquor cabinet and pull out a bottle of scotch, which he takes into the kitchen.

“Do you see what you’re doing to your poor father? To me? Sterling, I love you, and you know I love you too, April, but marriage is an enormous step that both of you are not prepared to take any time soon, let alone within the next two months.” Then she turns on Blair, who looks like a deer caught in the headlights of their dad’s hunting truck. “Did you know about this?”

Blair puts up her hands defensively in front of her. “Nope. No, I swear I did not. You know I would have talked her out of this!” She lies to Debbie’s face and Sterling smacks her upside the head.

“She knew,” Sterling says, essentially throwing her sister under the bus. “To be fair, she did try to talk me out of it, but she definitely knew when I was gonna buy the ring because she was there when I took the money out of our secret stash!”

“Oh great, just go ahead and mention the secret stash in front of outsiders,” Blair says sarcastically while directing her comment directly at April, who looks affronted for all of a second before waving her ring hand tauntingly at Blair.

“I’m not an outsider anymore, future sister-in-law.” April cocks her head to the side and smiles as if daring Blair to try her.

“Girls, please,” Debbie all but begs as she puts her hand to the side of her head like she does every time she gets a migraine.

Anderson returns from the kitchen, scotch on the rocks in hand. “And another thing!” He pauses to sip his drink, wincing at the taste, but Sterling is sure he’s not drinking to enjoy himself right now, “ Why would you even think to do something like this without talking to your mother and I first? I don’t care if you’re 18 years old, you still live in our house, damn it.”

“April, do your parents know about any of this?” Debbie asks, segwaying from what Anderson said because everyone in this room knows that Sterling was never going to ask their permission to marry April, so there’s no use beating that dead horse. Granted, there’s also really no use in asking April about any interaction with her parents, a mistake Debbie quickly realizes she’s made with the look both Sterling and April send her. “Right. Of course, they wouldn’t know.”

“If it helps at all, we can push back the wedding,” April says, though she clearly doesn’t want to say it. “I know getting married so soon is a bit much, even for you, Sterl. And if it’s a money issue, I do have a trust fund from my grandparents’ estate that I should have access to in a couple years or so.”

At this Anderson sets his glass down forcefully, the scotch nearly sloshing over the rim. “I don’t want you to have to touch a dime of that money, not for this and not for school,” Anderson says firmly. “You save that money for the two of you’s first house.” That brings Anderson up short and he looks quickly at his wife. The implication that Sterling and April will be together long enough to purchase a house together is the first time today that anyone’s expressed any sort of faith in their future marriage, and that’s not lost on him or Debbie. He sighs and closes his eyes tight for a moment as if wrestling with himself over what he’s about to say next before opening them and softening his facial expression. “Look, girls, I know dang well that you’re smart enough to know that this isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. If you really want to get married, then I’ll support you fully. If-” He looks to Debbie again, “-that’s alright with your mother.”

Debbie’s whole demeanor seems to soften as she crosses the room to pull both Sterling and April in a tight hug. “Of course if it’s alright.” She lets them go and pats April on the shoulder. “I can’t say I wouldn’t like for you two to wait a bit, but if you really want to aim for this summer--maybe a nice August wedding--then we better get a move on with everything because we needed Save the Dates out...yesterday.”

Sterling jumps, startled as April lets out an excited little high-pitched scream, and pulls Debbie in for another hug. “It’s gonna be so perfect,” she says, but then pulls away, realization dawning on her face. “Oh my God, there’s so much to do!” With that, April darts up the stairs to do who knows what, leaving the Wesley family alone, just the four of them.

Sterling, for her part, is trying not to panic at the idea of getting married in a matter of weeks. When they got engaged last night, she was under the strong impression that they’d be waiting at least a couple years to actually tie the knot. Plenty of time to plan and work out logistics and such. But this summer? It already is this summer!

Debbie watches April go with a small smile before shaking her head to clear it. “Well, I had better call Pastor Booth. We’ll have to schedule that marriage counseling fast to get it done by August. Maybe I can check his availability for Saturdays in August too,” Debbie says, mostly to herself, walking into the kitchen with her phone.

After the chaos that was the morning, Sterling is surprised that the afternoon is relatively quiet. Sure, the sound of April calling venues for their schedules and rough estimates of cost in her room puts the fear of God in Sterling, but if a wedding at the end of the summer is what she really wants...well, then Sterling can put aside any fears before then. She has to remind herself that she asked April to marry her because she would marry her today if she wanted. All that matters is spending their lives together, and if the ceremony to make it official happens a little sooner than she expected, then so be it.

