*This is a previously published short story, not new content. I have unpublished this title and am now only making it available on my website. This short is intended to bridge the gap between No Love Allowed and No Games Allowed, both of which are Milly’s story. Enjoy!
The Week Before Forever: a JustOneNight.com Short Story
“Don’t forget your ball Nixon.”
I watched as the eleven year-old did an about face and reached into my truck, pulling out an orange basketball. Holding the ball with both hands he pushed the door closed with his shoulder before trotting over to where I stood five yards away.
“Got it!” He held the ball up triumphantly as we made our way out of the parking garage and into the elevator that would take us up into the arena.
“You have your marker, right?” I wrapped my arm around his shoulders and pulled him with me to the back of the elevator car as I asked the question. As we descended from the upper level I parked on several more people got on as we stopped at each level. Nixon shifted the ball under one arm as he fished in his pocket with his other pulling out a black sharpie.
I chuckled at his enthusiasm. He had every right to be excited. We had tickets for amazing seats to see the Houston Clutch, given to me personally by none other than veteran franchise player Jermaine “Hawk” Hawkins. Nixon yelped louder than I’d ever heard when I told him and I have to say that my excitement almost rivaled his. Although he and I had attended many games together over the past year and a half, sitting so close to the bench was definitely a first for both of us. Not to mention, I’m pretty sure that hearing that an honest to goodness famous ball player gave me these tickets and said my name while he did it shot my coolness factor through the roof in Nixon’s eyes.
We made our way into the arena, stopping at a barricade to scan our tickets before heading to one of many concession stands. Snacks in hand, we found our section and descended a steep set of steps until we reached the row printed on our tickets. Nixon, who walked ahead of me, turned and looked at me with wide eyes.
“Is this where we’re sitting?”
I titled my head to check the row then nodded. “Yeah Nix, this is us.”
His mouth split into a grin and he practically ran down the row. All I could do was laugh and follow him. “Seat 8!” I called to his back. He stopped abruptly, already midway through the row and glanced down at the seat. Without looking behind him he started to walk backwards with his head still turned toward the seats. A few seats down from where I stood he plopped down and immediately started digging into his cardboard bowl of nachos. I eased into the seat next to him taking care with the tall plastic cup I carried which was full to the brim with beer.
Nixon pointed a cheese covered finger toward the court. “Thomas! Look how close we are!”
“I know man, this is crazy!” And it was. Our section was mid court and only seven rows separated us from the Clutch’s bench. We were so close that if Hawk decided to fling his ever present sweatband into the crowd, it would definitely hit our row. I took a bite of my hot dog and glanced down at my watch. The game was scheduled to start in 20 minutes. Per usual as of late, my mind begin to drift to something that had been nagging at me for the past few months: the status of my relationship with Francesca.
To put it frankly, I wasn’t happy with it. I loved that woman and she said she loved me and that’s great but love just isn’t enough for me. I called myself testing the waters with her to see if she was ready to move us from the dating stage of our relationship to cohabitation but she firmly shut that down. As much as I hated that she said no, I couldn’t fault her for it. After she explained to me her reason I felt like shit for not thinking of it myself.
I was being selfish as hell and that’s not something you can be when dealing with a single parent. Every decision has to include the child. Once I understood that, I realized what I needed to do.
“Hey Nix, I wanted to talk to you about something.” I glanced over at him. He turned his head to look at me but kept darting his gaze towards the court where the players of both teams were warming up before the game with free throws. I felt a little guilty about pulling his attention away but the solid weight in my jacket pocket drove me to continue.
“Do you remember what we talked about a couple of weeks ago, when I picked you up from school?” Francesca usually collects Nixon from school every day but on that particular day the parents of one of the students were in a thankfully nonfatal car accident and were subsequently late picking up their son. The student was on Francesca’s roster and as an assistant principal it was her duty to stay with the student until alternate pick-up arrangements were made.
Nixon nodded and swallowed the last of his nachos. “I remember.”
I nodded as well. “You and your aunt mean a lot to me. I love the both of you, you know that right?” I wrapped an arm around his shoulder as he nodded his understanding and placed a swift kiss on his forehead.
“Yeah, I know. We love you too.” My throat tightened up a little as he said it so nonchalantly, like it was just a fact of life. And maybe that’s how he meant it. Maybe to him it was no big deal.
