Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chapter Twenty-Eight: A Crazy Little Thing Called...

As our relationship grew deeper and deeper, our feelings did as well. I knew that I liked Darin a lot. A lot, a lot. I had never been in love so I didn’t really know how to distinguish “intense like” with “love”. We had a real problem with distinguishing things! We were just two very careful people who didn’t want to rush into things and then have a change of heart.

In other words, we were smart.

Along with not kissing, we discussed “I love you”. We both knew this was not a phrase to just toss around lightly. We knew that when and if we said it, it was going to mean something more than the (often over-used) three-word phrase that it is … it was going to mean, “You are THE one for me – I know it without a doubt and I love you with every fiber of my being.” That is what “I love you” meant to us.

So we saved it.

As our sophomore year progressed and eventually ended, we were stronger than ever in our relationship. We had been through a very trying year - not nearly as easy as our first when everything was so new and fun. We had fights. We had new frustrations from being apart and several miscommunications. We even had a few arguments where he couldn't stand it and drove two and a half hours to see me (during finals week!) so that we could fix it in person. We were so tired of not seeing each other that it was taking it's toll on us. I found myself questioning if I could last two more years dating long distance. It was hard.

But there was an upside to that tough year.

We found that through each argument, we grew to understand one another better, and actually felt closer. We felt like those hard times were giant leaps for our relationships that we never would have if we had shoved our concerns or grievances under the rug. We learned how to efficiently communicate our frustrations and we patiently learned how to listen. I also found that through each argument, no matter how petty or ridiculous, he cared. He cared enough to come to me to fix it. He cared enough to forsake studying for his pre-med tests to talk it out on the phone. He cared for me, and I knew it.

We were both beyond happy to see our sophomore year finally end. We had a whole new summer ahead of us to grow and take a few more steps forward. We felt that with each break, whether it be Christmas or a summer break, we would get ahead and become more connected as a couple. We thrived on those breaks. Those breaks are what made our relationship.

That summer was just as fabulous as our first summer as a couple. We were more mature and more real with each other. We had an awesome sense of communication, since we had been in a long distance relationship for two years. We were forced to talk, discuss and communicate. We had plans every night together, and Darin fell into the same routine as the summer before – visiting me at work with his grass stained clothes, washing up, eating dinner and heading to my house for the evening. We started a new Bible study together, laughed harder than ever and savored every moment.

As we watched “Growing Pains” and “Mad About You” each night, he either held my hand or played with my hair. I caught him staring at me more times than I can even remember and after I asked “what?”, he would reply “nothing….you’re just pretty”. I knew what he was thinking though. We both knew what he was thinking. He also began squeezing my hand – three times in a row. I always smiled at him when he did that and he knew that I knew.
We spent a few weeks apart that summer, as I was a counselor at a camp and also took a family vacation. I hated to leave him at the only time during the year where we actually had a chance to BE together, but these things were important to me, and as we had decided early on, we were definitely going to have lives outside of each other.

When there were a only a few short weeks of summer left, Darin planned a special date for us. We went to Fayetteville, Arkansas to see our favorite singer perform. We ate at Noodles, a nice little Italian place before and he seemed to act a little strange. I didn’t know what was going on with him, but it kind of made me feel uneasy. I didn’t like seeing Darin act nervous. It made me act nervous. We finished our meal, headed to the concert and enjoyed ourselves greatly. I actually forgot about how he had been acting at dinner.

After opening the door for me and helping me in the car, he reached under his seat. He handed me a small square wrapped gift and it was a pre-released CD of the singer we had just seen that he had pre-ordered. It was very sweet and I immediately shoved it in the CD player and we listened to our favorite track “Popper or Prince”. The lyrics sang, “I would rather be a popper than a prince, living without you – without you.” As we listened and sang along, he squeezed my leg three times. I smiled and stared out the window.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

He replied, “You’ll see”.

It was pitch black outside and I didn’t know the area so I wasn’t at all sure where we were going. He wove in and out of back roads and obscure areas and finally stopped the car.

“Follow me,” he said.

I hesitated for a moment because I couldn’t see anything. He grabbed a blanket out of the back of the truck and led me up a small hill. Once we were over the hill, I realized we were at a lake. It was beautiful. The moon shone on the water as the sweet wind blew gently across our faces. It was a gorgeous evening and the stars were unusually bright and clear.

I sat on the blanket he spread out for us and he said he would be right back. He ran to the truck and grabbed a piece of paper and a flashlight. He came back and said, “read this”.

“So. This is why he was acting so nervous. What on earth is it?” I thought to myself. I began to read the sweetest words to ever grace paper. I started tearing up as I read the sincere words he wrote about how he felt about me. It was an entire page long and he was reading along with me – or where he thought I would be on the page. As I got to the end, it read, “and that is why I want to say…..”

Then it ended.

I looked at him and his eyes were still on the paper. He didn’t know I was finished reading.

“Wh….what do you want to say?”, I asked.

“That I love you. I love you so much, Whitney Brown.”

Tears streamed down my face and I whispered, “I love you, too.”

We hugged for what felt an eternity and sat in silence as we looked at the stars. He brushed the hair out of my face and whispered again in my ear, “I love you….”