Though she is curious at what could possibly be driving April’s sudden change of heart, as she was hesitant to even get engaged not long ago at all.

“Hey, Sterl?” April calls from down the hall, and Sterling suddenly realizes that she’d been paying zero attention to the Binging With Babish video playing on her laptop, which she’d turned on to get out of her own head. That apparently failed.

Sterling hits pause on the Avengers Ice Cream video. “Whaaat?” she calls back lazily.

“Are we thinking something traditional and elegant, or do you wanna go more trendy?” April asks as if Sterling would have any idea how to answer that question. She hadn’t even been thinking about a wedding so much as the abstract idea of one day being married to April.

“Uhhh...I don’t know…I don’t really care either way?” Sterling replies, completely confused as to what the question is even about because it could be any number of things. But that’s obviously the wrong answer as she hears footsteps stomp down the hall and her door swings open.

“You don’t care?” Sterling’s not sure she’s ever seen April look more affronted than she does now, standing in the doorway with her phone in one hand. “Sterling, this is our wedding venue. I’d kind of like for you to care.”

“Well, I’d kind of like to be consulted when it comes to setting a date for our wedding,” Sterling shoots back, raising her eyebrows at April pointedly.

April sighs as she sits on the edge of the bed, a rare display of clearly knowing she’s done wrong. “I know. I’m sorry,” she says quietly. “I was thinking about it all through church this morning, and then your grandma and cousin and aunt--who are all awful, by the way--just really ticked me off and I spoke on impulse. Your grandma clearly was holding out hope you’d eventually settle down with a man, which’s whatever. But I really don’t like people being so smug about thinking they know us better than we know us.

“Neither do I,” Sterling agrees and gestures for April to come snuggle up to her, to which she happily complies. “I’ll marry you on whatever day you choose, I’d just like you to consult with me before making any more rash decisions in the future, okay?”

“Okay,” April agrees and tilts her head up to put her lips inches from Sterling’s.

Sterling happily leans down to kiss her, not even minding the optics of making out with April on her bed if one of her family members were to walk in right now. She is, after all, a soon to be married woman, and even the puritans considered an engagement to be as good as a wedding from a physical standpoint. “Now, how about you show me the venues you were looking at and we can choose one together, okay?” Sterling says once they’ve broken apart, and pushes her laptop in April’s direction.

“Yay!” April says, not needing to be told twice as she proceeds to pull up a slideshow from Southern Living of the most beautiful wedding venues in Atlanta. “Most of these are booked up through August, but we can always put our name in if there’s a cancellation,” April notes as she clicks through the slides of the beautiful and very expensive-looking venues that range from old southern estate houses to rooftops, to fancy ballrooms. All of them are places where Sterling would gladly have her wedding because all that matters to her is the other bride in this equation; and that bride seems to get rather giddy upon pulling up a picture of some old stone mansion called The Wimbish House if her fidgeting is any indicator.

“I like this one,” Sterling says, pointing at the screen.

“Really?” April asks, turning to her while positively beaming.

“Yeah, and I get the impression that you like it too.” Sterling chuckles at the girlish delight April seems to be taking in this, though it shouldn’t surprise her; she recalls the elaborate weddings they would arrange for their Barbies as kids.

“I love it,” April admits, but suddenly seems a bit downtrodden. “It’s just, unfortunately, one that doesn’t have any openings, so we’ll have to pray for a miracle within the next week, I guess. After that, we won’t have any more time to wait on this and we’ll have to pick somewhere else. Though this close to the day of is going to be slim pickings.”

“Seriously, why the rush? Why can’t we just wait until next summer or something? It’ll still be sticking it to my family if we get married then, and we won’t have to plan this thing at breakneck speed.” A part of Sterling wishes that April will agree with her and push it back, but she mostly just wants an explanation, no matter what they end up doing.

“Because I’m eager to start our life together as a married couple,” April starts, clearly wanting to say something else, but stops there, probably figuring that should be enough of a reason.

“Yeah, I guess it wouldn’t be too horrible to have you as my wife…” Sterling actually finds herself smiling at the idea. April Stevens is going to be her wife. Why would she want to wait for that?

