Wilson and Lauren's Love Story (so far)

Dear Readership,

This is not my story, but I got to have the immense pleasure and honor of writing it down on someone else’s behalf because it is a story that deserves to be told. For those of you who are lucky enough to know them (and for the rest of you who are missing out) — enjoy!

From the perspective of an outside onlooker, there is something that has always seemed inevitable about Wilson and Lauren. They fit — like two pieces in one of the many puzzles they have completed together during their dating relationship (because they are both secretly 90 years old), they are natural and obvious together. They’re both witty and sarcastic and can take as good as they give, so a conversation with the two of them often sparks and crackles with lighthearted jabs and banter. They compliment each other’s strengths and compensate for each other’s weaknesses, they lift each other up and adore one another. They enrich each other’s lives, but also the lives of everyone around them as they each become better versions of themselves when they are together. If you know them as they are now, it makes sense that they would be together, but it wasn’t always so obvious — certainly not to the two of them. 

Wilson and Lauren first met at Hickory Cove Bible camp seven years ago, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2018 that buds of something more began to bloom between them. Wilson remembers first taking a more serious interest in Lauren in May before the camp season had properly begun. They were both helping at the open house for camp and he was excited to see her even though they weren’t particularly good friends at the time. He heard that she wasn’t planning to work over the summer, which was disappointing because Wilson was really rooting for her to come back to camp. By his own admittance, he liked her as a person and thought she was cute. He also admits that it took him a lot longer than it should have to realize that he didn’t just think she was cute, he actually really like liked her because growing up, Wilson was always like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz — he didn’t have a heart. He never had crushes because they were “illogical” and “pointless.” He could easily talk himself out of feelings for someone and never bothered with dating. I’m not sure he would have owned up to his feelings for Lauren if he hadn’t been able to see and talk to her every day over an entire summer.  

But fortunately for our heartless hero, Caleb — the camp director at the time — convinced Lauren to come on as full-time staff over the summer and set the stage for Act One of our little love story (thank you, Caleb, for putting everything in motion). Lauren, by her own admittance is a very friendly and flirty person. She and Wilson had always had a flirtatious bantering relationship, but that summer it intensified. They found little ways to seek one another out, they texted and talked all the time, and they even kept in touch over the weekends (something they had never done before). 

One of the things that facilitated this connection was the activity that summer known as “The Quest”a role playing game that sent campers (with adult supervision) deep into the woods to find a hidden treasure. Along the way they encountered many challenges and zany characters (all bursting with Christian allegory), two of whom were played by our lovebirds. 

Wilson’s character, The Wanderer, was a mysterious and benevolent fellow who would appear when beckoned by the children and aid them in their mission whenever they asked for his help. Much to the campers’ eternal frustration, Wilson remained rigidly in character and would never admit to playing a role. As far as he was concerned, Wilson and The Wanderer were two separate people. Lauren was a counselor for most of the summer, but because of a terrible tendinitis flare up in her knee, she couldn’t walk around with the kids. Instead, she was posted as a guard, blocking the path unless her demands were met (mostly she just stood around waiting for the kids to show up). Boredom is quick to find anyone posted in the woods with nothing else to do, and Wilson would often use it as an excuse to find his way over to Lauren’s part of the forest to keep her company. All summer he insisted that he, as The Wanderer, was charming and mysterious. Later in the summer when they started to catch feelings for one other, Lauren would text Wilson to tease him and tell him that she was flirting with the Wanderer and that she was going to ask him out. Wilson would play along and pretend to be jealous, although he didn’t always have to pretend. 

Lauren, affectionate though she always is, never really touched Wilson. Being huggy with friends was one thing in her mind, but he was a cute boy she actually liked so hugging him felt weird. What if he didn’t like her back and hated being hugged by her? This lack of touch wasn’t lost on Wilson and even though they often flirted, it made him a little less sure that she liked him. In fact, it was a hug that — in classic rom-com style — confirmed to Lauren that they were supposed to date while simultaneously convincing Wilson that Lauren had no interest in him. 

