How We Met
When you’re 14 years old, the world is inherently smaller than it is at 22. You spend your time looking inward, focusing on yourself and your own place in the world. Some people are lucky enough to meet somebody at that age that changes everything; somebody that gives you the inexplicable warmth that people will strive their entire lives to find. I was lucky enough to meet Austin Stamper in 7th grade. I was lucky enough to have him as my first kiss. I was blessed enough to keep him as a friend all these years. People told me time and time again that at 14, I didn’t know what love was. They were wrong.
how they asked
The frustration had been brewing for an hour. Austin said he knew Central Park like the back of his hand, but we’d already seen the same statue three times and he’d already dragged me back to the Central Park Zoo twice now. For whatever reason though, he kept his composure and acted like he knew what he was doing so, for the time being, I’ll keep my mouth shut and trust his judgment. A few cold raindrops trickled down my forehead, signaling the beginning of the storm we’d been warned about earlier that day. This day wasn’t going quite how I’d been expecting. Austin was talking for months about the big day he was planning as my Christmas present. December 18th was finally here, and all that had happened was a rushed breakfast and some pain in my back from all the walking we’d been doing. As the thoughts began to manifest themselves as visible frustration, Austin’s nonchalant stance turned into one of silent urgency as he grabbed my hand and pulled me back toward the fountain he’d avoided 30 minutes ago. Bethesda Fountain? I think that’s what he called it. He’d mentioned several times how excited he was to take me there. As we shuffled down the stone steps and into the arch, Christmas carols reverberated around us. Austin continued forward in a businesslike fashion, scanning the crowd.
He grabbed my phone and handed it to a nearby woman, asking her to take a photo of us in front of the fountain. She took one picture, then moved slightly to the side and took another… and another… and another. What was she doing? This was a terrible angle to take a picture from. “Thank you!” I said sincerely with a hint of ‘please give me my phone back’. But she continued backing up with my phone and smiling. This girl was trying to steal my phone. “Babe, grab my pho…” I started, but was interrupted by the all-too-familiar beginning to “Can’t Help Myself” by the Four Tops, our song. A single woman had begun dancing in the middle of the crowd. My pain melted away, my frustration turned to pure elation; the entire world seemed to light up around me. What were the odds of our song playing right now? It was such an incredible coincidence. The girl was then followed by four more women, all dancing in sync. A flash mob?!? This was incredible! “Can’t Help Myself” faded out and the beginning of “Love is an Open Door” began.
It quickly became obvious at this point that this flash mob was no coincidence. I began to smile from ear to ear, my heart swelled with love for my boyfriend who had obviously put this all together as my Christmas present. We always sang “Love is an Open Door” in the car together, and the look on his face made it clear that he was behind this event that had begun unfolding right before my eyes. The music cut out and the girls circled up, clapping in unison as Austin grabbed my hand and pulled me into the center. “Hold up…” I thought to myself. “Oh my god this wasn’t a Christmas present…” His hazel eyes glowed with excitement as we reached the center of the circle. “Jacquelyn Renee Stewart”, he nervously chuckled and dropped to his knee, revealing a box from his jacket pocket, “Can I say something crazy? Will you marry me?”