The first time Ally freaks out about their relationship, they’ve been dating for three weeks.
The first three weeks with Colin are easier than she’s expecting, honestly. After so many years of one night stands, of things just fizzling out, of bending and twisting to be someone’s perfect girl, she gets to just be herself. That’s the best thing about dating Colin—she knew him before they ever took their clothes off. She knew that he chews with his mouth open and he knew that being ladylike takes far more effort than she is willing to put in, most of the time. There’s no need to twist herself up into a pretzel to try and be his perfect girl. He chose her not because she is perfect, but because she is perfect for him.
So when he makes some innocent little comment one night when they’re channel surfing, she doesn’t expect it to get under her skin the way it does.
“God damn, she’s so hot,” Colin says when the picture flips to one of Mila Kunis’ movies.
Ally tilts her head. “Really? You think?”
“Oh, hell yeah,” he says. “She’s like, attainable hot. Not so hot that you’d never see someone like her in person. Hot like she could drink beer and eat pizza and hang out during band practice.”
“Oh.” Ally presses her lips together, trying to ignore the bad feeling that’s creeping into her gut.
“You don’t think so?”
She shrugs, telling herself to just smile, damn it, don’t rock the boat! “I guess I see it,” she says.
He throws an arm over her shoulders, pulling her against his side and dropping a kiss into her hair. “I knew you would. You’re the coolest.”
You’re the coolest. You’re the coolest. You’re the coolest.
Those are the words that echo in Ally’s head as they finish their Chinese food. Those are the thoughts bouncing around her brain as they take out the trash, do the dishes, and make out a little once they’ve climbed into bed. In the morning, when she wakes before him, those are the words that have settled in her gut like a heavy stone.
Suddenly, she doesn’t feel very cool at all.
Before she even thinks about it, she’s slipping out of bed and sneaking across the bedroom, pulling the bathroom door half-shut so that she doesn’t wake him. She peers at herself in the mirror, wrinkling her nose at her bedhead and smeared makeup. Then Ally makes frantic work of herself, washing her face and touching up her mascara from the night before.
She knows that she shouldn’t be doing this. She knows, deep down, that this is part of the reason that all her past relationships failed. She knows that if she isn’t herself, this isn’t going to work.
But she also knows that she is no Mila Kunis.
She almost jumps out of her skin.
“Holy shit, Colin, you sneak up like a ninja.”
He laughs, stepping into the bathroom behind her. She eyes him in the mirror, a little sheepishly, her toothbrush hanging from her lips. The jig is up.
“Why are you not back in bed snoring like a dump truck?” he asks. “You said you didn’t have to be anywhere this morning.”
“Oh, no, I don’t. I’m coming back to bed in a minute.”
“After brushing your teeth? And… are you wearing makeup?”
“Hey, I fall asleep with makeup on all the time,” she says, a little defensively. Which is a weird thing to be defensive about, she realizes, but this is the weird place her brain has wound up in this morning.
“Yeah, but it doesn’t look like that when you wake up. You don’t have raccoon eyes.” His large hands, warm and strong, settle on her hips and turn her around to face him. “Al, what are you doing?”
She shrugs, unable to stop herself from looking at the floor. She can feel her skin getting hot. “I don’t wake up looking perfect. I’m not Mila Kunis.”
His bewildered tone makes her raise her head. “What?”
“Why do you want to be Mila Kunis?” he asks.
“‘God damn, she’s so hot,’” Ally repeats, doing her best dudebro impression. “And, I mean, she is! Of course she is, she’s in fucking movies! But if that’s your bar for hot…” She trails off, feeling miserable all over. She wishes she’d overslept like every other damn morning.
“You thought…” Colin’s brow is furrowed, like he’s working hard on putting two and two together. She hates that he looks so cute when he does that. “You thought I meant she’s hotter than you?”
“Well, I know I don’t look like that,” she says, hating how insecure this has made her. She doesn’t do things like this. She gets drunk and lets it all roll off her back… or at least, that’s what she’s always done. She doesn’t know why it’s different this time.
He’s your person, a tiny voice says inside her head. But what if you aren’t his?
“Listen, you,” Colin says, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her tight against him. “You look nothing like Mila Kunis. But you’re so much hotter than she is.”
“You don’t have to say that,” she tells him. “I’m just being a weirdo. I’ll get over it.”
“Nuh-uh, no way,” he says firmly. “You are being a weirdo, but you’re my weirdo, so we’re gonna do this." "Oh, we're gonna do this?" She can't help the little smile that's already starting to resurface on her face. "Oh, we're gonna do this," he confirms with a cheeky grin. "You drink so much, you can actually keep up with me. You make weird-ass little sculptures that I think are so fucking cool. You say what’s on your mind, even if it’s telling me that I’m an idiot. You’re smart. And I don’t care that you drool on your pillow or you fart in your sleep or you wake up with a bird’s nest on your head. You’re sexy. So goddamn sexy. And damn it, I'll never accidentally compare you to Mila Kunis again.”
