When Larissa Santos opened her front door and saw Rachel Bush for the first time, she was immediately flooded with emotions.
Larissa felt “pulled” to Rachel, who was standing expectantly on Larissa’s doorstep. Larissa also suddenly felt “very, very nervous” as she introduced herself to the stranger on her steps.
It was February 2021. Larissa was 27 and one month into a year she’d planned to spend totally single.
“I had been with someone prior for 10 years. So I wanted to take some time for myself,” Larissa recalls.
Rachel and Larissa moved in the same circles – sort of, they had a friend in common – but until the day Rachel turned up on Larissa’s doorstep, they’d never met. Plus, Rachel lived in Kentucky, Larissa lived an hour away in Tennessee.
Back then, Rachel was 26. Like Larissa, she’d just come out of a long term relationship and had sworn herself to singledom, vowing to put all her time and energy into work.
Rachel was a wedding photographer and, in February 2021, her work had just started up again following a Covid-induced pause. It felt like the perfect time to knuckle down on her career.
The day Rachel ended up on Larissa’s Nashville doorstep, she was supposed to be on a plane to California for work.
An intense snowstorm had canceled her original flight out of Nashville several days earlier.
“Oh, no big deal, we’ll just push it back a day,” thought Rachel when she heard the news.
Then, for five consecutive mornings, Rachel woke up to the same notification. Today’s flights: canceled. Today’s forecast: more snow. There was no sign of her flight departing anytime soon.
By the fifth day, Rachel was ready to give up. She was booked for two weeks of work, and she’d already missed almost all of the first week.
“I was over it,” she says today.
Rachel was debating what to do when she saw on Instagram that a Nashville resident she vaguely knew – a woman called Katie – was offering lifts to anyone stranded by the snow.
“She was like, ‘Thank God for a four-wheel drive, just got my new car,” Rachel recalls.
Rachel had met Katie only once – she’d taken her picture – and since then they’d kept up on social media here and there, but had never gotten round to meeting up again.
Rachel briefly wondered if it was appropriate to reach out to this not-quite-stranger for a lift. But she was getting desperate, so she swiped the uncertainty from her mind and dropped Katie a message.
“I was like, ‘Hey, I know that we don’t know each other – we’ve only hung out one time – but could you potentially pick me up and can I stay at your house and can you drive me to the airport tomorrow?’” recalls Rachel. She promised to buy Katie dinner in return.
Katie messaged her back right away. Rachel was welcome, and Katie had a spare bed waiting.
“So I went to her house,” recalls Rachel. “And then when I got there, I was just so stressed out.”
Rachel’s acquaintance-turned-snow-savior quickly prescribed a remedy.
“Let’s go out,” Katie said. “We can go to this place me and my friend always go to, it’s a jazz club. And we can pick her up on the way.”
Rachel said this sounded perfect: “I need a drink,” she said.
So the two women got back in Katie’s car and headed into the city center, swinging by Katie’s friend’s house first.
That’s how Rachel ended up on the doorstep of Larissa’s house.
Rachel’s first impression of Larissa was her warm, welcoming smile. Then, Rachel remembers Larissa’s arms around her – right away, Larissa enveloped her in a “big, bear hug.”
This moment sticks with Larissa too.
“As I came out of the hug, I just remember us for a second, we looked at each other again, and smiled,” she says.
As the two women stood on Larissa’s steps, both Larissa and Rachel felt as though something had happened, but they couldn’t put their finger on what exactly it was.
Breaking out of the moment, Larissa ushered Rachel and Katie out of the snow and into her house. She was still in her sports bra and sweatpants and needed to get ready for the evening out. But Katie was peppering her with questions.
“How did it go today?” she asked. “What happened?”
“It was all okay,” said Larissa. Then, she filled in the blanks for Rachel, explaining that earlier that day, she’d come out as bisexual to her parents.
Larissa’s previous, decade-long relationship had been with a man, so her parents hadn’t seen this revelation coming, but they’d been accepting.
Rachel saw parallels between herself and Larissa right away. She’d also been in a long term relationship with a man until recently. Rachel had mentioned to her mother that she was bisexual a few years previously, but wasn’t sure how seriously her mom had taken the news, given that Rachel was with a guy at the time.
The three women continued chatting as they got ready to go out for the evening. There was an instant level of comfort between Rachel and Larissa. They’d never met before, but they both felt easy and open in one another’s company.
“It just felt very safe immediately,” says Larissa. Looking back, she wonders if there was something about the randomness of the evening – the canceled flight, the stranger on the doorstep, the snow – that added to this feeling.
“The unexpected allowed us to just feel in the moment what was happening,” she says.
At the jazz bar, Larissa and Rachel continued to feel a growing connection. Without thinking, they sat close together, sharing the same small bar stool.
“My thigh was touching hers,” says Rachel. “And then we just kept talking and talking.”
Later on, Larissa turned to Rachel and asked if she could kiss her.
Rachel said yes.
