The walls of the Hilton were closing in around Will as he tentatively stepped in front of Alston's door. His breaths came out harsher than normal coinciding with his rapidly beating heart. He had never been afraid to admit when he was wrong but he was about to eat a big piece of humble pie. A small smile crept to his lips as he wondered if it would taste something like Ronnie's peach cobbler. The memory of the candied fruit on his tongue caused his stomach to grumble.
Lifting his hand cautiously to the door he knocked three times. There was movement on the other side before the mahogany door swung open. Alston, who was now sporting two deep violet black eyes, frowned at him. Will shifted his weight to his other foot feeling his guilt weighing down on him.
"Did you come to finish me off," Alston snidely remarked. His arms crossed over his chest closing himself off from whatever Will was going to say.
"No," he mumbled. "I heard you were leaving town and I wanted to talk to you before you left."
"Well, my plane is leaving in three hours and I was just about to head out," Alston turned and tried to close the door in Will's face. He wasn't surprised by Alston's behavior. Since the first time he had seen the spark between Alston and Ronnie he had acted like a jerk. At the time they had just been friends but it had left a sour taste in Will's mouth.
Will pushed his hand against the door before Alston could close it, hoping to fix a friendship that he had long wanted to reconcile. "I'm sorry, dude. I have always been jealous of your relationship with Ronnie."
Alston looked back at him while absentmindedly rubbing the new bump on his nose. It was obvious that the doctor hadn't set it right. "Why?"
Will conjured images from his college years of Alston and Ronnie flirting shamelessly right in front of him. Ronnie would lean in close to Alston, and wanting to give as good as he got, he would throw his arms around her and give her a quick kiss on the top of her head. They were able to be playful when Ronnie and him were crumbling apart.
After two years of being together he had decided that it was time to make their relationship permanent. He had planned a whole evening where he had hired a caterer and decorated his sister's house with red and white rose petals. The dining table, which could have entertained a party of twelve, was loaded down with twinkling candles and a few bouquets of roses. Ronnie's eyes had sparkled from the minute she had seen his work till the moment he went down on his knee before the dessert. But then her tune had changed. Her eyes glazed over and he could see her retreat before he knew what was happening.
"When things got complicated between Ronnie and I, things got better between the two of you. I felt like you were using our troubles to drive a bigger wedge between us."
A slow smile grazed Alston's face. "Well, I was. I never understood why you two split up in the first place."
Will thought about it trying to pinpoint exactly what had been the deciding factor. After he had asked Ronnie to marry him and she had shut him down, they had fought every time they were together. Will had been upset because he wanted her to be his wife and she was unhappy about being rushed towards the altar. After a few months he had asked her again and when she said no he had walked out on her.
"Let's just say that I was being selfish. Then I found you with her and I thought I had lost her forever."
"No way, man. She talked about you all the time. The only way I could get her to stop was to…"
Will advanced on him," Don't finish that statement."
They both chuckled nervously knowing that they almost had lost the ground they had made up. Will didn't want to hear about his relationship with Ronnie. It was bad enough to know it happened in the first place.
"I just came by to say I'm sorry," Will said. "I'm sorry about your nose… and Hawaii."
"I guess this means we're friends again?"
Will grinned knowing that things were finally being worked out. Not only was his friendship with Alston being mended, but also he finally knew what he wanted from Ronnie and he wasn't taking no for an answer.
"The next time you come you should stay at the house," Will answered inadvertently.
The soft bundle in Will's arms shifted slightly in her sleep before burrowing her face against the warm pink blanket he had her wrapped in. She had fallen asleep in his arms after he had settled in the old fashioned wooden rocking chair in the corner of the nursery. The room that was decorated in the baby hues was dark despite being the middle of the afternoon by the yellow curtains that were pulled closed. The only light in the room was coming from the open door that led to the hallway.
He had decided to give Ronnie a break after seeing the globs of under eye makeup she had put on that morning. He knew she was tired after staying up most nights with Lily. If she had asked he would have stayed up with her but it was probably for the best that at least one of them was trying to get rest.
Looking down on his daughter, he couldn't help but be amazed that she was finally here. The most perfect little girl he had seen since the birth of his niece who held a big chunk of his heart. Noelle had been ecstatic to meet her new cousin but Nick had been less than happy. He was used to being the baby in the family and taking most of the attention.
"Will, can I come in," Ronnie whispered through the crack in the door.
"Yup, she is down for her nap," he answered getting slowly to his feet to deposit Lily in her crib. He laid her down carefully beside the bunny that his mother had bought her. It was white with a pink tipped nose that he was sure wouldn't stay white for long. "I thought you would be taking a nap too."
Ronnie yawned pulling her arms over her head and stretching her back out. "I was trying to but I think I'm so exhausted that I hit my second wind."
"I feel like I could get out of this house. How about I call my mom and take her up on her offer to watch Lily? I would like to take you out to dinner tonight."
Ronnie looked down on Lily but he could tell it was to avoid the answer he knew she was going to give. "How long do you think we can do this, Will?"
"What's that," he asked placing his hand over hers. Her hand was delicately placed on the edge of the crib but when his fingers touched hers she pulled it away; which gave him a sharp jab in his heart.
"How long can we play house? I can't live here the rest of my life. It's time that we made some decisions."
Deep in her eyes he could read the fear and doubt that she had been hiding. Whether he wanted to admit it or not he also was suffering from some fears. What would happen if Ronnie took Lily and left? Or, what if the woman he loved didn't love him anymore?
It was finally time to lay it all out on the line so he took her hand and led her out to the hallway.
