My Love Story~Chapter 16: Semester End

{If you have not read the previous chapters of my love story, start here}

At the end of March 1999, It was just 30 days til I was to depart the U.S. soil and head on my world adventure to the Holy Land. Though I thought all along I wouldn’t actually go (I hoped Matthew would beg me to stay) it was looking more and more like a reality. It was a month filled with excitement and frenzy, but also the reality that after this semester, I didn’t want to see Matthew anymore. I was emotionally drained of all the wonder in our relationship, and I’d resolved with myself that I was just a good friend to him. I couldn’t carry this on any more. I still longed for him to love me back, but I wanted to just have fun and enjoy the time we’d have together before it was all over with my travels, the summer, and a final semester for me at BYU the next fall.

I had changed my major to Human Development and realized I COULD graduate in August with just 7 credits left, but thought I’d come back in the fall for one final semester, adding in a few fun classes. Being done with college worried me–then what? I thought I might come back to get my Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, so it didn’t seem so final. My roommates Hali and Amy were graduating, moving back to the mid-west. Abbi secured an apartment with another friend in another complex. The 3 of us lived together for an amazing year and a half, and came together by chance–by a tender mercy.  The boys of apartment #20 found a house on the other side of campus they would move into summer term, and fall semester as well. I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing, and since my time was so short, I figured why not stay put in this complex for my last semester, even though everyone else would be gone. I got together with my high school Texas friends still, but a lot of them were getting married or moving back home.

One night, us Houston-ites went to the Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz basketball game in all of our Texas glory. The girls had a big sleepover at Natalie’s house, which was SO fun! We had some fun high school days, and getting together was so easy and fun.  My older brother Ryan (top left) and his wife Alayna organized the whole event.

rockets game

After my fun night with friends, Matthew asked if I wanted to hike the “Y” with him. I hadn’t done that in years, and it sounded fun!  BYU is nestled in the foothills of a bigger mountain, and perched for all the city to see is a giant “Y” in cement. It’s a fun tradition to hike up to it every once in a while, with switch backs, it takes about an hour from the base of the mountain.

Most of the activities we did were with our roommates, but this time it was just the two of us. I enjoyed myself, now that I told myself we were just friends, and had to awkwardly grab his hand for assistance once we reached the top of the “Y.” We sat on the rocky white cement and looked down on the beautiful valley below us. There were other hikers spread out across the huge letter on the mountain, and we asked someone to take our picture. Of course I had a camera with me (back then there were no cell phones with cameras).

hiking the Y

“He’s just too nice” I told myself, “he’s grateful for our friendship, that much I can see, but he doesn’t see a lasting relationship” I kept telling myself.

I just couldn’t decide if I should give him the could shoulder, or pretend like everything was hunky dory, laughing all the while I was suffering inside.

After we returned from our hike, we went our separate ways to study and what not, but in the evening, the boys of #20 found themselves in my apartment with my roommates. We started a massage chain, and I shared with Matthew my favorite country song at the time by Mark Wills, “I do, cherish you.” I loved that song so much. I knew he wasn’t a country music fan, and I found myself listening to less and less of it in college, but this song spoke to me:

“I do…cherish you….for the rest of my life, you don’t have to think twice…I will….love you still…from the depths of my should, it’s beyond my control, I’ve waited so long, to say this to you….if you ask me do I love you this much….I do.”

I wanted him to sing that song to me so bad. To look into my pain filled eyes, and tell me everything would be alright. That he loved and cherished me as much as I hoped.

When only my roommates were around, I’d sing it loudly around my apartment, dance and sway to an imaginary person (who was singing back to me) and they’d just laugh at my antics. I was a  hopeless romantic.

I kept a smile on, kept having fun, kept pretending that I was cool with how everything was panning out.

With the weather turning warm, and in the spring time at BYU students have been zipped up in jackets all winter, that when the spring comes, it’s a new awakening.  Co-eds sprawl all over the grass on campus, and my roommates and I joined along. The Utah grass is so soft…no bugs…it’s just as good as a mattress. The sun is out, but it isn’t hot–it’s perfection.  As I sat with my roommate Amy one spring day, I read up on some spiritual nourishment. I recorded in my journal my thoughts of the day, “The earth is full of beauty, and life offers many opportunities to develop rewarding relationships with others.”

