It was the afternoon, circa 1981 or 1982, when Jessica remembers her first encounter with Jackson. Some disagreement led them to the hallway outside the cafeteria to have it out. A small crowd encircled them both as they faced off, then with one hand, Jessica shoved Jackson's shoulder. From the crowd, someone shouted, “Ooooo, she took the first lick!” Jackson just looked at Jessica and did nothing. Memory fades after that moment for Jessica, but Jackson maintains that she has no recollection of the disagreement …
Fast forward to their years at Fairmont Heights High School, between 1984 – 86. Jackson was a star athlete on the Lady Hornets Girls Varsity Basketball Team and Jessica was one of the statisticians. Though the two never dated in high school, they spent countless hours together at games and on the team bus traveling. Jessica's father, Mr. Howard, loved girls' basketball and supported by attending all the Lady Hornets’ games. It was a moment in history for the team and is legendary to this day.
High School graduation day would come on June 3, 1986 at 9:00 AM. It would be 29 years before Jessica and Jackson would see each other again. In August 2015, one of their classmates, Tony Royall, passed suddenly of a heart attack. The news sent shockwaves through Jackson in particular because she and Tony had known each other from their days living at “The Bottom”, the neighborhood of their childhood, where they played countless hours of basketball together. Jessica reconnect with Tony just a few years before his death on FaceBook and enjoyed learning about his family and budding acting career.
Just two weeks before Tony's untimely passing, Jessica’s best friend and AKA sister , Lesli passed away suddenly. Despite just returning to work and some hesitation, Jessica attended Tony's funeral. When she arrived, fellow high school alumni, who she hadn’t seen in many years, were gathering in the rear of the church. Jessica initially opted to sit closer to the front where she could hear the service better but decided to sit in the comfort of old friends further back.
Service was close to starting when Jackson walked in the door buttoning her suit jacket and looking around the church for familiar faces. Jessica and the others stood to greet her with a hug. As they sat next to each other, Jackson didn’t recognize Jessica. At some point during the service, Jessica asked Jackson, “So how have you been?” It was then that Jackson recognized Jessica for the first time. After a lifetime had passed between the two, at that moment, the distanced years had vanished.
After Tony's service, the high school alumni gathered in the hall of the church to greet others before moving to the parking lot to reacquaint themselves. They took a group photo. Jessica and Jackson stood next to each another. Jessica had seen Jackson on FaceBook, but the two hadn’t connected. However, that day they exchanged phone numbers and became FaceBook friends.
In the coming weeks, the pair remained in touch and had lunch at Seasons 52 in Tysons Corner to catch up. Jackson brought Jessica a gift as a peace offering to resolve the forgotten disagreement from Jr. High School, which she swears to this day she doesn’t remember. Their lunch lasted five hours leaving them both feeling as though they'd only scratched the surface of getting reacquainted. As the weeks went on, the two decided to continue their conversations over dinner at Eddie V’s, their first date! When Jackson picked Jessica up from her home, she surprised her with flowers in the passenger seat her car.
Their next outing was to the National Harbor where the two walked the shoreline and rode the Capital Ferris Wheel in spite of Jackson’s preference to avoid heights. That was a very special day for the pair who would both come to know that their reuniting was not by chance. Some weeks later, a dear family friend of Jessica's would prophesied over Jackson stating the key role that Jessica would play in her life. Around that time, the two would become a couple, and shared their proclamation of love for each other with family and later with friends.
The following July, Jessica planned a surprise birthday party for Jackson and her sister, Paulette, whose birthdays are 3 days apart. Codes of secrecy filled the weeks preceding the July 9, 2016 party. Jackson was indeed surprised and enjoyed herself to the fullest surrounded by dear family members, friends and high school buddies. Jessica was relieved that the veil of secrecy had finally been lifted, and now all she had to do was get Jackson to a smaller surprise family birthday dinner on Jackson's birthday, July 10th, at the National Harbor. Jessica was under the impression it was an intimate dinner with family…
On Sunday morning, Jackson and Jessica went bowling, then returned home to change for dinner. Jackson got dressed particularly fast – uncharacteristic of her as she is meticulous about choosing her outfits. Upon arrival, they were greeted at the restaurant entrance, by Paulette and Jacksons longtime friend Lisa. Paulette and Jessica left the two alone to talk and wait for the family to get the table ready – or so Jessica thought. After about 20 minutes or more, Paulette led Jessica back to the restaurant and to the back door. Puzzled, Jessica noticed a long table set, but no one sitting there. However, the back door that led to the patio revealed a small crowd outside.
Jessica looked at Paulette and gasped, “PAULETTE!” Knowing that she was walking into a very different scenario, Paulette’s eyes filled with tears and her lips trembled. Jessica walked through the door and saw the white aisle runner, Jackson at the opposite end wearing a tux and many of the family and friends from the night before surrounding her. Surprise!! This was not a surprise birthday dinner for Jackson, but a surprise engagement proposal!
Jackson says that she can’t recall anyone wishing her Happy Birthday that day, but admits that getting engaged was the best gift she could have ever received. The pair chose June 2, 2018 as their wedding date in honor of their high school graduation being the last time they would see each other until the death of a classmate would bring them back together to be united for the rest of their lives.