Holy shit. Five parts already.
I’m so sorry, I just can’t make it work. Gas is really expensive, and I can’t afford to pay for a hotel room. Thank you so much for your invitation. Congratulations to Thomas, and I hope you all have a wonderful time!
That was approximately what I said to Brock. It’s not in quotes, and I don’t know for sure, because at this point we had started text messaging instead of emailing, and I no longer have records. I find that to be one of the biggest tragedies. I wish we had never stopped email.
Anyhow! Brock was never really one to be discouraged. Friday, I was working at the hospital and he was making his campaign to get me to come to the wedding. That evening was the rehearsal dinner, and he told me absolutely everyone wanted me to be there. He texted something about spending some time with people who adored me before I bid this miserable country adieu forever. He offered to pay for my tank of gas, and freely gave me his brother Brady’s bed in the hotel room (he told me Brady could sleep on the couch.)
I don’t really know for certain what it was that changed my mind. I don’t know if it was because he truly seemed to care so much… or if I was just meant to go. I left work an hour early to get to the dinner on time and I just started driving, without doing a whole lot of thinking. It was absolutely beautiful in Arkansas in July – I drove with the windows open and music blaring and I swear my soul felt more alive than it had in my entire life.
I made an impulsive decision that most certainly did NOT feel like it was a mistake.
It was approximately two and a half hours from where I was in Rogers over to Blackrock, where the wedding was taking place. As I got closer, I began getting more and more nervous. I started questioning my own motives. Brock was my FRIEND. He was a really incredible FRIEND. I wasn’t romantically interested in him. I didn’t want anything to do with messing up his relationship with his on-again, off-again girlfriend. I was excited to see Thomas and Brady again (I had met them at one point in Seattle) and was even looking forward to getting to know his parents. They were all really wonderful people.
I pulled into the gravel parking lot at the bed and breakfast where everyone was staying, that also happened to be hosting the dinner. The rocks crunched under my tires in what felt like a louder-than-life cacophony that took me by surprise. I realized I was shaking as I texted Brock, “Hey, I’m here.” I was late, and sweaty, and a nervous mess. I stepped out of the car to walk, alone, into the dinner full of people I just barely knew; a situation that I would quite literally describe as my worst nightmare. In that moment, I didn’t even know why I was there. Logic had caught up to impulse and my brain was yelling, “MISTAKE! MISTAKE!” Before I got three steps away from my car, I noticed a tall, dark, incredibly handsome man walking towards me in a smashing salmon-colored shirt.
It was a moment of Kairos. The breath left my lungs, and I was swept up in a hug that I did not expect. My nerves were immediately calmed, and I felt safe. I laughed and spluttered, “You’re taller than I remember!” He was. He was taller, and his eyes more dazzling, and his smile more captivating. I wasn’t aware of it then, but in that very moment, I had been caught.
We walked together back into the dinner that was already in progress. I can hardly remember anyone else at the table. I have been told by others who were present at the wedding that, once Brock and I entered the room together – the air became electrified. It was apparent to everyone but us.
I took me about that long to realize that Jenna wasn’t at the wedding. I had been ABSOLUTELY ASSURED that she was okay with me being invited to the wedding, and that she had been looking forward to meeting me as well – but then she and Brock got into a big fight before the wedding and had decided to stay home. Shit. I felt like I would have decided differently about the whole weekend had I known that information.
I decided to be the best version of myself possible, and enjoy the weekend for what it was. I spent time with Brock and both of his brothers. We chatted and laughed. We all got along incredibly well. I talked with Brock’s parents. It was just so right. I was really glad, in that moment, that I was there.
Everyone stayed up late, enjoying a few drinks. Brock and Brady said they were ready to turn in for the night, and I headed with them towards their hotel room. On the way there, Brock’s mother pulled me aside and gave me a giant hug. In one of the more mortifying moments of my entire life, she held me at arms length and said, “We REALLY like you. You fit right in. It’s totally okay if you have sex with my son.” Of course, NO ONE ELSE heard this and I (as a human who had never been with nor even kissed anyone but Steve before) pretended that it didn’t happen. I was attracted to Brock, but I KNEW him to be far out of my league and in no way interested in me. I didn’t even let my hopes get raised.
In the hotel room, there were two queen beds. Brady laughed delightedly and pointed to his bed, proclaimed it mine, and then curled up on the couch. He fell almost immediately to sleep – exactly as a seventeen year old does. Brock and I? We stayed awake talking until almost 4am. We were utterly captivated by each other. At some point, I gave him a breakdown of a long list of gentlemen that I had considered friends who all eventually ended up confessing that they were romantically interested in me. I jokingly warned him that people tend to fall in love with me, and that I really wanted him to be on his guard. He assured me that it wouldn’t happen.
The following morning, we got up and ready for wedding activities. Family breakfast, lunch at a special restaurant, and then the wedding ceremony and reception. I loved photography and had brought my camera, so I occupied myself by taking as many pictures as possible. Most of the day was a blur. I remember wavering back and forth between being SURE Brock liked me, and CONVINCING myself that it wasn’t possible. We went to the reception together and talked the whole time. Brock asked me to dance and I felt like I was in a dream.
We were just friends.
I comforted myself in knowing that in two short weeks, I would be leaving for Canada. Even IF I felt something for him, it was pointless. I was going back to Canada! He knew I was going to Canada. There was no reality in which a relationship between us happened. I sternly told myself to just enjoy the weekend, and then move on. I felt like the ‘moving on’ was going to be so easy.
Near the end of the reception, it was getting late, so Brock and I mentioned that we were going to go back to the hotel. Brady jumped in and said, “Oh yeah! I’ll come too!”
The drive back to the hotel… another moment of Kairos. It felt never-ending and instant in the same moment. The Fray was playing on the radio and Brock was driving my jeep. Brady was in the back seat, leaning forward and chatting with us. The windows were open and my hair was whipping around. My heart was pounding so loudly, it was all I could hear above my own voice in my head, saying Just take his hand, Mandy. Just do it. He likes you. Reach out and take his hand. JUST do it.
I closed my eyes, and tried to summon the courage to put my hand on his…
… and before I opened them, I felt his hand reach out and take mine.
To be continued.
Take me to the next one!