As Nicole Jones opened the door, the smell of fresh lilies greeted her. She was instantly taken back to her childhood in Blinton, Georgia. She could feel the grass in between her toes and the breeze blowing against her as she ran through the fields, as her father chased her. It was part of their daily routine. Every day at 6 o’clock, before it got dark, they would go outside and play, the only requirement being she needed to finish her homework first. She always did! She spent every free moment she had from the time she got the assignment working on them. She made sure she was finished before he got home so they could play together.
Her favorite activity was playing chase with her father; she could hear his voice breaking with laughter: “You can’t catch me!” While he was a lot faster than her, somehow, she always managed to catch him. After every game, before heading into the house, they would lay in the field, looking up at the stars talking about their day and the future. Their discussion often centered on life and how she should never let anyone stop her from achieving her goals. She treasured those moments because it was time, he made for her every day, time they got to spend alone and just have fun together, no distractions. At that moment she could feel a tear running down her cheek.
As she wiped away the tears, she could hear “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke in the background. Hearing this brought a smile to her face as her father was a big Sam Cooke fan and would often sing his songs on the porch after dinner. She would often attempt to sneak out and watch him, but he always managed to see her. Instead of telling her to get ready for bed, he would wave her over and they would sing together, looking out into the night. She thought her father had the best voice in the world. She would later learn that her father first got his passion for singing in the choir as a child and it was where he learned to perfect his voice.
These memories brought her a great sense of joy and pain. She was happy she had those memories, but sad and angry because that was all she had of her father. He was taken from her, something that still drove her to this day. She refused to let his memory be in vain, so she worked hard to make sure she followed his advice. She set goals and worked like hell to make sure she made them a reality. She dedicated herself to being successful and reaching the goals she had set in order to honor his memory. She was now a senior partner at Jones, Jones, & Keyes. However, the road to get to this point was hard and one with many sacrifices.
She spent countless hours studying in school, making sure she was as prepared as possible. She eschewed par-ties, friends, and family to some extent to make sure she didn’t fail. She knew she needed to make time for other people and activities, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Anytime the thought crossed her mind, she felt as if she was not only cheating herself but all those people who had helped motivate her as well, she wasn’t just doing this for herself, she was doing it for them as well. So, she kept her head down and studied. Her hard work paid off, not only was she Valedictorian in College, but in law school as well.
After graduating law school and passing the Bar, she immediately began working as a public defender in the District Attorney’s office. She had other offers that provided her with more prestige and money, however she felt that working as a public defender would help in her in the long run. Additionally, Nicole was doing something she enjoyed, helping those who would otherwise be swallowed by the system. The District Attorneys, at both the local and state level, tried to get her to switch over and become a prosecutor not just because they were tired of losing cases to her, but because they saw how talented she was. However, this was not the path she wanted to take. She felt a calling to helping those less fortunate. She knew first-hand the consequences of a loved one being failed by the system.
However, there reached a point when Nicole realized she was not going to be able to accomplish all that she wanted unless she took a different path. This was a difficult decision for her to make; one that was met with skepticism. She was leaving something she loved doing, to go do something she despised. She left to join Wallace & Bennet, the largest law firm in the Southeast, which dealt mainly in corporate law, a far cry from what she loved about law and what made her become a lawyer in the first place. But it was something she knew she had to do in order to accomplish all the goals she had set for herself.
In order to get her own firm dedicated to helping those less fortunate, she realized she needed the money to finance her goal. To serve as a reminder and to hold herself account-able, she drew up a contract she signed outlining her plan and goals and identifying at what point she was to leave to start her own firm, which she had framed and placed on her desk so she would not lose sight of the bigger picture.
The day Nicole accepted the position she told herself this was temporary. She was going to work harder and longer than anyone in the firm. She would dedicate all her time and efforts into making her dream come true. This sacrifice extended to her personal life as well. She lost friends, boyfriends, and the relationship with most of her family became strained, as she devoted all her efforts into achieving her goals. The first couple of years she could count on one hand the nights where she got more than three hours f sleep. She worked twice as hard as everyone else. The managing partners appreciated this hard work and saw it as a major reason for their growth. They couldn’t under-stand her dedication to the firm, but they loved the results. However, in her mind this wasn’t dedication to the firm, this was dedication to her reaching her goals.
At that moment, Nicole snapped out of her dream and began to smile as she saw the lilies in front of her with a card and gifts beside them. She slowly opened the card and read the message:
Baby the day we met I never expected that I met the person who I would grow to call my best friend. You are truly an amazing woman and I am lucky to have you in my life. I ask myself everyday how did
I get so lucky to have met you. Every day with you is day that feels like I am living a dream, because I have you. I know how important today was for you and everything that you put into making it happen. You deserve this. This is just a little token of how much I love and appreciate you.
