By the time we actually got around to dating (which was also against the rules for missionaries) we’d finished our respective missions and ended our respective relationships. We were instant best friends, finishing each other’s sentences, laughing out loud, sharing intimate hopes and dreams, values and struggles. --And that was only the FIRST date.
On our second date he told me I looked beautiful. I took it as a huge sign. I can still remember grinning my guts out as I went to get my coat.
But a week or so later he got a letter.
USC wanted him. Film school beckoned. And so he left, with hardly a word, and no forwarding address.
I was finishing my art degree, and I already had a dream job (and a new sports car) practically dropped into my lap a year before graduation. Life was looking good, but not looking like an intersection.
Then I got a phone call, and decided to fly down and visit some friends in Los Angeles. I bought my first plane ticket, rented my first car. Was feeling so very chic and independent.
On a whim, I called his mom. A very scary prospect. But I really wanted to see him. And she was entirely encouraging: “I know he’d just LOVE to hear from you, dear!” She gave me every possible contact method available. I was fully equipped.
As soon as I landed in L.A. I called him. This was not phone-phobic me. This was some other confident, assertive young woman I barely know. Thank heaven she took over just then.
Here’s the line from him I remember like it was yesterday (that he still vehemently denies): “You’re in L.A..?! Well, what are you doing today and tomorrow and the next day?” He had me right then and there. We returned my rental car and ended up spending the rest of the weekend together, laughing hysterically, and breaking every possible mission rule...but no commandments. :) Those three days could easily be an entire post all by themselves!
(Fast-forward to next trip)
Another phone call. Three months later. Different friends. We’d seen each other a few times, on each other’s turf. I didn’t even bother renting a car. We already knew we’d be spending most of our time together. He picked me up at the airport and drove straight to the ocean. My heart skipped a beat as the water came into view. We walked barefoot in the sand accompanied by crashing waves until long after the sun had set.
We decided to spend Easter (after dinner) at the cemetery. This is not nearly as warped and macabre as it sounds. Forest Lawn is more like a museum, with miles of beautiful grounds. They have an enormous Last Supper stained glass window in an old stone church at the top of a hill. So we planned on taking a romantic stroll through the grounds, looking at lovely Easter-themed art. Not trick-or-treating.
But somehow we lost track of time. (Who? US?) All of a sudden we noticed it was getting dark. And then the sprinklers came on. There we were, holding hands, running down the hills, slipping and sliding on the wet lawns in not-very-functional dress shoes, laughing ourselves silly, and making our way to the big, iron gates.
Only it turns out they were locked.
It must have been a LOT later than we thought. The whole cemetery was closed. And we hadn’t even noticed. We’d been oblivious to everything but each other. We tried to remember if there was another entrance. There must be. We started heading back up the hill, across more sprinkler-wet lawns, like we were dodging land mines. Still no luck. We were beginning to think we’d have to spend the night in the cemetery together. Which suddenly didn’t sound half bad! :)
Then a guardian angel disguised as a grounds-keeper spotted us and drove us in his truck to a lesser-known side entrance. He got out his key and swung open the big, creaky gates. And we were free.
Jeff took me back to the friends’ house where I was staying. I didn’t want him to leave. We stood there by the door for the longest time. And suddenly the two people who never run out of deep things to talk about started stammering, barely rating above jibberish on a scale of eloquence.
We were standing there dripping wet, and I couldn’t care less if my hair was wet and frizzy or my dress was rumpled or my shoes sloshed or my make-up was smeared -- or even if I had any make-up left at all. The only thing I was aware of was this amazing connection between us. This magnetic force pulling us closer, closer.
We shifted weight. We hemmed and hawed. We changed the subject too many times. We looked into each other’s eyes, then awkwardly looked away. He asked me another inane question. And then he puckered up, and I melted. It was just a little kiss, really. But loaded with emotion. With all the comical adventures of the day. With the waves crashing on the beach. With all the goals and dreams we shared. With so much hope for the future. With all the build-up that comes from months and months of waiting. I melted. And he looked back at me and cocked his eyebrows and smiled. With that same smile he gives me even now—that smile he gives me when he knows he's just made my day, in a way no one else possibly could!
When he left, I wanted to throw my arms into the air and shout, like Liesl in The Sound of Music. But my friends were asleep in the next room. So I just crawled into bed with a smile I couldn’t wipe off my face, and relived the kiss a thousand or so times in my head until I finally fell asleep...still smiling.
(To Be Continued....)