Alexandra and Zachary

Image 1 of Alexandra and Zachary

How We Met

I can remember standing out on the balcony, overlooking the Wildwood, New Jersey sunset; it was May of 2014 and the night before endeavoring to run my second half marathon. As I stood there beside my little sister, I decided to scroll through my Instagram feed. That evening you had posted a photo of the sunset over the farmland of Lancaster County and captioned it, “This and Arcade Fire.” Profound I know. But for some reason, I felt inclined to comment back. I could hear my heart saying “THIS IS YOUR CHANCE!” To clarify, I knew one song by that band and liked it so… that was enough to spark up conversation right? Well, I sure thought so. So I turned to my little sister and asked her advice, as I am hopeless when it comes to talking to boys or having any sort of game.

After 10 minutes of contemplation and building up the courage to hit send, I brilliantly commented, “That’s so cool! Where is Arcade Fire playing at?!”. Unfortunately, I misinterpreted the entire situation. There was no concert that night and you were very kind in your reply as to not let me feel like a complete idiot. You said, “Oh haha I must have made it sound better than it is, I was playing it in my car really loud haha, and singing along…unfortunately, there is no concert haha”. And cue me feeling like I ruined any chance I ever had with you (I was a bit dramatic back then). I had saved my opportunity to make a move for the perfect moment and had waited 2 years to do so, since having had a crush on you back in high school. But now I had wasted away any chance of us being together. One year of college under my belt could not change my smoothness with the fellas.

Fortunately, I was completely wrong. I had not ruined my chances at all. Fast-forward a couple of weeks later to June 6 and the evening of the Fault in our Stars premiere. I posted a picture on Instagram of my favorite quote from the book with a caption stating how excited I am for the midnight showing (secretly hoping you would see). Never did I expect you to comment! And never did I think I’d be inviting you to join my mom, little sister, and friend Heather to go watch it at Penn Cinema. But life is beautifully unexpected and through Instagram messaging (thank goodness for social media) we had planned our first meeting.

I was so nervous when I saw you walk into the theater that I strategically positioned Heather in-between you and I. However, that did not last long. As soon as we started talking I was hooked; we hit it off right away. I think we made Heather feel uncomfortable by having a conversation over top of her because she eventually broke down and asked if we wanted to switch seats. The entire time I was watching the movie, I was scared to even move because you were beside me. Then the movie ended and you invited Heather and I to hang and grab an ice cream. I thought my heart was going to explode at that moment! We went to the always-classy McDonalds and grabbed some soft serve then took it to Lititz Springs Park, where we proceeded to eat it on the swings. As I sat there and listened to you joke around in your goofy way, I had this feeling something strong was there. And as you drove me home and I jammed out to the song “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” by Jet, I knew for sure that there was something there. Never had I ever felt more comfortable to be myself then when I was with you, and I had only known you for a few hours. As we pulled up to my driveway I so badly wanted to ask for your number but was quickly reminded that I have no game. So when you boldly asked for my number as I exited the vehicle, I felt on top of the world! You texted me that night after arriving home and asked me on a date. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the start of what would be an incredible journey.

The next morning you picked me up and escorted me to Tomato Pie Café, a Lititz local’s favorite spot. The entire time I was in complete awe that this was actually happening. I, Alexandra Shelley, had a date with a boy I had been crushing hard on. I was sure at any moment I would wake up and find it had all been a dream. But I thank God every day that it was not. Whenever I look back on the summer of 2014, I remember it as the happiest summer of my life. You brought so much joy and love into my life…it was everything I ever wanted and everything I needed, though I didn’t know it at the time.

We made so many memories that summer. First of which began on a secluded park bench in Linear Park, where you sat me down and forced me to watch beat-boxing videos on YouTube. Throughout the summer you introduced me to Twenty-One Pilots, educated me on Lord of the Rings, and bought me bologna at Weisser’s Market. When we weren’t together you made sure to text me every morning, every night, and all the hours in-between. Never had I ever felt happier or more loved.

I can distinctly remember a conversation I had one day with my dad that summer. We were sitting in his car about to go somewhere, but before backing out of the driveway, he turned to me and said: “I am so happy to see you this happy.” I had never really heard my father say anything like that before, but now I can understand why he did. You meant so much to me back then but I freaked out. I wasn’t ready to appreciate your love and I wasn’t ready to give you the love you deserved. So, after a summer of pure bliss, I panicked and ended it. I am still so sorry for that day and the pain I caused. I regretted that decision every day afterward and I swore to myself that if I ever got a second chance I would not let you go again.