She really thinks she might love him.
“Yeah? I'm sexy?”
“Damn right you are.” He pulls her in closer, right flush against him, and presses a kiss to her neck. “You see?”
Oh, she sees, all right. Or, rather, she feels.
“Mmn, yeah, I think I do,” she says, starting to smile again. “And here I wasn’t even in bed next to you when you woke up.”
“What can I say?” He nips at her shoulder. “You’re on my mind a lot.”
“How about we get back in bed so I can be on things other than your mind?”
“God damn, you’re so hot.”
She grins. “And you’re the best.”
He thinks that living with Ally is going to be a piece of cake. Hell, they practically lived together even before they were dating—one of them was always at the other’s apartment, and by the time all his boxes are over at Ally’s place, he hasn’t slept in his own bed in weeks. The past eight months for the two of them, despite their rocky start, have been so easy. So comfortable. He knows everything about Ally, all her weird little quirks, and she knows about his mildly shameful bad habits. There's no surprising each other, at this point. They got through the hard parts—now, it's time for smooth sailing.
He should have known better.
Colin has never been a yeller—he’s more of the stew-silently-and-passive-aggressively type, if he’s being honest. It isn’t a good trait, but like so many things in his life, it’s one he got from his father. Ally, however, can yell with the best of them. He’s heard her yell at dangerous cabbies, at people texting and crossing the street, even at pigeons who get too close when she’s trying to eat. He hasn’t had that loud voice turned his way, though. Not until a week into their new living arrangements.
“Really?” Ally says loudly.
Colin looks up from his spot on the couch. There’s a Red Sox game on, and he’s barely been able to tear his eyes away ever since he sat down. But that tone, though—that’s new. That’s worth looking up from the TV.
Ally’s standing ten feet away, at the edge of the kitchen, with a big black trash bag in her hand.
“Babe, I’m sorry,” he says. “I meant to take it out earlier.”
“I know you did. You told me you would.” Her nostrils flare when she’s mad. “Was the game really more important? You couldn’t take two seconds to do what you promised?”
“Ally, hey,” Colin says gently, trying to diffuse the tension. “It’s not a big deal. Here, I’ll take it out now.” He gets up off the couch and moves towards her, but she pulls the bag back out of his reach.
“What, just so you’ll get off the hook? That isn’t fair, Colin! I shouldn’t have to be the bad guy here!”
“What does it matter? We’re both kind of slobs.”
“I know!” she explodes, dropping the bag. “That’s why this fucking matters! I don’t want to live in a trash dump, Colin! It was one thing when it was just me here, but we both make garbage now, so you need to fucking help me!”
Colin feels himself bristle. “Oh, I need to help you?” he asks. He knows he shouldn’t rise to it, shouldn’t yell back, but he can’t help himself. Her accusations aren’t fair. “I guess you’ve been doing the dishes all by yourself this week, huh? Even those disgusting cereal bowls that you leave all around the apartment?”
Her face looks like a storm cloud. “Don’t—”
“What, it’s okay for you to yell at me, but I can’t yell back?”
“You’re being an asshole!”
“It takes one to know one!”
"Oh my god, you're being a child."
She steps away from the bag of garbage and crosses the room. “I’m going to bed,” she says firmly. “We don’t need to keep doing this.”
The bedroom door slamming tells Colin pretty much everything he needs to know. He takes the bag of trash out, because what else is he supposed to do? He jams it down the chute a bit more forcefully than usual.
He shouldn’t have moved in. Moving in ruins everything.
That night, Colin sleeps on the couch.
When he wakes in the morning, Ally is sitting on the chair next to him. She has a mug of coffee in her hand, and another full cup—the goofy dachshund mug he’d claimed as his own when they started dating—was sitting on the coffee table next to him.
“Hi,” she says, voice quiet and sheepish. “I made that for you.”
He sits up, still a little bleary, and reaches for the mug. “Uh,” he says, “thanks.”
Neither one of them speak for a moment. Colin can hear their entire fight, loud and stupid, bouncing around in his head. When he opens his mouth, Ally does too.
“I shouldn’t have—”
She stops, giving him a little smile. “You go.”
He sighs. “Sorry I slept on the couch. It was late. I’m gonna go down to talk to the landlord today. See if maybe he hasn’t rented my apartment yet.”
Ally blinks at him, a stunned look on her face. “What?”
He leans back against the couch. “I’ll get out as soon as I can.”
Before Colin even knows what’s happening, Ally has crossed the space between them and climbed into his lap. He looks up at her serious face, wondering what the hell she’s doing. He’s had a fair few fights with women, and none of them wound up in his lap the next morning.
Well, one did. But she was wearing decidedly less clothing, and she stormed out angrily as soon as she was done.
Colin was pretty sure this was different.
“What are you talking about?” Ally asks, her tone confused. “Are you—are you breaking up with me?”
Colin blinks up at her. “I—didn’t you break up with me?”
“When did I do that?!”
