My Love Story~Chapter 26: Senior Year

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{If you are new to My Love Story, you can read from the beginning here. If you want to refresh from the last chapter, do so here.}

Once we got back to school, our world was so different. We both lived in a new place, all my roommates were gone, and I was nervous that the different would be bad. However, our new life far exceeded my expectations. He lived in a home affectionately dubbed “Javier” with 8 other guys. His brother Sam, T.J., Jed, Joel (Abbi’s brother) and 3 others they previously did not know. I lived 2 blocks away in an apartment complex with 5 other girls I did not previously know. I only planned to be there a semester. I was graduating in December, so whether or not Matthew and I were “together” I wasn’t planning to stay there long.  It actually was helpful that I didn’t know my roommates too well. They were mostly sophomores, and though we were friendly and hung out a little bit, I was in the love zone with my man, and had blinders on to most of the world around me.

apartment livingAmy and Hali left Utah, and of my former beloved roommates, only Abbi lived in the same town, but on the other side of campus. Fortunately, her brother Joel was one of Matthew’s roommates, so I’d get to see her a bunch still. When she heard we got into town, I had her meet me at Javier, and we embraced tightly, with glimmers in our eyes, knowing we had a LOT to catch up on. I hadn’t communicated with her too much over the summer, so she’d only heard rumors about Matthew and I via Amy & Hali. She had to see for herself, and I confirmed all the talk, it was for real this time. We sat out on the lawn of the boys house, and I filled her in on the details the best I could.  Matthew brought us out a blanket when it started to get dark, and even gave me a little kiss. Right there, in front of Abbi. Whoa. This was big time, for sure. As Abbi and I were chatting, my Natalie had been hunting me down (along with her husband, Matt) and they joined us on the chat-fest. Without any communication in a few weeks (no cell phones to text back then), she needed her update.

This was my last semester of college. I was a senior at BYU, and I was pretty excited about my class load. I was at the end of my major–Human Development–and this is where all the good classes come in. My major is always one that gets quizzical looks, but I explain that it’s a form of Child Development and people get that more clearly. I had always thought I’d go on to get a Masters degree and become a Marriage and Family Therapist, but as I got close to graduation, I feared a job like that would make me too sad because I take peoples sadness onto myself so much.  I didn’t think I’d be able to separate work and home life very well. My favorite class that semester was Moral Development. 3 reasons I loved this class so much was 1) The topic and the teacher. We discussed real life moral dilemma’s every single day. It was eye opening, and amazing, and everything I loved. 2) It was in the oldest building on campus (The Maeser Building–nearly 100 years old), in a small lecture hall that was the perfect intimate setting to discuss such topics. 3) My SIL, Alayna and one of my bestie’s, Emily sat on either side of me up in the balcony of that room every class, and we got to learn and grow and discuss life’s moral dilemma’s together.

(Here is a sample of the room I found online here)

Maeser Building at BYU

Walking around campus, I felt like I was walking on clouds. The last semester I was there was rough. All those spots that had sad memories became happy memories. Matthew and I met for lunch on the first day of classes at the Cougareat. Our roommates T.J. and Abbi also met us, and we held hands in front of them. That was a big deal.  I headed home from campus to unpack my room more. Matthew had classes, and I had spent so much time with him–mostly at his place–that I wasn’t very settled into mine yet. I met up with his sister, Joanna, who also lived in my apartment complex. It was fun to get to know her better. She came with me to the boys house later, and that was when we met Jessica. Jess was Sam’s girl. I had heard about her a full year before, but she had been serving a mission for our church in Argentina. Sam told me about the girl on a mission from his freshman year, and now she’s back. I was very happy for him, she was very sweet, and I hoped it worked out for them. I wondered how much she knew about us. It didn’t really matter, but I was curious. What mattered was that Matthew was wonderful, we were wonderful, and everything was going perfectly.

He’s so good for me, relaxes me, eases my mind.

