Return to Ragston: A Winterborne Wedding


I stood next to Charli and the rest of the bridal party as the DJ announced the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Seth Gardiner and the happy couple entered the reception space. Rocki’s face was the epitome of happiness and I turned to nudge Charli to comment on it, but her face was marred by a grimace. I guessed she was having another one of the Braxton Hicks cramps that had been plaguing her all morning. Poor thing, I thought as Wesley leaned over to speak into her ear before they both took off in different directions.

Soon my attention was pulled from Charli and Wes to the dancefloor where Rocki and Seth were having their first dance. As they swayed to the music, I couldn’t help but grin broadly. The love that radiated between the two of them was palpable and contagious if the looks on the faces of everyone around me was any indication.

“I know we’re supposed to think the bride is the baddest woman in the room today, but you are wearing that dress, baby,” Roosevelt said, coming up behind me and wrapping me in a loose embrace.

I giggled before turning around so that we were face to face, “You don’t look too shabby either, mister.”

Since he wasn’t in the wedding, we’d been split up for the majority of the day, so it felt good to finally be wrapped in his arms once again. We swayed to the music of Rock and Seth’s first dance, completely engrossed in one another that we’d kept right on dancing when the music faded into something a bit quicker. Roosevelt opened his mouth to say something, but then there was a loud commotion in the hall just outside the room in which the reception was being held. Rocki and Seth blew past us to investigate whatever was going on out there and I was immediately on their heels. When we got into the hall, Charli was in Wes’ arms as he carried her.

“Her water just broke,” Wes said, “We’re on our way to the hospital.”

Rocki and I immediately jumped into action, with Charli weakly protesting for us to keep on enjoying their reception. But there was no way on earth we could have gone forward with partying the night away while our girl was in the throes of labor, so we—myself, Roosevelt, Roxanne, and Seth—piled into a limo and followed Wes and Charli to the hospital. The ride in the limo was quiet, all of us lost in our own worlds. Charli wasn’t due for another six weeks, so the littlest diva making her entre into the world today had us a bit worried.

I gnawed on my lip, trying not to yell at the driver to get to the hospital quicker—red lights and traffic laws were of no importance in my mind, currently. I just wanted to get to my friend and make sure she, her husband, and newborn would be okay. When we arrived at the hospital, we were greeted by Charli and Wes’ parents, as well as Charli’s grandma Honey, who’d somehow beat us all there. There wasn’t any update on her labor progression as we walked in, so we sat, waiting for an update from either the staff or Wesley at some point.

“Hey,” Roosevelt said, soothingly, pressing a kiss to my forehead, “I’m sure everything will be just fine.”

I smiled weakly, praying that his words would be all right, but still tense as hell until a nurse came and gave us an update. Charli was definitely in real life labor, dilated about halfway. We all sat, absentmindedly watching tv with intermittent updates from the nurses. I texted Grace to let her know that Charli had gone into labor and she came up to the hospital to bring Roosevelt and I more comfortable clothes to change into as we settled in for the long haul.

Around ten o’clock I got a little restless, so I convinced Roosevelt to get up with me and take a quick walk.

“Hey,” I said, tapping Rocki on the shoulder as we passed her, “I’ll be right back—text me if the baby comes before I come back!”

“I got you, boo,” she replied, laughing.

Roosevelt and I wandered aimlessly around the hospital before ending right back up in the maternity ward staring at a room filled with random equipment that had a large picture window. I assumed that this used to be the nursery area like the ones you’d see on television, through which folks could view newborns. I stopped just aside the room, leaning on the wall and heaving a sigh.

“Hey…what’s going on with you?” Roosevelt asked, “You’ve been kinda…off since we got here to Ragston. Did something happen with your folks?”

I shook my head, “No, nothing like that. They actually want us to come by for dinner one night before we get outta here.”

Since we were in town for the wedding, Roosevelt and I were staying at the Winterborne instead of at my sister’s place. My relationship with my parents was still in the very early stages of being mended, and I knew that while we were working to get to a place where we could resume being as normal a family as possible—there was no way on Jehovah’s green earth that they were going to let an unmarried Roosevelt and I share a room under their roof.

“Okay,” Roosevelt pushed out slowly, “So…what is it?”

