Kristen and Brendan
How We Met
I liked the same boy for 20 years and never told him.
His mom remembers the day I toddled into the classroom, wearing a big bow in my long hair.
He and I were classmates in Pre-K and kindergarten. (“Kindergarten”?)
I eloquently thought he was “cute” and “nice.”
We went to different schools for 1st and 2nd grades.
I remember the exact moment I first saw him again in 3rd grade.
My lifelong best friend (who will stand behind me at the altar) was hosting a back-to-school party, and I answered the door for her new guest.
There he stood with his mom. I gasped out loud in stupor.
I was obviously too young for “love at first sight,” but he definitely had me at “hello.”
A permacrush is a person you just can’t get over. Might be a stranger, a celebrity, or even an ex.
My burning permacrush began that day — as well as our rivalry in school. As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be at the top of my class of every subject.My two greatest competitors, of course, were my own best friend and this freaking crush. Furthermore, while he was busy foiling my academic ambitions, he also ruined all my hopes of being the best athlete in our class.
(Spoiler: I never was.)
“Kristen, they’re awarding valedictorian at middle school graduation now. Do you think you’ll win it?”
“I don’t care. As long as Brendan Thornhill doesn’t get it. He doesn’t care about school enough.”
I won salutatorian. He won valedictorian.
Several of us girls went all the way from K-12 together. Many classmates came and went, but he is the only boy I grew up with from beginning to end. We witnessed each other’s worst years – namely, my diehard-tomboy years, and his long-hair-bad-boy years – and all the nightmares of puberty.
Unfortunately, there’s no hiding from each other’s awkward pasts; we both saw the whole thing.
I burned with envy of every girl who caught his eye over the years, but I was too shy (and stubborn) to say a word. I had my own scattered crushes along the way. They never lasted a year before I fell back under his spell. To this day, I have never but once entered the same room as him without my heart pounding or my stomach knotting. Limerence is nauseating.
We graduated high school together in May 2012. I took valedictorian at last, but he had an actual life. Against my wishes, I was still as infatuated with him as ever. I just wanted to be rid of this plague once and for all; I even committed to a college out of state. I thought I had escaped his clutches once and for all…
Fast forward five years and multiple heartbreaks later. Oh, my goodness, the story is too good to cut short, but we must.
In July 2017, we crossed paths on a simple road trip… he lived in San Francisco, and I lived in Boston.The love story is incredible, but I’ll save it for another day.
Here are just a few of our adventure dates since that fateful encounter:
August 2017: Chicago, Rensselaer
September: Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Phoenix
September again: San Francisco (he got really sick so I surprised him at his front door to take care of him)
October: Vermont, Boston
November: Los Angeles, San Diego, hot air balloon festival
December: Arizona hometown for the holidays
January: New York City
February: San Francisco
March: New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut
July/August 2018: Maine, Washington DC, Baltimore
September 2018: Nashville, England, Germany, Switzerland, Kansas City
Needless to say, I’m living the most unbelievable “friendzone fairytale” I could imagine.
How He Asked
I’m telling you, my life is a joke, and you are all my witnesses.
Our first kiss was at a floating lantern festival, where he asked me to be his girlfriend.
On September 9th, he was planning to take me to another lantern fest, and ask me to be his wife.
Unfortunately, a rainy forecast canceled the event – the day before. He was heartbroken about his perfect “Plan A.” To keep a promise to my parents, he had less than 24 hours to come up with a new Plan B.
You tell me if he did a pretty good job…
Sunday morning, 9th of September: We put on jeans and went for a walk. He took me to a local park, where there were HUNDREDS of adorable dogs running around at a Dog Festival?? (We love doggos.)
He just watched as I bubbled around with joy, saying, “This is the best day ever!”
“Yes, it is,” he kept smiling.
After that, we went home to get dressed up for a surprise date. He had a rental car ready to go. We listened to oldies music and drove north for 2-3 hours.
We came to New Hampshire (a tiny state in the northeastern US). The weather was perfect. He drove up a mountain and pulled over at a lookout. He just wanted to take selfies with the forest below us. After a quiet moment together, we got back in the car.
Along the mountain ride, we passed a green sign that read, “2 MILES – CASTLE IN THE CLOUDS”
“Oh wow, is that a real place?”
I turned to him. He turned red.
“Holy cow! Is that where we’re going??”
He smiled and asked where the GPS said to go next.
“What the heck?? How did you find this?”
“I drove past it several years ago,” he replied. “I just wanted to check it out with you today.”
We pulled into a parking lot near the summit. There was an old-fashioned trolley waiting for us – and a well-dressed crowd of wedding guests. (Total strangers, haha, for someone else’s wedding.)
