Reagan Getting Married
Reagan Getting Married
***Author’s note: you can watch Reagan’s reception videos, see on my the links at the end of the chapter***
***SO IT BEGINS***
The wedding was almost here. Jay and I were busy taking care of last minute preparations since we returned from New York. We were renting out a house while we’re down here. My friends were staying in hotels, Briah as well. Ken opted to stay with Jay and I, probably because there was more space here. As soon as we arrived, I took Kennedey to Dark & Sassy Salon. The hairstyle she would wear for the wedding was an updo. Kennedey hated the thought of getting a weave sewn into her hair, but she was going to have to deal with it for now. I couldn’t believe this was my sister. She’s always been beautiful, but this was so different for her.
Kennedey told me before we left IP, that Micah declined to come as her plus one. He wanted to be there for Kennedey, but I guess his brother still had an issue with me. I supposed Micah wanted to stay loyal to his brother by not coming to my wedding. Both Kennedey and I understood where he was coming from, but I think it still bothered her a little bit. Micah felt bad about leaving Kennedey dateless, so he came down from Atlanta for a day. He was up there visiting his family. I thought that was nice of him to do that. “I’m sorry I’m unable to stay, baby. You look good, just beautiful,” said Micah.
“Thank you. I’m sorry you have to leave tomorrow. How’s everything with your family up in Atlanta?” asked Kennedey. “They’re good. My parents keep telling me to bring you out there with me,” said Micah. “Oh, really? Well, maybe after things get settled,” said Kennedey. “Anyhow, at least we have today. I love you so much, boo,” said Micah. “I love you too,” replied Kennedey, blushing.
Kennedey didn’t say, but I know she got some when Micah was here. The good thing was, Kennedey is happy in her relationship with Micah and she’s comfortable being “apart” of a couple.
When Kennedey and I saw Daddy with a clean shaven face, we were more than surprised. “Daddy, you shaved! You look so young and handsome,” I exclaimed, not believing how good my father looked. Daddy is very handsome, but he looked so much younger.
“What are you tryin‘ to say? I looked old and decrepit before?” he said, laughing. “No, Daddy, we just think you look so good!” Kennedey spoke up.
Daddy brought Marcia along as his plus one, they were staying together at Grandma Carmen’s. Kennedey and I have accepted Marcia as someone special in our father’s life. It was still a little weird seeing Daddy with a girlfriend, but he looked happy and that was the important thing. I liked Marcia when I first met her. I could see she was the same person as last summer and no different just because she was dating my father.
“Hi Marcia, thank you for coming. Did you have a nice trip down?” I asked. “Reagan, I’m so happy to be here. Yes, the trip was fine. I haven’t been to Miami in a long time. One of my best friends from nursing school lives out here,” said Marcia. I nodded my head and listened as Marcia told me about her job as the head nurse at a nursing home and how she and Daddy have been jogging in the morning. We spent another few minutes chatting and Marcia told us she was going to visit her girlfriend and allow us some family time. It wouldn’t have bothered me if she stayed. I supposed Daddy told her the situation with Apollonia’s parents was going to be sensitive for Ken and me.
Grandma Carmen came by the house to see us and meet Jaylen. It was good to see her and I looked forward to her cooking. I felt nervous because my other grandparents were flying in from Trinidad and coming over for a family dinner. I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel about seeing them after so long. At least Kennedey and I had a little time to spend with Grandma before Apollonia’s parents arrived.
“Grandma! It’s so good to see you!” I said excitedly. Grandma reached out, hugging me and then Kennedey very tightly. “Oh my babies! Look at y’all, so beautiful and grown up!,” cried Grandma.
“Grandma, this is my fiancé, Jaylen,” I said turning to introduce them both. “Oh, Reagan baby, you got yourself a fine man!” exclaimed Grandma. Jaylen blushed. “It’s nice to meet you, ma’am,” he replied.
“Boy you better call me Grandma! You family now, come over here and give me a hug!” she shouted out. I smiled to myself seeing the way Grandma and Jaylen instantly took to each other.
***GREETINGS FROM TRINIDAD & TOBAGO***
We sat around, catching up on old times. Grandma and Jaylen got to know each other and seemed to take a liking to one another. Grandma told us about some of the neighborhood activities she had going on. My grandmother wasn’t like other grandmothers. She stayed busy out and about. Grandma participated in a lot in her community and organized functions and events in order to better the lives of the people who lived there. Kennedey definitely got that from her.
It wasn’t too long when we heard the doorbell ring. Kennedey and I looked at each other. Seeing my grandparents after so long was kind of like seeing my mother again. They were a direct connection to her and I knew I would feel her presence being around them. Everyone followed me to the door. When I opened the door, I was shocked to see them. Other than Nani Manique having a slightly darker skin tone than my mother, she looked just like her, and me.
People have always said I have my mother’s eyes, but really I had Nani’s since that’s where my mom got hers. I inherited my red mane from Nani as well. I was the only grandchild who did.
I all of a sudden thought back to when I was a little girl, I was upset because some of the kids in the family teased me because of my red hair. Nani comforted me telling me I was special because no one besides her and I had red hair in the family. I observed Nana Michael, he aged a bit, but he looked youthful and well. Nana gave Kennedey and I a warm smile and I remembered how kind he was to us when we were little and telling us stories about growing up in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Reagan, Kennedey! Little baby girls!” said Nani reaching out to me. I couldn’t move for a moment and just stood there. She sounded just like my mother. Same accent and the way she said my name was the same way my mother said it. Before I even hugged her, I stood there and broke down, crying. It was as if Apollonia was right there. Everyone seemed shocked and alarmed at my reaction. “Baby, what’s wrong?” asked Jaylen. My father looked on at me because he knew why I was crying. I looked up and saw Kennedey starting to cry as well.
“Reagan, Kennedey, are you alright?” asked Nana Michael, softly. I took a deep breath and wiped my tears. Kennedey and I both nodded our heads. “Yes, I’m alright. I’m sorry, I’m really emotional lately,” I managed to sputter out through the “crying hiccups” while trying to catch my breath. Nani and Nana looked at me with a kind sweetness in their eyes and on their faces.
“Awwwhh, look at my two beautiful Caribbean princesses. You may be American, but your souls are Caribbean,” said Nani Manique. I still couldn’t get over how much she sounded like my mother when she spoke.
I introduced Nani and Nana to Jaylen. I knew Jay didn’t judge them for not coming around after Mom left. He seemed very amused at meeting my family members, like he was seeing all these other extensions of me. I couldn’t wait to meet more of his that were coming down for the wedding.
To my surprise, the conversation at dinner wasn’t uncomfortable. Nani and Nana reminisced on Kennedey and I growing up and how much we liked spending the night at their house. Nani and Nana were interested in learning about Jaylen and his background. Somehow, Jay and Nana got into a conversation about fishing. “Yes, you and Reagan are welcomed to visit us in Trinidad anytime and I will show you how to fish,” said Nana Michael. “That would be nice, sir. Growing up in Brooklyn, I never had the chance to do that sort of stuff,” said Jaylen.
I looked over at my father, wondering how he felt seeing Apollonia’s parents after all these years. Daddy got along with them when my parents were together. He told me they were on good terms when he and Apollonia dated in college. My grandfather was furious with my father when my mother became pregnant. Nana Michael felt Apollonia shamed her family by being unwed and pregnant. Daddy loved Mom and he wanted to marry her anyway, he just didn’t know it would be so soon. Nana was a kind man and as rebellious and defiant my mother was, it was a wonder she felt the need to relent to her father’s demands and marry Daddy.
My mother often fought with her parents growing up. They all wanted different things for Apollonia and coming to America was her chance of breaking free from their hold. Nonetheless, pride and family honor was taught in their household and I think Mom felt guilt and obligation because of that.
After dinner was over, we relaxed, enjoying the cool breeze coming off the water and the Florida night sky as the moon and stars shined down upon us. Nani and Nana told us about their grocery and fishing market back in Trinidad and what our relatives there were up to. Nani told me everyone was so proud of me becoming a famous model. She said the family often bragged and told people they were related to Reagan Leeds, the American supermodel. For the first time since I got here, I felt like I was at home. It was a strange feeling, but I liked it.
***A TIME FOR FORGIVENESS***
Spending time with my grandparents last night made me think of my childhood and how close I was to them at one point. Their presence brought me back to a place of happiness and innocence. My mother was still in my life and Nani looked so much like her. Nani Manique and Nana Michael apologized for not being there as much as they should have when Mom left. They were horribly hurt and embarrassed by what she did. They were ashamed their own daughter could leave her children. It was something I could tell still bothered to this day. Not knowing where your child is must be very hard.
I started to realize how important family was when my father had his heart attack. I’m finding out even more how sacred it is seeing them and falling in love with Jaylen. I didn’t think I would be okay with them and I expected to still be mad still once we saw each other. I know my heart is capable of forgiveness. Maybe I do a lot to not show the world the softer side of me, mostly because I’ve felt the need to protect myself for a very long time. Jay helped me to tear down some of those walls and allow more love into my life.
I wanted my Nani and Nana in my life. I realized it wasn’t so much that I was mad, but hurt. I didn’t feel that way anymore. Nani and Nana regretted how they acted after Mom left. Islander people are proud and family oriented, and they were embarrassed by what Apollonia did. If I were to ever see my mother again, I don’t know how I would feel, although I do love her. What do they say? It’s the people you love who are capable of hurting you the most. I’ve found this to be true even when a loved one hurts you unintentionally. If they were just some stranger, it would not matter to me. My heart has been broken for many years since Mom left and I’m not completely healed. Jaylen has helped me so much in repairing the damage to my heart. There is no other man with the exception of my father that has loved me as much as Jaylen did.
I loved this beach. Daddy took Ken and I here all the time growing up. We built sand castles and played in the water together. Further up the beach, there used to be a carnival Daddy took us to. He would get us ice cream and cotton candy, but never at the same time as he didn’t want us to get a stomach ache.
Much of the reason I’ve acted out the way I have for several years is because I was so angry at my mother and I didn’t really know any other way to be or act. I allowed the anger and pain in my heart to control me and it lead me to make me some pretty stupid decisions.
I’m in a better place now than nearly two years ago or even a year ago. I know I’ve grown and I still have growing to do. I may be a lot of things, but maturity and my father bringing me back down has helped me with some of my more difficult ways. I’m not perfect, but I know I’ve come a long way.
***CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?***
On what will undoubtedly be the happiest day of my life, I didn’t want anyone to be upset or feel uncomfortable at my wedding. Things were awkward and difficult between myself, Jay, Amarre and Briah. Briah wasn’t looking forward to walking with Amarre and being around him. I could imagine Amarre felt the same way. Jay and his brother’s relationship was strained at times. I knew how sad he got when they were fighting. Jay and Amarre are twins, they really do feel each others emotions and knows what the other is thinking most of the time. They share a bond that is closer than regular siblings. Seeing Jay upset after fighting with his brother bothered me. My sister and I fought for years after Mom left, but we weren’t twins so it was a bit different for us, even though neither one of us enjoyed fighting.
I decided to bite the bullet and get Jay, Briah, Amarre, and myself together to ease the tension that existed between all of us. Amarre and I have mainly butted heads over Martina. Truthfully, I haven’t outwardly fought with her or said much of anything to her since that argument we had months ago. It’s mainly been the people around me. My friends and family knew we didn’t like each other so they were co-signing for me and I just didn’t do anything to discourage it. Martina furthered along the feud once I found out what she was saying about me on Twitter. Last year at this time, I would’ve cussed her out online like I did so many other people. Sure, certain things bothered me and different people and things got on my nerves, but I’ve let things roll off my back more. At least I’m better at it than I used to be.
No, I’m not saying I was interested in becoming friends with Martina. It was best if both of us stayed in our own lanes. I wanted to keep the peace for Jaylen’s sake. Amarre was going to be my family soon and I didn’t want to come between Jay and his brother. When I first told Bri that I wanted the four of us to get together, she was a bit skeptical. I convinced her it was the best way to ease the tension and the only way for everyone to feel good about being at the wedding.
Jay was more than down for the idea and Amarre like Bri wasn’t sure about sitting down together. I supposed the best way to deal with this was to jump right in. “I don’t like to beat around the bush. I know things have been tense between all of us, mainly do to the issues Martina and I have. Amarre, this has caused you and I to butt heads on many occasions. It’s caused you and Jay some strain in your relationship. Your brother is the most important person on the planet to me and I hate to see him upset. It really effects him when you two are not getting along. I can imagine it upsets you too,” I said looking at Amarre. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking because his face was expressionless.
“Look, whether we like it or not, we’re going to be family. We’ll have to deal with each other for the rest of our lives. I think both Martina and I have furthered the feud. I can acknowledge my part, that although I didn’t say much to her in several months, I allowed the people around me to keep it going. I didn’t tell anyone to do this, but I didn’t do much to discourage anyone either. Martina has done things as well I don’t care for. I’m not trying to assign blame, I just need it to be made known that we both play a part in all of this. Bottom line is, I don’t want anyone at my wedding for feel uncomfortable and like they don’t want to be there,” I continued.