For Rachel, the whole evening consisted of “so many things that were so not my personality.” She wasn’t usually spontaneous, but that evening she was “just going with the flow.”
The night went on. Rachel and Larissa danced together in the middle of the bar. Later, they twirled together in the snow, hand-in-hand.
They hung out together the next day too. Then, Rachel finally boarded the long-delayed flight to California.
Falling in love
Before she left, Rachel left things open-ended with Larissa. Neither woman asked for the other’s number. Looking back, Larissa says this was “so silly.”
But at the time, she remembered feeling a bit overwhelmed by the whole evening, and just how perfect it had been.
“This is so weird,” Larissa recalls thinking. “I feel so attracted to this girl, I need to go home and just recenter myself and be at home.”
But when Rachel returned from California, she asked Katie for Larissa’s number. Then she reached out, telling Larissa she was planning on heading the hour into Nashville to have dinner with a friend. She asked Larissa if she’d like to join.
“I was like, ‘What is this? Is this a date? Is she just casually asking me to hang out with her and her friend?’” recalls Larissa. She couldn’t figure out the answer, so decided to bring along a friend too, to keep things even.
“And then we went to dinner and the other people there, it was just like they didn’t exist,” says Larissa. “It was just her and I, talking.”
“I don’t think they said three words,” says Rachel. “We’re just talking the entire time.”
After that, Larissa and Rachel were in touch all the time.
“We started talking pretty much every day, we would just send each other voice messages throughout the day,” says Rachel.
Their messages back and forth were long, deep and thoughtful. Rachel talked about her hatred of scary movies, which stemmed from a terrifying dream she used to have as a kid. She started describing the nightmare via voice note. Then, midway through her explanation, Larissa called her.
“I actually have chills right now,” said Larissa over the phone. “I had that exact same dream when I was a kid.”
“And she finished telling me the dream,” recalls Rachel today. “With all the details, the exact same one that I had.”
The two women were unnerved by this connection. It drew them closer still.
“I think after that we were like, ‘Okay, this is cosmic or something.’ There were so many synchronicities in our lives – that we had experienced similar things, or been at the same spot,” says Rachel. “It was just things that made no sense that drew us together.”
Within three days, Rachel texted Larissa: “I think I’m in love with you.”
“Me too,” wrote back Larissa. “I’m so in love with you.”
Rachel introduced Larissa to her childhood best friend, who’d been skeptical of all the people Rachel had dated. This time round, the friend agreed with Rachel – things with Larissa just seemed right.
Meanwhile, Larissa FaceTimed her sister to introduce her to Rachel. It felt like an important, ground-breaking moment.
“My family had not seen me with girls,” says Larissa.
Larissa’s sister was delighted.
“My sister’s like, ‘Awesome, love that for you,’” recalls Larissa.
A few days later, Larissa FaceTimed her parents. When she’d come out to them – right before she’d met Rachel – she’d told them that while she was bisexual, she thought she’d probably end up marrying a man.
On the call now, she had a different message to share.
“I just remember being like, ‘I’m in love with a woman,’” Larissa says. “It didn’t even take two weeks for me to let my parents know, ‘Actually, I am going to marry a girl. And this is her.’”
Rachel decided to introduce Larissa to her parents as a friend first. She wanted them to get to know Larissa before they learned they were dating, but her mother picked up on Rachel and Larissa’s connection right away.
“I was like, ‘Oh Mom, this is my friend Larissa from Nashville.’ And my mom was like, ‘Oh, cool,’ and she hugged her. Then she just kind of looked at her, and she looked between us. And then we both knew that she knew,” says Rachel, laughing.
A couple of days later, Rachel called her dad. She was having issues with her neck, and her dad’s a doctor, so she wanted to get his perspective.
Rachel’s father told her she’d be fine, but suggested she should get someone to stay round and help her do stuff around her house, so she didn’t strain her neck further.
“I was like, ‘Well, actually, my friend Larissa is going to come from Nashville, and she’s going to stay with me,’” recalls Rachel.
“And he just made a little face at me and said, ‘You should keep her around. She’s a good one.’ And that was him confirming that he knew also.”
Catching up with feelings
Larissa and Rachel had fallen for each other fast. In almost every way, it was perfect. The only difficulty was “catching up with everything that we were feeling,” as Larissa puts it.
Their connection had been deep and sudden. At times they both felt overcome. It was like they’d jumped head first into something that had started before they’d even met.
“With her and I, there was no beginning,” says Larissa. “It was what it was and that’s how it will be. There’s no beginning to us. There’s not a middle time, it was just everything all at once.”
“With her and I, there was no beginning. It was what it was and that’s how it will be. There’s no beginning to us. There’s not a middle time, it was just everything all at once.”
“It was very vulnerable,” says Rachel. “I just remember telling myself, ‘Yes, it’s scary. But it’s also so exciting. And so fun. So I’m just going to run at it.’”
They spoke about what it would mean if they consciously tried to slow things down. But they decided that felt forced.
