Santana is thirteen years old and her parents aren't so sure about her attending this wedding, but she is.
It makes perfect sense, if you think about it: the wedding is on Saturday in Columbus and cheer camp starts on Monday in Jackson. Since the Pierces already have to head south anyway, they might as well make a weekend trip of it and drop Brittany and Santana off at camp along the way. If they do, it will save Santana's parents the trouble of getting her to Jackson themselves. Besides, Santana knows Brittany's cousins like they're her cousins anyway, and she likes this particular cousin a lot, enough that she's actually really excited for this wedding.
It totally makes sense; trust her.
Eventually, Santana's parents do, on the condition that the Pierces actually accept some gas money this time.
Santana loves road trips with the Pierces, and not just because they have this uncanny ability to always find the best ice cream parlors in the little podunk towns where they stop to take their lunches—today, the K & K Dairy Corner in gray-tinged Belle Center—but because they're loud and they talk in the car, which is something that Santana's family never really does.
Santana likes the babble, likes how the Pierces point out interesting things to each other through the windows, and sing along to the songs on the radio, replacing the cusswords with funny fake-swears, as they constantly adjust and readjust the A/C.
Sometimes Santana thinks she fits better in this family than she does in her own.
Brittany and Santana sit in the backseat, trading two ice cream cones back and forth between them. Coarse salt and ice crystals rub against their tongues. Neither one of them could decide which flavor to get, so Brittany came up with this awesome plan: Santana would pick the one, Brittany the other, and then they could share. It was totally win-win. Brittany is a genius.
Brittany's mom sits on the center bench next to Brittany's little sister's car seat, reading to her about Winnie the Pooh. Brittany's dad is on the phone with his brother whose daughter is getting married this weekend; he keeps laughing really loudly and saying, "Oh Lord, buddy. Oh good Lord! Jesus!" and Brittany's mom just scrunches up her nose at him and shakes her head.
That night, after they settle in at Brittany's grandma's house, Mr. and Mrs. Pierce allow Brittany and Santana to stay home alone while they go to the rehearsal dinner, taking Brittany's little sister with them so that Brittany and Santana don't even have to babysit. With the rest of the family gone, Brittany and Santana end up watching MTV all night on the big screen in the basement, tucked beneath one of Brittany's grandma's afghans.
"Fergie is such a fucking slut," Santana says around a mouthful of popcorn.
Brittany scrunches her nose up at Santana's word choice, but doesn't scold her for it. She just shakes her head. "Hey, Santana?" she says. "Have you ever been to a wedding before?"
Santana pauses. "No. Have you?"
"No. Do you think it's like how it is in cartoons?"
It isn't like how it is in cartoons—not really anyway.
First of all, they have to wake up super early to get ready for the day.
Brittany forgot her razor back in Lima, so she has to borrow Santana's to shave her legs, which is kind of gross but whatever because they share everything anyway. Brittany's aunt tells them not to fill up on breakfast because there will be plenty of food at the luncheon reception later, but they sneak the donuts Brittany's PopPop left out on the counter anyway because—hello, donuts!—they're not going to pass on that.
Brittany isn't in the ceremony because she's too old to be the flower girl but too young to be a bridesmaid, but her cousin still wanted her to wear the wedding colors anyway, so her mom got her a new lavender dress; Santana wears lavender, too. It takes them forever to put on their make up because Brittany's mother keeps telling them they're overdoing it on the eye gunk and could they tone it down a little, girls, please? There will be plenty of time for all that at cheer camp.
Santana weaves a purple headband with silk flowers on it through Brittany's hair.
"Beautiful," she whispers.
"You, too, San," Brittany says, even though Santana just wears her hair down with light curls in it; she didn't do anything too special to fix it.
The second thing is that the wedding itself isn't very exciting.
The ceremony takes place in a chapel that's a lot plainer than any Santana's ever visited, with simple decor and wooden benches and a bunch of unlit candles. The bride's family sits on one side of the room and the groom's sits on the other, and most of the kids sort of crowd together on one of the benches, with the teenagers shushing the little ones, trying to keep everybody quiet, bouncing babies on their laps, feeling important, like they have something to do. Brittany and Santana are too old to count as little but too young to count as big; they sit somewhere in the middle of the group with Brittany's little sister next to them, secretly glad to have no more responsibility than that.
Two of Brittany's older girl cousins huddle behind them and gossip about how cute the groom is, wondering if he has brothers. Brittany knocks her shoes against Santana's and Santana knocks back. They both smile and touch their legs together. They don't wonder anything.
