It wasn't a terrifying word anymore.
There were different fears and regular hesitations attatched to it now, but it didn't bear down on them like something alive and very painful. It didn't weigh overhead, or press down against their hearts. In fact, it kind of sent a thrill through both of them. A silent thrill, a get on the phone and call your mom thrill, a make a scene in a resturaunt thrill.
Ashley had asked, of course. There weren't steady and structured lines between their relationship, but when the time came Spencer dropped the hints and Ashley bought the jewelrey. It happened in a quiet cafe at six in the morning, before Ashley went to work and right after Spencer's early morning jog. Their seperate habits had merged into a routine, one they had accepted without noticing, and this wasn't a break in it. This was a solidifying of it.
The word, breathed through Ashley's early morning lips and one Spencer could feel pouring toward her, down on her, made her heart jump. Ashley could still do that; at one in the morning when she crawled into bed with hooded eyes, at three in the afternoon when she squealed to a stop in her shiny sports car. And at six in the morning on her knee in a mostly empty coffee shop.
Spencer nodded her head, because words had failed her, and teared up and grinned and cried and laughed all at once, because everything-the word and the emotions and the jewelrey- it all ran swiftly through her, like a sudden flood or a rush of fire. It lit her up.
They didn't tell the people they had thought all their lives they would call, because they had broken bridges that weren't healed yet, that may never heal. They told new people, new friends who only knew half-stories but had shared wine and books and long nights with them. There was squealing and jumping and hugging, but when everyone went home they wrapped up in each other's arms and didn't cry for the longest while. Eventually, Ashley felt Spencer's warm tears on her neck and she tightened her grip. They let one night soak up the ache they wished they didn't have to feel.
Dinner was planned, family and friends invited. They wrapped hands around each other and went through everything as if it was a first. It was, really. They were a first.
Paula came, newly sober with her eyes shining bright. Glen wrapped his baby sister up in the tightest hug he could manage, his lean muscles bulging under his suit jacket. Clay and Chelsea came, a child in both their arms, and Clay pulled off his glasses to wipe at a tear that threatened. Arthur came last and exchanged awkward words with Paula. When he saw Spencer, his whole demeanor changed.
That was when Spencer cried.
Christine came, of course. She was grinning so brilliantly Ashley couldn't stand it, so she just wrapped her mother in a hug and tried to drain some of that confidence. But she stopped when she saw who lingered behind the older woman. Kyla came, fingers toying nervously with her clutch. They hesitated in front of each other, but when Ashley opened her arms, Kyla fell into them. They hugged tightly, as tight as they had in three years ago before Ashley left.
That was when Ashley cried.
They were both missing people. Aiden and Madison had been forcefully forgotten, hated almost, and at the least despised. Truths had come out and when they were out of the mess, they could look back clearer. It didn't ease the sharp pain of betrayal.
But it wasn't scary, to them. They had each other.
Days passed and events came closer. Family members moved into hotels and spare bedrooms. They fell asleep each night in each other's arms, without that ache. Without that pain. Things had to be forgiven, because otherwise they couldn't be forgotten. Otherwise, Ashley and Spencer couldn't be whole.
Ashley got a new dress. Her old one held memories that she had to remember, but she didn't want to carry them everywhere with her. Spencer found the perfect one at the second store. They met raised eyebrows, but friendly smiles. They rented and bought and booked and talked and fought until they were so close they were on the edge of their seats. And they fell asleep every night by each other, in their own apartment, with their own routine.
The night before, Spencer lay in bed by herself while Ashley slept a few miles away. She thought and she dreamed and she wished and she felt, most of all, because these were her thoughts and dreams and wishes and they were coming true. The word wasn't scary. It was destiny.
Ashley pulled the unfamiliar sheets around her shoulders and wondered if you were supposed to be this scared, this awed, by the next day. By the long event that would only ever happen once, because it was Spencer and of course it had to happen. There was promises and fate or something that pulled them together. She decided she wasn't scared. She was ready. It was a big word. It made her feel wanted.
When the day finally came with the rising of the sun, they were both asleep. Slowly, the momentum increased as their own mixtures of best men and bridesmaids woke them and brought breakfast, made them eat, laughed and joked and squealed and all they could think about was each other. Dresses were zipped up, cars flew back and forth, people arrived, everyone was talking all the time and when it turned quiet her stomach rolled and, quite suddenly, Spencer found herself in a fancy room surrounded by some of the people she loved. Voices echoed through the whole church as she waited, impatiently. She knew Ashley was a few rooms over. She could feel her. Glen placed a gentle hand on her shoulder and she grinned, so widely.
Ashley let Kyla check the back of her dress as she examined herself in the mirror. Trey lingered to the right, looking more nervous than herself. Ashley's heart thumped and she couldn't remember if she'd ever been in possession of her stomach. She was gonna throw up, she knew it. Then she smiled, so softly and lovingly you would have thought Spencer was in the room. She wasn't, but Ashley could feel her.
Then it was time.
Neither went in first. They hadn't known how to work it, until they'd seen the old, abandoned church. They went in together, from almost opposite sides. Their eyes met halfway through and Ashley smiled big. Smiled, so nervously. Spencer smiled back so softly it almost hurt. Ashley almost hurt, she looked so gorgeous. They met in the middle. They always met in the middle.
They were Spencer and Ashley.
The word wasn't scary anymore. It wasn't even hesitant or nervous or quiet.
It was real.
They were married.