This boy, who had been through so much in his few short years of life; whose mother didn’t want him and would have aborted him if not for the incessant pleas of his father. The same father who raised him single-handedly for seven years until pancreatic cancer stole first his strength then his life. Nixon had endured several months of court appearances and caseworker visits while the woman I love, his father’s sister, fought furiously to adopt him and make him legally her son.
I had only been in his life for just under two years and in less than half that time I loved him like he was my own. From the day I met him, Nixon had surprised me with his warmth and open-heartedness. Of what I knew of his past I expected a bitter young boy who would be closed off to new relationships but Nixon was the exact opposite of that. Maybe he understood that his aunt wouldn’t have brought me around if I wasn’t trustworthy in her eyes. Whatever the case may be I cherished the relationship that he and I had built and cared for him like he was my own seed.
“What do you think about me, you and your aunt becoming a family?”
“I thought you said we are already a family.”
“No doubt little man, no doubt. I meant, what do you think about me asking your aunt to marry me and the three of us possibly living together?”
Nixon was quiet for a moment then nodded slowly. “I guess that’s cool. I mean, I’m okay with that.” He sat up straight and looked at me with narrowed eyes. “Do we have to move to your apartment?”
“Nah, if Ches says yes then we will buy a new house that we all like.” I elbowed him teasingly. “I thought you liked my apartment though. What’s up with that?”
“No offense but it only has two rooms and I don’t want to have to share with the baby.”
My brows met in my confusion. “The baby?”
Nixon’s eyes went wide and his face fell. “Please don’t tell Auntie. I swear I wasn’t eavesdropping on grown folks business, all I was doin’ was going to the bathroom. That’s when I heard her tell Milly she was pregnant. I swear!”
I was in shock. Francesca was pregnant? Nixon was eyeing me warily and I realized I’d been sitting there with my mouth open for two minutes too long. I gave him a weak smile and pulled him in for a brief hug.
“You’re good Nix, I won’t rat you out.”
His shoulders dropped with relief. “Good, ‘cause snitches get stitches.”
What the hell?
I laughed loudly and leaned back to observe Nixon. “Where’d you get that from?”
“That’s what Milly told me.”
Milly. I should have known. Francesca’s cousin slash best friend forever was a beautiful and petite woman who was only 5’3” but had the biggest and filthiest mouth I’d ever encountered. I don’t think the word “filter” was even in her vocabulary.
It wasn’t the least bit surprising that she was the one who’d introduced that new phrase to Nixon. I was, however, interested in how it came up in conversation between a 32 year-old and an 11 year-old.
“What did you do to make her say that?”
“Aww man, why did I have to do something?”
I chuckled. “You didn’t have to. But did you?”
Nixon sucked his teeth. “Man that was Jada. She had drooled all over my basketball and when I went to tell Auntie, Milly was there and she told me to stop snitching because snitches get stitches.”
I couldn’t stop laughing at the image of Nixon discovering my two year-old niece Jada with her chubby hands on his beloved basketball. I started to say more but the lights dimmed and the announcer began welcoming everyone to the game and introducing the players of both teams. We ceased conversation and focused our attention on the court.
The next three hours flew by as the Clutch’s defeated the San Antonio Sunbursts 131-92. It was a good game with Jermaine scoring 45 points, nabbing 12 rebounds and getting 5 assists to lead all scorers. We stayed in our seats for a few minutes after the game ended to allow some of the exiting traffic to thin out. Just as we stood to head out of the arena a man in a Clutch’s jumpsuit came up to us in the stands.
“In the flesh. And you are?”
The man stuck out a hand that I grabbed and pumped twice before releasing. “I’m Nathaniel, Jermaine Hawkins’ assistant. I’m here to bring you to meet him and some of the other players.”
I grinned at Nixon’s outburst. For the second time today I was shocked but at least this time I wasn’t the only one surprised. Although Jermaine Hawkins decided the new-to-the-menu vegetarian meal he ate at Capital Grille was the best he’d ever had I never would have guessed it was worth all of this.
“Lead the way Nathaniel.”
Instead of going back up the steps that led us to our seat earlier, Nixon and I followed Nathaniel down to the court and through the same set of double doors the Clutch’s had exited through when the game ended. A few starting players were still on the court, which was surprisingly still bustling with activity, giving interviews to various media outlets. On the other side of those doors was a wide hallway that Nathaniel strode down confidently. As Nixon peppered him with questions I observed our surroundings while keeping one ear on him to make sure he didn’t get too outrageous with his curiosity.
