This is the second part of how John and I met, fell in love and got married. For part one, go here.
According to John, the night of the day he left the Keys he called his dad. "I met the most awesome girl in the world, Dad. She was so cool." He said. John's dad asked him if he was going to start a relationship with me. He was 15. He hardly knew me and he lived 1,800 or so miles from me. Some how, a long distance dating relationship did not seemed entirely too daunting to him. He settled with keeping in touch with me via email and AIM.
Now I have to mention all the other relationships I had to deal with. At that time in my young newly turned 16 year old life, I was semi "dating" a guy I had had a crush on. He was a few years older than me but apparently didn't know any better. He lived in a different state, somewhere.... We'll call him Tod because that's totally not his real name and if he's some sort of stalker he'll still know I'm talking about him and be offended by my using an ugly name to call him. (Sorry if your name is Tod in real life.)
Tod and I had had a mutual crushes on each other back when he lived in the Keys with his brother and he came to our church. As far as I was concerned I was going to marry him. But then he got tired of the no-where job he had at Kmart and how mostly boring the Keys can be when you don't have an interest in water sports, so he up and moved back to where he came from.
I figured, well, I'd just have to date him long distance. I wasn't going to be of marrying age for a good 3 to 5 years anyway. Well, we kind of dated and we kind of didn't. He was a jerk and never responded to my emails or real life letters. He occasionally called me and then didn't say much. He wasn't a very good conversationalist. My journal at the time is filled with tearful entries of how confused I was that this guy with whom I was "totally in love" simply wouldn't communicate with me.
Shortly before the New Hampshire Boys came in to our lives, a pastor from way north Florida, who was good friends with my family, thought that it was time my sister, Abby, at 19 was in a relationship. There aren't many eligible guys in the Keys and that's just that. How any of us expected to find husbands is beyond me. So our pastor friend sent down a very nice young man, we'll call him Bert, to meet Abby and see if they would fall in love and get married. They didn't.
Instead what happened was he fell in love with me. Well, sort of. He remained friends with our family despite the fact that he and Abby were obviously not in love and visited us occasionally. While we were still friends but not in love was when we met Seth, Sam, Rob and John. I remember telling him about them over AIM.
John's and my relationship was limited to friendly, funny emails and the occasional AIM chat. My relationship with Bert remained friendly as well, but I found myself seriously having a crush on him as my relationship with Tod spun wildly out of existence.
A lot of things were happening in my life at this time, my family moved from living above the church to a new, beautiful house of our own. I started attending the community college in Key West and continued with finishing my highschool. I considered more seriously moving to Tampa to live with my sister and I also seriously wondered if any of these guys would be the one I would marry. I was growing up and figured I needed to sort things out.
One day, around the age of 17 I decided Tod really wasn't the one for me. I liked Bert and he had told me that he liked me too. I wasn't sure if I wanted to be in a "Serious" relationship, as in courting or dating with intention to marry, I still felt I was a little young for that, but Bert was adamant that he was willing to wait for me if I needed time. (He was finishing college and moving to a real life big time job around this time.) I broke it off with Tod and wondered why I had taken so long to get around to it.
My sisters' and my friendship with the NH boys remained fairly steady despite long lapses between conversations. Though while I was staying up til 3 AM talking to Bert over AIM, my correspondence with John became much slower. And once, Julie, chatting with John on AIM told him that I was in love with someone else. "They're practically dating." She had said. And looking back I think that may have been around the time when my correspondence with John had ceased completely, for a good three or four months. I hardly noticed, I'm sad to say. At this time I went to France for three weeks with Abby, our older sister, Bett, and her husband.
Then one day, a couple of the famous NH Boys, Sam and Seth, came down with a few new friends, and we met more "New Hampshire Boy" gang. I remember being sad that John didn't come down too. Sam and Seth thought we ought to come to NH for a visit and see some snow and learn to snowboard. So that next winter, we did. Well, Julie and I did. Abby was forming a relationship with a fine man in town and was not interested in leaving him at the time.
I'll never forget the night after we arrived in New Hampshire. We headed over to Seth's apartment and I remember asking Sam (at whose grandparents house we were staying, and who was driving) if there was a possibility of us seeing John. As we pulled into Seth's driveway I saw through the window Seth talking to a very handsome guy, whom I did not recognize. "Hey, John is here." Sam mentioned to me. I wondered how he knew because there were no other cars in the driveway.
We entered the house and Seth grinned and hugged us, then I turned to the handsome stranger. My jaw musta' dropped. It was John. The same John I had met two and a half years before, but now his hair was short and while it was still a little wild, it was very dashing. His face was more chiseled than the 15-year-old boyish face I had remembered, but still freckled. I think my heart must have done a little flip flop when he gave me a smile and a nod and called me Lady Christiana. Then we cut with the formal stuff and gave each other a brief and friendly hug. And even though I was "practically dating" another guy and fully expected to marry that other guy, I more than enjoyed every moment I had with John on that trip.
Like times before, when John and I were in a group together, we were side by side and generally in our own bubble. It felt like we hadn't spoken in aeons since we hadn't really emailed in awhile. We had a lot to catch up on. Just as easy to talk with as before but now he was handsome and dashing too. And chivalrous. On one occasion I had left my notebook in his brother's car and we had already taken off our shoes. He ran outside, barefoot, in the snow to grab it for me. When he got in, I remembered my pen was still out there. He ran out again. I thought I would burst with the romance of it all.
