Although Alex's book never made it to any of the bestsellers lists, she sold more than 800,000 copies and grossed a handsome sum. She, along with the advice of her attorney, decided to use an alias for her own safety, but that didn't stop a few people—decent people—from figuring out the author's true identity. She was asked to speak at local events, high schools, and colleges, and often got paid for her time.
The success of Poppy had as much to do with Alex as it did Piper. They decided to keep the operation in the Queens warehouse and to pour their products by hand. They'd had to hire three more full-time employees, and they kept the internship program running strong through Pace University. The Harrods deal put a strain on the relationship between the two women for a couple of months as each worked between 90 and 100 hours per week, including time packaging items one by one, but once the original Harrods' order was filled, they vowed to never let that happen again, even if it meant less take home pay.
They returned to London for the debut of Poppy at Harrods and decided to take three weeks off to slow down and enjoy each other's company. Of course, there was still work to be done even while they were abroad, but working 20 hours a week from a remote location was far better than the hours they'd logged over the past six months in New York. They traveled to Barcelona, the French Riviera and Northern Italy, staying in quaint hotels along the way. There were nights when they sweat on the dance floor until 3 a.m. and nights when they went to sleep at 9 p.m. They made love under the shade of an oak tree and fucked in the middle of a lavender field. Every day was a new adventure, and both of them soaked it up, still enjoying their freedom, their money and each other. One thing that never got old was waking up every morning without fear of a drug raid or a prison guard walking by.
A full two years after Alex's release from Litchfield, the women decided it was time to move out of their cramped, 450 square foot studio apartment and into something more spacious on the Upper West Side. They found a fully renovated, two-story brownstone two blocks from a Subway station that appealed to both women.
Life moved at a rapid pace, but they never let their routine become boring. When Alex started feeling a bit claustrophobic, Piper whisked her away to Montreal or Boston or some other Eastern seaboard city for the weekend. They went to the theater once a month and tried a different restaurant every week. Piper got back into jogging and yoga, while Alex developed an affinity for New World wines. She was planning a trip for the two of them to Napa Valley in the fall.
After realizing that their Saturday nights were booked for the next two months, Piper convinced a stubborn Alex to host a housewarming brunch instead of a cocktail party or dinner. They invited an eclectic group of guests, knowing full well that it could either be a disastrous choice or filled with fascinating conversations. The ones who showed included Cal and Neri, George Manning and his wife, Rachel and her new girlfriend, Lorna Morello, who had recently been released from Litchfield, and the three former interns, now full-time employees at Poppy.
Piper had woken up at dawn to begin cooking, and Alex woke up an hour later, reaching for her lover and not finding her in bed. The kitchen looked like a bag of flour had exploded, but Piper assured the brunette that she had everything under control.
The guests complimented Piper on the food, and the Quiche Lorraine was a particular hit. Piper was bowled over by the praise, and even more struck by the fact that George's wife wanted one of the recipes.
Just before dessert, which consisted of chocolate éclairs and profiteroles that Alex had insisted on purchasing from the bakery down the street, Lorna and Alex found themselves at the opposite end of the room near the bar.
"I know that look," Lorna said with a smile plastered on her face.
Alex filled a glass with ice cubes. "What look?"
"The look of love," she said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "My sister used to tell me I looked at Christopher that way."
"Well, I guess I should love Piper considering we live together." She smirked and handed Lorna a freshly made Bloody Mary.
"It's more than that." She plucked an olive off the spear in her Bloody Mary with her front teeth. "I remember watching you two when we were at Litchfield, and I could tell there was something there even before you two made it public. But the way you look at Chapman now is different; it's more…relaxed."
"Not a lot of relaxation happening in prison, Morello," Alex reasoned.
Lorna smiled broadly. "Yeah, yeah, but you loved her then, and you love her now."
The taller woman shook her head and huffed. "If you would've told me even two years ago that I'd be living in a brownstone on the Upper West Side and hosting a fucking brunch, I would've told you, 'No fucking way. That's not me.'" Alex looked up and sighed. "I don't even know how I got here, to tell you the truth. I look back on the past ten years and wonder how in the hell I ended up with Piper Fucking Chapman, making a decent living and actually being happy."
"Happiness looks good on you," Lorna replied.
Alex looked across the room and observed Piper gesticulating wildly with her hands, telling the Cal and Neri a story about the time she put dishwashing detergent in the laundry machine.
"Sometimes I catch a glimpse of her doing something completely familiar, like putting her hair in a ponytail or stirring a pot on the stove, and I can't tear my eyes away. I mean, who am I, right?" Alex let out a truncated laugh. "I'm the chick with the tattoos who ran a fucking international drug operation. I'm unpredictable and dangerous—or at least I was." She pushed her glasses higher on her nose. "And now I'm this domestic, partnered, conventional woman."
Lorna tilted her head. "Is that so bad?"
"No." Alex snapped out of her musing. "I'd be lying if I said it didn't scare the crap out of me sometimes, but most of the time, I love it. That's the part that shocks the hell out of me—that I could love this fucking ordinary life."
Lorna rubbed Alex's arm and leaned in close. "You're a very lucky woman, Vause."