The first weekend of April in our church is reserved for a bi-annual General Conference. Our standard Sunday meetings are different, and we tune into a weekend of hearing the words of our living Prophet and Apostles. It’s now streamed via the internet, but when I was in college, we could watch it on TV in our apartments or in church buildings. Matthew, Sam, and I wanted to be less distracted, so went to a church building to watch the broadcast that weekend. As I sat there that day, my emotions in turmoil for the questions in my head about my life, I felt a peace come when our Prophet President Hinckley spoke about our Savior Jesus Christ. I felt so much closer to my Savior that semester as I heavily leaned on prayer and scripture study to help me chart my own personal life’s course.

I was coming down with a cold, and following an afternoon nap, Matthew stopped by to check on me.  He gave me a nice foot massage to relax, while his brother Sam and my roommate Hali baked a pie in the kitchen.

The next day, I had a former roommate, Tamara, from my Idaho days come visit me. We stopped by #20 so she could meet all my “friends” and I borrowed their computer to check my email really quick. As Tamara waited for me, I found an email from our other roommate, Christie B., and I blurted it out to her with her first and last name, and Matthew came out from the kitchen and said, “Christy B? From Washington?” I said, “Yeah, from Kent, Washington” and he said, “that’s my cousin.”  WHAT?!? Crazy!”

Matthew accompanied me to the Provo Health Center where I received all sorts of immunization shots in preparation for my trip to The Holy Land. I was still feeling sick, and while we sat in the waiting room, I rested my head on his lap while he played with my hair. Seems normal for friends, right? Yeah,that’s what I told myself… On the way home, we had a conversation about the importance of scripture study, and patterning our lives after the Savior, not just reading His words. To read and seek for inspiration and personal revelation.

As we walked home from the health center, it began to rain. He had an umbrella that he held, and mostly covered me while he got wet. So chivalrous. He suggested I take a class with him and C.J. in the fall. I thought that odd. That didn’t seem like such a good idea to me, since I planned to sever ties at the end of the semester.I started to write a letter in  my head to Matthew. My farewell letter, my “thank-you-for-what-you’ve-taught-me” letter, but it kept changing. He really did teach me so much through his example and goodness.

I got a letter from my mom in the mail, and though I wasn’t super open with her all the emotional turmoil that I was going through, she seemed to know. She said, “Kristen you deserve someone who will treasure you and you help realize you are special.” When I told my roommate Amy, she echoed,” I have no doubt that you will marry someone incredible, how could you not?”  Through all of the emotions I had, those words lifted me. If it wasn’t the amazing Matthew, it would be someone else amazing.

Amy and I had several classes together, so studied for finals together. We were studying in the commons area with hundreds of others studying, when I dared her to throw over the balcony our bag of Twizzlers Nips. I was shocked when she did it! We were quite slap happy and laughed hysterically at our antics. We laughed all the way through our class instead of writing out a thoughtful essay for a grade. That part really shouldn’t have been that funny. I went on an afternoon walk with Sam, and he tried to get out of my how I was feeling towards his brother, but I wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t.

roommates at byu

My roommates and I were feeling it–the beginning of the end. Our time as roommates was ending, and we were living it up with the bonding and laughing  hours into the night. Abbi gave me a super early Christmas present. Tied up with a big peach bow was her brown Doc Martin shoes, the pair that I wore nearly every day. They were hers, but she decided I needed to keep them. It was a gesture that seems so small, but meant so much. Emotions were high, as our time as roomies was drawing to a close. I was starting to feel free of the bondage that held me–seeking Matthew’s affection. Though I seemed to be seeing him more and more, I was thinking about my big trip and my roommates, and not as worried about what would happen with us.

hali

I kept counting down the days to myself and to my friends for when our lives would change: 20 days, 10 days, 5 days…the countdown was for my departure out of the country, which was exciting, but it also meant the end of an era, which was sad. The Era of US–it was a great one.

On a Sunday afternoon, Matthew and I went for a walk, and he helped me memorize scriptures for my religion final. I felt it was a good way to spend the Sabbath (I generally didn’t do school work on Sundays). We plopped ourselves on the grass in front of the cougar at the football stadium. We sat there for hours as I brushed up on the 30 scriptures I was to have memorized for my final the next day. Still, when I read those scriptures, I think about that day. It was a good day. My stomach was no longer in knots, I felt free and happy and looking forward to the future. I craved being with him, but I was pretty sure I was going to survive ok without him.

studying

As I was pulling away, he was drawing closer. He was putting his arm around me as we walked, stroking my arm during a movie, sharing a blanket in the chilly night air, but I was pretty sure it didn’t mean anything. Why would it? After all this time, why now?

