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

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“Girl, you better have a good explanation for why we had to learn you’re engaged from Facebook. My dang Nana shared the post!” Ezekiel says, affronted, before April can even sit down at their Starbucks table—where there is, thankfully, an iced cinnamon dulce latte waiting for her. After the morning April has had, she needs it desperately.

“I’ve been engaged for all of three days, Z. We weren’t planning on telling anyone yet, but then Sterling’s Sorority Ho cousin ruined everything, and then her aunt shared it on Facebook for everyone in Atlanta to see, apparently.” April takes her infernal paper straw out of its wrapper and stabs it through the mountain of whipped cream—which she knows she probably shouldn’t be eating if she wants to look good in her wedding dress. “But I was going to tell you guys before anyone else. Honest.” For emphasis, she holds up the small paper gift bag from David’s Bridal she picked up on her way here.

Ezekiel stares her down before saying, “You’re forgiven,” while his demeanor doesn’t change a bit. “Now, do ya mind telling me what you’re thinking, getting married this young? Last I checked, you weren’t white trash.”

“I most certainly am not. Besides, white trash girls don’t get to have the event of the century that is going to pass for my wedding. Now, you can keep knocking the idea, or you can be the supportive friends I know you’re capable of being and I can go ahead and ask you to be in my wedding party. Sound good?” April raises an eyebrow at her friends, waiting for their response as they share a look with each other.

“Can we see the ring?!” Hannah B. asks, the excitement she’s apparently kept bottled up coming out all at once as she practically vibrates in her seat.

“What, this ring? You’ve seen it before,” April says teasingly, holding up the promise ring that she has started wearing on a chain around her neck.

“Girl, don’t even,” Ezekiel scoffs, grabbing her left hand and nearly dragging it (and her) across the table. “Daaamn. When Slutty Stacy got engaged last month, all she got was a class ring.”

“Yes, well, Slutty Stacy isn’t marrying a gem like Sterling. She saved up for it,” April says, not able to contain her smugness as she lets Hannah B. get a good look at the ring too.

“But aren’t you worried about like…married people stuff? Like...taxes?” Hannah B. asks once April’s withdrawn her hand and gone back to sipping at her latte.

“Married people aren’t the only ones who pay taxes, Hannah B.,” April says, a little concerned that her friend has gone this long thinking otherwise. “But no, I’m not worried because really nothing much is going to change. I already live with Sterling and we’re in love. When we’re married, all that will be different is... we’ll actually be able to share a bed without her parents—who I love, by the way—being able to say shit about it.”

“I don’t think it’s that easy,” Hannah B. says quietly.

“Of course it’s not easy,” April concedes begrudgingly.

“Look, we’re happy for you, we just think you need to go into this with realistic expectations,” Ezekiel says, then clasps his hands together as he changed the subject. “So, if you’re getting married in August, I imagine y’all are hard at work on the planning front. Care to share some deets?”

Now that is something April could talk about for hours. “Well, I found us the perfect venue, but it’s unfortunately booked up through August. However,” April smiles deviously. “You two know very well that I can find dirt on anyone. So I was able to scour Facebook and found the couple who are scheduled to get married there on the 20th. Lovely couple, except …” April pulls out her phone to show them a few screenshots.

“Girl, you did not bust out your Finsta to honeytrap this man…” Ezekiel says in disbelief as he takes the phone from her and his eyes widen as he reads the messages. “Oh my god, this is just nasty.”

“Uh-huh. And I emailed those to his beautiful fiancée this morning. Honestly, it was way too easy. My profile pic is one of Daisy Ridley,” April laughs to herself, not feeling the least bit guilty over the possibility of saving an innocent woman from marriage to a cheater. If a man will send dick pics to Daisy Ridley, who knows what else he’s been doing? “So anyway, fingers crossed that we’ll be getting word of a cancellation any day now.”

“Does Sterling know you did this?” Hannah B. asks, side-eyeing April and her dirty tactics.

April would be lying if she said she didn’t feel just a little guilty doing this behind Sterling’s back, but she can justify it to herself by knowing that she’s ultimately doing all of this for her. “Every marriage has its little secrets. All that matters is we’re going to have the most perfect day to kick off our lives as married women. Now, speaking of the day, as I said before, I’d like both of you to be in my bridal party.” She reaches into the gift bag and pulls out two individually-wrapped bridal party proposal bath bombs. One for a bridesmaid, and one for a bridesman. The one saying Maid of Honor gets left in the bag.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world!” Hannah B. exclaims, turning the bath bomb over in her hands.

“So which of us is gonna be your MOH?” Ezekiel asks, setting his down on the table. “Because I’m good with sharing the pre-wedding duties, but I totally call dibs on the reception speech.”

That leads April to the hardest part of this meeting. She knows neither of her friends will take it well. “Actually...I think I’m going to ask Jamie. My friend from church camp.”

“Who?” Hannah B. asks, looking more confused than usual while Ezekiel looks absolutely horrified.

“She’s one of April’s Adeles,” Ezekiel clarifies for Hannah B. before looking back at April, judgy as all hell. Which she supposes she probably deserves to a certain extent, but it’s really not what he so obviously thinks. “So, looking past your crazy, drama-loving ass creating some kind of My Best Friend’s Wedding situation, I have to ask. Why does this girl take precedence over us? The friends who have always been here for you and who have never judged you for your Taylor Swift conspiracy theories.”

