I'd finally found the place. It had definitely been an adventure getting there in my new car. The Santa Cruz mountain roads were windy and very hilly (death to the novice stick shift driver) but, I made it in one piece. As soon as I walked down the road, I saw all sorts of other staff members unloading their cars and moving stuff in. I scanned the crowd looking for Steve but I didn't see him. Yet as I walked up Hamburger Hill, unsuspectingly, I ran smack dab into him. I surprised him so much that he dropped the package he had been carrying, which was from his parents, spilling the contents. Unfortunately for him, the much needed boxers and socks they sent him were littered all over the ground. We both got quiet immediately at the sudden awkwardness and then he laughed, breaking the silence. "Don't look at those!" he snarled playfully with a laugh while quickly picking them all up. I was beet red of course, totally embarrassed by seeing him again for the first time and uneasy about the "personal" contents of his package.
But I quickly forgot all about the package because in the next instant, before I even knew what was happening, he grabbed my hand and pulled me in close to him wrapping his strong arms around me. Immediately, I got lost in his shoulders and his chin rested on my head. "I'm glad to see you," he whispered softly as he grinned down at me. The moment was brief but it was significant. For except the recent driving lessons, when he occasionally had helped me to shift leaving my fingers tingling, it was the first time he'd ever really voluntarily touched me at all in the whole six months. It was definitely the first hug he'd ever given me, that's for sure. And as he held me close, for those few seconds, I felt like the luckiest girl in the whole world.
* * * *
Camp Orientation was going really well. The first night we were all woken up at 3 am and were forced to hike to the top of Pine Mountain (team building I guess). It was a bit crazy but, a lot of fun. After that we headed to the Central Valley to Space Camp where we did a lot of team building exercises, got to know one another a bit better and spent the warm nights just hanging out. One of the nights we all were up late playing basketball. One by one people started heading off to bed until there were just a handful of us left. Soon enough the last person left and it was just Steve and me. I had no idea what time it was but I was pretty sure we weren't really supposed to be out. However, I also had a premonition that this might be the time when Steve would get the courage to talk to me about us. So I rode on that feeling and continued to shoot baskets with him for awhile.
Just when I was ready to give up on him and go to bed, he asked if I wanted to talk for a bit. "Finally!!" I thought to myself. We sat on some cement steps and he began talking. "Well, I have a hunch that you and I want to be more than just friends." I smiled broadly and he continued talking about how he had liked me for some time but wanted to make sure he understood my heart, see how I acted over time and discern whether or not I genuinely loved the Lord. I laughed inside because I knew I had been doing the same. I also knew I wasn't going to pursue him. So that was another reason I had been silent and just waited. After him talking for a bit he suddenly looked up, with a worried look in his eye and said, "Wait, I'm right aren't I?" I laughed out loud and quickly put him out of his misery. "Of course! I've liked you for many months now. But like you, I wanted to make sure I knew you were the real deal. I needed to see you through some seasons to get a good feel for what kind of man you really are." Relieved, he then continued and we talked for some time.
We discussed our desire to only date with the intent to marry. Neither of us wanted to mess around with something that couldn't potentially lead that direction. Not that we knew for sure we would marry each other but, that's what we had spent so much time ahead of time doing, trying to discern if the other person was suitable. Because if that was the case, once we got to know one another a bit better, then our end goal was marriage.
Our talk was a bit awkward at times as we stumbled through logistics, what we thought about each other, what Steve wanted our relationship to look like and what I felt about his thoughts. But even though it was awkward, as we felt our way around, it was a talk that was needed. We needed to define things, get things out in the open and finally be honest about our feelings. It felt good to tell him with confidence that I really liked him and it was exhilarating to know he felt the same.
After awhile it was really late and both of us knew we shouldn't be out any longer, especially by ourselves. So he walked me back to my room and gave me a quick hug. Those arms...I just loved being in his arms. We still hadn't decided what we "were" yet. We had just finally admitted our feelings. I knew we'd figure it out in the coming weeks. We decided to keep things a secret from the surrounding staff for awhile so that we wouldn't be a distraction to them or to any campers. But to us, we were a secret no longer. And as I fell asleep that night, I couldn't stop thinking about him saying those silly little words to me, "I have a hunch you and I want to be more than just friends...Wait, I'm right aren't I?"
* * * *
"Lady friend?! Lady friend? What kind of cheesy name is that?!" I thought to myself as we walked out of church. It had been a week and a half since we had admitted we liked each other and the obvious unknown of what we "were" was becoming apparent. All morning, while we visited Steve's home church, he had introduced me as his lady friend and after awhile I was straight-up annoyed. Either I'm his girlfriend or I'm not. But lady friend, no thank you.
We climbed into the car to make the trek back up into the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains and I remained quiet wondering how to bring up my annoyance at not having an official title and not knowing exactly where I stood. It wasn't my job to make the moves, that was his deal but, I was definitely feeling a bit uneasy about what my place was.
"You're really quiet, " Steve ventured. "Are you doing okay?" After taking a deep breath, I finally spilled what I was thinking, "Yeah, I guess I'm just not sure exactly where we're at. I'm mean, what 'are' we? I know we like each other and everything but, where are we going from here?" Steve paused for a bit and then answered. "I've been wondering the same thing. I haven't been sure what we should do this summer since we're in the middle of camp and stuff but, I'm starting to see that being in limbo is a bit strange." I nodded in agreement.
The roads were getting windier and the trees thicker, as we made our ascent toward camp. The silence hung in the air as both of us sat there pondering what our next move should be. I was determined to let him figure it out since he was the leader and he was trying to discern the wisest thing for us to do. Should we remain friends for the summer and wait until we got back to Cal Poly to be official so that we weren't distracted from our jobs at camp, or should we take the plunge and officially start dating now?
That's when he looked over at me with a determined look in his eye. He had made a decision. "Nikki, will you be my girlfriend?" Immediately I answered, "Yes!" And then we both started laughing. "That wasn't so difficult was it?!" He said. I agreed it wasn't. "But I still want us to keep things quiet." He went on. "The worst is when people start dating at camp and everyone gets all wrapped up in their romance. This is between you and me and maybe a few other pertinent people who will need to know, like our roommates and some Program Staff. But other than that, let's keep things very quiet." I thought that was wise and so I agreed. It wouldn't be easy dating on the sly but, I knew it'd be simpler to do it knowing exactly where I stood rather than just being some sort of "lady friend." This way, even if it had to be mellow, I'd at least know I was important.