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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The day after the governor signed the bill Olivia bought a ring. It was a thin band of platinum, set alternately with diamonds and rubies, because Natalia looked so good in red. Rafe helped her pick it out while he was on vacation from college, only a little bit grudgingly, grumbling all the time about her "making an honest woman" of his mother.
"Your mother is the most honest woman I know," Olivia had said sincerely. "She doesn't need a ring or a ceremony for that."
She'd been holding on to it for a month, its tiny box like a lead brick in her pocket. She took it with her wherever she went, waiting and waiting for the right moment to present itself. The picnic in the park with Emma three weeks ago had been wonderful, but was it really fair to ask her in front of the little girl? She could hardly say no with Emma right there, bouncing excitedly about being a flower girl. Still, the question had risen to her lips at least ten times that day as she watched the two most important girls in her life laughing and playing in the grass.
The night they walked hand in hand to a clearing in the woods and watched the stars for an hour in silence - had that been the time? But Natalia was the only person she'd ever known who could make silence mean more than words and she hadn't been able to bring herself to break it.
Maybe it should have been a quiet moment of domesticity, like the previous Sunday as Olivia had watched Natalia chopping vegetables for soup and humming to herself. But the question hadn't seem to want to pass her lips and she had just watched her for long moments in silence, her heart almost bursting with love.
The ring box dug into her hip as she flopped onto the couch next to Natalia and slid her arm round the other woman's shoulders. Natalia turned her head and smiled, leaning up for a kiss before she settled against Olivia's side. The news was on. There were the usual pieces on the economy and the latest goings on in the state capitol and the fortunes of the Cubs that week. But mixed in with that was an item about the first same-sex marriages to take place in the state. Olivia watched Natalia as subtly as she could as various couples were interviewed by smiling journalists.
"Oh, that's so sweet," Natalia mumbled as a pair of tearful seventy year old men spoke with awe about how they'd never really believed that this was something they could have in their lifetime.
"Yeah," Olivia agreed, squeezing her lover's shoulder, pulling her closer. Natalia wrapped her arm round Olivia's midriff, her fingers splaying over her stomach.
Olivia swallowed hard. There was surely going to be no better time than this. The moment had practically been gift wrapped for her. She cleared her throat and opened her mouth.
Natalia looked up at her and smiled. "Do you know why human beings are unique?" she asked. Olivia's mouth snapped shut.
"Uhm..." she replied, frowning a little at the unexpected question.
"It's because we have two natures," Natalia said, without waiting for Olivia's answer. "We are the only beings in all of creation that possess both body and spirit."
Olivia smiled through her confusion. "Uh...that's nice, Natalia," she said.
Natalia smiled. "Do you have any idea why I'm telling you this?" she asked.
Olivia shook her head. "Haven't the slightest idea," she admitted with a grin.
Natalia ran her fingers down Olivia's arm slowly until she reached her hand and grasped it. "Our souls only have one way to speak," she said softly. "And that's through the language of the body."
Olivia caressed the back of Natalia's hand with her thumb as she listened. "Okay," she said patiently, waiting for Natalia to start making sense. Natalia smiled.
"When I kiss you," she said, and punctuated her words with a soft press of lips to Olivia's collarbone, "I'm not just doing it because it feels so good. I'm doing it to send a message from my soul to yours."
Olivia turned her head and leaned down to capture Natalia's lips. "What message is that?" she asked, her voice low and husky.
Natalia squeezed Olivia's hand. "That I love you," she said.
"I love you too," Olivia replied, turning her whole body a few inches so she could take Natalia fully into her arms. Natalia sighed as she leaned her head against Olivia's chest, her ear over her heart.
"Everything I do with you means something," she whispered. "Holding your hand means I'm here for you. Hugging you means I need you. Making love with you means..."
"What?" Olivia asked softly when Natalia didn't continue.
Natalia looked up at her with serious eyes. "It means everything," she said. "It's the best way I know to show my commitment to you, not just for today, or tomorrow, or for a year or a decade, or even a lifetime. It means that I give myself to you, body and spirit. And the spirit is eternal."
Olivia blinked away sudden tears. "So, you mean..."
"I mean that we are married, Olivia," Natalia said, cupping her lover's face and wiping away her tears with her thumbs. "In the way that matters to me most, we've been married for a long time."
The world stood still for an endless moment as they gazed into each other's eyes. Olivia felt the ring she'd bought Natalia against her hip, digging into her. Natalia smiled.
"However," she said, dropping her hands from Olivia's face. "That's not to say that I don't want to formalise things." She reached into her pocket with only slightly trembling fingers and pulled out a box that could have been the twin of the one nestled snugly in Olivia's jeans. Natalia snapped it open and held it out to Olivia with a hopeful smile. "Olivia," she said, and managed to make those four simple syllables contain the whole world. "Will you marry me?"
Olivia stared at the ring sparkling at her from the velvet of the box. It was a thin band of platinum, set alternately with diamonds and emeralds. "Oh," she breathed, feeling - not for the first time - like Natalia had just pulled a rug from under her feet. She dug in her pocket with numb fingers until finally she produced the ring she'd been carrying around with her for so long and held it out to Natalia.
"Only if you'll marry me," she said.
Natalia smiled a smile of pure joy. "I will," she said.
Olivia fumbled with the ring, nearly dropping it half a dozen times before finally managing to slip it onto Natalia's finger. It was a perfect fit.
Natalia made a much better job of it than she had. Any nerves she'd been experiencing had evaporated and her hands were confident and strong as she claimed Olivia with a simple ring of metal and stones.
"I need to call Rafe," Natalia said giddily.
Olivia nodded. "I need to talk to him too," she said. "You do like the ring, right?"
"I love it!" Natalia threw her arms round Olivia's neck and kissed every inch of skin she could reach. "I love you!"
Olivia laughed. "Good. Rafe helped me choose it you know."
Natalia pulled back. "He helped me choose yours too," she said. "He said I needed to make an honest woman of you."
Olivia laughed, bumping her forehead against Natalia's. "You did that a long time ago," she admitted.
And it was true. Natalia's love had changed her in ways she'd never expected. Their life together was warm, and devoted, and decent and - yes - honest. Soon it would be something else it hadn't been before.
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