“Taylor Swift is a lesbian,” April says plainly, putting up a finger to stop any further slander on the subject. “And I swear to y’all that it has nothing to do with me liking her any more than you. I just think that Jamie’s better equipped to deal with the stresses of the position and I just want you guys to be able to enjoy yourselves. And as to my previous feelings for her...they’re as irrelevant now as they ever were. There was certainly not a chance of her returning my feelings back then, I know that now, and we’ve since kept in touch as friends; that is it. I’m marrying Sterling. I love Sterling.”

“Okay, drama queen…” Ezekiel says, still judging.

“I will take that bath bomb back,” April threatens, making a show of reaching for it as Ezekiel holds it out of her reach.

“Don’t you dare,” Ezekiel says, then rolls his eyes as he begrudgingly mumbles an apology.

“That’s what I thought.” April sips at her latte again. “So what are y’all’s thoughts on colors? Because Sterling and I are kind of stuck on a few.”

“I’m not really sure about me, but I know Luke looks great in green,” Hannah B. sighs as April frowns.

“Uh, good to know? I’m sure he can coordinate with you either way,” April says, confused. It’s weird enough that her friend is dating the (sort of) shared ex of both her and Sterling.

“No, I’m just saying so because he texted me about Sterling asking him to be a bridesman like right before you got here,” Hannah B. says, not seeming to understand Ezekiel’s obvious negative reaction to this while April feels her own jaw twitch involuntarily.

“She what?” April asks, her voice a lot higher than normal. She takes another drink of coffee when she feels herself on the brink of a meltdown. There must be some kind of a misunderstanding because there’s no way her fiancée would ask her ex-boyfriend of six years to be in their wedding party, right?

“Karma’s a bitch, ain’t it?” Ezekiel hums at the predicament April’s found herself in.

April clears her throat and hastily gets up from her seat, putting on a fake smile. “You know, I just realized that I was supposed to pick up Chloe from the groomer for Debbie, so I’d better do that. I’ll be in touch with you guys about a date for dress and tux fittings, okay?” she says sweetly and grabs her latte before making a quick retreat back to the parking lot and to the hunting truck Anderson’s lent to her for the time being.

This is all a misunderstanding and she’s sure Sterling will make that very clear to her once she gets home.

“Sterling Wesley, you had better start explaining yourself right now!” April shouts throughout the house the moment she steps through the front door. She crosses her arms, waiting as she hears footsteps from upstairs.

Sterling appears at the top of the stairs, looking like a child being scolded. “Hey, baby,” She greets April nervously.

“Don’t ‘hey, baby’ me. You know what you did!” April can feel the outrage coming off of her in waves.

After a few seconds of standing there frozen, Sterling comes bounding down the stairs and pulls April in for a tight hug. “April, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry I never told you. It’s just that things got so out of hand and the longer it went on, it just got harder and harder to come clean.”

April frowns, confused as she’s still stiff in Sterling’s arms. “Wait, how long ago did you ask Luke to be in our wedding party?” she asks, as Sterling lets her go and pulls back, looking equally confused.

“Wait, you’re mad about me asking Luke to be a bridesman?” Sterling asks, her posture visibly releasing a great deal of tension as she does.

“Yes? What did you think I was mad about?” April asks, a little worried now.

“Oh, that um…” Sterling pauses for a moment. “That my dad is making me ask Kristina to be a bridesmaid, too. I knew you would hate it,” she laughs nervously.

“I mean, yeah, I’m not a fan of her or her extreme need for attention and I don’t look forward to having to spend any extended periods of time with her over the next few months, but I’m kind of more furious over the fact that you would ask Luke to be involved with our wedding without even telling me first,” April says, feeling her anger bubble up again just saying that out loud.

“But he’s been one of my best friends since fifth grade,” Sterling argues.

“No, he was your boyfriend from fifth grade, and I’m sure your grandmother would be positively giddy to see the two of you up at that altar together.” April takes a deep breath to try to calm herself, then looks around and lowers her voice for the next part, in case anyone not privy to the next thing she’s about to say is eavesdropping--namely, Anderson. “I mean, Jesus, Sterl. You thought I wouldn’t care about you asking the first person you had sex with to be in our wedding party?”

“When you put it that way…” Sterling says, realization dawning on her as she suddenly looks very remorseful. “I’m sorry, April. I really am. I should have asked you.”

“Yes, you should have.” April agrees, feeling somewhat mollified.

“I just...between spending so much of my time with Luke, and then you, and of course Blair, I’ve never really had time to make many friends. Despite our past, Luke is a friend and I guess I just wanted someone I actually like up there with me, aside from Blair,” Sterling shrugs, dejected as she looks down at her feet. “But if it really bothers you, I can call him and let him know.”

April sighs, losing the rest of whatever fight she previously had in her as she sees Sterling so sad—she’s usually so good about hiding her loneliness. Better than April, at least. “No, you don’t have to do that,” April says, albeit very reluctantly. “Just, in the future, please ask me about these things first?”

“Okay; I promise I will,” Sterling says, smiling sweetly and leaning down to kiss April’s cheek. “You know I love you, right?”

April grumbles begrudgingly, not ever able to stay mad at this infuriatingly cute girl for too long. “You’d better.”

“So how’d it go with Ezekiel and Hannah B?” Sterling asks, clearly hoping to steer this in a more light-hearted direction.

“Good, I think. They’re a bit peeved about neither of them being Maid of Honor, but you and I both know we don’t want either of them in charge of planning events.” April walks through the house to the kitchen to throw away her empty latte cup.

“I don’t know, I doubt Blair will do any better, but she’s my sister and I love her,” Sterling says cautiously, following her.