You see, Lauren had gone into the summer determined not to enter any kind of relationship. She was focusing on God and building up her self-confidence and her sense of identity in her relationship with Him rather than with a boyfriend.  But Wilson was such a solid friend who made her feel like a good person. He saw value in her that she didn’t even see in herself. His compliments were always about her as an individual of worth — about her ideas and thoughts and personality and strengths, not her physical appearance. She realized that despite her decision to not pursue a relationship, she was starting to really be interested in Wilson so she prayed for a really long time about it. She could see herself with him, but she didn’t want to jeopardize their friendship. Finally, she decided to ask God for a clear sign. Like Gideon with his sheepskin before the Lord, she laid out the impossible and asked God to make it possible if it was His will. She thought, “You know what, God, Wilson never hugs me. So a hug would be weird and unprecedented. If Wilson hugs me before the end of the day tomorrow, I’ll take that as a sign that it’s okay to date him.” And that’s where she left it, sure that nothing would come of it.

That night Wilson and Josh were sent to build a fire for the campers and Lauren went along to help. The three of them had palled around together for much of the summer so it was nothing out of the ordinary for the three of them to be working together like that (shout out to Josh, btw, for being the third wheel that made Wilson and Lauren hanging out together “camp appropriate” and facilitated the foundation for their impending wedding. Go you). Once the fire was lit, Wilson, very true to his nature, started playing with the lighter. Lauren told him to stop before he lit himself on fire and tried to grab it from him. He play wrestled her for it then put his arms around her and pretended to light her hair on fire (Side note: Wilson’s brand of affection is very… unique. Luckily “pretend to light you on fire”  works for Lauren. It’s part of why they’re so good together). 

But wait. Here it was, within the time frame that Lauren had laid out before God and WAS THIS A HUG??? His arms were certainly around her. She freaked out. She was shocked and surprised and overwhelmed by what felt like the clarity she had asked for — she was supposed to date Wilson. 

Meanwhile, Wilson had finally gotten up the nerve to initiate physical contact with someone he had feelings for, even in just a playful manner (again, something wildly out of the ordinary for him) and was met with dismay. She violently recoiled. He recalls thinking, Wow. Okay, so Lauren very badly doesn’t want to be touched by me. “It kind of broke my heart” he later said.

So now Lauren was sure about Wilson and he had became far less certain about her, but there was still time left in the summer. They kept texting, the kept flirting, they kept stealing little moments talking together that rode the line of being against camp policy (sorry, Caleb). One night, they texted late into the night even though they both had to get up early for a camp meeting the next day. Lauren was staying in the girl’s dorm and would have to walk by the dining hall on her way to the meeting. She offered to bring him a cup of coffee the next day. He said he would love that, and finally, they agreed to go to sleep. 

The next morning Lauren started to get cold feet. Was it weird to only bring coffee for Wilson? Would it be like making a public declaration of her feelings in front of the whole staff? She texted him: “Still want that coffee?” 

No response. 

Little did she know Wilson didn’t have any cell reception where he and the other male staff were staying in the gym. In order to text with her the night before, he had been standing by the window and holding his phone in the air at an awkward angle for service. So he didn’t see her text about the coffee until it was too late. 

When he didn’t respond she assumed it was because he felt weird, he didn’t want the coffee. So she brought only a cup for herself. He proceeded to give her a hard time in the weeks that followed, but it also gave him an idea on how to ask her out.  

He had decided to ask her out on Sunday during the registration period to go on a date the following Saturday. But registration day got crazy and the day quickly passed by without a clear opportunity presenting itself. Before they knew it, it was already 10:30 – 10:45 at night. All the staff were hanging out in the gym together, and Wilson had all but given up hope on getting to ask Lauren out. They were sitting in a group of six or seven people when miraculously they all jumped up and ran out of the gym to go to the kitchen to look for pizza (dear friend Alec led the charge that unknowingly opened a window — thanks, Alec). Suddenly Wilson was on the spot to ask her — the clock was ticking, he felt rushed. Everyone would be back soon so it was now or never. He had planned for it to be smooth, but ended up just sort of blurting his line, “You said you were going to bring me coffee last week and you never did so I think you owe me a cup of coffee still. Do you want to go out with me and get a cup next Saturday?” 

She said yes!  

But it was a little bit awkward. They kind of just sat there after that until everyone came back. 

Later that night, Wilson felt like it hadn’t gone the way he wanted because he had felt rushed to ask her. He started to worry that he hadn’t been clear that it was a date. That week they miraculously decided to leave the wifi on in the gym so (unlike during the coffee debacle the week prior) he had service. Wilson snapped Lauren and after talking for a bit he said,
“Hey, I just wanted to clarify that getting coffee means a date. I want to go on a date with you”   

They admitted to liking each other and wanting to talk more in depth about the nature of their relationship. Finally it was set. 

