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Justin was four when he first met Allie. He knew right away that they were meant to be together, but he didn’t know how to say it. He liked everything about her, and he could tell she felt the same way about him. One day on the playground he told her that he knew they would be married someday. She shoved him, and he fell while she ran off crying.
At first Justin was proud of how pretty his best friend Allie was becoming, but as grade school turned to high school his feeling changed. Boys, older boys, cooler boys, began to notice her, and she had less and less time for him. She became popular while he grew increasingly awkward. She dated, she surrounded herself with friends, she became the focal point of the school’s social life. She rarely had time for Justin, but when she did it was like she had never drifted away. They were perfect together. He knew it, and at those moments, she knew it, too.
Different choices, different paths, but Justin knew he just needed to wait until Allie was ready. He watched all of her movies, even the ones where she had only one quick walk through. He knew other men found her physically attractive. So did he, but that wasn’t the point. She was his friend, and his friend happened to be a beautiful celebrity.
Over the years, Justin followed her life, both public and private. On social media he saw that Allie was into musicians. Justin had never even held a musical instrument, but he bought a guitar and some drums and several learn-to-play books.
Talent he never knew he had emerged, and Justin burst onto the local music scene. He and his band played gigs all over the city. He was especially liked for his sensitive songwriting, love songs that always rang true. He hoped Allie knew that he was writing for her.
He watched as Allie had a string of Hollywood boyfriends, high-profile messy tabloid relationships. Those guys were wrong for her. He knew it, but she seemed to have lost her way, choosing the loud boys, the rich boys, the bad boys. He felt bad for her, for the unnecessary turmoil in her life, but he understood. Now that he was “cool,” he had his choice of women, and he’d made some bad choices, too.
One evening, Justin and his newest girlfriend were lying on the sofa together when Allie’s face appeared on the TV screen. A reporter held a mic and asked Allie about her dating life.
“I’m so tired of all the actors and rockstars,” Allie said. “They’re so egotistical. I just want a nice guy who is interesting and wants to talk about more important things. Like a college professor, maybe.”
Justin turned to his girlfriend and told her it was time to give up the guitar and go back to college. He was surprisingly adept at the demands of higher education and soon earned a reputation for his scholarly work. He had a gift for teaching and was a highly respected teaching assistant. He devoted all of his free time to his students, providing the kind of care and attention they rarely received from professors.
The next time he saw Allie being interviewed, she told the reporter that she was tired of dating teachers and was looking for someone more introspective, perhaps a writer.
Justin thought of himself as a writer, as he had just finished his Master’s thesis, and he decided to write a book. With all that he had learned as an awkward, young teenager, and all of the insights he had gained as a writer of honest love songs, and all of the compassion he had felt as a dedicated teacher, his book offered a life-affirming story that quickly rose to the top of the bestsellers list. Almost overnight, he became an international celebrity.
One warm evening he was enjoying a glass of wine at a sidewalk cafe in Point Loma. Allie walked by carrying his book. She looked at him. With a sheepish smile, she showed him the book she held, her bookmark very near the end. He motioned to the waiter for a second glass of wine and invited her to join him.
“How’ve you been?” she asked.
“About the same. And you?”
“Pretty much the same. You know, with a few ups and downs.”
They sipped their wine, comfortable with their silence, like they’d never been apart.
“”Did you mean it,” she asked. “When you said we’d get married someday?”
“Of course. I’ve just been giving you a little time to be ready.”