The first time she hears Avery’s middle name, Juliette is ridiculously pregnant, with aching feet, heartburn, weird cravings - the works, it seems like. Still, she’s happy enough to be standing in a small sunlight room before a Justice of the Peace, smiling up at her soon to be husband. Perhaps if she didn't have such an enormous belly she would have a preferred a more elaborate affair, complete with photographers and a magazine deal, but somehow, she’s more than happy with this simple, small ceremony, with Emily and Glenn their two required witnesses. The three people in this room are part of an extremely small group of people in her life that actually mean something to her, and the day she marries Avery is one of the happiest days she has ever experienced, even with her bladder protesting the length of the ceremony and her feet hurting for having to stand upright for so long, even though the ceremony is much shorter than a proper one would be.
She makes the ceremony even longer though, by bursting into laughter when the Justice of the Peace begins to tell Avery the vows he needs to recite. It is the sort of laughter that she cannot stop, the one which bubbles up her throat and escapes out of her mouth, her nose, her eyes, and Avery’s perplexed expression only makes her laugh more.
Avery Aaron Barkley.
Nothing has made her more certain that she and Avery were meant to be together. Hearing the Justice of the Peace murmur such a phrase makes her feel a sense of certainty similar to the one she experienced when allowing Glenn to whisk her away from her life of trailers and leering older men.
For Avery may be Avery Aaron Barkley, but she is Juliette Jolene Barnes. Seemingly, their parents are the only four people in the world to feel the need to lump their children with an alliterative name, for she has never come across another person blessed with such a gift. To be fair though, whilst she has met a lot of people, she surely has not met the world’s entire population…and besides that, middle names are generally not something people reveal about themselves. She and Avery haven’t, not until this very moment.
She smooths a hand over her belly as she finally finishes giggling, her free hand placed firmly on Avery’s chest in an attempt to steady herself. “I’m sorry,” she murmurs, laughing no more but grinning oh so very widely. “Please continue,” she tells the Justice of the Peace, her hand in Avery’s once more. Her soon to be husband’s brow is still furrowed in confusion, and Emily and Glenn are wearing matching expressions, puzzled by her laughter.
But as soon as Avery hears the Justice of the Peace recite her name, mere moments later, his confusion fades away to amusement, Avery beaming at her. They are still grinning up at each other, perhaps in delight that they have finally overcome all of the obstacles preventing them from being together, perhaps in amusement from their matching alliterative names, for the remainder of their vows. No matter the reason, it is their matching grins that are forever immortalised in Emily's photographs, their smiling lips meeting tenderly in their first kiss as husband and wife, the Justice of the Peace pronouncing them to be Mr. and Mrs. Barkley.
They sign their marriage certificate as Avery A. Barkley and Juliette J. Barnes-Barkley, the pair collapsing into laugher once more as soon as they see their names scrawled in such a fashion.
“What do you think about Bella?” Avery asks mere weeks later, Juliette’s aching feet firmly planted in his lap and Avery’s nimble fingers working tirelessly to sooth them. A book of baby names, flipped to the female section, is open on the couch beside him, his free hand turning the pages. At his question, Juliette lifts her gaze away from the television, the combination of salted caramels and some trashy reality show solely capturing her attention and making her forget about anything other than the meaningless plight of Amanda someone or other.
She narrows her eyes at Avery and shakes her head, reaching for another caramel. “Too cliché,” she says around the salty treat, before flipping her gaze back to the screen. Avery thinks he’s lost at least a hundred brain cells from simply having the show play in the background as he’s reading, and he's not quite sure why Juliette enjoys it so much.
“I think it’s nice,” he protests, pausing in massaging Juliette’s feet. The inaction on his part, or rather, from his fingers, makes his wife turn her gaze back to him, brow arched.
“So do hundreds of other parents, courtesy of the Twilight series. I’m not going to have our daughter have a name that will be shared by at least five other girls in her year. She’s already going to stand out, I’m not going to make it any more difficult for her.”
Avery nods in agreement, knowing by now just when to admit to defeat when it comes to Juliette Barnes, flipping the book back a few pages. “Okay then, how about Aria?”
“Haven’t you heard of Pretty Little Liars?” Juliette rebuffs. "Or, Game of Thrones? No thanks."
And on and on it goes. He’d thought that they’d decided to go with something musically inspired, because hello, they're Juliette Barnes and Avery Barkley, there is no way their daughter isn’t going to grow up in a house constantly filled with music. And it makes sense, because music is how they first connected, the reason for them forming a friendship that led to love. But for some reason, one entirely unbeknownst to him, every name he suggests is met by a reason to dislike it from Juliette –
“Is every name you suggest going to be from a Disney movie?”
