McKenna and Justin
Popular Stories, With Friends and Family
I was 20 when I moved to London, England from some small northern town in Canada. It was the first flight I’d taken on my own and it was a one way ticket. There was no fail-safe, no return flight, and no plan. I had a two year work visa — and that was the extent of my knowledge. I knew nothing about the situation I was getting myself into. I’d booked a hostel for two weeks after I landed — enough time I reckoned to find a job and a place to live. It took the full two weeks to find a place to live and a full month to find a job.
I applied at bakeries and sure enough was hired on at a factory after lying about my “one years worth of experience”. I was accepted into the middle shift as a pastry assistant — a cake decorator. My pristine English was no match to the broken English of the immigrants I found myself surrounded by. I adored them, laughed with them, loved them and the environment that I was suddenly embedded in. I fell in love with the cultures — Hungarian, Polish, Bulgarian, Russian, Romanian. And one sweet British boy, who I often rolled my eyes at as he sassed me and vice versa. We worked different shifts, so it was only in the evenings that I would catch him, and rarely at that. I genuinely thought he hated me those first months — he called me names, and I sassed him right back. We talked often enough to know we were friends, despite it all. I loved our conversations, even though it may have been because we were the only two native-English speakers in the company. We never saw one another outside of work.
Two years flew by; my visa came up to expiry and it was time for me to move home. He claims to have given a heart-felt goodbye, but the way he hugs people he doesn’t know is like a pat on the back — so I don’t believe it.
I went back to Vancouver, started my studies at school and found myself a new job in an office. It took me a year and a half before I had flights back to London — this time only for a five-day visit. It was a short stop on a larger tour over Christmas break. My time was divided between friends — those who I’d worked with before and who had moved away from London. My trip was planned to a tea and I was beyond excited to go back.
I sent a message to Nikko a few days after I’d booked flights. I still thought he hated me, even then so I wasn’t expecting a welcoming response. He was beyond hospitable — gracious and welcoming even to my surprise. We planned one night out for drinks, and spoke only a few times in between when I’d booked tickets and when I arrived in London. I texted him immediately, let him know I was in town and what my plans were. He let me know that whatever worked for me worked for him. On the third night of my trip, I found myself alone as another friend had bailed for work. I wasn’t supposed to get together with Nikko until the following night, but I texted him anyways to see what he was up to — perhaps he would be willing to change plans.
Once more, and to my everlasting surprise, he did.
I was a few drinks in by the time he arrived and (shocker) his hug was a pat on the back. We drank, we laughed, we drank more and ended our night with me being carried home (much to my chagrin), and him never letting me forget it. The following day, I rocked up to the same bar where we’d agreed to meet initially, and we crested our second night of drinks in a row. We laughed hard, and the conversation carried well into the morning that Christmas eve. There was an ease and a flow to the conversation that I’d missed; it was like being back at work and sassing one another over all the little things. His hug at the end of the night was still a pat on the back.
I flew out the following day, and spend a few weeks travelling. When I arrived back in Vancouver, he eagerly awaited a video call and I continued to neglect his urges to chat. It was about a month, and I’d just completed an exam in school when I finally called him. It was one of those moments where it just felt right. Three hours later, we hung up the phone, tears still in my eyes from laughing so hard. It went on like this, every few weeks another phone call, every few weeks another few hours spent on the phone with this guy who I started crushing harder and harder every time. It got hard not to message him and soon enough I was finding excuses to but the conversation always flowed.
My birthday was coming, and I jokingly suggested to my roommate that he invite Nikko to the surprise party that I wasn’t supposed to know about. I thought nothing of it when my roommate stepped outside for a few phone calls, and then said he’d be back around midnight on that Friday. In the interim, I spoke to Nikko on the phone and I said I’d call him on Saturday; I made hints that I was getting older and it was a big deal but he made nothing of it. Later that week, at approximately midnight I woke up to an all-too-British voice in my living room. I remember waking up, and stumbling half-asleep into the living room, recognizingthe voice but not wanting to believe it. He said something to the affect of “hey, thought this was better than a birthday phone call.”
Shocked and half asleep, I stumbled into his arms — to find that he only gave me a pat on the back. This is starting to become a trend. I was sure he didn’t like me — not after 4700 miles and a hug like that. We made plans for the following day and said goodnight.
Morning arrived and we had 5am coffee and talked for hours. And hours. And hours. I had an exam for school, and after writing it, I met up with my Nikko and my roommate again. We made our way through the Vancouver streets, flirting harmlessly until we found our way to the pub where my surprise party was being held. My cousin came to the party and was my wing woman the whole night, making sure I was seated beside this guy I was crushing on.
At some point, the two of us found ourselves outside, leaning against the wall and talking. He claims I’m the one who kissed him, but I swear that’s not how it happened. I simply leaned in enough for him to know what I wanted, and he’s the one who kissed me.
That first kiss was magic — I’ve never felt anything so surreal in my life. Nothing has ever felt so right and so perfect. I knew I loved him in that moment. He was my one — my person. He was the love of my life. He asked me that night if I was crazy enough to conquer the distance and the world between us. I’ve never been so sure of anything.
Yes, darling. I am sure.
We were never conventional. We met on the wrong side of the world, met when we weren’t supposed to, and fell in love when the timing was imperfect. Those who know us describe it as fate — destiny if you will. How could two people like us find one another in a city of 8 million, a year and a half after leaving it behind? It was unplanned and we were blindsided by one another.
And that’s exactly how he proposed.
8 months prior, I had booked my holiday – 5 days in London to visit with friends and family, and afterwards a sailing tour through Croatia with a 1 night layover on the way home. I was told that I could know absolutely nothing about what he had planned in those first 5 days but I’m pushy and definitely drove him mad with asking prior to the trip – often enough, I confess, to have him give me most of the details before we’d even arrived. He told me he’d planned for us to do a photoshoot in Central London, then we’d go for dinner and finish the day off at the top of the Shard with a glass of champagne. Throughout the day, I kept thinking “maybe now, maybe now”, but that moment never came. We went back to the hotel at the end of the night and simply enjoyed each others company. I wasn’t disappointed; I knew our time would come and that we’d be ready when it did. We had already crossed enough oceans to know by this point that we were forever. Naturally, I left London without a ring and without a fiance. I went on the sailing tour, had the time of my life, and missed my boyfriend enough to be glad when the tour came to an end. I kept thinking I was ready to come home; home is where the heart is after all, and mine was with him.
On that one-night layover, we had only a few hours to spend as I flew back to Vancouver the next morning bright and early. By the time I got back from Croatia in the afternoon, we had enough time to go check into the hotel before heading out for dinner. He kept promising that there was a restaurant that he wanted to take us to, and exhausted from the sailing tour, I followed along with very little care in the world. I got to spend the night with my best friend and that’s all that mattered to me. I picked up on the fact that he was off; he usually has no problem finishing his drinks but that night we left the restaurant with some leftovers.
It wasn’t too long after we’d been wandering the city streets that he pulled me to the side, looking at me like he always does – so truly affectionate and gentle. I remember thinking I loved him and that I wished the night would last forever. I don’t remember his exact words but he dropped to one knee and caught me completely by surprise. My response was something to the affect of “please tell me you’re not joking!” And he wasn’t.
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