“We both had a conversation where it was like, ‘Even if we were to pump the brakes, that would be against the grain of what feels natural,’” says Rachel.
From the outset, it was obvious that Larissa and Rachel were quite different personalities – they describe themselves as “fire and water.”
“We’re completely opposite,” says Larissa.
But they approached life with a similar drive, vigor and romance.
“We have the same outlook on romanticizing life,” says Rachel.
Multiple engagements and two weddings
A month or so into their relationship, Larissa and Rachel realized they’d never formally decided to become girlfriend and girlfriend.
In the same conversation, Rachel also mentioned she’d never gone on a “proper date” – the kind where someone picked her up, brought flowers and took her out to dinner.
Larissa was shocked. And immediately decided that had to be rectified.
“You have 30 minutes to get ready,” she told Rachel. “I’ll be right back.”
Then, Larissa left her house, where they were both staying, and went out to get a bouquet of flowers. She also bought one of those signs on which you can switch out the letters and spell different words and phrases.
Then she paused, debating what to spell out on the sign.
‘It felt so stupid to ask her to be my girlfriend,” says Larissa – they’d been together for almost two months by then, so it felt a bit unnecessary.
So instead, Larissa decided, “I’m just going to ask her to marry me.”
She spelled out “Marry me forever” on the board. Then she drove home, knocked on her own front door, waited for Rachel to open it, and pointed to the sign.
“She hugs me, and she’s like, ‘What the heck?’” says Larissa. “And we kiss.”
In the car on the way to the restaurant, Rachel turned to Larissa.
“Do you mean this sign?” she asked.
“I 100% mean the sign,” said Larissa. “Unless you think it’s weird and creepy, then I don’t.”
After that, Larissa asking for Rachel’s hand in marriage became a bit of an in-joke between them.
“I asked her to marry me again and again – I asked many times,” says Larissa, laughing.
But as the months passed, the topic of marriage became less laughable.
In summer 2021, Rachel and Larissa sat down together and confirmed marriage was what they both wanted.
“We both ordered our bands, and we mutually decided that we were going to get engaged,” says Rachel.
The couple planned a trip to the Amalfi Coast in Italy, booking a room in a boutique hotel overlooking the ocean.
Privately, they each wrote each other letters, detailing how they felt and why they wanted to get married.
“Then, we both got down on our knees, kneeled in front of each other and read the letters,” says Rachel. “I asked her to marry me, and she asked me to marry her.”
“It was very romantic, very intimate, and mutual,” says Larissa of the engagement. “Most of our friends knew – and family knew – that we were going to get engaged.”
Six months later, in February 2022, Larissa and Rachel were married at a courthouse in Nashville. Their wedding day was almost a year to the day since they’d first met.
“That was very surreal to realize,” says Larissa. “We looked at each other, and I’m like, ‘It feels like years. It feels like we’ve been together for years.’”
On the day of the wedding, Rachel recalls feeling “peaceful” and “excited.”
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” she says. “It was so much fun.”
Afterwards, they went to France for their Honeymoon. They read vows to each other in Nice, France.
Almost a year later, in 2023, Rachel and Larissa brought their friends and family together for a big, celebratory wedding party, held at the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in Miami, Florida.
Given her years working in the wedding industry, Rachel took the lead with planning. Larissa was happy to trust her wife’s judgment.
“Her and I have a very similar style,” she says. “So there was no doubt that I trusted her vision.”
The couple enjoyed how the gap between the two events made the party feel like a celebration both of their first year married as well as the years to come.
“It literally felt like we were celebrating our whole relationship,” says Rachel.
At the Miami celebration, the couple were introduced to their guests as Mrs and Mrs Santos, as Rachel took Larissa’s name after they got married.
In that moment, Larissa and Rachel both recall being “giddy.”
“Like two little kids about to, I don’t know, walk into an amusement park and there’s unlimited rides and the park is closed for just her and I. Such an excitement,” says Larissa. “I just remember looking at her, and I was like, ‘I love you so much.’”
Travel and gratitude
Larissa and Rachel always knew they had a canceled flight to thank for their coincidental meeting. It was a little while before they figured out Larissa was also supposed to be out of town the day they met. She’d also rearranged her plans due to the snow.
“The craziest part, to me, was we had no way of meeting if that exact series of events hadn’t have happened,” says Rachel “Her life would have never connected to my life where I was and where I was going.”
“Every time we travel, I always think about how we met,” says Larissa. Those reflections always leave her with an overwhelming feeling of “gratitude.”
“I feel so grateful that everything allowed us to meet,” she adds. “And then also, I think the most important part is that we were also willing. Because the universe can play things out for you. But are you willing to jump in?”
“Sometimes I think people resist so hard when gifts are given,” agrees Rachel. “I think sometimes going with the flow and letting those gifts come to you, and being open to connecting with someone, and letting your heart be open to being vulnerable would be my most important takeaways – let yourself fall in love.”