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 and Part One can be found here. Part Two can be found here. Part Three can be found here. Part Four can be found here. Part Five can be found here. Part Six can be found here. This is Part Seven.
“This is for you.” He said, handing me a folded piece of paper.
When the card stock touched my fingers, I recognized the texture. The card stock sleeve of Starbucks gift card. “Oh. You didn’t have to.”
“I wanted to.” He smiled shyly.
“Have a great day, Jamie. Thanks again.” He waved while opening his truck door and I walked back to my car, Starbucks gift card in hand thinking, What just happened?
In the safety of my Acura cocoon, I opened the card. Twenty five dollars and a note, written in neat, small capital letters: “Because your time is valuable to me.” Randy was so sweet. The sweetest, in fact. But the gesture struck me as not only sweet and courteous but also completely confusing. I don’t think it’s romantic to give thank you cards on a first date. Thanks for dating me. No. People don’t do that and if someone out there does, they should stop. Business meetings, however? The gesture would be kind.
I guess we had a meeting.
March was a roller coaster of emotion. For every bullet point added under my mental “He likes me” column, there was one to match under the “He’s a friend” column. In mid March, both Randy and I were attending a friend’s wedding. As I curled my hair, chose my black dress and blue high heels, I couldn’t help but think of Randy. When I walked up the church steps and saw Randy standing by the doors in a suit, greeting guests, I was full of nervous energy. Did I look okay? Did I look like I was trying too hard? Don’t be silly, Jamie. People dress up for weddings, it’s okay that you’re in heels. Right, okay.
I gave a little wave and a quiet “hello” but the next time I saw Randy was at the dinner reception. Groups of friends had gathered in between ceremony and reception to go out for lunch or hang out but there was no invite from Randy for me to come… and our friend groups weren’t exactly the same. We were seated at different reception tables and although nothing from Randy’s behaviour earlier that day suggested he was interested, I thought I noticed his eyes on me more than a couple of times.
After one more obvious glance (of course, my eyes left his as quickly as possible every time they did meet!) I noticed the familiar bzzz, bzzz of a text. It was Randy – sending over observations about the speeches as they happened at the front of the room. I smiled, way too nervous to turn to meet his eyes, instead, subtly tried to returned his text.
When the newlywed couple had made their exit, friends began to make plans for the night. It was only nine thirty – the evening was young, after all. A couple of friends mentioned heading to Randy and Jordan’s place. As warm jackets were put on and chairs tucked in, Randy walked by my table. He said a polite (but general) “Have a good night!” to the friends I was seated with and left.
He couldn’t be serious. You text me from a table away? You stare at me throughout the evening? And then you invite a host of people over but say “see ya” to me. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand him.
I drove home that night alone, hair and makeup still looking pretty, short dress and high heels and when I pulled into my driveway I picked up my phone. I’m going to text him, I thought. Yes Jamie! Text him! I encouraged myself. Okay. I will. I asked Randy if anybody was hanging out at his place right now? He texted back immediately, “Yeah! Come on over!”
Great. Pity invite. Everybody loves a pity invite. But I went. Because it sounded a little more attractive than walking into my house, taking off a pretty dress, wiping off my makeup and sliding into bed wearing sweatpants.
Randy had my attention.
Randy also obviously had my phone number at the top of his messages, based on the amount of texts flying my way that month. The weekend was coming up and I was beginning to love weekends because it meant time with Randy. It was a given he’d text asking what my plans were and if I was up for doing something. It had been his routine for over a month now and this week was no exception.
“Would you want to go for a hike this weekend?” He texted.
“Sure! Who’s all coming?”
I watched him typing, “Not sure, still putting it together. But glad you’re in”
(Translation: you’re the first person I invited?)
When Saturday morning arrived, Randy picked me up with two of our guy friends and off we went. I jumped into the back seat beside one of our friends and we were on the highway headed east. I had no idea what Randy had planned that day but for some reason, I didn’t care. There was this given “trust” with Randy. He was a man. He made good plans. I wanted to be around him. An hour later, we pulled off the highway and into a provincial park with a metal gate across the parking lot. A sign was tacked to the gate, reading: “Trail Closed. Landslide Risk – January to April 2013.”
I figured we’d re-route. We’d make a new plan. But no.
Apparently we didn’t need a trail.
I hurried to keep up behind Randy and the boys as they “made their own trail” up the side of the hill. I didn’t know “trail blazing” was an actual thing. Is making your own trail even legal? Is this even safe? I stuck close to Randy, watching him confidently grab onto tree trunks and roots. He’d point out where I should put my foot next and hold out his hand for me to steady myself on. When my footing was stronger, immediately his hand let go of mine – there wasn’t a linger.
The sound of a waterfall grew louder as we climbed. Rounding a corner, I looked off to my right. That was a waterfall, alright. I looked at Randy, a good twenty feet ahead of me, standing precariously close to the edge of the “trail” looking as happy as I’d ever seen him.
I learned that day how Randy was a protector and a caregiver: he always had extra water bottles, snacks to share and was quick to ask all of us, “How are you doing?“
I felt safe with him.
Not boring safe. But comfortable safe.
He was different.
I had never known a man like this. So capable, strong, adventurous. But not in an overt my-instagram-is-full-of-guns-and-trails-and-trucks-so-you-know-what-I’m-about. Because he wasn’t about those things. He just liked them. And he didn’t need to tell anybody about it.
Once I was safely nestled back in the truck and we were far, far away from rushing waterfalls, Randy opened the back door and started to rustle inside his backpack on the floor beside my feet. I picked through the trail mix in my ziplock bag and looked out the window.
