While Terry had been expecting there to be some sort of consequence for the four and half months she’d spent being dosed with triple strength LSD and then observed by a supposed doctor, she definitely hadn’t been expecting her actual doctor to tell her this.
Sure, she’d been spotting erratically instead of having actual periods the past several months, even after the lab visits ended, and she’d felt tired and hungry, even though no matter how much she ate she barely gained anything, other than the bit of fat on her stomach. But, well, she’d been a human lab rat. They’d probably messed with her thyroid or glucose or something. She was expecting to be told she was diabetic now.
Not pregnant. Not seventh months pregnant.
The doctor was still staring at her, waiting for a response, and she managed to gasp out, “Oh.”
“Are you… married?” He glanced toward her empty finger, eyebrows raised.
“Um, no… my boyfriend—” She was still too shocked to be bothered by the judgement in the doctor’s eyes, too busy trying to come to terms with the news. “I’ll have to tell to him. Before anything.”
“I know of some places… if you decide you don’t want it. You can disappear for a while and come back and no one will be any the wiser,” he offered. “Would you want any information about that?”
She shook her head, hand resting on her stomach, where the tiny life she’d just discovered bulged just slightly. “No, no thank you. I just need to talk to my boyfriend.”
He shrugged as if she was making an unwise choice, but finished the visit and sent her on her way with a note suggesting vitamins as well as a few pamphlets. The whole walk to the bus stop, she couldn’t keep her hand off her stomach, feeling a slight flutter inside.
A baby. Already mostly grown. God, how had she not known? She’d just assumed the stomach pains were cramps from her messed up period, or gas or something. Not anything unusual. Definitely not a baby.
They always used protection. They were careful. Was there a time they hadn’t been? No, not that she could remember but the bulge pressing against the fabric of her blouse made it clear she was wrong.
She was suddenly grateful she hadn’t been drinking or smoking as much. It hadn’t been as fun, getting high, after being forced to get high and trip into the abysses of your own mind. For a brief moment she wondered if any of the experiments could have hurt the baby, but decided that since it was still healthy enough to kick, it must be okay.
It had been odd, how quickly the Hawkins Lab had just… ceased to exist. She remembered the last day, how that odd alarm had gone off, a voice saying “Code Indigo” over and over, and then Brenner had all but sprinted from the room. It had been during the most intense part of her trip and she wasn’t sure if the screaming she’d heard outside the room had been real or not, if the orderly who had hurried her down the hall and out of the building with Gloria, Ken, and Alice all behind her had been actually worried or if her brain had made his eyebrows extra big and hairy and angry. That was the last time she’d seen the place and the secrets it held inside.
And then she and the others had been called to the administration office a few days later, told nothing other than they had fulfilled their requirements and would receive full credit and compensation but that the program in Hawkins had been shut down indefinitely and they were no longer required to show up.
At first Terry had been disappointed that she’d been unable to unlock the secrets of what the government had been doing, but as the months passed and she’d stayed in a weird funk, she’d cared less about the secrets and more about what they had potentially done to her body.
But apparently they hadn’t done anything. Andrew had.
Taking a deep breath as she sat on the bus seat, she pictured his face, his easy smile and hazel-brown eyes that had the slightest dapple of green, trying to imagine how he would react to the news.
Oh, he was going to be fucking thrilled.
A soft smile tugged at her lips. At least that wasn’t something she would have to worry about, the man accountable for the life inside of her skipping out on the responsibility of it. Definitely not Andrew.
That thought comforted her during the short ride to his apartment. It was just starting to get dark, but his Barracuda was parked outside, he must have got off of work earlier, and she made her way inside of the familiar house, unlocking the door with the key he’d given her so many months ago. She’d barely closed the door behind her when she heard him call out.
“Babe?” He didn’t wait for answer, his voice coming from the living room. “Come watch this, the news are—”
She turned the corner and the second he saw the serious quirk of her brows he got up and turned the TV off, instead going to her and pulling her against him. “What’s going on? Your eyebrows are doing that thing when something’s wrong.”
