Two weeks later, Ebony started working in the department that conducted levies on automobiles. Her desk was next to the copy machine - a convenient spot, since copying documents was one of Larry's morning duties.
Ebony says Larry's trips to the copier were more frequent than strictly necessary for business. Larry - who describes his style as not so much nerdy as unflashy and classic - reports that Ebony did as much reconnaissance on him as on the delinquent bill payers.
The two talked when they could at work. After two weeks, that wasn't enough, so they had dinner at the now-defunct Cherry Tree Diner. From their positive outlook and good humor to views on family and faith and hard work, they had much in common.
"The date was so good we didn't want it to end," said Larry, now 35.
"After, we went to the harbor in Palmyra and went for a really long walk," said Ebony, now 30.
Even when she was back at home in Mount Laurel, and he in Willingboro, "we were talking on the phone until midnight after that, and we both fell asleep talking," Larry remembered.
Even their differences seemed complementary. Ebony, who earned an associate's degree in business from Burlington County College and a medical assistant certificate from Cittone Institute, is great at math. Larry, who has an occupational associate's degree in computer networking from the Computer Learning Center, is a spelling bee champ.
He is a calm person, which comes in handy when she "wakes up in fifth gear," he said.
In only a few months, both were thinking they had met their match, but wanted their families' input.
Back then, Ebony lived with her grandparents, Carolyn and the late Essie. Carolyn and Essie liked Larry a lot - Essie said he had a good spirit. They also declared their granddaughter and her boyfriend the oldest two young people ever, since they never went to clubs or partied late.
Larry met Ebony's stepfather, Michael, years ago, when Michael worked at Cheltenham Square Mall. Ebony introduced him to her mother, Charisse, and to aunts, uncles, cousins. "In my family, there's Guys Night Out," Ebony said. "They would call Larry to be a part of that, and I was like, 'Oh my God, you're just a boyfriend and you're invited to Guys Night Out?' It's specifically for husbands only, and my man was there. I was so excited."
Ebony was equally embraced by Larry's parents, Brenda and Larry Pearson Sr., and uncles Marvin and Leonard. "My dad called her 'daughter-in-law' once he got to know her. That made me feel good, and I'm hoping it made Ebony feel good, too," Larry said.
How does forever sound?
Ebony and Larry now live in Lindenwold with their pit bull Foxy. Back in early 2007, when they lived in West Oak Lane, she started noticing occasional withdrawals from their accounts, $60 here, $100 there. "I didn't think much of it. I thought he needed men's stuff," Ebony said.
It was not any man stuff that Larry was squirreling away money for.
One evening in May, Mr. Cool was uncharacteristically jittery. "What's the problem?" Ebony asked him. "You're acting really strange." Larry assured her nothing was wrong, so she went to the bathroom to get ready to go out with her mother.
"I'm in the shower, washing my hair, and I can hear him banging around inside the apartment," Ebony said.
Larry burst into the bathroom and flung open the shower curtain.
Water poured onto the floor. Ebony, with soap in her eyes, could barely see.
"What are you doing?" she asked, baffled.
Larry dropped down on both knees. "Babe, will you marry me?" he asked.
"I was crying, both because there was soap in my eye and because it was the sweetest thing I had ever seen in my life," Ebony said.
"He gave me the prettiest ring I'd ever seen. White gold with a diamond in the middle and four baguettes."
Larry is proud to be a jokester, but that's only part of why he proposed the way he did.
Most of the time they are home, Ebony is either beautifying in the bathroom or working magic in the kitchen.
Ebony bakes bread. She makes ravioli and pot roast and chicken. But she doesn't want Larry too close when she does it. "She tells me to get out," he said.
That left the bathroom option, Larry reasoned. And if he waited about five minutes after the water started running, she'd be all soapy, too - a bonus!
It was so them
Ebony, who is now a property manager, and Larry, who works as a mortgage company contact center specialist during the day and in maintenance at an assisted living facility on weekends, married at Cherry Hill's Crowne Plaza Hotel because it is across the street from the place they met.
They made God part of their ceremony, but not in a way specific to any one religion. "We believe God is everywhere, not just in a building," Ebony said.
Besides, their 130 guests included Jews, Muslims, Christians, and atheists, and they didn't want anyone to feel out of place.
The wedding theme was Steel in Love, an homage to the strength of their relationship with a bonus play on "still in love," a funny little reference to the length of their engagement. The theme led to the gray and purple color palette.
The couple followed African American tradition and jumped the broom - theirs was decorated with peacock feathers, ribbons, and silver berries. Larry said it was a "sealer," signifying their marriage had begun.
"Jumping the broom was more important than our rings," Ebony said.
At both the ceremony and the reception, there was no his side and her side. And as the couple moved around the room, they made a point of introducing people who hadn't met yet.
Jazz and R&B played before and after the ceremony. Things got really lively at the reception. "We danced, and we had a Soul Train line," Larry said.
This was unexpected
Ebony was confused when the couple were told to go to their hotel room after photos, instead of to the ceremony site.
After talking and chatting a while, "I look at the clock, and it says 1:15," Ebony said. "The wedding was supposed to go on at 1 p.m. Sharp."
Soon after, Larry got a phone call from wedding planner Deidre Gray. Despite touching base with the couple just days before, the pastor had forgotten about their wedding.
Luckily, there was a pastor among the guests - Ishwn Brown of Soul, Purpose and Vision Ministry. The couple hadn't asked their good friend to perform the ceremony because they wanted him to relax and enjoy the wedding. But he happily stepped in.
When it was time for the pre-ceremony picture taking, Ebony walked up behind Larry, who was waiting outside.
"I could see the back of his head, and his dreadlocks looked so pretty," she said.
"I heard her footsteps - she was in really clack-y shoes," Larry said. He turned around. "She was stunning."
Their eyes locked on each other.
"I could have lived in that moment forever," Ebony said. "The look on his face! It was the first time I knew that man was my husband."
Larry says watching Ebony walk down the aisle toward him on his wedding day "made me feel honored. The day was finally here."
A bargain: Larry and Ebony were determined to start married life without debt. "By the time we walked down the aisle, our wedding was completely paid for in cash," Ebony said. Planner Deidre was a huge help. The vendors she recommended in nearly every category charged at least 50 percent less than those the couple found on their own.
The splurge: A seating chart like one they saw at a bridal expo was the budget-busting exception. It was a huge photo of the two of them, superimposed with their guests' names and assigned tables - all named after songs .
"It cost $300-plus for this thing, but we could not get married without it," Ebony said.
Five days in Wildwood. The couple hadn't planned on a honeymoon. But the Friday before the wedding, the owner of Infinity Home Mortgage told Larry he wanted the couple to use his place in Wildwood. And he also gave Larry two additional vacation days.
Behind the Scenes
Officiant: Pastor Ishwn Brown of Soul, Purpose and Vision Ministry, Pennsauken
Venue: Crowne Plaza Hotel, Cherry Hill
Food: Crowne Plaza
Music: One2One Productions, Phoenixville
Photography: Brandon Hall, Photography by Brandon, Philadelphia
Flowers: Flowers by Mendez and Jackel, Camden
Dress: Alfred Angelo, Cherry Hill
Invitations: Jax Design, Jaxdesigns27.etsy.com
Planner: Always a Positive Image, Jenkintown