After… This Above All

Hillary & Amara


“I’m just glad that you two have finally done this,” her father said.

“It took years,” Greene added. “And we’re all glad.”

“So are we.” Amara looked over at Hillary and smiled at her new wife.

It had taken a long time for them to get here. Years after their engagement, they finally made their way to city hall, stood in front of their friends and remaining family, and said those two important words. They’d gone back and forth since the night they got engaged over the type of wedding they would want to have one day. Hillary wasn’t a religious person. Amara grew up with a minister for a father. She’d taken a step back from the church as she’d gotten older, but she still thought of herself as someone who believed in God and in her faith. Hillary would have given her any wedding she wanted; Amara knew that. If she wanted the big church wedding, Hillary would have stood up in front of the guests awaiting Amara’s arrival.

The more they talked about it, though, Amara began to understand that the wedding day wasn’t about one person getting their dream day while the other person dealt with that dream if it wasn’t their own. Hillary wasn’t the big church wedding kind, and that was one of the reasons Amara loved her so much. Hillary was herself, and she’d worked so hard to be just that. Now, they’d go home to their new house in the suburbs, have a small get-together with their friends and Amara’s father, and begin their life as a married couple.

As Keira and her wife, Emma, stood in the living room with Kellan and her wife, Reese, Amara realized that they were the last couple of their friend group to officially tie the knot. Macon and Joanna were also married. Joanna was outside, taking pictures of their new garden out back. It had been here when they’d moved in, but she and Hillary had already spent several Saturdays cleaning it up, and they enjoyed taking their Sunday morning coffee out there together whenever possible. Kellan and Reese still lived in South Lake Tahoe. They had come to town specifically for the wedding. Amara didn’t know either woman all that well. Kellan moved away before she and Hillary officially met. She’d seen Kellan in the café with Hillary, Greene, and Keira before that, but they didn’t actually speak until much later. She seemed nice, as did Reese, but now that it was after ten and her father had already left, Amara was ready to get everyone out of the house in order to have some alone time with her wife.

“We’ll see you tomorrow?” Kellan asked. “At the brunch?”

“If we’re not there, I think my dad might be pretty upset, since he’s hosting it in our honor,” Amara replied, giving the woman a hug.

“Congratulations,” Reese added, hugging her next.

“Thank you.”

“And I’ll let it go that you didn’t give me a wedding to plan,” Keira teased her with a wink. “At least let us throw you a huge reception or something.”

“We don’t want that,” Hillary said as she approached. “Everyone we wanted there is here right now.”

“Agreed,” Amara said, sliding her arm around Hillary’s waist.

“Fine. Fine.” Keira stood back and looked at them both. “I’m happy for you guys.” She smiled a wide smile.

“Thanks, Keira,” Hillary said.

“I’m taking her home now,” Emma said, coming up behind her wife and wrapping her arms around Keira’s waist. “You guys have a good night.”

It didn’t take long for all their friends to leave; likely, taking the hint that the newlyweds would want to be alone.

“You know what’s nice about skipping all the wedding festivities?” Hillary asked her after they’d closed the door on their friends for the night.

“What’s that?” Amara smiled at her.

“It was only a ten-minute ceremony, and our friends came to our place after for a low-key celebration.” Hillary wrapped her arms around Amara’s waist. “I’m not exhausted like most brides on their wedding night.” She smirked at her wife.

“Oh, really?” Amara asked as she wrapped her arms around Hillary’s shoulders and pulled her into her own body, pressing against her warmth and loving the feel of it.

“Yes, really.” Hillary kissed her neck.

“Upstairs?” Amara asked.

“Why wait?” Hillary asked back.

Amara was promptly lifted on top of their kitchen island. She laughed at the move, knowing her wife had been working out consistently for the past several years and loved showing off her strength. Hillary’s lips were still pressed to her neck, but her hands were sliding up and under Amara’s pure white sundress. Hillary had worn an off-white pantsuit for the occasion, but she’d changed into dark jeans when they’d returned home, leaving on the off-white jacket and shirt underneath. Swiftly, she removed Amara’s underwear, pulled back and threw off her own jacket, revealing the short-sleeved shirt and biceps that had gotten Amara into her sitting position.

“You’re all kinds of turned on right now, aren’t you?” Amara asked seriously as she stared into Hillary’s darkening eyes.

“Someone had to invite our friends over after the ceremony. I’ve been turned on since this morning,” Hillary returned, reaching for the hem of Amara’s dress. She flipped it up, revealing Amara’s center, licked her lips, and gave Amara’s shoulders a soft shove. “Lie back.”

“Hill, we have a very nice bedroom up–”

“We’re not starting off our marriage with typical bedroom sex, Amara,” Hillary replied, leaning down to kiss and suck at Amara’s inner thigh. “We can continue it up there, though.” She then sucked particularly hard, earning a gasp from her wife.

Amara laid back on the counter; lucky there wasn’t anything on it in her way. It was cold, solid marble, but Hillary’s mouth was soft and warm, heating her entire body up as it moved to her core and took her clit between two demanding lips. Amara wasted no time. Her hand moved to the back of Hillary’s head, encouraging her to continue; at the same time, her other hand moved to the zipper at the side of her dress. She slid her shoulder out of one strap and grabbed at her own breast, lifting the cup of her bra away as much as possible. She met her nipple with her thumb and forefinger and lightly twisted it as Hillary took her on their kitchen counter. Amara had a random thought in that moment that they’d only just had these countertops installed. She smiled at that and then stopped smiling as Hillary slid two fingers inside her. Amara’s face made an O‑shape at the sensation of Hillary’s fingers. Then, she had another thought. This was the first time she was being touched like this by her wife. Amara’s smile returned.

Hillary’s tongue stroked her in just the way she liked as the fingers did the same inside. Amara came; her hips lifting off the counter and Hillary holding her down so as not to fall off the cold marble. When she finally caught her breath, she opened her eyes to see Hillary standing there, wiping her mouth before she smirked.

