I sat across the booth from Grant at Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ in Bluffton.
I had just picked him up from the airport after his 24 hour journey from Japan to visit me in Beaufort over Christmas. He had asked me to choose a restaurant for our first official date since he didn’t know the area.
I chose Jim ‘N Nick’s because Grant seemed like a guy who liked BBQ. It was a relaxed and casual atmosphere, but nicer than your average restaurant.
I couldn’t believe we were finally together. After four months of letters, emails, and telephone calls – being in one another’s presence was quite the change.
My mind had been running in a million different directions since I’d picked Grant up from the airport. I had expected everything to just feel so natural between us. Grant and I already knew one another so well now, I figured our first date would not feel like a first date at all.
I thought it would feel like our fiftieth date. After all, the guy across the table from me practically knew everything about me and had already told me that he loved me and planned to pursue me for the rest of my life.
Wow. The guy across the table from me. Not across the world, across the table.
And not only had he declared his love for me, but I had declared my love for him.
And so, this was supposed to be the perfect and most relaxed date of all time. This was supposed to be the most special moment. After months of waiting and longing to see one another, we were finally together.
And yet, my stomach was in knots.
“So, you don’t have brisket?” Grant’s voice to the waitress broke into my world of woes.
“I’m sorry, not today,” the waitress replied.
What in the world was brisket? I wondered. I grabbed a menu. Sure enough, it was on there, I’d just never heard of anyone ordering it before.
Grant disappointedly settled for a form of pig while I ordered a salad.
He then fixed his attention across the table at me. He had been all smiles since the airport.
“GraceAnna, it is so good to finally be with you. Isn’t this just awesome?”
“Yes, yes, it is,” I managed.
“Do you realize this is our first official date?”
“Yes, I do.” That fact had not escaped me.
“How cool is it that on our first date we already know each other.”
“Yes, that’s really neat.”
“Hey, I’ll be right back.”
Grant got up and headed to the restroom. I heard my phone beep. I had a text. It was from my mom.
Did you pick Grant up? Everything going okay?
I stared at the text. I didn’t know what to say. Grant was going to be back from the restroom any minute. Nothing was going badly, I just felt so, well, awkward. I felt like I didn’t know the guy across the table from me even though we were “serious” in our love and admiration for one another.
Yes, it’s fine. I texted back.
Grant slid back into the booth and fixed his gaze back on me.
“GraceAnna, I can’t believe I am finally able to take you out to dinner. You are so beautiful. Your pictures didn’t do you justice.”
“Really?” I gasped. Obviously the awkwardness was one-sided.
We arrived at my parents house a few hours later.
“Dr. and Mrs. Broggi!” Grant exclaimed with excitement and enthusiasm.
Within minutes we were all in the living room and my parents and Grant were laughing and talking.
They loved him. It took about thirty seconds to assess that fact.
And everyone seem to be so at ease and comfortable.
Everyone but me.
After a few minutes, my mom pulled me aside.
“GraceAnna, is everything okay?“
“Yes, it’s fine. I just feel like I don’t know him. I didn’t expect to feel this way.“
“Just relax. It is your first time ever being around him. It’s fine.“
We hung out for a long time, then I brought Grant down to the neighbor’s garage apartment where he would be staying over the next 10 days.
He hugged me before he went upstairs. “GraceAnna, I love your home and your parents. I can’t wait to spend tomorrow with you. I love you, GraceAnna.”
“I love you too, Grant.”
I knew that I did. And I was sure that everything would be better in the morning.
The ringing of my phone woke me up. I glanced at the clock, it was a little after seven and I had been in a dead sleep.
We had all stayed up so late the night before, and I had crashed. I was physically and emotionally exhausted.
“Hello?” I answered groggily.
“Well, hello!” Grant’s chipper voice answered as he laughed slightly,”I can tell you’ve been up for a while.”
“Grant, we were up past 2 am last night! It’s only 7! I thought you would want to sleep in after your trip.”
“GraceAnna, I’m just not tired. I’m so excited to be here and spend time with you. I only have 10 days and I want to make the most of every one of them.”
A smile crept onto my face. I’d never heard Grant so happy and excited. And hearing his voice over the phone felt so natural and normal. See, everything is better today, I told myself. This was Grant’s voice. My Grant’s voice. I adored his voice.
“I was thinking I could come over and we could spend some time together reading in the Word on your front porch. If you aren’t too tired that is,” Grant added in a joking tone.
I’m not exactly a morning person, and after four months of calling me every morning while I lived in Durham, he was well aware of this fact.
“Okay, that sounds great!” Just give me a few minutes to get ready.
“I’ll be down there in fifteen minutes.“
“Um, a little more time than that...”
“That will work.”
We sat on the front porch and Grant opened his Bible and shared some passages with me.
I just stared at him. I wasn’t hearing a word he was saying. I stared at his hair and his eyebrows and his nose and his chin and his mouth moving.
All the same emotions from the night before came flooding back. I just felt like I was sitting across from a stranger. I felt like there was a disconnect between the guy that I’d come to love through phone and emails and the guy sitting across from me.
I didn’t know how to put the two together.
I felt lightheaded. This had been my worst fear.
My worst fear was that something would happen to mess up the love that I had for the most amazing and perfect man I’d ever gotten to know in my life. Something would happen to invalidate it.
That “something” seemed to have arrived. What in the world was going on? Was this some kind of evil joke?
“GraceAnna, are you okay?” Grant asked, “You seem a little distant or nervous or something.“
“Grant, I’m fine. I’m just getting used to being with you, that’s all.”
I couldn’t tell him the truth. I couldn’t tell him I was acting distant because I felt distant. It would hurt him and I didn’t understand what was going on myself.
I took a deep breath. It will all be fine, I told myself.
But in my head, I heard the voices of everyone who had told me that it might not be.
to be continued…