"Quit it, Britt," one of Brittany's older boy cousins hisses.
"Mind your business," Brittany says pertly, ignoring him, braiding her leg around Santana's ankle. Santana's heart speeds up, like it does so often now whenever she's with Brittany.
The ceremony includes a lot of talk about God and a lot of talk about love. Brittany's cousin looks beautiful in her dress; she's blonde, like Brittany, and tall, like everyone says that Brittany will be. Light catches on her spangled jewelry, refracted in prisms over the altar and against the colored glass in the windows.
When the pastor asks the bride to light one of the candles on the table behind her, she starts crying. When he asks the groom to do the same, he starts crying, too. Santana feels this funny, pinched feeling in her chest and reaches out her pinky to Brittany without saying a word. Brittany wraps their fingers together and gives Santana's a little tug when the pastor tells the groom that he may kiss his bride.
(Sometimes Santana feels bigger on the inside than she does on the outside, like there's some secret part of her that goes for miles.)
Lunch is boring and so are the few intervening hours between lunch and the actual night reception. Brittany and Santana spend the time hiding out in the coat nook at the banquet hall, steering clear of Brittany's aunts, who want them to fold napkins and put mints on all the tables. Instead of helping, they lay down in a pile of jackets, shawls, and sports blazers, Santana's earbuds strung between them, one for Brittany and one for Santana. They listen to music and run fingers through each other's hair, ignoring the ruckus going on outside.
Santana teeters on the brink of a nap; it's been a long day and everything started so early. Lying here with Brittany calms Santana, softens her muscles, and puts the thickness of sleep in her throat. Brittany reaches over and takes Santana's hand in hers, running her thumb over Santana's fourth knuckle in small, light circles.
"Did you see her ring?" Brittany asks.
"Yeah," Santana says dreamily. "It was pretty gaudy. He's like a lawyer or something, isn't he? Rich."
"Mm-hm," Brittany says, staring at Santana's hand. She seems somehow far away, even though she's actually so close that Santana could count her eyelashes.
Neither one of them says anything for a while. Brittany hums, shadows from the hangers above them playing over her face in stripes. She closes her pretty cat eyes and Santana wonders if they both won't just fall asleep that moment, but then Brittany pipes up.
"Did you know wedding rings go on your left hand because there's this line that connects it to your heart? Like a vein or something?" she says, staring at Santana, a new brightness in her voice.
"Weird," Santana says, impressed, turning her attention to her own left hand, where Brittany still massages her knuckle.
For a second, they stay quiet again, listening as the next song comes up on Santana's playlist. Then, at the same time, they reach over and link pinky-fingers. Brittany giggles, scooting slightly closer to Santana on their makeshift bed of coats.
Santana doesn't know why she says it, but she does: "Do you think this—," she gives their pinkies a little tug, "—will feel weird when we have wedding rings someday?"
She thinks she means one thing when she says it, but as soon as she does, it changes to mean something else. Heat spreads out across her skin and her heart beats crazy fast. Santana waits, breathless and suddenly nervous, like she just asked something really big, instead of a tame "What if?" type question.
Brittany looks at Santana like she's just noticed something new about her. She cocks her head to the side, curious, and Santana thinks Oh god, oh god, oh god.
Brittany smiles, lazy.
"No," she says simply, curling and uncurling her finger around Santana's, just to check.
Santana can't be sure, but it seems like Brittany knows something more than Santana does; that happens more and more often nowadays.
It takes another few seconds before Santana finally can exhale. "Okay," she says, and that's enough.
(It feels like a promise and Santana isn't sure why.)
The reception is the first actual fun activity they attend all day—maybe because it's at night and all the adults are already tipsy.
Nobody stops Brittany and Santana from sneaking champagne from an unattended table and no one looks twice at them when they get out on the dance floor and start spinning each other, barefoot and reckless, like there's no one else around them. Some of the groom's male cousins take an interest in them, but Brittany and Santana just ignore their catcalls; they're never going to see these idiots again, so what's the point, right?
The soles of their bare feet leave prints on the dance floor after them; Santana sees them catch the lights sometimes, toes and heel spots overlapping. When Brittany pulls her in close, Santana feels this heady rush. Brittany holds her by the wrist and twirls her in figure-eights around the floor.
By the time the garter toss rolls around, the groom is crimson faced and grinning, his tux jacket gone and cummerbund askew. His best man wolf whistles at him as he slips his head under Brittany's cousin's dress and heat rises to Santana's cheeks as he emerges, lace between his teeth, waggling his eyebrows while his old frat brothers applaud him, until she has to look away.
