Sterling stared down at the girl next to him. Her hair was worn in long, cascading waves which splashed over her shoulders and back. The only make-up she was wearing was a thin layer of mascara on her lashes which framed her strange yet beautiful violet eyes. Her lips were smiling as she listened to what the man in front of them was saying. And that dress. Sterling had nearly cried when their names had been called and she shrugged off her winter coat revealing what was quite possibly the perfect dress for her. It was a delicate cut, feminine and innocent but hugged her in all the right places.
"Where did you get that dress?" He whispered to her and touched the gold stitching on the sleeves.
But Laila didn't respond. Her eyes flickered to his and her smile widened before she returned her attention to the judge. Sterling smiled and did the same. He hadn't been paying much attention during all of this, his excitement was too great for him to rally much attention toward anything but his fiancée. But Laila had been composed and poised throughout the entire day, though the smile had not left her face once.
Familiar words grabbed Sterling's attention and he reached for Laila's hand.
"Do you, Sterling Pierce, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to love and to cherish her, to live together in marriage until death do you part?" The judge's voice was rough and scratchy, having been speaking almost all afternoon at ceremonies identical to this one.
"I do," he said without hesitation and felt Laila squeeze his hand as she stared up into his eyes.
"And do you, Laila Roberts, take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love and to cherish him, to live together in marriage until death do you part?"
"I do," she said clearly without a hint of uncertainty.
"By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you husband and wife."
Sterling did know if the judge had said anything after that. He pulled Laila into his arms and off her feet as he kissed her. A long, meaningful kiss, the first of many with his new bride. He could not tear his eyes from her as he set her down and took her hand, walking her back to the bench where they had left their coats.
Laila was still all smiles as she gathered her things and they proceeded into the next room. She could tell Sterling was staring at her but she knew that if she looked back she would either burst into tears of happiness or start laughing, perhaps uncontrollably, at what they had just done. It didn't seem real but she knew it was and she felt like the happiest woman in the world.
"Name?" The clerk asked them.
She waited for Sterling to say something but quickly realized he wasn't going to speak up.
"Laila Roberts and Sterling Pierce."
"Sign here, here and here, please. Do you have a witness?"
"No," Laila said, shaking her head though the thought didn't bother her one bit.
The clerk gave an exasperated look at the couple and raised her hand, flagging someone over. Laila watched as an elderly man who looked as though he could have been someone's favorite grandfather, stood up from his chair and hobbled over to them.
"Congratulations, you two," the man told them with a genuine smile.
"Thank you," Laila responded, feeling as if she was still in some sort of dream.
She picked up a pen and signed her name, then handed it to Sterling who scribbled nearly illegibly on the papers. The old man was next and then the lady collected the papers and stamped them.
"These can be filed next door."
Laila smiled in appreciation and took the papers in her steady hand. She had half expected it to be shaking but was relieved to find that she was relatively calm about the entire process. Calm but excited beyond belief. The thrill of having no regrets about doing something so permanent, so binding, it was by far the greatest high of her life.
They remained silent as they walked next door, Sterling's hand was still holding hers and his other was reached across his body, lightly stroking her arm.
"I love you," he said suddenly, just as they had entered the next room.
"I love you too," she said, smiling up at him. His blue and green eyes were shining, his face was beaming.
"I can't believe we did this," he said, the smile growing on his face.
"Well, believe it," she teased him. "We're filing these papers and it makes it official."
Sterling bent his head to kiss her, a softer kiss than the last one. Laila smiled against his lips and then broke away, taking a step toward the desk and handing in their papers.
"Thank you," Sterling whispered in her ear, wrapping his arms around her from behind and kissing her neck.
"Your marriage certificate will be mailed to you within six to eight weeks," they were told and Laila nodded in understanding. She took Sterling's hand and together they walked into the hallway which led to the main stairwell of the embassy.
"So," she said in a teasing voice. "Now that I am your wife, what are you going to do with me?"
"I honestly have no idea," Sterling said and Laila could tell that his head was still in the clouds. "Dinner? Are you hungry?"
Laila laughed. "Not really. I think I'm too excited."
"I'm too excited to do much of anything right now," Sterling admitted and Laila looked up at him as he held the door for her. There were snow flurries blowing around their heads as they walked outside.
"You can't think of anything you want to do to celebrate this?" She asked, smiling playfully.
Sterling picked up on her hint and blushed. "We could go back to my place," he said quickly and stuck his hand out for a cab.
Laila smiled and then pressed her face against his chest to keep warm. She felt him kiss the top of her head and wrap his arm around her back to keep her close.
A taxi showed up in only a matter of seconds and Sterling helped his bride into the car. He gave his address to the driver and then sat down next to his wife. His wife. He couldn't believe it. He had known for some time that this day would come eventually but he had no idea that he would feel so entirely complete.
"What made you change your mind?" He asked, putting his cold hand up to her warm cheek and drawing her face close to his so he could kiss her.