We passed many people heading opposite us back towards the court that called out to Nathaniel and spoke to Nixon and me. The further we travelled away from the court, I can’t deny, the more excited I became.
After my restaurant landed in the coveted number one spot on Browntown Weekly’s Best 100 Restaurants list, unsurprisingly our clientele became more diverse. We went from serving mainly locals to seeing out-of-towners on a regular basis. The most unsuspecting of all was the gradual appearance of men and women I’d only seen in the theaters and on television walk into my restaurant. No matter how popular Capital Grille became, I still felt star struck when I encountered celebrities.
Alicia Howell pulled open the heavy wooden door with a wide smile on her face. She stepped aside to let me in her home before grabbing my face with both hands and placing a kiss on my cheek.
“Thomas. It’s so good to see you baby.” I bent to plant a kiss of my own on her cheek before leaning against the counter and observing the woman who, if not for the slight graying at her temples, could be Francesca’s twin. She wore the same flawless mocha skin and possessed the same curvaceous shape that belied her age and failed to hint that she’d borne two children almost 30 years ago. Her golden-brown eyes regarded me shrewdly.
I smiled at her and said, “Hey mom, how’re you?”
“I’m good baby, thank you for asking. Ced is in the den. Why don’t you go on in there and I’ll call you two when lunch is ready.”
“Sounds good to me.” I placed the dish of blueberry thyme cobbler on the counter and headed out of the kitchen. I’d commissioned the pastry chef at Capital Grille to make that cobbler specifically for today’s lunch. Unlike when I talked to Nixon, this time I carried no shame in what was, this time, a deliberate attempt to ingratiate myself with Francesca’s parents. With how close she was to them and how much she valued their opinion on just about everything including me, this trip was an all but unavoidable one.
I rounded the corner and walked down the hall where even more pictures of the Howell family decorated the walls.
I found him sitting in a chair underneath a tall lamp with a pair of glasses perched on his nose, reading a book. I cleared my throat.
The man in question looked up and I paused, the smile on my face melting at the scowl that quickly appeared then vanished on his face. It happened so fast I thought I almost imagined it. I mentally shook myself and stepped into the room and approached him. He stood up from his seat but did not move to greet me instead he folded his arms behind his back and stared at me with an unreadable expression on his face. I tended to think of myself as an even keeled man but in this instant I was becoming quite familiar with anxiety and dread.
At 6 feet 5 inches, Cedric Howell was an impressive man. He had broad shoulders and a wide chest which gave him the appearance of a former defensive lineman instead of a tenured professor of civil engineering. His height and size never bothered me though because from the day I met him he proved himself to be a real cool cat who liked to tell corny jokes. From the look on the face of the man in front of me, the Cedric Howell I knew and respected had left the building, leaving this surly character in his stead.
“You alright, big guy?” I forced a chuckle in hopes of easing the sudden tension in the room only the attempt fell flat as Cedric
What the hell was going on here?
The question bounced around in my head for a few seconds before making its way out of my mouth. Cedric raised an eyebrow.
“You got a problem, boy?”
I raised my hands in surrender and took a step back. “Look, I don’t know what has you so pissed off today but I’m just here for lunch. Now if you want to talk about it then we can do that but if you’re looking for a fight, you won’t find it here man.” We stared at each other in silence for a few moments before a wide smile spread across Cedric’s nut-brown face. He started laughing a deep rumbling laugh but I didn’t see the humor. I must have missed the joke.
“You should see your face!”
I frowned and shook my head. This man virtually held my future in his hands, however unknowingly, but he was here pulling pranks. I wasn’t in the mood for it today. “Man, forget this.” I turned to leave the den but was held in place when a heavy hand dropped on my shoulder.
“C’mon now, have a seat son.”
I shrugged off his hand but did as he said, claiming a seat on the sofa opposite his favorite chair. I couldn’t help but mumble, “Oh now I’m ‘son’. Just a minute ago I was ‘boy’.” It was juvenile but I couldn’t have stopped it if I’d tried.
Cedric’s eyebrows shot towards the ceiling as he dropped down into his chair.