The day before the date, however, things didn’t go to plan. All of the full-time staffers were really close that summer, so they would all hang out together. They planned to go on a kayaking trip and then to dinner on Friday after cleanup. Wilson went to go move his car and pack up before they left, but his car wouldn’t start. Lauren said she had jumper cables he could use so she drove her car over to where his was parked. She tried to help him charge his battery, but it wasn’t working so they called AAA. It took the technician an hour and forty-five minutes to get there so Wilson and Lauren missed the kayaking trip. Wilson had tried to send her ahead, but she wouldn’t leave him (because let’s be honest, nobody goes kayaking with friends when they can sit alone with their crush instead). They would still be able to go out to dinner with everyone, at least. But then one by one everyone else bailed on dinner plans. They decided that they would still get dinner — they were hungry and discouraged after their long day. The AAA technician told Wilson that he needed to replace his battery, so he went to do that while Lauren went home and changed. When asked, Wilson still describes her as looking stunning when she showed up to dinner later.  Wilson — the automaton — in his own words, was overwhelmed by her beauty. At dinner they talked about how she hadn’t seen Rogue One so they went back to her house and watched the movie. If you were to ask Lauren, that was their first date. It was dinner and a movie after all. If you were to ask Wilson, however, he very admittedly insists it was NOT a date. He had worked really hard to plan and get up the nerve to ask her out for their date on Saturday, so no matter how date-ish it may appear, Friday night they were just hanging out as friends. 

The next day they got the coffee (for over three hours) and then Wilson took her to Glenn C. Hilton park where they did the boardwalk and fed the ducks. They wandered through the park for five or six hours and finally talked about what they were to each other. They agreed that they liked and wanted to date each other, but there were a lot of dating obstacles– Lauren was graduating in December, Wilson had several more years of school, and they would have to long distance. They decided that obstacles aside, they were going to try it. At that point it was approaching 6pm so they decided to get dinner. After dinner they still were not ready to stop hanging out so they went back to the park to walk around and look at the stars. In the end, it was a full on twelve hour date (breaking the world record for longest first-ish date ever). What they both distinctly remember about the day is that there wasn’t a single minute when they were unhappy or bored or ready for the date to be over. Even during the times when they sat in silence — there was no awkwardness or need to break the silence. They were content to be together. 

The other distinct memory that lingers from the date for them both is that Wilson opened the car door handle for Lauren and there was a big fat hairy spider underneath. It fell down its web just long enough for them to see the bushy monstrosity before it quickly scurried back up under the handle. Wilson fearlessly (but also screaming like a little girl) grabbed the handle again, knowing what was underneath, and knocked it to the ground where it was violently stomped to death — both remain traumatized to this day.

The next day they both went back to camp and could no longer be “dating” because it was against the rules. They had to spend the rest of the summer playing it cool and keep their now brand new baby romance on the down-low. By the time the camp season ended and they could announce their relationship, it was time for them both to head back to school and begin the long-distance leg of their journey. Over the past year and half of doing long distance, Wilson and Lauren have faithfully traveled back and forth to see one another, or at least made time to meet in the middle for dates. One such place they often met was Amélie’s French Bakery & Café. Their most notable date at the cafe was also their  first date after Wilson had gone back to school.

They got coffee and macaroons to share as they sat down to answer The New York Times’ 30 questions that Lead to Love. The questions were based on a study Lauren had been learning about in school that postulated that two total strangers could ask each other these questions and by the end would “fall in love” or at least feel closer. The participants are supposed to take turns asking and answering first, and the whole thing is supposed to take 45 minutes. True to their nature, they spent 5 hours on it as they went into crazy depth to get to know each other. Close to the end, there was a question that said, “If you died today, what is something you would regret not having told someone?”  It was Lauren’s turn to answer first. She really wanted to say “I love you” but she was worried Wilson would think it was too soon and that it would freak him out. She deliberated on and off for a long time before deflecting and somewhat lamely picking a quaint platitude she would want to tell a friend. Wilson thought it was a bit of a weird answer and that it took her a long time to get to it, but didn’t mention it. 

When Lauren asked him the question in return he answered, “I think I’m in love with you and I would regret not telling you that.” 

Lauren was shocked.  “No way!” She said, ”That’s what I was going to say too!”