As she looked at the lilies, she couldn’t help but ask As she looked at the lilies, she couldn’t help but ask herself with a smile on her face: “Did he buy every lily in
town?” As she read the note a second time, she saw a P.S at the bottom that said: Follow the petals. Just then she looked down and saw the lily petals on the floor. Before she could follow the petals, she had to open her gift. The first thing she noticed was a Butani diamond chandelier necklace with matching earrings. She couldn’t contain the excitement as she looked at the pieces, holding them up to her face in the mirror, admiring how beautiful they were. As she looked down in the box, she saw a black piece of clothing. She pulled it out only to realize it was a black Christian Dior evening gown, with a pair of silver Louboutin heels. She couldn’t believe it, but she thought, where am I going to wear this. This is when she noticed an envelope inside the box, once she opened it, she couldn’t believe what was inside. Inside were two tickets to New York City and two tickets to see Hamilton. She was ecstatic; she had wanted to see the play, but didn’t think she would get a chance. She couldn’t believe he was able to get tickets.
After standing there in astonishment for a few minutes, she decided she had to see what else the night had in store, so she decided to follow the petals. They lead her to the bathroom door, were a note was attached saying: Open the door and take a moment to relax, you deserve it. No phones are allowed, place them on the table outside the door. She did what she was instructed to, before opening the door. Once she opened the door, the impossible happened, the night got even better. Inside the bathroom there were candles lit, with roses leading to the tub, a bottle of 2009 Sequoia Grove Cambium, and chocolate-covered fruit, which had already been filled with bubbles and lily petals. She also found the source of the music, as she heard Sam Cooke continue to play.
As Nicole soaked in the tub, she everything she had accomplished hit her. She could feel herself beginning to cry. She was so overcome with emotion she could not contain herself. After a lifetime of working to get to this point, she had finally reached one of her goals. She could picture her dad working long hours to provide for his family, then her mom doing whatever she had to, to make sure she had everything she needed as kid, once after her father’s death. The sacrifices and help the rest of her family made and gave to help her. She was truly blessed and the best example of the saying “it takes a village to raise a child.” She couldn’t have made it to this point without their help. But she was not finished yet, there were still something she had to finish before she could truly move forward and to honor her father’s memory.
After sitting in the tub for what seemed like a few minutes, but was in reality was an hour, she decided it was time to get out and go see her husband. As she grabbed the towel to dry off, she noticed underneath towel was a black Annushka Guipure and lace chemise, with a matching lace kimono. Underneath it was a note saying “I picked up myself a little something, for being such an awesome husband. I figured you wouldn’t mind.” This made her laugh and reminded her of one of the many reasons she loved him: his sense of humor. After getting dressed, she walked outside the bathroom and saw a trail of petals leading up the stairs. Remembering her directions from earlier she followed them.
As she walked up the stairs her anticipation grew, she wanted to see her husband talk about everything that happened today, how happy she was, how proud her father would be of her, and more importantly how much she loved him. As she approached the door, she could hear Anita Baker playing in the background and she could smell Crème Brulee French toast, two of her favorites. As she opened the door to the bedroom, she saw her husband lying in bed. She thought to herself; just like him to fall sleep. As she started walking closer to the bed, she started to remove her robe and thinking about how magical the night had been so far and how good it would feel to be wrapped in her husband’s arms. But as she got closer to the bed, she realized something was wrong. She rushed to the bed and frantically began saying, “Marcus, Marcus? Wake up, honey!”
But he didn’t move or speak, and she knew something was wrong. She began to get nervous and panicked. She was screaming for him to wake up, as she shook him frantically now. She then realized he was gone; she couldn’t move or speak. She just stood there; she didn’t even notice the police had arrived.
“Step away from the body and put your hands up!”
All she could do is stand there, paralyzed in the moment. The officers repeated themselves: “Freeze! Put your hands up! Step away from the body!” Still she didn’t move, she couldn’t take her eyes off of her husband, lying there lifeless. She had slipped into shock; she couldn’t process what was going on. Even as the officers placed their hands on her, pushing her against the wall as they placed handcuffs on her, as they read her Miranda Rights. As they led her down the stairs, she knew they were talking to her, but she couldn’t make out what they were saying, everything was in a blur.
Walking out the front door of their home, all she could see was her husband lying there dead. She didn’t notice the multiple police cars that had arrived, as well as the crowd that had begun to form. Those in the crowd whispered and looked at each other in shock as they questioned each other as to what just happened, no one knew. The last they saw of her, she was being put into the back of a patrol car, guilty of something they thought, but not knowing what it exactly was.
As she was being placed in the car, she overheard the officers telling another officer they had gotten an anonymous call about a fight at this address and when they got here, they found her standing over the body. Hearing that caused her sadness turn to anger, as she realized she was set up