The first time I saw Aaron was the first day of college at the opening chapel. I had just moved back to the States a few months earlier and I was feeling nervous as I stood there in the chapel pew, hoping I had not made a mistake in attending that particular college. I was determined to make the best regardless, and determined to keep an open mind and make as many friends as possible. As he made his way toward me down the pew, I remember thinking he was a cute little snowboarder kid, but not my type. He wore a beanie low, his brown curls completing the veil over his brown eyes (I had yet to discover they were the deepest, most heart-capturing brown eyes!). I immediately introduced myself, confidently thrusting my hand into his space for a hand-shake. He hesitantly shook my hand, quickly pulling away, saying his name as briefly as one possibly could, then resumed facing the front of the chapel. What a jerk! I thought. I labeled him as one of those self-consumed guys who assumes any girl who says hi is hitting on him, and made sure I made a mental note that he was not even attractive. I later found out he had a girlfriend at the time and thought I was pretty, therefore felt it inappropriate to converse with me. But for the time being he quickly vanished from my thought.
Not long after that first day, I made friends with your typical Tennessee party-boy, the kind that aspires to be an Abercrombie and Fitch model and says things like, "You're unlike any girl I've ever met!" while checking out your butt. I knew this friendship wasn't going anywhere, but I appreciated the attention and I liked the people he hung out with. It took me awhile to even notice that Aaron was one of them. He was so quiet and non-intrusive, I automatically thought of him as the back-ground filler friend, like those that movies use to show the main character has more than one friend. It wasn't until one day when he didn't join us that I realized the impact he had made on me. I asked where he was, and his best friend Bradley told me he had gone home to visit his girlfriend. I felt my heart sink! I could not understand why I felt this way, I didn't even really know the guy, much less care if he was available. He wasn't even my type!
The next few weeks I slowly stopped hanging out with Mr. A&F, but found myself hanging out more and more with Aaron and Bradley. Ok, mostly Aaron. I refused to admit any attraction even to myself. After all, he had a girlfriend and I respected that. We always hung out with other people and I even pursued short-lived flirtations with other guys, but Aaron was quickly becoming my best friend. When the homecoming dance arrived and I decided to go at the last minute, plans were automatically made for me to ride with Aaron and Bradley. Bradley ended up picking me up alone. When I got in the car he immediately asked, "Did Aaron tell you?" He did not. Bradley dismissed it, telling me he would. He seemed like he was excited for me. I was very confused.
Setting: Monreat College Homecoming Dance '05. Slow Dance. Aaron and I had barely said hello, we had been dancing with other people, but as the loud poppy music slowly faded into a slow and very cheesy love song, Aaron made his way toward me. I remember thinking it was a little too much like an '80's movie high school dance scene, but when he put his arms around me to dance, I could think of nothing but quieting the Godzilla-sized butterflies in my chest. When did he get so good looking? I thought to myself. I felt the song coming to an end, and Aaron still hadn't told me the news so I nonchalantly brought up the fact that Bradley had mentioned something in the car. At first he was confused, then when he realized what Bradley must of meant, he casually told me that he and his girlfriend had broken things off that weekend. I knew I needed to act apologetic, but it took everything in me not to scream like a little girl! And that was the first moment I allowed myself to admit it. I really liked this guy. For the rest of the semester Aaron and I continued to hang out as friends. We spent a lot of time together and my heart ached anytime he talked with girls I felt could be a threat, but nothing was outwardly spoken. I did not feel rushed to some final destination, I enjoyed the process of getting to know him. I knew he liked me and I liked him, but we were content with where we were at. I only had one fear. Losing my new best friend.
We were hanging out one night at the end of the semester after a group trip to Denny's and neither one of us felt like going back to our dorms, so we sat in the car. There was a tension in the air and I could tell Aaron really wanted to say something. I knew what it was, yet somehow I didn't feel nervous at all. I simply felt peace. When he finally spoke, his words came out rushed and even sounded a little frustrated. He said something about not believing he was actually taking Bradley's advice. It was all very jumbled and would have been confusing had I not known where he was going with it. Finally he came out and said it. He liked me! I smiled. The moment felt so perfect I did not want to ruin it with something dumb I would doubtlessly say, so I simply sat there in silence, soaking up his last words. Finally, Aaron broke the silence. As he asked me for a response to what he just said I suddenly realized he had been waiting there nervously for me to respond! I could not believe he didn't already know my answer! Until this moment the only time I had touched Aaron's hand was for helping me up a big step or in passing. After growing up in China, I had a severe complex about being big, and he always seemed so small to me. In fact, I was convinced he was shorter than me despite the fact that he was at least an inch taller. So when this moment came and I put my hand in his, I was pleasantly surprised to find his hands were much larger and warmer than my own. For the first time in my life I felt my hands were not too big, but just the right size. The rest is history.
I once expressed to Aaron how awful it would have been if we hadn't both gone to Montreat that year and had missed out on meeting each other. His reply was honest and matter of fact, "We would have met some other way. We're soul mates." I do not regret a day that I have spent with Aaron in the last six years. He has held me up when all I've wanted to do is fall. He has held me close when all I've wanted to do is run. He has kept his promise to cherish and to honor me and his faithfulness will never be in doubt. Our marriage has been filled with both hardships and joys, but mostly love well spent. I was worried when we started to date that I might lose my best friend. Instead, I gained one for life.