 Wilson, somewhat saucily, replied, “No, too late. You had your chance. You totally chickened and I said it first.” Rather like the incident with the coffee, it has remained a point of well meant, but rather merciless teasing to this day. 

Their dating relationship continued on in a similar way — each driving to visit the other — as their love and devotion for one another deepened. It wasn’t long before they began to discuss the idea of marriage somewhat in earnest. Wilson spent hours looking for the perfect ring for Lauren, finally finding it online with a Ukrainian jewler. He ordered the ring in time for it to arrive by Thanksgiving break — when he hoped to propose. Only, the ring didn’t come. Slightly annoyed, he figured over Christmas break would be just as fine. Only, the last day of exams came and went and the ring still didn’t come. 

He came home from school in something of a panic. Where was the ring? Finally, finally, he got a notification letting him know the ring had been delivered — to his school mailbox — three hours away. He found the phone number of the woman who worked in the mail office and apologized for the intrusion on her privacy but explained his situation and his need for the ring. She happily agreed to help him. On December 23rd he asked Lauren if she would like to roadtrip with him to pick up one of her Christmas presents that had been delivered late and ended up at school. They made a day of the journey — stopping in Rock Hill at one of their favorite restaurants and doing some last minute shopping. All the while, Lauren secretly wondered if this could be her ring (she had teasingly asked Wilson one too many times when he was going to propose and he had snapped at her that he would when the ring came). Wilson, not remembering he had let that detail slip, kept weaving the lie that it was a Christmas present. When they got to CIU Wilson told her to wait in the car while he got the package. Much to his dismay, the box was damningly ring sized. He hunted around the empty student union until he found a bigger box he could hide the smaller box inside of before bringing it out to the car. 

Lauren’s confidence wavered only slightly on seeing the size of the box before asking if she could open it early. Wilson replied that she could not open it early because it was something for her to use at the beach (where they were heading Christmas afternoon to spend the rest of the holiday with Lauren’s family). Now her certainty was really beginning to waver, but she kept it to herself as they made their way back to Lauren’s apartment, tired from their six hour drive. 

Wilson had decided that to propose he would recreate a moment from early in their relationship. Back when they had first started discussing marriage Lauren had told him that she wouldn’t appreciate subtlety in a proposal — she needed it to be clear. The parameters she laid out for him were this: he had to have a ring, he had to say her full name, and he had to get on one knee. Being the cheeky fool he is, he immediately started looking for loopholes. While they were laying on the bed talking, he rolled over so that he was laying on one knee, he took his own ring off his finger, and he asked her, “Lauren Beth Rudisill, will you marry me?” To which she (obviously) responded, “Um, no.” Wilson often teased that he wouldn’t propose again because he had been so rudely rejected the first time and it became an ongoing joke in their relationship (at this point you may have noticed that ongoing teasing is a staple of both of their love languages).  

But now with an actual ring, it was time to recreate the moment. Wilson told Lauren that he left his phone in the car and went down to retrieve it. While down at the car, he pulled the ring from the box inside the box and slipped it into his pocket. He went back upstairs, laid on Lauren’s bed, and — as nonchalantly as possible — asked her to come lay down and cuddle with him. 

“Let’s take pictures in our new matching pajama pants first,” she said, “If we lay down now we won’t want to get back up.” 

Wilson thought about the ring in his pocket and about the pocketless pajama pants she wanted him to put on, “Uuuuhh, just, just come cuddle me first” he insisted. 

Finally she agreed. They cuddled for a minute before Wilson rolled over onto onto one knee, and whispered, “I tried this once before but you rejected me so I thought I’d give it a second shot,” he pulled the ring from his pocket, “Lauren Beth Rudisill, will you marry me?” To which she (obviously) responded, “Yes!” 

And the rest, of course, is history! That which seemed fated, happened. On May 16th they will make their eternal vows to one another and they will live jokingly, lovingly, devotedly, and happily ever after. 

I hope you enjoyed this I much as I do.

Until Next Time,

Adieu

Love in the High Country: In Which Two of the World’s Most Awkward People Stumbled Their Way Into an Epic Romance

Dear Readership,

This is a saga — I’ll apologize in advance for the length. I have shortened it in every way I can, but like any story worth telling, our lives and love were formed in the details. Our story is one of repeated near misses, bad timing, and conveniently crossed paths that could give any decent Rom-Com a run for its money. So buckle up and enjoy!