“Do you want kids?” I blurted.

Despite having gotten increasingly closer as our relationship progressed, this was one subject we’d never broached directly. We both made references to our lives together in the future, speaking as if marriage was a certainty, not just a possibility. But the subject of children hadn’t been one that we’d talk about in depth. And quite frankly, I’d been…hesitant to broach the subject, namely because the last man that I thought would be my forever and the father of my children ended up being the biggest dud. So, I called myself not putting too many eggs in the Roosevelt basket, trying to play it cool. I didn’t want him to think I was applying pressure; didn’t want him to cut and run if I was coming on too strong.

Roosevelt smiled, the appearance of his twin dimples immediately sending frissons of heat through my body, “Yeah, I can definitely see myself being a dad. Getting it right, you know? Being as good to them as my grandparents were to me. Yeah, I can definitely see convincing you to pop out about four or five of my lil nappyheaded babies, no doubt.”

My face heated at the sureness of his tone that his hypothetical children would be a result of our union. Biting back a grin, I spoke again, “I…wasn’t always so sure I wanted to be a mom, you know? I just knew that it what was expected of me should I ever get married and I mean…I’m not opposed to it, but honestly the thought of motherhood scares the shanana out of me, babe. And seeing Charli go into labor this early…I am…this…whew, this is a lot.”

“Hey,” Roosevelt said, gathering me in his arms, “Just know that whenever and however our time comes, I got you. No matter what, I got you, okay baby?”

I nodded before sinking further into his embrace as he pressed a kiss to my forehead. We stood there for a few moments in silence before I spoke again.

“Roosevelt?” I said, pulling back so I could peer up into his eyes.

“Emerson?” he prompted when I said nothing further.

“I’m pregnant.”

A few seconds—that honestly felt like hours—passed with us staring at one another silently before I blurted out, “Well…you gotta say something!”

“You’re having my baby?” Roosevelt asked, awe coating his words.

“According to the sixteen over the counter pregnancy tests and the urine and blood tests at my doctor’s office it seems that way.”

“Sixteen?” Roosevelt chuckled.

“I needed to be sure!” I exclaimed, unable to contain a few giggles myself.

“To the point of compulsion, obviously. Wow.”

“Is that a good or bad wow?” I asked, gnawing at my lower lip, trying to play it cool.

I was kind of vexed that he’d not responded to this news with any sort of extreme emotion—good or bad. That made me a little nervous…oh heck, who was I kidding it made me extremely nervous. We were in a good space in our relationship, but that didn’t mean that this news would continue to keep us in that space.

Roosevelt reached out to stop me from gnashing my bottom lip to the white meat, capturing my mouth in a sweetly soft kiss.

“It’s an extremely shocked and in awe, but utterly grateful wow, baby,” he replied when we pulled back from the kiss.

“Yeah?” I asked, softly.

“Hell yeah! I mean, it isn’t ideal because I’d planned on putting a lil somethin’ somethin’ here,” he said, lacing our hands together and squeezing my ring finger, “before we made any little Emros, but nothing about our relationship so far has been traditional, so…you know. But hey…how long have you been holding onto this?”

I lowered my head, breaking our eye contact. I’d found out almost a month ago, but hadn’t breathed a word of it to anyone, but Miss Denise. She and I had grown increasingly closer over the past year and I looked at her as a maternal figure of sorts. Those first positives on the home pregnancy tests had me completely shook and she happened to stop by my house to bring over some plants she’d been telling me that I needed to brighten my place up—despite me telling her that I had a brown thumb. When I answered the door shell shocked, she immediately knew something was wrong. And just like she got me together in that darn club bathroom, she pulled me out of my stupor about being pregnant, reminding me of how much of a blessing it was to be a mother—distracting me with tales of each time she found out that she was pregnant with one of her girls. She and I talked for at least four or five hours that day as I went back and forth between being scared out of my mind and feeling completely blessed to be on the cusp of building a family with the man that I loved with everything in me.

“Ummm…” I hedged.

