Karissa and Gage

Image 1 of Karissa and Gage

How We Met

I looked up into the large room at the Kent Performing Arts Center; the adored building of the Kent State New Philadelphia campus that stood 15 minutes from my small hometown in Dover, Ohio. A smile broke across my face as the realization set in: I was at prom. The giant ball-shaped room glistened with lights, and white cloth-covered tables filled the space, each lined with delicately placed nametags. As we cautiously found our assigned seats, a wave of heat arose through my body. Due to the rather late decision to attend prom, Gage and I were at a table with a random couple. But then again, I suppose Gage and I could be described in the same manner. It had only been about two weeks since my best friend Rachel had turned to me in Spanish class and asked the question that would inevitably change my life forever.

“Will you go to prom with my brother?” Rachel glistened her giant white smile in my direction as she spoke. “I really don’t want him to miss his senior prom!”
“Sure!” I answered before even realizing I had told my lips to respond. I had a habit of rolling with the tide, so I suppose I should not have been surprised at my lack of control. Rachel smiled with an anticipated excitement that seemed to flow through her long wavy brown hair. She willingly took care of all the arrangements, which was good considering I had no clue how a person was even supposed to prepare for such an event. Prom was right around the corner, and I really didn’t even know much about Rachel’s brother, other than the fact that he appeared to be, from many stories and observations, my polar opposite.

As everyone slowly found their seats, waiters began gliding around the room delivering plates of fresh meals. It was convenient that the prom committee had decided to include dinner with the dance, but the food seemed a bit questionable. Not to mention it also fully exposed my awkward inability to begin a conversation. As I looked over nervously toward Gage, I found a strange fascination in watching him eat. I looked over at his broad jaw line and smoothly shaven face. He turned and smiled in my direction, a small grin-like smile that didn’t reveal his teeth, but rather showed the delicate features of his blushed face and baby blue eyes. He carefully studied his food and with each bite his perfectly rounded ears moved slightly, a sight that fascinated me. Little conversation took place during this period of time, as I sat with beads of sweat threatening to run down my forehead and reveal my nerves. Gage broke the ice with some small talk involving the couple that shared our table. I listened to his voice in awe. He laughed a genuine laugh that created a wave of goose bumps across my arms. How could he be so … calm? I felt a smile curl on my face as I swooned over his confidence.

Although I had seen Gage around school and often heard Rachel talk about him, I had met him directly only once before. I had come over to Rachel’s house extremely early before school to finish making dolce de leche cookies for Spanish class, and I was sitting at the kitchen table when a shout arose from another room. “RACHEL!”

“YEAH?” Rachel returned.

I heard shuffling down the stairs, and there was Gage. Wearing sweat pants and his letterman’s jacket with “wrestling” proudly stitched on the back, he appeared smooth and confident. “I don’t have a ride to school,” he stated. “Well I am sure Karissa can take us both. Right Kriss?” She looked hopefully in my direction, and I nodded timidly, unsure where to look. Gage began telling his sister a story from the previous evening, and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at his boisterous and “boy-like” tones. He belted and laughed and swung his arms as he told his tale. Gage was intimidating, his bolting personality drowning my timid demeanor, which seemed ironic considering I was taller. I felt considerably smaller when he was present, however, and not because I slouched to compensate for the few inches that I held over him. He was the “class clown type,” always catching the attention of his peers. Everyone knew Gage Sommers, and I was just the tall, quiet, studious girl who had never been in a serious relationship, or really one at all for that matter.

When it was finally time to dance, Gage guided me carefully down the stairs, as if to ensure my clumsiness would not be the cause of a tragic end to the night. My blue and black swirled dress floated gently above the floor as I lifted it slightly to reveal my flat silver sandals. Gage looked so confident as he glided from one destination to another. My heart thumped so loudly that I swore it could be heard throughout the spacious room. Teenage bodies sprawled across the dance floor in rhythmic chaos. Slightly embarrassed by my height, I became suddenly worried that Gage wouldn’t want to dance with me, but he didn’t seem to notice my worries. He stood confidently in his all black tux, a color his sister had chosen while I had frantically searched for a dress. I liked the way he looked in black, how it broadened his shoulders and brought out his bright blue eyes. I had never seen such beautiful eyes. Even his eyes lashes were long and brilliantly formed as though they, too, were meant to emphasize the perfection of the eyes they protected. I looked down at the black belt that appeared to accentuate curves I had never noticed on myself, and the mermaid shaped dress delicately hugged my hips, the bottom of just barely rubbed its seams on the white paneled floor. One good thing about being tall was that I didn’t really have to worry about altering the dress; its length seemed to be made to hang on the tall body that wore it.

Gage found Rachel in the crowd, and after some awkward swaying, he finally let loose. He bobbed and swayed to the melodies filling the room, and the sight of it entranced me. His facial expressions seemed to follow the tones of the songs, and his ears continuously shifted in perfect synchronization with his smile. For the first time in my life, I felt no shame. Shaking away my timid shell, I dove in to join. I was nowhere near a good dancer, not even close, but I began to feel an overwhelming sense of comfort around Gage. His free spirit and high energy seemed to charge a side of my personality that had been dormant and forgotten inside my quiet shell. When the first slow dance rolled around, I became a bit less confident.