Randy tapped my leg. “Hey,” He looked up at me, one foot on the ground outside and one knee on the floor of his back seat, holding up a diamond ring. “Here’s you go.” I could feel my heart beating in my chest. “What?” I said quickly before processing his words.
“Your ring? Remember I took it before the hike to keep it safe?”
“Oh, yeah. Thanks.” I placed it back onto my hand.
Randy jumped into the driver’s seat and the boys got in with us. They turned the music up loud and I chewed my almonds, replaying the scene in my mind. Seeing Randy hold out my ring like he did… well, it felt like a future memory. It felt ridiculous to even “think” it but the interaction felt like “reverse” deja-vu. I mentally shook my head and focused on the road ahead.
Maybe it was the mystery of the friendship, maybe it was the fact I “didn’t know” if I liked Randy, I “didn’t know” if I was attracted – but whatever it was, it allowed me to be wholly myself with him. I laughed a lot. When we were hiking, I wasn’t worrying about the sweat on my brow, the dirt on my hands or how my butt looked in my pants.
After lunch and exploring Harrison Hot Springs as a group, we started the drive for home. Sunlight poured through Randy’s truck windows and I could feel the breeze from his rolled down window in the back seat. The country playlist of Keith Urban, Jason Aldean, Joe Nickels and Rodney Atkins set the scene perfectly as the farmlands of Mission, BC whisked past our windows.
A friend of ours was having a birthday party that evening and the four of us planned to go. But it was a beautiful Spring weekend and Randy had more plans than just one party for a perfectly good Saturday night! “Hey guys, are we all in for a fire tonight at Derby, say eleven?” The three of us in the vehicle nodded. “Perfect, I’ll text around.”
Plans were coming together and texts were flying back and forth. The construction company Randy worked for was currently building a custom home in a neighbourhood on our way home and the job site was sure to have plenty of firewire around. When we reached the half-completed home, the three guys got to work filling the bed of Randy’s truck with firewood. I sat in the backseat waiting until I noticed Randy walking over. He opened up my door and asked, “Do you want to see inside?”
We walked through the roughed-in house together as Randy pointed out the progress of each room. He helped me envision where the kitchen would be, the view from the master bedroom, which corner the glass shower would be in. As he walked and talked, I couldn’t help but be impressed by a man like Randy. I hung onto every word, analyzing if and how I was attracted to him, if and how we could work.
I made sure to claim the front passenger seat for the rest of the drive.
Randy dropped me off at my house around dinnertime, each of us planning to shower and change only to meet again in an hour at the party.
Running shoes and yoga pants removed, dirt scrubbed off my fingernails and calves, fresh hair, jeans and a cardigan and I was on my way to the birthday. When I didn’t notice Randy’s truck in the driveway, I was disappointed. I placed my purse in the corner of the family room and got myself a cup of water, looking for people to start conversations with. I turned towards the front door every time I heard a knock, hoping it would be Randy.
Bzz, bzzz. I pulled my phone out of my back pocket. It was Randy. “Are you there yet? I am five minutes away.“
Five minutes. I can do five minutes.
We had only been apart for an hour, but already I wanted to see him again. The room was more fun when Randy was in it. I was drawn to him and I couldn’t decide why. All around me, there was people but all I could see was him across the room.
Randy talking to friends,
Randy getting another plate of food.
I took a seat in the corner of the room with my plastic cup of water, sipping it methodically. Randy casually walked over and sat down in the chair beside me. When he started to talk, my heart got that feeling. That I’m in third grade and my crush just picked me to sit with feeling. I felt special. I didn’t know what was going on between us – but I felt like I was keeping a secret from the room. Randy, who makes all the social plans, Randy who organizes the volleyball events, the summer fires, Randy, who everybody knows, Randy is sitting with me. And he texts me. And I think he likes me. Woah.
Two hours later, we were down by the river, sitting next to a glowing, warm fire, when that feeling came back. For the half hour I had been bundled up around the fire, Randy seemed to be otherwise engaged. He was answering phone calls from directionally-challenged friends, I’m lost! How do I find you?, walking back up the gravel path to the road with a high-powered flashlight leading the way, making sure everyone was comfortable, passing out marshmallows. Talking to everybody but not talking to me. A girl beside me stood up, leaving an empty square of gravel and within seconds, Randy claimed the spot.
I took a short breath. Our bodies were inches apart. (Okay, a foot apart but one foot can be measured in inches.) It was the closest we had ever been. My heart was beating madly and my brain was attempting to process, What does this mean, what does this mean, what does this mean.
As if one human sitting down next to another human was a pick-up line.
I smiled at him and went back to staring at the fire in front of us, searching for something to say. When somebody somewhere needed something (people need to stop needing things!!) Randy jumped up. I watched him offer his spot to a newcomer and silently cursed his gift of hospitality and generosity.
At midnight, I was ready to head to bed. I pulled the hood up on my hoodie and quietly said goodbye to the friends beside me. I couldn’t see where Randy was in the dark but it didn’t matter. We’re nothing more than friends – I’ll see him whenever. I walked up the gravel path and within three steps Randy was beside me.
“Thanks so much for coming.” He said.
“You’re welcome. Today was fun.”
“Yeah, it was. I’ll walk with you.” He shined his flashlight in front of my feet.
We walked to my car and I unlocked the door. Turning to him, I lingered. I wanted him to tell me something. Anything besides small talk. Anything besides something you’d say to another girl. But he didn’t.
I nodded in return.
Randy waved as I closed my door and started the car.
Eleven of my last twelve hours had been with Randy.
I didn’t want it to end.