Reminder of where we are in the story: Tom and I are super tight friends, and hang out all the time, but despite appearances we honestly don't have feelings for each other.
I was just reminded that that February, I had started a 54-day Rosary Novena. I don't remember the exact wording of my intention, but it was basically asking that I would find the man I would marry. It ended mid-April. Some may argue that it was coincidental, but I do believe this had something to do with the events which follow [also of note: the only other time I used this novena was later in our relationship, with the intention that Tom would come to know for sure whether we should marry or not. And that all worked out shortly after as well].
Spending Time Together
For Easter, I attended the Latin vigil Mass for the first time (I was going there regularly on Sundays, but always went to Easter Mass at my home parish). Tom sat next to me, and shared his missal with me, whispering to me about each of the special rituals which was about to happen. I really liked the missal he was using - one which was broken into four small volumes, making it easier to carry around and hold. A few days later, he gave them to me. Sometime after that, he gave me the book The Bad Catholic's Guide to Wine, Whiskey, & Song. He said he had seen it on Amazon, and thought of me. I was surprised that he just bought me a gift for no reason, but I did appreciate it (it's a great book, by the way).
Tom and I were hanging out a couple times each week. One of the big topics of conversation for us was relationships. Neither of us had any thought that this could possibly be a prelude to a relationship between us. I think we were both very much feeling "ready" for a relationship at that point, so it was on our minds. We are both "thinkers" who tend to get hung up on a certain topic for a while, and we both happened to be interested in this one at the same time. It was great to have someone to share our ponderings with. It never seemed inappropriate to be discussing this stuff with a guy. Actually, it was really nice to get the candid perspective of the opposite sex on those matters. When we weren't together in person to talk about these things, we would call, text, or e-mail our latest thoughts and questions. Some of the things we discussed were: do soul-mates exist? What are the differences/pros/cons between casual dating, "official" dating, and courtships? What are the roles of a man and a woman in a dating relationship? What is love (in all its forms, as explained by C.S. Lewis in his The Four Loves)?
I know it really really must sound as if we both had secret crushes on each other, and were bringing up these topics because we wanted to date each other, but it wasn't like that. One day I sent a text telling Tom I had just seen his "dream girl", and he needed to get to the library right away (she was a librarian, a red-head, cute, and wore dorky glasses. Totally his type) (he couldn't make it because he was in class, and when he stopped by later, she was gone). Also, Tom had confided his possible interest in a girl who was a mutual friend of ours, and I was completely in support of it. Any time I hung out with her, as I often did, I made sure to put in many good words about Tom, gushing about what a wonderful guy he was [haha - so funny in retrospect]. Let's just call her "Liz".
Often when greeting each other, or when parting, Tom and I had taken to giving each other a hug. We had remarked many times that we "had the best hugs" and "fit together so well." [I know, I know! But SERIOUSLY. Dating each other absolutely never dawned on us at this point!]
There was a party one weekend at the house where he used to live with our guy friends. Tom told me early on that he wanted to talk to me later about some recent thoughts on the "Liz situation." The night wore on, and I hadn't seen Tom for a long time. I looked all over, but he didn't seem to be around. I tried calling his phone several times, and he didn't answer. Finally, one of his roommates informed me that he had been sitting up on the roof alone for a long time with another girl. I got really irritated, and decided to just go home. I told myself that I was mad at him for "Liz's" sake. As I was walking - I lived just a couple blocks away - I got a text from him, asking me to "save him." Apparently, the girl was pretty interested in him, and he was having trouble breaking free of the conversation without being rude. I told him something to the effect of "you got yourself into this mess, now get yourself out of it." Afterwards, we had a long talk about it. I remember that both of us felt it necessary that he explain himself and apologize to me. I couldn't understand at the time, though, what had made me so upset over it.
