Photography: Lynda Louis Photography @LyndaLouisPhotography; Hair by Naomi Wright @HoneyiLuvMyHair; Makeup by Ashley Green @ashleygreenmua

From high school sweethearts, to teenaged parents, thousand of miles of separation, and college degrees, love truly found its way back for Anthony Wilcox and Altrichia Cook.

Backstory
The Real Power of True Love, is: It Always Finds Its Way Back

Anthony and I have a unique story of love. I met him when I was in nith grade, but it wasn’t until the end of our 10th-grade year that we started courting. We became high school sweethearts but attended different high schools. Our senior year, he won the homecoming king title and I won homecoming queen. We, in my mind, were perfect. He was my first love and a month before our high school graduation we learned that we were pregnant.

Determined and with a mentality to win, regardless of the fact that I had odds stacked against me as a teen mom, Anthony and I knew that we needed the education to help us become great parents. He was offered a scholarship to a junior college in California and I was accepted to Florida State University. Because he did not want to miss our son’s birth, he deferred his scholarship and came to Tallahassee, Florida with me while I attended classes and gave birth to our son in December 2005. The following summer, June 2006, he reported to Compton Community College to begin his studies. It was hard for him to go but it was necessary. Unsure of where our tumultuous, young love would lead us, I was filled with emotions of uncertainty. Regardless of where he and I would end up, I was confident that he would be an awesome dad as he had been for the past six months.

We loved each other and like all young couples, we experienced growing pains. He was an athlete. He was attractive and I was 2,000 miles away. The infidelity on his part caused mistrust on mine. With our son, Anthony Jr., as my primary focus, raising him while pursuing my undergraduate degree at FSU and masters degree at Florida A&M University, and working two jobs, I was stressed. In summer 2008, Anthony Sr. transferred to the University of Arizona; and on extended holiday breaks, he would come to Tallahassee to get our son or we would meet in our hometown of Lakeland, Florida. Though he was away, he sent for us to come to Cali and Arizona for games and family time. He Skyped us and sent us care packages, birth gifts and we did the same for him. Physically, I was tired and though Anthony’s financial support was most helpful, the stress and mistrust led to us breaking up. We broke up a year before I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Fall 2008. Of the many times we’d previously gone through break-up-and-get-back-together, this time was seemingly the final breakup. I was beyond hurt. I even remember crying myself to sleep. Though I possessed the young mother, balancing life as a college student, actively involved on campus, working two jobs, for Anthony Sr., I was weak in the knees. I loved him and more than anything I desired to make my family work. However, life would bring about different plans for our relationship. We remained broke-up until 2013. We even dated other people.

I am still in a state of shock..I knew 2017 would be #colossal (#Colossal2017) but we haven’t even been 1 full day in yet! 1/1/17 was truly MY MOMENT! This entire month will be actually!! ???❣️? The fact that this man pulled it off reinforces that HE is my soulmate! (Not too many can surprise me) .. In 2003 when I was in the 10th grade my heart fluttered when we met. Anyone person that knows anything about longevity in relationships (beyond photos) understands that it’s hard work, compromise, ups, downs, twists, turns and much much more! BUT true love can only be measured when adversity and opposition is present. 13 years of #US! “it’s about time it?!” No, it’s the RIGHT time! So anyway, after we had LA and tried to work out living 3,000 miles apart, and eventually, we broke up .. for 5 years. But love allowed us to reconnect and look what God did! It has not been perfect but when two people truly love each other and are willing to work, it always ends up with love prevailing. Not trying to give hope to lifeless relationships but our story is truly defined by love bringing us back together! I thank God for giving me this man… a handsome, strong, intelligent, sexy, college-educated, but still a little bit of street, helpful, supportive man, and 1st class father! He doesn’t always say yes to everything but he is my voice of reason! He understands me and I am just blessed to call this man my baby’s father AND my fiancé! Not only have we gone through the toughest times, but I have been his comfort in hard times, as he has also been mine! @awilcox863, Baby, I love you. I thank you. I adore you. I still get goose bumps when you hug me. This is a brief version of what our friends and family know and I thank you all for your prayers, your love, your hate…Thankful for those rooting for us and even those hoping we failed. One thing for certain; what God pre-destined, no one can stop it! The proposal was so thoroughly planned! The roses in the vases (12), 6 on each side and our son stood at the other end holing the 13th vase represented our 13 years! I am so overwhelmed with love ❣️ #WilcoxForever #2017 #NewYearsWithTheLawsons #SheGotWilcoxed #BlackLoveExists

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Co-parenting and upon completion of his bachelor’s and my master’s degrees in 2011, we relocated back to our hometown. At this point, we were both single again. I still loved him very deeply and us moving back in the same city gave me hope. I was finally seeing the light at the tunnel’s end that I would be able to emulate the true love that my parents modeled before me and my sisters. But he still had to live a little. Though we were not in a relationship, the love that we had for our son caused us go on outings together as if we were in a relationship. The moment of this was beautiful and I had hope. Before long, I began to hear that he was talking to another girl and when I asked him he made it seem as though it was not anything more than [friends].