“So, a while,” Roosevelt replied, his grin replaced by a brief grimace, before he continued, “Baby…”

“I know…believe me when I say, it had nothing to do with you. I just…I needed some time to get used to it…I mean the idea of being pregnant and eventually being someone’s mama. And honestly? I was all right with it and planned on telling you before we came here, but then it was time for us to come out here and…”

“Emerson, you’re rambling,” Roosevelt cut me off, “I’m not upset, baby. Just…I want you to know you don’t have to keep anything…and I mean any-damn-thing from me. Whatever you’re facing, I’m here for you and we will handle together, okay?”

I nodded.

“Good…now that we’ve got that understood, baby mama,” Roosevelt said, “I hope that besides Miss Denise, no one else knew this before me.”

I giggled, shaking my head, “Nope, baby daddy. I had to tell you before I burst. I certainly didn’t expect for us to be on a maternity ward when I broke the news, but…here we are.”

“Wait…but you were drinking this weekend?”

I shook my head, “I had sparkling water or juice all weekend. I gave off the appearance of drinking like everyone else, but don’t play me. I wouldn’t ever endanger our baby like that.”

“I like the sound of that,” Roosevelt said, grinning.

“That I wouldn’t give our child fetal alcohol syndrome. Dang, baby, you think that little of—” I said before Roosevelt cut me off.

“Nah…I like the sound of those two words in succession—our baby,” Roosevelt said, the grin on his face spreading even more broadly.

I was powerless to stop myself from cheesing just as widely, immensely grateful and thankful for this moment, his reaction, our connection—everything.

“Yeah…I do, too.”

“Aight, lil mama, let’s get back over to the waiting room with everyone. See about this new lil baby that’s on the horizon. Hey…when are you gonna tell the other Divas? About our little one?”

“I had planned on telling them before Seth and Rocki took off on their honeymoon, but I also hadn’t planned on Charli going into labor so early, so…I might just wait until things calm down a little bit more,” I said, leading Roosevelt back into the direction of the waiting room by the hand.

“Wait…before we go…” he said, bending in front of me onto one knee.

My hands flew to my mouth, “Roose—”

 “Not yet, mama. I just wanted to get up close and personal with my baby,” he said, shaking his head and placing one of his large palms across my belly as he leaned in to press soft kiss to the nonexistent bump and whispered a few words that had my breath catching in my throat as I tried not to burst into tears.

He straightened up after chatting with the baby for a couple minutes, and then grabbed my hand, leading me back toward the waiting room, “Now we can go rejoin everyone.”

About an hour after we rejoined everyone, Charli and Wes’ new little bundle of joy made her entry into the world. Born at 12:01am New Year’s Day, Celestial Elaine Philips was the spitting image of Charli, the cutest little thing I’d ever seen. When we were allowed to go into the room to see mama and baby, Wes was cradling his baby girl, looking down at her with awe etched into his features.

“Congratulations, Wes,” I said, “She is a beautiful addition to the REC Shop Divas.”

“She really is,” he replied, with a note of wistfulness in his tone.

I left him to be continued to be bewitched by his brand-new baby girl before checking on Charli. She was knocked out, which was to be expected since she’d definitely exerted herself tonight bringing new life into the world.

“Congratulations, mama Charli,” I said, bending down to kiss her on the forehead before leaving their little family to bond and adjust to life going forward.

Having been up since early in the morning before the wedding ceremony I was darn near dead on my feet, so Roosevelt saying that he’d had our rental delivered to the hospital while we were waiting was music to my ears. Even though we’d ridden over here with Roxanne and Seth, it was still their wedding day and they deserved a bit of alone time as they began their honeymoon. Roosevelt recognized that when he made the arrangements for us to have alternate transportation back to the hotel and I was once again blown away by his intuitive nature.

The hospital wasn’t but a short ride from the inn, where we were staying, but I knocked out almost as soon as I buckled my seatbelt. The extreme fatigue was the only real change in my body with this pregnancy so far. The doctor said that I’d been extremely lucky to not have experienced any of the nausea that usually comes with the first trimester of pregnancy. I was just over ten weeks along, coming up on the end of the first trimester and, knock on wood, so far so good.