“I like marriage,” Amara said softly.

“Me too.” Hillary’s eyes followed as Amara sat up; still with her legs spread. “Where are you going?” she asked.

Amara’s hands went to Hillary’s belt buckle. She released it, unbuttoned the jeans, and slid down the zipper; her eyes never leaving Hillary’s.

“I was planning on tearing off these jeans and making you come. Is that a bad idea?” she asked with a smirk of her own on her face. “I want you naked and pressed against me.”

“On the counter?” Hillary asked.

“Everywhere,” Amara replied.


***

“Do you need any help?” Hillary asked her new father-in-law.

“No, it’s almost ready,” he replied jovially as he flipped one of the black bean burgers he’d put on the grill just for Hillary. “Can you let Amara know she can start putting everything on the table?”

“Sure,” she offered, making her way back inside the main house.

Amara had lived here the entirety of her life up until meeting Hillary. The guest house in the backyard hadn’t been touched since Amara had moved into her now old studio apartment. Later, she lived with Hillary in their own place. Now, they had their dream house outside of San Francisco. The main house had been shared between father and daughter until Amara had moved into the guest house as an adult. As Hillary looked back at it before she opened the door inside, she wondered how Amara had lived in such a small space given they now had this large three-bedroom home together with a front and backyard of their very own.

“Is he ready?” Amara asked the moment she entered.

“Almost. He said we can start putting things on the table outside,” Hillary answered, walking up to her wife and kissing her on her cheek. “Can I just say that I can’t wait to leave for our honeymoon? I love our friends and your dad, but I want to be alone with you for two weeks on a beach.”

“And in the hotel also, I assume?” she checked.

“Yes, there too,” Hillary replied, kissing Amara’s cheek again.

“How can we help?” Keira asked as she entered the kitchen.

“Can you take the potato salad outside?” Amara asked her.

“Got it,” she answered, picking up the giant bowl.

“I’ve got the drinks,” Emma said, coming inside from the backyard where she’d had to take a quick call from one of her employees.

“I have the plates to take to your dad,” Joanna said to Amara.

“And I plan on following my wife,” Greene said, pointing to Joanna.

“You’re useless,” Hillary joked with her.

“That’s not what she tells me.” Greene winked at her.

“Macon, come on,” Joanna beckoned.

Greene followed her wife outside. Amara looked over at Hillary and smiled at her.

“What?”

“Nothing,” Amara said. “I’m taking the guacamole outside, with the chips. Can you get the plates and cutlery?”

“I’ll help,” Kellan said, coming in with Reese. “Reese, can you grab the extra glasses?”

“Got it.”

It was like their friend group was a team. Most of them had known one another for a decade or more. But even as the newer members of the group joined, they just kind of fit right in; and that included her new wife. She helped Reese and Kellan carry everything outside and met Amara at the extra-long picnic table her father had purchased just for the occasion.

“A toast,” the man said, lifting his water glass high in the air as he stood next to the two of them.

“Dad, really?” Amara turned to Hillary with blushing cheeks that Hillary found utterly adorable.

“Let him have his moment. You’re his only daughter, babe,” she said, kissing Amara’s lips sweetly.

“When I met Amara’s mother, I knew I’d love her for the rest of my life. It took me a very long time before I even considered dating. When I finally did, it lasted for a while. But, here I am – still a single man. I think there’s a reason for that. I think I had my soulmate, and, in my opinion, you only get one. I think you can love others – and you should, but I think you get one person that somehow sits above all the rest.” He paused as he looked at his daughter. “I didn’t understand it when you first told me. But I do now, sweetheart. Hillary is your soulmate.” He smiled at Hillary, who swallowed. “Just like all of you have found your soulmates, too,” he said, motioning with his glass to the women at the table. “And I am genuinely happy for all of you. You’ve shown this old dog that even I can learn some new tricks.” He looked back at Amara again. “And I know your mom would be so happy for you and proud of you.”

“Thanks, Dad.” Amara leaned over and kissed her father on the cheek.

Everyone applauded. They sat around and ate their meal that had turned from brunch to more of a late lunch. When the dishes had been done, and the friends had departed, Hillary hugged her wife and watched the woman follow her father into his den, per his request. Hillary wondered what exactly they’d be talking about, but she decided to sit on the sofa and grade some of the papers she’d brought with her on the off chance she got some alone time to get them done. She’d just finished reading through the fourth essay and marking it with a B– when a door upstairs opened, and Amara came rushing into the living room.

“Let’s go,” she said.

“What’s wrong?” Hillary asked as she simultaneously stuffed papers into her bag.

“Later. We need to go.”

“Babe, what–”

“Hill, please.”

It was only then that Hillary noticed her wife was crying.


***

When Amara had entered her father’s den, she’d expected him to go into minister mode and give her tips on what it meant to be a good wife or to have a successful marriage. He counseled many of his churchgoers before and after they married. She’d known he’d been chomping at the bit to give her some of his wisdom as well.

“Honey, I was hoping I could talk to you.”

“Sure, Dad.”

Amara sat in front of his desk. Instead of him taking his chair behind it, he sat in the other chair in front of it, which was odd.

“I didn’t want to say anything in front of the others, but something strange happened while you guys were outside and I was in the house cleaning up.”

“What?” she asked.

“I got a call from a woman named Caroline.” He placed his hand on top of her own, which rested on her leg. “She told me some things.”

“Caroline?” Amara thought for a moment. “Hill’s ex‑girlfriend?”

“I only know what she told me.” He shook his head.

“What? She called you? Why?”

“I answered your phone, honey. It wasn’t the right thing to do. I know that. But you were outside having fun, and the phone rang. I thought I’d pick it up, tell the person you were busy, and give you the message.”

“Dad, that’s what voicemail and texting are for.”