We were invited to squeeze into the last two seats among them, which were coincidentally in the front.
The trolley took us the rest of the way to the summit, where there was indeed a little castle – it was a late millionaire’s mansion, now converted to a museum.
When we stepped off the trolley, a sweet elderly woman asked if we were “movie stars.” We laughed at her kind flattery, and awkwardly pretended we were among the fancy wedding party.
We toured the mansion. Brendan was striding through each room, hardly pausing to observe anything. He kept saying things like, “Look out this window. See that garden? We should go to the garden. Ready to go to the garden?”
We soon ditched the mansion for the garden.
What an exquisite view! The backyard/courtyard was perched at the crest of a breathtaking vista: misty valleys, green and blue. He took my hand, and walked me down a staircase drop-off into the garden. He led me around a stone wall, where we could see everything – but no one could see us.
After a happy minute of sweet privacy and a glorious view, a couple walked by. Brendan offered to take their picture – and asked them to take ours. When he handed them our camera, he apologized.
“This might take a minute,” he explained to them, walking toward me. “I just need to ask her a quick question.”
Brendan looked right into my eyes and smiled softly. I’ll never forget how completely arresting it was: the most romantic, confident, green-eyed gaze ever locked up on me.
I have never felt more like a woman.
I have never felt more like the wide-eyed, fearful little girl who fell in love with him 20 years ago.
“Kristen,” he began, taking my hand – and holding a box in his other hand.
(I was so arrogant to believe that I would remember this speech!! But I’m no exception to the rule, and I indeed blacked out. He had to remind me of the speech later.)
I am a silent crier, but these tears came hard.
When Brendan saw that I was starting to cry, he teared up, too.
But he continued:
“Kristen… this has been the best year of my life.
You are my best friend.
I want to grow old with you.
I want to have kids with you.
And I want to start the next chapter of our adventure together.”
This man, who has always been a head-and-shoulders taller than me, ever since we met in preschool, humbled himself before me.
He bent down on one knee.
I couldn’t even look. I wept into both hands.
“Would you make me the happiest man in the world,” he asked, “and be my wife?”
I had promised myself years ago that I wouldn’t keep my future man waiting whenever he asked the question – I would shout YES right away.
But again, I totally flunked the test.
Poor guy had to wait as I just stood there like a wet chihuahua, shaking in tremors of tears.
When I finally composed myself, I didn’t quite say yes…
I shielded my lips from the photographer as I muttered a totally profane inside-joke, which means “yes,” in a deep manly voice.
Bren and I both lost it laughing.
He rose to his feet and wrapped his long arms around me, kissing my head over and over.
I was shaking so badly that we didn’t bother putting on the ring yet.
After embracing me, he thanked the photographers – and they disappeared from our lives forever.
How I wish I had the presence of mind to thank those angels properly.
Brendan and I reveled in joy and intimacy there for a few minutes.
We didn’t even spend a minute marveling at the ring – we just couldn’t stop drooling at each other’s glowing faces.
I said, “You know what song we should listen to for the whole drive home?”
Without ever discussing this song before, we both said at the same time: “‘Let’s Get Married’ by the Bleachers.”
But he wasn’t done yet.
“I didn’t want to keep those photographers waiting,” he explained, “but I do want to read you something right now.”
He procured a photo with a timestamp. It was from the month before he asked me to be his girlfriend.
It was a letter, written to a stranger, which he left in his San Francisco house when he moved away.
The letter declared that he had fallen in love with his future wife in just one night of riding cable cars.
He then reminded me of the day when he asked me to be his girlfriend.
That morning, we had flipped coins into a Chicago fountain, making secret wishes.
Mine came true that same day: I wished I’d become his girlfriend.
His came true on this day: he wished I’d become his wife.
He also confessed the reason for a certain rose bouquet.
He often sends me roses with haiku cards, but only for specific occasions.
However, a few months ago, he brought me one “for no reason”… not true at all, apparently.
He had just gotten off the phone with my dad – and then my mom – asking for permission to marry me.
(Our parents live 3000 miles away.)
We laughed again and held each other tightly, before galloping off the path into the mountain forest below.
We also found a random ice cream shop by a secret lake, because…?
We drove home, screaming out the windows for the first hour with no reception, and then calling our families.
At the end of the drive, he surprised me with dinner reservations at the finest restaurant in town – with a window table overlooking our sparkling city of Boston.
MY LIFELONG SECRET CRUSH ASKED ME TO MARRY HIM AND I AM NOTTTT OKAYYYY!
I AM SO IN LOVE!!