"I just kind of realized that not only was I ready to spend the rest of my life with you, I was ready to be your wife. And it feels really, really good."
Sterling grinned and kissed her again. "It does, doesn't it? You have made me so happy today, Laila."
"Well, I guess you were right all along. I'm not saying that I was wrong, but you were definitely right about some things."
"I could lose every fight we have from this day on and still be the happiest man alive."
Laila laughed and sat up straight. "Good. Because you now get absolutely no say on anything that has to do with our fake wedding next year."
"I know," Sterling smiled. And he didn't care. It would be a formality and nothing more. They could please their parents or piss them off, have 25 guests or 250. None of that mattered to him, as long as Laila was happy.
"And if I want to dress you and all of your groomsmen in pink tuxedos, you are going to smile and like it," Laila warned him.
"Whatever you say," Sterling said, resting a hand on her knee and working his way up her leg.
"I would never do that," his wife admitted quickly and smiled at him.
"Why not? I think I would look great in a pink tuxedo."
"Your brother would kill me," Laila pointed out and rested a hand on his, letting him know he had gone far enough.
"I don't think I can wait until we get back to my place," Sterling whispered against her neck, kissing and nipping lightly.
"We're almost there," Laila giggled and pressed a hand to his chest. She crossed her legs as his hand started its journey again and Sterling groaned, adjusting his pants to relieve some of the discomfort.
He kissed his wife again though he knew it wouldn't help his current problem. And she kissed him back, careful not to let him linger for too long.
"So this is going to be our secret, right?" She asked as he pulled away.
"We aren't going to tell anyone?"
Sterling shook his head. "It's just for you and me. Forever and ever and ever and ever," he teased her as his fingers tickled her sides.
Laila squealed and then laughed as she tried to push his hands away. Sterling looked at her and remembered the first time he had ever seen her. She had been in a darkened basement wearing a small black dress that she wasn't completely comfortable in. She had looked nervous, acted impulsively, and had completely stolen his heart.
"Laila? Tell me where you got the dress," he requested again and Laila blushed.
"I found it during the trip we took to Nice."
"The trip where you were so adamantly against the idea of us getting married?"
"Yes," Laila said. "That very one."
"Yet you picked out a wedding dress?"
Laila shook her head at her husband and rolled her eyes. "It wasn't a wedding dress. It was just a white dress which happened to look really good on me."
"It looks amazing. You look so beautiful," he told her as the cab driver stopped outside his building. Sterling paid the fare and then helped Laila out of the car. The two walked quickly inside and Sterling had already shed his coat and tie before they made it to the door of his apartment.
"Someone's impatient," Laila teased him as he reached for the buttons on her coat.
"Of course," Sterling answered. "I heard that married sex is 10 times better than regular sex."
"Oh, really?" Laila laughed.
"Really," he answered, pushing them both inside his flat. "Do you know why?"
Laila shook her head. "Because it's not a sin?"
Sterling laughed and closed the door behind them, happy to see Laila kicking off her shoes and throwing her coat on the ground.
"Because," he started, reaching for her dress and lifting it over her head. But he forgot what he was going to say as he stared down at her. She was wearing a white lace corset accompanied by some barely-there sheer panties.
In an instant his pants were around his ankles and he had picked her up, carrying her over to the couch as he tripped on his clothes.
"Because why?" Laila asked, unbuttoning his shirt for him.
"I don't remember anymore," he admitted with a smile, lying her down on the sofa and running his hands over her torso and hips. He heard her sigh in anticipation and he tore his eyes from her body so he could look at her face.
"I love you, Sterling. I love you so much," she whispered and her hand reached for his face.
"I love you too," he said, pulling at the elastic of her panties. "And I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with you, as your husband."
Laila smiled and blushed, reaching behind his head so she could pull herself up to kiss him. Sterling smiled against her kiss and tugged at her panties, finally getting them over her hips. His fingers trailed down her body and he pressed her legs open with his knees.
He didn't know if married sex was going to be better than regular sex, but he was positive that married life with Laila was going to be better than regular life. It would, of course, be a while before they could completely act like husband and wife, but seeing her face or hearing her voice everyday and knowing that they had made that commitment would fill him with enough joy to last until their fake wedding, as Laila had called it.
They made love for the rest of the afternoon and in nearly every single room of Sterling's apartment, neither one wanting to leave the other's side for just the amount of time it would take to get dressed.
"Do you think we'll be doing this when we're 70?" Laila asked, curling up to Sterling's side as he pulled the covers over both of them.
"Maybe not everything we just did. I doubt you'll be that flexible in 50 years."
He heard Laila giggle and felt a lazy arm drape across his chest. "Will you make sure I don't sleep for too long?"
"Of course," Sterling said, his eyes closing. Sleep was pulling at him but he could hardly wait to wake up next to his wife for the first time.