“Yeah, A, because of your and Briah’s positions in the wedding party, you two must deal and be around each other. I know neither one of you have looked forward to that. I don’t want you as my brother and best friend to have any reason to look back on my wedding and feel regret down the line. Whether that’s with me, my future wife, or her family,” said Jaylen. I looked at Amarre, whose face seemed to soften a bit as he listened to Jay.
“I don’t want that either, Jay. That’s the biggest day of your life. Ultimately, I want you to be happy. No, I don’t like it when we fight. We always manage to squash it, but I know there’s a reason that tension exists in our relationship. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love you. Of course I want to be there for you and I always will be,” said Amarre. Jaylen nodded his head slowly. I could tell what Amarre said meant a lot to him.
I glanced over at Briah who has remained quiet throughout this whole conversation. “Bri, I love you girl. I‘ve always have. You are one of the few people who’s never judged me and has loved me for me. As my best friend and Maid of Honor, it would hurt me if you didn’t totally enjoy my special day,” I said. Briah looked at me when a slight smile on her face.
“Amarre, much of the reason I think you two have butted heads is because of the back and forth between your girlfriend and Bri. Just know, Briah is my family and she only felt as if she was having my back. Maybe how everyone went about things wasn’t the best way,” I said. Amarre briefly looked across the table at Briah. “Look, Reagan, I can appreciate you coming to me now. I know you love and care for my brother. The same way your family and Jay has your back, I have my girl’s back. I know she’s not totally innocent in all of this and I have called her on it before. I don’t expect either one of you to start baking cookies together anytime soon. I think it’s best if you both stay in your lanes. It’s not very realistic that you won’t see each other. Martina is my woman and she’ll be around. I think everyone will be happy if we just cooled it on the back and forth and playing the blame game,” said Amarre. I was surprised that Amarre acknowledged that it wasn’t all me. I appreciated that he recognized that and told me.
“Amarre you as my brother, I hope you can get along with my future in laws. I know Martina is special to you and I don’t want to get in the way of that. Bri, you’re cool and I’m glad you always have Reagan’s back. She hasn’t always had that many people who were there for her like you. That alone makes me happy that I’ll be a part of your family. Besides, Apollo really loves you. I’ve never seen him go crazy over any woman like he has for you. Apollo and I are very close, so I know you’re a good person. Apollo didn’t have the easiest life growing up and you bring out a whole other side in him, the best in him. I want both you and Amarre to at least let this go for now. I don’t expect y’all to rock right away, but you two have to deal with each other. Not only because I’m marrying into your family, but because of Apollo’s relationship with you,” said Jaylen.
Amarre and Briah both looked at each other skeptically. I wasn’t quite sure of what their reaction would be. “Well, Jay, I’m happy you’re marrying into our family too. You make my cousin so happy. I really love Apollo and I know how much you’ve been there for my boo, so you’re good with me. I want you and my cousin to be happy on your wedding day. It’s important to Reagan that no one is upset for any reason, which I think is very sweet of her,” said Briah. Jay smiled and nodded his head. “So, can I expect y’all, Amarre and Briah to be cool with each other for now? Next to Reagan and I, you two have the most important positions in the wedding party. I know it may be a little too soon to expect it, but I would like for you to be good with each other one day down the line,” said Jaylen.
Amarre sort of bit his lip and Briah scrunched her face. There was an awkward silence, finally, Amarre looked up at Briah. “Briah, if you’re willing to be cool, I’ll be cool. I love my brother and I know you love Reagan, and I’d rather us not trip with each other at this point,” said Amarre. Briah ran her fingers through her hair, a pensive look on her face. “For Reagan’s sake, I’ll be cool,” she said. I let out a huge breath I didn’t realize I was holding. That was very hard, but such a relief. Ultimately everyone here loved Jay and I and they were willing to get along in order to make us happy.
Further amends needed to be made. I needed to at least try to talk to Yuri and put our differences aside. My mother will always be a sensitive subject for me. I don’t think that anyone who hasn’t walked in my shoes can begin to understand what my life was like. I realized Yuri was coming from a good place. I was just shocked at what she said. I may have been more open to accepting her invitation if she only said I can come to her and she’s there for me. No, we didn’t know each other well, but she’ll be my family soon. I recognize that some of my issues with Yuri is how I’ve seen my mother when compared to her. This left me with a feeling that both my mom and I were less than adequate.
Seeing my grandmother the other day, I realized it wasn’t completely fair to Yuri that I made those comparisons. I love my family, I’m proud of them. It’s always made me a bit uncomfortable when I perceived other people judging us on account of Apollonia, especially after she left. Some of the Leeds’ family members gave us the side eye when it came to her and that was hurtful growing up. My feelings haven’t completely changed overnight, I still worry that my soon to be in laws won’t think I’m good enough for their son. Jaylen assured me that was never the case and he worried that Daddy wouldn’t think he was good enough for me, which also was not true.
“Reagan, I’m so happy you called me. We must be on the same page, because I was planning on calling you,” said Yuri, hers eyes crinkling the same as Jaylen’s. I nodded my head. “Yuri, first I’d like to say that maybe I overreacted a bit the last time I was at your house and I apologize. My mother is a sensitive topic for me. I’m highly protective of my family. Even though my mom walked out on us, I still love her, but I’m angry at the same time,” I blurted out, all at the same time.
A sympathetic smile spread across Yuri’s face. “Reagan, sweetheart, I want you to know, my intentions were coming from a good place. I shouldn’t have said I understood what life was like for you and your family, because I really don’t know. I apologize for saying that. Jaylen will tell you that even before you and I met, I recognized that you probably struggled a lot after your mother left. I wanted you to know that you can come to me anytime you want. I wasn’t trying to take her place. Your mom will always be your mom,” Yuri paused for a moment, allowing her words to sink in.
“You’re marrying my youngest son and I’m very happy you’ll be a part of our family. You don’t know how much you’ve calmed Jay down. Jay was all over the place at one time. His father and I didn’t know if he would ever get it together. Yes, he was able to get Avenue off the ground with his brother, that seemed to give him a bit of structure. Jaylen still remained a big party boy. We honestly thought Amarre would settle down before Jay,” she continued on. Yuri’s face lit up as she talked about her son. There was a look in her eyes as if she were thinking back to how Jaylen used to be.
“I think we calmed each other down in a lot of ways. I’m not the same person I was a year ago or even two years ago, I still have growing to do,” I said. “Baby, no one is asking you to grow up overnight. You’re young and as you get older and mature, you won’t have the same reaction to a lot of things. You’ll learn to pick your battles and find other ways to work through problems. You’re going to find yourself looking at the world differently. Both you and Jay will learn from your mistakes. We’re human, no one is perfect, sweetheart. You need to give yourself a break,” Yuri paused, leaning over to look me in my face. She repeated herself, empathizing each word, “Give yourself a break”.Those words stuck, I definitely needed to do that.
Yuri continued on, “Like I was saying about Jay, when he came home after he started seeing you, right away Kevin and I could see a change in him. He never felt the way he does about you about any other girl. Jay was in love, I don’t even think he realized it at the time, but the look in his eyes and his whole demeanor said he was a man in love,” Yuri spoke with both gentility and kindness in her words. I found myself tearing up.
“I appreciate that, Yuri. Your son really saved me, we saved each other. I never knew it was possible to feel this way. Jay makes me laugh, he makes me happy. We have our problems like any other couple, but at the end of the day we love each other and we manage to work through whatever the issue is,” I said, as I wiped my eyes. I confessed to Yuri what I thought of her the first time we met, how in awe I was of her as well as a bit intimidated over time.
“I compared you to my mother and it made me feel insecure in many ways. Like, why couldn’t my mom be more like you? You obviously love your kids and raised them well. My mother lived with us for many years, but she was mostly distant. Kennedey and I relied on our father for our emotional support. I told Jay it wasn’t bad one hundred percent of the time,” I started to say. I then told Yuri about the times when Kennedey and I as little girls would watch our mom dance and that sometimes she included us and we danced for hours. The same sympathetic look grew on Yuri’s face. “That must have been very special for you and your sister,” she said softly. I looked down at my hands. “It was,” I quietly said. It felt good talking to Yuri and we spent another hour chatting about what Jaylen was like as a baby, how he got into everything, even more so than Amarre. I laughed at the thought of Jay crawling around and getting into stuff. From what I can tell, he was very much the same way now. Jay loved life and the world around him.
“Jay certainly got that from me. The main reason I got into modeling was because I wanted to explore the world without my parents. I visited many countries with them, but I wanted to see things on my own. I was very carefree, which worried my father at times. Eventually I found interior design to focus on. Once I met Kevin, I was in a settled place. Kevin opened up a whole other world for me, one where we found true love. I further matured when I became a mother. Having a baby, or in my case two at the same time, changes you. Having a baby changes everything, once you become a mom, Reagan, you’ll see that. Your outlook on life will never be the same.
I told her a few things about my own childhood. How Daddy always tried to make life fun for my sister and I. Maybe there wasn’t a lot he could afford to do, but he made everyday special. “Your father is a good man, Reagan. I could see that the first time I met him. You and your sister are very fortunate to have him,” said Yuri. A smile crept across my face. “We most certainly are,” I agreed with her.
I felt bad I couldn’t spend as much time with my friends. Thankfully Ken and I as well as Bri and Jade were from Miami. They could show everyone around, beyond the popular tourists attractions. Of course, both Tai and Jazz have visited Miami many times, but they didn’t know it as much as us natives. You know things must be good if even Bri and Tai could be in the same place without me being there. I think they knew how important it was to me for my friends and family to get along. They still weren’t talking as much when all of us were in New York for my bachelorette party. After everyone returned to Miami and the closer we got to the wedding, I think it had an effect on them. Everyone around me seemed to be in a good mood. I loved them both and relieved they buried the hatchet. Maybe everyone felt the love and energy between Jay and I and it rubbed off on them. Maybe love does conquer all.
***TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS***
Taking care of the last minute details required much of our time. Jay and I went to get our marriage license. After we took care of that we met up with Bailey at White Sand Diamonds Resort and Beach Club to check on the progress and go over a few housekeeping details. Bailey was doing his part and seeing to it that everything was coming along as it should be.
More than my bridesmaids, I was spending the majority of my time with Jay and Bailey. We were fortunate to have Bailey, because without him, the amount of tasks Jay and I would have to perform would be double. He was a lifesaver, he didn’t try to get us to do anything we didn’t want. Bailey made great suggestions to compliment or further the ideas we already had for both the wedding and reception. With so many flowers, china, tables, and, chairs to choose from, I felt overwhelmed on deciding which ones I liked best. He taught me a lot about that sort of stuff and what styles would fit into our wedding. People started to say Bailey was the third person in our relationship because we’ve spent so much time together over the last few months. At this point, Bailey was more than our wedding planner, he was our friend.
I was ecstatic at what we decided on for the reception. Jay was being very flexible, he went along with most of everything I liked. There were certain foods he wanted that I didn’t think would fit at a wedding, but it was his wedding too, so I relented. I wanted a sit down dinner for everyone, Jay preferred a buffet because it encouraged conversation and mingling. We made a compromise. The wedding party would have a sit down, and the guests will have the buffet.
Initially I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this. I decided to ask Jay if he wanted to go see my childhood home. I haven’t seen it since we moved to Appaloosa when I was in high school. “Yeah baby, I would like to see the house where Baby Reagan Leeds grew to be the diva she is today,” he said, laughing. “Actually, when I was an infant, we lived in a small one bedroom apartment. I was still in diapers when my mom got pregnant with Kennedey. The apartment was already small, but having two babies in there was impossible,” I said. “That’s when you guys moved to the house?” asked Jaylen. “Yeah. My dad didn’t have enough money for a down payment on a house. He’d been saving for months. They opted to rent, but the only houses that were in their budget weren’t in the best neighborhoods. Grandma Carmen wouldn’t allow her grandbabies to live in the house my dad intended on renting. She ended up giving my father the money for a down payment. It was actually better to buy a house and carry a mortgage in a decent working class neighborhood than renting in a bad one,” I told Jaylen. He nodded his head. “Well, let’s go Ma,” said Jay.
I directed Jay the way to get to the old house. Driving through our old neighborhood brought up so many emotions in me. I couldn’t help but think of my mother. Last time I was here with Kennedey she wanted to see the old house with me, but I refused. I wasn’t ready yet to deal with those kind of feelings that would surely come up if I saw it.
***YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN***
We parked the car and got out. My heart began beating faster as we neared the house. It looked like it was empty. I wanted to look in the windows and perhaps see our old bedroom. To my surprise, an older woman emerged from the house. “Hello, are you here because of the ad? I just put the ad in today, didn’t expect anyone to come by so soon. I bought the house several years ago. My last tenants were here for about six months and recently moved out. I’ve been getting the house together for rental,” she said. “Well, we didn’t exactly come for the ad. You see, I grew up here and I wanted my fiancé to see my childhood home. I’m sorry to inconvenience you,” I said. “Oh, it’s no inconvenience at all. That’s very sweet. Why don’t you and your fiancé come inside? My name is Bridgette, by the way,” said Bridgette, warmly smiling. “I’m Reagan and this is my fiancé, Jaylen,” I said. “Well it’s very nice to meet you both,” said Bridgette.
