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Dear Caroline,

It’s taken me days to process the last week. I hadn’t seen you in months until Sunday. A week ago. It feels like forever.

I missed you more than I had the words to explain. Hurricane or not, I had to be with you. I had to spend my birthday with you, the one year anniversary of you setting off on this journey.

Plans were delayed as hurricane Matthew came close to you and then bounced his way up the coast to me. Florida was not hit anywhere near as hard as North Carolina.

As soon as it was light, the rain stopped and the winds started to die down, I threw my suitcase in the car and left. I tried to avoid flooded roads and I made the 678 mile, ten hour trip in just over eleven hours safely.

Watching you walk up the block did funny things to my insides. It gave me butterflies and made my chest ache. Kissing you again felt so amazing. Our romance put on hold as we set off the car alarm and couldn’t get it to stop in the quiet neighborhood. Us giggling, giddy at the sight and smell and touch of each other, trying to quietly maneuver up the stairs and to your room, to a bed we’d never shared. You felt so good.

Walking up early, sunlight spilling in, heading out for breakfast. Taking in the sights of the quaint town that’s stolen your heart. Breakfast at Denny’s, coffee, pancakes, eggs, toast, grits, and that delicious honey jalapeno bacon.

My laptop, me working on vacation, the price I paid for taking time out of the office. You curled up next to me, having called out, snoring. You are so beautiful when you sleep.

Waking you up, taking my lunch break, walking, swinging, talking. Then back to work for me, only to look up and see so many snacks laid out on the bed for us to share. Finishing up my day, you insisting on dinner.

The car ride to dinner. The life changing, emotional car ride to dinner. Neither of us able to speak. When you handed me the box and asked me to open it a day early, not on my birthday, it was not what I expected.

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I tried not to cry. I’m not sure if I did or not. It was so overwhelming and beautiful. I love you.

Disney Springs. So many shops. So much chocolate.

Dinner. Sitting there, staring at you. Trying to comprehend. I’ve never loved anything as much as I love you. Not the way I love you.

Before dinner, music and drinks and jokes about how our wedding will be. Watching you being unable to be still if there’s music playing, particularly with a strong beat. I wanted you then.

Home. In bed. Your hands around mine, fingers laced through mine, touching the ring you put on my finger. Making love with you is not like something I’ve ever known. I can’t wait to do it forever.

Waking up with you again, heading out to the parks for the day. Riding roller coasters, walking around with my Jack and Coke in my hand. Kissing you and tasting rum. Everyone telling me happy birthday because, like a five year old, I wanted my Disney button. Holding your hand.

Petting the goats and donkey. The pigs. The cow. The lambs. Watching the tiger. Giggling at silly kid’s shows in 3D. My love of dinosaurs.

Dinner and a movie. At the same time. We’ve never gone to a movie together. How it affected me and I didn’t even realize it.

Driving to the next park and squealing with excitement to see .38 Special play. They are so old, but they still sound amazing. The cold rain and the bright blue umbrella. Pierogis and kielbasa. The Polish in me so excited for the recognition. So many fireworks. Kissing you under them.

Home again. In bed. Exhausted and overwhelmed and so in love with you. My head on your chest and shoulder, your lips against my forehead.

Then it was morning. You kissed me goodbye and went to work. I packed and headed out for the long trip home.

The road collapses and fallen trees and flooding rivers made my trip almost impossible. The down and out bridges and trying to make it home before dark so that I could see when the roads were washed out. Driving through Fayetteville and Lumberton in the dark, always aware that there may be a place where there is no road. Keeping you calm on the other end of the phone as ten hours turned into twelve and then fourteen.

 

Fifteen hours later I walked into our home. I was too tired to understand any of the last three days.

I’ve had time to think. To process. Driving through that was scary and I’m glad I didn’t tell you in great detail what it was like until later. Understanding that I might not have made it home.

My ring and everything it means. What it symbolizes. I don’t like to take it off. It is beautiful, just like you.

Yes, I’ll marry you. And I’d do it all over again without hesitation.

Thank you for my birthday. It was perfect, just like you for me.

You are my happily ever after.

Love,

Stacy

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