With a sigh, she relaxed against him, tucking her face against his neck, his long hair tickling her temple in a way that made her smile. He could always tell when something wasn’t right, when she was worried or down, just like she did for him when he’d almost got kicked out for protesting Nixon’s speech and the war or when he’d found out his cousin had been drafted. There had been plenty of guys who had tried to make her guess how the felt, make her jump through hoops for their love, but not Andrew.
Andrew was just… home.
“Nothing is… wrong. It’s just not exactly right,” she said, voice half muffled by the front of his shirt. “You might want to sit down.”
“Ooh, that kind of news?”
Without any warning he picked her up by her waist, making her shriek in surprise as he walked backwards towards the couch, collapsing onto it with her on top of him. She landed in his lap, legs flying out, but he pulled her securely against him, keeping her from falling off, adjusting her so she could stretch out on the couch and be comfortable.
“Mmm. Much better. So what’s this news? You’re killing me with the suspense, babe.”
She wanted to be mad but found the position too comforting to really hold it against him for too long. Instead she let out long, slow breath. Might as well let him know.
For a second his face was unchanged, then it filled with joy, before cutting off as his eyes slanted suspiciously. “Wait, are you kidding? Are you trying to pull one on me? Or—”
She pulled her blouse from skirt, exposing her stomach as she leaned back against the arm of the couch, showing the small bulge she’d assumed was extra belly fat. Even the doctor had been surprised at how little she was showing, but it was enough to make it believable.
“Nope, no jokes this time. You put an actual baby in me.” She couldn’t help but smirk, liking that for once, he was the one caught off guard. “Seven months ago.”
His gaze had been fixated on her stomach but at that he turned and looked at her, eyes going wide with disbelief. “What?!”
There was that odd flutter, beneath her bellybutton, the one she’d thought was nothing the past two months, and she smiled as their baby twitched inside. Grabbing his hand, she quickly put it over the spot where it was most obvious, watching as his surprise turned into the most pure joy she’d ever seen.
“Oh my god!” His smile was so wide it could have cracked his face in half. “Babe, we’re gonna have little goober running around?!”
“Yup. Sometime in June,” she beamed, the bit of worry she hadn’t been able to shake off completely melting under his adoring gaze. “Even though I don’t think they can run for a while at first.”
He snorted but then he was wrapping his arms around her shoulders and pulling her towards him, their mouths meeting in a kiss unlike any they’d shared before. This one was special, full of excitement and promise, the future they knew they’d probably end up at suddenly right there in front of them, in the curve of her tummy. When he let her go, his eyes were still crinkled up, the love he had for her doubled in the hazel-brown depths, glancing down at her torso again, like he was trying to make sure it wasn’t just a good dream. His excitement filled her up, his joy soothing away the nerves that had been prickling her spine all afternoon. It was a big thing, a huge thing, having a baby. There was so much to do, so many details to sort through, but suddenly it didn’t seem as daunting.
Because they’d be in it together.
Whoever this baby was, they might not have a lot, but at least they would have two parents who truly loved them. Terry knew it might have been an accident, but something inside of her didn’t mind as much as it should have, because there wasn’t a time she and Andrew had been intimate where it hadn’t been full of love. Even now, part of her wanted to be carried into his room and nestled into his soft sheets as they shared their love again. And knowing that this baby had been made during a time like that?
It was oddly comforting.
“So, babe,” he drawled, resting his hand on her tummy, where the tiny life still pulsed and fluttered, “what do you own that’s white?”
Her own eyes were transfixed by the gentle way he cradled the small bump. “Hm?”
“I’m thinking, wedding appropriate. It doesn’t have to be a dress—”
“Wait, wait wait.” She damn near slapped her hand over his mouth, eyes bugging open. “Andrew Rich, that better not be the way you propose to me.” She could feel him laughing under her palm and she scowled. “You didn’t even use the word ‘marry’! I’m not expecting much but—”
He gently pulled her hand away, grinning widely as he laughed, shaking his head. “I didn’t figure you were the proposal type.”
“I’m not , I just don’t want to be asked if I own anything white!” She scowled. “Which I don’t!”
“Okay, okay, that’s fair, let me try again.”