I awakened in the wee hours of the morning all tangled up with Emerson, despite having not slept no more than three or four hours if the time on the bedside clock was actually right. My hands resting on her belly reminded me of the bomb that she dropped on me last night. Holy shit, I thought, in a few short months I’m about to be a father. Unbidden, I felt the grin spread across my face before I could even stop it. Emerson had been acting downright weird over the past few weeks, but I thought it was due to the promotion she’d received at work and the added responsibility that came along with it. She was so wound up—tense all the time and I tried my damndest to make sure I relaxed her at any possible juncture. I can’t front…it was a little rough in the beginning before I finally moved back out to LA. Emerson was moody, short-fused, and ill-tempered the entire time that we were long distance. But my arm chair shrink PhD instantly diagnosed her behavior as a side effect of insecurity, borne of the mess she’d gotten out of with that Bobby fool.

That nigga better be lucky that I loved Emerson and my child-to-be entirely too much to find him and fuck up him, permanently because I swear, I had to deal with the ghost of him and the after effects of his manipulation of my girl a little too long for my liking. Luckily, we were past all of that now, but he could still get this work if I saw him in the streets. Moving back to LA was…interesting considering I’d waved the white flag and conceded defeat not more than six months earlier. Ryan insisted that while I could do my job from virtually anywhere, he much preferred me in LA, where the label’s home base was so that I could liaise with other folks within the label easier when it came to facilitating things for my artists. My girl being out there made it a no brainer, but I decided that if I was gonna do this for real, I was going all in. So, it took me a few months to get my things settled in Chicago before leaving again—for good. I was positive that my job was going to be the catalyst for my blast onto the music scene. I knew that nothing short of a catastrophic event was tearing me away from Emerson. All signs pointed towards LA being where I would land and stay forever.

Nat was salty, she’d assumed that when I moved back home that I would be there for good, settling into a life that was just okay. But I couldn’t let that be my fate. Not after I’d worked so hard to leave a broader impact on this world. And…damn, leaving an impact on the world was an understatement when it came to being a parent. For that kid, I’d be his or her whole world for a great while…which, honestly had me scared as shit. I mean, I had the greatest example in my grandparents, but what if I had some of those latent tendencies of my dad lying dormant, waiting to be activated by the birth of my own seed.

“Mmmm, you look deep in thought,” Emerson murmured, peering up at me through half raised lids.

I hadn’t even noticed that she’d awakened and had turned in my embrace, molding her body to mine even further.

“Just thinking about you, baby mama. And how grateful I am for you. I love you,” I said, kissing her softly.

Her eyes brightened, the way they did every time I uttered those three words, as if she was shocked that I really did love her. Loved the damn girl to distraction.

“I love you, too, baby daddy,” she giggled, as I nuzzled her neck, raining soft kisses down the column to her collarbone.

Emerson sighed softly as I rolled her onto her back, bracing my weight on my forearms as I hovered above her. She looked so damned beautiful—hair all over her head because she’d said screw a scarf last night. Fresh-faced because no matter how tired she was, she washed her face nightly—especially when she’d been in heavier make up than she normally wore. Her hands cupped my face, bringing my mouth down to hers for a sweet kiss that soon turned fiery as she traced the seam of my lips, begging for her tongue’s entrance into my mouth. I opened instantly, deepening the kiss as Emerson purred in delight. With hands as rapacious as my tongue, I quickly undressed both of us and slid into Emerson’s warmth.

“Mmmmmm,” Emerson moaned as I doled out slow strokes combined with lingering kisses on the tops of her breasts, “Sheesh Ro…you feel so good.”

I chuckled, picking up the pace of my strokes because she felt too damned good to keep slow stroking it, “Nah, that’s all you. You and this pregnant pussy bout to make me a one-minute man.”

Emerson gasped, then giggled as she clenched tightly around me, “That feel good to you baby?”

I groaned, burying my face in her neck as I pounded into her. She knew good and damn hell it felt good to me, hell that was how we got in this predicament in the first place now that I thought about it. We’d met Nat and Kiki out in Vegas for Nat’s birthday and a little too much drinking and…other substancing led to us playing a little loosey goosey with the condoms while we were away. Emerson had taken a Plan B pill after our oops, and I assumed that was enough, but clearly not so much. She’d felt like heaven on earth when I was buried deep within her while elevated, but stone cold sober? Shit, this pussy was good enough for her to ask me to do anything and I’d do it. If this is what I had to look forward to for the next seven months, she ws going to have a hard time keeping me off of her.

