(Author’s note: I want to share an unpublished story I originally wrote for the final section in my new book The Heart of Marriage. When another author became available for this section at the last minute I removed this to make room for it.)
I didn’t mean to fall for you that May.
A few short months from leaving for an Ivy League school 1800 miles from my Arkansas home, falling in love was the last thing I wanted. I intended to set the world on fire and honestly, you didn’t fit into my plans. Maybe deciding when to fall in love is like deciding when to have a baby: there’s never a good time.
Two of my girlfriends and I knocked on your parents’ door that Friday night. We went to rival high schools, but your brother Allan was one of my best friends. (We lost him too soon.) He wasn’t home, but you received your high school yearbook that day and were eager to show it off. I sat on the couch with you and your parents and flipped pages for at least 45 minutes while Jackie and Danielle looked at their watches and wondered why we didn’t leave. Maybe I wondered too. Now I don’t.
Allan and I set up blind date for prom between one of his best friends and one of mine. When he and his friend returned home from freshman year of college, we planned opportunities for the prom couple to get to know each other in advance. You and I still needed to study—it was the final month of our junior and senior years of high school (I fell for a younger man!)—and we often sat at your dining room table with our books while the others laughed and talked in another room. Somewhere along the way our need to study transitioned into a need to get to know each other better.
Before we met, your brother Allan and I used to talk about setting you up with my sister. It sounded like a good idea at the time, matchmaking a younger brother with a younger sister. Until the day when it didn’t sound like such a good idea anymore. One day I told my girlfriends, “Allan says his brother has a crush on me.” We’d spent a lot of time studying together in your dining room and clearly your brother thought you were smitten.
“Who’s got a crush on who?” they laughed, comprehending the state of my heart before I did.
I learned the meaning of lovesick when I left for New Hampshire in late summer. We agreed to date other people—and we both tried—but it was no good. We were too far gone. I thought my future was tied up in a neat little bow; you tugged it loose and tethered my heart to yours with the slack of the string.
After spending Christmas break at home it was hard to return to school, and so I withdrew from college and came back to you again in January. My parents must have wondered what happened to their focused, goal-oriented daughter. Maybe I did too. Or maybe my focus realigned.
You asked me to marry you in March and we returned to New Hampshire again in August. We married on a cool October day in the school chapel on a Friday morning when classes were cancelled so students could travel to Cambridge for the Dartmouth Harvard football game. I remember how our photographer paused, waiting to capture a more serious look on my face, but I couldn’t wipe away the smile. We drove away in your little blue Celica, which just became ours, Just Married painted on the back window and cans dangling from the bumper.