“And I know you’re going to love Jamie. Not only is she very competent, but she was really there for me back in the day. Let’s just say I wouldn’t have been the epitome of self-acceptance you started dating a year and a half ago, if not for her friendship and guidance,” April smiles to herself, just thinking of how much she owes Jamie for that. Giving her such a big role in her wedding is the least she can do.

“Well then I know I’ll love her.” Sterling smiles, but she’s clearly still curious about something. “So how come I’ve never met this girl if she’s so important you want her to be your maid of honor in our wedding? What’s she like?”

“Well, she’s been living out of state the last few years, but we’ve kept in touch. And as far as what she’s like…” April thinks a moment, giggling as she recalls a time involving her and Jamie at the lake. “She’s got a very magnetic personality, and she’s more caring than anyone I know...except maybe Ellen.”

Sterling frowns as she correctly infers, “Sounds kinda like you had a crush on her.”

April nods, not wanting to lie to Sterling about something like this after tearing into her over Luke. “Yeah, a bit. But ‘twas not meant to be.” April scoffs at the truth in that statement.

“You seem a little upset about that,” Sterling says, failing to hide the hint of jealousy in her tone.

Despite herself, April can feel the corners of her mouth quirk up into a smile at this. “You aren’t jealous, are you?” she asks teasingly.

Sterling cocks her head to the side. “Obviously I’m jealous,” she says, taking a few slow steps toward April, backing her up against the kitchen counters. “Being your first everything is a source of great pride for me.”

April bites her lip and avoids eye contact, feeling the palpable tension between them. She’d be lying if she said she didn’t find it extremely sexy. Finally looking back into Sterling’s eyes, she pointedly wets her lips with her tongue and uses her arms to push herself up to sit on the countertop. Not breaking eye contact, she slowly spreads her legs and has to keep herself from giggling when Sterling noticeably gulps.

“Come here,” April whispers, beckoning Sterling forward.

Sterling steps forward and leans her face against April’s neck with something that sounds like a whimper.

April threads her fingers into Sterling’s hair, pulling back just enough to look Sterling in the eye. “You’re the one I’m marrying.” It was meant to reassure Sterling, but instead, April feels a possessive thrill at the words.

Sterling must like the sound of that because this time when she leans into April’s neck it is with a searching, hungry mouth. The open-mouthed kisses are one thing, but the moment Sterling starts to suck and nip, April has to put an end to it. “Sterl!” she gasps out, pushing at Sterling’s shoulders.

Sterling steps back, eyes slightly glazed, and a smile on her face. And that smile on her face is the only warning April gets before Sterling is moving in again, kissing and sucking on the same spot, laughing deviously to herself.

“Sterling, stop! You’re going to give me a hickey!” April shrieks, which devolves into a giggle as Sterling’s mouth brushes over a particularly sensitive and ticklish spot.

“Ahem.” The sound of a throat clearing stops them both in their tracks.

Standing in the garage doorway is Debbie Wesley, reusable grocery bags in hand and a frown on her face. “Girls, we agreed, no funny business,” she says coldly, and April realizes just how bad of a look it is to have Sterling between her legs, going at her like this.

April pushes Sterling back as she hops down from the counter, smoothing her slightly wrinkled shirt and running a hand through her mussed hair. “Hey, Debbie. You need us to help you carry in anything?” she asks, trying to brazen it out and walks towards the door to the garage.

“No, April, I need you to keep your butt off my countertops. I make food there, and being engaged doesn’t give y’all a free pass to do...that,” Debbie says as she sets her bags down next to the refrigerator, clearly avoiding the spot April had been sitting.

“I…” April, usually an unbeatable debater, finds herself speechless. The mom guilt is strong with Debbie Wesley.

“And Sterling. Is this any mindset for you to be in before your first counseling session with Pastor Booth this afternoon?” Debbie asks as Sterling seems to recoil into herself.

“No,” she says quietly, seeming very much like a little girl in trouble with her mother.

April would find her fiancée’s behavior almost cute, under different circumstances, but the reminder of their appointment at the church is sobering, to say the least. “She’s right, Sterl. We should really be getting ready for that. The last thing I want is for us to have to resort to some civil ceremony.”

“Oh, yeah, we couldn’t have that,” Sterling says with heavy irony.

April and Debbie exchange a look, clearly on the same page, at least in this matter, as April turns back to Sterling and crosses her arms. “No, we couldn’t have that, because a good deal of being married is being married in the eyes of God.”

“That’s absolutely right, April,” Debbie says, smiling at April in agreement before frowning at Sterling. “You should know better than to talk to your future wife like that,” she says, pointing her finger at her daughter in a scolding way.

“Jeez, gang up on me, why don’t ya…” Sterling grumbles, making her way back to the foyer.

April watches her go before diligently beginning to take groceries out of the bags for Debbie, separating the refrigerated groceries from frozen from shelf safe as she feels Debbie’s eyes on her. “I’m sorry,” April says, not turning away from her task. “I know you don’t ask much of us and I have a real funny way of showing my appreciation for you and Anderson letting me stay here.”

Debbie moves to join her, taking the frozen foods April’s already sorted out to the freezer. “Believe it or not, I do remember what it’s like to be young and in love and engaged,” she says, giving April a knowing look as she comes back for two pints of Ben & Jerry’s. “Anderson and I were fresh out of college and Mother? She hated me. More so than she does now if you can believe that.”

April scoffs. “Yeah, I think I might hold the Most Hated title now.”

Debbie shakes her head. “She doesn’t really hate you, sweetie. She and Big Daddy have certain unrealistic expectations for Sterling and Blair just like they had for Anderson. But me? Oh, she despised me.”