“Hm. I expected you to be nervous when you came over, what I didn’t expect was you to be strung tighter than a banjo.” He stroked his beard which had started to see strands of salt in the pepper. “I must admit, I’m a little confused on why. I thought we got along pretty well.”
I looked at the father of the woman I would hang the stars for, confusion written on my face. “Why did you expect me to be nervous?”
He rolled his eyes as if I’d asked a ridiculous question. “C’mon dude, it didn’t take a mathematician to figure out why you wanted to come to the house for lunch today. Alicia said your voice cracked a couple of times on the phone.”
He trailed off as if allowing me an opportunity to refute or own up to his claim. Damn! I didn’t realize I had it so bad. I took a breath and looked at him. Just as I opened my mouth Alicia walked in the den. She placed a hand on Cedric’s shoulder and smiled at me.
“Lunch is ready fellas.”
Cedric nodded. “Okay baby, give us a minute, we’ll be right there.”
Alicia shook her head and looked at her husband. “Now Cedric.”
He frowned but stood, smacking Alicia on the ass on the way up. “Okay, okay woman, we’re coming. Let’s go Thomas.” I was already standing so I followed them out of the den down the photo gallery of a hallway and into the dining room. We sat around the table and I bowed my head as Cedric said grace. The food was passed around and I filled my plate with grilled salmon, spinach salad and roasted carrots.
“So Thomas, what brings you by today?” I froze and looked at Alicia but she was contentedly eating her food without a care in the world. I glanced at Cedric but he just nodded his head toward Alicia.
“C’mon now, I come have lunch with you two at least once a month.”
“Oh I know that, sweetheart but usually my Frannie accompanies you and we have at least a few days to prepare. You called last night and told Cedric to just expect you. You have to admit that is rather curious.”
I nodded. “You’re right, that is pretty…curious. I’m going to be honest with you; Francesca doesn’t even know I’m here. I chose not to mention it to her when I dropped Nixon at home after the Clutch’s game and I deliberately called you last minute to schedule lunch with the hope that it would be too late for you to call and question her about my visit.” I set my fork down and noted that both Cedric and Alicia had abandoned their meals and I now had their undivided attention.
“Cedric, Alicia, I asked to see you both today because I am wholeheartedly in love with your daughter and plan to ask her to marry me.” Alicia gasped and her hands flew to her heart. That familiar wide grin made its way onto Cedric face. Both reactions were encouraging and I continued with my rehearsed speech. “I have been walking around for the past three weeks with an engagement ring in my pocket, trying to find the right moment to ask her but it never felt right. I realized the time wasn’t lining up because I hadn’t spoken with the two most important people in her life. Francesca values the opinion of the two of you so much that I would be remiss to attempt to enter a union with her without ensuring you were on board with it first. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, do I have your blessing to marry your daughter, if she will have me?”
“Yes, yes, yes!” Alicia shouted while bouncing up and down in her seat. Though still smiling, Cedric showed no signs of speaking just yet. Alicia turned and slapped his arm. “Ced! Answer this man’s question. You know the answer is yes, why are you playing with him like this?”
I watched as he grabbed her hand and tugged her out of her seat and into his lap. “Alicia, calm down and let me gather my thoughts first.” He looked at me. “Thomas, I like you. I like how you have built your business from a dream to the powerhouse it is still evolving to. I like the way you respect your parents and I like the way you respect Alicia and I. I like how you treat my daughter and just as important, I like how you treat my grandson. The love you have for them is undeniable and I have no doubt that you would do anything for them including protect and provide for them. From the conversations we have had over the past year I have gotten an understanding of the type of family man you would be and I have to say I would be proud to call you my son-in-law one day.” Cedric broke our staring contest to look at his wife who was crying silently in his lap. He pulled his cloth napkin from the table and used it to wipe Alicia’s face.
I looked away from that tender moment and focused my eyes on my still full plate of food as I warred to get my emotions under control. The pride I felt at obtaining their blessing was, at this moment, unmatched. As Cedric mentioned earlier, we did get along pretty well but it was not something I took for granted. No matter what they said to me, they could have been simply tolerating me for the sake of their daughter whom they adored. I now know that to be false as Cedric’s words just blew that assumption out of the water.
My appetite restored, I picked up my fork and began digging into the delicious meal that Alicia had prepared. The sound of metal scraping against ceramic let me know she and Cedric were doing the same. We ate in silence for a few moments before Cedric’s chuckle cut through my train of thoughts.