“Well, I’m old school,” he replied. “Anyway, she didn’t sound – I don’t know… She didn’t sound well. She said some things about Hillary.”

“Hillary?”

“That she still loved her and wanted her back. And before she even heard my voice to know I wasn’t you, she said she wanted her back and that she’d already…” He looked down.

“Dad, what did she say?”

“That they’ve…”

“She said she and Hillary had slept together?” Amara guessed.

“Yes, she did. When I told her I was your father, she hung up.”

“Dad, Caroline’s a drunk. Hillary hasn’t spoken to her in years. I mean, every so often, Caroline calls or texts. But Hill doesn’t answer or return her messages. The woman has a drinking problem.”

“But she said that she and Hillary had been together, Amara.”

“And I don’t believe her.” She shrugged. “Dad, trust me. Hillary loves me. She can’t stand Caroline. They dated for a long time, but that was forever ago; long before Hillary and I started dating.”

“Are you sure?” he asked with kind and concerned eyes.

“Am I sure that the woman I just married yesterday didn’t sleep with her ex-girlfriend? Yes, Dad. I am absolutely certain about that. You should be, too. You just said I found my soulmate and that you’re so happy for us in your speech downstairs. Did you not believe that?”

“I believed it. But I’m your father, Amara. I got a phone call that–”

“No, I got a phone call. You answered it. Caroline was probably drunk, and she got my number somehow. I’m listed because of my counseling job. She had probably convinced someone at the office to pass along my cell number. It doesn’t matter.” Amara shook her head at her own rambling. “Hill and Caroline have nothing to do with each other anymore.”

“I wouldn’t be a good father if I didn’t bring it up.”

“But you still don’t trust me about this, do you?” she asked, noting his awkward posture. She pulled her hand away. “Dad?”

“Honey, I loved your mother with my whole heart. I say that because even I had moments where I was tempted.”

“You didn’t–”

“Never,” he stated firmly. “Never, Amara. I never followed through on any of those temptations. I swore to uphold the vows I made to her in front of God.”

“Hillary made those same vows to me, Dad.”

“Yesterday,” he said.

“Are you kidding me?” Amara stood. “Dad, she’s your daughter-in-law now. You can’t just accuse her of something this horrible after you gave a big speech about how much you love her as a daughter.”

“I do love her as a daughter. I just wanted to advise you, sweetheart. Marriage is long, and it is difficult at times. You two were together for a long time before you got married. Just talk to her about–”

“You think you’re some kind of marriage expert?” she fired at him.

“I didn’t say those words exactly, but I do counsel couples as a part of my job, Amara.”

“But you act like you and Mom had this perfect marriage before she died, and that it makes you some kind of expert on marriage,” she said.

“It wasn’t perfect. No marriage is, Amara.”

“Did you know, Dad?” she asked a question she’d been holding in for years.

“Know what?” He stood up.

It wasn’t fair of her to bring this up; Amara knew that. But he’d just accused her wife of cheating on her. She saw red. Nothing else mattered; not even his feelings.

“About Mom?”

“What about your mother?” he asked, more concerned now.

“Did you know that she…” Amara couldn’t finish. She lowered her head and shook it. “Never mind.”

“No, say it, Amara.”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m going to get Hill, and we’re going home. I don’t want to hear about this again, Dad. Hill didn’t cheat on me. I won’t tell her you’re the one that picked up the phone. I’ll tell her I took the call. She’ll take the news better from me. She would hate to know you suspected her of something this terrible.”

“Are you talking about the older Amara?” he asked after a long moment.

She swallowed and looked back up at him in shock at hearing that name, even though it was also her own.

“Is that what this is about?”

“Dad…”

“Your mother wasn’t a lesbian, Amara. If you think that she–”

“Dad, I don’t know what Mom was. We never will. I made peace with that a while ago.”

“But you and the other Amara talked, I take it?” he crossed his arms over his chest. “When?”

“When did you find out?” she asked back.

“When I helped you and Hillary move into that place you shared.”

“That was–”

“Years ago, now. Yes.”

“How?”

“I found your mother’s old Bible; the one that you found on my bookshelf. I had a moment of nostalgia and decided to flip through the pages. I had never done that before, because the book belonged to you, but I wanted to be close to your mother in that moment.” He sat back down in defeat. “It didn’t take much to figure out that they were close when they were young.”

“They were,” she agreed.

“And that Amara has been spinning tales to you about your mother.”

“Tales? What?”

“I spoke with her after I found the book. It took me some time – months, technically – before I worked up the courage. I confronted her, and she told me lies about your mother I can only assume she told you.”

“They weren’t lies, Dad,” she replied. “They were together.”

“They were friends. And Amara, obviously, thought it meant more than that.”

“Dad, you saw Mom’s notes in the Bible. You can’t deny that they were more than just friends.”

“Your mother loved me, Amara.” His eyes welled with tears.

“Of course, she did.” She moved toward him but stopped when he held out his hand. “Dad, Mom loved you. I don’t doubt that. I never have.”

“She wasn’t a lesbian.”

“I never said she was. Mom’s gone. We can’t ask her. But, I guess I realized it doesn’t really matter. Mom made her choices. She met you, fell in love, and you two had me. That’s what matters.”

“Amara, you haven’t told anyone else about this, have you? About your mother’s friendship with this woman?”

“Hillary knows. Some of my close friends know, too.”

“Why? Why would they need to know?”

“Dad, Hillary is my wife. I tell her everything. She helped me figure out who I am and who I wanted to be. She was there for me when I was figuring all this out.”

“And you didn’t think to clue your father in on what you were discovering?” he fired at her.

“No, because I couldn’t hurt you. Even tonight, when you made me so angry, I still couldn’t actually go through with asking you about what you knew, because I don’t want to hurt you, Dad.”

“We should stop talking about this,” he said suddenly.

“Why? I think it’s time we get this all out in the open. We’ve been hiding things from each other, and I don’t want to do that anymore.”