Tom and I and a few other friends had begun watching episodes of The Tudors a couple nights a week (which was on dvd at this point). Tom is a history buff, so he was always filling me in on the backstory and the details of the British peerage system. In early May, I went with my family for a weekend at our Cottage. I remember telling my dad all about the interesting things Tom had taught me about that period, and even reading some of his texts aloud. This then got me to gushing about what a wonderful guy Tom was, and how much I thought my dad would love talking with him.
But I still had no idea that I had feelings for him!
The next weekend, I was going to go back to the Cottage with some college friends. Tom was one of them, and I had already told him so much about this magical place that I couldn't wait to introduce him to. A couple days before we left, he contacted me with some bad news: his mom had basically invited herself over for the night on Friday, and since it was Mother's Day weekend, he couldn't say no. The rest of us were all going to drive up Thursday, and Tom didn't own a car, so he wouldn't be able to make it. I was totally crushed.
But we ended up making a new plan! I would catch a ride in one of the other cars, and leave my car in Pittsburgh for Tom. Then he could drive up Saturday morning and still get a little time there. It worked out, and he came on Saturday, also bringing our friend Kevin.
|Saturday evening with everyone|
|a pic from Tom's camera|
|Yes, I am eating ice cream out of a huge bucket. Something wrong with that?|
For years, I had heard testimonies about how the best relationships/marriages are ones that develop from a pre-existing friendship. I fully believed this to be true, and always hoped it would happen to me. But the funny thing is, through the years it was always some other guy friend I was pining after. And when that wouldn't work out, I'd conclude "oh well. I guess I'm not going to end up dating someone who was a friend first." Tom was right under my nose the whole time. But I never considered him that way.
Anyways, back to that Sunday at the Cottage. This is where the story gets embarrassing because it involves two (uncharacteristic!) episodes of me being really drunk...
We broke out a pack of cards to play some games, and Tom pulled out a bottle of whiskey he had brought. He insisted that we keep it wrapped inside the paper bag to be "authentic" and pass it around in a circle. When it came to a person, Tom ensured that they took a swig before they passed it along. Needless to say, within a short time, we were all drunk (except Mike, who I suspect might have been faking his swigs for awhile). We moved indoors to continue our game, since the rain was coming onto the porch by this point. We were all playing very sloppily and laughing at stupid things.
All of a sudden, it hit me. I was just bowled over by the realization that *Tom and I should be together*. All the great things I'd been telling "Liz" about him were true, and now I wanted him for me. We had so many shared interests. We loved being in each other's company, and talking, and confiding in each other. We shared those great hugs, we knew each other's faults already. It just made so much sense. I must've been just gazing at him in wonderment, because he remarked, "wow, Christine - you make much better eye contact when you're drunk." Haha!
As they say: "in vino veritas". Whiskey, in this case. But it had the same effect.
Our friend Mike had to drive my car home, since he was the only one capable of it at that point. Kevin sat up front, with Tom and I in the back (I'm sure I contrived that somehow). The whole ride, I was dying to be close to Tom. I wanted to touch him so badly. Finally, when we made a stop, I just blurted out, "Tom, I just really want to hug you right now!" and we did, and it was great. He probably just chalked it up to me being intoxicated.
The next day, I called my friend Elise and told her everything. I think she was pretty surprised. I was just so confused about what to do now. I knew Tom didn't feel the same way. We had been friends for so many years, and he had never felt that way about me. How could I expect him to start now? What were the chances of us both feeling that way at the same time?
I began praying about it very intently. Something like, "God, if Tom ever did or ever could have feelings for me, please let them develop now." I think I believed that the chance would slip away if it didn't happen then.
[Looking back, I don't think I made very prudent or appropriate decisions during this next part, but I trusted Tom fully. I'm telling you the story as it is.]