Just then, Piper approached with an empty champagne flute ready to be refreshed. She circled Alex's waist with her left arm. "It just got awfully quiet over here. What are you two gossiping about?"
"I was just saying that you two make a lovely couple." Lorna smiled. "Thank you for inviting me. I'm glad we're still friends outside of prison."
"Me, too." Piper smiled at the shorter woman. "You're welcome here any time."
The guests departed at 2 p.m., and the women spent 30 minutes cleaning. There was only one party foul: Royce spilled some of his Bloody Mary on their new rug, but it was nothing that a little Spray-N-Wash couldn't handle.
"I never thought I'd utter the words, 'I hosted brunch' in my life," Alex said, carrying the last of the dirty dishes to the kitchen. "In fact, I don't think I've ever been to brunch."
The blonde rinsed the dishes and placed them into the dishwasher (a luxury appliance that she often praised to anyone who would listen.)
Alex poured two mimosas. "In my estimation, brunch is just an excuse to booze during breakfast."
The blonde giggled as she wiped crumbs off the counter. She took the proffered champagne flute. "I think we might have gotten George's wife drunk."
"I think you might've gotten me drunk," the brunette announced.
"Nooo! Really?" Piper swatted playfully at her arm.
"I'm tipsy, that's for sure. Sparkling wine does it to me every time." She grabbed her girlfriend's hand and pulled her towards their new, plush sofa. "Did you enjoy hosting, Betty Crocker?"
"I did." Piper kissed Alex's shoulder, and then rested her head on it. "But it's a lot of fucking work."
"I told you we should've gotten it catered," she complained, taking a small sip.
"I wanted to cook something in our home," Piper countered, swinging her bare feet onto the coffee table and crossing her legs at the ankles. "Even if it tasted bad, at least I made it."
Alex kissed her on the side of the head. "Everything was delicious, babe, even the fucking quiche."
They were silent for a moment, enjoying their mimosas and the stillness around them.
Alex released a long breath as she absentmindedly played with a strand of blonde hair. "Do you ever think about marriage?"
Piper lifted her head and stared at her partner. "I used to think about it a lot; now, not so much."
"Do you think you would've been happy with Larry?" she asked, still toying with her lover's hair, but not looking directly at her.
She'd considered that question internally for years, but this was the first time Alex had asked about it. She paused before carefully responding, "I think ultimately, I would've realized that I was living the life everyone else wanted for me, not the life I wanted for myself." She sat up straight, putting her feet on the ground, and turning her body towards her partner. "God knows, I never want to go back to prison, but without having been there, I don't think I'd have the outlook I do now."
The dark haired woman smirked and rubbed her girlfriend's knee. "That's pretty fucking mature, Pipes."
"What made you ask that?"
Alex stilled her hand and looked at Piper's wide, blue eyes. "I've been thinking about it recently."
"Yeah." She shrugged. "I mean, I never thought about it, like ever, until this year, but now I can't fucking stop thinking about it."
Piper's forehead creased. "I had no idea."
"I can't fathom being with anyone else." The brunette sat a little taller. "You make me laugh, you make me cry on occasion, you listen to me, and you support some of my ridiculous ideas. Even after 15 years, I still think you're the sexiest fucking woman on the planet." She shoved a piece of hair behind her ear and smiled demurely, and the blonde thought for a split second that Alex might cry. "Piper, I know this might sound fucking insane coming from me, but I think we should get married."
"Now I know you're drunk," Piper teased with a slap on her leg.
The dark haired woman scooted towards the end of the cushion and took Piper's hand in hers. "I'm serious. What's stopping us?"
Piper sobered. "We've never had this conversation, for one."
"Let's have it now." She pushed her glasses on top of her head. "Do you want to marry me?"
Piper felt dizzy—she'd never considered marriage with Alex because she didn't think her lover was the marrying kind. She had only just come to accept the fact that Alex truly did love her and wasn't going to run off to God-knows-where because she was bored.
She took a deep breath. "I knew from the moment you met me in that dilapidated greenhouse that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you, Al." Piper squeezed her girlfriend's hand. "And I guess I never really cared what that looked like in terms of defining things."
"So what if it looks like a ring and a piece of paper that legally binds us together?" Alex questioned.
Piper raised her eyebrows. "Does this have something to do with the legal part?"
"No!" Alex shook her head. "It has to do with the I-don't-want-to-spend-a-single-day-without-you part."
The blonde ran the pad of her thumb across her girlfriend's knuckles and looked up from their joined hands. "Are you proposing to me, Alex?"
"I don't have a ring, but yeah, I guess I am." She kissed the back of Piper's hand. "You want me to get down on one fucking knee?" She asked with some amount of giddiness.
Piper bit her lower lip and felt the sting of tears, threatening to fall.
Alex smiled and grabbed both of her lover's hands, placing them in her lap. "You're it for me, Pipes. I'll take you and this ordinary life…forever. Let's fucking get married."
The blonde grabbed Alex's face with both hands, planting kisses on her cheeks, chin and then on her mouth. In between kisses, Piper chanted, "Yes," and realized that there was nothing wrong with ordinary.
Author's Note: Thank you for coming along on this ride. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this story, and I'm thrilled to share it with you. Thanks for the reviews-I'd love to know what you think now that the book is closed.