“No,” he stated and stood. “That’s enough. I think we’ve gotten it all out there. You and Hillary should go home now.”

“Dad, we need to keep talking.”

“No, we don’t,” he returned with conviction. “You said it before: your mother made her choices. You and I were her choices. That’s all that matters. Her friendship with this other woman–”

“Amara,” she said. “Her name is my name, Dad.”

He lowered his gaze to the cream-colored carpet he’d installed the previous year.

“You don’t think I know that?!” he yelled at her. “Ever since I met that woman and thought she was bad for you to be around, ever since I found out about…” He paused. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore, Amara,” he yelled again. “Never again.”

Amara had never seen her father like this. He’d been mad at her so rarely when she was growing up, she’d hardly ever heard him raise his voice. She couldn’t think of a time he’d ever yelled like this before. She felt the tears fall to her cheeks before she even knew she was crying. Then, she ran to the door, opened it, and rushed to find her wife.


***

“Baby, please tell me what happened,” Hillary tried. “Amara?”

“I just need a minute,” Amara said through the bathroom door as she sobbed.

“Can I come in?”

“I need to clean up.”

“No, you don’t,” Hillary replied, opening the door slightly. “You don’t need to clean up for me. I’m your wife, Amara.”

She saw Amara with her back against the sink. The woman was wiping her cheeks of the tears that still fell with one hand and a with Kleenex in the other.

“I’m going to take a shower. I’ll be in–”

“Amara, please talk to me,” Hillary practically begged as she moved to stand in front of her. “Babe, what happened? We were having such a good day; two days, actually. What happened?”

“It’s too hard to talk about right now,” she replied.

Hillary wiped more tears away and asked, “Can you try?”

“I don’t want you to hate my dad,” she said.

“Why would I hate your dad, Amara?” She placed her hands on Amara’s hips.

“He said something.”

“About me?”

“Fucking Caroline!”

“Caroline? And did you just say fucking?” Her wife didn’t curse often. Just the fact that she’d said that word meant this was a big deal. The fact that she’d said Caroline’s name made things even worse. “What does she have to do with this?”

“She called my phone today.”

“Caroline called you?”

“He picked it up when we were outside.” Amara wiped another few tears. “I should just tell you I picked it up, but I don’t like lying to you, even if it is to defend him.”

“Babe, what did he do?”

“He answered when she called, and she was probably drunk. She said something about the two of you sleeping together.”

“What?”

“She said she still loves you and that you two…”

“Amara, I haven’t seen Caroline in years. You know she calls sometimes when she’s drunk. I don’t–”

“I know.” Amara placed her hand on Hillary’s cheek. “Baby, I know.”

“I’d never hurt you like that. You know that, too, right?”

“Yes.” She nodded.

“I love you,” Hillary said, feeling compelled to do so. “You’re my life, Amara. I don’t want anything to do with anyone else; Caroline especially.”

“I know.” Amara stroked her cheek with her thumb. “He didn’t trust that I knew that, though.”

“And you’re crying because you were defending me to your father? Should I go talk to him and tell him about Caroline’s problem?”

“No.” She shook her head rapidly. “I told him. I’m not sure if he believed me or not, but that’s not all that happened.”

“How could he think I’d do that to you?” Hillary asked, wrapping her arms more firmly around her wife’s waist. “Wait… What else happened?”

“He knows about Amara,” she said through fresh tears. “The other Amara.”

“He knows?”

“About her and my mom, yes. But he won’t admit that they were anything more than friends,” she replied.

“How did he–”

“He found the Bible when he helped us move.”

“In here?”

“Our old place,” Amara answered.

“That was forever ago.”

“He’s held onto it this whole time.” She pressed her face to Hillary’s neck. Hillary pulled her in tighter. “He got upset with me when I wanted to talk more about it.”

“Why?”

“I don’t think he wants to deal with the fact that Mom might have loved Amara.”

“Well, it was clear that she loved her.”

“I know.”

“But I can understand why he wouldn’t want to entertain that thought.”

“I’ve never heard him yell like that.”

“He yelled at you?” Hillary asked, pulling back to look her wife in the eyes.

“Yes. I think it was more at the situation, but he yelled.”

“I know he’s your father, but I’m going to kill him,” she said protectively. “He has no right to yell at you about this when it was your mother and his inability to deal with the fact that she might have loved a woman before him that’s caused this problem.”

“Can we just go to sleep? I’m suddenly so tired.”

“We can do whatever you want,” Hillary replied. “I thought you wanted to take a shower, though.”

“Right.” Amara swiped her hands over her face. “I do need to clean up.”

“I’ll get in with you. Come on,” Hillary said.

She walked to the shower, turned on the water, and adjusted the temperature before she turned back to her wife. Amara blew her nose and tossed the tissue into the trash. Hillary reached for the hem of Amara’s shirt, lifted it up and over her head, tossing it in the laundry basket a few feet away. She reached around Amara’s back and unclasped her bra. Amara helped her get it off her shoulders, then undid her own jeans, and slid them off her legs. Hillary pulled her panties down her legs and left them on the floor next to her feet while she kissed Amara’s thighs slowly. She stood a moment later, removing her own clothes as Amara went to climb into the shower.

Hillary joined her wife, wrapping her arms around Amara’s waist from behind immediately and letting Amara lean back against her. They didn’t wash anything for a few minutes. They didn’t say anything either. Hillary just held her. Amara let out a sob every so often until they finally ceased, and she turned around in Hillary’s arms, wrapping her own around Hillary’s waist this time.

“I love you,” she said as the water fell around them.

“I love you.” Hillary placed her arms around Amara’s neck. “And I’m going to change our phone numbers.”

“Why?”

“Because she’s not taking the hint. It’s been years. She hasn’t gotten the help I’d hoped she would, and I don’t ever want you to worry about–-”

“I don’t, Hill.” Amara kissed her quickly. “I don’t, I promise.”