As I walked campus one day, I ran into an old boyfriend from 2 years before, whom I dated at Ricks College. I didn’t know he was at BYU now, and it felt awkward to see him, but we chatted light heartedly, and I noticed he glanced at my hand to see if I had a ring on it. Ha! That was not uncommon at our school. Many people marry while still in undergrad. It was nice to walk away to realize I had no feelings for him. Matthew was my man, and it felt good.  When I saw him later that afternoon, I told him of my “run in” with my old flame.  I had told him about him before, but it felt good to tell him that I didn’t feel anything when I saw him. I mentioned some things about that guy that rubbed me the wrong way, and Matthew grinned. It was my sly way of saying I was happy he wasn’t that way.

Though I felt on cloud nine most of the time, I ran into a huge mixture of emotions. Was it too good to be true?  Was I ready for this? It was my last semester of college, too, and all sorts of emotions came along with that. People had left, I would be leaving, what was to happen with my life???  I wanted to be near him, but I needed some breathing room. One day, I took my sweet time roaming campus, perusing the book store, reading a book on the green grass in a quiet spot on campus. I just wanted to be alone. He knew when my last class was over, and assumed I’d stop by his place when it was done, but I came by 3 hours later. When I got there, my (former) roommate Abbi came running out to greet me with her arms outstretched, as if she thought she’d never see me again.  I guess my mom had also called my place and his place, and “everyone” was wondering where I was. It felt nice to be missed, but also felt good to not feel I needed to report to anyone but myself. I knew I loved him, I knew what I wanted, just needed to sort it all out in my head. People were expecting answers, expecting to see a ring, and I knew it was imminent. It’s what I wanted. What I’d wanted for a long time, but now that it felt close, I panicked on the inside.  I was so worried I’d lose the feeling, so worried what happened to all my past relationships, would happen with him. That the feelings I felt…would just go away. It truly scared me.  I didn’t want it to happen. THIS is what I wanted, I needed those feelings to STAY.

Matthew and I took an afternoon stroll one day, and ended up at our newly married friends, Laurie & Chris’ house. We got to watch their love story unfold in the year before, and it was fun to get a glimpse into their lives, having seen them before, too. Curtis was actually gone, but Laurie welcomed us into their home, and had no qualms grilling us BOTH about our relationship, and wondering when would be the wedding date. WOW. Wasn’t ready for that one. Though Matthew and I had discussed it on our drive to Utah, we hadn’t openly discussed it together with anyone.  Curtis came home, and the grilling started all over again, now from him. We had a fun time–the 4 of us, and when Matthew took me home late that night laughing, he said, “We need to talk again, don’t we.” I told him I was just waiting for him.

byu football game

(Abbi my former roommate, me, Matthew, Alayna, and Ryan my brother)

I really looked forward to my Moral Development each week. Besides the fact that it was my first class of the day starting at 11am, (and I could sleep in) I knew that Alayna & Emily would be there with me, and I loved the discussions there. They were deep. Thought Provoking. And I needed something outside of my Love Story emotions going on inside my brain then.

My brother Ryan and his wife Alayna got BYU football season tickets with us. My brother loved cheering on his cougars, and ever since learning the sport from the stands on the drill team in high school, I really loved a good live football game.  It was nice to be able to go crash at their place from time to time, and get their perspectives on my jitters of late. They assured me it was normal.

BYU Courgars Football Game

Alayna, Ryan (my brother) Me, and Matthew at a BYU football game

 As time went by, I got to know Jess more, and really really liked her. I think we both had questions for each other, but we needed to get to know each other better first.

After class one day, I stopped by Matthew’s place to see him on the phone with a serious look on his face. After listening for a few minutes, I realized he was on the phone with his parents. All of them were emotional, there was a family concern. His parents leaned on him a lot for strength. He got off, and I realized it was the first time I’d ever seen him cry.  I was grateful that he was opening up to me, and I was able to be a sounding board for him. I told him that I considered him family, and his pain was my pain. We sat on the steps outside of his home, and held each other through tears.