“Ro…mmmmmmm,” Emerson moaned again, in a decidedly high putch than before which signaled to me that she was near climaxing. I slowed the tempo of my strokes again, teasing her with incremental withdrawals, then slowly sliding into her wetness, damn near cumming myself because she was dripping with it. Her hands slid down my back, nails driving into my ass cheeks as she panted in my ear for me to stop teasing her and fuck her faster and harder.

Who was I to deny her pleasure? Or my own? I stopped teasing her and built up my speed again, slipping and sliding into her more and more rapidly, spurred on by the high-pitched yelps and squeaks she emitted. Her thighs trembled as she tumbled into release, clasping around me in a tight grip, sending me blasting off right behind her. Gingerly, I lowered myself onto her body—still inside of her, but with my weight braced on my arms so I wouldn’t crush her. I just…wasn’t ready to no longer be enveloped by her depths quite yet.

Emerson sighed contentedly, urging me to rest my full weight upon her.

I lifted a brow, “The baby?”

“Wants his daddy close too?”

“Wait,” I said, finally pulling out and laying down beside her, but still remaining as close as possible, “You already know the sex of the baby?”

Emerson giggled, “No, not officially…but I’ve been feeling some masculine energy up in here.”

“Well, I mean…” I started.

“Not like that, silly. Call it mommy’s intuition or whatever, but I feel like I’m cooking little Roosevelt the Fourth up in here,” she said, still giggling.

“Ugh, I groaned, “we’re going to dead that legacy if you are carrying my son. I know that much.”

“You wouldn’t wanna name him after you, babe?” Emerson asked, genuinely curious, “Why not?”

“The name comes with a burden I’d rather not have little man endure, you know?” I said.

Emerson was quiet for a few moments before murmuring an answer in the affirmative.

“You know we won’t be like them, right?” she said suddenly, “Like our parents? We know better so we’ll do better.”

“You sound very certain about that,” I said, skeptically.

“I’ve had a little longer to sit with it than you, but you’ll get there eventually,” Emerson replied soberly, “I’m serious though. We’re going to get this right, baby. Or die trying.”

I looked down at her and there was a ghost of a smile playing around her lips, but her eyes looked serious and filled with worry. I shook my head, clearing it of the thoughts that were swirling around that were the exact opposite of the words that Emerson spoke aloud. Leaning down to kiss her softly I replied, “You’re right, baby…we’re gonna kill this parenting thing.”


We were at my parents’ house, having lunch with them, Grace, Tamia and Ted before we headed back to LA. The guys had gone off to watch some sports game and us women sat around in the kitchen snacking on my mom’s famous sweet potato pie and catching up on general gossip. This morning before we left come over here, I told Roosevelt that I wanted to tell them that I was with child. He wanted to make it a whole thing where we told the whole family at once, but I definitely didn’t want my dad to have a flashback and freak out about us expecting a child with no ring in sight. So, we compromised on me just telling Grace and then the both of us sitting down with my parents before we left.

But then as my mother sat here, not so subtly dropping hints about hoping that this thing between Roosevelt and I not turning into the situation I had with Bobby dragging our relationship out for over five years and us not ending up in marriage I’d had enough.

“Well, even if we don’t work out, mommy, we’ll be tied together for at least the next eighteen years if not for the rest of the time we’re both on this earth,” I snapped.

The room fell silent as Mommy, Grace, and Tamia all gaped at me open mouthed. I lowered my head to my hands, frustrated that I’d let her comments get to me and lead me to blurting that out like that.

“Nay…you let the axe murderer knock you up!” Grace screeched at the same time Tamia squealed, “You’re gonna have a baby, Tee?!”

“I really wish you’d stop calling him the axe murdered, Gracie,” I sighed.

“Oh please, you know jokes trump facts in my world, baby sis. You might as well get used to it. Ro’s forever the axe murderer. And apparently he’s been out here murdering that axe wound…”

“Yoooooo, chill,” I said, laughing, “Mommy is right here!”

“And so is your daughter, Grace, jeez,” Mommy said, scandalized, “My goodness, can you act like I raised you to have a crumb of sense about yourself?”

Grace said nothing, merely raised her hands in a shrug as she laughed.