Bryce and I first met when we were little Freshman babies at Appalachian State University back in the fall of 2014. He started talking to this girl who lived on my dorm floor, and once they began officially dating, he became a regular “lobby kid” (which is what those of us who bummed in the public space on the 5th floor of Coltrane unofficially called ourselves). I very vividly remember the day Bryce asked my floormate out because I bumped into him in the elevator just before he did it. He had bought her a box of gourmet cookies and written an adorable pun in the lid of the box. My friend and I wished him good luck and went on our way. Once Bryce was out of earshot I told her, “Man, if someone asked me out with a pun like that I would say yes in a heartbeat!” 

This, of course, was some pretty crazy cosmic foreshadowing.

Fast forward a little and Bryce and I happened to join the same campus ministry (he joined because a friend from high school was already a part of CCF and had spoken highly of it. I joined about a semester later because this girl who lived on my floor — and would later become my roommate, one of my best friends, and eventually a bridesmaid — kept nagging me about trying it and I wanted her to leave me alone).

Through the mutual space of our campus ministry, he and I kept in touch and began to become friends. When Bryce returned Sophomore year freshly single, my interest was officially piqued. I didn’t realize it though until he started talking to someone else and I became outrageously jealous. Not being much of a seductress, I settled into the comfortable distance of casual friendship and continued to admire the man of character that he is from afar.

Then, in the spring of Sophomore year, fate threw me a bone by sending me Hannah (Bryce’s sister) who transferred from ECU. When Bryce first told us his sister was transferring to App, I decided I wasn’t going to like her on principle (aren’t I evil? I had grown up with a dear friend who got regularly befriended by girls who were crushing on her older brothers. I knew how much it hurt her to be a tactical vantage point instead of a person with friends, and since I am nothing if not a woman of delusions and extremes, I decided to spare Hannah that fate by simply not liking her at all).

This, of course, went very poorly. I think I managed to dislike Hannah for roughly 2 hours? Maybe less… Her vivacious personality and raw endearing humor quickly flagged her as a kindred spirit and someone who I was incapable of avoiding. As our friendship blossomed, I remained determined to never ask about Bryce or bring him into our friendship. And yet, there he was. She would mention an endearing detail about him from their childhood, or would invite me over to his apartment where she was hanging out with him (since I lived across town and she still lived in a dorm with a somewhat weird and unnerving roommate, his place was the easiest meeting point). I found out from her that he was once again single and I tried to not get excited about it. But the more time I spent with her, the more time I seemed to end up spending with him, and the harder I fell.

I started to send out flirtatious probes (yes, probes. What an un-sexy word… once again, seduction is not my strong suit). I pulled out all the stops that my sheltered self could think of: the occasional brushed arm or bumped knee, regular texting, teasing, deliberate eye contact… I even tried the age old eye contact bounce between his eyes and lips when he spoke. Nothing. I couldn’t tell if he was picking up on any of it.

Then, at the end of Sophomore year, I drove him back to his apartment on the last day before the summer. It was just the two of us in the car and I thought maybe this would be the moment something finally happened. All my hopes were dashed in one cruel moment, however, when he reached out and gave me a goodbye fist-bump (not even an awkward in-the-car side hug). It was then that I was sure he didn’t like me.

Momma didn’t raise no quitter though, so I gave it another try over the summer when I texted him to see how he was doing. Despite my best efforts to keep it alive, the conversation quickly died. It was the final nail in my fragile ego’s coffin. Now I was sure that not only did he not like me, but maybe he didn’t even want to be my friend. I was Hannah’s friend who was around sometimes. That was all.

So I started dating someone else.

Little did I know, Hannah had been name dropping for me over the summer (even though Bryce had never picked up on my interest in him, she certainly did). She even went so far as to ask him if he would consider me as someone viable to date. That off-handed question managed to plant a seed in his head that all of my best attempts at flirting had never been able to do: Bryce started to notice me, to think about me, and to consider me as an option. As the summer wound to a close and we headed back to Boone for Junior year, Bryce began, for the first time, to really like me.

Just a few days into the fall semester, Bryce and I both volunteered to work the CCF table for the club expo (where new students could learn about/join clubs) and we found out that we had been assigned to work the same shift at our ministry’s table — just the two of us. He was elated when he found out. This would be the perfect chance to spend some time one-on-one with me. I, on the other hand, was devastated — I hadn’t stopped liking Bryce, I had just given up on being liked back. I couldn’t spend time with him like that. It would be awkward, not to mention unfair to my new boyfriend.