He sat up straighter, making no attempt to move her from his lap, looking down at her and pasting the most serious expression he was capable of on his face. She couldn’t help but giggle and he cracked a bit.
“Terry Ruth Ives,” he said beseechingly, tone far too grandiose for the goofy smile that was slowly forming on his face, “Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
There was a small throw pillow just in her reach and she grabbed it, smacking him in the face with it, laughing outright as he flinched away, his own laugh filling the air. She went to rain down another blow, but he caught the fluffy weapon and managed to finagle it from her grip, grabbing her hand and sweetly lacing his fingers in hers. “Is that a no?”
“Of course I’ll marry you, you ass!” She snickered, cupping his face with her free hand, all other thoughts fading as his question became more real. “Of course it’s a yes.”
“Oh, good, I was worried there.”
She interrupted his protest with a kiss, wrapping her arms around his neck until he was bent low over her, her own joy at his question guiding her. He slowly slid out from under her as the kisses grew warm, then hot, curving his body carefully over her exposed bump, like he was afraid he’d squish it. His lips traced her neck up to her ear and she couldn’t help but shiver, more than willing to give in to her brand new fiancé.
He hummed into her ear, making her shiver again. “Babe?”
“Mm?” She was busy trying to get his shirt off.
“We should call my parents and tell them.”
The mood was instantly murdered in brutal fashion and Terry full on grimaced, unable to help herself. That sounded like such a bad idea when they could be doing other things…
“I mean, time is kind of of the essence now, isn’t it?” He sat back a bit, eyes dragging on her belly, excitement sparking back into his hazel-browns. “We’ve got a timeline before our goober becomes a technical bastard. Which isn’t really that big of a deal to me, but it’s not the hardest problem to solve.” His grin was back again in full force. “Besides, it’ll be fun.”
“Fun?” she scoffed as he helped her sit back up and she tucked her shirt back into her skirt.
“Yeah, I mean, they’re going to hit the roof and it’ll be great. I haven’t made them crazy in like, four whole months. It’s about time they got a call.”
Her hands found the throw pillow again and he “oofed” as she hit her target dead on. After another brief struggle and more laughter, he got up and dragged the phone that sat on a side table over to the couch where she was waiting. She couldn’t help but stroke his hair, the mussed brunette strands that were sticking up in every direction from the beating she’d given him, soft to the touch. His hair was the best, the dark brown swaths somehow silkier than her dirty blonde waves. She couldn’t help but wonder, what color hair their baby would have.
“Do you think it’ll be a boy or a girl?” she mumbled, half to herself.
“Hm?” He looked over, attention leaving the phone.
Her hand stroked her belly dreamily and he scooted a little closer, putting his hand over hers.
“I don’t think I can guess. You should ask Ken. Maybe he’ll know,” he suggested. “But I don’t really care. I like both. As long as they have your pretty ankles, they’ll be set.”
Her eyebrow arched, the spell broken by his absurdity. “You think my ankles are pretty?”
“Oh, definitely,” he stated with a smirk. “So slender and dainty, like a swan’s neck.”
“Shut up!” She was laughing. He always made her laugh, especially when it was serious.
“Awww, you didn’t let me get started on how graceful you fingers are.”
“Hm, I could say the same about you,” she shot back, grinning widely as he flushed rather unexpectedly. “Like a pianist, you know just how to use them to their full potential.”
He spluttered, finally at a loss for words and she patted his cheek triumphantly. Ha. She got him.
“Okay, okay, I’ll let you win this time, babe.” He leaned over and pressed a teasing kiss to her nose before grabbing the phone again and setting it into his lap. “You ready for the real fun to begin?”
Despite his jovial tone, Terry couldn’t help but feel a pang of nervousness in her chest, watching as he fearlessly dialed the number on the old rotary phone Dave had procured for the apartment, fingers spinning the dial as he held the set to his ear. She could hear the faint ringing before Andrew’s mother picked up.
“Hey, Mom!” He smiled as though she could see him, an easy, casual grin, glancing towards Terry. “I have a quick question—what’s the first step to start, like, the whole marriage process?”
He snorted at whatever answer he was given.
