On Love in Life

This week, my husband and I will celebrate five years of marriage. To some, that might not seem like much. But to us, it’s everything.

Like many stories, this one starts on a Friday night, in a local billiards bar called Luke’s. It had quickly become a favorite of mine and an old friend Leah’s, and I was a semi-regular there, spending many weekends off from University there with friends from home. The bar has since closed down, since the owner apparently had an affinity for expensive things and a disinterest in bill-paying, but for me, I still see it as it was in its glory days, buzzing with people and full of life.

Leah and I had grown up together, so to speak, and had attended junior high not far from there. Until adulthood, we never quite jived like my closer friends, and like most middle school friendships, we drifted apart once we attended different high schools. By chance, we had a few run-ins with each other at Luke’s, her playing pool with her dad and I, well, nursing a bad habit of Fireball and Crown and Cranberry.

She had sent me a text earlier in the night just as I had pulled on pajamas and curled on my parents’ couch with my Australian Shepherd, Tucker, all set to catch up on Ghost Hunters before sleep. Then, my phone lit up. After a few messages of back-and-forth, she convinced me to go out. “Just a couple drinks and a game or two, and you can go back to whatever you were doing before,” she said. Sure. I told her I’d be there in a few and drug myself off the couch and got ready. I remember fussing with my hair, and wound up straightening it because it wasn’t behaving, and a short while later, I was out the door.

Luke’s was fun, and we played a couple games before taking a break on the patio for Leah to have a Pall Mall. The patio was crowded, and I sighed. We talked about school, relationships, our plans for after school, and whatever else came to mind. She was dating someone new, and excited about it. I listened, trying to tune in, but vaguely remembered the several guys I had stringing along in Huntsville. I hadn’t ever really recovered from a horrendous break-up with my high school sweetheart, and was in the midst of a multitude of commitment issues.

Leah raised her eyebrows at me and indirectly gestured at a group of guys sitting at a table by the doors to the bar.

“What?” I asked.

Leah smirked. “Think you’ve got an admirer,” she said, before taking a final drag on her cigarette before snubbing it out. She nodded at the guys again and said, “If I’m right, that guy over there has been staring at you since we sat down.”

I glanced in the direction of the group, who seemed to be having an animated discussion, and shook my head. “Nah, they’re talking about something else. Definitely not me. Probably you.”

Leah raised an eyebrow. “Not my type.”

I laughed. She wasn’t into guys. Hadn’t been since we were kids.

She steeped her fingers and leaned forward conspiratorially. “Bet he watches you go inside to go to the restroom.”

I shook my head. “Don’t need to go. But I’ll get the next round.”

Satisfied, she sat back in her chair. “I’ll keep an eye on him. Winner buys shots.”

I gave her the thumbs up and stalked back inside and ordered more drinks. A few minutes later I set them down at the table and glanced at her. She grinned.

I rolled my eyes. “What now, Hitch?”

“Oh he was definitely staring. Turned and watched you when you walked by both times.”

At that, her face paled and eyes widened. “Speak of the devil,” she said before taking a sip of her drink.

The guys had come to our table. The first had deep green eyes and brown hair, and was smiling. The others were typical looking frat boys, both grinning from ear to ear. Before I could say anything, my green-eyed guy spoke.

“Hey. I’m David. Betcha I could whoop your ass at pool.”

I laughed. He grinned. I didn’t know then, but my life took a turn at that moment.

He asked me for my number, but I didn’t give it to him then, on account of the poor idiots I was seeing at school, but he assured me that night that he would marry me. I laughed again. Told him he was nuts.

Boy, was I wrong.

Well, not about him being nuts. That much is true. But I was wrong to laugh. I should have believed him. But I didn’t. I told him he would have to wait for his shot and he did. For two, almost three years.

Then, I went through yet another breakup. For the upteenth time, he sent me a message. We bantered for a few minutes before he told me he was taking me out and that he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I remember telling him that if he wound up being like my brand new ex, I would kick his ass. He told me he would pick me up at seven.

So out we went. Before going to his favorite Mexican restaurant in town, he told me he was taking me someplace special.

Let me back up for a minute to explain the significance of the place he took me. As a kid, my parents loved to take us places that my sisters and I could…well…run wild in. There used to be a massive duck park in the middle of Houston (since bulldozed for high-rise condos, go figure) that had a glorious architectural structure that local Houstonians know as the Water Wall. As a kid, I would stand in the center of the semi-circle in the midst of the magnificent fountain and watch the spray create a mist over my skin. We even have a Christmas picture in front of it. As a kid, I have many, many fond memories of that place.