“She’s not a freaking bird, Avery! Seriously, from the size of my damn stomach she’s more likely to be a hippo!” Which, Juliette has often though, is quite odd. The size of her stomach and quite possibly the size of her baby, does not match her and Avery’s stature, because neither of them are particularly tall people. Secretly, Avery thinks, it’s because of all of Juliette’s cravings, his wife lusting after foods high in sugar and salt, not healthy counterparts like fruit or vegetables. He doesn’t mind though. Happy mother, happy baby, he thinks, and isn’t that the most important thing?
And Juliette doesn’t truly mind the size of her stomach, not when Avery runs his hands over it so tenderly, not when it’s proof that she’s serving a purpose better than teeny-bop records and meaningless one night stands. She’s happy, at last, and her body is proof of that, so mere seconds after complaining about her belly Avery entirely expects it when she asks, “Can you please pass me another caramel?”
“How to Get Away with Murder? I’ve met Viola Davis, and she’s lovely, but I’m not going to have the tabloids presume I’ve named my daughter after her in a bid to suck up to such a great actress.”
“You have to be kidding me. No way. Not a chance in hell, Avery.”
It is after a particularly loud, exasperated sigh from Juliette (her response to his suggestion of ‘Carol’) that Avery eventually gives up, closing the book of baby names with a solid thud and lifting Juliette’s feet off of his lap. His wife grumbles in protest, particularly at his announcement that he’s going to bed, but her television show soon returns from commercial and with her bag of caramels safely within reach she forgets all about following after Avery and soothing his obvious annoyance.
Honestly, she thinks, Amanda someone or other weeping on screen. It isn’t as if the baby’s due tomorrow, they have time. And most of the books she’s read (or the ones Emily’s read, reporting the important information back to her) say that it’s common for first-time parents to be unsure about their baby’s name, sometimes for up to a month after the birth. Anyway, the more undecided they are about the name, the less chance the press have of figuring it out, and that’s a fantastic reason for not choosing the name right now...in her eyes at least.
However, when she finally waddles to bed, half-eaten packet of salted caramels safely stashed in the cupboard for when her cravings hit sometime tomorrow, the sight of Avery, lying flat on their bed and obviously still wide awake, causes her heart to pang and guilt to settle in her throat. Juliette furrows her brow, quickly curling up next to him, the bed warm where he has been laying. He lets her lace her fingers with his without protest, pressing a kiss to her temple as she tries to fit her ever-expanding belly comfortably between them, Avery’s arm winding around her back.
“I’m sorry,” she murmurs, because she’s trying to become more aware of how her actions hurt people. And apologising never hurt anyone, especially when she’s apologising to the man she loves. Avery says nothing, but she continues on, not deterred by his silence, “It’s just, I don’t see the point in picking out a name when she’s not even here yet. What if we spend hours flipping through that book, arguing over names, only to realise when she’s born that she doesn’t suit it at all?”
“I get it,” Avery finally replies, pulling her closer to him and sighing into her hair. The baby kicks his palm, and he smiles at the feeling. “And you’re right. We have time, we can wait. My parents didn’t name me until I was a week old, and besides, it’s fun to look at all the names we could possibly give our daughter.”
“Well she is going to be in the spotlight, so we do have to give her a nice name. Nothing too cliché, nothing too unique. I know I was forever annoyed that my mama named me Juliette, because what was so great about my life that it warranted me being named after such a famous figure? I, obviously, didn’t know about the tragedy behind Romeo and Juliet just then." She laughs softly. "Still, we have to name her something that fits her,” Juliette tells him, rubbing her hand over her belly. “I know it’s going to be hard, but how will we know what fits her when we don’t even know her yet, not truly?”
Avery nods in the darkness of their bedroom, inhaling deeply. “So, we’ll wait. We’ll compile a list of names that we like the best, and when she’s born we’ll choose from that list. Or maybe we won’t. Either way, we’ll figure it out when she’s born.”
“Procrastination at its finest,” Juliette giggles, pressing a kiss to his cheek.
They lie together in the dark for a few moments, Juliette aware that she’ll have to use the bathroom soon enough but content to curl up with Avery for the time being. And Avery is more than happy to hold her in his arms, their hands placed over her belly where their daughter grows, entirely unsure how in only a few short years since arriving in Nashville he has gotten so very lucky.
Juliette is the one to break the silence, a thought popping into her head. “We aren’t going to give her an alliterative first and middle name, are we?” she says, looking up at Avery and unlacing their hands to switch on the bedside lamp. Avery blinks rapidly, his eyes annoyed at the sudden influx of light, Juliette slowly coming into focus. Her wife is worrying her lip, eyes wide as she looks up at him, and he almost laughs at the sight.
