“You don’t have to,” I interrupt her. I lean in to kiss her, soft and slow. “You’ll never have to do anything on your own again, Melanie.” I tighten my grip on her hands, my fingers twined through hers. “We’re a family now. We’ll face whatever happens together.”

The smile on her face now is more beautiful, more rewarding, than any sunrise. It’s not just the start of a new day. It’s the start of our new lives.

15

Melanie

“Stop it, you’re going to mess up your hair.” Devan tugs my hands away from my face, where I have yet again reached up nervously, about to pull on a stray curl. “We just spent how long at the salon on this?”

“Sorry. I’m just nervous,” I protest.

“I know.” My best friend shoots me a reassuring smile. “But don’t be, okay? You look gorgeous. I mean, just look at that.” She grasps my shoulders and spins me toward a mirror.

Sure enough, I do look better than I can ever remember looking before. I’ve never had my hair done professionally before, and I was nervous about getting some ridiculous hairdo that wouldn’t look like me. But the stylist Xander’s sister Patricia recommended is great. She didn’t do anything strange or different—as she put it, she just wants me to look like myself, the perfect version. Not like someone else.

My hair is in a tight updo with stray curls framing my face. My makeup, too, is natural, just a touch of eyeshadow and liner, mascara enough to make my lashes stand out in photos, and a smooth foundation over my face, a hint of blush at my cheeks. My lips are a warm pink that goes perfectly with the gown we picked out—one that Xander insisted on paying for, even though, of course, I refused to let him see the final product.

I shift this way and that in the mirror to study myself from every angle. The dress, a simple A-line dress with a few crystals embedded along the train, hugs my curves and flares out around my waist, flowing down over my legs. Since it’s only been two months since we got engaged, I’m not showing yet. We haven’t told anybody. We plan to wait until I’m out of the risk zone, into my second trimester. Then we’ll announce it, to a lot of congratulations, I’m sure. It’s not like Xander’s family aren’t all hoping that we’ll start having kids soon, anyway.

I still feel a little bit of guilt over keeping this particular fact of the wedding from my bestie. But at least I’m not lying about the engagement itself anymore. Everything is real, now. And despite her earlier concerns, Devan has been on board the whole time, helping me plan the wedding in a whirlwind, with a ton of help from both Xander’s family as well, of course.

As for Devan, she just moved here, to a cute little apartment in Brooklyn. She refused to accept financial help, but she did let Xander find her a job at a friend’s restaurant in the city. She’s bartending now, something she always wanted to try, but which Bob would never let her do because he insisted that bartenders needed to be men.

From what I hear, Devan’s already got a whole list of regulars who swear by her cocktails, and the manager of the bar likes her so much he gave her the weekend shifts, where she earns the most money in the least amount of time. Between that and all the extra time she’s been spending with Andrew since moving to the city, I’d say my best friend’s life is poised to take off in the same way mine has.

“What?” Devan catches my eye in the mirror. “You’re grinning like an idiot, you know that?”

“I know.” But I don’t stop grinning. “I’m just… really happy.”

“Good. You should be on your wedding day.” Devan leans in and air-kisses my cheek without quite touching me, careful not to smudge my makeup. “I still think this is all happening really fast.”

“I know,” I reply. “But it feels right.”

She reaches down to squeeze my hand, smiling. “Then that’s all that really matters, in the end.” She holds my gaze, her own bright. “Much as I hate to give you up,” she adds, “I’m pretty sure you picked the perfect guy. Xander’s great, and he really does seem like he’s going to take good care of you. To give you the life you deserve.”

“I know.” I smile back. “And I plan to take care of him too. To give him the wife he never even realized he wanted.”

She laughs at that, and I join in. Then she winks. “And if he ever does misbehave, well, you know who to send in to kick his ass for you.”

I snort. “Pretty sure that won’t be necessary.”

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