Height had always been an issue. I had heard many a time people refer to me as “the tall girl,” and I heard at least once a week “wow you’re tall” from people who gawked at my height. From grade school on my height had been my number one issue. Guys always went for the petite girls, not the girl who was nearly six foot tall. So as I stood close to Gage, I feared he would become immediately shy from slow dancing with a girl who was nearly a head taller. My eyes instinctively fell to the floor as I waited for Gage to lead me back to our chairs. Suddenly, I felt his arms wrap around my waist and pull me a little closer. Immediately my confidence was recharged, and I rested my lanky arms on his shoulders. I became aware of how perfectly he would fit into a hug, and I smiled as I glanced down into his eyes. He was the first person to not directly comment on my height, or even lead on that it bothered him.

Hours before prom, my family and Rachel’s family had met at the small local pond to get pictures It seemed odd that our families were both there. I had been smiling for so long that I became suddenly worried my facial muscles would forget how to smile.

I remember an instant in between photo sessions when my mother pointed the camera in my direction. I stood in front of the Dover pond, a fountain spewing in the background. My fingers were nervously interlocked, the corsage on my wrist gleaming in the rather cloudy day. I looked up in time to reveal a small, nervous smile. Gage was a few feet away, his hands tucked into the pockets of his sleek tuxedo. He was looking back toward the fountain thoughtfully, as though he was avoiding the awkwardness that filled the space between our bodies. This is how we looked when my mother snapped a picture. The moment frozen in time. I often look back and laugh at the uncomfortable tension that is present. If only I would have known how important that day would become.

After what seemed like a thousand pictures had been taken, it was time for everyone to disperse.
“Are you okay to ride back with Gage and chill?” Rachel asked with her same beautiful smile gleaming in the light. There was time to kill before the walk-ins and dinner, but I had never imagined that I would be spending time with Gage by myself. What was I supposed to talk about?

“Uhm, yeah!” I nervously spewed. My parents waved as I got into Gage’s black Cobalt. Thoughts raced through my mind like trains that could not find the right tracks to lead them to their intended destination. What am I supposed to say? Should I talk? Oh God help me before he thinks I have become mute! I did speak, eventually, although I don’t remember much of the conversation on the way to Gage’s house. Gage later told me that my voice was so quiet that he couldn’t even hear what I was saying anyways.

When we arrived at Gage’s house, he casually asked if I wanted to play Wii, and I, of course, agreed. It felt strange to be sitting in Rachel’s house casually hanging out with her brother before accompanying him to prom.

“Baseball?” his voice got higher as if seeking my approval. “I ALWAYS win baseball!” he gleamed as he spoke. I laughed a nervous, belting like laugh that sat awkwardly in the air for a second before the game began.

I couldn’t stop thinking to myself how naturally he spoke and with such an eagerness to be friendly. He was so easy to get along with. We playfully laughed as Gage revealed his immaculate skills at Wii baseball. He really did win every time, and he was serious about it. His arms swung vigorously, as he swung at each pitch. I giggled each time he missed because he became visibly frustrated at his tiny failures. As I looked over at him, I began to feel something different about that boy. The person I had really just met. The person that I had always wanted to meet. The person that I wished I had met sooner.

I fell into a trance as the music continued, and song after song I drew closer and closer to him. I became aware of Gage’s deep blue eyes as they shimmered in the dim lighting each time he tilted his head up and smiled. Oh how that smile had melted my soul! My hands tingled and my stomach flooded with butterflies. My mouth was nearly shaking from how long I had been smiling, and my face felt hot and blushed. This was new. I had long before discarded romance as a result of my height, my timid nature, and my lack of interest in the immature boys that roamed the halls of high schools across the nation. This was different. I had never felt this way. I had never had… a crush.

The DJ’s voice awoke me from my trance as he announced the final song. The room was nearly deserted, but I wasn’t leaving until I had to. As the song took a slower pace, Gage moved closer, his head slightly tilted so that he could look at my blushed face. My arms naturally drew me closer to him as we swayed together as one newfound body to the final memory of the dance. I felt a sense of confidence and beauty wash over me. Never before had I felt so comfortable being myself.

Image 2 of Karissa and Gage

how they asked

He asked on our two year anniversary. We had been out to dinner and a movie, and I could tell he seemed a bit anxious. We planned to stay up until midnight when our official two year-aversary arrived. After a midnight kiss, he told me to take his dog (Bella) outside before we left. As I walked out the door, I turned and saw 4 friends walking up one by one holding decorated signs. They spelled out “Will You Marry Me?”

I thought there must be some sort of trick happening, until I spun around and saw Gage down on one knee. I instantly burst into tears…

Image 3 of Karissa and Gage