Then, sadly, the trip ended. This time, however, John and I renewed our correspondence commitment, and we even exchanged real addresses for snail-mail. My life suddenly seemed a lot less bright and amazing when I had left John's side. Pair that with the reality of my relationship with Bert and I began to realize some very important things. Shortly after seeing John, I had a visit with Bert. I stayed with him and his family for a few days and while on the trip I noticed something about myself. And that was, that myself with Bert was very different than myself with John, or any of my other friends. I realized that due to the difference in age and stage of life we were in, I acted a lot more serious and grown up around Bert. Not that it was a bad thing, I think, I still had good times with him and we joked around together, but I found that I liked the way I was with John so much more than I liked the way I was with Bert. The insight gave me some serious things to think about.
I was a few months from turning 18. I knew when I did that Bert would pressure me a little more about "officializing" our relationship. He would want us to formally enter a courtship stage and move on from there. I began to get panicky. I talked to my dad (a great idea). He told me I was still young, even though I would soon be of age for a great many things. He encouraged me to hold off on any serious relationships if I wasn't sure about them. Grateful for not only the good advice (which I kind of already felt, but it was nice to have it affirmed) but also the good excuse of "My dad doesn't think I'm ready." I told Bert. Tearfully; for we had had a rather nice relationship and he was a great guy and was always very honourable by me (unlike that scuddy Tod). I was mostly sad to break his heart, the idea of being free of any kind of serious relationship was a great relief to me, though. I told him I was interested in finishing college before I wanted to look into marriage. I told him I could not guarantee that I would still be attracted to him at the end of it (honestly, I was already pretty much over him, but I did still really like him). I told him not to wait for me. He, though saddened by it, agreed to this and we separated ways. Our relationship had not been a very strong friendship before it became more, and so we didn't have much in common any more once we broke up. But he said a funny thing in one of his last letters to me. "Whoever you end up with (and I have a feeling it will be that John fellow) will be a very blessed and lucky guy." I guess I must have talked about John quite a bit back then...
Meanwhile, John's and my correspondence, both real letters, emails and AIM continued strong. He even called me occasionally. Then one day, perhaps a week after I had broken up with Bert, I was checking the mail again for my family, not expecting anything, for John had just sent me a letter a day or two before. There was another letter from him to me in our mailbox. My heart thundered. What could it be about?
I remember I immediately went and hid behind my parents hot-tub and read it, the rest of the mail in a pile beside me on the ground. It was a proposal of courtship. I nearly fainted. I wanted to write him that same day with a "YES! I would LOVE to date you and marry you!!!!!" But then my sensible self chimed in. "Hello? You just broke it off with Bert with the excuse that you wanted to finish college before you had a serious relationship. If word gets around he'll think you just use that as a convenient excuse to date John." Oh yeah. I couldn't really do that, now could I? Bert had asked if there was anyone else I was more interested in at the time of my breaking up with him. I said (and honestly) no. Because while I was very fond of John, he had never made any romantic advances towards me. Our relationship had been only friendly.
I wanted to cry as I wrote the letter saying I was honoured by his request but not interested in any serious relationships until I was done with college. I remember writing, with hope, that if his interest in me remained the same at the end of 4 years, I would be more than happy to date him then. We both agreed that even though he had asked me to date him and that I had refused, we could easily still be friends. And we did. But now it was slightly different. I now knew that he did in fact like me in a romantic way, and I returned the feeling secretly. We let the scenario pass after one complete conversation about it and remained friends just as before.
Somewhere around this time I finished highschool. Proud of myself and feeling the need to celebrate, I decided to invite John to stay for a few weeks with me and my family. I asked him if he wanted to take me on Promenade. My sister Abby had had Sam take her on Prom and nothing romantic ever came of it, so I figured it wouldn't be very forward of me to ask. Whether it was or wasn't, John happily agreed and came down that September. For our promenade, we dressed in Medieval clothes and booked a short sail on a historical tall ship that did a pretty sunset sail in waters of Key West. My sister, Abby and her then fiance, Terence, offered to make a "magical" dinner for us. They set up Terence's patio like a medieval tavern and
pretended to be inn keepers and served us shepherds pie and walnut salad. It was fun and romantic, even though John and I did not in fact, hold hands or exchange words of romance to each other. We were still strictly friends at this point.
After eating, we spent some time at a dark beach looking at the ocean. Then we drove back to my family's house. Funny enough, it was the next day that we established our relationship. I was still going to the community college and John accompanied me to one of my classes. Afterwards, while driving home, I encouraged him to pass my street and keep going, I wanted to show him a pretty place further up my neighbourhood. There, on an abandoned bridge over looking a pristine green canal, John told me he was not interested in having a relationship with any one else. He was still interested in me and was willing to wait as long as I needed. These dedicated words warmed my heart and encouraged me. I told him that I returned this feeling. We weren't dating, but we were dedicated to each other, in a sense. I did not feel guilty that John was willing to wait for me the way I felt when Bert said the same thing. John and I were the same age and in the same stages of life. We were still young and in need of some establishment before any kind of marriage could happen. In the very least we needed to live in the same town. I now look back on this moment and think of it as the official start of our romantic relationship.
Okay, turns out this is way too long to do in only two parts. Come back tomorrow for part three! Concerning our dating and marriage.