The next Saturday, Tom called me and asked if I wanted to come over to watch the Preakness (horse race) and drink whiskey with him. Absolutely! I don't remember what time of day it was, but I ended up staying there very late. We just kept talking and talking about all sorts of things. My memories of this are all fairly fuzzy - err, could've been the whiskey again... - so I don't remember exactly how it happened, but eventually we had finished the whole bottle. I think it was very late. I was definitely drunk again. Usually, Tom would walk me home if it was nighttime, but he was drunk as well, and needed to be at work at 6am (!). He suggested that I just crash at his place. He'd let me sleep in his bed, and he'd take the couch. I was concerned about the scandal this would cause my roommates. I think he actually had me call one of them to explain (?). Anyways, that's what ended up happening. He lent me some pajamas, and he tucked me into bed. As he was doing so, I thought he kissed me. I wasn't certain, as everything was all awhirl at this point. I thought he had kissed me...but no, I decided, it must have just been wishful thinking. I fell asleep.
The next morning, I had my first-ever hangover. I felt terrible, and could barely move from the bed (except for occasional dashes to the bathroom). I texted Tom at work to tell him about it, and he felt really guilty. When he arrived back at his apartment, I was still there, sleeping. He had brought breakfast stuff, and he cooked me up a tasty brunch before walking me home.
Tom Discovers His Feelings
Two days later, I was hanging out at my mom's house, and was signed into G-chat. Tom and I were having a conversation about various light topics. Then this happened...
Tom: so, the other thing I was thinking about asking...
Tom: well, anyway Christine, I should come out with you honestly
[completely terrified about what he's about to say]
Tom: I have though about "You and I" a lot lately
I have come to the conclusion (and I might be wrong) that you and I are destined for a very good friendship, but nothing more... this is a weird thing to mention, but I feel like I need to say it
ALTHOUGH, it's not like I've ruled it out...
sorry that it's so weird, but it's been something i've been thinking about
[at this point, my heart is hammering, I'm almost hyperventilating, and shaking with nerves. OH NO! Worst possible conclusion!! He thought about it, and he decided "No"!!]
me: ok...I've been thinking about that too of late
Tom: well, that's good to know
we've been friends for many years now, and much closer ones more lately. During that time, there were various points where I questioned myself on whether I had any feelings for you, and I always decided no. There were always other things making anything between us seem impossible. I'm not sure what did it, but recently, suddenly, one day...things sorta clicked, and I was like, "wow - Tom and I have all these things in common, and we think alike in a lot of ways, and why did I never consider him before?" And I have been keeping those things in mind and trying to figure it all out. No conclusion had been arrived at yet
but perhaps you just provided it
[definitely avoiding actually coming out and admitting that I have feelings for him]
Tom: Well, whatever it means, I could have said exactly the same things you just said.We talked on the phone. I still did my best to present the case that we would be a good match, without actually admitting that I had feelings for him. He ended up saying, "I'll tell you what. So we're planning to go to the Clayton [a historical house] on Thursday. Is it alright if we make that a date?" So we did. We had already been planning (at my urging) to get dressed up, then take a tour of the house, and possibly grab lunch somewhere afterwards. Everything was set up for us.
I dunno, Christine...
me: I don't know either
Tom: Can I call you?
...was totally awkward. We were both so strained and forced and not ourselves. We had no clue how to talk to each other anymore! There was many embarrassed smiles and awkward pauses. The day was still pleasant, but at the end of the date I felt like this had been a test and maybe we hadn't done very well on it.
Thankfully, we weren't given much time to muse over it. That evening, Tom was having a cookout at his place, which he had asked me to co-host (a ploy, I think, to avoid having to do any of the organizational tasks involved). We were able to interact once again in a comfortable way, in the company of friends.
|Happy because Tom and I had finally been given "our chance"|
Anyways, the rest, as they say, is history. We got married and had two beautiful babies. We're not a perfect couple, but we have a solid friendship as our foundation, and that keeps the relationship strong.
I still sometimes marvel over how long it took for us each to see each other in this way. But I'm pretty sure that at any time previous to this, we weren't right for each other...weren't ready for each other. God was forming us each in different ways over those years, and we had finally reached a point where we were a good match for one another. And thankfully, it worked out.
[EDIT: That kiss that I thought I had just imagined was actually real. Tom had kissed me goodnight. But we don't consider it our first kiss, since I wasn't kissing him back :-P )