"We're going to be late," Tara urges her wife. "Come on, baby, you look beautiful." Her eyes glint with amusement.
Willow parades in front of the mirror, her sharp eyes examining every inch of her body. "This doesn't make me look fat, does it?"
She glances down at the flowered print. Her family are used to Willow the Attorney who wears somber, tailored clothing and a tight smile. She isn't planning to tell them about the baby yet, but she feels the urge to dress more casually than usual.
Tara laughs. "You wanted to look fat, remember? That was the point." She rolls her eyes at Willow. "Anyway, I thought you were against society's obsession with looking slim."
Willow looks pitifully at her wife. "I am." She gestures at the large shirt. "But maybe I should change."
Tara grabs Willow's hand and pulls her out of their bedroom.
When they arrive, the party is in full swing. That is, Rosenberg full swing, which means that most of the men are seated, complaining about their sore backs and wives, while the women congregate in the kitchen.
"Willow and Tara," Willow's mother, Sheila, greets the girls with a smile. "I'm glad you two could make it." She studies Willow's clothing with interest.
"Happy birthday," they chorus, and Willow hands her a present.
The couple are ushered into the kitchen where they kiss and greet the family members. They stand around making small talk, and Willow helps her mother prepare food.
"Oh, hey, I remember you," one of Willow's male relatives says, approaching Tara. "You're Tara, Willow's girlfriend."
Willow puts down the salad utensils and turns to face the pair. "Wife," she says, politely but firmly.
"Now Willow, let's not get political." The relative smiles.
"How does that work, anyway?" Willow's cousin Lucy, who used to be a close friend when they were teenagers, looks curious. "Didn't they void those San Francisco marriages?"
The relative nods, looking serious. "They revoked the marriages. They ruled that the city had violated the law, so the marriages weren't legal."
Lucy stares at him. "You've got to admit that's a little harsh."
"Well, I'm sure it was hard for you, Willow. We were all upset for you when we heard the news. But I wasn't surprised." The look on his face says that he wasn't too bothered, either. "It's not like you're not allowed to be a couple. You just can't marry."
Tara notices that Willow has picked up the utensils and is drumming them on the counter, and takes them away gently.
"Actually," she replies, surprising herself, "it wasn't hard. We didn't have to do anything. One minute we were a married couple and the next minute that status had been taken from us."
The relative raises an eyebrow.
"But," the blonde continues, "if I were to summarize how it was, I'd personally use the term soul destroying." She smiles at Willow. "Would you agree, honey?"
Willow mutters under her breath about the legal system.
We'd been married exactly six months when we found out.
By then, we'd done the typical things. We'd carried each other - with difficulty - through the doorway of our house, giggling madly. We invited friends over to use the fondue set we'd received as a wedding present, dancing to sixties music and stringing up rainbow lights in our lounge room. We were able to check the box "married" and fill in the "name of spouse" line on medical forms, ignoring the looks we received.
The best part was that we could officially refer to each other as wife. It felt strange at first; the word seemed clumsy on my tongue. I'd start to introduce Willow to a colleague as my girlfriend or partner, and then I'd stumble and correct myself. Wife. Gradually, it felt good to use the word.
As humans do, we began to take it for granted. No longer did I pause to grin at Willow whenever I used the line "my wife and I...". It wasn't that we were greedy or unappreciative, but like most couples, we moved on.
On the morning we found out, we happened to be joking around about our marriage. I was teasing Willow because she refused to use the bathroom until I removed the spider from the wall. She said that I was the husband in our relationship and pleaded with me to do something about the offending creature.
She was wrapped in her silk gown - it wasn't long enough after making love to be dressed - and she picked up her laptop to check her email as I did the dirty business.
I hummed to myself as I approached the bathroom. "Hey there," I whispered, my eyes glued to the spider, "you've got hairy legs, little lady. Your legs even compete with mine." I laughed out loud at my own lame joke, thinking of our unused razor.
The spider darted away from me and I cursed, trying to balance on the chair and hold out the newspaper at the same time.
I put my hand against the cold blue tiles and tried to mentally encourage the spider to crawl towards me.
Just as I was about to lose patience I heard Willow cry out.
I dropped the paper and watched the spider run across the wall and onto the ceiling. I'd never catch it now. "Oh god, baby, are you okay?"
When I reached our bedroom I tried to look over her shoulder to see what had hurt her or bothered her, but she seemed reluctant for me to read whatever it was. I wasn't the forceful sort and knew that she would show me eventually.
"Sweetie," I said, lifting hair out of her eyes and peering at her with concern, "what happened?" I put one arm around her shoulders and pulled her close to me.
When she finally spoke, her words were not what I expected. In fact, I didn't even understand them at first.
"Well, I guess I better get used to saying this again." She sat up, a strange look on her face, pretending to greet someone. "Let me introduce you to my girlfriend, Tara."
As expected, the conversation turns ugly. Tara and Willow try hard to be nice, despite the things being said about gayness ruining the institution of marriage.
Willow is called away by an old school friend who wants to 'catch up'. Before following the friend, her green eyes silently appraise Tara's. She thinks of how well Tara argues and decides that the blonde will be fine on her own.
Tara wonders how much longer this conversation will go on for. She wishes she'd had the sense to follow Willow. Then, to her surprise, she hears a voice behind her, not critiquing but standing up for her.
"Leave the poor woman alone," a voice rasps. "So, she loves Willow. That's not a crime, last time I checked. And I've been around long enough to know that homosexuality is no longer illegal. Not in this state, anyway." She glares at the man.
He does a double-take. "Wow, Aunt Samantha," he exclaims, "it's so good to see you here."
"Why?" She frowns. "Did you assume I was dead?"
He produces a fake laugh that makes Tara want to shudder. "Oh, Tara, this is Samantha. Willow's great-Aunt. We barely see her anymore. She keeps busy for an old kukka."
Tara can only gape.
Later, Willow, Tara and Samantha sit outside on the porch. Samantha lies back in the hammock, eyes closed, swaying gently. They've been talking for some time, about general things. Tara feels relaxed for the first time since arriving at the party.
"Aunt Sam," Willow says, "what's new in your life?"
The older lady seems reticent. "Nothing interesting, Willow. Just little old me, plodding around, causing trouble." She smiles, showing her dentures.
Willow pushes. It's not like Samantha to be so reserved; Samantha was always the one inciting arguments and debates over dinner tables. One of Willow's favorite memories is the time that Samantha tried to comfort one of her young cousins, who was having relationship problems. Samantha had chuckled and told the table about the time that Sheila was diagnosed with thrush by her disgusted boyfriend, who was a medical student.
Samantha opens her eyes. "Fine," she says quietly. "I'm having some heart trouble at the moment. BUT," she says before Willow can speak, "I don't like or appreciate sympathy."
Willow nods, her mind racing. "You have to promise me," she says, "that you'll tell us if it becomes serious."
The old woman nods dismissively. "Serious shmerious," she says. "Now, on to more interesting things." Her eyes travel slowly, deliberately, until focussing on Willow's stomach. She swivels her head until she faces Tara. "So," she says, a smile in her voice, "you knocked her up at last."