“No, I don’t mean proposing, I mean like, actually getting married. There’s something about a license, not the whole officiating thing. I know about that part. Town hall has all of that, I just need to know—” There was rather loud talking coming out of the earpiece and he winced a bit. “No, I’m not rushing into anything, Mom. We were probably going to get married after graduation, but now we, uh, we want to hurry up a little more than—How long?” The shit-eating grin was back. “Well, we’ve got about two months to beat so—”
Suddenly there was shrieking coming out of the phone and he held it away from his ear with a wince. Terry couldn’t help it, reaching over to hold his hand, feeling her heart pounding. It wasn’t a secret that his parents didn’t exactly—well, she probably wasn’t exactly what they had in mind for their son. But at least this was something they couldn’t argue with.
Andrew laughed, despite his mother’s yelling. “God, Mom, I know! You can skip that, we’re past the point here. Baby is on the way, okay? So the wedding is happening. We were thinking—well, as soon as we can. Probably not tomorrow, maybe Thursday or Friday? However soon we can get the license and stuff. Terry has her sister and some friends who will probably want to help out and if we get married, the school won’t have any problems—of course we want you there, why do you think I’m calling?” He threw Terry an eye roll. “No, we don’t need a church. There’s like an eight week countdown here, she’s already seven months. You really think you can get everything set up by then?” A huff. “That wasn’t a challenge, Mom—actually, can I talk to Dad for a second, please?”
There was long enough of a pause as his other parental unit was fetched that he had a chance to move the receiver from his mouth, grinning at his fiancée. “That went about how I expected. But don’t worry, once the shock wears off she’s going to lose it over finally having a grandchild—” His attention was pulled back to the phone. “Yeah, hey, Pops. I’m sure Mom told you the news?”
The pause was longer, the muffled voice sounding less upset and more just serious as it buzzed through the line, too faint to make out words. Andrew seemed to tense and then relax a bit, waiting to speak.
“Yeah, I know it’s a big responsibility. Terry and I know that. I don’t expect you guys to do anything if you don’t want to. But I wanted you to know, yeah? Is that fair?” Another long pause. “I don’t know, I guess we’ll find somewhere… I’ll see if I can’t get some more shifts at work. And I’m sure Dave would be fine if we stayed here until we find some place of our own but I’m going to start looking so we can move out before the baby comes. I literally just found out and decided to call you guys so—Oh. Really?” His eyes lit up. “I mean, that would be overly generous, but honestly, I wouldn’t argue and I don’t think Terry will either.”
Terry’s curiosity got the better of her and she poked his knee, eyebrows tugging together. What was generous? Andrew patted her hand but didn’t take his attention away from the phone call.
“It would help a lot, I mean, I lose my deferment if I drop out and Terry—I mean, she wants to finish school too, she’s got that scholarship. We don’t want to quit everything to work, but we’re going to do whatever we have to so this baby has what it needs. And if you—”
She couldn’t hold back any longer, tugging at his arm. “Andrew, what? What is it?”
“Give me one more second,” he told her, smiling. “It’ll be worth—Yeah, no I’m listening, Dad, Terry’s just wondering what’s going on. Also, I asked Mom about a marriage license but she was too busy losing her mind to give me an answer so… gotcha, county clerk’s office. Okay, well, I guess we’ll head there tomorrow and see if I can’t find out how soon we can see a judge and get it done.”
He looked over at her, smiling again, but this time more softly, reaching out and grabbing her hand and giving it a loving squeeze. His words were casual, but she knew he was excited too.
“Okay, yeah, one of us will call you when we know. I’ll let her know what you said and we’ll figure it out.” Another pause. “Thanks, Dad. It wasn’t really expected, but honestly, I’m kind of excited. We’ll be okay.” He squeezed her hand again. “Yeah, okay, love you too. Bye.”
He finally hung up and Terry felt like pummeling him for taking so long. She tugged her hand free and gave him a soft shove, annoyed or excited or—god, she still didn’t know what she was feeling. It was all so much. How was he so relaxed?
“So? What’s the big generous thing? What’d they say?” She huffed, impatient. “I mean, other than your mother freaking out.”