“Still.”

“If you want to change the numbers, that’s fine. I’ll tell the office to make sure not to give out my cell number, since I’m sure that’s how she got it.”

“I’ll talk to the phone company tomorrow.”

“Do it when we get back, babe. We have a honeymoon to go on,” Amara requested. “I don’t plan on having my phone turned on the entire time we’re away. I just want it to be you and me.”

“Should we still go, given what happened tonight?”

“You think I’m canceling my honeymoon because of a fight with my father?”

“Not cancel it; I was thinking we could postpone. We got the travel insurance.”

“Hillary Robins, we saved up for years to be able to afford exactly two things. One of them was this house. The other was this dream trip we both want. I’m not postponing for him.”

“Okay.” Hillary kissed her forehead. “If that’s what you want…”

“It is.”

“Let’s get cleaned up and get you to bed,” Hillary suggested.

“I liked the way you put me to bed last night much better,” Amara said with a small smile.

“We’ll do plenty of that on our honeymoon, I promise.” Hillary kissed her lips.

As she lay in bed, Hillary stared at her sleeping wife. It had taken Amara a long time to finally let sleep take her. She’d tossed and turned for a couple of hours before she’d finally settled. Hillary watched her. She wasn’t sure why she felt like she needed to, but she did. Perhaps, it was that protective instinct one felt for their spouse. Her wife didn’t need for her to rescue her, but it had taken everything in Hillary not to drive back over to that man’s house and yell right back at him for hurting the woman she loved more than anything; for even suggesting to Amara that Hillary could do something like that to her. Her eyes began to get too heavy to keep them open. After an hour or so of just staring at Amara and thinking about the day’s events, she finally gave into sleep.


***

“Hey, you weren’t in bed.” Hillary kissed her on the lips.

“I woke up early. I didn’t want to wake you,” Amara replied.

Hillary sat down in the chaise lounge chair next to Amara. There was hardly enough room for two. They each had their own chair out here, but they usually ended up in the same one. Amara smiled as she hoped that never changed. She waited because she knew Hillary would slide, lean back, and spread her legs. When she did, Amara sat between them and lay against her wife’s chest.

“How are you?”

“Still tired.” Amara chuckled lightly “Apparently, every wedding is stressful, even if it’s ten minutes long and in front of a handful of people.”

“I don’t think it was the wedding,” Hillary suggested, kissing her temple.

“No, you’re right,” she admitted. “What should I do, Hill?”

Hillary tucked a strand of Amara’s auburn hair behind her ear and said, “Talk to him.”

“He doesn’t want to talk,” she said.

“He doesn’t want to deal with what happened. I can understand that. If I was him and you were your mom, and I lost you…”

“Hey, I’m right here.” Amara tightened her arms over Hillary’s around her waist.

“I know. I was just thinking about it last night. He lost her and had no idea that she’d had this great love before him.”

“You already know I didn’t have a great love before you. You are my great love.” She smiled at the thought.

“But that’s the thing: he thought that, too; probably because that was what she told him. She didn’t tell him about Amara.”

“Do you think she loved her more than she loved him?” Amara asked.

“Oh, I don’t think we’ll ever know that.”

“As much as I think I’d like to know the answers to many questions, I think it’s worse for him.”

“That’s why you never said anything,” Hillary replied.

“And I think he’s mad at me for that, too.”

“Let him be. I still think you made the right choice, Amara.”

“If I had told him what I’d found out, maybe things would be different right now, though.”

“Probably. But different doesn’t mean better. And I think any time you saved him from having to wonder was a gift.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean: he got a few more years of thinking he was your mom’s only love. He had a few more years of not having those questions rolling around in his brain.”

“I guess.”

“We leave tomorrow, Amara,” Hillary reminded.

“I know.”

“Do you want to talk to him before or after we get back?”

“I don’t want to have this hanging over me on our dream trip.”

“Do you want me to go with you?” Hillary asked.

“Yes. But would you mind if I talk to him alone first?”

“No.”

“I guess we should get dressed, then,” Amara said and then sighed at the thought of confronting her father again so soon.


***

“I’m here if you need me,” Hillary said, kissing her on the cheek as they stood outside Amara’s old home.

“I know. I love you.”

“I love you.” Hillary squeezed her hand.

“Amara?” Her father seemed surprised to see them. “Hillary, hello.”

“Dad, I want to talk about this,” Amara began. “Hill and I are about to go on our honeymoon, and I won’t let this thing between you and me get in the way of that.”

“I don’t want that either,” he replied. “Come in.” He motioned for them to enter the house.

“I’ll stay down here,” Hillary offered.

“No, you don’t have to,” he said, sitting in his recliner. “Please, sit.” He motioned to the sofa. “Both of you. Do you want something to drink?”

“No, Dad. We’re fine.”

“Good. Good.” He nodded.

Amara kept hold of Hillary’s hand as they sat on the sofa together.

“Dad, I–”

“Before you say anything… I owe you both an apology.”

“You do?”

“Hillary, I am unbelievably sorry for what happened yesterday,” he began. “I shouldn’t have answered Amara’s phone, and I shouldn’t have ever thought there was a chance you–”

“It’s okay,” Hillary interrupted him when she could tell he was struggling to finish. “Caroline is my ex-girlfriend from many, many years ago. She and I ended long before I ever spoke to Amara.” She turned to smile at her wife and then returned her gaze to him. “She has a drinking problem. It’s one of the reasons we broke up. I had hoped she’d get help, but she calls and messages every so often. I tried, in the beginning, to get her to stop. But when she didn’t, I just stopped replying. There have been fewer calls, but she still reaches out when she’s really drunk. I am sorry she called yesterday, but you should know I’d never do anything to hurt your daughter. As much as she and I have been through together, I’d never risk any of that for something so stupid.”

“I know that. I guess I’ve had a rough go of it recently, and I took that out on you.”

