Nine years ago this morning, while getting ready for the day at my new friend Laura's house, I didn't know that stepping out of the bathroom would alter my life forever. I was 20 years old.
Through a strange series of events I had met this guy who lived close to Springfield, Missouri. I met him at the Liberty Jail in Liberty, Missouri. No, I wasn't incarcerated, the Liberty Jail is a historical site for my church. I met him because he was with a guy I met at a dance the week before, who was his roommate. That roommate had been in the same mission as a close friend of mine...is your head spinning yet?
Anyway, I was there at the jail for a commemoration of one of the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. A new display painting by Liz Lemon Swindle was about to be unveiled. I was busy getting on with my life, doing the right things and forgetting about dating. I had dated someone seriously for a couple of months late in the summer before, was briefly engaged, and I wanted to wait longer before taking that step. He didn't. We broke up. It was pretty hard on me, and I didn't want anything to do with dating anyone for a long, long time.
Enter...let's call him Larry. He asked me out, and for some reason I said yes. He came up the next weekend, about a 3 1/2 hour drive, to take me out. He stayed at my parents house downstairs overnight. This was a first. I really didn't know what to think. I wasn't comfortable with dating, but felt like I should see him.
Two weekends later, I was supposed to go down and see him. I really didn't want to go, I felt like I was getting sick, a cold. I was tired from my job as a home health aide, running errands and helping people bathe, cleaning houses, preparing meals. My mother encouraged me to go, she felt that I needed to. She even said that maybe something else would happen when I was there, but she felt that I should go. I had already talked with a girl named Laura about staying with her, as that's where Larry and his roommate were living. His roommate was Laura's husband's brother, and they were all living in the basement of the two brothers' mom's house that they were finishing building. Larry, roommate, roommate's brother, roommate's brother's wife and 1 year old baby. Got that? Didn't think so.
Anyway, Larry and I talked a bit on a pay phone when I stopped driving for a break, and both of us didn't know which way this was going, so I was a bit more relaxed. He sounded like he wanted to make sure that I knew this was more of a "let's see what happens" kind of weekend, not to expect anything. So, relieved, I expected to go and hang out mostly as friends. Larry was already committed to going to an overnight campout with some of the guys, and he didn't want to stay overnight since I was there, for appearance sake. So when I got there, he was already camping as it was later in the evening.
Laura was wonderful and kind, and we took to each other instantly. I was alarmed when I saw the kitchen table, however. There were three red roses there for me from Larry. I wasn't happy at that, because new friends who don't know where the friendship is going don't give red roses. We had barely held hands for a few minutes on our date when he was up in my town, and I told him I was uncomfortable with even that.
With that in the back of my mind, I proceeded to enjoy the evening. Laura's father came over, and I was impressed on how quickly he could fall asleep on the floor, asking her to wake him up after 10 minutes. I also met her mother and little sister, and thought they were nice. We talked about the next day a bit, as Laura, her baby, her 15 and 13 year old brothers, mom and sister, Larry, and I were all going to Silver Dollar City in Branson for the day. After everyone left, Laura and I talked as girls do about dating and such. I told her that I didn't know what was going to happen with Larry. She said, "If things don't work out with Larry, I should introduce you to my brother." When someone says things like that, you (at least I) would brush it off. For some reason, that thought tingled in the back of my mind.
It was late when I went to bed, and I slept a little late as a result. When I woke up, after breakfast I went into the bathroom to take a shower. Of course, getting completely ready down to makeup and all took a little time, and I heard voices from the living room as I was finishing up. When I was done, I took a deep breath, walked out of the bathroom, down the hall and around to the living room. It was full of guys. At least it seemed that way.
There were a couple I didn't know, but one of them I did! It was a guy I knew from my singles ward up in Kansas City. "What are you doing here?!" I exclaimed. "What are you doing here?!" he responded. Turns out he was going to school down there, along with his two roommates who also were there. One was a blond, big guy; and one was this broad-shouldered, tall, dark-haired guy that I immediately noticed. And of course, there was Larry.
There was some joshing about me being down there as "Larry's girl" or something like that. I think Larry was taking a shower at that time, thank goodness. Remembering the roses, I retorted "I don't belong to anybody". For some reason I ended up doing the chacha with the guy I knew from singles (probably because I used to teach guys to dance), and I was keenly aware of the dark-haired guy watching me. It annoyed me how drawn to him that I was. I learned that his name was James.
I remember asking Laura in passing if that was the brother she was talking about. She said "Yes." I was surprised and pleased. Yet I was still annoyed at myself.
The rest of us who were going to Silver Dollar City left. James was going to do a service project with the other guys that morning, but like today's rainy weather, it got rained out. He stayed to install a sound card on Laura's computer.
Silver Dollar City was fun...kind of. Thankfully the rain went away, and it was a beautiful day. I wanted to pay for myself, but Larry wouldn't hear of it. I kept dodging him holding my hand the whole time, and I grew more and more uncomfortable from that. I really wanted to pay for myself so that he wouldn't have any reason to feel entitled to anything from me. I did have lots of fun with James' 15 and 13 year old brothers. They sensed what was going on and didn't give Larry a chance to be at my side for long, or for him to be alone with me. I should have felt badly that Larry was irritated, but by that point I decided that I didn't care. I didn't want to play games where we say one thing but do another. We were staying friends until we decided we wanted more. I was pretty sure that I didn't want more.
I was really disgusted with myself though. During the course of the day I kept thinking, "James would like this" or "I'd bet James would like that". I kept wishing he was there instead of Larry. Then I'd catch myself and think, "You're being an idiot. You don't even know the guy. How do you know what he'd like? You're here with someone and thinking about someone else who you probably wouldn't even like if you get to know him more." Thinking those thoughts didn't stop them from coming, however. I felt like I was going crazy.