“Why? You’re pretty much what I always picture as the conservative ideal,” April says, recalling all the times as a kid she thought that Sterling’s mom seemed more like a TV mom than a real one. She’s younger than April’s own mother, and beautiful, and so much more understanding than April ever thought a mother could be, while still managing to be rather intimidating when she wants to be.

Debbie laughs, “You’re sweet, but let’s just say that,” she puts on a Deep South drawl, “A girl from Nandina ain’t what they had in mind.”

April chuckles, but the mention of the little town makes her think of something that’s hardly a laughing matter. “Do they know? About Sterling?”

Debbie doesn’t seem surprised to be getting this question. She shakes her head. “No, it was easier to say there was an undetected twin than to explain that my psychotic twin seduced my husband while pretending to be me.”

April nods. It still baffles her that someone like Sterling, who most of the time seems to be made of pure light, can have come from such darkness. It took Sterling almost a year to tell April after she found out herself.

Debbie closes the freezer and approaches April again, putting a gentle hand on her shoulder. “I just don’t want the two of us to be like Mother and me; I don’t want you to think you aren’t good enough. You’re more than I could have ever asked for in a daughter-in-law.” She looks into April’s eyes, full of sincerity. “Granted, I never thought I would have a daughter-in-law, but you’re better than any son-in-law too because you’re good and you’re smart and you love my Sterling. Everyone can see that.”

April feels herself blush. She’s not used to this kind of unconditional praise from anyone but Sterling. “I’m so happy to be marrying her,” she admits, smiling at just the thought of it. 

“I can tell,” Debbie’s smile quickly morphs into a more stern look. “But, please, will ya try to cool off for a while? You’re getting married in a matter of weeks and after that, you can have all the—well, you know—all you want. I promise you, it’ll mean so much more then.”

April nods, already knowing and agreeing with the sentiment. “You have my word that I have every intention of waiting, Debbie. I’ve been waiting all my life.”

“You’re a good girl, April,” Debbie says, pushing a strand of April’s still unkempt hair out of her face and leaving her hand on April’s cheek. It’s exactly the kind of small but completely motherly gesture that has been so desperately missed in this time away from April’s own mother, who likely doesn’t even know her only child is soon to be a married woman. “I know people are gonna say a lot of things about y’all’s relationship, but don’t you listen to them, okay?”

April scoffs. “People have been saying all kinds of things about me my whole life. At least when they say those things about me and Sterling, I know they’re wrong.”

“That’s my girl,” Debbie says, a look of pride on her face. “Now, you better get ready for your counseling session. You have to make a good impression for the Pastor.”

“I’m not capable of anything less,” April says, perhaps a little cocky, but it’s not something she believes to be untrue.

“Sterl, this is a school zone. Will you please stop driving like a maniac?” April says as calmly as she can manage while gripping the handle of the passenger side door hard enough to see the whites of her knuckles.

Sterling has the audacity to take her eyes off the road as she looks over at April to say, “Babe, what do you want from me? We’re already running late,” she says, pointing to the clock on the Volt’s dash with one hand while taking a sharp turn with the other.

“What I want is to get to the church without you killing us both, thanks.” April reaches over to take the steering wheel with one hand when Sterling turns to argue with her again.

“You have so little faith in me. I do know how to drive, you know.” Sterling pushes April’s hand off the steering wheel as she whips into the church parking lot that is (thankfully) empty and parks diagonally across two parking spaces.

“Well, you could’ve fooled me!” April sneers, getting out of the car and slamming the door. She smooths down her babydoll dress on the way up to the church steps, walking faster than normal as she hears the car’s lock beep, and Sterling comes running up behind her.

“Next time, how about you drive, okay?” Sterling says, clearly intending for this to be a jab, but April laughs.

“Fine by me!” She says, then takes a few deep breaths, knowing they can’t meet the soon-to-be officiant of their wedding while in the middle of an argument. “Let’s just calm down. We can’t let Pastor Booth think we’re always like this or he probably won’t marry us.”

“I am calm!” Sterling punctuates that falsehood by pulling the church door open and walking inside.

Thankfully, April refrains from her snide comment she was thinking of because there is Pastor Booth, standing right inside the doors, waiting for them both.

“Sterling and April, right on time!” He enthuses, leaning in and hugging first Sterling and then April. “How about we go get comfortable and talk in my office.” He leads the way through the church while keeping up a light chatter. “Sterling, I’m so glad your mother gave me a call yesterday. I had no idea y’all were getting married, though I admit I’m not the best at keeping up with Facebook or Instagram. And, believe it or not, y’all are my first same-sex couple to get married here. Well, here we are,” he says, stopping to open a plain wooden door. “After you, ladies.”

April doesn’t know what she was expecting, but it wasn’t to step into a room that feels more like a dad’s den than a pastor’s office.

“This is where I do my spiritual thinking and, occasionally, catch a Falcons game. Now, because I want us all to be comfortable, I’d like you both to call me Harland—but it’s back to Pastor Booth on Sunday, so don’t you worry.” Pastor Booth— Harland , grabs a clipboard from the desk and sinks into an armchair across from a small loveseat, clearly the spot for the future married couples to sit.

Sterling gestures for April to go ahead, taking a seat after her and resting her hand on April’s thigh.

“So I take it neither of y’all has been to couples counseling before,” Harland starts, and the girls both shake their heads. “Well, I promise it’s not as scary as it sounds. All we’re here to do is to make sure y’all know each other’s needs and are on the same page when the big day arrives.” Harland smiles at the two of them, rubbing his hands together. “Every couple can benefit from counseling, not just those heading into marriage. Why, even my favorite tv couple, Claire and Jamie, could have benefited from some counseling from time to time,” he says, seeming to invite April and Sterling to laugh along with him, but the joke falls flat. 