By January 2013, I was at a crossroads because I was beginning to feel unhappy like I did in college before we’d broken up but we weren’t even together. Playing family when I still carried deep emotions of love and hope for this guy led me to feel like I was going to have my family back but Anthony was still young and living life but also being a family guy. I was no longer willing to settle and live my life off of hope. I knew I had to do something different. Around this same time, I considered moving to Atlanta and was being recruited to work for an insurance firm there. I interviewed and was being offered a career opportunity. This was my confirmation. I had sorors there and my sister, Applemania, lived there as well. I packed my things and arranged for movers to relocate me.

Mentally, I was ready to move and start anew, however deep down in my heart, it was a challenge. The words from Heather Headley’s song, “In My Mind,” replayed in my head; “they say if you love something, you’ve got to let it go. And if it comes back, then it means so much more.” My relocation to Atlanta was me letting it go with the love of my life.

Altrichia Cook Wilcox 6

Photography: Visions by Teemo Photography Co. Hair By: Kreative Kimistry @kreativekimistryhairsalon Makeup By: JaDacy Shephard @jadacyshepard

Altrichia Cook Wilcox 5

Photography: Visions by Teemo Photography Co. Hair By: Kreative Kimistry @kreativekimistryhairsalon Makeup By: JaDacy Shephard @jadacyshepard

Altrichia Cook Wilcox 4

Photography: Visions by Teemo Photography Co. Hair By: Kreative Kimistry @kreativekimistryhairsalon Makeup By: JaDacy Shephard @jadacyshepard

Altrichia Cook Wilcox 3

Photography: Visions by Teemo Photography Co. Hair By: Kreative Kimistry @kreativekimistryhairsalon Makeup By: JaDacy Shephard @jadacyshepard

Altrichia Cook Wilcox 1

Photography: Lynda Louis Photography @LyndaLouisPhotography Hair By: Naomi Wright @HoneyiLuvMyHair Makeup By: Ashley Green @ashleygreenmua

he literally put on an Oscar Award-winning performance begging me not to leave. I remember telling him how much I loved him but his plea was not enough to make me stay.

As I walked back into my office, I felt my heart and mind say try it again. The true love that I felt in my heart for this man and the desire to have my family beat my feelings of pride by a landslide. I did not turn in my resignation letter. When I got off work, Anthony asked if I could meet him at an apartment complex. His actions were speaking. My heart listened. In March of 2013, we picked up where we left off from 2008. That is exactly what loves has to do with it.

Like any other couple, we have had our share of ups and downs, but through prayer, the love that we have and with compromise, we have made it. More than anything, Anthony has assured and reassured me through habitual actions, that he is no longer a boy, but has matured into a man.

Proposal

I’ve always dreamt of the ideal proposal; in Milan, or in front of the Eiffel Tower, or over a beautiful view in a helicopter ride, at a Thanksgiving Day gathering, or even thought that he would propose to me at one of my fashion show events. Though I was unsure the exact moment he’d propose to me, I was very certain that the love of my life would surprise me and get me good. He was the king of good surprises and we would often talk rings, dream proposals and marriage.

The last day of 2016 was the last time, I, Altrichia Cook, 29 and my now fiancé, Anthony Wilcox, Sr. 30, would leave their home as a boyfriend-girlfriend couple.

As we packed our belongings and headed to my best friends Erica and Cashe Lawson’s home, I thought it would be the normal, yet fun turn-up to ring another new year’s with the Lawson’s tradition.

Since NYE 2013, it has been tradition for us to bring in the New Year with the Lawsons. I am the type of person that loves when my friends and sorority sisters become friends. To me, it’s less work to divide time or be ridiculed that I love one group more than the others. So I am always introducing my friends so that we can all be one happy group. As the years have gone on, even Anthony’s friends have also become friends of my best friends. Prior to Cashe and Erica sending the invitation text, Cashe asked for my help with preparing the theme for this year. He specifically said that he wanted to “step it up a notch” and low key enforce dress code. This year’s theme we came up with was “Glitz & Bling: Hello 2017” Usually I would show up in comfy tights and a t-shirt because as my best friends, tu casa es mi casa. Little did I know, Anthony had informed Cashe his plans and it was their way to distract me by sending the enforcement of dress code to the group. Clever, right?