After a long day out, we headed for home. I caught myself wishing that James would be there when we got back, but I knew he wouldn't be. We had left late in the morning, and wouldn't get back until 8:30. I knew that James wouldn't be hanging around an empty house all afternoon and evening.
As we turned the bend in the long driveway, I was still hoping to see his car in the driveway, and still mad at myself for wanting to see it. When I saw that a car was there and heard Laura say, "James is still here!" I couldn't believe it. The house was dark.
Laura opened the door to find James waking up from having fallen asleep on the floor hours earlier. After he had installed the sound card, he suddenly got so tired that he couldn't keep his eyes open. He knew Laura would kill him for driving 20-30 minutes back to Springfield while he was that tired, so he lay down on the floor and fell asleep for 6, yes 6 hours!
I was in a daze. Things like that only happen in movies, or so I thought. I couldn't believe that he was actually there!
We went into the house, and Laura and James went into the kitchen to start dinner, and give me some time to visit with Larry. He had to prepare his lesson for Primary the next day at church, so he sat down to do that and gave me the cold shoulder. I gave him space for his lesson, but he was acting strangely. It was more than just concentrating on his lesson, it felt like he was snubbing me for some reason. I decided that I didn't have to stay and take that, so I went into the kitchen to help with dinner. We all had a great time visiting while we made pizza. I remember slicing olives and answering questions James asked me. Eventually we had dinner. At some point that day at Silver Dollar City I had told Laura that I was going to talk to Larry and tell him it wasn't going to work. I couldn't believe I told her that I liked her brother, but somehow I did. So after dinner, James and Laura left for a different part of the house to leave me and Larry alone. I didn't know this at the time, but Laura told James that I was telling Larry that I didn't have feelings for him, but that I did for James. He was surprised to find that the feeling was mutual. I'll let him tell his side of the story at a later date.
Anyway, Larry had warmed up again. We talked for a bit, and I told him that I was just looking to be friends with guys, and that if something happened with someone, then great. He mentioned something about how you find a really great girl, but it just didn't feel right or wasn't right, or something like that. I thought we understood each other perfectly. Then I felt much more comfortable with him as a result, and because of my tumultuous thoughts during the day I felt that maybe something could happen with Larry because I was finally feeling comfortable with him. Then he was going to go to bed, and we gave each other a hug....that wasn't ending. I knew, I just knew that if I looked him in the eyes he'd kiss me. A small part of me thought, "Why not?" The sane part of me said, "NO!" I had only kissed one guy before, the one I was engaged to, and I knew that I didn't want to be that kind of girl. Since we had agreed to be friends, I didn't want to kiss him. I was relieved when the hug was over and I hadn't given in. He went to bed.
Then Laura and James came out. We talked and laughed until 2:30 am, and James did the schoolboyish thing and threw a dead grasshopper at me that he had accidentally killed while trying to capture it. He was going to put it outside. I was mad at him for throwing it at me, but kind of impressed that he actually did. I know that sounds weird, but he was one of those guys who did what he said he would do, and he meant it. I kept feeling more and more drawn to him in spite of myself.
Laura went to bed at 2:30, and told us not to stay up too late. She smiled as she said it. James got his jacket, and I couldn't bear the thought of him leaving. I was so comfortable talking with him, and we got along so well. I kept talking, hoping he'd stay. He put down his jacket, and we sat in the living room talking for hours. We didn't intend to stay up all night talking, but that's what we did. James started losing his voice, so at about 5 am we went into the kitchen, and I made him a cup of hot chocolate. That helped. We were still sitting there talking when Larry got up and we knew he realized that we had stayed up all night. I felt really bad. I wanted to spare Larry's feelings since he was the reason I went down there. I never intended to find my best friend that weekend, or stay up all night talking to him. I didn't realize at that time that I was already starting to love James. I had never, ever felt so comfortable talking with any man before.
James left to go back to get ready for church in Springfield, and I went with Larry in his car to church in Branson. I apologized, and told him I didn't know that would happen and that I was truly sorry. I told him that I never had intended to talk to James all night. He wouldn't speak one word to me the entire way to church, and it was 15-20 minutes away. Especially from his reaction, I knew even more that he wasn't for me. I would expect someone to at least listen to me or say something. I would never have chosen to be with someone who would react that way. I was definitely not someone who would be called a "player" by any stretch of the imagination. I found out later that the reason he was upset the day before was because he wasn't happy that James was at the house when I was there. I didn't ride home with him, and by the time we got home Larry wasn't there. I knew he was sorry because he left me some perfume samples or something like that he had acquired. I felt bad for getting a little miffed, and I felt sorry for him. It was a nice gesture, but I would have preferred words, talking things out. At least later on after James and I were engaged, he said that he figured it was supposed to happen that way, especially since James and I were going to be married. Thankfully he is happy now with a wife and at least one child.
Anyway, I took a nap before driving the 3 1/2 hours home. I knew Laura had given James my phone number, and he waited until Tuesday night to call. We talked for 3 hours. He called Wednesday night, and we said we couldn't talk that long because of the phone bill. We talked for 4 hours. We were engaged the next weekend, (I'll tell that story at some future date) and I moved to Springfield. After some ups and downs, unengagement and reengagement due mostly to my being gun-shy, I realized that I never wanted to be without him. We were married in the St. Louis Temple on Sept. 1st, 1999. I don't have any wedding pictures on the computer, but here is a picture of the man who has my heart.