Finals finished, co-eds left town, and I had just 2 days left  until the jet plane was taking me to the other side of the world. I was giddy with excitement for the adventure ahead. I had so much to do in the way of packing, I couldn’t let myself be sad to part with my friends and roommates. Matthew helped me put together a going away gift for my roommates–I made them each a mini scrapbook with pictures and stories of our time together in the past year and a half. I took all the pictures, and I wanted to make sure they had the memories, too.

byu roommates

roommates

On his last night in town, Matthew took me to Salt Lake to the Hansen Planetarium light show. He was re-creating our first date from a year before. It was a U2 lazer show, and when they played WITH OR WITHOUT YOU, I got a tear in my eye. Honestly, it didn’t seem I could live WITH him when he didn’t feel the same, but living WITHOUT him seemed so  painful. We got home pretty late, and we had a quick goodbye. No dissecting of our relationship, no talking of what would happen to us over the summer and miles apart. I had brought it up so many times in the past, I figured if he wanted to bring it up, he could. But he didn’t. I felt ready to move on.

It was 1am, and I was up til 6am with my roommates cleaning our boxed up apartment and singing to loud music.  Just before I drifted off to sleep, I penned the emotions in my heart–that goodbye letter to him, saying all the things I couldn’t say in person, but felt he needed to know. I slept for 2 hours when he came to wake me up just before driving out of town. He gave me his yellow Speed Rabbit t-shirt (that he got at a pizza place in France on his mission) because I wont a bet. I can’t remember what that bet was right now, but for some strange reason, I loved that shirt on him, and was happy to have one small piece of him with me. I made him some butterscotch cookies, and stuffed a few pictures with my letter in a box. I told him to read it later. It was an uneventful goodbye. With just a lingering hug, he was off to California, and in under 2 days I was headed to Jerusalem.

byu

{next post–the letter and so much more}

Kristen Duke

Kristen Duke

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Comments

  1. love the long floral dresses! i wore those too!!

  2. Um, cliffhanger? I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until I read the last word and saw that there were no more…

    • Kristen Duke says:

      This post got too long!!! I’ll get that letter up soon!

      • Oh, cliffhangers are wonderful. Even when you know the final outcome. You really are a wonderful story teller, and have an amazing memory for all the details! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Kristen…Keep writing!!! I am so intrigued by your love story!!! you are such a good storyteller! I really hope next chapter is up SOON

  4. You can’t stop there. Please tell me that the next installment is soon. This is killing me (even though I know you end up together). .. Thank you for sharing your story!

  5. So glad to see the next chapter. You have done such a great job of capturing all of your story. I am really enjoying reading it!

  6. Jacqueline says:

    Kristen, you’re doing a really great job of conveying all that turmoil – I’m feeling it right along with you! Can’t wait to read the next part!

  7. i hate cliff hangers.
    kimbowest recently posted..gee….thanks.My Profile

  8. Karie D. says:

    I’m not sure if you’ve mentioned this in previous chapters, but you totally lived in Canyon Terrace apartments in Provo didn’t you?! My hubby and I met there too! That bedroom pic was a dead giveaway when I saw the white shelving and the brass desk lamps. SO many good memories there! You are a terrific writer, looking forward to the next chapter! :)

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Yes!!! It was good ole Canyon Terrace that we met and all this craziness happened! I think a lot of couples come out of there b/c of the close nature of everyone–how fun!!

  9. oh my goodness, you can’t stop there! I need to know what happens next!! Haha. But seriously, what you said about the Utah grass…SO TRUE! I’m for northeast Texas (DFW area), and holy cow our grass down there pale’s in comparison. I also go to BYU and I know exactly what you mean about everyone coming outside once it starts to warm up. Haha, it’s so funny how you just see people all over campus sleeping, eating, talking or doing homework. Anything to be outside, right? :)
    Madison recently posted..Homemade pancakesMy Profile

    • Kristen Duke says:

      ha! that cracks me up–I love to hear that it still holds true around there;) Yes…the grass…heavenly! Thanks for commenting! I love to hear I’ve got readers in varying life stages;)

  10. “As I was pulling away, he was drawing closer.”… that seems to happen in many love stories :)

    I only got to read this today and I’m heading right over to chapter 17!
    Aline recently posted..Back from travelsMy Profile

  11. Thrilling. Glad the next one is up.

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