Bridgette showed us into the house. Once we were inside, all of these old memories rushed to my head. I saw the sofa my mother would push out of the way to make more space for her to dance. I saw the stereo she would play all of her old eighties records on. She danced to hip hop, classical for ballet, and the soft acoustic sounds of pop-techno mixed with mellow hip hop when she practiced contemporary dance. Mom rarely played new stuff. She treasured her records, hardly bought tapes and, only started getting CD’s about twelve years ago. I think she held onto anything that reminded her of the eighties, the last time she wasn’t tied down, the last time she felt completely free, the time before she felt she gave up her dreams.
I stood there, as if in a trance. I could see her, I could hear her, I could smell her. The Estee Lauder Beautiful perfume my father bought her lingered in the air, she was beautiful. The form of her body was perfect. The way she twisted and turned, the sultry way her body moved to the music, never missing a beat. She let the rhythm carry her. Her hip hop moves resembled that of Rosie Perez in ‘Do The Right Thing’. I saw her, she was right there. I could see her face, she looked so at peace not like she usually did, her eyes dead and little expression on her face. She seemed so real, like if I reached out my hand, I could touch her.
I looked over to the entrance to the kitchen where Kennedey and I would quietly stand watching her dance. She was poetry in motion.
Sometimes Mom would come back from her far away place and notice us standing there, watching. She would ask if we wanted to dance with her. Of course we said yes. We were overjoyed to participate in something our mother so obviously loved.
It was these few times that I thought maybe, just maybe she loved us. Those moments were very few and far in between, but the moments I wish I had everyday and the ones I treasured most.
The house looked very much the same, but with a facelift. No wallpaper, but a nice paint job, new hardwood floors, it was very nice. The kitchen had gotten a facelift as well.
I opened the door to our old bedroom. That’s when I heard the laughter of Kennedey and I playing with our old bears Pinkie and Randy as toddlers. Jaylen must have noticed how quiet I was. “Are you alright, Baby?” he asked. I couldn’t really say anything. I sniffled loudly and fought to hold back my tears. I slumped down on the floor. Jaylen held me as I quietly wept.
A moment later, I watched as Kennedey and I slept peacefully. All of these memories seemed so real, like I was back there in my childhood again. For years, I stood too afraid to face my fears, coming here. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but it was something I had to do. Maybe I avoided it in the past because I wasn’t ready. Yes, that’s it, it wasn’t time yet. I sighed deeply, feeling as if my entire soul was crying. To be so young and full of innocence. Those were the times I sometimes wish I had. But I knew if I were to continue moving forward, I couldn’t continue holding onto the past. Then I saw us playing with our dollhouse. We didn’t spend as much time together once we became teenagers. I had my interests and Kennedey had hers.
“Baby? Did you hear me?” asked Jaylen. I snapped out of my trance, looking around the room startled to see nothing there. “Huh? Oh I‘m sorry baby,” I replied. “It was like you were in another world,” he said. I didn’t see Bridgette anywhere. “Where did Bridgette go?” I asked. “Oh she said she had to go out back and we were welcome to look around,” replied Jaylen.
“It’ll be okay, Ma, I’m right here, it’s okay,” said Jaylen wrapping his arms around me. Once I gained my composure, I pointed where each of our cribs and eventually beds were. I described what the wallpaper looked like. “Daddy liked to switch up the wall paper every now and then. Of course, this was the nineties, wallpaper was still in,” I laughed a little. “When Daddy read us a bedtime story, Kennedey and I would usually sit on my bed, and he sat across from us on Kennedey’s,” I recalled.
“That must have been really special,” said Jaylen. “Yes it was. You know, I think the last time I read a book was in college. I read stuff now, it’s just usually magazines or blogs. I used to always read as a kid, Daddy encouraged us to. I loved the feeling of being taken away to a whole new place on some adventure or imagining I was a beautiful princess, but not one of those princesses who needed rescuing. The way I would rule my kingdom was to make sure everyone had fun. We would play games, eat all the cotton candy we could, go swimming, go exploring, just everything,” I said quietly as I reflected on some of my childhood fantasies. I never told anyone about that before, not even Daddy or Kennedey.
“Sounds like you had a lot of fun in that head of yours,” said Jaylen. “Yes, I did,” I said, slowly nodding my head. Jaylen and I didn’t stay too long after that. We called out to Bridgette letting her know we were leaving and thanking her for letting us see the house. I had mixed feelings about coming here, but I’m glad I did.
***I COVER THE WATERFRONT***
Jay sensed a change in my mood. I wasn’t quite sad, but perhaps melancholy. Jaylen reached over and held his hand over mine. I know it’s getting kind of late boo, but why don’t we head down to the beach for a few,” he suggested. “Yeah, that sounds fine,” I agreed.
There wasn’t anyone on the beach when we arrived. I felt a little better since leaving the house. Jaylen and I walked to the waterfront in silence. Jaylen took the beach towel we brought along and laid it on the sand. Jaylen wrapped his arm around me and gently kissed my face, causing my heart to flutter a bit. “You feeling better baby?” he asked, his voice low and husky. I nodded my head. We didn’t say too much, but listened to the waves running toward the shore, the soft waves lapping against each other.
I sensed Jay was feeling frisky by the way he kept flirting with me and touching me. “C’mon, boo, no one is around. We can put those umbrellas around us, no one will see us,” said Jaylen, with a sexy wicked grin on his face. I laughed. “Nope, you’re going to have to wait. It’s only a couple of days,” I said. “Might I remind you, the last time we did it was the night we came home from our parties? Besides I don’t know why you’re denying me now, we’ve done it repeatedly, like a lot,” protested Jaylen. I shook my head. “Sorry boo, on our wedding night, it’s all yours,” I said, continuing to laugh. “We’ve both been stressed. It’ll relief some tension. You’re trying to tell me, you don’t want this?” asked Jaylen, teasingly. “I can and I will. You’ll have to take a cold shower,” I said, smiling. Jaylen laughed. “Awwwhh that’s cold, Ma,” he said.
***SISTER TO SISTER***
I asked Kennedey if she wanted to chill out back when I got home. I wanted to tell her about my visit to the old house. Kennedey listened as I told her about the flashbacks and what I saw when I was at the house earlier tonight. She said she had a similar experience when she visited. Dancing with our mother were some of the best memories for us both. Instead of fighting when we went down memory lane, we could reflect upon those times, for they forever bonded us.
The night air was warm around us but not humid yet. Kennedey and I decided to lighten the mood and have a little sister fun, playing around in the pool and acting silly.
Jaylen came outside. I invited Kennedey into the hot tub with us, but she said she wanted to read for a little while and go to bed. “What were you doing upstairs,” I asked Jaylen. “Watching Sports Center then I was on the phone with my mom,” he answered. We let the jets relax our bodies for another thirty minutes and then it was off to bed. Tomorrow was another big day.
***PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT***
One day before the big day. Jaylen and I had another full day of running errands before tomorrow. I was running on empty by the time we arrived at the rehearsal dinner. Bailey directed everyone in their positions as we walked down the aisle. Technically, Daddy and I would be last, but Bailey wanted to get a good look at me first. He made sure everyone’s pacing was in line with the music and made sure the bridesmaids and groomsmen were positioned correctly at the alter.
Of course, I wouldn’t get to see any of this tomorrow until I watched the video. Jay and I wrote our own vows, but we would also repeat some of the traditional ones. Neither one of us knew what the others vows said and I couldn’t wait to hear Jaylen’s.
After the rehearsal was finished, we grabbed dinner and a couple of drinks. I was nervous even after practicing for the ceremony. Everyone would be watching me tomorrow, so I had to make sure I kept it together.
***THE NIGHT BEFORE***
“Alright, one more chance before you’re Mrs. Powers,” teased Jaylen. His frisky mood had carried over into tonight. “Boy, go somewhere. My father is downstairs,” I said laughing. “Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re worth the wait. I don’t just mean now, but all my life,” said Jaylen. I blushed a little. “You were worth the wait too, Jay. I love you. Oh, and you know it’s Leeds-Powers, right?” I asked, giggling. I told Jay a couple of months ago I was keeping my last name, which he had no issue with. He stated he didn’t expect me to change it and his mother hyphenated hers too. “I know, Ma. ‘Powers’ has a nice ring to it. It’s cool, you gonna be rockin my name soon,” answered Jaylen.
Jaylen reached over to kiss me. I don’t know what it is, he made my insides melt just as always. “Okay, Ma. I’m outta here. My mama said she was making some sweet potato pie. I love you and I’ll see you at the alter,” said Jaylen. “I love you too, baby. Have fun, tell your family I said hello and I’ll see Yuri early tomorrow morning,” I said. Then he was gone. The next time I would see Jay would be at the alter, I could hardly wait.
The house seemed so quiet now. Briah left her hotel room she was sharing with Apollo to stay with me tonight since we were getting ready together tomorrow. Daddy left Grandma’s to stay the night as well. We didn’t do a lot other than sitting around the fireplace, talking about the old days. Daddy didn’t always like Bri and I hanging when we were younger, but now he could see how well Bri turned out and he had a lot of respect for her. Bri and I laughed about the times we ventured miles away from home to different parties. Still in our early teens, we pretended to be older.
I told my dad I was going one place, but in actuality I was somewhere else. Daddy shook his head. “You didn’t pull the wool over my eyes all the time. I knew when you were up to thangs. That doesn’t surprise me,” said Daddy, letting out a small chuckle. “Look at it this way Daddy, at least there weren’t too parties for me to go to once we left Miami,” I said, laughing. “True, thankfully,” agreed Dad. It was a nice feeling, having some of the closest people in the world around me tonight. This was one of those nights I would never forget.
I knew I had to get up in the morning, but I wasn’t tired and neither was Kennedey. After Daddy and Bri went to bed, Ken and I got into her bed and talked about the last few months and what was ahead for both of us. “Reagan getting married, I can’t believe it,” she said. “I know, it’s crazy,” I mused. “It’s a good thing, though, Rea. I really like Jay. I’ve never had a brother before. He’s a good man. He listens to me when I tell him about all my projects, protests and rallies, he doesn’t brush it off to the side as nonsense. It’ll be nice to have him in the family,” said Kennedey. It was a relief that Jay got along with my family so much. He really loved them and they loved him too.
“I just can’t believe, we won’t be sharing a home anymore. It’s a little scary, but I love my new place. When I get it fixed up, you and Jay will have to come over. Maybe you and Jay can come over and I’ll invite Micah for dinner soon,” suggested Kennedey. “That sounds nice. Just let me know when,” I said.
***THE BIG DAY***
I chose not to go to the salon with my friends. Briah was doing my hair and make up. I know that will be a lot for her to take on, because she had to do her own hair and makeup. I told her I could hire a makeup and hair artist, but she insisted upon doing it. Briah knew exactly how I liked my hair to look. There was no one else I trusted more to make me look and feel as beautiful as possible on my wedding day than Briah.
I invited Yuri to get ready at the house with me. It would give us a bit more time to bond and know each other. Yuri had her own hair stylist coming and she was doing her own makeup, one of the tricks you must learn being a model. Manicurists and massage therapists were coming over. I thought it would be nice to get a massage and mani -pedi and Yuri loved the idea too. After Yuri got dressed she was going to head to the resort to be with her son, so she would not see me in my dress before she left.
“Reagan, this was so sweet of you to arrange a massage for us. It’s too bad I won’t see you in your dress until you arrive at White Sands. I know my son will want to know what you looked like,” said Yuri. “It’s no problem. I need to relax and calm my nerves. Yeah, the suspense is killing Jay, I know,” I said. “Well, the dress is beautiful and I know you will look gorgeous in it,” said Yuri.
Daddy opted to get up early and hit some golf balls. He came back and fixed us breakfast before everyone headed to the salon. Being the only man in the house, it wasn’t going to take him long to get ready. I could hear him watching whatever game was on television and chatting back and forth with Grandma and Marcia. Daddy tried to hide it, but I could tell he was nervous about today.
“So what are you thinking about, Rea?” asked Briah. I shrugged. “Just thinking about a lot of things. Member how we used to be up on Ocean, man watching for hours? Picking out the dudes we thought were cute?” I asked, laughing. “Yeah, girl. Those were the days. We would collect all those numbers, but never called any of them,” said Briah, giggling. “Some of those guys were too old, we were only fourteen,” I said. “Looking back, they were too old, but you know I did almost everything fast. We always had a good time. I had more fun with you than anyone else,” Briah said, quietly.
“I know, me too,” I echoed. “Then it was like, one day y’all was gone. Everything after that seemed to get so bad,” said Briah, sighing. I didn’t really know the extent of the effect my leaving had on Bri and others, not until much later. No, I didn’t like leaving Miami at the time, but maybe our family needed a change of pace for a while. “The good thing is, we’re all together now. We all have regrets about the past, but I want to live in the present. You can’t go back, the only thing to do is move forward,” I mused.
