A Love Story

May 28, 2012
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“We’re almost there, it’s just a little further,” Luke said as he looked out the windshield at the name of the street we were passing.

“Will you just tell me where we’re going, already!” I joked. He smiled at me but didn’t say anything, instead just turning to look where he was driving again.

Luke had told me as we were falling asleep last night that he wanted to take me somewhere special today, but he refused to say where. So there I sat in the passenger seat of his 10-year-old Volkswagen, with no idea as to where we were headed or what he had planned. I couldn’t say being unaware was anything new, however, since the past three years of our relationship were dictated by his outrageous romantic spontaneity.

Our first date was casual and normal, since we had just been introduced only a few days before at a mutual friend’s dinner party. We chatted for hours that night, and I’d be willing to bet that our common friend, Juliet, invited us both, knowing we would hit it off. Luke was the complete opposite of the guy I had dated before; he was kind, smart, and had the best sense of humor. Naturally, he said he’d like to see me again. I didn’t even hesitate.

We met at a local coffee shop the following afternoon. It had the perfect view of the beach right across the road, so we sat outside in the warm spring air. Luke had insisted on paying for both our coffees, so I reluctantly let him, adding that next time I’m paying. He asked me what I like to do in my spare time, so I told him that I really liked cooking and volleyball. I told him about how I went to a small university in southern California and graduated with a bachelor’s in architecture, and how I’ve been here in Santa Cruz ever since. When I asked him what his story was, he laughed.