“That explains the nerves. I told you he was planning to propose to our baby girl!”
I was standing at the stove in the kitchen, stirring a pot of marinara when I heard the door to my apartment open. A quick glance at my watch told me it was just after 6. I smiled. As usual, Francesca was early.
We’d planned to have dinner at my place for 6:30pm before engaging in a little Netflix and chill time. The past few weeks had found me working overtime at the restaurant trying to ensure that Capital Grille remained worthy of a place at the top of the best restaurants list. I had been putting in 80 hour weeks doing everything from working on new menus, sourcing local ingredients and even running the kitchen, alongside the chef I hired a year or so ago, a few nights a week.
Although I was nowhere near burnt out and actually enjoyed the hustle and bustle I knew I needed to pull back and check on my family. I scaled back heavily this week and made time for a “boys only” day with Nixon on Tuesday, lunch with the Howells on Wednesday and of course time with Francesca. Thanks to my candid conversation with her parents, Alicia and Cedric had agreed to take Nixon for the weekend and I planned to take full advantage of this opportunity.
I picked up a platter of meatballs I had roasted less than ten minutes ago and started scooping them into the marinara.
“Mm, babe it smells so good in here.” Francesca came around the corner of the living room and entered the kitchen. I tilted my head and watched as she grabbed a glass out of a cabinet then walked over to the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of orange juice. In what seemed like seconds she first filled the glass to the brim and then gulped down the juice.
My eyebrows shot up. With the knowledge that she was carrying my child, I was seeing Francesca in a new light. Whenever we had dinner at my place, the first thing she did when she came in the house was pour a glass of wine. She never drank orange juice unless it was with breakfast. Was she getting cravings already? Was she going to start requesting odd food combinations like pickle and peanut butter sandwiches?
“What?” Francesca stood at the sink with her arms folded over her chest, frowning at me.
“You were staring at me. What’s up?”
“I’m sorry baby, I was lost in thought.” I shook my head and chuckled lightly hoping it sounded believable. I turned back to the stove and switched off the burners. “Are you ready to eat?”
“Of course, I love when you make fresh pasta and meatballs.”
Francesca stepped up behind me and wrapped her arms around my waist. I set the wooden spoon I held on the spoon rest and turned in her arms, pulling her in close and lifting her slightly. I bent my head and captured her lips with mine, savoring her mouth. She moaned and I swallowed the sound before reaching down and grabbing her ass to pull her against my hardness.
She placed her hands on my chest and pressed against me gently. I lifted my head and gave her a questioning look.
“Food first and then fondling, okay?” I continued to look at her for a moment then nodded and let her out of my grasp, willing my erection a way with a down boy and studious ignored her breathlessness.
Francesca handed me two plates from the cabinet and I loaded them both with pappardelle I made earlier and several meatballs, spooning the tomato based gravy over the top. I walked into the dining room and set the plates on the table then went and pulled a bottle of wine out of the cooler under the counter. Along with two glasses I carried it into the dining room where Francesca was already sitting. She froze while pulling a still warm baguette out of a kitchen towel as I poured up a glass of wine.
“Oh, um.” She cleared her throat. “No wine for me tonight.”
“No problem.” I set down the bottle and took my seat, inwardly fighting to remain calm. I know my tone was a little clipped and I hated that. I was getting pissed that she still had not told me she was pregnant. Three days had passed since Nixon accidentally spilled the news to me and on not one of those days did she even attempt to tell me her secret.
We ate in silence as I drank two glasses of wine by myself and Francesca never took her eyes off her plate, even as she fixed herself a second helping. As the meal wore on, my mood soured even further. Finally, unable to wait any longer I reached into my pocket and pulled out a velvet covered square box, dropping it on the table. It made a loud sound in the quiet apartment.
Francesca gasped as her eyes landed on the box and her wide eyes shifted towards me but I stared at the box on the table that sat between the two of us.
“You know, I’d been wrestling with myself for three weeks trying to find the right time to pull out that box. No moment ever felt… perfect enough. So it stayed in my pocket, or in my drawer or even in my glove compartment. It finally dawned on me that while I was waiting on the right moment, I was letting precious time slip by that you could have already been my wife. Not my fiancé but my wife. When I told you two years ago that I was ready for a family, for a wife and kids, I meant that. I had no intentions of having a long engagement and was going to see how you felt about eloping because I wanted to marry you immediately and not let another day go by where you were not mine.” I took a breath.