The bridesmaids returned from the salon and got dressed in the guests rooms. When they were finished, everyone came into the master with Briah and I. Kennedey’s always been beautiful to me, but seeing her now really took my breath away. She’s not really a dress kind of girl, I could tell she loved the way she looked. “Oh, Kenney that hair is looking good on you! Maybe you and Micah can do a little role playing and you can whip your unbeweavable in his face,” I teased her. Kennedey shook her head, laughing. “Reagan, you’re crazy. Leave it to you to think of something like that,” she said. I knew Kennedey kind of liked the idea because of the sly smile on her face and the far away look in her eyes, as if she were fantasizing about the next time she and Micah were together. I wouldn’t be surprised if she gave him a little hair action the other day. Hm-mm, I knew Kennedey was a freak in the bedroom, trying to act all innocent and conservative. She was probably a bigger freak than me.
“Reagan, you look incredible. You are so beautiful,” Taina gushed. My friends echoed her sentiments. “Thank you. You all look so beautiful too,” I replied. Looking at my cousins and friends, they were all gorgeous. The dresses, I think suited each one. I had input in the dresses they chose, but it was mainly their choice. As my sister, I wanted Kennedey’s dress to be extra special, so I helped her choose it. It stood out the most among the others and she glowed in it. The dress was also more expensive than the others. Kennedey was my sister and I wanted her to feel as special as me on this day. Kennedey knew she was beautiful and it showed.
Jaylen was sweet to offer to pay for my wedding dresses. It wasn’t that one gown cost over thirty thousand dollars. That amount was a combination of the designer fee, my other dresses, shoes, tiara, veil, and a couple of other things. Still expensive sure, but it’s what I wanted. I only could imagine having my dream wedding as a child and now that dream came true. I’m only getting married once. I came from practically nothing, but I remember where I came from. Sure, I was more obsessed with labels at one time and I still liked nice things to this day. Having a few dollars in the bank and being able to afford a couple of life luxuries here and there has never made me feel as if I were better than anyone else, despite my so-called ‘diva’ ways. All in all, I knew just as much as all this was given to me one day, another day, it could all be gone.
Daddy knocked on the door before entering. “Hey baby, just thought I’d give this to you. This was your mother’s diamond bracelet I bought her for our tenth anniversary. I saved up most of the year to get it. She left it behind and I’ve held onto it all these years,” said Daddy, handing me a gift box. I was touched. I had no idea Daddy had any of Mom’s jewelry. “Thank you, Daddy, this means a lot,” I said quietly, looking down at the bracelet. “I know it’s not as expensive as some of your other jewelry, but I thought maybe you might like to wear it today,” said Daddy.
I shook my head. “No, Daddy. This is very special and worth much more than anything I have at home,” I said. Daddy and Kennedey smiled at me. My mother was gone, true, but wearing something of hers that was given in love was more than precious to me today.
“Do you have everything you need then, Reagan? Old, new, borrowed, and blue?” asked Jasmine. “Yes, something old is both my mom’s bracelet and the diamond necklace my Grandma Carmen gave me. New is the tiara, Jay bought me. I borrowed these diamond earrings from Yuri and my garter is blue,” I giggled. Daddy sort of shook his head, pretending he didn’t hear that last part. Moments later, the car service arrived to take us to the resort. Here we go.
My last time riding in a limo as a single woman. I watched as the familiar streets rushed by on our way to the beach. I lived here most of my life. Miami will always hold my roots. Nothing was perfect about growing up here, but it’ll forever be home and apart of who I am. No, my mother wasn’t here today. Maybe on a subconscious level, I chose to have the wedding in Miami because I thought in some way that would make me feel close to her. Mom wouldn’t see me get married, but today was the greatest day of my life, so don’t cry for me, Argentina.
Jaylen had already arrived by the time we reached the resort, therefore there would be no chance of us seeing one another. I had butterflies in my stomach the whole ride here. There was so much excitement and nervousness going through my body, I didn’t know if it was possible for me to sit still. I was thankful to have my father and sister with me. I briefly looked around the bridal suite. The staff here really went all out to make sure everyone was comfortable.
“Wow, it’s nice in here,” said Briah. “It is. They hooked you up, Rea Rea,” agreed Jade. We had a while before the bridesmaids were set to go out and take their positions with the groomsmen. Thinking about that made me all the more relieved that everyone agreed to be cool and squash our issues. Today was about love and I wanted everyone around me to feel it.
I didn’t want to have too much to drink, but I figured a half a glass of champagne would at least calm my nerves. I looked over at my father who’s been very quite. “Daddy, is everything okay?” I asked him. He nodded his head, but didn’t say anything. I knew Daddy was feeling emotional today. I was really fortunate to have a father like him. My constant rock throughout my whole life, my original and first best friend.
“Mr. Leeds, what was Reagan really like as a kid growing up? Was she as divalicious back then? asked, Jasmine, laughing. Daddy laughed to himself. “Let’s put it this way, Reagan was a very sweet child. She would draw a picture for me from time to time, but once she saw how good of a little artist Kennedey was, she stopped drawing so much,” said Daddy. Everyone giggled around me. “Awwwhh, poor Reagan. She thought she was being shown up by Kennedey,” Both Jade and Briah teased. I couldn’t help but laugh. I definitely didn’t want to draw as many pictures, once the family could see how gifted Kennedey was.
Kennedey smiled a little. “Well, there were things Rea could do that I couldn’t. She made friends more easily as a kid, was a better dancer than me, dressed her Barbies better than mine. There’s a lot more,” she said. We all laughed when Kennedey said my Barbies were dressed better than hers. We did have fun playing dolls.
I glanced over at the clock, it wouldn’t be too long before the ceremony was under way. “Another thing about Reagan as a little girl, when she got about six or seven she would make me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Then when she got a little older she made me salami or roast beef sandwiches for my lunch. It was so sweet, she would put a little bag of Oreo cookies and chips in there, and she would fill my water bottle up with fruit punch, she was so cute,” said Daddy, with a far away look in his eyes.
We were both thinking back to those times. “Reagan took care of everyone in the house. From the time she was very little up until now. Nothing changed once she left the house. When she and Kennedey came home on their college breaks, Reagan did most of the cooking. I was already into fitness and healthy, but that didn’t stop her from making sure I ate my fruits and vegetables each day. She always called from school to check on me, both of my girls did. Reagan would help Kennedey comb her hair and pick out her school clothes when they were kids. Whenever Kennedey had a problem with bullies, Gingy was right there, fighting them off. In a word, she took care of the whole family. Both my girls took special care of me after my heart attack, but it was mainly Reagan who kept calling and fussing to me about taking it easy. I’m a very fortunate man to have two daughters that love me so much,” said Daddy, as his voice began to shake. Everyone in the room was quiet. I let out a huge sigh. I thought back to what Yuri said about Daddy being a good man, he certainly was and I was fortunate to have him as a father.
***A FATHER’S LOVE***
“I was wondering if I could have everyone step outside, so I could have a few moments with my daughter before I gave her away,” said Daddy. Everyone obliged and left the room. Daddy came over to me, looking teary-eyed. “I just can’t believe this day has come. My little Ginger baby all grown up and marrying the man of your dreams. I remember when I first brought you home from the hospital. You were so little and sweet, you smelled so good. Even when you cried it sounded cute. I’m not quite ready to let you go, but I know I have to. You’ll always be my little girl, my diva baby,” said Daddy, sniffling. I swallowed a huge lump in my throat. These last several weeks have been very emotional for me. I felt differently, like there were so many things I’ve realized that I never noticed before. I found myself not able to speak, so I listened as Daddy continued on.
“Reagan, I have seen you go from a defiant, sometimes difficult young girl to this extraordinary beautiful young woman. You’ve gone through a lot in your young life and have acted in ways that have made people judge you and not get the chance to know the real you. At the very core you’re very sweet, loving, and fiercely loyal. Now, I’m the first to admit, you’ve definitely had your diva moments, but have calmed down a lot. I You make your own money, you don’t need a man to take care of you. Reagan, I’m so proud of you,” concluded Daddy.
By now, tears were streaming down my cheeks. With as much crying I‘ve been doing the last several weeks, it’s a wonder my tear ducts haven’t dried up. “Daddy, I…I don’t know what to say. The only reason I made it to where I am and didn’t flip out is because of you. You were and are the best father a girl could have, you’re my rock. You loved me unconditionally, but you didn’t let me get away with anything. You didn’t hesitate to put the check down when I was getting in trouble. Daddy, you really are the best man in the world. I guess it’s good Briah only applied waterproof makeup on my face,” I said, laughing and crying. Daddy reached over to hug me. “I love you, Reagan, you’ll always be my special little girl,” he said, softly in my ear. Still crying, I whispered, “I love you too, Daddy.”
***WORDS OF WISDOM***
There was a soft knock at the door, then Yuri stuck her head through the door. “Knock, knock. May I come in?” she asked. Daddy released me from his embrace. Nodding his head, “Yes, yes, please. I was just giving Reagan my special father-daughter talk. I guess I’ll go check out what the guys are doing,” said Daddy. I knew that meant he was going to check out what Jaylen was doing and have a few words with his future son in law.
“Reagan, you look absolutely beautiful, I don’t think I’ve seen a more beautiful bride. I hope you don’t mind me coming to talk to you. Trust me, I know I can’t take your mother’s place, but I think every girl needs to at least have a talk with a woman whose experienced what you’re about to go through,” said Yuri. “I don’t mind at all Yuri,” I said. Admittedly, I was happy to have maybe a “mother like” figure talk to me before I walked down the aisle. No, Yuri wasn’t my mother, but she was Jay’s mother and I knew she genuinely cared for me.
“Reagan, baby, you’re about to experience the most exhilarating and happiest moment of your life thus far. I don’t want you worrying about being the perfect wife, or having the perfect marriage. I’ll be the first to tell you, marriage is not easy. You’re bonded to someone for the rest of your life. You and Jay will have disagreements, there will be compromises. You may not want everything that he wants or like everything he likes and vice versa. Jaylen will definitely drive you crazy at times, the same way his daddy can for me. But I love my husband now as much as I did the day I married him,” said Yuri, with a tear in her eye. Me, being so emotional today, her words brought tears to my own eyes.
I sniffled a bit. “Thank you, Yuri. I appreciate you telling me that,” I said. Yuri smiled and nodded her head. “I and everyone else around you can feel the love and chemistry you and my son share, it is truly magnetic and a magnificent thing to witness. You don’t always see that many people in love with each other as much as you and Jaylen are. I could see it the first time we met. I only have one request of you,” said Yuri. “What is it?” I asked. “Continue making my son happy and allow yourself to be completely happy. Forgive yourself. I guess that’s three requests and. At the end of the day, the only person you have to answer to is you. Reagan, be okay with the woman you are inside. You have a big heart and I’m happy I’ll finally have a daughter. Stop beating yourself up because of your family’s struggles. You have a beautiful family that loves and supports you. Honestly, a lot of people would love to be in your shoes. You have a father and sister that love you unconditionally and would do anything for you and I know you would the same for them, and my son,” continued Yuri.
Tears were rushing down my cheeks for about the one hundredth time today. Briah would definitely have to retouch my makeup. I took a deep breath, feeling like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I reached over and hugged Yuri hard, I could barely speak. “Thank you, you don’t know how much that means to me,” I managed to say through my tears.
***HERE COMES THE BRIDE***
Bri touched my makeup up a little. Soon Bailey came into the room. “Alright ladies, it’s time for the ceremony to begin,” he said. My jumped a little bit. “Did Jay already go down the aisle with his parents?” I asked. “Yes, he did, just moments ago. It was very sweet,” replied Bailey. I wish I could have seen that, but I’ll just have to wait for the wedding video. Everyone started to assemble and make their way out to the sun patio that was attached to our private wedding villa, right on South Beach. My father came back into the room. I guess it was just us two for now.
I heard the faint sound of the ‘Fortunate’ by Maxwell playing the wedding party were walking down the aisle to. That was one of my favorite songs. Every time I heard it, I thought of the love of my life. I stood there, waiting to go out. I gripped Daddy’s hand tightly. “You’ll do fine, baby,” he whispered. I was so nervous, my stomach was doing flip flops, butterflies were everywhere. Daddy gave me a reassuring smile. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. “Reagan, it’s time,” said Bailey. My eyes quickly opened, this was it. The moment I’ve waited for my whole life. The house band started up ‘Here Comes The Bride’, the doors opened and off I went.
***HERE’S LOOKING AT YOU***
As soon as my foot touched the aisle, everyone gasped upon seeing me. A shy smile crept on my face. You know I’m rarely shy, but I wasn’t feeling like my usual self today, but in a good way. I beamed upon seeing Jaylen looking at me from down the aisle. Daddy and I slowly began to walk. I vaguely heard little comments about how beautiful and happy I looked.
While I was aware of my friends and family watching me go down the aisle, I could only focus my attention on Jaylen. He was grinning from ear to ear, showing off those pretty white teeth and the smile I loved so much. Although I could see my sister and the other bridesmaids watching me with smiles on their faces, I kept my eyes locked on the man I love.
Jaylen looked so happy, there was so much love and emotion in his face. He still gave me chills now as much as he did the I first time I saw him and especially on our on first date. I briefly thought back to that night on the yacht and I how I felt being in his arms, our bodies slowly swaying to the music. Jaylen was a real man in every sense of the word. So many people don’t know what romance truly is. Jaylen romanced me that night. He was such a gentleman. Getting dressed up, coming to my door, and bringing me flowers. That old school love, that old school chivalry I never experienced before. The same way Grandma Carmen told me a man would court a lady back in her day. Jaylen put so much time and effort in making that an unforgettable night for us both. It was one of the best memories of of my life. Jaylen made me feel so special that night and every time we were together and now I would spend the rest of my life with him.