“Yes, Shug, I’m having a baby,” I said to Tamia who looked like she was trying to figure out what her mom was talking about being murdered.

“That’s so cool, Tee! I’ve been trying to convince my mom to have a baby for like five years because I hate being the youngest,” Tamia gushed.

Beyond chastising Grace, my mother had yet to say anything about my revelation.

“Mommy?” I said, peering at her.

She sat, mouth still agape, eyes glossed over with a sheen of unshed tears, “My baby’s having a baby?”

The tears she’d been trying to hold at bay, spilling over as I nodded, feeling my own eyes well up. She yelped, jumping up and coming over to embrace me. We both rocked back and forth, crying tears of happiness as Grace crowed loudly about how she was gonna spoil Tete’s baby. Soon the men came into the room, the ruckus we were making drawing them back into the dining room to see what was going on. I met Roosevelt’s eyes over my mother’s shoulder and he just shook his head.

“I should have known you wouldn’t be able to hold water,” he laughed, before asking my father to step into his study so they could talk.

“Babe, wait,” I said, shrugging out of my mother’s embrace and trying to follow him.

Roosevelt turned back, raising a hand, “It’s aight baby, I got this.”

My father looked puzzled as ever but led the way into his study. About fifteen minutes later both men reemerged and my father made a beeline to me, wrapping me in a tight embrace, kissing me on the forehead.

“Congratulations, baby girl,” he whispered tightly, shocking the hell out of me.

Pretty soon all of the emotion had me wrung out and ready to lay it down, so we said our goodbyes to my family and headed back to our room at the Winterborne. Not even bothering to do more than remove my shoes, I collapsed onto the bed wanting to take a nap before we were set to head over to the Philips’ to see Charli, Wes and Baby Celestial this evening. Seth and Rocki were still in the area too before they were heading to their honeymoon in the Maldives, so this would be our last little hurrah all together. Our flight out in the morning was pretty early, so the plan was to bring them dinner, and have a nice chill night before we headed back to the hectic mess that was our life back home in LA. No sooner than my head hit the pillow, I was completely out, only awakening when Roosevelt softly shook me out of slumber so that we could make our way to see our friends.

I got up, refreshed myself and then followed Roosevelt out to our rental to make our way over to Charli and Wes’ house. He had been acting strangely since I’d awakened, and I was nervous that he was upset with how everything shook out with telling my family about the baby. I wasn’t sure how to bring it up because I didn’t want us to bring tension into our gathering with everyone. I reached over and squeezed Roosevelt’s hand that was holding onto the gear shaft as he drove. He glanced over briefly, shooting me one of those panty wetting grins and I immediately knew that he was fine…and we were okay. When we reached Charli and Wes’ I moved to get out of the car, but Roosevelt stopped me.

“So, you know how you were waiting for the right time to tell me about the baby before we came here but could never seem to find it?” he said.

I nodded, not quite sure where this question would lead us.

“I’d also been holding something back from you that I couldn’t seem to figure out the timing about. But then a wise man told me that timing means nothing when you know what you want so…” Roosevelt said, reaching into the pocket of his jacket and retrieving a ring box, “Emerson Renee Parker, will you do me the honor of being my wife in addition to being my baby mama?”

My mouth dropped, wholly surprised because this was the last thing I’d expected.


“This isn’t a knee jerk reaction to you telling me you’re pregnant or anything, babe. Your dad didn’t pull out the shotgun when he and I chatted, quite the opposite actually. I’d been carrying this ring around for weeks and was going to seek his blessing when we came to town for the wedding anyway, but…”

“YES!” I shouted over his little speech, not giving a care in the world about anything else but letting the man of my dreams know that I wasn’t going to let him go any time soon.

“Yes?” he asked, shell shocked.

I nodded my answer, tears streaming down my face, unable to vocalize anything as I held out my hand for him to slip the ring onto. The ring was beautiful and simplistic, a princess cut solitaire on a rose gold band. He slid the ring onto my finger and I gaped at it in awe, then drew him into me for a kiss that said all of the words my teeth and tongue couldn’t seem to work in conjunction to expel from my mouth.

Breaking apart, Roosevelt rested his forehead against mine, “This is the best start to a new year that I’ve had in a long time.”

“Ditto, baby. Ditto.”


short storiesNicole Falls