I told myself to put on my big girl panties and do it — we were in the same small ministry. It’s not like I could avoid him. Besides, we were there to do a job. I went in planning to be cordial but distant and instead ended up having a wonderful time. Our table had been placed in a back corner that didn’t get a ton of foot traffic so we spent most of the time talking, and Bryce proved to be a wonderful conversationalist.

He went home and told Hannah (his now roommate) that he was going to ask me on a date — and she told him that I had a boyfriend. Crushed, he resigned himself to our sudden role reversal and decided to continue to be my friend and like me from afar as I had done the year prior. With these intentions, he and Hannah invited me over a few nights later to see their new apartment and watch a movie. Once again I had a lovely time so naturally I decided by the end of the night that I would need to avoid Bryce in order to remain emotionally faithful to the guy that I was dating.

Despite my best efforts, he and I kept getting thrown in together — we joined the same support group, ended up at the same table for our campus ministry’s Thanksgiving (it was the first and only year they enforced assigned seating for the meal and I bet you can just guess who I got seated next to), and we often times ended up in our friend group’s hangout spots on campus at the same time. Even with all of our elbow bumping, we spent very little meaningful time together that semester and he was far removed from my mind when I ended my relationship during finals week that fall.

In fact, I really didn’t give Bryce a ton of thought at all until I returned to school for my spring semester Junior year and we started chatting at our campus ministry’s kick-off meeting. The conversation spilled over into text and we began to banter flirtatiously. All of my feelings from the last several years came rushing back out of the deep dark corner that I had hidden them in, and for the first time in a long time, I started to have hope that maybe he liked me. It all came to a screeching halt (again) when I jokingly threatened to hold him to a promise that he was making and he responded with, 

“10-4, good buddy.”

I died on the inside. Absolutely died. Good buddy?? The stinging shame of being blatantly friend zoned burned so hot in my chest that I couldn’t stand to bear it alone. I took a screenshot of it, blacked out his name, and sent the picture to several of my nearest and dearest friends (one of whom was obviously Hannah). I captioned the image with something along the lines of, “When you’re trying to flirt and you get friend-zoned so hard you get whiplash.”

In a matter of minutes she responded with, “who friend-zoned you?”

This was a question I wasn’t ready for (because I’m an idiot) so I said the most incriminating thing possible — “Don’t worry about it.”

She then did the most low-down dirty thing that I will forever be grateful for: she screenshotted my message and asked Bryce, “Did you recently tell Sierra ’10-4, good buddy’?” He admitted that he had and she showed him the message in which I confessed to feeling friend-zoned. He insisted that that wasn’t his intention, that he had been joking.

Sometimes I wonder how long Bryce and I would have been trapped in our cycle of missed opportunities and bad communication if Hannah had never intervened. Because even though I didn’t know at the time that she had shown my text to him, it changed Bryce’s intentions. He had confirmation that I did, in fact, like him. That I had been flirting with him. It gave him the final push he needed to make his first move — he invited me over to watch Futurama. After a few episodes we switched to Stranger Things (because I had said that I was too afraid to watch it by myself and he kindly offered to watch it with me and protect me from the scary bits). This, of course, led to some low-key cuddling which led to another planned date to finish the show later that week, and this time some unashamed high-key cuddling.

Then, on February 13th, 2017 I asked him if he would like to join me at the library where I was writing a paper. To my surprise, he said yes! It was already pretty late and Bryce didn’t tend to prefer the library as a study space, but he said he had a test to study for and could use somewhere quiet to work on it. Unbeknownst to me, at the time of my invitation, he was furiously drawing a Stranger Things themed Valentine’s Day card to give me. On the front was a drawing of Eleven holding a box of Eggo waffles along with the pun, “Leggo out?” written above it. Inside the card were several more ST-themed puns asking me to be his girlfriend. He brought it with him to the library and as the clock struck midnight he slid it across the table and whispered, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

Naturally, finally, inevitably, I said yes! Or rather, I nodded yes to being his girlfriend. I had, unfortunately, not known I was going to be asked out that night and had set up to study on the “no talking” floor in the library (my favorite place to get work done). So, having lots of things to say to one another in a space where we weren’t allowed to talk (and me still having a paper due in 6 hours), we continued to work in silence. However, I could barely stop smiling and I can say with confidence that that was probably the worst paper I have ever turned in.

