This is the story of how I met and fell in love with my husband, Joseph Loveless.
Here are the previous chapters, in case you’ve missed them:
Chapter One, Chapter Two, and Chapter Three.
Thanks for reading along!
We made it to Sea World around 9:30 am and without haste, the theme park enthusiasts in the group (not me) marked out a plan ensuring we hit all the favored shows and attractions. I’m not one to name names (Kaitlin), but there were professional tourists with us, you guys. I’m talking sunscreen, maps, tennis shoes, packed ham & cheese and peanut butter jelly sandwiches, the whole kit and caboodle.
My fanatic friends darted from one sea creature to the next, while Joe and I spent the day finding our way next to one another. We chatted through the dolphin show, talking about our families and funny stories from childhood. We ate soggy sandwiches and catalogued the differences between Chicago and Orlando, North vs. South, Bulls vs. Magic. We spent a long time talking about ministry, school, his job, my involvement and passions in the church. At one point, during our tour though the Shark Encounter, he told me he was hiring someone to manage the Student Ministry Small Groups at the church. Without mincing words or missing a beat, I offered myself as a sure winner for the position. It was a spectacular display of unbridled confidence and totally naive chutzpah. I was mostly flirting, half serious and half wanting to see his reaction. Shocked, he smiled, “I should, should I?” We bantered back and forth on my qualifications, experience, and all that he’d be missing out on should he pass up this magnificent opportunity. Unfortunately, he’d already set in motion hiring someone else. I shot him a smile, “Your loss, buddy.” He grinned at me, eyes shining, “You’re right. It is my loss.”
Late in the day, everyone wanted to go ride Kraken, the only roller coaster at Sea World. I HATE roller coasters. I DESPISE them. I DETEST their very existence, rendering them puke-inducing death traps, but I was feeling all love stuck and brave and standing in line with Joe was more appealing than waiting by the ice cream vendor selling Shamu on a stick. So there we were in line, about to get on the ride, standing very close to one another. All of a sudden, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to wrap my arms around Joe’s midsection. It was an other-worldly force, compelling me, you guys. Don’t worry — I restrained myself in a formidable feat of self-control. BUT WHAT WAS GOING ON? The Florida heat was getting to me.
After the roller coaster incident, I tried to make it a little less obvious that I was losing my druthers. I repeated very slowly to myself through my clenched jaw, the words I said when I first saw his picture, “At. Ease. Soldier.”
Joe had other plans.
Our day at Sea World was coming to a close but he offered to show us more Orlando hot spots. He called his buddies for back up, later confessing it was to distract my friends so he and I could have more one on one time.
We decided to go Universal City Walk. The plan was to take a ferry ride to a coffee shop at the Portofino Hotel.
Joe knew enough about the college I attended and the town I lived in to know that coffee was something of a currency for us. We needed coffee to exist. We judged all things based on how much coffee we’d already consumed that day. It was a good move on his part to let us get some caffeine pumping through our veins. He wasn’t a fan of the bean, but was now trying to win my heart.
As the ferry pulled into the bay, we were transported to Portofino, Italy. It was spectacular. Vespa’s were parked at the shoreline and Italian music hung in the background. While the rest of us were distracted taking pictures of each other on scooters, Joe snuck away into the coffee shop.
Knowing he had little time, he quickly leaned over the counter and whispered to the barista, “What’s your strongest coffee drink?” She shot him a puzzled look, “Probably an Americano,” she answered. “Thanks!” Joe said and ran back out to meet up with the group.
Eventually, we made our way to the coffee shop and Joe stepped up confidently to place his order. “I’ll take an Americano,” he said nonchalantly. The lady must have smiled, though I didn’t notice. I did note, however, what Joe ordered and it left an impression. Apparently, fast cars, feats of strength — these do nothing for me, but strong coffee makes me all weak in the knees.
Joe choked the whole thing down.
It wound’t be until much later that Joe would confess his distaste for coffee and spill the beans on what happened that night.
It was 3am before we said our goodbyes. The girls and I had to trek back to the great white North in the morning and we needed some sleep.
After Portofino, we moved the party back to a friend’s house to watch a movie. Joe and I sat in the kitchen all evening, chowing down on pizza, and up to our eyeballs in flirty banter. I super-liked him and all signs pointed to reciprocated feelings on his part. But as the evening ticked on, we got closer and closer to the moment I would travel back to Chicago and Lips Loveless would once again become a high improbability in my life. There was no discussion of seeing each other again. He didn’t ask for my number, and though I’m not one to shy away from opportunity, I didn’t have the courage to give it to him. The whole thing was bizarre and would be over 24 hours after it’d started.
When it was deemed time to go, everyone got up to say goodbye at the same time and it felt like Joe and I were stepping out of a bubble. We all exchanged goodbyes and I felt like I was 13 again, bidding farewell to my boyfriend in front of my parents. Joe leaned in for a hug — A SIDE-HUG. I read him wrong and swung my arm around for a full frontal embrace. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to turn a stiff armed, side hug into a regular hug but let me tell you, it is a horrifying display of human awkwardness. It involves lots of, “Oh, um, er, ah…” and then hand pats on the shoulder. EPIC, EPIC FAIL.
After that, we said things like, “It was so good getting to meet you!” and “Drive safely!” and “Bye!”
What I really wanted him to know was that it wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world had he kissed me with those lips of his, but the side hug was a good indication that the lips weren’t making their debut.
After a few more rounds of awkward pleasantries, he was gone, with no indication that we’d ever meet again.
**Continue Reading: Chapter 5