“And I wasn’t kidding about housing at school,” April adds. “Why get stuck in claustrophobic dorm rooms with randos, or pledge sororities that are not exactly the most welcoming to girls like us, when instead we could get one of the apartments they reserve for students with spouses. It would be our first home together.”

“I like the sound of that…” Sterling agrees, her mind drifting to a place of domestic bliss just from the very idea of coming home from classes and having April to study with. Among other things.

“And,” April adds, biting her lip as she seems to consider what she’ll say next, “I wouldn’t mind all the alone time we’d get.” Her mind seems to have gone to the same place Sterling’s has as she sneaks a glance at the open bedroom door. Do open door policies really apply to engaged women? Probably. But deciding she doesn’t care, Sterling gets up to close the door, April eyeing her questioningly all the while, but not objecting. At all. “You rebel,” she says, smiling suggestively.

With the door closed and locked (as well as the one to the bathroom--you can never be too safe when it comes to Blair), Sterling returns to her, feeling her mouth go dry as April lies back on the bed and crooks her fingers in a come hither motion.

Sterling bites her lip and pushes a few errant strands of hair behind her ear. With little warning, she’s pouncing on the bed, landing (mostly) on top of April, and kissing her fiercely. It’s been almost a month since prom and Sterling has been practically aching to finally finish what they started. And April seems to be on the same page if her hand sneaking up under the back of Sterling’s t-shirt and expertly unhooking her bra is any indication.

Sterling sits up on her knees, straddling April as she slips off her bra straps via the armholes of her t-shirt, finally able to take it off and toss it across the room. For her part, April seems to be enjoying the view immensely, even with the shirt still on. Though Sterling is forced to stop herself from removing it when there’s a pounding on her door.

Her blood runs cold. It’s probably her mother, and if she catches them like this, they’re both dead.

“Just letting you horny bitches know that I’m going out with Chase Colton tonight. If I don’t get back before mom and dad get home from their dinner with Uncle Deacon and Aunt Cordelia, please cover for me. K thanks,” Blair says through the door, followed by the sound of her stomping down the stairs.

Sterling and April breathe a sigh of relief as Sterling settles down to lean her head on April’s collarbone. “Oh my god, that was so scary,” she laughs and breathes in April’s intoxicating scent that is quickly getting her back to the headspace she was in before they were so rudely interrupted.

As she leans back in to kiss her fiancée (she will never get tired of thinking that), Sterling captures April’s lips with hers. The dual feelings of warm breath on her face and an even warmer body beneath her are almost enough to drive Sterling crazy.

Sterling leans further against April, deepening their kiss as her hand traces a path lower down. Her fingers start to undo April’s belt when another hand joins hers.

But April’s hand isn’t there to help, and instead pushes Sterling’s hand away before refastening the buckle. 

“Sterl, wait,” April says softly, moving back until she is sitting up against the headboard and bringing herself eye to eye with Sterling.

“You don’t want to.” It isn’t a question. Sterling doesn’t need to ask, she feels the change in the mood acutely.

“I do, I really want to, but....not...not yet,” April says, not seeming the least bit happy about it. “I didn’t want to mention this earlier, because I know it’s stupid, but you know that bible verse Pastor Booth quoted today about how people who can’t control themselves should get married instead of...burning in passion?”

It all clicks in Sterling’s brain at once. “April, did you want to move the wedding up so we could-”

April doesn’t let her finish. “-Not entirely. I meant what I said about loving you and wanting to marry you as soon as possible for a litany of reasons, but I’d be lying if I said that it isn’t also because I think I would like to wait until our wedding night to...consummate.” Sterling begins to say something again, but April isn’t done talking. “I know I said I was ready, but I’ve done a lot of thinking and yes, the purity oath I made with my dad and that stupid ring is barbaric and disgusting, but it wasn’t just between him and me, it was also between me and God. And I know God would forgive me for not following through on it, but I just figure...we’ve come this far, right?”

Sterling takes a deep breath in an effort to calm the lingering arousal coursing through her. “You’re right, you’re right,” Sterling says after a moment before she leans in and gently kisses April on the lips like she is sealing a bargain. “Can we still cuddle? I miss the feeling of you in my arms.”

April wastes no time in entwining her body with Sterling’s, shifting so that they can both lay down on the bed. “I miss your arms around me.” She nuzzles into Sterling, sighing contentedly.

“You know I would wait forever for you, right?” Sterling asks, not ever wanting April to feel like she’s upset by her confession--a little disappointed, sure but it’ll only make their wedding night that much more special.

“I know.”