Clearing his throat Harland looks down at the clipboard. “So I’m gonna start with some basic questions that aren’t gonna be very easy to answer, but you have to answer truthfully, okay?” He looks down at his clipboard and sucks in air through his teeth. “Oh, except that one,” He begins crossing it off with a pencil, but April stops him.

“Excuse me, Harland, but Sterling and I want to make it clear that you can ask us any question you would the other couples. It doesn’t matter how old we are or if we’re two women,” she speaks up, and the pastor just looks at her a moment.

“Well, alright…” he says, sounding unsure as he reads off the question, “Is the bride expecting, and is that playing into your desire to get married?” He gives them both a sort of I-Told-Ya-So look as they both stammer through individual denials. “That’s what I thought. But it does bring me to my next question, which is, ‘How long have the two of you been together, and have you managed to stay faithful to each other and to yourselves in that time?’”

“We’ve been together for a year and a half, and I’m pretty sure we’ve been faithful to each other,” Sterling starts, “But what exactly do you mean by being faithful to ourselves?” she asks cautiously.

April rolls her eyes at Sterling’s refusal to answer the question of them being faithful without absolute certainty. “We have been faithful to each other the whole time. And I think, correct me if I’m wrong, that what he means by us being faithful to ourselves is he’s asking if we’ve had sex instead of waiting, right?”

Harland nods. “That’s absolutely right, April. Saving our bodies for the confines of marriage is a sacred duty to ourselves as well as God. So, have the two of you ever…”

“No, we haven’t,” April says plainly. “Sterling was my first kiss, and will be my first everything else once we’re married.” She smiles proudly at being able to say this with total honesty.

Harland smiles wide. “That’s very good, April!” he says, leaning forward to hold out his hand for a high five like he’s congratulating her on winning a spelling bee. But practicing this level of self-restraint for 18 months was much harder than when April won one of those, so she gladly accepts that high five, though the mood in the room quickly shifts as Harland turns to Sterling. “And what about you?”

“I, uh…” Sterling clearly doesn’t want to have to say it. “I think April already knows the answer to that.”

Rather than pressing her on that further, Harland turns back to April. “And does it bother you that Sterling hasn’t saved herself for you?” he asks, and April looks at Sterling, not wanting to hurt her feelings, but knowing that she’s supposed to be speaking honestly here.

She turns back to Harland. “Yeah, it does a little.” It’s not an easy answer to give, especially when she can feel Sterling take her hand off of her leg and lean slightly away from her on the couch.

“You’ve never said it bothers you before,” Sterling says, definitely hurt.

April rushes to make this right. “Because it doesn’t, mostly. I just sometimes wish that we could be experiencing all the same things together for the first time, but we can’t do that.”

“But, April, it’s important to remember that in choosing to spend her life with you, Sterling is going to share many more firsts with you. Even something like sex is a different beast entirely when it’s with your wife,” Harland cuts in, and maybe it’s something about the air of wisdom pastors seem to have, but somehow this is far more reassuring to her than it normally would be. “And Sterling, just because you have been with someone other than April doesn’t mean you’re any less than your bride-to-be. Your body and soul is as pure as it’s ever been so long as you pledge it to one person from here on out, that person being April.” 

Sterling looks into April’s eyes and smiles slightly, taking April’s hand in her own. “I do.”

Those two little words coming from Sterling’s lips have April’s heart all aflutter. “And I look forward to seeing all the firsts we’re going to experience together,” April says, rubbing the back of Sterling’s hand with her thumb in comforting circles.

“Now, I have a little assignment for the two of you,” Pastor Booth says, getting up from his seat and walking to his desk, returning with two notepads and two pens, handing one of each to Sterling and April. “I want the two of you to jot down where you think the two of you will be in one year, ten years, and twenty years. It can be milestones you want to hit or just a general idea of the kind of marriage you think you’ll have. Either way, it should give you both a good idea of what kind of expectations your partner is going into this marriage with.”

As he leaves them to it, April smiles, her pen already flying furiously across the page. She’s a planner at heart, and she’s been planning her life since she was a little girl, so writing a few paragraphs about those plans is a no-brainer. But when she sneaks a glance over at Sterling, she seems to be struggling to come up with as much. They go on like that for a good twenty minutes, enough time for Harland to excuse himself from the room for a moment and come back with a bottle of Coke from the vending machine, smelling vaguely like cigarette smoke.

“Alright, y’all ready to share?” he asks, opening his Coke and taking a sip.

“I am.” April happily volunteers, writing one more thing before reading it out. “In one year, I hope that Sterling and I will still be basking in the honeymoon stage of our marriage. We’ll be living together at UGA, maybe in a little student housing apartment, and we’ll come home for every holiday, even the little ones. Sterl and I both want to major in pre-law, so we’ll have lots of classes together and we can study and do homework together, and I can teach her to cook without burning our place down.”

“That’s very good April,” Harland says with a smile as he turns to look at Sterling, indicating it’s her turn.

“Okay, I just wrote down a few things that April didn’t already say. I was thinking it might be fun to join a sorority, obviously not living in the house, but my mom was Delta Zeta at UGA,” Sterling says with a small shrug as she runs her finger down a bulleted list. “Oh, and I was hoping we might go on Spring Break with Blair? And maybe get a dog.”

“That also sounds like a real solid plan, Sterling. April, do you have any major objections to any of it?” Harland asks.