"Stay with me Ronnie," he stated giving her no opportunity to argue. "I'm not getting down on one knee like some young man who has the whole world ahead of him. But I'm standing in front of you as the husband who has been scarred and bruised and through all that is still crazy in love with you."
Will reached for her other hand so that he was holding both. They were warm and soft in his palm just like he remembered. "I can't promise that we have no more hard times ahead of us but maybe we could get through them together. Marry me, Ronnie."
There was surprise written on her face; which was quickly exchanged for understanding and then he knew what her answer would be.
Epilogue – Five years later…
Ronnie sank down in the only empty chair she could find. There was a buzz of activity around her as the wedding was about to start in ten minutes. The pair of purple high heels, which had looked so good in the store, was starting to create blisters on her heels. Slipping her foot out of the shoe, she gently massaged the arch of her foot.
"Mommy, mommy," Lily ran between the pairs of legs lining the church hallway and jumped into Ronnie's arms. Her daughter, who was to be the flower girl, had in the last fifteen minutes rumpled her dress and her hair was slowly losing its curl. Ronnie groaned wishing she had given Lily a box of crayons to keep her busy instead of the game of tag the other kids were playing. Even Noelle and Nick seemed to be preoccupied with running away from the other kid who was "it" for the time being.
"What did mommy tell you about your dress," she asked putting Lily down in front of her to straighten her dress. She stretched the material slightly and let it go watching it bounce back to its disheveled appearance. There wasn't much she could do before the ceremony started but hope that no one noticed. "Do you know where daddy is?"
Lily tilted her head trying to reach back into the recess of her mind and find the answer. The move tickled Ronnie's funny bone and a small giggle escaped her lips. "He went to change C.J.'s diaper."
Just then her husband stepped into the room holding their wiggly one-year-old son in his arm and the diaper bag in his other. C.J. squealed when he saw Ronnie and held out his arms to be taken from his daddy. "Fine, I see how it is. Just run to mommy whenever you see her," Will joked handing him over.
His slight weight felt perfect against Ronnie's side. There was something special about holding your child in your arms and his squishy softness was exactly what Ronnie needed to calm her down. She placed a kiss on the top of his head and grinned up at her husband.
When Will had asked her to marry him again in the hallway she had known she couldn't turn him down. Emma had already been stolen from her and she wasn't going to let grief take away the one man she had ever loved. So without thought to Annie or Alston she had kissed him and whispered yes in his ear. They had married the following weekend with just a handful of people with Pastor Harris doing the honors. It had been nothing like their first wedding; which had included a guest list of four hundred people and a bill topping over forty thousand dollars but it had been a reflection of the life they had already lived together. It was just two people deciding that they wanted to put their troubles behind them.
"Daddy, how much longer do I have to wear this dress," Lily complained to Will. She had been a daddy's girl since the moment she was born and knew if she wanted to take the dress off that she would have a better time convincing Will.
Will squatted down in front of her and pulled her into his arms. "Not much longer. I just need you to make it through your Uncle Jonah's wedding."
"Oh, man," Lily sighed.
"You look very pretty though," Will complemented her and dropped a kiss on her cheek.
"I thought you needed to speak to Jonah," Ronnie asked Will.
Will gave Lily a hug and sent her off to play with the other kids. His tux, which gave him a James Bond appeal, made him the most handsome man she had ever seen. She couldn't help but think how lucky she is to go home to him every night. They had decided to stay in North Carolina where Ronnie was teaching piano students and composing when she had time. As much as she loved playing the piano there was something she loved more and that was being a wife and mother.
As the room cleared out Ronnie stayed behind hoping to see Jonah before the wedding. He had ended up with his high school sweetheart Ella and they had all traveled down to North Carolina so that he could be married in the church where her dad's stained glass window was installed.
"Ronnie, Will," Jonah stepped into the room and Ronnie had to hold back the tears she could feel pooling in her eyes. Jonah had grown into an amazing man who their dad would have been very proud of.
"You ready," Ronnie asked.
"I'm a little nervous, to be honest."
"Actually if we have a minute I wanted to give you something," Will interjected. He pulled the cufflinks he had wanted to give Jonah out of his pocket. "My dad gave me these for my wedding. They had been passed down from his father and every generation passes it down to his son. My son C.J. is going to inherit a lot from me so I wanted to give you these."
Jonah accepted them from Will as if they were the most prized of possessions. "Thanks man. I am lucky because I have had two great fathers. My dad was a great man who taught me a lot about life but I wouldn't be who I am today without you."
Ronnie felt the first tear leave her eye and stream down her cheek. She quickly tried to wipe it away hoping that they didn't see.
"Let's not get Ronnie started. She is going to cry enough during the ceremony," Will laughed.
"Well, on that note I am going to leave. I'm getting married, you know." Jonah scurried from the room leaving Will and her alone.
"You know it's not my fault that I'm overly emotional right now," Ronnie swiped playfully at Will's arm. They were heading towards the sanctuary where Will was standing in as Jonah's best man.
"Yeah? Then whose fault is it?"
"You said you wanted three kids," Ronnie smiled as soon as Will froze beside her.
"Seven months to go, daddy." Ronnie was swept up into Will's arms.
It was great to know that they had finally made it through. After all the problems they had faced they were exactly where they should be. In the hall they stood as man and wife willing to face whatever challenges came their way together and Ronnie had never been happier.
Thanks so much to everyone who stuck with me to the end. I would appreciate it if everyone could leave a review this time even if it's one word. (awesome or even awful) I would love to hear what your favorite part of the story was. Either way it's been fun!