After a while, we went inside, and I realized that the nail I bit off and was chewing on, fell on the kitchen floor. Strangely, I started hunting for it, and Matthew helped me. Then his roommate came in, asked what we were looking for, but I was too embarrased to say I was looking for a chewed up fingernail. His roommate then said, “Eww, here’s a nasty nail” and proceeded to flick it across the room and it went under the fridge. Matthew and I then laughed ourselves to tears. This time, good tears.

I was feeling  much better about “us” and grateful that that weirdness I’d felt in the previous days had dissipated. We kept meaning to “talk” and he told me he felt like he was going to explode because we hadn’t been able to, but instead we celebrated his best friends birthday with our gang: C.W., Chris, Laurie, Sam, & Jess. We went out to eat, saw the new Star Wars movie, and just laughed and talked as couples. Man, I love that group. Good times, right there.

The next day, we finally got a chance to go for a walk and talk. He told me he loved me and didn’t want to wait til April to get married, he wanted to aim for December. I was so happy to hear that, because thats exactly what I was thinking, but worried he wasn’t on the same page. We talked about how we know this is what WE want, but we wanted to be prayerful to make sure our desires were in line with God’s will for us. We decided that the next Sunday, we would fast together, and be especially prayerful about our intent to marry, and hopefully feel a spiritual confirmation on that decision.  He read a portion of a poem he wrote for me, about 2 rivers flowing into 1, comparing it to our lives thus far, and finding each other.  It felt odd that I no longer felt crazy giddy about us, it just felt peaceful and happy and right. I just couldn’t believe this was actually happening.

I loved that although mine and Matthew’s relationship was at it’s all time high, I was still able to have meaningful friendships with the girls in my life. I was grateful for this time to get to know his little sister Joanna, Abbi my roommate was around quite a bit, my dear friend Alice, Laurie, and my new friend Jess. All of them were connected to Matthew through roommates, and their home, Javier, was a revolving door for this extended family of friends we shared. Besides that amazing group, I had Natalie, Emily, Ryan, and Alayna, a piece of my family from before all of those friends. People that knew me before Matthew, and coached me through every stage with him. I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the joy in my life through people. All of them were an integral piece of my journey.

One night, I told Matthew I had a confession to make. It had been eating away at me–a little white lie I told–and I wanted to clear my name and get it out there. I was nervous, but I had to do it. I had told him that my car–the Honda Accord we drove from Houston to BYU–was partially paid for by my parents, that they “helped” me buy the car. When in reality….they outright bought it as a gift for me, and I didn’t pay a penny. I was emotional as I told him that, and I’m sure he was laughing a little on the inside that I was so overly emotional at such a seemingly little thing. I felt I needed to clear the air, and be fully honest, that it embarrassed me to say they paid for it, because I didn’t want to be known as the rich girl. So many of my other friends worked hard to pay for their cars, and mine was given to me. It seemed trivial, but it was important to me that he understand why I felt that way. I worried my friends would view me differently if they knew, and that I really needed help understanding how to be thrifty because it wasn’t something I was ever overly conscious about. He smiled and said he’d help me.  He assured me that I was always generous with my time and money with friends, and he loved that. I wanted to be thrifty, for him. If we got married, I would need to be conscious of that.

From time to time, we found ourselves at my apartment, away from the gang, and it was kinda nice. My roommates were very cute, and had fun asking me questions about Matthew and I. I was a senior, and they were sophomores, and though 2 years isn’t that big of a difference, it seemed like a canyon then. I was about to leave college, and they just got started. We’d eat dinner with them sometimes, and watch movies with them, and one day I came home to the sweetest anonymous note written on our apartment whiteboard listing all the ways that they thought I was awesome. It really brightened me up, as I felt bad that I was hardly around to bond with them. The times when we watched movies, they took the que when it was over, and headed off to bed so Matthew and I could have some alone time, for a little kiss-fest.