We remained friends after that summer and continued to talk to each other sporadically. Then, a year later I found out you had accepted a mission calling to Peru and I could not have been happier for you! I knew that this would be an amazing opportunity for you and I knew that you were going to touch the lives of so many people. So I sent you a congratulatory message on Facebook and got very excited when you said you wanted to meet up before you left that May of 2015. I kept waiting for your text, waiting to see you for the first time since ending things a year ago, but the text never came. You got to busy and before I knew it you were gone.

I don’t know how or when I found your email, but I decided to take a shot and send an email to you out in Peru. I was extremely nervous to send that first email, unsure of what your feelings would be upon receiving it or if you would even want to hear from me. I sent that email on July 17, 2015, and you responded on July 20, 2015. From that day we continued to email back and forth. Sometimes I took a while to respond and sometimes you took a while, but we kept in contact the entire time you were gone. And before I knew it, 2 years was up.

My graduation from the University of Pittsburgh was Monday, May 1st, 2017 and you were set to arrive back in the States on May 2nd. I could not wait to see you! I could have stayed out in Pittsburgh for an extra week after graduation to hang with friends and work, but there was something telling me I needed to get home to see you. I was extremely excited and nervous to find out what could possibly become of us. My stomach was full of butterflies and my heart was full of hope.

how they asked

I was in Eagle Mountain, Utah visiting with Zac’s family for Thanksgiving. It was my first time meeting everyone and my first time being out in Utah.

Sunday evening, at 8:26 pm, I landed in Salt Lake City, Utah ready to meet most of Zac’s family for the first time. I knew getting off the plane that Zac would not be there until the next morning to greet me. Instead, he sent his older sister Abby, her husband Steven, and his mom to pick me up at the airport. Two of the three people I had never met and needless to say I was nervous and excited to make a first impression. The whole flight to Utah I kept thinking to myself how amazing it would be if Zac surprised me at the airport. I thought to myself, “that would be the most wonderful surprise in the world!” But I knew that fantasy wouldn’t happen because Zac can’t keep a secret to save his life.

Image 2 of Alexandra and Zachary

As soon as we pulled into the terminal, I exited the plane and made my way to baggage claim. As I descended down the escalator, my eyes were greeted with a huge, yellow sign saying Alex Shelley, which put a huge smile on my face! There stood Zac’s three family members and I instantly went in for hugs (I am trying to be more of a hug-y person). However, as I finished up with my hugs, I felt a tap on my back. I knew I had talked to one older fella on the flight but I didn’t think our conversation warranted any further exchanges. I turned around and instantly my heart went soaring. Both shock and pure joy came over me as Zac picked me up in his arms and hugged me. I could not believe he kept this a secret! And little did I know, this would not be the only secret he had up his sleeve for the upcoming week.

Image 3 of Alexandra and Zachary

Fast forward to Tuesday morning, November the 21st, 2017. It started out as a normal morning. We woke up, ate breakfast, and lounged on the couch watching TV with his nephew. Around 9:00 am, Zac and I embarked on a hike to Bell Canyon Trail. I was sad that none of his other family members were accompanying us on the hike, but I was excited about the quality time with Zac and the sights we were going to take in. Most of the time we laughed and joked around with each other, taking in the views as we went along the trail. Eventually, we made it halfway up the trail to a reservoir with a beautiful mountain backdrop. I spotted a bench across the reservoir and asked Zac if we could walk over to sit. He agreed and we made our way over. Before reaching the bench, we stopped at a rock pile to take pictures of the mountains. I was in pure awe. All the sudden, I turned around and saw Zac had gone completely serious (which was weird because he is always smiling and goofing around).

Image 4 of Alexandra and Zachary

He started talking about how he couldn’t picture a world without me and slowly lowered to one knee. At first, I thought he was joking around. I was certain that he was going to propose at Christmas time. But then I looked down and saw a little black box. As he opened it, I was blinded by bright sparkles. He had completely blindsided me! Of course, I said yes! Then I jumped into his arms and hugged as tight as I possibly could. A smile didn’t leave my face for the rest of the day…and it still hasn’t. I honestly don’t think I could have imagined anything more simple and perfect!

Image 5 of Alexandra and Zachary

Special Thanks

Alexandra Clanton
 | Photographer