“Dad, is this about Shelly?” Amara asked him, putting two and two together. “Did she cheat on you?”

He’d dated only a few women in recent years. One of them had been for about six months. Her name was Shelly, and they’d met at the grocery store where she worked. Their relationship had ended only two weeks ago.

“She told me the night she ended things, yes.”

“Oh, Dad… I’m sorry,” she said.

“It’s fine.” He chuckled. “It hurt, of course, but it’s fine. Anyway, when I heard that woman on the phone, I think I might have been speaking from my own experience than anything else.”

“Dad, Caroline’s call aside, we need to talk about the other thing,” Amara said.

“I know.” He nodded and swallowed. “I don’t want to, but I know.”

“Should I go for this part?” Hillary asked.

“No, honey,” he replied. “You’re family now.” He smiled at her. “You can stay.”

“I’m sorry you found out the way you did, Dad,” Amara said.

“I’m sorry I held onto it for so long that I yelled at you yesterday.”

“Why did you?” she asked.

“Well, I suppose – in the beginning – it was because I didn’t believe what I’d read. I couldn’t take the Bible home with me without you noticing, so I’d only caught some of what was in there. I returned to it the next time I was there when I had a moment to read the rest, and it felt like I was seeing into part of your mother I never knew.” He paused, and Amara saw him gulp. “I thought I knew everything about her.”

“So did I,” she said.

“It took me a long time to talk to the other Amara. Almost a year, I think. I had some starts and stops. I knew you had her address, but I didn’t want to ask you or snoop around your home. I looked her up and went there, sitting outside in the car for a few hours sometimes.”

“Dad…”

“I know. It’s pathetic,” he said with a laugh. “When I finally confronted her, she told me the beginning of the story. I didn’t believe her. I couldn’t believe that my wife could love a woman in the way that she’d loved me.”

“Dad, you know Hillary’s bisexual, right?”

“Yes, I do. And I mean no disrespect, Hillary. It wasn’t about sexuality. If the older Amara had been a man and my wife had hidden their relationship, I would have felt the same confusion.”

“It’s okay. I understand,” Hillary said.

“She and I argued. It was all my fault. I still feel terrible.”

“You said she told you the beginning of the story?”

“Well, I didn’t want to hear the middle.” He gulped again. “Or the end,”

“She chose you, Dad.”

“I know. And I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for every day I had with her. But it doesn’t stop the questions in my mind. When I was leaving Amara’s place, I’d angered her so much, she told me what happened the night of your mom’s crash. She said she’d propositioned your mother, and your mother went home with me. That doesn’t actually answer anything though, does it? Did she choose me that night, when Amara propositioned her, because Amara was with another woman and she and I had you? Did she turn the woman down because of you; not because of me? Was it about me at all?”

“Dad, she loved you.”

“I know that. But it makes me wonder if she was in love with me. She struggled with that part of her in the same way I think you did before you met Hillary. She chose to push that part of herself down. She married me. I don’t know if she married me because she was pretending to be something she wasn’t or if she loved me in the way that I loved her. Maybe she was bisexual, too.”

“Maybe,” Amara said softly as she squeezed Hillary’s hand.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have yelled at you.”

“It’s okay. I hate fighting with you,” Amara replied.

“I hate it, too, sweetheart.” He slid his hands up and down his khaki pants. “I guess I’ll have to wait until I get to heaven to ask your mother these questions, huh?”

“I guess so,” she said. “Did you ever go back to Amara?”

“No. I think she’s done talking to me. I wasn’t kind to her.”

“Maybe if you apologized to her, she’d be willing to tell you the rest of the story.”

“Apologize to the woman who tried to…” He stopped and cleared his throat. “I thought your mother just had a very close friend. I still held onto that, even when I met this woman. I tried to pretend like she was lying to me about your mother for some reason. I didn’t want to believe that…”

“They were in love?” she asked. “They were, though, Dad.”

“I know that now. I knew that yesterday. I shouldn’t have yelled at my daughter for trying to speak the truth. It’s been a rough few weeks, with Shelly leaving and then the call from this Caroline woman. I didn’t handle any of it well.”

“When we come back from our honeymoon, maybe you and I can go talk to Amara.”

“Do you see her often?” he asked and appeared to be genuinely curious.

Amara leaned back against the sofa when Hillary’s protective arm wrapped around her shoulders and said, “No. I haven’t spoken to her in years.” She shrugged. “I hadn’t planned on speaking with her again. She told me about what happened that night. When I found out she’d tried to talk Mom into being with her again, that was pretty much it for me.”

“Your mom chose us, Amara,” he said more to comfort her than himself.

“I know that. The rest just kind of falls away with time,” Amara encouraged him. “I’ll never know those answers about Mom. That has to be okay. It has to be okay knowing that she would have gone home with you that night. She would have checked on me and probably tucked me in again, since I used to kick off my blankets.”

“You still do,” Hillary said, providing some levity.

Amara smiled at her and corrected, “Only sometimes.”

“That’s true,” Hillary agreed with a soft smile in her direction.

“It makes you look back,” he said as he looked at them fondly. “It makes you rethink every special moment you had with the person you loved when you find out something like this.”

“Dad…”

“I look at you two now, and I can see how much you love one another. I’m so happy you found each other. I’m so happy Hillary helped bring you out of your shell, and that you two challenge each other to be better people. I just wanted you to know that.”

“Thank you,” she said, placing her hand on Hillary’s thigh.

She couldn’t believe how far her father had come. He’d seen them kissing before she’d had a chance to come out to him and reacted how she’d anticipated a devout man of God would react to his only daughter kissing another woman. It took them a long time to get to the place where Hillary could kiss her in front of him, wrap her arm around her, and for Amara to have a hand on her wife’s thigh. Her wife. Hillary was her wife. Just the fact that he’d been at their ceremony, had thrown them a brunch afterward, and was now staring at them lovingly had her loving her father even more.

