Somehow I made it through that first date with Mr. Brown Eyes without having a nervous breakdown. While the butterflies scrambling about in my stomach never totally subsided (and they wouldn't, not until weeks after we were officially dating), a few minutes chatting in his truck on our way to the mountains eased my nervousness tremendously.
And I had fun. For the first time in a long time, I was on a date and I wasn't trying to come up with ways to end it as soon as humanly possible. We hiked until the sun went down and talked the whole time. I discovered that Mr. Brown Eyes is a great story teller and he had me laughing out loud. And he was an EMT, which I found very attractive. And he has the cutest little Kansas accent that only shows up on certain words.
It was dark as we made our way back to the truck, and somehow we missed the trailhead and had to double back on the road. When the truck came into view, so did the tail lights of another vehicle, and the figure of a park ranger standing beside it.
"Park closes at sundown," he said abruptly as we approached.
We apologized profusely and told him we got lost.
"Gates are closed," was his only response.
"Um, well, couldn't you open them for us?" Would he really leave us locked in here all night? I wondered incredulously.
"You know, this constitutes a felony misdemeanor. I could slap you two with a hefty fine..."
Mr. Brown Eyes and I exchanged glances. Criminals on the first date. We could be a regular Bonnie and Clyde.
"...But I'll let you off with a warning. Follow me and I'll open the gates for you."
I sighed with relief and hopped into the truck as Mr. Brown Eyes held the door open for me (which he still does, I might add). We made it out of the park without incident, but getting kicked out of places became the theme of the night. The waitress at Applebees asked us if we wanted our check two minutes after bringing us our food. While swinging on the swingset at a local park, we were told that park also closed at sundown and we had better go.
I didn't want the night to end yet, and Mr. Brown Eyes must have felt the same way because he suggested we go to a local shopping center and walk around. I agreed. We wandered around until we came to these huge fountains shooting and spraying water in time to the music playing in the background. We joked that we should jump in and see how fast it took the security guard to throw us out, but instead we sneaked around to the side opposite the security guard, kicked off our shoes, and soaked our aching feet in the cool water. And talked. And laughed. I didn't know two people who hardly knew each other could have so much to talk about.
We were so deep in conversation we didn't notice the security guard coming our way. "You guys can't do that," he said. "You have to stay out of the fountain."
We sighed, dried off our feet, and decided that maybe we should call it a night.
Back then, enjoying a date was almost as bad as not enjoying one. A bad date I could just toss behind me and forget about, but if the date was good I would hope for a second one. And so the next week would find me sitting by the phone, certain he would call, but I'd never hear from him again. It happened a few times. And as Mr. Brown Eyes walked me to my door, I was terrified of it happening again. All I wanted was some kind of confirmation that he had as much fun as I did and a second date was definitely in the works. But I didn't want to ask. How desperate would that look?
We said our goodbyes and told each other how much fun we'd had.
"But we didn't get to finish the hike," he said, "so that means I automatically get a second date."
I must have beamed.
That was the first of many dates. We spent so much time together my family referred to him as my boyfriend, but we hadn't talked about it so I didn't feel like I could use that word. It was Mr. Brown Eyes' sister who encouraged him, a few weeks later, to ask me if I thought we were officially dating. We had just finished swimming at a friend's house and were standing outside my truck. The spring night was cool and I was shivering in my wet clothes.
"So, um, are we dating?" he asked me as we, as usual, stretched out our goodbye as long as possible.
"My family calls you my boyfriend," I replied. "But I don't know. Are we?"
"I'd like to be," he said without hesitation.
Yes, it was really that simple.
That's when I had my first experience with my future husband's awesome hugs. He pulled me close to him and wrapped his arms tight around my waist. He was warm and strong and smelled good. It was the best hug ever.
After that, we decided we didn't want to say goodbye yet so we stretched out in the back of my truck, talking and gazing at the stars.
Here's something you should know about me. I was twenty-three when I met Mr. Brown Eyes. And he was my first boyfriend. I dated plenty throughout my high school and college years, but not one person specifically, and knowing myself as well as I do, I think that was Heavenly Father's way of looking out for me. But by the time Mr. Brown Eyes came into my life, I felt I was way past-due for the experience of having an exclusive boyfriend. And while I liked Mr. Brown Eyes--a lot--I figured other boyfriends would follow after him. It never crossed my mind that I would marry the first boyfriend I ever had. That was just ridiculous. Only stupid girls did that.
Well, while I'm making embarrassing confessions, here's another one: Mr. Brown Eyes was also the first man I ever kissed. Back in high school, my friends and I started what we called the Virgin Lips club, and you can bet that at twenty-three I was the last remaining member. Of course that wasn't a club I wanted to remain in forever, but as I mentioned in Part I of this love story, I had had other opportunities to kiss and be kissed. But to me a kiss had to mean something. I was not about to give away my virgin lips lightly.
I was ready to give them away when I met Mr. Brown Eyes.
Does that sound bad?
I promise it's all G-rated.
Happily kissing Mr. Brown Eyes,
The Brown-Eyed Girl