“You really want to hear it?” he asked.
I told him I did. He smiled and started off with a very drawn-out, “Welllll,”
He told me about how he had played football in his small high school near Seattle, but that he got an awful concussion in his senior year and how all the universities that had wanted him previously were now astounded by his replacement. He said he gave up football then, and instead went on to play soccer in college. He told me how he went abroad to France in his sophomore year, since his soccer team didn’t think he was very good, and how the only other language he could speak when he left was three years’ worth of high school Italian. He told me how he graduated with a bachelor’s in economics and a lifetime of debt, both of which he had no idea what to do with. Upon graduating, he and his friends sold everything and road-tripped as far south as they could, finally landing here. He said that he was desperate for a job, and picked up the first that came along, which happened to be working for a global organization that cleans the ocean and beaches, simply because he wandered by when they were at the beach trying to hire surfers.
“Do you always tell this whole story?” I asked jokingly after he’d finished. He told me that no, it just seemed like I would be interested in the whole story.
As dusk fell, and seeing as we were the last people at the coffee shop that the baristas were trying to close up, we said goodbye to each other, promising to meet again. He called me a few days later, asking if I was busy that weekend. When I asked what he had planned, he began the tradition of surprise dates.
He brought me to a local carnival, where we rode the roller coasters and rides until we both felt sick. When Luke said he knew the best cure for our stomachs, I was relieved. That is, until, he returned with a funnel cake topped with chocolate chips and strawberry sauce. We dared each other to take bites, waiting for the other to give up, but surprisingly, we both held our stomachs.
We dated like this for a while, until on one date Luke held my hand as we walked. I noticed some people giving us looks, a few seemed to look away as we passed, but after five minutes I hardly noticed. I didn’t care what others thought, because I was happy with the best person I’d ever dated.
We spent most of the summer hanging out together and with our friends, going to the beach, playing volleyball in the sand, and having barbecue parties. We became closer and closer, and everyone told us we were made for each other; that we were perfect together.
Toward the end of the summer, Juliet and her now-husband, Dan, held their engagement party at a very elegant outdoor restaurant, and naturally Luke and I went as a couple. When I saw Juliet and her new engagement ring, it was the first time I actually thought about being married to Luke. To what it would mean, and to how our families would react. I keep in touch with my parents, but not as much as Luke does. They call him every week, always joking about me taking Luke away from them and nagging him about when they get to meet me. It was a great party and we had a lot of fun, but I left with the unanswerable questions about where Luke and I would go with our relationship.
Those questions were more or less banished soon after when Luke announced that his job was sending him out to the Caribbean for three months to do work down there. Everything was being paid for, and he had convinced them that I could come along if we paid for my own flight tickets. We asked Juliet and Dan to take care of our pet Goldfish, Theodore, who we swapped back and forth between our apartments, and began to pack up. We left the following Sunday, and I knew that this trip would determine where Luke and I would go in our future together.
While Luke did have real work to do, it wasn’t too much, which left plenty of time for us to do stuff together. While he worked, I either relaxed or went out into town for a few hours, and then we would meet up to do something fun. We mostly did a lot of snorkeling and scuba diving, since snorkeling was easy and Luke had been given a scuba suit for his work assignments, so we rented one for me and he taught me to use it. We also went horseback riding, rode on zip lines, hiked, kayaked, swam with dolphins, saw sharks, went whale watching, and took some sailing lessons. On our flight there we made a list of 100 things we wanted to do during our three-month stay. On our flight home, we counted up 84 things that we had done. We promised to make up the 12 eventually.
We settled back in California a month before our one-year anniversary, but it wasn’t the best time. Our three-month stay had taken most of my money, and even with Luke helping to support me financially, I know I needed to get a good job. Whereas I had been a bartender before, I decided to undergo my search for an occupation that would work with my degree in architecture. I somehow managed to get a job with a construction company, helping to assist the designers and project managers. It wasn’t what I was hoping for, but it was something stable, and soon I saw the numbers in my bank account rising again.
This was the time where Luke and I started only seeing each other once or twice a week, often rescheduling or cancelling plans because of work or time. As summer rolled around again, we tried to spend more time together, but just as things started to work out, Luke was told he was being sent away again, this time to Maine. I wanted to join him, but I was helping out an important project at my job and couldn’t go away again.
We spent the next three months emailing, calling, and even sending letters through the mail to talk to each other. Before he left, we both agreed that we would try our best at a long-distance relationship, and that we would get through it. I still hung out with our friends during my free time, but those three months couldn’t have gone faster. He returned in October, telling me that Maine was nothing like California. I laughed and hugged him, smiling at the fact I was able to do so.
Soon Thanksgiving came, and Luke’s parents invited us to their house in Washington. I was nervous about meeting his family, but Luke said that since his parents already seemed to love me, the rest would, too. We arrived a few days before Thanksgiving, and, after making dozens of introductions to aunts, uncles, and cousins, I knew that Luke was right about his family accepting me. His parents were ecstatic about finally meeting me, and his mom was over the moon when I told her I was a decent cook and could help out. When it was finally time to leave, I realized that I wanted to stay as much as Luke did. I told him that we would come back very soon, now that I know how great his family is.
We went back for Christmas and New Year’s, and one of Luke’s cousins happened to have just gotten engaged before we got there. For the first time since Juliet’s party, I felt the questions of marriage swell up inside me. I also noticed all of the relatives who were nice to me before glancing at me curiously whenever the cousin talked about wedding plans. It was a good trip, as always, but the uncertainties stayed with me for a long time afterward.
On the eve of our two-year anniversary, Luke and I decided to move in together. We acted as if we were already married for most of the time, doing taxes and eating at home together, and we even adopted a dog from a shelter. All of our friends jokingly referred to the puppy, whom we named Everest, as our child. I was slowly moving up in my job and Luke was securing a good-paying level and the local branch of his, a choice we made so that he would be less likely to travel. For once in our time together, I saw us having a solid future together.

Finally Luke pulled into a parking spot right on the beach.
“Leave your shoes here,” he told me, pulling off his sneakers.
I took off my shoes and he took my hand as we stepped out onto the boardwalk. We simply strolled along for a while, until I noticed an especially unhappy-looking old man sitting on a bench. As we walked by, he muttered, “Kids these days. That’s downright sick.”
Luke turned sharply, dropping my hand. “I see no ring on your finger, sir. I suppose you haven’t ever been in love.”
The old man looked startled for a moment. “You’re just two freaks whose parents obviously didn’t know what they were doing when they raised you!”
Luke was quiet for a moment. Then, very softly, he said, “My parents taught me to love, it doesn’t matter who it is. It’s only your kind that don’t want us showing that love.”
The man opened his mouth to argue, but then closed it and simply looked from me to Luke and back again. Then he turned the other way, but I saw a softer look upon his face. Luke and I continued only a few steps on the boardwalk before he stopped again.
“Well, I don’t see a better time than this,” he smiled before dropping to one knee. He pulled out a small jewelry box.
“Joshua Scott, will you marry me?” he asked.
I smiled and was about to say yes when I looked over and saw all of our friends watching from the beach.
“Don’t look at me, Josh, just say yes!” Juliet laughed as I stared at them all.
I nodded, took the ring, and slipped it on my finger, feeling that, as I did so, all my uncertainties, questions, and nerves about my future with Luke disappeared.

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