“I have to run,” he said. “I only came home to pick up some food for the church potluck. I was on my way back out when you two showed up.” He stood, signaling to them that he was probably done talking about this; at least for today.

“I guess we’ll see you when we get back, then,” Amara said, standing with Hillary.

“You two have fun, relax, and don’t think about this or worry about me at all.”

“Well, we’ll worry, but that’s just because we love you,” Hillary said.

Amara looked over at her and felt her heart burst with happiness and pride at how her wife had changed with time, too. When they’d met officially, Hillary was having her own self-esteem issues. Caroline had done a number on her, and it showed. The relationship between Hillary and her father hadn’t always been great. Initially, his rejection of them as a couple had hurt Hillary, despite how she’d tried to be so strong for Amara. They’d built more of a friendship over time, but this moment might just be the first time Amara had heard Hillary say that she loved her father.

“I expect to see some pictures of this island you’re going to when you return,” the man said with a smile as he ushered them in the direction of the front door. “And will you join me at church when you get back? Just for the PFLAG meeting? It’s helpful for me as the leader to have my daughter and her new wife show up. It makes it seem a lot easier for my parishioners to find ways to support their friends and family.”

“Sure,” Hillary answered for them. “Happy to help at show and tell,” she teased.

They’d been to the meetings a few times. Sometimes, they just sat there next to Amara’s father as he spoke or listened to the other participants. Sometimes, Amara spoke as a counselor of young people struggling with their sexuality or dealing with a family that didn’t support them. They’d go again whenever they could for as long as he wanted. Hillary had actually taken over Mark’s old job as a facilitator of the Al-Anon meetings at the church. Mark had taken a more active role in the church and didn’t have enough time left over in the day to facilitate them. She’d been proud of her wife then, too.


***

Hillary and Amara hadn’t ever taken a real vacation together. When they’d first met, neither of them was well-off. Amara was still living with her father. He paid all the bills while she worked in the church office as a receptionist, assistant, and an office manager in one. It had been so important to her that she live on her own before she and Hillary moved in together; and she’d done that. Later, when they’d gotten engaged, they moved in together. They started saving for their dream house shortly after they met. It took them years of working hard to save up enough for a nice‑sized down payment. The rest of the money was for this vacation. Two weeks in Hawaii – bouncing from island to island if they chose, or staying just on Oahu and Maui if they wanted. They’d booked one week on each island at a five-star resort. They planned on pampering themselves, enjoying the best food the islands had to offer. They’d also have couple’s massages, swim in the clear ocean, and make love in their honeymoon suite.

“Babe, do you want to go to the big island?” Amara asked her.

“I thought we decided we might do a day trip, but maybe not.”

“I want to go to the Volcanoes National Park,” Amara explained with an excited smile.

Hillary glanced over at the brochure Amara had opened about halfway through the flight. Her wife had packed several brochures in her carry-on. Instead of just sleeping or watching the in-flight movie like most people, Amara was still planning the trip they were on their way to.

“Amara, we’re literally on a plane to Oahu right now,” she said through some laughter.

“You know I’m not exactly a world traveler. I’m excited, Hill. We’re sitting in these amazing first-class seats. We’re going to stay in this perfect resort. It’s finally happening, and I’m kind of freaking out about missing stuff.”

“We’ll just come back again.”

“In, like, a decade? That’s how long it’s going to take for us to be able to afford a trip like this again.” She laughed.

“You’re really adorable right now,” Hillary said as she smiled at her wife.

“How did you get that from–”

Hillary leaned over the separator between their lush seats and kissed her wife. The moment their lips connected, she knew she wouldn’t ever want to stop kissing this woman. Amara’s tongue slid between Hillary’s lips. Hillary moaned slightly and was glad for the sound of the plane’s engines covering up the sound.

“I’m pulling the thing,” Hillary said between kisses.

“What thing?” Amara asked as Hillary moved to pull the curtain that gave them a modicum of privacy from the rest of the passengers. “Oh.” She met Hillary’s eyes as Hillary moved to kneel in front of her. “Babe, no. We can’t.” Amara’s eyes went wide.

“Do you remember that first time in my office?” Hillary asked as she pulled at the comfortable sweats Amara had worn for the flight. “I was on the floor in front of you, like this.”

“Hill, what if someone sees?” Amara asked, covering Hillary’s hands on the waistband over pants.

“They won’t. The engines will cover your sounds.” She winked up at her. “And literally everyone in first class is either asleep or wearing noise-canceling headphones. The curtain says we want privacy. If someone wants to risk that, that’s on them.” Hillary’s eyes lowered to Amara’s hands covering her own. “Join the mile-high club with me, babe?”

“Never in a million years would I have thought…” Amara didn’t finish. She just watched as Hillary tugged at her pants. She lifted her hips to allow Hillary to pull them down to her ankles and then watched with now hooded eyelids as her sexy wife removed her underwear to join the pants. “You’re really hot right now,” she said when Hillary’s lips met the inside of her right thigh.

“So are you,” Hillary replied, pressing her hands to the inside of Amara’s thighs to encourage her to spread her legs. “I want you, and it can’t wait until after we land, drive to the resort, get checked in, and finally have some time alone.”

“Then, take me,” Amara said.

Hillary marveled at her wife from her position on the floor. She thanked the stars above that they’d splurged for first-class seats because she planned on taking full advantage of this extra legroom. She used her fingers to spread Amara, leaned in, and licked her center hard. Amara gasped at the first touch. Then, she seemed to sink further into her seat. Hillary pressed in further, loving the taste of her wife as she licked and sucked her harder and faster as she went. Amara’s hand covered the back of her head, pushing her in more. A moment later, Hillary heard the sound of the flight attendants moving their cart down the aisle. She stopped her movements. Then, she felt Amara move around a little. Suddenly, the airline blanket was placed over Hillary, as if that would stop someone from noticing a human body on the floor in front of Amara.