“Last night. You were yelling… there was a bag of garbage…” He can’t stop himself from reaching up to press the back of his hand to her forehead, more playfully than he probably should given that they were talking about breaking up. “Are you feeling okay? Do you have a concussion? How many of me are you sitting on right now?”
“You’re ridiculous,” she says, gently pushing his hand away. “We didn’t break up last night. Did we?”
She shakes her head, breathing out a laugh. “No! Oh my god, you thought we broke up?!”
He shrugs. “Wouldn’t have slept out here if I thought I still had a girlfriend.”
“Oh my god, you beautiful idiot,” she says. Her hand slides up to brush through his hair gently. “We had a fight. A stupid fight about chores. I was tired, and I wasn’t being fair. I’m sorry, baby. But we didn’t break up.”
“The fight was kind of stupid,” he agrees, and she leans in and kisses his forehead.
“So stupid. I was way out of line,” she says. “I shouldn’t yell at you. Ever.”
“So I still have a girlfriend?”
Ally laughs. “I mean, if you want one.”
“Yeah,” he says. “I do.”
“Good.” She wraps her arms around his neck, leaning into him, and he hugs her tight. She’s soft and warm against him, and he exhales quietly, enjoying the moment.
Maybe this is what it’s like, he thinks, to really be in love. To fight and be crazy, but to work it out every time.
“Hey,” she says, sitting up. “I saw that you took out the trash.”
“I said I’d do it, didn’t I?”
She playfully smacks his chest, and he laughs. “Smart-ass," she says.
“But you love me anyway.”
Her grin turns soft, and he feels all warm when he sees it. Because, even before she says anything, he knows her answer.
“Yeah,” she says, “I do.”
“Good.” He kisses her. “Me too.”
“What are you doing?!”
Ally freezes, mini hamburger halfway to her mouth, and raises her eyebrows. “Eating, because my stomach feels like it’s going to collapse in on itself.”
“Not that,” Daisy says. “That.” She waves her arm towards the door. On the other side of the door is the hallway, which leads to Colin’s old apartment. They’ve borrowed it for the day from the tenant that moved in once Colin moved out and it’s currently standing in for the groom’s dressing room. It’s where her sister’s fiancé is getting ready with his best friends and his brother, likely taking a couple sips from a flask as they adjust their cufflinks. Or whatever it is they’re wearing at this weird semi-formal rooftop wedding.
“What, Colin?” Ally asks.
“Exactly. Colin.” Daisy grabs her sister’s hands, tugging her down onto the couch. “Ally, you had some insane plan to marry the twentieth guy you let into your… you know…” It’s uncouth to say vagina or pussy or love garden at a wedding, she thinks. “And suddenly you fell head over heels for some wannabe rock star. It just... all seems a little crazy. Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
Ally sighs, setting down her mini hamburger. She brushes a hand against the skirt of her beach-y, cream-coloured wedding dress, and Daisy wants to die a little at the grease smudge she spots instantly. “You’re insane, you know that, right?” Ally says.
“I’m not crazy, Ally! I’m making sure you’re not about to do something you’re going to regret!”
“Hey, it isn’t fair that you're still judging him. Not on your first impression, not when we've been together for like a year and a half,” Ally says. Daisy remembers the guitar, the almost-nudity, the random dude in her sister’s apartment when she stopped by to poop. God. “I mean, Eddie was a total douche when you first met him! I don’t hold that against you guys!”
“You did call him Doucheface for like five years after high school.”
“Oh my god, you never forget anything!”
Daisy watches as Ally stands, snagging a shot glass of vodka that someone—probably Sheila—left sitting nearby. She downs it, grimacing a little, and then adjusts her bra. “Don’t do this to me, Daisy,” Ally says quietly. “Please.”
Daisy’s heart goes out to her, reaching for her sister’s hand gently. “I’m just trying to take care of you.”
Ally smiles. “I know, and I love you for it. I really do. But I'm a big girl now, you know? You don’t have to do that anymore.”
And Daisy can’t help but smile, too. Maybe, finally, she doesn’t have to act like the big sister. Not all the time, anyway. Maybe Ally really does know what she's doing. “Okay,” she says, squeezing her hand a little. “I'm sorry." "I know," Ally says. "I get it." "Now, come on." Daisy stands, grabbing her sister's bouquet from the table. "Let's get you married.”
Later, when the dance floor is crowded and everyone is out there making a fool of themselves, Ally catches Daisy around the waist.
“I’m sure about him,” Ally whispers in her ear, giving her a squeeze. "I have been for ages." She leans her head against Daisy’s, smiling over in Colin’s direction. He’s being goofy with a few of his buddies, the group of them trying to break dance and falling all over themselves. Daisy thinks they look like dorks. But the look on Ally’s face… Daisy knows that look. She’s seen it in all of her own wedding pictures.
“You really are, aren't you?” she asks.
Daisy kisses her cheek. “Good,” she says. “Now go get your man.”
And, laughing, Ally does.