“They’ll get over it. My dad honestly sounded kind of excited, but—” He grinned that wide smile, his eyes shining. “He said if we found a little apartment close by, they would pay rent for us. Since we’re both students, I mean, I can’t lose my deferment and you can’t lose your scholarship, and you’ll have to take a few weeks off at your job but I’ll work as much as can. Maybe get another part time? If—”
“They want to pay our rent?” Terry felt dazed. That was awfully generous, but it would take a lot of stress off. Working enough to pay for food and supplies and a place to live, being a full time student, and having a baby to take care of sounded overwhelming.
“Well, my dad is going to talk it over with my mom but… I mean, they won’t want their grandchild growing up in a house full of young college men. And we don’t exactly have a lot of options, so their worst nightmare is that we end up—” he lowered his voice, face dead serious, “Joining a commune.”
She let out a snort of laughter before she could help it. Andrew looked too pleased with himself, but then he let himself get serious.
“But seriously, I’ll start picking up extra shifts when I can. I know we need to get a crib and—”
“Let me call Becky next,” she cut in, “I’m pretty sure we still have a bunch of our old baby stuff up in the attic at home. Clothes and blankets. She might know where we can get a crib for free or something.”
Terry felt a wash of nervous prickles tickle her stomach at the thought of telling her sister. Would Becky be mad? No… she didn’t care for all the conspiracy theories, but a baby wasn’t a theory or an idea, it was a real, tangible thing. And Becky was good at dealing with real things.
Whatever happened, Terry knew her sister would help to make sure this baby had whatever it needed. It wouldn’t hurt to ask her to be her maid of honor though. Where was she going to get a white dress in time? Were they going to have actual an actual wedding party? God, didn’t all of this cost money?
“Babe. Hey, you joining Buzz and Neil up there?”
She came back from the dizzy whirlwind that was her mind, looking over at Andrew, who had his usual teasing smirk, though his eyes were gentle. “Yeah, yeah, sorry, I let it overwhelm me for a second.”
“I guess it is a little crazy, but—” He grabbed her legs and pulled her to face him, leaning forward to steal a kiss in one smooth move. “I happen to like it crazy.”
“I know you do,” she sighed happily.
“But, hey, it’s one step at time. You should call your sister, we can tell Dave the good news when he gets back from work, and whoever else you want. Then tomorrow we take a trip to see the county clerk and get that marriage license. Find out who wants to marry us. Once it’s official, you talk to your dean and we’ll get you moved out of the dorm. And then it’ll be the three of us!”
He said it with such easy confidence that it was impossible not to believe him, to imagine a small apartment with two bedrooms, a crib and a rocking chair and a baby pressed to her chest as Andrew wrapped his arm around her. It didn’t feel like some gigantic hurdle, just the inevitable future suddenly there, able to be seen and felt and heard.
It felt right.
“The three of us,” she murmured, leaning forward to kiss him again. “Perfect.”
The dress wasn’t exactly white, it was more of an ivory, which was honestly more fitting. No one who was showing up at Bloomington town hall were particularly under the impression Terry was blushing, virginal bride, so when she and Alice had stumbled across the floor length, off-white, cotton dress with pretty flower patterned embroidery across the sash and along the sleeves at the thrift store, it had been an instant hit. It was breezy and loose, unlike most of the more bridal dressed they’d dug through, hiding the slightly more obvious bump on Terry’s stomach with a graceful pleat.
Gloria’s mother had helped them tailor the sleeves and hem it up, and the fabric was well-worn and buttery soft, a borrowed white silk slip beneath and her best pair of dress slippers making her look… like a bride. Or so she was told.
She’d mostly given in to being pampered that morning because she wanted to spend some time with her friends. Andrew had to finish up the paperwork anyways and they agreed to meet at the government building, where his parents and Becky and Dave would be waiting. Stacey, Gloria, and Alice were the ones who wanted to dress her up—or in Alice’s case, bring the whiskey—and laugh about in-laws and nonexistent honeymoons and the irony and joy of it all.
When they finally made it to town hall in Alice’s borrowed Firebird, Ken was waiting in the parking lot, leaning against his car and seeming completely unbothered. They parked next to him and when Terry climbed out, he held out a crown of yellow sunflowers, looking her up and down.