As it got late, Bryce finally stood up to go. It had been my intention to stay later than him to finish, so I figured I would walk out to the car with him so I could finally say something and kiss him goodnight. Much to my surprise, he hugged me goodbye and before I could think to say anything, he walked away. I stood there torn for almost 30 seconds before frantically texting him not to leave yet because he had forgotten something and then raced down the stairs after him. I caught him in the lobby and (before I could have time to think through how much I hate PDA) I reached up and planted a big, breathless kiss on his mouth right there in front of God and the library staff and every procrastinating student on the first floor. “There” I said, “You forgot to kiss me.”

And from there, things were always pretty simple. Our relationship style has always been quirky and a little out of sync, but I have learned to love us that way.

The first time we said “I love you” I sat in silence for a long time trying to build up the courage to get the words out. Finally, feeling like I would burst, I managed to force out the question, “Guess what?” as an awkward transition from silence to professing my undying love for him. Instead of responding with your conventional “What?” my precious man didn’t miss a beat before replying “Chicken butt!” I spluttered for a minute, my brain unsure how to proceed before sheepishly saying, “Noooo… I love you.” Shocked, he hugged me fiercely and whispered in my ear, “OH! I love you too!”

Our off-beat style continued through the ups and downs of dating and almost a year after our first “I love you” we began to discuss marriage in earnest. We had talked about a lot of different timelines to get engaged, but never set something in stone. Unfortunately, I’m not a terribly patient person, so when each of the mile markers I had suggested came and went without a ring, I bought an engagement ring of my own. It was a simple wooden ring (because Bryce has such a deep love for all things rustic and wood grain) and I began to lay plans to ask him to marry me. He and I planned a picnic for the weekend after I got home from my study abroad and I figured that would be the perfect time to ask him. I’ll never forget telling my brother my plans and him cutting me off, “Wait, did you plan the picnic or did he?” he demanded.

I thought for a second, “Well, he did” I finally said.

“You stupid idiot!” he shouted, “He’s planning to propose to you that day!

“Not if I beat him to it” I said.

But as the picnic drew nearer, I decided to give Bryce the chance to ask first — it was his picnic after all. Then, if by the end of the day, he didn’t ask me, I would give him my ring instead. 

On the day of the picnic we drove up to Boone and headed for Howard’s Knob — an overlook of the mountains that also gives a stunning view of App’s campus. We set up our blanket on a nearby rock and enjoyed a delicious lunch (unsubtle plug — it was from Kindly Kitchen on King Street. It is one of my all-time favorite restaurants and everyone should go eat there). The day was gorgeous so there were a lot of people around us, also enjoying the view. Bryce kept commenting how he wished everyone would go away. Finally, they did.

“Everyone’s finally gone,” he said, “Let’s go look at the view from closer up while it’s just us.”

“Okay” I said, pretty sure I knew what was going to follow, but giddy nonetheless. We walked over to the edge and surveyed the little kingdom that had contained the entire length of our love story so far.

“Look,” he said, “You can see Coltrane from here. I can’t believe we met there four years ago. It’s so cool how we’ve come full circle becau–” he cut himself short. Just behind us a hiker had come over the ridge and was making his way down to the edge of the overlook where we were standing. Bryce let out a nervous and exasperated sigh. He turned back to me and reached into his pocket, “Before that guy gets over here” he said, pulling out the ring box, “Will you marry me?”

“YES!” I gushed as he put the most beautiful ring I have ever seen on my finger. “As it happens” I chuckled, reaching into my own pocket and producing the ring, “I have a ring for you too.”

He agreed to marry me back.

“I hope it’s okay that I didn’t kneel” he said, as we stood admiring our new bling and all the promises they held, “I wanted to ask you to marry me while I was standing beside you. You know, to ask you as my equal.”

This, of course, earned him a kiss. If I hadn’t been sure that I wanted to marry him before that statement, I was now. And I continue to be. Every day since then — good, bad, and ugly (and there have been some very ugly days) I have become more and more certain that despite our rocky start, Bryce is my perfect match. I continue to realize that I could never have asked for or even imagined a better happily ever after than the one I’m living with him. And in 144 days, I get to become his wife.

Until next time,

Adieu