“No. I mean, I don’t think we’re going to encounter anything that’s not at least negotiable,” April says, then gestures to her notepad. “Can I read my ten-year plan?”

“By all means,” Harland says, sitting back in his chair and continuing to sip his Coke as if he’s waiting for some kind of inevitable argument to happen.

April clears her throat. “In ten years, I’d like to be settled into a law firm here in Atlanta, probably doing something stable like corporate or real estate law. I think by that point, we’ll have enough money saved up for a down payment on a house, hopefully somewhere close to Debbie and Anderson, but not too close. We’ll probably be friends with other married couples who we can have dinner parties with, and we can save up to travel when we have the time. And I want a cat.”

Sterling bites her lip before reading off her list. “Well, my dad has basically said there are guaranteed spots at his firm for us, so I really like the idea of working together. But I want to get a minor in Criminal Justice and work in criminal law.” Her eyes dart over to April but Sterling doesn’t stop her resuscitation. “I wrote down that I wanted to have a house by the time we’re 30. And I want to be pregnant or trying to get pregnant by 28,” Sterling says, eyes darting to look at April before looking back at her notebook.

“Interesting…” Harland says while April can feel her mouth go dry. “April, I couldn’t help but notice you didn’t mention children in your ten-year plan. Would you care to talk about that?”

She wouldn’t, not really, but something tells her she doesn’t have much of a choice. “I have it in my 20-year plan that I could see us maybe having a kid by then.”

“You could maybe see us having a kid by the time we’re 38?” Sterling asks in what sounds like disbelief, and a little outrage.

“Sterling, I take it you see yourself having more than one child?” Harland asks, scribbling something on his clipboard.

“Uh, yeah. I think sibling relationships are really important and I can’t picture life without my sister, so why would I want to put a child through something like that?” Sterling says as if what she’s saying is so obvious, but April begs to differ.

“I’m an only child, Sterl. I actually never wanted siblings because I liked being able to have my parents’ full attention and that’s what I want to be able to give our child,” she says, crossing her arms. “Unless you have a problem with only children.”

“You know I don’t have a problem with only children, considering I’m marrying one. I just don’t think raising one is really for me,” Sterling says, refusing to fall into the trap April laid out for her.

“Well, I’m not even sure if raising kids, in general, is really for me. You know how I was raised. You really think I trust myself to not screw up one kid, let alone multiple kids?” It’s somewhat freeing to say this aloud. It’s something April’s thought for years.

“You’re not your dad, April. And you wouldn’t be doing it alone,” Sterling assures her, urging April to look into her eyes. “I want a family with you because of the person you are, not who your parents are.”

April can feel tears start to well up in her eyes, but she refuses to cry during their first therapy session, and she especially refuses to be the first of the two of them to cry. “I know that,” she says, nodding and turning to Harland. “I swear we don’t usually argue about stuff like this.”

“Many couples argue over children. If they’ll have them, how many, how they’ll come to get them, how they’ll raise them. But you just have to keep an open mind with each other while holding firm to what you know you can handle. You’re both still young. Just wait to see what God has in store for you both. Now, do you want to read us the rest of your twenty-year plan, April?” Harland asks, shifting away from this subject for now, but April knows they’ll have to inevitably come back to it.

“Well, as I said, I can maybe see us having a child. Hopefully a little girl we can name something like Naomi Ruth-” April smiles when she actually hears Sterling chuckle at that. “-And I can see myself as a partner at whatever law firm I end up at, while Sterl can take over for her dad when he goes into semi-retirement. We’ll hopefully still be as in love then as we are now, and Sterling won’t be sick of me yet. That’s all I got.”

“Sterling, it’s your turn,” Harland prods after a long moment of silence.

Sterling takes a deep breath before flipping her notebook over. It’s empty, save for three bullet points drawn as stars. “I don’t have anything written down. Not because I don’t want a future with you,” she hurries to reassure April, “but because I can’t see further into the future than I’ve lived. I just know that I want to be with you and our one or two, or maybe even three kids. Or none. Being with you is the only part that’s a given.”

April moves in closer, thinking it’s impossible not to kiss Sterling after something like that, but when Harland makes himself known by loudly shuffling papers, she settles for whispering, “I love you.”

“I love you, too-” Sterling replies with one of those smiles that can make April’s patellas quiver. “-Future Mrs. Wesley.”

April can practically hear brakes screech in her head upon hearing that. “Excuse me, what?” she asks, pretty certain that they’ve never discussed her taking Sterling’s name, so she has no idea why she would even think that.

For her part, Sterling at least realizes immediately that she’s stepped in it. “I just...I mean, I figured with how things are with your dad, and how close you are with my family, and how you want to spend every holiday with them, that maybe that meant you...wanted to be a Wesley?” Sterling explains and winces in preparation for the blowup that April can feel building inside her.

“It’s not just my dad’s name, it’s my name,” April says firmly. This is her identity she’s talking about. She doesn’t know how to be anyone but April Stevens.

“Sterling, this is a good example of why ‘when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me,’” Harland laughs at the ridiculously old adage, and is the only one in the room that does. He clears his throat. “Anyway, I think this is a good thing for y’all to be discussing. Have you considered hyphenating? I read that that’s most common for LGBT couples. And that way, you could both be honoring your future wife by adding her name to yours.”

“That could be good?” Sterling says cautiously as April finds herself nodding in agreement.

“Yeah, I could maybe see myself as April Stevens-Wesley,” she says, smiling as she realizes how much she loves the sound of it.

“But Sterling Stevens-Wesley sounds like a tongue twister. What’s wrong with Wesley-Stevens?” Sterling asks.