“Wait, wanted? As in, past tense?”
I looked over at the woman I loved. Tears were streaming down her face and her eyes were glossy. Her hands were clasped in front of her chest in that familiar way I recognized but her face was filled with confusion.
“How can I ask a woman to marry me when she doesn’t even trust me enough to tell me she’s carrying my child?”
Immediately her hands flew up to her face and she started to sob loudly. I wanted to comfort her but I was hurting too. It had been so easy for her to keep this from me, something so important, something she knew I desired more than anything else. The one thing I couldn’t seem to figure out is why she was keeping me out of this. She knew I loved her and wanted to be with her. Hell, I even wanted us to cohabitate.
It started to make sense. And I felt dumb as hell. From the beginning I’d been the one doing the pursuing and trying to make our relationship out to be something more than a one night stand. What if all this time I’d been all in but she was just half-assing it? What if the reason she didn’t tell me about the baby was because she never had intentions to keep it? What if she didn’t want to move in with me because she didn’t want to get too serious?
So many “what ifs” were going through my mind, I began to get a headache. I scrubbed a hand through my hair and down my face and pushed away from the table.
“Wait! Where are you going?” Francesca leaped out of her chair and rushed over to me wrapping her arms around my shoulders, keeping me in place.
“I need to get out of here. Let me go please.”
“No! You can’t say all of that and just walk out of here. I don’t get a chance to respond? I don’t get a chance to speak?”
I stood up, breaking out of her embrace. “You had a chance to speak. From the moment you found out you were pregnant until I opened my mouth five minutes ago you had a chance to speak. The fact that you didn’t leads me to believe you have nothing to say.” I picked up my plate and carried it into the kitchen, sitting it on a counter. Francesca followed right behind me.
“That’s not fair Thomas!”
I spun around. “Fair?”
She stood there, her face swollen from crying and lifted her chin defiantly. “You heard me. I haven’t—“
I purposefully cut her off, knowing how she hated that. “Is it fair that you’ve had however long to get comfortable with the fact that you’re pregnant and I had no idea? Is it fair that I felt panic when I found out, from someone who isn’t you? I panicked with the thought that I had waited too long to ask you to marry me. I panicked because I know you and I knew that if you told me you were pregnant before I had a chance to propose that you would always think that I only proposed because you were pregnant. I panicked and wondered if there was any way I could convince you to marry me immediately without letting you know that I already knew. I panicked because as far as I knew you had an IUD and since we always used condoms I had a split second of doubt that this baby was even mine. You want to talk about fair Francesca? Tell me how it’s fair that I had to sit with all of this confusion and doubt when all you had to do was talk to me!”
“I’m sorry! But I have been sick over the thought of telling you and—“
“I’m sorry that lying to me wasn’t as easy as it should have been.” I spat sarcastically.
“I did not lie to you!”
“Come on Principal,” I said mockingly, “lying by omission is a thing, you know.”
She sucked in a breath and I left the kitchen and headed for the front door intent on getting away.
“Stop running from me!” Francesca screeched at the top of her lungs. The desperation in her voice froze me in my tracks. I turned back around to see her standing there with her chest heaving. “You will give me the common courtesy of letting me speak and you will not interrupt me while I explain. Okay?”
I nodded but didn’t move from my spot by the door.
“I didn’t tell you I was pregnant because…I lost the baby.”
My heart dropped into my shoes and I felt prickling behind my eyes. “What?” My voice was barely a whisper. I cleared my throat.
Francesca swallowed hard but continued on. “I had my IUD removed a little over two months ago. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to get your hopes up about a baby right away. The first month my period didn’t come, which is normal and was expected. The second month, it came but it was irregular. Once again that was expected. This month everything should have started to even out but didn’t come and my body felt weird and I was paranoid so I took a pregnancy test which came back positive. The next day my period started. What I thought was cramps were really me miscarrying. I made an appointment with my OB/GYN and she confirmed it.”