The closer I got to Jaylen, my butterflies seemed to disappear as well as the nervousness I felt right before I came out here. Daddy gently rubbed his thumb over my hand, letting me know he was right here and he would never leave my side. I swallowed a lump in my throat and deeply inhaled, letting the breath out slowly. The look in Jaylen’s eyes and on his face, was one that I have never seen before. His eyes were intensely focused on me and nothing else.
There were so many emotions going through me, emotions I’ve felt before, but not to the extent I felt them now. Jaylen looked so handsome, he was beautiful; absolutely perfect. After what seemed like forever, Daddy and I reached the alter. Jaylen smiled at me, his eyes crinkling the way I loved so much. I turned to Briah, handing her my bouquet.
His honor, Judge David Williams asked, “Who gives this woman in marriage?” “I do,” answered Daddy. My father gently turned me to him, kissing me on my cheek. He looked up at Jaylen with an approving smile. Daddy briefly looked at me one last time, the same look of love he’s given me all my life. I fought to hold back my tears, knowing how emotional Daddy was giving his little girl away. Daddy gently kissed me on my cheek before handing me over to Jaylen.
Jaylen and I smiled at each other, taking my hand into his. After holding each others gaze for a moment, we turned to face Judge Williams. My father and the judge went to college together and they were still friends. It was nice having someone I already knew officiate our wedding.
“This is a wonderful day, a day that brings two lovers together. Reagan Giselle Leeds and Jaylen Keanu Powers have chosen to share their lives together. Reagan’s father and I go way back, so I’ve known her when she was just a little red haired bumbling, gurgling baby. Seeing how Reagan has grown into a fine young woman and marrying Jaylen, a fine young man, I had the chance to meet a couple of months ago. Reagan and Jaylen have written their own vows to each other,” said Judge Williams.
Jaylen and I faced one another again. I kept telling myself to keep it together as I watched Jaylen’s face as he prepared to repeat his vows to me. “Reagan, you’re my queen, my only lover and best friend. I think about you when I wake up in the morning. I think about you throughout the day and into the evening. At night, I’m eager to fall asleep to think about you in my dreams. You taught me how to love. You give me the drive to wake up and be a better man than the day before. I can’t thank you enough for choosing me, I can’t thank you enough for letting me love you. I know every last curve of your face every last curve of your body. The smell of your breath and the taste of your skin,” Jaylen briefly paused, looking into my eyes. One single tear ran down the side of his face. Tears began welling up in my eyes as well. I was so touched, I’ve never seen Jaylen cry before. A true a man he was, unafraid to show me how he felt inside. I reached out my hand, gently wiping the tear from his face.
“You love me for the man I am inside. Your intelligence, your humor, your willingness to forgive, the love you have for those you care about astounds me every single day. Upon first sight of you, there was never anyone else I ever saw again. I wouldn’t change one thing about you, not your fiery red hair, the soft tremble and curl of your lips when you’re happy. Not those emerald green eyes that have the ability to look into my soul, and truly knows who I am. I never knew you would come along and change me for the better. Reagan, you’re the love of my life and as long as you allow me, I’ll continue to love you and put your happiness first. You won’t know anymore pain, anymore sorrow. The only tears you’ll cry will be those of joy. Anything you want, you need not ask. Thank you for saying you‘ll be my wife. Thank you for being who you are,” said Jaylen, his voice was raw with emotion. I took me a moment to gather my breath. Never have I heard such beautiful words spoken and I was overwhelmed.
Jaylen’s words reached down deep inside of me and touched a place I wasn’t even aware was there. My whole body trembled, much like the night he proposed. Just like that night, I felt I were dreaming in this very moment. My eyes traced every last curve of his face, there wasn’t a sound or another thought in my head when I looked at Jaylen.
“As a little girl, my father often brought my sister and I to this very beach. No more than a couple of hundred feet from here, Daddy would create adventures and dreams of wonderment for my sister and I. Never would I have imagined that some day, on this same beach, I would marry the love of my life, my lover, my best friend. This is a special place. For not only were my happiest memories as a child here, but now as a woman. Jaylen, you will never know how much you have changed me for the better. It wasn’t any one thing you did, but everything you have done each day we’ve been together. You know all of my secrets, my fears, my hopes and my dreams, you are my dream.
When I’m afraid, you comfort me and ease my fears away. I know as long as I’m in your arms, no harm can ever come to me. Because of your love, I’ve come to know who I am. If loving you is all I have to do, then let me do nothing else for the rest of my life. I’m consumed by your love and the warmth you given me. I could write a thousand different ways to say I love you and none could express the depths of how I feel about you. Jaylen, waking up to your face has been my life’s joy and I thank you allowing me to wake up to you for the rest of my life,” I said, my voice shaking. I took a brief pause, my words caught in my throat, rendering me speechless.
I could feel the hot tears streaming down my face, I knew it was impossible to stop them. I continued to smile at Jaylen through my tears and his eyes looked as if they were telling me ‘it’s okay, baby, you can do. I’m right here.’ Jaylen’s hand slightly tightened around mine, soothing me. I briefly glanced upward at the sky, still not believing I was standing on my favorite beach, exchanging vows with this man. Much like my engagement night, I began to wonder how I could prolong this night further, into forever.
The night air cooled the tears on my cheeks. I closed my eyes for a moment, inhaling the familiar scents around me. The smell of the breeze coming off the water, the clean dry smell of sand, and the ever intoxicating scent of Jaylen’s cologne. He never failed to make my knees go weak, it was like our first encounter all over again.
“The uninhibited feeling I get whenever I’m with you, to bare my soul with no consequences. Maybe the entire world doesn’t know the woman I am inside, but you see me for me and that’s what matters. Every trial, tribulation, pain, or hurt I’ve endured, every single obstacle I’ve climbed over has shaped me into who I am. All of it has guided me on a path straight to you. I no longer live my life with regret, because life has given me the greatest gift, love, life has given me you. I promise to love you from now to eternity. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to make you happy and I promise I will for the rest of our lives,” I finished saying.
Jaylen and I opted to include traditional vows as part of our ceremony. “Reagan, I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife. Before these witnesses I vow to love you and care for you as long as we both shall live. To treasure you, to be at your side in sorrow and in joy, in the good times, and in the bad, and to love and cherish you always. I promise you this from my heart, for all the days of my life,” said Jaylen
“Jaylen, I take you to be my lawfully wedded husband. Before these witnesses I vow to love you and care for you as long as we both shall live. To have and to hold you, to honor you, to treasure you, to be at your side in sorrow and in joy, in the good times, and in the bad, and to love and cherish you always. I promise you this from my heart, for all the days of my life,” I vowed. Amarre handed the rings to Jaylen. “I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness. As I place it on your finger, I commit my heart and soul to you. I ask you to wear this ring as a reminder of the vows we have spoken today, our wedding day,” said Jaylen, as he placed the ring on my finger.
“I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness. As I place it on your finger, I commit my heart and soul to you. I ask you to wear this ring as a reminder of the vows we have spoken today, our wedding day,” I promised, carefully sliding Jaylen’s ring on.
We faced Judge Williams once more “Jaylen, do you take Reagan to be your wedded wife, to live together in marriage? Do you promise to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and forsaking all others, be faithful only to her, for as long as you both shall live?” he asked. “I do,” replied Jaylen.
“Reagan, do you take Jaylen to be your wedded husband to live together in marriage? Do you promise to love him, comfort him, honor and keep him for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health and forsaking all others, be faithful only to him so long as you both shall live?,” he asked. “I do,” I replied.
“By the power vested in me by the state of Florida, I pronounce you, husband and wife, you may kiss your bride,” said Judge Williams. Jaylen gently took my face into his hands, kissing me. He kissed me with a soft gentility and firmness as our passion grew.
Our guests began to clap and cheer. We turned around as the broom was placed just beyond our feet. Jaylen and I looked at each other and simultaneously, we jumped the broom.
Here it was, my wedding day. I most definitely wouldn’t have thought this is where I would be a year ago. When you find that right one like I have, it changes your whole game up. I knew what I had in Ma. She was my best friend, I could talk to her about anything. Reagan wasn’t like other women I knew, she had a distinct insight into the world around her and was good at expressing her innermost thoughts. It’s always easy for me to talk to Ma, she was a very good listener and she wasn’t afraid to give you her most honest feedback. I can always trust Reagan to keep it one hundred with me. Like I told my mother months ago, Ma and I helped each other grow. Reagan’s been through a lot and she wore this armor to protect herself from getting hurt. Many people didn’t see what I saw in her at first. Once Reagan let down the rest of her walls for me, I only found an even more loving and caring person inside.
More than anything, Reagan loves her family. She is fiercely loyal, there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for the people she loves. Ma is who she is and I wouldn’t change a thing about her. I don’t know, I guess I was able to see through most of that diva stuff. If anything, I could see that Reagan was very delicate, more than a lot of other people. No, she wasn’t weak or anything like that and she took care of herself, but she was hurting, badly. Reagan was hurting for years and she had a lot of anger. I wanted to get though that anger and know the real Reagan Leeds beneath all those layers. Reagan was strong and honestly, I wouldn’t want a docile girl. I like a woman who isn’t afraid of expressing herself and knowing what she wants. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, everything about Ma was on point.
I’m a night owl, so when Ma suggested we have a nighttime wedding, I was rockin’ with that idea. This was the time of day I could relax and post up. After I left Reagan last night, I went to my parent’s rental home. Amarre checked out of his hotel room and stayed over as well. It was somewhat of our last time as a foursome family unit together.
We all ate a lot at the rehearsal dinner, but Mom still hooked us up with some sweet potato pie. We sat around talking, playing board games and reminiscing about the past. I’m glad Reagan and my mom were on good terms and she and Amarre were good. My family and I thought that was big of Reagan to approach Amarre first. Neither one of us wanted there to be any animosity between anyone at our wedding. I don’t expect everything to be wavy first up, but at least we could get down to the real business of being a family.
Another good thing about having an evening wedding was it allowed the fellas and I to play a little ball in the morning and chill for a second. I had a few minor things that I had to take care of, but that didn’t take me long. It’s not like we had a lot of preparation. We all got our fades cleaned up a couple of days ago. I got my beard lined up as well. I usually do it myself, but I wanted to be extra clean for today. Briah re-braided Apollo’s hair before the rehearsal dinner yesterday. Speaking of Apollo, that’s my dude and all, but I did ask him to leave the grill at home for the ceremony. Reagan didn’t say anything to me about it. Apollo wasn’t trippin’ and he said his mom, my Auntie Kisha told him to not wear it. Anyhow, after we played ball and relaxed for a minute, the only thing I had to do was shower and get dressed.
It was nice of Ma to invite my mother to get ready with her today. Mom was up early long before us. She fixed my favorite breakfast of pancakes, bacon, hash browns, fried eggs, and steak. I still haven’t gotten over how good the food was. My father picked up my grandparents who just arrived this morning from Tokyo. I had a chance to see them briefly. Everyone I wanted to be here was able to come, which was cool. My father told me that Reagan had just arrived with the bridal party. Things were becoming more real by the second. We had a while before the ceremony began. I had nervous energy I wanted to burn off, but it’s not like I could ball in my tux.
“You ready to play the husband role, Jay?” asked Jayson. “Yeah, I guess I am. Can y’all believe it?” I asked my boys. “I can’t,” said Aubrey, blowing out his mouth. “Reagan’s a good woman, Jay. You can’t sit on something like that, man. A dime-piece like her doesn’t come around everyday,” said Jax. It was good that I had my friends’ support. Aubrey wasn’t feeling marriage, but he didn’t try to convince me, not that he could. I had a talk with Amarre last night. Although our relationship was strained at times, I knew we would come back together, we always do. I knew he felt genuinely happy for me, if he didn’t I would know it, call it my twin-sense. I never wanted there to be any kind of beef between our women or Amarre and me. We both decided the other day to meet each other halfway where our ladies were concerned. I knew his girl was special to him and he knew Reagan was the same for me.
“Hey, y’all. I wanted to holla at Jay for a minute,” my father said to everyone in the room. One by one, my friends and family filed out to allow me some time with my dad. “Yo, Pops. Is this your special father-son-wedding day talk,” I asked, laughing. Dad smiled at me. “You can say that,” he said. My father was always like a father to me, but beyond that, we were cool like friends. Dad was laid back and he never made Amarre or me feel as if we couldn’t talk to him about anything. Not all of my friends had fathers let alone a good one like mine to teach them how to be men, so I was fortunate in that way. Dad was only doing his job, like fathers are supposed to, but he strived to be more than a man who kept a roof over our heads. Dad always spent a lot of time with us. No matter how busy he was in his career, family was always first.