“Wesley-Stevens offends my alphabetical sensibilities,” April says without even thinking about it. She knows that Stevens-Wesley is the only compromise on her name she’s ever willing to concede to.

Sterling sighs. “I mean, I guess it wouldn’t be so bad for future little Naomi Ruth Stevens-Wesley to always be in the back of the line in elementary school…” she seemingly concedes. “But we can talk about it later.”

April knows there isn’t really much of a point in talking later since her mind is made up, and Sterling knows better than anyone that that isn’t likely to change, 

“Well, on that note, I think I can let the two of you go for today, but I’d like to talk again. Same time next week and every week until the wedding, alright? I have faith in y’all and faith in your future marriage because you can talk through things, and there’s clearly a lot of love here, but like most young couples, you don’t know yourselves or each other as well as you should. We’re gonna get ya there, but it’ll take hard work and dedication. Do you think you can commit?”

Sterling and April share a determined look and April nods. “We can do that.”

“Do you really have to have the binder at the table?” Sterling asks, rubbing her tired eyes once they’ve placed their dinner orders at the Mexican restaurant, but April can’t be bothered by her obvious judgment because they’re going to have to send out 200 invitations the second they book their venue (whichever it may end up being) and she needs to know what they’ll look like.

Ignoring Sterling’s previous question, April asks, “Do you have any strong feelings about fonts?” without looking up from the mockup samples.

“I’m not a fan of Comic Sans or Papyrus, if that’s what you mean,” Sterling says, sipping on her virgin margarita.

“Really? Darn, I was so hoping to have our invitations look exactly like the James Cameron Avatar logo,” April says, the sentence absolutely dripping with sarcasm. She just wants Sterling to actually act like all of this matters because while she knows full well that in the grand scheme of things, invitation fonts mean absolutely nothing, it’s a detail of an event that April will (hopefully) only ever get to plan once. And she is nothing if not one to pay attention to detail. But on the other hand, she knows being like this with Sterling is doing nobody any favors. “I’m sorry for being so snippy today,” she says solemnly, dipping a still-warm tortilla chip in salsa and crunching on it.

“No, I’m sorry. I know you’re just trying to do everything in what little time we have so our wedding is as amazing as it can be,” Sterling says, reaching across the table to put her hand on April’s. “I just don’t want you to burn yourself out. This is supposed to be a time when we can enjoy ourselves as a couple.”

April sighs, contemplating a moment before shutting the binder and putting it in the seat beside her. “You’re right,” she says, squeezing Sterling’s hand. “We’re only going to have so much time as an engaged couple, and before you know it, we’ll be settled in like an old married couple.”

“I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, though,” Sterling says with an optimistic little smile. “I mean, having you to come home to for the rest of my life is more than I could have ever asked for.”

April blushes. She hopes Sterling never loses her ability to make her feel like she’s the only woman in the world. “I’ll remember you said that sometime down the road when I’m nagging you to pick up the house.”

“I look forward to it,” Sterling says, smiling as if happily accepting a challenge. April feels Sterling’s foot find her own under the table, rubbing up April’s ankle. “That and chicken biscuits. I really look forward to you making those.”

“Ha. I think you’re just hungry,” April says, pushing the chip basket across the table towards Sterling, who doesn’t need to be asked twice to eat one.

“No but seriously, don’t ever tell my mom I said this, but you’re maybe my favorite cook in the whole world. Those stuffed mushrooms you made for the grad party rocked my world,” Sterling says with a far-off, almost lusty look on her face.

April has to cover her mouth to stop from laughing out loud. “Well then hopefully that means our life together is off to a good start. I’m already the wicked woman stealing you away from your mother,” she says teasingly, slipping her shoe off under the table to more easily join Sterling in her game of footsie just as their waitress comes around with their food, which effectively puts an end to meaningful conversation for the time being. April was right, Sterling was hungry.

“What are your thoughts on the song A Thousand Years for our first dance?” Sterling asks between bites of her smothered green burrito.

April’s caught slightly off guard, but she’s pleasantly surprised to have the conversation go in this direction. The wedding has quickly become her favorite subject. She smiles as she dabs the corners of her mouth with her napkin. “It’s pretty, though a bit overused, I think. Also a little dramatic, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from a song written for the Twilight soundtrack,” she answers Sterling’s question honestly, taking a bite of a shrimp taco. “But, I would be open to it if it’s something you really want.”

“No, that’s okay. I want it to be something we both love.” Sterling goes back to eating. “I mean, I’d dance to Gangnam Style if that’s what you wanted.”

“That’s not even funny,” April says, dead serious.

Always a smart girl, Sterling knows it’s time to shift the conversation. “So, have you given any thought to your dress? My mom told you she’s gonna pull some strings to get us appointments at Bridals by Lori, right?”

“Yeah, she did tell me that, and yes, I have been giving some thought to my dress, but I can’t exactly share with you. It’s bad luck,” April reaches across the table to steal Sterling’s margarita, taking a sip as she smiles at Sterling in a way that dares her to say anything about it. The concept of a mocktail is at its core ridiculous, but even April can’t deny there’s a certain appeal to what is essentially a lime slushie with a salted rim.

“Seriously? You can’t even tell me what kind of dress you’re thinking about? What if we get the same one?” Sterling asks, throwing out the most preposterous hypothetical April’s ever heard.

“Well, aside from the fact that your mom will be assisting in the decision process for both of us, we don’t have even close to the same taste in dresses. And no, I can’t tell you because then you’ll be able to visualize it and I want it to be a surprise” April returns the drink to its place on Sterling’s side of the table before she can give herself a brain freeze.