Halfway through her speech I crossed the room and wrapped my arms around her, pulling her to me in a tight hug. I kissed her forehead as she clung to me. I bent down and gathered her into my arms then walked us over to the couch and sat down. I rocked her back and forth as sobs wracked her body. My heart hurt for what we’d lost but it pained me even more that she went through it alone.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Her tears had tapered off and she took deep gulping breaths to calm herself down. When she spoke, her voice was low and throaty.
“I… I felt so guilty that I—“
My brow deepened in confusion. “Why would you—“.
Francesca placed a hand over my heart, stopping my question midsentence. I looked down at her.
“When I took that home pregnancy test…” She pulled in a breath that was both shaky and wet with unshed tears. “I was so angry. My first thought wasn’t the joy of finally becoming a mother or creating a family with you. I was immediately pissed that I was pregnant before I was married. You were in Dallas visiting your brother and I didn’t want to call you and hear your excitement so I called Milly. I don’t know what I expected her to say but she flat out told me I was being selfish. I argued with her about it but I can’t deny that she was right. I realized too late just how right she was. When my doctor told me that I had miscarried she also told me that it was a normal occurrence that many women experience and that there was nothing I did to cause it. Despite her reassurances I can’t help but think that it is my fault that I lost the baby.”
“No! I’m serious. I want to have babies, your babies, but I didn’t want them like that, as an unwed woman, and I think subconsciously my body understood that and rejected the baby.”
Her tears were back now and I was fighting a myriad of emotions while trying to comfort her. I was still angry that I had to hear about her pregnancy from Nixon, though not as much as before after hearing that there was no longer a pregnancy. That led to my shock and sorrow at learning about her miscarriage and I was right back at anger for once again being kept in the dark about something so important. I was at a loss for words. Obviously I couldn’t rage at her for how she’d inadvertently hurt me in all of this but I still had so many questions and I didn’t know if she was in the right mindset to answer any of them. Still the words tumbled out of my mouth.
There was silence for a beat then, “I took the test last Wednesday and probably started miscarrying on Friday.”
I closed my eyes and heaved a breath. For one week she held this knowledge. One week of her going through this alone.
Surprised, my gaze shot to her. She pushed out of my embrace but stayed on my lap, turning until she straddled my thighs.
“Why are you apologizing? This isn’t your fault.” In spite of what was going on inside my head, I had to make sure she understood that. She did not make herself lose our baby.
Francesca shook her head and cupped my face with both hands. “I’m sorry for not telling you about any of this. I’m sorry for you hearing through whatever source you heard from, news that should have come only from my lips. I’m sorry for the confusion and anguish you’ve been dealing with. I’m sorry if I made you question what I feel for you. I’m sorry if all of this makes you not want to marry me anymore.” Her voice broke on that last sentence and I closed my eyes as I felt a tear trail down my cheek.
“Shit”, I muttered mostly to myself. I lifted my lids as I felt her thumb wipe away the wetness on my face. The pain we both felt, would fade, mine a hell of a lot sooner than hers, but what would never fade is the love I felt for this woman sitting on my lap. I had to rectify her train of thought immediately.
“Francesca if you would still marry me after the way I spoke to you earlier I would have you on a plane to Vegas tonight to become Mrs. Moran by tomorrow.”
She gasped and her hands flew from my face to her own.
My heart tripped up and began beating twice as fast but I held her gaze steadily. Her voice was low but firm and I know she was serious .
“Francesca Howell, I have loved you from the moment I walked into that bathroom two years ago and saw you playing with your pussy in a bathtub filled with purple foam. Will you indulge my incredibly selfish request and agree to be my wife, preferably as soon as possible?”
She nodded vigorously as she laughed through another batch of fresh tears but I wasn’t having that.
“I need to hear you say it, baby.”
“Yes I will marry you, tonight, tomorrow, whenever you want, however you want me. I love you so much.”
I wrapped my arms around her waist and pulled her to me. As I poured my love for her into a kiss I simultaneously sighed in relief. Everything would be okay for us.
Pulling back slightly to allow us both to breath but not giving her enough to room to move away from me, I rested my forehead against hers.
“Go pack a bag.”
I rubbed my thumb across the back of my wife’s hand, silently offering her support while she made her phone call.
It felt so amazing to be able to say that, even silently. I still couldn’t believe my luck. Francesca had not only agreed to be my wife but she consented to marrying me immediately. My initial plan was to catch a flight out this morning but once Francesca said she would marry me immediately nothing could stop me from getting us to Vegas before the night was over. She was damn near giddy as she raced into my room and to begin throwing clothes from her side of my closet into a bag. I asked her if she wanted to stop by her place to grab some additional items and the look she gave me cause me to crack up laughing.
