05/09/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT
Their wedding is still weeks away, but friends say Mary Kay Letourneau, 43, and her onetime student Vili Fualaau, 21, already look like a pair of honeymooners. Fualaau, who proposed in a song beneath Mary Kay's window last fall, recently carried his bride-to-be over the threshold of the small cottage they rent overlooking Washington's Puget Sound, where the bed is an inflatable mattress in front of the fireplace. "They're acting like newlyweds," says a friend of Letourneau, who served 7½ years in prison on child rape charges for having sexual relations with Fualaau when he was just 13.
But relations are still strained between Letourneau and her future mother-in-law, who retains custody of the couple's daughters Audrey, 7, and Alexis, 6. Letourneau, who is still on parole, has visitation rights—she has been seeing the girls, who live nearby, weekly—but hopes to gain custody, perhaps after the wedding. "It's not easy for any of them," says the friend.
The couple plan to have their daughters as flower girls at the ceremony, expected to take place in late May at an undisclosed Washington location. There will be 200 guests, and the bride will wear white, says ET's Jann Carl, who interviewed the pair for a series that began April 28. "We're here and we're hopeful, considering what we've been through together," said Letourneau.