“I knew you needed some flowers,” he said with a nod, placing them on her head. “Gloria was nice and let me pick them out.”
“Of course you did.” She laughed but reached up and touched the yellow blooms. “They’re perfect. Thanks, Ken.”
“Andrew’s going to lose his cool when he sees you,” he warned her with one of his knowing smiles. “So steel yourself.”
They laughed, making their way towards the humble government building. Becky met them at the door, and despite her usually phlegmatic attitude, the bit of tension that lived around her eyes had melted at the sight of her little sister all dressed up.
“You look like Mom,” she said softly, so only Terry heard.
“Does that mean you approve of my sudden marriage?”
Becky blinked slowly, glancing at the hidden bump. “I mean, it’s not really about what I want anymore, is it? I’m glad it’s Andrew though. You guys can do this.”
Terry felt her eyes water a bit. “Yeah, we can. But we want you to be part of it too. Come and visit Jane whenever you want—and me too, okay?”
There was a rare smile and Terry reached and squeezed her sister’s hand before the small group headed down the hall toward the office of the judge they’d managed to secure. She couldn’t help but rest her hand on the small flutter in her stomach.
Ken had said it was girl, and Terry couldn’t help but agree he was right. At first she and Andrew hadn’t been sure of a name, tossing a few around but not really settling on anything. Then she’d come across an article about a woman named Jane Goodall, who rehabilitated and worked with chimpanzees, who named each one instead of treating them like lab rats, and filled them with love as they healed.
Andrew had liked it, the simplicity of it, how it seemed to be inspired by love. He hadn’t seemed particularly picky, as long as it was something their daughter could be proud of, that had something a little deeper than just sounding nice.
The due date was closing in even sooner now. Their appointment with the judge had taken a little longer to secure then they’d been hoping, and it was now the beginnings of May, the bright sunshine warming the cold earth and turning the leaves from soft vibrant buds into green leaves. Little Jane’s flutters were becoming strong kicks, Terry’s silent but unignorable companion as she studied and finished her papers, lying in her bed as Stacy slept, feeling her daughter poke and push and prod, curious about what existed outside the safe darkness she lived in.
They turned the corner and Terry spotted her soon-to-be in-laws, standing outside of an open office door. Margaret and Colin Rich didn’t exactly look pleased, but they seemed some sort of excited, glancing over at the small wedding party as it made its way to the final destination. Before Terry could attempt to say something to them—though what was their to say, an insincere apology?—Andrew stuck his head out of the doorway and she watched as his jaw dropped open as he caught sight of her.
He almost tripped over his shiny dress shoes, taking a few faltering steps forward as his eyes widened with glee. “Babe! You look—” He finally made it to her, setting a hand on her waist and giving her a complete up and down. “Beautiful.”
It was more of a sigh, softer, spoken just to her, and even though her appearance hadn’t really been in the forefront of her mind, she felt herself flushing. When he spoke like that, she knew he was serious, and she barely resisted pulling him down for an appreciative kiss. Instead she inhaled deeply, breathing in the familiar smell of him, sharp from the starch on his shirt and clean from the Irish Spring soap he’d showered with, but the familiar musk of him still there beneath it, the scent that filled her nose when it was just the two of them, tangled together under his soft cotton sheets.
His brown dress slacks were neatly ironed, a trendy, dusty-olive green dress shirt bringing out the emerald flecks in his hazel-brown eyes, also freshly pressed—clearly brought to him by his mother. He’d rolled the sleeves up though, a few wrinkles creasing around his elbows, the top two buttons undone, his hair clean and fresh, curving around his cheeks dangerously, just how she liked. A happy sigh left her throat and she smiled up at him, taking a step closer, just enough that her growing belly gently pressed against the front of his shirt.
“You look good, too,” she murmured, reaching up to cup his cheek. “Pretty, even.”
His gaze was soft as it looked down at her, and she realized that it was real, that they were really about to get married, to commit themselves to each other forever. The past few weeks the thought of getting married… it was just what was going to happen—not really negotiable due to the pressing concern growing inside of her—but more of just an idea or goal than an actual happening event. But now it was real, it was happening, they were just minutes away from promising forever.