That evening, David took me there to show it to me. I told him excitedly that I knew it already, and he took me to the plaque on the wall with the builder’s information on it. Turns out, his Grandfather helped bring the plan to fruition. It was a huge part of his life, too. I knew then, that this was the start of something big. Through conversation on the date, we found that our lives were delicately intertwined long before we even knew it. He was at junior high with me, though he was a year ahead, and knew my older sister. We had plenty of the same friends, and had grown up just down the street from one another. Our whole lives up until that point had been a complex chess game of just missing each other, until we didn’t.

Our romance took off like a rocket. It scared me to death to be honest, and I almost left (like I always did, about three weeks in) but chose to stick it around. I know now that even if I had left, the gravitational pull of me to him would have been too strong for me to have stayed gone for long. I realized that I was in love with him at Halloween at a party in Huntsville when I turned to tell him something and he wasn’t there.

Not long after we became official, we hit a crossroads. I had recently (finally) finished my last course in school, and received an offer from a tiny town in East Texas for a teaching opportunity. During the recession, I knew I had to jump on it, so I did. It looked like things would stop there.

But then, on a visit to the tiny town, I called David in a panic about finding a house and the speed at which things were moving. I wasn’t confident in myself or my ability to lead an entire agriculture department, let alone move to an entirely new area hours from home, by myself. He calmed me down, then told me he would call me back. After about thirty minutes, he called back.

“Found us a house,” he said.

“But-your job, and what…WHAT?!” I spluttered.

“I quit,” he said, matter of fact, like he was commenting on the weather. “Not going to lose you again.”

And that was that.

Our first home was what built us. The job turned out to be a spectacular failure, but that’s a story for another time. What I lost professionally was retuned to me a hundred times over in our life together. The love we had for one another grew stronger in that little White House on the hill.

We got our third dog together, Shiner, a tiny blue Heeler that was from one of my students’ bosses ranches, because the puppies were rejected by their mother. We took a wonderful trip to Austin and spent the weekend with friends at Sixth street and went on a grand adventure in search of a golden ticket (actually, it was chocolate-covered bacon, but again, another story for another time). We laughed. We fought. We worked hard. But most of all, we loved, and we loved hard.

Following the spectacular failure in East Texas, we moved into my parents’ house back home. It was tough on us, but the trials made us stronger, and I was, and still am, grateful to my parents for the strong foundation they helped us build together. Life went on. We got jobs and worked hard. Had some more failures.

Then, we decided to go to Moody Gardens in Galveston with David’s family for Christmas lights and ice skating. We spent the day there, enjoying the animals and the sights, and I remember smiling at him in the driveway when we finally got home late that evening.

David seemed nervous. “I think I’m going to go ahead and give you your present tonight.”

I shrugged. “Okay, if you want to. I’m going to go release the hounds.”

“Alright. I’ll be in in a sec.”

“Ooookay.”

I got out of the car and went in the house. Mom and Dad weren’t home, probably still out with their best friends, Chuck and Melissa. I went into David’s and my room and let the dogs out of their kennels, doing the “hi hello pups” dance with them and greeting them from the day, giving them all the pets and scritches. David came in behind me, but didn’t say anything, so I kept on with the dogs and their excited antics.

I heard him say, “Anna,” but didn’t realize what was happening, so I didn’t turn to look. He said my name again a second time, louder and more stern, to get my attention, and I was caught completely off guard.

David was standing in our bedroom door, holding out an opened box in his hand. A beautiful aquamarine stone glinted on a stunning engagement ring.

My jaw dropped.

He was quiet for a second, then swallowed before he nervously said one word.

“Please?”

I jumped on him. I told him yes, and that moment was one of the happiest of my life. The dogs were happy to be in on the surprise and we were engaged.

Eighteen months later, I stood upstairs in the hall of our venue, arms linked with my dad. I remember him winking at me before asking if I was ready. I cried tears of joy as we walked down the aisle to my guy, my person, my partner for life. During our vows, we laughed and he wiped tears from my eyes. Our wedding was gloriously fun, and a fantastic party. We look at each other now and usually make the comment that ours was still the most fun wedding we’ve ever been to.

We’ve had our share of tough times and moments of darkness, but these only make the great times sweeter. David has become my best friend and has never failed to make me laugh, show me love, or let me get too cold as he’s always impossibly warm. He knows more about me than any person in the world and has healed wounds I never thought would fade. He’s my protector, my ally, and my partner in crime. We’ve faced the odds together and hit rock bottom. We’ve laughed, cried, fought like hell, and struggled. We’ve crashed parties, caused trouble, and had so many adventures with each other. The road hasn’t been easy, but I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else by my side.

This week, we will be married for five years. And I’m looking forward to many, many more.

He didn’t whoop my ass at pool that night so many years ago, but for a lifetime, he’s won my heart. And that’s alright with me.

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