I thought in honor of Valentine’s day, you might like to hear my love story. But take heed, ye faint of heart, this is no fairy tale or shiny Hollywood blockbuster. You’ll find no saucy scenes to get you hot under the collar, either. I present you with a REAL love story, one that ends with “To Be Continued…” not “And They Lived Happily Ever After;” in which love truly conquers all, sometimes in unexpected ways. Oops, I’ve gone and spoiled the ending for you. Oh well.
My husband and I have known each other literally all our lives. We became childhood sweet hearts, holding hands in the sandbox and squabbling over silly things as children do. Everybody smiled at our sweet innocence and said things like “Wouldn’t it be something if they grew up and got married.” Our parents got along well, as did our siblings. Seemed like a tiny match made in Heaven, right from the start. Feel free to gag at the sugary sweetness because it ends here.
Tragically, we attended different elementary schools and slowly grew apart. THE END. Just kidding! When I transferred schools in the seventh grade, this handsome guy shared several of my classes. His apparent sadness intrigued me. I wondered what made him so sad. I felt like I knew him from somewhere, I just couldn’t place him. As a painfully shy new kid just trying to blend in, I pondered over him from afar while trying to remember where our paths first crossed. One day, while looking through some old photo albums, one picture grabbed my attention. My jaw dropped. The mystery man (of course, in the seventh grade you see yourself as grown)! I’d like to say the memories came flooding back, but instead I had to go ask my mom about my old friend. He doesn’t really remember our childhood romance, and unfortunately I only have a couple of hazy memories tucked away. But we do have some old photographs, and naturally our parents have an abundance of cute stories they happily share.
I kept this news to myself for a while, trying to muster up the courage to approach him. One day, we ended up sitting next to each other in History class. Before the bell rang to bring the classroom to order, I smiled at him and said “Hi, I’m Grace.” “I know who you are,” he said, sadly staring at his desk, doodling absentmindedly. “Oh…” *awkward silence* And then the bell rang, and class began.
That was not the response I expected. I sat through History confused and distracted. I began to make some friends at my new school, and occasionally spoke to my old friend, when I could overcome my immense shyness. He always responded with short, impersonal dead-ends and never made eye contact. I couldn’t take it personally, he acted like that with everyone. I felt drawn to him because he openly expressed the cold numbness I tried to hide. I thought maybe we could help each other in some way, or at least understand each other. I longed for someone to know the pain inside me, to understand and validate me.
As the school year unfolded, his dark cloud seemed to shrink bit by bit, until Spring when I finally heard him laugh. He started to use real sentences when I spoke to him, make eye contact and oh, that smile. It made my heart flutter. But he didn’t seem attracted to me, or really anyone, just yet. I “dated” a couple of boys in middle school, to the extent that my parents allowed. The first one tricked me into thinking he genuinely liked me so he could humiliate me and gain status with his friends, leaving my already fragile self esteem shattered. The second was a high school boy I met at a party. My parents did not approve, which naturally made the romance even more appealing. But of course it ended quickly and tearfully, as that sort of thing typically does.
In high school, my old chum began to find himself and we started building a real friendship. I felt a strong physical attraction to him, but he could be kind of a jerk sometimes, so I “friend-zoned” him. Although his depression had improved over the years, he still suffered such low self-esteem he just couldn’t believe any girl would really want to date him. So he didn’t get into the dating scene, even though plenty of girls liked him and would have said yes if he’d just asked.
I didn’t date much in high school, either. I did meet a boy the summer between Sophomore and Junior year, who I dated for a few weeks. He gave me my first kiss, but then he pushed for more so I broke it off. Then Senior year, I went to a party with a live band. They played ridiculously well for a group of high schoolers. The guitarist in particular caught my eye. He could play like the wind; the melodies and harmonies virtually flew off the strings. He owned the stage, exuding confidence and that “it” factor you always hear about. I couldn’t tear myself away. When the band took a break, I introduced myself, and we hit it off.