It wasn’t scary by any means—it was Andrew—but it hit her, how serious what they were doing was. Marriage, matrimony, pledging to only love each other the rest of their lives, creating an actual future where they both belonged, changing her last name, becoming a family…
It wasn’t just a fun thing to do on the weekend, it was… serious. A serious decision.
Andrew must have noticed the sudden tension in her shoulders and eyes because his hand found hers, wrapping around it and encasing her cold fingers in his strong, warm palm, his gaze tracing up from their joined hands to her face. “Babe? You okay?”
“Hm?” She came out of her daze. “What? Yeah. Are you?”
He didn’t hesitate, an unexpected seriousness darkening his gaze. “Of course. I know… I know this wasn’t really what we were expecting to happen, but I hope you know I really am happy. You and me, marriage and babies… honestly, it wasn’t really a question of ‘if’ so much as ‘when’. And I don’t mind that it’s now.”
She would have surged up on her toes in an instant and kissed him, wanting him to know how much his certainty meant to her, but they were interrupted by the clearing of a throat as their assigned judge arrived, staring at them expectantly. He seemed a bit gruff, like maybe he’d had other plans than being there doing his job.
“Is the Rich-Ives… party?” he asked, a single white eyebrow raised at the assembled crowd.
“That’s us,” Andrew beamed. “You’re Judge Leonard?”
“Apparently so. Come on in, then.”
They followed the older man into his spacious office, their friends and family forming a bit of a semi-circle behind them. Becky ended up next Terry, Dave on the other side of Andrew, in front of the large desk. There were sniffles coming from behind them and she couldn’t help but glance over her shoulder to see Margaret and Gloria both dabbing at their eyes with handkerchiefs. Andrew’s hand gave her a squeeze and she turned back around as the judge opened a Bible, looking between the two young people in front of him.
“Shall we start?”
“Please do,” she nodded, feeling her own smile light up her face.
“Very well.” He picked up a note that had been on his desk, reading it before looking back at the small assembly before him. “We are gathered here today to join Andrew Patrick Rich and Theresa Ruth Ives together in the confines of matrimony, before both the law and God. If—”
Terry couldn’t help but tone out the droning, instead turning to look over at the man who was only minutes away from becoming her husband. There was no fear, no worry, the gravity of the situation still felt, but not really minded. His words had soothed away the last of her worry, because he’d been right.
They hadn’t talked about the future, really, because there’d been no need. At the end of it all, no matter how it ended, she knew they would be together. Even if it wasn’t even certain, with the drafts and the war and the hate in the world. Why dream up something that could be snatched away at any second? It made her more grateful for the moment they were in, surrounded by their loved ones, with their daughter growing stronger and bigger by the day inside of her.
He had been right. It hadn’t been an “if” but a “when”, and when was suddenly right in front of them, in the warmth of his gaze as he looked down at her, in the firmness of his grip as he held her hand, in the words the judge spoke as he tied their lives together forever.
She couldn’t look away from the intensity in Andrew’s eyes, feeling caught, but happily so, barely hearing the words of the older man on the other side of the desk. Andrew seemed to be listening enough to mumble out an “I do”, his hazel-browns never leaving her face. It wasn’t until there was a soft poke in her back from her sister that she tuned back in, glancing over and realizing it was her turn, something about until death do them part.
“I do,” she sighed happily, feeling the curve of her lips match his.
“Then by the power vested in me by the state of Indiana—”
There was barely time for him to finish before Andrew was pulling her towards him, stooping down in the familiar way as their lips met, and she sighed into him, wrapping her arms around his neck and giving in, too full of blissful joy to even care about who was watching. Between them, Jane kicked, as if she was agreeing, or maybe protesting suddenly being squished, but it only added to the joy.
So much of her life had felt uncertain, especially after her parents died, but all of that faded away. Because now she knew what her future held, maybe not the messy details, but the core of it. Her and Andrew, now and forever, until death did them part. And even after they were gone, a piece of them would live on, loved and happy and safe in the world they would fight to make for her.
The kiss ended, but she kept him close, resting her forehead against his and breathing in the calmness he shared, the happiness and love.
