Charlie and Kyllian

How We Met

The first time I heard of Charlie, I was sitting in a hospital bed, recovering from Rhabdomyolosis (Muscle tissue breakdown getting into the bloodstream caused by over-exercising and not enough recovery or nutrition), plotting on a great escape and how I was going to run my next marathon in a few weeks and get back to the CrossFit gym. I had friends come to visit in the hospital over the weeks, and co-workers from the gym I worked at, they filled me in on what I was missing, and all I knew was that there was a new guy named Charlie, And all he knew was that there was a co-worker that he hadn’t met yet, who was in the hospital for working out too much. I made my way back to work, and was warmly welcomed back by our close-knit group. I started working shifts with Charlie and seeing him come in for his workouts with friends. We slowly started learning more about each other’s stories, He was in love with his 3 year old son, Charlie Jr., and I was in love with rebuilding my life by running marathons for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Crossfit and may have told him one too many stories about my recent mission trip to Uganda, Africa. Our friendship grew as we shared our visions of the future for ourselves.

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I found myself thinking of him and his little boy (I hadn’t met) more and more, even brought in spiderman toys for little Charlie’s birthday in March. Our co-workers (Erik, Kayla, Teresa… Looking at you guys) all made remarks, plotted and teased us over the glow between us, and I was too stubborn and scared to admit it. Our Regional Manager, Kevin, even pulled Charlie aside and said “Hey, you better marry that girl.” Charlie had become my best friend and someone I refused to lose in my life, and I was not willing to risk it. He made his move when he asked to run with me one day, we did, and admittedly I was freaking out that we only ran one loop and said I was heading back to the gym. Take 2. He asked to run again, this time we really did, and went 12.62 miles! For a guy who was a powerlifter, I was shocked. We ran down Ocean Ave and talked about all the houses and what we each dreamed having one day. As we concluded our run he laid down on the ground and our post read “Charlie meets marathon training”. This continued for months. We worked Friday nights together, always followed by Charlie’s favorite work out, a timed “300” or a few miles run from the gym to the boardwalk.

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As we grew closer these workouts were followed by a trip to IHOP for a middle of the night meal, where we eventually started just staying up all night talking until we had to open the gym at 6 am. I don’t think either of us knew what was happening, we just enjoyed each other’s company. I started driving down to his house on weekends to run to Island Beach State Park and I had finally met little Charlie for the first time. I was so excited to meet little Charlie, nervous too for him to like me, but it only took a few minutes to have his little hand wrapped around my fingers, and him begging to climb up on my shoulders as we walked the boardwalk. He would have me carry him for the longest time, but how could i say no? He was the biggest love. I don’t think we knew how much we needed each other until we both faced some major challenges, and leaned on each other. One challenge was Fathers day, but also the anniversary of my fathers death. Charlie suggested we get through it together. Our friend Teresa and I, picked up a cookie cake to celebrate Charlie as a dad and I had a surprise planned for him too.

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The three of us went for a long run to double trouble park and jumped in the cranberry lake. When we picked up little Charlie, I told him we were going to make a present for Daddy for fathers day. I so badly wanted him to have one of those handmade projects that kids make with their parents, but he didn’t have anyone to do that for him. We took out a picture frame, light blue paper, dark blue paint and a quote that read “If you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you” . We glued the quote on and i had to paint my hand blue first to get Little Charlie to let me paint his hand, but once I did, he stuck out his little hand, and we placed it next to the quote. Once in the frame, it was perfect, and the quote couldn’t have described them better, they needed each other so much, and I had never witnessed a father love someone so much. It was one of the things I loved about Charlie the most. When it came time for our surprise, Charlie was over the moon about the cookie cake, and then he opened the frame, he was silent for a minute and then looked at me like he didn’t know what to say, and he didn’t have to, he gave me the most heartfelt hug and thanked me a thousand times over.

Mind you we still are just friends at this point! Then we experienced the loss of my Mimi, my grandmother, who was my lifelong best friend. I was so eager for Charlie and Mimi to meet, their humor together would have been unforgettable. Charlie was the first person I called when coming home to find out the news. I didn’t know if I could come back from the loss, until I received an anonymous card in the mail, addressed to me, and signed “. . .”, it was from Charlie. He later told me that an anonymous card feels like its from more than one person since you don’t know who sent it, so its impact is greater. Up until now he tried to tell me he wanted to be more than friends, tried to kiss me, or have a moment, mostly during our runs, I was skittish and always ran away faster, I didn’t want to lose what we had. Immediately followed was the fourth of July, we spent it together, running and then saying that we might meet up with our friends from the gym. Ended up that we just spent it the two of us, and there on the boardwalk the fireworks start, They were far away, the crackles were soft, the lights were just bright enough to reach us and it occurred to me, that I was really happy with Charlie. He lifted me up on the boardwalk and sat there face to face smiling, and almost in slow motion we had our first kiss. He finally caught me, and I’m so glad he did . . .

How He Asked

After celebrating our anniversary, Charlie said he had a surprise planned for Saturday, he said something about rock climbing, so I was super excited for whatever it was. We had just bought our house a few months before but I had not gotten to spend much time there yet so we stayed up the night before sitting on our front porch talking about how far we’d come. Charlie gave me a smile and stared at me that night like I’d never seen before, I know now what he was thinking, but asked him why he was looking at me like that, and he responded, ” this is just right “. Under the glow of our front porch, we reminisced on the challenges we’d hurdled over the years and how we couldn’t picture a better life than where we are right now, and how excited we are for the future. The next morning we stopped at his Mom’s house to drop little Charlie off for the beach and we headed out for the surprise. He told me we were going running and I had been begging to go back to Island Beach State Park and go for our run, so I was so excited. It was the MOST perfect day out too.

The breeze was beautiful and I felt like we were back in time years ago when we first started to run. I asked him if he was going to play John Mayer like he used to run to, and he did. He kept stopping to check his phone which was odd, but I had already convinced myself he was not going to propose on this trip and there is no way he would be able to pull my vision out of my head for the perfect proposal (which was this run). We stopped to see the sailboats and check out the water and kept running, we finally get into the park and head down our secluded secret trail, Reed’s Run. When we reached the end it opened up to the bay where we used to swim before headed back on the run. We stood by the water and said how perfect it was and couldn’t believe all the times he tried to tell me he was falling for me here. He asked if I wanted to swim but he said we were going out to eat after so I didn’t want to be soaked. He started to say let’s head back while tying his shoe on one knee, and I made fun of him and said “you know what this looks like? That’s totally not funny”. He pointed out that he would have someone here taking pictures if he was going to do that, and I looked around and joked saying that someone could be in the bushes (like he couldn’t fool me- but I was completely unaware). When I turned around back to him he was untying a shoelace from around his ankle… and there was a ring on it…..

I started backing away saying “holy crap! you better not be kidding! You’re not kidding right? This isn’t funny!” He calmly said, “no, no I am not kidding”. I fell to the ground with him in a pile of tears and hugged him so tight sobbing. I didn’t even see the ring until it was on my finger and he asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. I said yes, of course!

And yes to my surprise, our dear friend and photographer, Jeff, emerged from the bushes and had captured the whole thing. I shook my head and laughed, they got me!

I couldn’t stop staring at Charlie on this beach where it all begins, a familiar breeze brought me back to the moment we first discovered this place, and couldn’t help but think this all started with a run. I was in awe that this man who I have loved and admired, thought enough of me, to do something as special as this, and ask me to stand with him forever. Never have we been happier that we caught each other at the right place and the right time in our lives and will always have a best friend for life.

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Special Thanks

Jeff Crespi
Photographer