“Well, Jay, this is it, you’re a man. I’m proud of you son, you’ve come a long way over the last several months. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen you grow up quite a bit the last year or so. Love tends to change us and makes us want to be better men. Both of you boys have grown into fine young men. Reagan is a very special young woman, your mother and I both could see that the first time you came home after you two started dating. You have a good one and I hope she knows that about you,” said Dad. “She does, Pop. Considering where we both were in our lives, when we met, it was as if the timing was perfect. There was something inside me that needed her and there was a part of her that needed me. It was like poetry or something, I can’t explain it,” I said. I briefly forgot my father was in the room with me, as I was thinking about the first time I saw Reagan.
“I know I’ve told you this before. Marriage is not something to be taken lightly. I hope that if you two were to ever start having problems, that you look to see about resolving your issues instead of looking to bail out at the first sign of trouble. Marriage isn’t easy son and I say that as a man married to the greatest woman on earth, your mother. I love your mom just as much as the day I married her and I wish nothing but the same for you and Reagan. I’m glad she’ll be apart of her family. Of course, maybe not so much when your mother needs someone to team up with her. She’s always been the lone female in the house and now she has a bit more power with Reagan. Shoot, what am I talking about? Your mother’s always had the power,” said Dad, as he and I both began to laugh. That was true, Mom definitely had everyone in check.
“True, true. Just think, now that Mom will have Reagan in her corner, us men don’t have a chance,” I said, continuing to laugh. It was funny to think of my mother and Reagan in those terms. Both very strong women, but neither one tried to “run” their man. Dad nor I thought it was our place to try to run our women either. Reagan and I were who we were and we dealt with one another in our own way, with mutual respect. “Just remember son, happy wife, happy life. The mother is the lifeblood of any family and as long as you continue to make her happy, you’ll be happy, trust me. I’m talking beyond the bedroom, too. Sure, for the next few months a lot of happiness will evolve from the bedroom, but it takes more than just the physical to keep a marriage or any relationship going. I think you know that already. Anyhow, Jay, I won’t bore you with the mundane details of what it takes to have a successful marriage. You and I have talked several times over the last few months about this. You know you can always come to me for advice. I’m always here for you, son,” said Dad. “Thanks, not just for this, but for being my dad and showing me how to be a man. I love you, Dad,” I said. My father looked at me. “I love you too, son,” he said.
“Okay, now, let me speak to my baby boy, before I cart him off to another woman,” said Mom, coming into the room. “Alright baby, but you know you can’t keep him. He’s grown now,” Dad teased. Mom shook her head. “I know that, but Jay and his brother will always be my baby boys,” she said. Dad let out a small laugh and left the room.
Mom turned to me. “You look so handsome, Jaylen. My goodness, how you’ve grown up to be such a fine man. I always knew this day was going to come, just not this soon. You know, I carried you and Amarre around with me for over nine months. We became very close, we were like the three musketeers. When I found out I was pregnant, I tried to prepare myself for motherhood as much as possible. I read every pregnancy book out there, on what to expect, what babies needed, so on and so forth. Having a baby was the biggest thing to ever happen to me. Imagine my surprise when your father and I went for my check up and they told us there was not one but two babies in there. Boy, I just about fainted!” said Mom, laughing.
“Are you happy you got a two for one?” I asked, teasing her. “Yes, I am. It wasn’t easy at all, you boys were in everything, especially you. I was telling Reagan about you when you were a baby. How you got into so much and were curious about every single thing! We thought we baby proofed everything and you managed to get into places we didn’t think were possible. Boy, you ran me out running in behind you,” said Mom. I knew my mother was feeling emotional today and for good reason. As much as Mom liked and cared about Reagan, I supposed it wasn’t easy for her to let me go.
“Yeah, I guess I’ve always wanted to know about everything around me. I guess I’m still the same way,” I said. “That’s a good thing, baby. It shows you are interested in more than what’s in front of you. You got that from me. I loved to explore and learn as much as I could about the world. You’re a good son, Jaylen and I’m proud and happy to be your mama. Now, you can go and give me some grandbabies and make me even happier!” said Mom, laughing. I started to laugh too.
“Whoa, Mom. I think I would need to consult with Reagan first on that,” I said. “Yes, I know. I didn’t want to put any pressure on her directly, but I can pressure you because you’re my child,” said Mom. Looking at my mother’s emotional face, I knew I was beyond fortunate to have her. No one could ask for a better mom than her. She really was superwoman. “Well, Reagan and I want to enjoy being married for a little while. Don’t worry, once there are any grandbabies to be reported, you’ll be the first person I call,” I assured her. “I love you baby, now go and be happy,” said Mom. “I love you too, Mom, and I will,” I said. Mom hugged me once more and quietly left the room. I stood in the room alone, thinking about what my life has been and what it was about to become in a short while. I heard the door open and Ray come into the room.
“Jaylen, may I have a word with you for a moment?” he asked. I wasn’t shocked to see him. Ray wouldn’t be Ray if he didn’t come and talk to me the day he was marrying his daughter off. I wouldn’t expect anything less from him. I knew some day when I became a father and if I had a daughter, I would be the same way. “I expected this. Is this where you threaten me up about marrying Reagan?” I half joked. “Nah, I won’t be too harsh. You are already aware of my record when it comes to my daughter. I know you’re a good young man, Jay.
I must say, it will be nice to have a bit more testosterone around. I have someone to watch the game and have a beer with. Don’t get me wrong, I love having girls, but it’s good to have a son now too. Reagan will always be my little diva baby. It takes a certain kind of man to handle a woman like Reagan. My baby is who she is. Not everyone sees Reagan like her family does, but you do, you see her. She’s gone through a lot. It’s good she has someone who understands her and makes her happy. Once you have Reagan as a friend, you have a friend for life. She’ll forever be in your corner. You two won’t always agree on everything. Reagan is stubborn, she gets it from me. She’ll meet you half way, though, most of the time,” said Ray, laughing. Ray told me about the conversation he had with Reagan and her friends. What she was like as a kid and how she tried taking care of him. He’s told me a little about this before, but never with as many details.
I knew Reagan had a nurturing side, I could see it when it came to Kennedey. Reagan was protective of her sister and she worried about her. It upset her when Kennedey told her she was moving out, but Reagan understood why. Kennedey told me they fought relentlessly for years and their relationship finally started to heal last summer. Kennedey said despite all the fighting and insult slinging between them both, they never allowed outsiders to drag either one of them through the mud. I guess in the same vain, it was similar of their mother.
Thinking about Kennedey, I have grown to like and care about her like a little sister. She was incredibly smart, it didn’t surprise me that she skipped a grade and had a high I.Q. score. Kennedey could use all of her smarts and make a lot of money, but she stayed true to herself and pursued her passion for art. Reagan used to think Kennedey was boring me with all her social conscious talk, but it really didn’t bother me. She had a lot to say and an interesting take on the world. Now, I was getting a sister and Kennedey told me a few weeks ago she was happy to finally have a brother.
“Don’t worry, Ray. Reagan will want for nothing. I’ll strive to make her happy each day. I love your daughter, she’s the most important person in my life,” I said. By the way, Ray gave me permission a few months ago to call him Ray. “I know she is. I wouldn’t be a father if I didn’t tell you to take care of her. I couldn’t imagine a better suitor for my baby girl. Giving her away is the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do. You’re inheriting a prize, just treat her right,” said Ray. I nodded my head. “I promise.”
Moments later, Bailey entered the room, informing me it was time for the ceremony to start. I would walk with my parents first, followed by the rest of the wedding party.
My mother linked her arm around mine and Dad walked on her other side. The sun was just beginning to go down. I breathed in a little and caught a whiff of my mother’s perfume, Red Door. The fragrance reminded me of when I was little and she would put it on before my dad and her went out for the evening. I thought my mom was so pretty and I often told her even as a little boy. I glanced around at the smiling faces. Some of my cousins, close friends, Auntie Kisha, and my grandparents were all here for me. I appreciated everyone took the time to come down to Florida and share our special day. I stared off into the horizon watching the sun slowly disappear. Sometime tomorrow, Reagan and I would be following that sun when we set out on our honeymoon. We reached the alter. I leaned down to kiss my mother and hug my father. My mom sniffled a little before taking her seat. Now there was nothing to do, but wait.
One by one, I watch my brother, cousins and friends come down the aisle, looking happy for me. I looked at Amarre, knowing exactly what he was thinking, that this was it, this was really happening.
There was a certain excitement or anticipation in the air. Everyone was eager to see Reagan, but no one more than me. I glanced down at my mother, her eyes brimming with tears. She gave me a look of encouragement and mouthed the words “I love you, baby.” It seemed like forever, but finally we heard “Here Comes The Bride” starting to play and I knew this was the moment.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, Reagan appeared on her father’s arm and slowly began walking toward me. Everyone turned to look back at her coming down the aisle. Reagan kept her eyes ahead and focused on me. She was beaming from ear to ear. My father told me before that I was the only one she would see when she came down the aisle, while everyone else would be looking at her. From the expression on her face, I could tell she was pleased with what she saw.
My palms began to sweat a little, which is something I did not need right now. It took me a minute to realize how hard I was smiling watching my love come towards me. Reagan glowed underneath the moonlight. She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. Reagan made me wait all this time to see the dress, which is understandable, and it was very much worth the wait. I was blown away. Reagan Leeds was about to become my wife, something I never would’ve imagined.
Reagan and Ray finally reached the alter. Ray looked at me and smiled as he handed his daughter over to me. He gently kissed her on the cheek and took his seat. I took Reagan’s hands into mind and silently said hello to her. She was even more radiant up close. Much like the first time I saw her, I cast my eyes from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet, drinking it all in. More than the outside, her inner beauty radiated from within.
Judge Williams announced we wrote our own vows and I proceeded to repeat mine to Reagan and all the witnesses before us. I turned to face Reagan, my heart beating loudly in my chest. She looked so beautiful staring up at me. I took small breath and began repeating the vows I worked on for several days, unsure if I was going to say the right thing. I figured out later, it wasn’t about saying the “right” thing, but saying what was in my heart.
“Reagan, you’re my queen, my only lover and best friend. I think about you when I wake up in the morning. I think about you throughout the day and into the evening. At night, I’m eager to fall asleep to think about you in my dreams. You taught me how to love. You give me the drive to wake up and be a better man than the day before. I can’t thank you enough for choosing me, I can’t thank you enough for letting me love you. I know every last curve of your face, every last curve of your body. The smell of your breath and the taste of your skin,” I paused, looking into Reagan’s big green eyes, her smile so warm.
One single tear ran down the side of my face. I was caught up in my emotions and the way I felt for this woman I loved more than life itself. Reagan’s eyes began to well up. She softly smiled at me, reaching out her hand she gently wiped the tear from my face. Taking another breath, I continued on. “You love me for the man I am inside. Your intelligence, your humor, your willingness to forgive, the love you have for your family astounds me every single
day. Upon first sight of you, there was never anyone else I saw after. I wouldn’t change one thing about you, not your fiery red hair, the soft tremble and curl of your lips when you’re happy. Not those emerald green eyes that have the ability to look into my soul, and truly knows who I am. I never knew you would come along and change me for the better. Reagan, you’re the love of my life and as long as you allow me, I’ll continue to love you and put your happiness first. You won’t know anymore pain, anymore sorrow. The only tears you’ll cry will be those of joy. Anything you want, you need not ask. Thank you for saying you’ll be my wife. Thank you for being who you are,” I said. By this time, I could have sworn we were the only two people on this beach. Shortly after I finished saying my vows, Reagan began to say hers. Her smile was wide and bright and her body trembled a little like that night in Paris.
“As a little girl, my father often brought my sister and I to this very beach. No more than a couple of hundred feet from here, Daddy would create adventures and dreams of wonderment for my sister and I. Never would I have imagined that some day, on this same beach, I would marry the love of my life, my lover, my best friend. This is a special place. For not only were my happiest memories as a child here, but now as a woman. Jaylen, you will never know how much you have changed me for the better. It wasn’t any one thing you did, but everything you have done each day we’ve been together. You know all of my secrets, my fears, my hopes and my dreams, you are my dream.
When I’m afraid, you comfort me and ease my fears away. I know as long as I‘m in your arms, no harm can ever come to me. Because of your love, I’ve come to know who I am. If loving you is all I have to do, then let me do nothing else for the rest of my life. I’m consumed by your love and the warmth you given me. I could write a thousand different ways to say I love you and none could express the depths of how I feel about you. Jaylen, waking up to your face has been my life’s joy and I thank you allowing me to wake up to you for the rest of my life,” said Reagan, pausing. Her voice shook a little and I could hear the emotion throughout everything she was saying to me. Tears began to run down her cheeks. I kept my eyes on locked on hers, trying to communicate, that is was okay, that I was right here. I gently squeezed her hand to comfort her.
“The uninhibited feeling I get whenever I’m with you, to bare my soul with no consequences. Maybe the entire world doesn’t know the woman I am inside, but you see me for me and that’s what matters. Every trial, tribulation, pain, or hurt I‘ve endured, every single obstacle I’ve climbed over has shaped me who I am. All of it has guided me on a path straight to you. I no longer live my life with regret, because life has given me the greatest gift, love, life has given me you. I promise to love you from now to eternity. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to make you happy and I promise I will for the rest of our lives,” Reagan finished saying. I was blown away by her words. Reagan has opened up for me on several occasions, but never have I seen her bare her soul to this extent. I knew it took a lot for her to get up here and be so open and unafraid in front of everyone. My baby has come a long way, we both have.
