Kelley doesn't think she’ll ever get used to the flashing lights that follow Alex everywhere she goes, but she's learned not to take anything about Alex for granted.
The flashing lights are a direct result of Alex’s growing fame, for better or for worse. Nobody is completely sure what to make of it, but people are interested in her, and that interest begets opportunities like the one she took to be a red carpet correspondent for E! this awards season, which begets opportunities like her current venture as a literal Cover Girl.
Alex straightens her back and shoulders, taking Kelley’s hand as she smiles shyly while strangers with cameras shout “happy birthday, Alex!”
“Thank you!” she calls, letting Kelley pull her toward the restaurant where they're having an intimate birthday dinner. “Sorry,” she whispers when they finally get through the door. “Nina must have called them.”
“I'm never going to complain about being photographed next to the most beautiful girl in the world,” Kelley assures her. “Oh, but I did use your name to get this reservation.”
Alex laughs and rolls her eyes, following Kelley and the waitress to the back.
“Your waiter will be right over,” the hostess says. “Can I tell him any drinks to get started for you besides water?”
“Sparkling white grape juice, please,” Kelley says, winking toward Alex. “It's her birthday, so we’re celebrating.”
Alex turns pink, but the hostess just nods and smiles. “Happy birthday! I'll see what we can do.”
“Honey, they don't have that,” Alex whispers across the table.
“Don't doubt me,” Kelley says. “Only the best for my girl.”
Sure enough, when their waiter comes out, he playfully “uncorks” the juice and pours it into champagne glasses for them and wishes Alex a happy birthday.
Once he's gone, Kelley lifts her glass. “To another year around the sun,” she says. “And many many more.”
The meal comes out in courses that Alex scarfs down while Kelley eats a few bites here and there. When dessert comes out and Kelley only takes a bite before putting her fork down, Alex places a hand on top of Kelley’s.
“Are you okay?” she asks. “You've barely touched your dinner.”
“Yeah,” Kelley says. “My stomach hurts a little, but I'm fine.”
“Are you sure you still want to go out?” Alex asks. They don't go out to party much these days, preferring to have a few trusted friends over to hang out and drink (everyone but Alex) and play cards (mostly Alex because nobody else wants to play her after a few rounds) by the pool. But Alex said she wanted to dance tonight, and Kelley isn't going to say no on her birthday.
“I'm sure I'll be fine by then,” Kelley assures her. She signals the waiter. “We’ll take the final course now.”
Alex looks down at the plate she practically licked clean of cheesecake remnants and back up at Kelley. “Another one?” she asks. “I swear I'm going to explode.”
Kelley laughs. “That's never stopped you before.”
When the waiter comes back out, though, he only brings Kelley a covered plate. “Enjoy,” he says with a knowing glance at Alex, who looks to Kelley in confusion.
Kelley removes the cover to reveal a small black velvet box nestled among chocolate-covered strawberries.
Alex's eyes widen as she starts to process, but before she can fully internalize what's happening, Kelley starts to speak.
“The past two and a half years with you have been the best of my life,” Kelley says. “Even the hardest times have been made sweet knowing there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is you and me together for the long haul.”
Alex’s hands fly to her face, and her eyes well up with tears that roll down her cheeks, luckily not streaking her waterproof (Cover Girl, obviously) mascara as Kelley opens the box to reveal a sparkling diamond ring.
“Will you marry me, Alexandra?”
Alex nods as fast as she can, taking a long gasping breath before saying “yes.”
Kelley moves her chair so she's sitting adjacent to Alex and slides the ring onto her left hand. Alex is still gasping for air and crying when Kelley kisses her lips, but Kelley thinks it might be a good thing.
“Baby,” Kelley laughs, her own eyes tearing up as she wipes Alex’s cheeks with her thumbs. “Don't cry.”
Alex shakes her head, staring at the ring, then back at Kelley, then back at the ring. “I can't believe this,” she cries. “I just can't—a year ago I didn't think we would make it through the end of last year.”
“Sweetheart,” Kelley says softly.
“No, I didn't,” Alex insists. “I was already trying to prepare myself for what I would do when you left because you couldn't take it anymore, but then you stayed. And you just kept staying, even when you could have run. And I don't know when I stopped questioning it, but… God, I want to be with you forever and ever.”
Kelley laughs. “Good, because I want to be with you forever and ever, and I hear having that in common is a good place to start.”