“I’ll be marrying you in the same skinny jeans and peplum top I’m wearing now if you continue to drag your feet”, was her response. She was eager to get to the airport and I was surprised to see her in the kitchen putting away food while her sole carry-on bag sat by the front door. I dropped the bag I had already packed next to hers and go assist in the kitchen. In twenty minutes we finished and were on the highway headed to Hobby airport. Less than five hours later we were lying in bed wrapped around each other, me holding her while she fidgeted incessantly before finally falling asleep.
I awoke first and took the time to order room service and do some preparations. When Francesca came too and took in the artfully plated trays of food tears filled her eyes but she didn’t cry. I kissed her and we ate in silence. On the flight I asked her if she would rather get married in the morning or the evening and she chose morning so after eating we took turns in the bathroom getting ready. Francesca went first and when she came out of the bathroom from having freshly showered she stopped in her tracks and her mouth dropped open in shock. I stood in front of the door dressed in a tan tuxedo and holding up a white dress. Her tears from earlier finally fell.
“What is this?”
“This is your wedding dress baby.”
She walked towards me and took the dress out of my hands then went to sit on the bed, gingerly running her fingers over the material. I didn’t know much about it since I didn’t pick it out, that was all Milly, but all I knew is that when I saw it I knew it was made for my Ches. After a few moments she asked me to help her into the gown and when I stood back my thoughts were confirmed. The satin material molded to her body. It was a sleeveless gown and the front dipped down giving a hint of her delicious cleavage. The front of the dress stopped just above her knees but the back swept down to her ankles. There were beaded accents along the sides which emphasized her hourglass shape. She was beautiful and seeing her in that white gown did something to me. When she finished her hair and slicked on some lipstick I reached for her hand.
The ceremony was quick but I made sure to hire a professional photographer when the idea first came to me so that we could look back on these memories and share them with our loved ones. Now we were sitting on the balcony of our suite enjoying our first meal as husband and wife and I couldn’t be more pleased.
I was pulled from my thoughts by the sudden trembling in Francesca’s voice.
“Okay Daddy, I love you.” She was silent for a moment then, “Momma?” She paused for what I assumed was Alicia’s chance to speak. I could guess what was being said based off of Francesca’s responses.
“Yes ma’am.” She started to bite her lip nervously.
“No, we aren’t at his apartment.”
“Um… momma I need to tell you something.”
“Thomas proposed last night.” Immediately she yanked the phone away from her ear and even I could hear Alicia holler. I laughed lightly and Francesca simply bit back a grin. Once the line went quiet she put it back up to her ear. She scoffed.
“Of course I said yes, that’s not even a question!” I felt my smile widen across my face at that.
“There is something else.” She looked across the table and locked eyes with me. I nodded slightly, already knowing what she was trying to convey silently. She closed her eyes and her next words flew out in a rush.
“We flew to Vegas last night and got married this morning.” There was silence on her end then suddenly her eyes flew open and landed on me. I registered the shock on her face and knew Alicia had just dropped a bomb of her own. I smiled at her indulgently as her eyes became glossy and she nodded even though her mother couldn’t see her.
“Yes ma’am. I love you too. See you when we get back.” She pulled the phone away from her face once again, this time ending the call all without breaking our eye contact.
Though I knew the answer I still asked the question.
“What did she say?”
Francesca came around the table squeezed into my lap. In seconds her lips crashed into mine almost desperately as our tongues intertwined and danced. Several moments passed until she pulled away leaving us both panting and gasping for breath. Her eyes searched mine and I stared at her openly hoping she saw that everything I am was on display for her.
“She said she talked to her son-in-law days ago and started planning our wedding immediately and for me to enjoy our honeymoon.”
I nodded. “Sounds about right.”
Francesca looked flabbergasted. “How?”
I moved my hand up to the back of her neck and pulled her in for another kiss. “You should have known that just one night would never be enough. I need forever with you.”
The End… kind of.
Although this short brings an end to Francesca and Thomas as a main couple, they still manage to find a way in several of my titles, not including the rest of the JustOneNight.com series. I can’t seem to let them go completely. They are my first loves and you never forget your first love.