Sparks Fly

How it started:

It was August 1st, 2010. I remember it was one of the hottest summer days we had ever had in Washington. A day I had initially thought would be spent inside the air-conditioned mall where I worked, pulling a double shift, but life had other plans for me. Earlier that week, I ran into a girl I knew from high school. We started chatting, catching up, and she nonchalantly invited me to a bbq at her home. She was hosting a get-together for friends of hers that were returning from Iraq. They had just done a year-long tour, and she was so ecstatic to see them. I told her I had to work, but thanked her for the invite. The morning of August 1st rolled around , and I got a call from my manager. She said we were over our hours and she didn't need me to come in. I hadn't made any plans because I knew I had to work. So there I was no plans - hot as can be on a Sunday morning. That bbq sounded pretty good at that point. 

How we met:

I arrived at this bbq in the middle of the afternoon not thinking anything special was to occur. Little did I know this bbq would pave the rest of my life. He caught my attention like a skyscraper in the middle of times square. Partially because Justin had these deep, pure blue eyes that I had never seen before. His smile, his build... they all seemed to entice me. I remember thinking - play it cool, Leilani you don't even know this guy. Almost immediately after, Justin walked over and boy is he smooth. He knew exactly what he was doing, he knew exactly what to say, and I responded as if I were uninterested. The rest of the day consisted of drinks, food, and good conversation with everyone else in attendance. We reached a point where the heat became overbearing, so a few of us had decided to go for a swim. I don't know what was in that water but this blue-eyed beauty managed to make me laugh. He was refreshing, even when being cliche. He must have done something right because the next thing I know he asked to put his number in my phone and I did not object. 

What happened next:

A week rolled by and between working two different mall jobs, family, and friends I hadn't had much time to think about the blue-eyed hunk I'd met last week. On a Friday, I get a call from the same girl that had invited me to that bbq. She asked me if I wanted to go to the movies with some of the girls I'd managed to hit it off with that day. Step Up 3 had just come out in 3D and I was stoked to see it! So of course I said yes! That night some of the girls decided to call up the Army guys from the bbq and we'd managed to make plans for the next day at their apartment. After work on Saturday Justin drove down to pick me up and a few other girls. The entire car ride to Puyallup (where their apartment was) he was such a different person. He wasn't very forward and he was boyishly sweet. I didn't expect it. I started to get a rush of butterflies. I kept saying to myself: I don't want anything permanent or temporary. That night there were a ton of people over.  Drinking games, music, and conversation set the tempo. Everyone was having a good time. Justin and I had managed to spend most of the night talking, laughing, and really getting to know each other... until I made the decision to try and play beer pong. What a terrible choice that was because I HATE BEER! I ended up playing my first game of beer pong but with different alcohol of choice in my cups - something that tasted fruity (the name is escaping me right now). Did I mention how much of a lightweight I am?  So as you can guess, it didn't take very long for me to be DONE for the night. Ah!  I felt like I was on a boat. My head was spinning and I felt so sick. The girls I had come with were having a good time. They were dancing and socializing. Meanwhile, I was in the bathroom, upchucking whatever was coming up at that point. I remember thinking how upset I was that my hair probably had chunks in it. I turn around, and Justin is in the doorway, he just grabs my hair, without me even asking. Grateful, I lean back into the toilet. Noone at this house was sober, and no one was driving anywhere. I ended up sleeping in the spare bedroom.. this happened to be Justin's room. I expected him to be extremely forward. I expected him to try and make a move. We had really hit it off that night and I'd expected him to ruin it... He didn't. He got me a blanket, made sure I was comfortable, and he tried NOTHING. Not thinking twice, I passed out.

Falling for him:

That Sunday, Justin asked me out on a date and I accepted. I really can't recall a day that we didn't talk or hang out after that weekend. He asked me to be his girlfriend on August 13th, 2010 and he left for block leave that same day. Even then we managed to talk as often as the time zones would allow ( him being in New York). When he returned from block leave, we had managed to stay a couple. He would drive me to work and pick me up from work on the weekends when he himself was off. I remember spending more nights at his house than my own. I remember watching football games with him. College and NFL because he LOVES football (neither of the two pertained to my interest at the time). I remember bowling with him, I remember flowers being sent to me at work, and introducing him to my family and friends. Sundays we cooked breakfast together and Saturdays we stayed in while all his battle buddies went out to the bar. Neither of us was old enough to bar hop, so that gave us alone time in the apartment (a rare occasion). I remember the first time he sincerely said, I love you. It was Halloween night. He spent Thanksgiving with my family at my father's house and Christmas as well. I won't ever forget the night he planned a surprise date. I got all dolled up and he picked me up looking so stud like. He took me to the Olive Garden and after dinner, he'd gotten a hotel room so we could have a night away from his roommates. Typically people assume hotel rooms equal physical intimacy. I myself even expected this to some degree. As we laid down for the night, Justin turned to me and says, " What do you want to talk about?" "We can talk about anything." That moment was the moment I knew I had found my person. From the very beginning, I knew Justin was in the Army. I knew that he had reenlisted during his deployment for a new duty station located in Georgia. I knew that our time together was limited but somehow that didn't stop me from wanting to know him better. We had a handful of times where we both got so caught up in the romance we forgot that soon he would be leaving. There were times where we thought we should end things, and we did. In the end, we'd end up back together within days, and the fear of having to say goodbye faded, and the love we'd created somehow multiplied in goodbye's replacement. 

The night that changed my life:

One night in December, Justin was taking me home... I turned to him and I said, "If I quit my job, quit school, and wanted to go to Georgia with you, would that be okay?" He didn't answer me. The rest of the way to my mother's house he was silent. I remember feeling so stupid like I shouldn't have even asked. He parked in front of my house, he looks at me and says, "If you do that you know what has to happen, right? You have to be my wife." That was hands down one of the best moments of my life. Shortly after that, we brought in the new year together. I was no longer Justin's girlfriend. I was his fiance. We'd gotten a group of friends together and headed out to a club in Seattle to celebrate New Year's Eve. Justin and I ended up leaving early and we tried to drive to Alki Beach in the chaos of Seattle. I remember being in bumper to bumper traffic. I remember thinking, we weren't going to have our "romantic" over the top kiss. We never did make it to the beach, but we managed to get stuck in traffic right in front of the space needle. That 2011 New Year's kiss was exactly at midnight when all of the fireworks were going off and the ball had dropped. Hundreds of people surrounded the space needle and all you saw were people kissing everywhere, taking in the essence that Seattle brought in that moment. It was the most romantic moment we'd had in our relationship at that point. I will never forget that night.

Mr. & Mrs:

So we'd had ourselves a case of summer love, and we fell HARD. It wasn't always easy, but we'd managed to stay together even against the inevitable distance we were facing. Summer love turned into fall love, fall loved followed us into the new year and that January Justin got down on one knee, and he asked for my hand in marriage. We got married on January 21st, 2011. As planned, he PCS'd and I, with all of my heart, followed. Love truly is a rare, crazy thing. Justin was born and raised in upstate New York and I was raised in Washington State. Miles and miles stood between us. Two people who were never meant to meet each other fell in love and created a happily ever after. It's been over ten years since we first fell in love and I have built an immense love for Justin. One that swells up and consumes me daily. He's my best friend, my safe place, my goofy laugh, my victory smile, and without question - the only soul designed for me. I could not have asked for a better human - a better man to spend the rest of my life with. I could not ask for a better father for our children. My marriage has taught me to never stop pursuing anything in life that is worthwhile. Everyday there is an element of surprise and without question we should explore all that life has to offer.