After Reagan finished we both went into repeat a few traditional vows. “Reagan, I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife. Before these witnesses I vow to love you and care for you as long as we both shall live. To have and to hold you, to honor you, to treasure you, to be at your side in sorrow and in joy, in the good times, and in the bad, and to love and cherish you always. I promise you this from my heart, for all the days of my life,” I said.
“Jaylen, I take you to be my lawfully wedded husband. Before these witnesses I vow to love you and care for you as long as we both shall live. To have and to hold you, to honor you, to treasure you, to be at your side in sorrow and in joy, in the good times, and in the bad, and to love and cherish you always. I promise you this from my heart, for all the days of my life,” said Reagan. Amarre handed the rings over to me. I took Reagan’s hand in my again. “I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness. As I place it on your finger, I commit my heart and soul to you. I ask you to wear this ring as a reminder of the vows we have spoken today, our wedding day,” I promised her.
Reagan smiled and placed her ring on my finger. “I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness. As I place it on your finger, I commit my heart and soul to you. I ask you to wear this ring as a reminder of the vows we have spoken today, our wedding day,” she said, tearfully.
Once we exchanged rings, we turned toward Judge Williams again. “Jaylen, do you take Reagan to be your wedded wife, to live together in marriage? Do you promise to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and forsaking all others, be faithful only to her, for as long as you both shall live?” he asked. “I do,” I replied.
“Reagan, do you take Jaylen to be your wedded husband to live together in marriage? Do you promise to love him, comfort him, honor and keep him for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health and forsaking all others, be faithful only to him so long as you both shall live?,” he asked. “I do,” replied Reagan.
“By the power vested in me by the state of Florida, I pronounce you, husband and wife, you may kiss your bride,” said Judge Williams. He didn’t have to tell me twice. I gently took Reagan’s face in my hands and kissed her, softly at first, then with a hint of hunger as our kiss grew.
Our guests began to clap and cheer. We turned around as the broom was placed just beyond our feet. Reagan and I looked at each other and simultaneously, we jumped the broom.
Jaylen and I arrived at the reception shortly after all of our guests got there. Not only did Bailey blow me away with his design of the wedding, but of the reception as well. I told Bailey I had all these design elements I wanted to incorporate and I didn’t really know how to go about fusing everything together. I wanted a mix of elegance, tropical, modern, and a “Miami” type look or feel. All very different, but everything I wanted. Jay didn’t really care for the design so much, he was mainly interested in the food.
Bailey told me it wasn’t so much that every style had to blend in one hundred percent. He said I could have a mix, with the dining area having more of that elegant look I wanted with added flowers and tropical elements. Bailey suggested that since the dinner guests would want to have other areas to relax and mingle in, he thought a lounge area would be nice. That would fulfill the somewhat modern and sleek look I wanted. The tropical look I loved would continue to flow throughout the design and into this area.
I told Bailey a few months ago, that water has always been a soothing source for me. I often found myself on the water’s edge when I had a lot on my mind or I was troubled. He really took that to heart and when he presented his original design plan to us with the added water elements, I flipped. The “Miami” look was still missing, we solved this when we went to Miami and Bailey took us to Over Palms, a social club and events venue in the middle of the city on the water. On the rooftop you had a 360 degree panoramic view of the entire city all the way to the water. This was the “Miami” element that was missing. What better way to have a Miami look than having the entire city as the backdrop to your reception? The night sky full of stars added the perfect final touch.
Before dinner began, Jay and I were able to say hello to a few of our guests. I knew Jaylen’s grandparents arrived from Tokyo only this morning. I saw them sitting together during the ceremony and I was excited to formally meet them. “Reagan, this is my grandfather and grandmother, Tomoyuki and Colette Yamaguchi,” Jaylen introduced us. I extended my had out to them both. “It’s very nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Yamaguchi,” I said. “Oh no sweetheart, you may call me Colette and my husband Tomo. I’m sure that may be confusing being that is the name of Jaylen and Amarre’s nightclub,” Colette laughed.
I could tell she was a very kind woman, much like Yuri. As an older woman, she certainly had style, it was obvious where Yuri gets her taste and beauty from. “It’s good to meet you as well, Reagan. My grandson has told me so much about you,” said Tomoyuki, his eyes crinkling. I previously thought Jay had his mother’s eyes and crinkled like hers, now I can see Yuri and him both inherited them from his grandfather.
Jaylen told me several months back that his grandfather came to America to study at NYU. It was there that he met Jaylen’s grandmother, a southern debutant. Yuri shared with me one time that her grandparents opposed her mother going to school up north and wanted her to study either at Spelman or another school down south.
Colette had other plans for her life and wanted to see more of the country. What better way than to start off in New York City? I could see both Colette and Yuri were very refined and classy and it wouldn’t seem from the outside looking in that they were the ones who were a bit more carefree in their approach to life. Initially when I met Yuri, I was in awe of her and I did like her, but like I admitted to her days ago, it grew into intimidation, but I deeply respected her as Jaylen’s mother and despite those insecurities I once had, I really did like her. I felt the same way immediately upon meeting Colette. Tomo was obviously named after their grandfather, which I didn’t know for the first couple of months after Jay and I started dating. He told me the word tomo had another meaning in Japanese as well and if you add some other word or phrase to it, it means friend, from what I understand. So, I guess Jay and Amarre had a couple of different reasons for naming it that, which I thought was very sweet.
At the last minute I decided to add some traditional Trinidadian dishes Nani often cooked when I was growing up. I asked Nani if she would teach Chef Chastain and his kitchen staff to cook Callaloo, fried back with fish and vegetables, sugar cake, and sweet bread. Nani was more than happy to do so. She was very proud of her heritage and culture and she seemed especially pleased I wanted to include it into my wedding. This was something I felt I needed. Part of the reason is that sugar cake was my mom’s favorite dessert growing up. When the mood hit her, she made it for us when we were little, but this was a rare occasion. Mom would do minimal cooking as possible just enough so we had something to eat when Daddy was at work. My father cooked a lot when he got off work and I started cooking for the entire family when I got older. I wanted to add the food of my mother’s homeland because Nani and Nana were here, but deep down inside it made me feel as if she were here also.
Everyone was impressed at how beautiful everything was and the design execution. Needless to say, Bailey had gained a few more future clients. Jaylen and I were seated and served while everyone was able to get the food they wanted and take back to their tables. As I looked out at everyone before and around me, I was in awe of how everything came together in the end. Not just with the wedding, but with my family and friends.
Things were good between Jay and his brother and me. Bri and Amarre were also okay with each other once they agreed to squash everything. Nothing was perfect, but I’ll take the situation at hand now over the past any day. The guests and the wedding party joined in conversation around them before heading over to the buffet and we waited to get served. People were in a good mood and the air around us was light and lively.
“So much food, baby. It’s all so good too, I can eat like this all the time!” said Jaylen, laughing. I giggled a little bit. I savored the taste of the everything on my plate. I won’t be able to fit into my wedding dress after tonight. Biting into some of my Nani’s dishes made me think of the times she would spend cooking in her kitchen when I was a little girl. These were some of the same dishes my mother would cook on occasion when my dad wasn’t at home to cook for us, or I was still too young to fix an entire family meal. “It is good, boo. Do you like your ribs?” I asked, teasing him.
One of the things Jay wanted to serve was ribs. I don’t know why knowing how messy they could be, plus we were both wearing white. By the way he was going to town on them, I didn’t think he cared. “Yeah, they’re good. We need to take some with us on our honeymoon,” said Jay, through a mouthful of food.
“Dang, Rea Rea, Nani and the chef ‘nem hooked it on up! Nani always cooked for me when I lived down there,” said Briah, referring to the time she lived in Trinidad with Nani and Nana for a couple of years. I looked down at Kennedey, who was quiet, but seemed to be at ease and like she was enjoying herself. I’ve never seen Ken smile so much. I was very much surprised when I saw her tear up at the wedding. Kennedey rarely cried. When we saw Nani and Nana the other day, was the first time I’ve seen Kennedey cry since Daddy’s heart attack.
“Hey, Ken, is the food okay?” I asked. Kennedey smiled, looking over at me. “Yes, I was just remembering when Nani used to cook for us when we spent the night over there,” she replied. I turned my head in the opposite direction at Amarre and Apollo. They have seemed to squash their issues too. Amarre and Apollo were close growing up, so it’s good to see that they were getting along again. We were all family now and that was the most important thing of all.
***THE BEST MAN***
Everyone continued to eat for another ten minutes or so, chatting among themselves. Amarre clinked his glass with his fork to get everyone’s attention. Amarre started to speak once the room was quiet. “Thank you. As my brother’s best man, I thought about what I could possibly say in my speech over the last few months. But I’m not just Jay’s best man, before that, I’m his twin, his brother, we are each others best friend. Jay and I have had more than years together, we spent over nine months sharing a womb together. I could look at him and know exactly what he was thinking and he could the same for me. We always confided in each other, schemed together as kids, got in trouble together, and tried to weasel our way out of it together,” said Amarre, as light laughter rippled through the room. I glanced over at Jay, who was looking intensely at his brother, the same twinkle in his eyes, I fell in love with. I looked over to Yuri, a look of pride on her face, tears in her eyes as she listened to her son.
“No, not everything was always perfect between us, but we always managed to overcome our problems and come together. It was never easy for neither one of us when things went astray. I would hurt when he would hurt, and vice versa. I’m happy that he’s happy. When the chips were down, I knew the one person that was guaranteed to have my back was my brother. There’s nothing greater or more important than family. The little petty arguments that sometime ensue us and cloud our judgment at times is so unimportant in the greater scheme of things. At the end of the day, all we have are the people we love. Nothing else really matters. Over the last several months, I’ve seen Jay grow in so many ways. Only true love can make one change and grow so much, not just for Jay or myself, but I think for most people.
Now, I won’t lie, Jay’s head was usually somewhere in the clouds, off smelling the roses, or chasing rainbows, which he got from our mom. But, once Jaylen met Reagan, something totally different came over him. He wasn’t the same Jay anymore. I’ve never seen my brother fall so hard and so fast for any woman before. His head was even more so in the clouds now. To say Jaylen was sprung over Reagan, would be an understatement. My brother was happy in a different sort of way now. His first few dates with Reagan, he would come home and couldn’t stop talking about her. It was a very interesting transformation to watch,” said Amarre, letting out a slight laugh.
I watched Amarre’s face. It was obvious he was thinking back to the past of growing up with Jay to when we first started dating. I had no idea Jay would talk his brother’s ear off about me. Jaylen laughed a little as Amarre recalled all of this. I thought it was cute, because they were so obviously in sync with each other.
Amarre turned and looked to me. “Reagan, you and I have butted heads from time to time, which is no secret. Even through it all, I knew you were someone special after my brother fell in love with you. He wouldn’t fall in love or introduce just any woman to our family if you were not special. You make my brother happy and that’s what matters to me. We’re family now and families get into fights and arguments, but they eventually find a way back to each other. I’ve never had a sister and now I do. My father never had a daughter he could freak over and worry about and now he does. My mother never had the daughter she could go shopping with or do “girly” things with and now she does. So, let me be the first to officially welcome you into our family,” Amarre finished, looking in my face and raising his glass, while everyone else followed suit. I admit, I was blown away by what he said. It probably wasn’t easy for him to think of too much to say with all the back and forth between all of us the last few months. I knew he was sincere in what he said and I was thankful I made the first step to make amends with him. I raised my glass in the same fashion, mouthing the words,”Thank you.”
After thinking I could not take anymore crying or being overcome with emotion, I looked up and saw my father raising himself from his seat. I took a deep breath, because I knew it was coming. I might as well fall apart now. “Now, I won’t go on for too long. I know everyone is eager for cake now. Reagan and I have already had our special father-daughter talk. I’ve also had my future father in law son in law talk with Jay, so he knows the score,” Daddy started to say, as everyone began laughing.
“Reagan, you’re my firstborn. I’m so proud of the woman you have become. It’s a weight off my shoulder and fills my heart with joy to see you genuinely happy, for the first time in a long time. You deserve it, baby, you all do. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was not too long ago when I gave you away. You’re my original little lady, my first little baby. You and your sister have brought unspeakable joy into my life. I’m the richest man on earth because I have two beautiful daughters who love me. Jaylen, I don’t have to tell you twice, but I will anyway, you are getting a prize. I know you will treat my daughter right, but I’ll tell you again, treat my daughter right. You’re the son I never had and I’m proud to call you my son in law. Now, I would like to be the first to welcome you into our family,” said Daddy, smiling at both Jay and I. Once again, tears rushed down my face and I was left speechless.
After Amarre and Daddy’s speeches, Amarre came up and hugged both his brother and new sister in law. Who’d of guessed? Maybe there was something in the water in my hometown.