“You’re ridiculous, you know that, right?” Sterling asks, amused, and obviously endeared.

“Yes, and yet you love me anyway. So what does that say about you?” April teases and goes back to eating her dinner.

Now that the seed has been planted, it is all that April can think about. April isn’t too proud to admit that she’s envisioned many wedding dresses over the years. And to actually get to go to Bridals by Lori is like getting to live her own episode of Say Yes to the Dress.

Her vision of lace and veils is interrupted when their server brings the check, which Sterling immediately pays. “Are you ready to go?” Sterling asks with a look at her phone.

Reflexively April looks at her own phone, happy to note that they aren’t expected back for almost another hour.

“Uh, yeah…” April says, deciding she doesn’t have enough food left to warrant a to-go box and getting up from her seat. “Let’s go,” she says, holding out her hand for Sterling to take and leading her out of the restaurant and to the car, suddenly feeling hungry for something other than dessert. 

Sterling doesn’t even manage to get her door open before April has her up against the car, kissing her furiously. It says something about how little time they have to be alone when this kind of thing was a much more frequent occurrence when they were closeted.

“I’m not complaining, but maybe we should take this inside?” Sterling says, gesturing to the car when April is forced to stop kissing her for a moment to catch her breath.

April nods, her thoughts just clear enough to know that even a dark restaurant parking lot is probably a bit too out in the open to be practically fornicating with her betrothed.

Sterling hits the unlock button on her keyfob and opens the door to the backseat for April, allowing her to get in first and slide across the seat before joining her. “Hi,” she says with a smile after closing the door and locking it.

April giggles. “Hi.”

Sterling leans in to kiss April quickly before she climbs halfway over the center console to turn on the car’s stereo and plug her phone in with the aux cord.

April can’t help but enjoy the view of Sterling’s tight, jean-clad ass as she selects a playlist. “Are these new?” April asks, trying to sound as innocent as possible.

“Are what new?” Sterling asks, sounding confused.

“These,” April says, playfully smacking Sterling’s butt just as Lana Del Rey starts playing.

Sterling yelps, hitting her head on the ceiling of the car, and practically falling back into the seat with April. “What are you doing?” she asks, looking far more excited than scandalized.

“Just...admiring my future wife’s assets,” April says, cheekily, leaning in to whisper in Sterling’s ear, “What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is,” she sneaks her hand under Sterling, giving her ass a more purposeful squeeze, “mine.”

Sterling lets out a shuddering breath. “You’re going to make these next couple months really difficult for me,” she says, but in a matter of seconds is lying down on the seat and April takes that as an invitation to climb on top of her.

“You know, just because we can’t have sex doesn’t mean we can’t do other stuff,” she says, leaning in to kiss the sensitive spot under Sterling’s ear.

Sterling moans, biting her lip. “No fair,” she says, turning her head to capture April’s lips with hers, hands coming up to thread through April’s hair.

April smiles into the kiss, deepening it as she shifts her position on top of Sterling slightly to put her knee between Sterling’s legs, and as expected, Sterling grinds up into her, whimpering at the friction and continuing the motion until they’re interrupted by April’s phone buzzing in her pocket.

“Leave it, it’s probably a robocall!” Sterling whines when April sits up and takes it out of her pocket. 

It’s a number she doesn’t recognize but she answers it anyway.

“Hello, is this April Stevens?” A proper southern belle asks.

“This is she,” April responds, having practiced all her life to sound like an adult on the phone while Sterling makes a sort of exasperated huff from where she still lies on the car seat beneath her.

“Hi, Miss. Stevens. I’m sorry to call so late but I’m Wendy Sweeney, the wedding coordinator at Wimbish House, and I see we have you on standby for if any Saturdays opened up this August. Is now a bad time?” Wendy asks, along with the shuffling of papers on her end.

April sits up straighter, a grin spreading across her face as she realizes exactly what this call is about. “No, it’s not a bad time at all, Wendy. What’s going on?”

“It is a bad time, Wendy!” Sterling hisses in a whisper as April shoots her a warning look.

“Well, we had a last-minute cancellation for the 20th, if that would work out for you? I know this is short notice,” Wendy says, and it takes everything in April to contain herself when she answers.

“The 20th is perfect!” she says with glee, but reins herself in. “But may I ask what happened?” She doesn’t really need to ask, but with Sterling sitting up on her elbows, having surmised what this conversation is about, she needs to play dumb. She hits the speakerphone icon so Sterling can hear.

“Oh, the saddest thing. The cutest couple I ever saw and the cad gets caught talking to other girls two months before the wedding. Can you believe that?” the wedding coordinator says in outrage as Sterling shakes her head.

“I can. It’s why I’m marrying a woman,” April jokes, glad to hear Wendy laugh, and to see Sterling seem less upset about having been interrupted this time.

“Well, that’s certainly an idea! Anyway, I hope to meet you and your lovely fiancée soon and we can start working out details for your wedding! Have y’all got vendors lined up yet?” Wendy seems to have gotten over the loss of her previous couple quickly.

“We haven’t, so if you have some recommendations you could get together before our meeting, that would be lovely,” April says politely. “How does this Friday work for you?”

“Friday sounds great, Miss. Stevens. See you then!” Wendy says, and the two say their goodbyes before hanging up the phone.

“Okay, so it wasn’t a robocall,” Sterling says, not seeming upset to admit she was wrong. “We’re getting married on August 20th.”

“We’re getting married on August 20th,” April repeats for emphasis, squealing with excitement as she leans down to kiss Sterling again.