“Not if you don’t want to,” he reassures her, running a hand down her back. She continues to worry her lip, so Avery murmurs, “I mean, I hated my parents a little for doing that to me. It wasn’t the worst thing they did, but still. Avery Aaron? A.A? I’m sure they knew what they were doing,” he says, shaking his head.
“Try being J.J,” Juliette counters, arching an eyebrow at him. “My first day of school, the administration had accidentally shorted my name to J.J, so the teacher thought I was a boy and protested to my mama for at least an hour that she wasn’t going to let me into the classroom, that this J.J was due to arrive any minute. It took the principal to convince her otherwise, but the nickname stuck for at least a year.”
Avery chuckles at the thought, his Juliette, the high-fashion, oodles of makeup, expensive jewellery Juliette, being confused for a boy. It is a confusion he’s sure has never happened again, but his wife still seems disgruntled by it. Much like he’s still annoyed by the A.A jest of his youth, which began when one opened up in Akron and his peers somehow found about his middle name. That’s why he’s sure they won’t inflict the same fate on their daughter, for while middle names often remain a secret to the rest of the world, the middle name of Juliette Barnes’ daughter surely won’t.
Avery’s certainty lasts right up until the moment Juliette looks up at him in her hospital room, their newborn daughter asleep in his arms, and murmurs, “What do you think about Cadence?” And before he can murmur an affirmative yes, a smile spreading across his lips, Juliette continues, “Cadence Claire?”
And that’s the name Avery writes on his daughter’s birth certificate, his prior certainty shattered but his heart filled with joy.
They renew their vows on their fifth wedding anniversary, something unusual but entirely them. They’ve been through a lot in the last five years – Cadence’s birth, Juliette’s post-partum, Juliette leaving them and spiralling via drugs and alcohol, her entering rehab and getting clean and then getting treatment for her post-partum, Avery refusing to see her, refusing to have anything to do with her, until Cadence pressed a salted caramel into his palm and he wept in Gunnar’s sunlight kitchen. Their reunion was not an easy one, but there’s nothing he would change about it. Juliette has made amends, and he’s forgiven her. That’s the way relationships go, and theirs is stronger for all the trauma it has endured.
They renew their vows in the backyard of their newly finished house, situated in the middle of the land Juliette purchased years ago, with room aplenty for their family and friends. Juliette is radiant in her dress, his wife ecstatic that she’s finally able to wear a designer wedding gown after being heavily pregnant the last time around. Cady, as everyone has taken to calling her, to Avery's annoyance but Will's utter delight, is their flower girl, their daughter’s hair curled just like her mama’s. And little dark-haired Reed Robert, the child both Avery and Juliette were anxious about having after all their troubles after having Cadence, follows after his sister as their ring-bearer, their happy and entirely beloved two-year-old steady on his feet.
The press has dubbed them ‘Nashville’s #1 Musical Family’, shifting such a title from Rayna and her girls to them, but neither Avery nor Juliette mind. Music is how they connected, music is how they fell in love, and music will always be a big part of their life. They sing their special lullaby to their children each and every night they’re both at home, and Cadence is beginning to learn how to play the piano, an instrument her daddy is more than happy to help her with. And from the sound of Reed’s screaming whenever he throws a tantrum, which, thankfully, is very rare, it sounds like they have another award-winning singer on their hands.
They wouldn’t have it any other way, alliterative names included.
They let the kids write their names alongside theirs on their unnecessary but lovely second marriage certificate, Reed needing assistance from his mama, his tiny hand encased in hers, and Cadence messily scrawling her name so large it takes over the page. Avery has it framed, and hangs it in his office, where he can look at it every early morning and late night he spends away from his family. On occasion Juliette steals it, stashing it away in one of her bags she's taking on tour with her, where Facetime and Skype calls pale in comparison to actually being with her family.
And when Juliette never returns the certificate, Avery frames one of Cadence's paintings instead, his daughter's teacher having written 'The Barnes-Barkley family' along the bottom of his daughter's extremely colourful artwork, his body a dark brown shade whilst Juliette's hair is green. He often shakes his head at it in amusement, for after both of them being so certain that they would never stoop to alliterative names, who would have thought they'd become the alliterative musical family of Nashville?
Honestly, he's just glad the next one is going to be a girl, because there's so many more musically inspired names for girls then there is for boys.
Allegra Adaline (Ally for short) shall be a welcome addition to their family in about four months, and although Juliette swears that this baby shall be their last, Avery thinks that he might be able to persuade her into having another. Their house does have numerous bedrooms that need to be filled, after all.
But another baby or not, Avery knows he'll never be as happy as he is now, his eldest daughter tapping away at the piano whilst Juliette sings and Reed bangs blocks together, their little musical family content with just being together.