***LET THEM EAT CAKE!***
As Best Man and Maid of Honor, Amarre and Briah were somewhat in charge of furthering along the activities at the reception. They both seemed to be at ease with one another and I could tell Briah was honestly happy by the look of glee in her eyes. Briah said something to Amarre and they both got up, letting Jay and I know it was time to cut the cake. “Okay, everybody, it’s now time for Rea and Jay to cut the cake!” shouted Briah. The venue staff moved the cake over in order for us to cut it. It was so big and beautiful. Everyone has different tastes, so Jay opted to have a smaller groom’s cake and a few others for people to eat if they so choose.
I put my veil back on to cut the cake for the pictures. It was very long, so it was hard to eat with it. Everyone gathered around as Jay and I placed both of our hands over the knife and sliced into the cake. Simultaneously, we each took a piece and put it into each others mouth. “Don’t smash it in her face, Jay! It took me too long to get that girl’s makeup right!” Briah called out, laughing. I giggled, I knew she was going to say that. Everyone clapped and cheered after that first piece of cake. It turned out really good, the bakery did a wonderful job.
After everyone ate their cake and mingled for a little while, I smiled and showed my ring off to my friends again, saying “I’s married now, y’all!” I yelled, reminiscent of Miss. Sofia. Jaylen laughed, shaking his head. He’s told me before he thought I was funny even when I was trying to be. For some reason, people seemed to get a kick out of things I said at times. “You so stupid Rea Rea,” said Briah, laughing loudly. “On the real though, Rea, everything was beautiful. You looked so beautiful during the ceremony. Y’all had me up in my feelings. That was some of the best food I ever had, girl,” said Jade. “Thank you. Not just for saying that, but for being my bridesmaid. Just all of you, I appreciate it,” I thankfully said.
***MAKE ME SAY IT AGAIN GIRL***
Moments later, Jaylen and I were told it was time for our first dance as a married couple. ‘Married’, I still couldn’t believe that word applied to me. Me, Reagan Leeds, I was a married woman now. The lights slightly dimmed and Jaylen took my hand, leading me to the dance floor. The way the water and sky lit up gave me the feeling, I was out of this world. ‘Make Me Say It Again Girl’ started playing softly through the sound system. As the first song Jay and I ever danced to, it was only fitting that it became “our” song.
‘Make me say it again girl
Make me say it again girl
Make me say it again girl, you’re all I need
Whatever pain’s inside, you make it better
You seem to realize when I’m concerned
You are the only one who goes through the changes
Given my life directions if I am turned
Make me say it again girl
Make me say it again girl
Make me say it again girl, you’re all I need’
My stomach fluttered a bit and Jaylen took me into his arms, much like the first time as we sailed around Isla Paradiso. Next to our engagement night, it was the most romantic time I’ve ever had. Jaylen was a true romancer and he promised that was only the beginning and we would have a lifetime of those moments for years to come. We slowly swayed out bodies to the music, caught up in our own little world. Jaylen had a smile on his face as bright as the sun and I knew mine was just as bright. I could not stop smiling. I couldn’t get over how happy and in love we were.
Jaylen twirled me around and brought me back. I turned around and leaned into his chest as he slightly lowered his head down. His beard tickled my face. Jaylen asked me before we left IP, if I thought he should shave his beard for the wedding. I said no, that is his look and part of the reason he was dang sexy. It wasn’t one of those hairy unkempt beards, but cut very close to the face. My dad’s goatee had thicker hair. At the time I teased him, saying I didn’t even know what he looked like without it. I’ve seen pictures of him as a teen without his beard. Jaylen said although there were differences now that they were older, he and Amarre still looked alike for the most part. Jay was incredibly sexy and there was not one thing I would ever change on him.
I turned back around, staring into Jaylen’s eyes. We both began softly singing along to the words. Jay was a better singer than I was. Even with the cool breeze coming off the water a warm sensation came over me. Hearing Ronald Isley’s melodic voice and Jaylen singing to me was enough to make me melt right into the floor. I closed my eyes briefly, inhaling Jaylen’s smell. I opened my eyes again and looked up into the sky. Everything was perfect, my beautiful hometown surrounded me, the night was clear and the stars were bright. It just occurred to me that the most romantic moments I’ve ever spent with Jaylen have always been at night and underneath the stars. Our first date on the yacht, when Jay proposed under the Eiffel Tower, our wedding, and now dancing for the first time as husband and wife.
***DANCE WITH MY FATHER***
After I finished my dance with Jaylen, I looked around at all the smiling faces around us. Jaylen gave me a kiss on my cheek. I focused on my father’s face as he approached me. I swallowed hard as Jaylen this time handed me over. It was time for our father-daughter dance, a dance I would never want to end. Daddy gently took into his hands and smiled down at me. I smiled back at him, but I couldn’t hold his gaze because I knew I would fall apart.
I knew ‘Dance With My Father’ by Luther Vandross wasn’t the happiest song about your father, but the title was so fitting and I loved the song. After my father’s heart attack last summer, I was so thankful that he pulled through. Listening to this song made me appreciate he was still here and that I had many more opportunities to dance together. It was my way of paying homage to him and say, “Daddy, I’m so happy you’re still with me and I’ll always be your little girl.”
‘Back when I was a child, before life removed all the innocence
My father would lift me high and dance with my mother and me and then
Spin me around ‘til I fell asleep
Then up the stairs he would carry me
And I knew for sure I was loved
If I could get another chance, another walk, another dance with him
I’d play a song that would never, ever end
How I’d love, love, love To dance with my father again.’
***BACK II LIFE***
It was time for me to make my first dress change of the evening. I was ready to let loose and opted to wear a short wedding dress to dance in. Going old school, Back II Life was the first song we danced to. I loved this song even if it came out before I was born. Whenever I heard it, it made me feel free. The rhythm and vibe seemed to fit the setting as well. My new husband, family and friends cut up on the dance floor non stop for the next hour, no one was tired at all. Everyone relaxed and had a good time and that was the important thing.
‘Back to life, back to reality,
back to life, back to reality,
back to the here and now yeah
Show me how, decide what you want from me,
tell me maybe I could be there for you.
However do you want me,
however do you need me.
How, however do you want me,
however do you need me.
I live at the top of the block,
no more room for trouble or fuss.
Need a change, a positive change,
look, look it’s me writing on the wall.
However do you want me,
however do you need me.’
***JOSEPHINE BAKER AND CHAMPAGNE COCKTAILS***
For my third and final look of the night, I found this long sexy yet simple evening gown. It was highly adorned, which I loved, but it stood out never the less. When I saw this headdress, it immediately made me think of Josephine Baker and something she would have worn back in the 20’s and 30’s. Maybe it wasn’t my usual style, but how could I not wear it?
Jaylen and I both thought it nice that our families seemed to be getting along so well. My grandparents were bonding with his grandparents, my dad and his parents enjoyed talking to each other. Daddy told me a couple of days ago, the Powers invited him and Marcia over for dinner and drinks. He finally told me his opinion on them, he thought they were down to earth and it was obvious they cared about me. It was something how weddings could bring people together.
I worked my way around the rooftop stopping in to chat with my various friends and family members both old and new. My family made acquaintances with Jay’s family and friends. I saw Amarre and Kennedey having a drink together out of all people. Cassie seemed to warm up to Jay’s cousin Jih. I wanted this party to be special for my friends and loved ones. I’m only doing this once after all. All of our guests kept telling Jay and this was the best wedding and reception they have ever been too. People seemed to dig the vibe. We were all having so much fun, I didn’t even know what time it was.
“Rea, baby! I’ve hardly had a chance to talk to you tonight. You look so beautiful, girl! I love that headdress” exclaimed Auntie Christie. “Thanks, Auntie. I know, I’m sorry. Thank you so much for coming and for helping Daddy out with his tux,” I replied. Auntie Christie started laughing. “Girl, that was no problem. Your dad couldn’t believe the price, but he loved how that Tom Ford tux looked on him!” she said. I began laughing too, Daddy certainly looked GQ tonight, all the men in the wedding party did, especially my boo.
“Girl, Cassie told me about your party in New York. I was surprised she was getting pumped up as much as she was. You know, Cassie try to act like she’s so quiet. I saw from the pictures, you and Kenney were pretty serene,” said Auntie Christie. “Yeah, most of us were turnt up. Don’t get me wrong, I had a really good time and the dancers were very nice and entertaining. I’ve never gone buck wild over male dancers before. I could have stayed home and waved a couple of dollars for Jay,” I said, laughing. “Chile, don’t take this the wrong way, but I can definitely see why. Your husband is a fine young man. Girl, you’re gonna be happy just waking up looking at him. Y’all gonna make some beautiful babies one day,” said Auntie Christie. I giggled a little to myself. I didn’t know why, but everyone seemed to want to give me a baby these days.
Jaylen and I joined a few other couples on the dance floor when Maxwell’s Fortunate began playing. It was another one of my favorite songs and one Jaylen and I have listened to many times.
‘Never seen a sun shine like this
Never seen the moon glow like this
Never seen the waterfalls like this
Never seen the lights off like this
Never dug anyone like this
Never had tasty lips to kiss
Never had someone to miss
Never wrote a song quite like this
Fortunate to have you girl,
I’m so glad you’re in my world,
Just as sure as the sky is blue,
I bless the day that I found you.’
It raised a few eyebrows seeing Jade and Jayson take to the floor for such a romantic song. Not in a bad way, but people were surprised to see them together, there was an obvious attraction between them. I don’t think anyone was more surprised than Aubrey who’s been trying to get at Jade since the Tomo party. Bri warned her about him and I guess Jade has thwarted his advances. The wedding party spent a lot of time around each other lately without Jay and I because we’ve been so busy. Briah told me apparently Jayson and Jade started talking and discovered they liked each other. I asked if Aubrey noticed it at the time, she said Aubrey was rarely around the last few days and that he was out and about with some females he knew down here and some of his homeboys who lived out in Fort Lauderdale.
Like Briah, Jade hasn’t had many good men in her romantic life. At least she had a good example in my Uncle Anthony that showed her and Shaina how they should be treated. Bri finally found that in Apollo despite my Uncle Alonzo being a less than stellar example. Maybe it was a little too soon to call it, but I hope if this goes anywhere, Jade has found a good man too. No, none of us felt like we needed a man, but if love is what you want, why not surrender to it? That was something both Kennedey and I have learned over the last several months.
I really liked Jayson, he was honest and hardworking and an overall good dude. If he was any kind of dog, Jay would definitely say something. They looked good together. Jade and the rest of my family cleaned up real nicely. I always knew my people were beautiful, but it was so much more apparent now when everyone was happy. It was cool, if Jade and Jayson began dating it would mean she would be spending more time on IP. It was always nice to have more family around. Now, Kennedey and I needed to work on getting Daddy out there. Shoot, it’ll probably take me having a baby for Daddy to move to IP.
I turned back, looking at Jaylen. He glanced over to Jade and Jayson. “Don’t worry, boo. If Jayson wasn’t about anything or a dog, I would have said something, but he’s a good dude,” said Jaylen. “Oh I know. I think they’re cute together. Who knows, maybe we’ll have another couple to double date with soon,” I said. “You’re so beautiful, Mrs. Powers,” said Jaylen, softly. “You’re beautiful too, Mr. Powers,” I responded in kind. Jaylen and I didn’t take our eyes off each other for the rest of the song and once again, the world around us, disappeared.
Briah gathered around all the single ladies toward the end of the night. I climbed a chair, turning my back to the crowd. I didn’t know where anyone was position. “Ladies, are you ready?” I called out. “Yes!” they all screamed. “Here is goes,” I said and tossed the bouquet over my head.
***NOW IT’S TIME TO SAY GOODBYE***
It was now time to leave. Jaylen and I were about to begin the rest of our lives as newlyweds. I still couldn’t believe it, my new name was Reagan Leeds-Powers. Mr and Mrs. Powers, the Powers, the Powers family, all had a nice ring to them. I changed yet again, but this time, it was simply for starting our honeymoon. Don’t get me wrong, I had more exciting and interesting things to wear, but that’s Jay’s eyes only. We would stay in the luxury honeymoon suite back at White Sand Diamonds and early tomorrow morning, we would head to The Bahamas for the next ten days only to enjoy one anothers company. As much as I had looked forward to my wedding, I was looking even more forward to starting my new life with my husband.
Jaylen and I thanked all of our guests and family for coming. I hugged my father and sister tightly. My embrace with Kennedey lingered for a moment, we both knew she would be gone when I got back. “I love you, Gingy,” said Kennedey. “I love you too, sweet brown girl,” I responded. “Alright now, you be good, Ginger Baby, Daddy loves you,” said Dad. My tear ducts were practically dry by now. “I will, Daddy and you be good too. Love you,” I said. Jaylen hugged and said goodbye to his family as well and that was it. On to the next chapter.
The mysterious lady made plans to visit Florida soon after she heard Reagan Leeds was getting married in Miami. She hadn’t set foot in this city in quite a long time.
Determined and on a mission, she contemplated making her presence known. She decided to wait, for all would reveal itself in due course.
***Author’s note. I included the scene with Reagan and Jaylen jumping the broom because this was a common custom among black slaves in the American south and it was important for me to include it as part of Reagan’s wedding ceremony. Most marriages between black slaves weren’t legally recognized. Many people in slavery chose to use the tradition of jumping the broom to show one’s commitment or marriage to each other. The custom is very common among modern marriages to this day.***
***Jade’s new story, What About Jade?