A few minutes later, when Brittany's cousin calls for all her "fabulous single girlies" to gather on the dance floor, Brittany and Santana beg Brittany's mother to let them join the rush, too. She relents, but tells them not to hurt anyone and reminds them that they're young still—don't go catching that bouquet too soon, girls, okay? Give her time.
They laugh and make promises they don't intend to keep, scampering out into the throng, jostling for a favorable position. Brittany's mother watches them go, wearing a tight smile that Santana can't quite read.
It's not so much that Santana really wants the bouquet for herself as it is that she wants the fun of leaping for it. She bumps hips with Brittany and stands on tiptoe, watching Brittany's cousin clutch her flowers in her hands. The bouquet has pansies, pale mauve hellebore, white roses, and yellow lilies. Brittany's cousin draws it to her face, inhaling its scent one last time, before she starts counting backwards from ten, feinting once before finally lobbing the bouquet as she reaches zero, throwing it over her shoulder with a throaty, hopeful laugh.
Almost as soon as the bouquet leaves her hands, the ribbon around the stems unravels. The bouquet hits an apex, illuminated in the lights. The women on the dance floor collectively shriek and move forward like the tide, their mouths open, eyes trained skyward, hands raised as if in prayer. There's music somewhere, and Santana laughs and Brittany laughs and then flowers rain on them.
It isn't a graceful shower, more like a cascade, but in the end, it's all the same: the bouquet falls apart, dropping a stream of blossoms like a trail of shooting stars. The crowd groans, but Brittany and Santana laugh as petals and stems shower down on them. There's something wonderful in the mistake.
Like most of the younger women around them, they scramble to salvage some of the tradition. Brittany comes away with a pansy and the top bloom of a lily, Santana with a pansy of her own. They hold the flowers up for each other to examine, grinning like idiots and happy; Brittany offers the lily remnant to one of the groom's younger sisters, but keeps her pansy for herself, threading it under her headband, then helps Santana tuck hers behind her ear.
The rest of the evening goes off without a hitch. The bride and groom smash cake into each other's faces, then duck away while the relatives continue to dance and drink. Brittany's dad allows the girls a sip of champagne each, not knowing that they've already had some, as long as they promise not to tell Mrs. Pierce; later, Brittany's PopPop does the same when he thinks that Grandma isn't looking. By the end of the night, Santana feels dizzy. She and Brittany amble out of the reception hall, pinky-in-pinky, retreating to the coat nook, where they collapse back onto their bed of discarded outerwear.
"Are we drunk?" Brittany asks, practically shouting.
"Shh!" Santana says. She doesn't think they are, but it's kind of fun to pretend.
"We should have a wedding every weekend!" Brittany crows, still dancing to the throb of the bass thumping from the hall, even though they can no longer hear the melody which accompanies it.
"Shh!" Santana says again, pressing a finger over her lips. She's never felt so giddy and warm and careless in her life. "I'm tired, Britty," she says. "Like really fucking tired."
Brittany shrugs, still grinning. "Okay, so go to sleep."
They nestle down onto their nest of jackets and Brittany pulls a blazer over their legs, humming. The silk lining on the inside of the blazer licks against their smooth skin, cooler than they are. The blazer barely covers both of them, but neither Brittany nor Santana complains.
"I'm tired, too," Brittany yawns. "All that dancing."
They both sigh, deep.
"Don't smash your flower," Brittany says, reaching over to adjust Santana's pansy where it rests against her head.
"Won't," Santana mumbles.
"Buenas noches, señorita," Brittany whispers. She closes her eyes, and for a second Santana does, too. It's after midnight, which isn't really all that late for them, but late enough that they can both go to sleep without feeling too much like babies for doing it. Brittany's dad will find them when he comes to retrieve his jacket. He can wake them up to go to the car; the party probably won't last that much longer now anyway.
"Brittany?" Santana breathes after a few minutes.
Santana doesn't dare open her eyes. Instead, she just edges closer to Brittany on their pile of jackets, careful not to dislodge the one covering their legs.
"BrittBritt?" she whispers again.
Santana strokes her fingers down Brittany's forearm, feeling over the bones in her wrist, until her hand rests on Brittany's hand. Santana finds Brittany's fourth knuckle and presses down on it, testing. Her body hums with something, like a tune Santana knows, but can't place, and she thinks it must be the champagne doing it. Brittany sleeps and Santana feels almost asleep herself.
"Thank you," Santana whispers against Brittany's cheek, not quite sure what for.
In the morning, she won't remember it and neither will Brittany.
She presses a kiss to Brittany's lips before giving into dreaming.