Matthew and I would often meet on campus to study, but I found that to be nearly impossible because I just wanted to stare at his handsome face all the time. Strangely enough, he seemed to like to stare at my face, too, which I loved. When I’d get frustrated with my studies, he’d tell me I was smart. I never felt too smart before, it felt amazing to hear, coming from him.  I watched him at his intramural soccer game, and cheered loudly for him. It surprised me how all of a sudden, it was ok to cheer for him. I could finally admit it to our friends, he was my man, and I wasn’t afraid to cheer him on.

His younger sister was living in Southern Utah about 4 hours away, so one day we decided to make a day trip out of visiting her. I met her the previous Valentine’s Weekend 6 months before, but things were so different then.  We had a really great visit with her, and she was very warm with me, which made me feel really happy. We found ourselves at a children’s park, and had a saltine eating contest, and just enjoyed the fresh air. I was wearing some crazy socks, and she told Matthew, “you didn’t tell me she liked socks!” and showed me her fruit socks.  It was really great to spend the day with his sister. She adores her big brother, and it was very sweet to watch. I knew Matthew was a caretaker in his family, but to see him in instances like this really made me love him more. I knew he would be an amazing and nurturing father.  I felt a little rush of excitement when she’d introduce me to her friends as her brothers’ girlfriend.

love story with sister

On our drive home late that night, I revealed another secret to Matthew that I was afraid for him to know. It was that one of my favorite songs at that time was Christina Aguilara’s “Genie in a Bottle.” I thought he might think of my differently by admitting that, and he just got a good laugh out of it. Whew! Another hurdle I’d crossed.

Even after that bomb I’d dropped on him, he then proceeded to tell me a story about the gift he gave me on my 21st birthday–just two months before. Of course I remembered, it was a cute little stuffed animal bear with a necklace around it. A necklace, might I add, that I noticed was a bit…worn and cheap looking. Of course I would never say that to him, but that was simply the case. What he hadn’t told me then, that he was telling me now was he really debated giving that necklace to me. He then told me that when he was 14 years old, he bought that necklace and put it away in a safe spot, to one day give to the girl he was going to marry. I started to tear up. Of course, that’s why the necklace looked old and cheap, it was! He bought it when he was 14! That was about the sweetest thing he could say to me, that story meant so much. It opened the flood gates for me, and I told him how happy I was, but that I’m still scared to take this leap, and I need him to be strong for me now. I told him that I have no doubts about my love for him, or that our Father above gives his blessing.  He said that more and more, every day, he gets that same confirmation stronger and stronger. Then, he said, “Let’s go ring shopping!”  I was a bit shocked–in the middle of tears–and just laughed out loud.

As we continued home on that dark drive, we then talked about much more serious things, how we felt truly compatible for each other, how we’d never had a fight or argument about anything, how we felt the same with family goals, as well as on spiritual things, how we both were saving ourselves for the wedding night, and were on the same page about where to draw the line with all of those “things.”  He is simply amazing. I still can’t believe he loves me so much, but I know it now, for sure, and that puts me on top of the world!

love story kissing

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Comments

  1. Awww! What a sweet story to read on Valentine’s Day! When I saw the next chapter was up, I grabbed a snack and a drink and sat down to savor the next part. As always, it didn’t disappoint!

  2. You are so good at leaving cliff hangers! 🙂 Loved this chapter and can’t wait for the next one when you get around to it. 🙂 See you at BYB!

  3. OMG. The bear necklace!!! How adorable is that!? I can’t even.
    My hubby’s name is Matt (and mine is Jessica) so seeing our names in your story was so relatable and so fun! Love it!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      It’s as if you are both there with us…ha! Seriously, after knowing about the necklace, it meant so much more!!!

  4. The changes in a relationship are so crazy! I love that you have all the details laid out so well, and it takes us on your journey with you. And ring shopping? Those are words almost every girl wants to hear – you must have been so excited!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      There was definitely excitement in the air, for sure!! It is amazing the roller coaster that happens, even after marriage–ha ha!

  5. Aw… so sweet. Brings me back to when me and my hubby were dating. Funny nail story. Nice to see young people with spiritual goals and values and being serious about life. Hubby and I married at 28 and 20 respectively- we are Orthodox Jews and get married young too.