“Don’t stop,” Amara said just above a whisper.

This woman had come from being so shy, it had taken them more than a year to actually talk for the first time. Hillary had played a part in that, sure, but Amara had been in the closet, dating Mark and working for her father. When they’d made love for the first time, it had been this perfect experience for both of them. The next day, Hillary had gone down on her knees in her office on campus to pleasure Amara, and that had been a stretch. She hadn’t been sure Amara would want to go that far, that soon. Anyone could have interrupted the moment, but she’d let Hillary take her. Over the years, Amara had gotten even more adventurous. Now, Hillary was sucking her clit hard as her tongue attempted to flick it side to side. Amara came silently, pressing Hillary into her as hard as she could before she finally let go of Hillary’s head to signal she was done. Hillary lifted her head out of the blanket and smirked up at her.

“How was it?” Hillary asked her.

“You can tell me when we switch places,” Amara replied as she reached for her underwear and pants, shifting Hillary back to her own seat in the process. “You. Here. Now.” She pointed to her window seat.

“I love when you’re demanding like that,” Hillary said, switching seats with her wife once Amara had her pants back on.

Amara moved into Hillary’s aisle seat first. She opened the curtain just barely and said something to someone just outside it. Then, she pulled it back to cover them.

“They’re coming around with drinks. I told them you were sleeping and that we’re good. I asked them to leave us alone until we’re landing.” Her eyes got big. “But politely,” she added.

“I love you.” Hillary laughed at her wife.

“Good. Undo your belt buckle,” she commanded.


***

Amara had two full weeks of relaxation, and she still felt tense. Their honeymoon had been everything she’d wanted and more. They’d done all the things she’d planned and had time to add a couple more to the list. She’d been ready to come back home, though. She missed her work and knew Hillary missed her own. Plus, they still had work to do on their home. They’d only just finished remodeling the kitchen before their wedding day. Their next project was painting the living room walls. It sounded so entirely domestic. She used to fear that kind of domesticity when she was with Mark and the previous men she dated. Just the idea of marrying a man and having this kind of life made her stomach turn. Having it with the love of her life, though, somehow made it all perfect. Now, if they could only just agree on a paint color…

“Dad, if you don’t want to do this, we don’t have to. I can call her and cancel,” Amara said as she took her father’s hand.

“I can turn the car around,” Hillary offered as they drove.

A week after they’d returned, she’d spoken with her father about the possibility of meeting with the older Amara; in a way, to get him whatever kind of closure he could get. He hadn’t been sure at first, but then he’d made the decision. Amara had called her namesake for him. She’d thought about warning the woman to give him the information he wanted, but to do so carefully. She didn’t, though. Her father wanted the full truth; whatever that truth may be. She would allow him to get it.

“I’m okay,” he replied. “We’re almost there anyway.” He smiled at Amara, who was looking back at him from her position in the front seat, next to her wife. “You have her name, Amara,” he added softly, staring out the window now. “I need to understand why.”

Amara nodded solemnly and replied, “I understand.”

“We’re pulling in,” Hillary said.

The car – which had been Amara’s first official brand new car purchase – pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant they’d agreed to meet at for lunch. Hillary was driving because Amara was too nervous to do so.

“Are you ready?” Amara asked her father.

“No.” He chuckled and met her eyes. “No matter what though, I have to trust your mother. I have to trust the life we made together. I have to trust her the way you showed your trust for your wife.”

Amara glanced over at Hillary, who had a nice dark tan that covered nearly her entire body just as she turned off the engine and smiled. Amara knew that tan covered her body because she’d touched every single part of it repeatedly in their hotel suite, on a private beach at night when no one was watching, and back in their own bed the night after they returned.

“I can understand that, too,” Amara said to him but looked at Hillary. “She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“Ditto.” Hillary winked at her. “And to think, I was almost too much of a coward to even talk to you.”

“I thank God every day that you did,” Amara replied.

“Should we go in? We’re a little early.” Her father cleared his throat out of nervousness.

“Let’s go,” Amara said.

The three of them got out of the car. Hillary took Amara’s hand immediately and gave it a squeeze. There was just nothing like knowing the person you loved most in the world would always be standing by your side, taking your hand whenever you needed them to. Amara knew that things would go up and down in a marriage. Their marriage would be no exception. There was a reason the vows spoke about the good and the bad times. She also knew Hillary would always hold out her hand for Amara to take when she needed it, and that Hillary would take her own whenever she realized Amara needed their fingers entwined for support or comfort. There was something magical about that.

Her father no longer had that. He’d lost it with her mother. He thought he’d regained it a couple of times after that, but none of those times or those women had lasted. Amara could only hope that talking to this woman from her mother’s past with a more open approach today would help him get something he’d been missing since the moment he found out his wife’s secret.

She squeezed Hillary’s hand back just as her father opened the restaurant’s door for them. When they walked in, she immediately recognized an older version of the Amara she’d once tracked down. The woman stood and brushed nothing off her pants. She was alone. There was no longer a ring on her finger, Amara noticed accidentally. She felt sad in that moment. Maybe the older Amara had lost the woman she’d held hands with for so many years, too. Everyone should have someone to hold hands with, she decided as they approached her.

“Hello,” the woman greeted anxiously.

Amara knew, at that very moment, that whatever answers this woman gave them, it wouldn’t matter at all. Her father would get his real answers when he met her mother again in heaven. Amara had all the answers she needed already. She had her beautiful life with the one woman she wanted to share it with forever. She had a father who loved and supported her. She had her work that she felt was more of a calling.

There would always be questions. But, sometimes, the questions didn’t need answering. Amara only needed what she already had. She sat down next to her father. Hillary took the spot on the other Amara’s side, sensing the father and daughter would want to share the side of the booth for this conversation. Her eyes met Amara’s, and she smiled.

Amara had everything she needed.


Continue reading: After… Macon’s Heart