He was wearing a red t-shirt and jeans, was carrying a shoulder type bag and pulling his luggage. I knew it was Jason as soon as I saw him but not because I had previously seen his pictures. As much as I love him, he doesn't always take the best pictures. I can't really describe it but I just knew it was him. The feeling was obviously mutual because as our eyes met, even being 50 feet apart, he dropped everything and ran to meet me and put his arms around me. He kissed me, nothing inappropriate, but very meaningful. It was at that exact moment I realized how much I liked him and how much I didn't like his breath. Yuck! But to be fair, he had just traveled 9 hours on a flight, eating airplane food, drinking orange juice and probably plenty of coffee. After a few minutes of just hugging and enjoying being in the same country we picked up the things he dropped and headed to the car. We got to the car and made some phone calls to let everyone know he was safe and I was normal and we were off on a 2 and a half hour drive back to my place. Unfortunately neither of us can remember a lot of the drive home but what I do remember is 1. As we started going over a bridge of water it shocked the heck out him 2. Taco Bell and 3. He stared at me the whole way back. Of course we have a ton of water here in Florida and therefore have tons of bridges. I'm used to driving down the road and without warning being on a bridge but for an Englishman on his first visit to the states this was news worthy. It really surprised him and made me laugh. No trip to Orlando is complete without a stop for gas at some point. On the way home I needed to stop and pulled off 95 at Palm Coast. It was getting late, it was already dark, and I was hungry. I asked if he was and as I've since learned, he's always hungry. Remembering he liked spicy food and even specifically mentioned Mexican food I asked if he want to grab a quick bite at Taco Bell and we could be on the rest of the way home. Yeah sure he said. So I pulled into Taco Bell and asked what he wanted. Whatever he says. How about some tacos? Yeah sure he said. So I order enough tacos for the two of us and then pull into the gas station next to Taco Bell. Knowing he's hungry and tired I handed him his tacos and got out to pump the gas. I get back in the car and there's Jason, sour cream on the side of his mouth, mouth full of taco, rest of the taco in one hand and he looked at me, with a full mouth and said "This is great!". Uhhh, it's just Taco Bell I thought. Then it occurred to me and I asked him, "Don't you have Taco Bell in England?" His response - "No!" No? No! Seriously? Seriously! So then we started going through a list of all the places they DON'T have in England and I was mentally making a list of must-visits. Back on the road for the rest of the ride I would catch Jason just staring at me. I'm not really sure why but I figure I'm just THAT gorgeous! :) Finally we got to my apartment and crashed for the night. He was so tired from his day of traveling that he was out in no time. But before he could go to sleep he had to give me the Christmas present he bought me. It was at this point that I realized we were supposed to be exchanging gifts. Crap! I didn't have anything for him! So I made another mental note to take him shopping for a new shirt or something. He gave me a box that was larger than an earring or necklace box but smaller than box you would get medical supplies in. I opened it to find a pink (my favorite color) Burberry (my favorite fashion house) watch (the one piece of jewelery that I don't have but really need). I couldn't believe how incredibly thoughtful this guy was. He was really trying to impress and it was working! The next day we went on our first "official" date. I took him to Bono's Barbeque. In England to barbeque simply means pulling out the grill on that one summer day when it isn't raining and cooking hamburgers. So I had to introduce Jason to real Southern Barbeque. You know, the stuff life is truly made of. We were seated and Jason asked the server a question which went like this:
Him: Something she couldn't understand
Her: I'm sorry?
Him: (speaking much slower this time) Toilet? Where can I find the toilet?
Her: (with a really sour look on her face) Oh, the bathrooms are over there
When he came back I politely explained that to say toilet throws people off because we imagine the toilet when he says it. So we use the term bathroom. Seems much nicer. We both had a little laugh. I helped him order, the food came and again, he thought I was wonderful for filling his belly with such deliciousness. Let's face it, this wasn't going to be hard. Have you had English Cuisine? Not always the tastiest of foods.
We spent the next couple of days making the rounds, meeting family, getting to know each other a little better, showing him the best North Florida or more specifically, Orange Park, had to offer. We didn't venture far because we really wanted to focus on getting to know each other better and seeing if we connected. We spent New Year's Eve with Casey and Mark at their home doing nothing terribly exciting. We rang in the New Year with kisses and hugs and togetherness. It really was great. I found out later that as Jason and Mark were talking Mark asked Jason when he and I would see each other again. Jason told him we were planning on me going to England in February. Mark told Jason, "If you like this girl as much as you say you do, you'll be back before you know it." Jason didn't put too much into this little golden nugget of information because he had a job to get back to and so did I. We had our lives to live and we were both very much looking forward to February. On January 2nd we prepared for Jason to go back to England. I didn't want him to go but he had to. We both knew it. He packed up and we were back in the car to the Orlando airport. This time leaving in more than enough time to allow for the crazy traffic pattern that plagued me the first time around. We got to the airport in plenty of time and spent the next hour sitting together in the very crowded waiting area. Talk about privacy. We talked about how much we loved each other (yes, we were using the "l" word) and how we couldn't wait until February. Tears were shed (mostly by Jason and yes, that is the truth) and then it was time. He had to board. I watched him as he walked through security and then got on the tram to head to his gate. I felt as if I was letting him walk out of my life and there was nothing I could do. It was at that point that I broke down and cried. I cried all the way home. I couldn't believe I let this guy leave. What was I thinking? I would have to wait until the next day to even talk to him again. It really was painful. The next day I spoke to him and he didn't feel well. He got sick on the flight home. This would eventually be something he passed on to me. The day after that (now the 4th) he called and said he had been doing some thinking (my stomach was dropping...nothing good ever starts with "I've been thinking...") and would I be able to stand him for two weeks? Duh! Of course! And with that he bought a ticket to come back. He was set to arrive on January 12th, only 10 days after leaving me sobbing in Orlando. I guess what Mark said about being back sooner than he thought was coming to fruition. So now, instead of counting down to February 9th, over a month away, we were counting down to January 12th! January 12th finally came and those two weeks were filled with more restaurants Jason had never been to and places he had never been. I took him to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. We had a blast riding all the rides and just being together. I did have to work on some of those days so we had fun in between work. One day Jason was in the office and him and my dad were at my Dad's desk talking. I later found out Jason asked if he could ask me to marry him while I was in England in February. My dad gave his blessing. Everyone who knew us could see we were happier than they had ever seen us. We even went to the courthouse and got a marriage license. They're good for 90 days! It was only halfway on a whim. I knew I wanted to marry him and spend the rest of my life with him. I knew it was only a matter of time before I would be his wife. He left to go back to England on the 29th and we only had another 10 days before I would fly to England to see him and meet his family. I never even had a passport before I met him. I have travelled all over this beautiful country but had never been out of it, except on a cruise to the Bahamas. Many "firsts" were happening for him and I and it was fantastic. February 9th came and I was off to England for the first time ever.........