We would bring or prepare the dishes at their home each year as we anticipated the turn-up and celebration-gratitude for yet another year.

As the first guest to arrive, we helped with décor, prepared dishes and mixed cocktails. When guest began to arrive, nothing was out of the ordinary. What the Lawson’s added, however, was a slide show of photos from our 2016 gatherings during football games, kickbacks, and photos that friends uploaded on their socials. There were a lot of Anthony and I, but still nothing peculiar jumped out at me. This year, my son even came. He mostly stayed in the guest room and played video games with the other kids, until cued to come on their living room dance floored when he heard “Juju On That Beat.”

As guests arrived, the guys were at the cards and dominos table and some of us were dancing, eating and sipping. I’d asked Anthony to take a shot with me and surprisingly he was not being turn-up patrol and he agreed. When our friend Philly arrived, she effervescently shouted, “We have to drink to your accomplishments … shot.” I must admit, 2016 was epic for me as a businesswoman. Representing my luxury swimwear brand, Allusions by A.Lekay, I was so thankful to have been featured on three nationally-syndicated television shows and for the other paramount moments of growth as a girl boss! Philly and I made a toast.

Anthony came in the hallway and asked me to come into the guest room. He told me that two drinks were good enough for me because, I am infamous for falling asleep during events such as these and in his mind, he did not want me to crash for the biggest moment that was to come.

I did feel uneasy but I shook it off and continued dancing and playing games with a positive vibes only mentality, per my usual self.

Each year, we tune into and countdown with NYC during the Times Square Ball Drop. With a few seconds remaining in 2016, Anthony came over to me and we counted down together. Thinking back to the moments before the proposal, he was a bit more touchy-feely than normal. He expressed, “This is our year baby. I love you. I thank God for you. Happy New Year.” I exclaimed with a kiss and ran into the room where Anthony Jr. was to wish him a happy New Year. He was so unenthused as he said happy New Year in a monotone and dodged my kiss, focused on playing his video game. At that moment Anthony Sr. yelled, very unusual for him, “Bae I feel sick on my stomach, I have to puke.” I hastily ran to him and said go to the bathroom babe. The door was closed but still in a hurry, I knocked but Anthony was headed outside. I followed and told him to go on the grass around their home to avoid getting vomit on their cobblestoned driveway. He quickly stopped. With just one spit-drop, yes just one, he gasped for air and said, maybe I needed fresh air.

I remember rubbing his back and made sure that he was ok. The fireworks were still going. These were not just neighbor fireworks. They were huge and radiated longer than normal. We hugged and he once again said, this is our year. He continued to kiss me and was making cameos in my snaps. By this point, I had forgotten why we had even come outside and as I gazed at the fireworks, Cashe came outside and asked Anthony was he OK. This was the cue to come back inside.

As we entered the house, my breath was taken away. Tears clouded my vision and Anthony knew he had to stand behind me. In the videos, you can literally see my knees weak. The hallway was adorned with rose petals. Each side of the hallway had six vases with a single rose in them. At the end of the hallway and leading into the living room, it looked as if I were at a concert because everyone had their cellphones in the air. Anthony Jr., stood holding a vase with a dozen roses. In this moment, I knew this was my moment. There were 13 vases with represented the years we had known each other.

It was so beautiful. I was beyond shocked. Anthony hugged me and asked, “You good?” He asked a few times and wiped my tears. When he got on one knee, you can hear the spectators gasp. The gasp reminded me that not only was I waiting for this, but our friends were too. While down on one knee, he said, “It’s been a long time. I told you this was our year: financially, wealth, health and as a family.” Fighting back tears, he continued, “I want to spend 2017, and the rest of my life with you, and my son, I want to make sure it’s official. Wilcox-Forever like we always say. We high-fived. I want to ask would you marry me.

Of course, I said “yes.” And, I was blessed to be laced with 2.75 carat ring.

Just moments into 2017, my life changed. Not only do I get my first love and first choice to spend forever with, but I will have my family. I can truly attest to the lyric in “In My Mind” when Heather Headley sang, “They say if you love something, you’ve got to let it go. And if it comes back, then it means so much more.” Though I didn’t physically relocate to Atlanta, my heart let go and he came back sooner than I thought.

Yvette Caslin

I'm a writer, image architect & significance marketer. Love photojournalism, creative expression & originality.