“I love you, Andrew,” she said quietly, wanting him to know what feeling flooded her soul when she looked at him. “I’m happy that it’s now for us.”
He softened, letting his nose nuzzle against hers, strong arms squeezing tighter. “Me too.” His unabashed confidence didn’t wane. “I love you, Mrs. Rich.”
She couldn’t help but snort, finding the new title comfortable but somehow cheesy coming from his lips. “Oh, is that how it’s going to be? No more ‘babe’ now that it’s official?”
“Babe... you’ve always been my babe. Now you get to be something more,” he teased back.
Maybe it was meant to be lighthearted but the tone of his voice and the look in his eyes made her soften, accepting both the cheesiness and adoration that poured out of him towards her. It was just who he was and she loved the bad jokes and terrible humor just as much as she loved his confidence and sense of right and wrong.
“Sounds good to me, Mr. Rich,” she shot back with a grin.
They finally released their hold on each other, keeping their fingers entwined as their friends and family gathered around them. Her now official in-laws were first in line, looking down at their son and new daughter. Terry couldn’t help but shrink a bit, unsure how they would react to the reality that had just taken place. Margaret was still crying, but she didn’t look upset. Maybe just overwhelmed, but there was joy there too. Her husband reached out and set a hand on his son’s shoulder, leaning in close to say something as Terry was left alone with her mother-in-law.
For a moment it was quiet and then Margaret spoke.
“Terry… I know I haven’t always been kind to you but—” She reached up to wipe her nose again with the embroidered handkerchief. “It’s obvious to me now that I may have been wrong in assuming you and my son weren’t… compatible. And whatever you and he and this child might need I want you to know—”
“We’ll be okay,” Terry cut in, “I appreciate your generosity even if it’s only offered because you don’t think we can handle this responsibility but we’ll be okay. Andrew is a hard worker and so am I, and I’m grateful to you for raising him to be who he is but I don’t want you… thinking we can’t do this. Because we can and we will.”
Her hand automatically went to her stomach, feeling an odd whoosh as Jane adjusted herself inside, as if she was turning away from the source of tension her mother was facing. Margaret looked surprised, but after a second she seemed to take it in with a nod, taking a deep breath.
“I just want him to be happy… and my grandchild too, but,” she sniffed, and then nodded as if agreeing, “You seem to be capable of making that happen.”
Terry’s heart opened to the sliver of acceptance she was being offered. She reached out, setting a hand on her mother-in-law’s forearm. “I think Andrew and Jane and I will all be happiest if you and your husband are part of our lives too. Please don’t think I don’t want you in our lives… I just want you to know you don’t have to worry.”
Margaret seemed to soften and she nodded again. “I would like that.”
Just then Andrew and his father seemed to end their discussion and then the entire party was moving out of the office, much to the judge’s relief. They all laughed, happy, jovial as they left the government building and made their way out to the parking lot. Andrew’s Barracuda was parked front and center, covered in streamers, cans hanging off the back and a big “JUST MARRIED” painted across the back window. Terry couldn’t help but laugh at Andrew’s grimace as he saw his car was no longer pristine, but she pulled him toward it as Dave passed the keys over with a knowing grin, and then soon enough it was just the two of them—well, three of them technically—sitting on the leather bench seat, engine revving.
Terry smiled and waved at everyone as they took off, seeing each face and feeling grateful for their presence, that they were in her life. After they rounded the corner with a screech, Andrew slowed down, coming to a stop. He grinned over at her.
“Alright, where to, Mrs. Rich?” His left hand rested on the steering wheel, but he let his right land on her leg, rubbing a gentle circle with his thumb. “We could go back to Dave’s and celebrate with everyone, head over to that empty apartment and imagine what it’s going to look like once the goober is here, or we could go for a drive, maybe find a cozy spot just like old times…”
All of his suggestions sounded good, but instead of trying to decide, she chose to leave it up to him. So far he’d lead them towards only good things, even if it hadn’t been intentional. With a happy sigh she leaned over and pressed a kiss to his cheek, setting her hand on her stomach, feeling more content than she ever had in her whole life.
“Anywhere with you, babe,” she said with a smile.