This is a personal project of mine, one that will likely stretch for the next year. I want to write our love story, in detail, so many years from now I can remember what drew us to one another. The introduction of Forge can be found here, originally it was titled Part One, but it really is more of an introduction. This is Part One.
I was sitting at my computer desk one autumn afternoon editing a recent engagement session when my phone buzzed. It was a text from my friend, Kelsey. I stretched out my back, hearing it crack before grabbing my nearby iPhone and rolling my computer chair back from the desk. Swiping my phone screen to the right, I opened Kelsey’s text message: “Hey! Jason is away hunting this weekend with a friend…so I’m headed home to the Island for the weekend to see my parents. Any chance you’d wanna come with?” I considered her question. My weekend was unplanned and a couple days away from it all in a small-town felt like a perfect fit. Smiling, I replied immediately, “Sure! When do we leave? I’m in.”
Friday morning, our bags were packed in the truck of my car and Kelsey and I were on the highway headed towards the Horseshoe Bay Ferries. After a two hour commute, the ferry docked in Nanaimo and we merged onto the Island Highway headed North. We drove for almost an hour before Kelsey said, “Take the Courtenay exit here.” Fifteen more minutes of driving off the highway, further and further into the country we went. We drove by fields and forests and stop signs and eventually onto the gravel and dirt road leading to her parent’s acreage. The space and the quiet and the air refreshed my brain as we unloaded our suitcases and slammed the car doors closed. I smiled and thought, It’s so good to be away.
Back home, I was hopelessly caught in the cycle of We’re not dating but you text me all the time and lead me on and sometimes we go on what feels like “dates” but to you, they are not dates, but to me, they are, they are wonderfully, terrible dates, dates that confuse me and make my brain spin and make me want to quit-it-ALL but at the same time, pull me closer, closer, closer, making me want to stay around, just in case you change your mind. I needed space. We had no plans for our weekend in the country. Maybe we’d rent a couple movies or go for a long walk through the trails or browse some of the shops in town. Maybe we’d do all of those things plus I’d maybe cry about boys while we walked and talked through the trails and I’d maybe listen to Beyonce really loud on our drive into town and I’d maybe sing the chorus to “Best Thing I Never Had.” Maybe I would.
Kelsey’s Mom greeted us with a hug when we walked into the kitchen. She had dinner on the stove and a cordless phone underneath her arm and asked, “What’s your plan for tonight, girls?” We sat down on a pair of bar stools a few feet away, and Kelsey answered, “We’re headed to Atlas to meet up with Jason’s parents and Randy.”
“Oooh. Randy. Are you trying to be a little matchmaker?”
I laughed awkwardly, sincerely hoping this wasn’t the case.
“NO, Mom! Randy knew I was coming to town and he wants to see me… looping it in with seeing Jason’s parents makes the most sense. I would not set Jamie and Randy up together.”
From the little I knew, Randy was a high school friend of Kelsey and her husband Jason. Throughout their teen years, Randy and Jason were best friends. Jason started dating his wife Kelsey as a teenager so the three of them often hung out. When Jason went away to school for a year, Kelsey and Randy got even closer. Randy was Kelsey’s brother from another mother, her “best guy friend.”
Later that day, Kelsey and I stood in the crowded lobby of Atlas Restaurant, waiting in the narrow hallway near the front door. It was a few minutes before six o’ clock and we had just put in our name for a table of six: Kelsey, myself, Randy, Jason’s parents and his brother. I was picking at my fingernails, uncharacteristically nervous. It was just dinner… with four people I’ve never met in a small town I’ve never been to… and one of those people happens to be twenty-two and single and a man…. and I’m single but I already know, I’m not interested in meeting anyone right now, so I shouldn’t be nervous, but I am, because I feel like these kinds of situations can overlap into awkward territory quite quickly. “Oh, there’s Randy!” Kelsey waved out the window in the direction of 6th Street, startling me out of my run-on thoughts. I looked towards the door as Randy opened it wide. Kelsey and Randy hugged and I smiled the awkward smile you smile when two people who haven’t seen each other for months are hugging and exchanging “how are you’s” and you’re the third wheel on the side waiting to be introduced. I took the two seconds to do a once-over. Randy was wearing a blue short-sleeve plaid-shirt. It was open at the collar, with a white t-shirt underneath. His jeans were baggy, but I quickly realized baggy denim was the only option when I got down to his shoes. Skate shoes, black and wide. Not a fan.
“Randy, this is Jamie. Jamie, this is Randy!”
“Nice to meet you,” Randy stuck out his hand and I shook it, noticing his voice right away. It was warm, deep, confident.
“Nice to meet you too!”
Kelsey laughed, putting her hand on Randy’s shoulder, “Like I told you, Jamie, this is my Cameron.”
Randy looked blankly at Kelsey’s face and then mine and I started to giggle, “Kelsey calls you her best guy friend and I have a best guy friend at home. His name is Cameron. You know, like that best friend of the opposite gender that you’d never, ever date but you are super close with? So you’re her Cameron,” I was rambling, I could feel it. Randy and his carefully shaved and shaped chin-strap doesn’t care about Cameron Reid.
Just then, Jason’s family walked in, saving me from further rambling. Praise the good Lord. At the same time, our table was ready and the six of us dutifully followed behind the hostess to a middle booth at the back of the restaurant. I stuck close to Kelsey, careful to avoid taking a seat beside Randy. Just in case this was a set-up. I didn’t have anything against the man but I was only there to spend time with Kelsey and order a fancy salad. When our meals arrived at the table, I dug in, alternating between bites of balsamic-doused lettuce, warm beets, creamy goat cheese and thinly sliced roasted potatoes.
We said “Nice to see you!” and “Goodbye!” to Jason’s family at the end of our meal and Randy followed us out to 6th Street. “Do you guys have time to swing by to see the work on my house?” Randy asked. “It’s only a couple minutes drive up the road.”
“Yes! I want to see it!” Kelsey replied.
I nodded. “Sure.”
“Great,” he said. “Follow my truck.”
We followed his big, black, loud diesel pick-up truck for the promised couple minutes up the road until it came to a stop in the driveway of a duplex. On the drive, Kelsey explained that Randy was a general contractor with a building company in Courtenay. Six months ago, Randy purchased his first home and had been working on renovations every spare evening and weekend. He was a talented carpenter, the hardest worker she knew and his home was finally finished. She was excited to see the progress.
We walked up to his front door and Randy exhaled as he turned his key, “So this is it.” We trailed Randy around the surprisingly neat and tidy, two-bedroom, two-bathroom home as he pointed out changes he had made. The home had new windows, new hardwood, new tile, new backsplash, new kitchen, new paint on the walls, all new stainless steel appliances. He walked into his bedroom, carefully opening the sliding glass back door. “And here’s the latest project – the deck.” We stepped outside on the dark-stained wood. The deck started outside the bedroom door and wrapped the right side of his house, reaching around to the front door. It was beautiful.
As an avid watcher of the Home & Garden Television network, I was impressed. By his tidiness and by his talent. I would love to renovate a house someday, I thought as we surveyed his work. We wandered back to his front door, Kelsey and Randy continued to catch up on the last few months of their lives. I shifted my weight from one leg to the other, politely waiting for their conversation to finish. It had been fun to see an HGTV-worthy “after” home but I was dreaming of peppermint tea, pyjamas pants and Kelsey’s family’s house in the country. On our way out the door, Randy and I exchanged “It was nice to meet you’s” and within a few minutes, my steering wheel was turning right into Kelsey’s family’s familiar gravel driveway… peppermint tea calling our names.