Once upon a time, 18 years ago today to be exact, I recieved a lovely Valentine from the man who would become my husband. It read "Roses are red, violets are blue, I can't be happy without you!" There is a small blue butterfly and some flowers on it, and the words are encased in a delicate heart. It wasn't your typical valentine for a 12 year old in grade seven and I've kept it in my keepsake box ever since.
Ryan asked me out that day, and I accepted, but later on in the same day recanted; I panicked. I didn't know what having a boyfriend meant or what to do, so I broke it off. A month later, on St. Patrick's Day, he asked me out again, and this time we dated for six months, an unheard of amount of time at the time. We would go for walks in the woods and watch movies and hang out with other friends, but mostly I just remember him; how much shorter than me he was, his enormous smile, how he made me feel. That summer I went away to Southern Ontario for a few weeks with an older friend and hearing about her relationship difficulties I decided to break it off with Ryan. I didn't know until later, hearing it from his brother, how heartbroken Ryan was about it. When I saw him at school the next week I thought we could still be friends but things were awkward and while we were still friends throughout that year and into highschool we weren't close.
I dated other people, and so did he, but we were always aware of each other, always had a few friends in common. When I started playing D&D we started seeing each other on a regular basis again and we had a LOT of fun. We got each other through some troubled friendships and when he and his fiance broke up, I was the one who went walking with him one Winter's eve and let the cold and the movement do what words couldn't do, and often still can't for him. In the meantime, by the last year of highschool I had been dating the same jerk for three years and alternated between being SO OVER IT and thinking he was the guy I was going to marry. He'd cheated on me but I stuck by him (I still don't know why, really, except maybe I thought he was the best I'd ever get) and we didn't really have anything in common, but we'd been together for 3 years so we had to be doing *something* right, right?
In the last semester of my last year of highschool I had mornings off and usually took the city bus to a stop near the school and walked from there. Some mornings Ryan would be walking by at roughly the same time (his parents lived about a quarter mile or so up the road from mine, and he had mornings off too) and I'd say hi as I waited for the bus. Sometimes I'd have extra bus fare and he'd take the bus with me, but eventually we started walking every day we could together. We'd talk about school or weird dreams we'd had, what we were going to do after highschool, I'd complain about my boyfriend, then finally it was time to graduate.
Those walks, and other ones in the Winter and Spring, were when I fell in love with Ryan for real. The puppy love of our childhood was nothing compared to the happiness, contentment and peace I felt, and still feel, when we're together. The tricky part was I had no idea if Ryan felt the same way. For years we'd been friends but I honestly had no clue if there was anything else. I'd tried to tease out some extra information, left him plenty of opportunities to say something, anything!, but he never did. So, I broke up with my long-time jerkface boyfriend, gave myself a couple of days to calm down, and wrote Ryan a letter. It might still be around somewhere, like the Valentine. After reading it he didn't say anything, just put his arm around my shoulders, and smiled at me.