Have you ever been in love? Oh man, I know I have. My first love was at 6 years old, and her name was Natalie.
I remember the day we met. We were next door neighbors in a small town outside of New Jersey. My family and I were welcoming her and her family into the neighborhood by bringing over a casserole. Apparently you do that when you have new neighbors. I wanted to take them mud pies, but my mother did not approve. Anyways, I remember walking up to the door holding my mother's free hand, and watching my father ring the doorbell. The door opened and a woman in about her late 20's stepped out with a warm smile.
“Hi, we are the Mala family. We live next door, and we wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood by bringing over a casserole.” my mother said with a sweet smile.
“Hello, I am Emma Watkins. Thank you so much for bringing this over! I honestly haven't thought about dinner tonight considering all the unpacking we have had to do.” Emma chuckled while taking the dish from my mother and sitting it inside on a side table. She smiled once more as her eyes moved to me.
“And who do we have here?” she asked while bending down to meet me eye to eye.
"Zaire, do not be rude," my father said sternly.
Still grasping my mother’s hand with my right hand, I reached out my left hand to the stranger.
“Hello, I am Zaire.” I was hesitant but her smile was inviting.
“Hello Zaire, please call me Emma. I have a daughter who is about your age.”
She stands and turns back the open door. “Natalie, join momma on the porch please.” Emma didn't yell, but she was loud enough to be heard.
I hear the tip tap of shoes making their way across the hardwood floor. I dropped my mother's hand as my eyes fell on the girl before me. She had long blond hair, bright blue eyes and a cutie mark right on her temple. She was wearing a bright blue spaghetti strap dress. She was covered in multiple colors of paint, from the top of her head to the soles of her bare feet.
“Hi," she beamed while grinning a toothless smile. She grabbed my hand and shook it.
I looked at her then our joined hands then at my mom.
“Ma, she almost has you beat.”
“What do you mean, honey?” she asked, surprised.
“She is almost as beautiful as you.” I looked back at the girl in front of me and gripped her hand a bit tighter, “I’m Zaire, and I am going to marry you one day.”
Days turned to months and months turned into years. Natalie and I became very close. I had learned many things about her. One, her father was a prick. Not just a prick, but a cheating prick. That's all I needed to know to hate the bastard who left this beautiful family. And two, she loved art and always talked about becoming a famous artist where everyone will buy her paintings.
In middle school, Nat would be over at my house all day while her mom was at work. We would do homework together, bake, cook, play video games, she would teach me how to draw, while I taught her how to ride a bike. She was my best friend and I was hers. Around 8th grade she became different, as did I. Puberty hit us both in the face really hard. She developed beautiful curves, freckles, her blonde hair became more full and bright. I started to develop too. My black hair was almost to my shoulders, my grey eyes have lightened. My voice changed, I started developing muscles everywhere. My love for sports helped to, football, baseball, track. I would do anything to get my adrenaline going. Freshman year, she became known as a freshman prodigy in art, and I became popular with the sports I was in. Our tenth grade year, right when we both turned 16, Nat had a boyfriend. They were perfect for one another. Except the fact the boy wasn't me. I was so jealous of them. She couldn’t hang out with me anymore due to him being overprotective and clingy. They dated for 6 months before he broke up with her for her best friend at the time. I remember her coming to my house that same day and laying in my lap as I played with her hair as she cried.
“Why are guys stupid.”
“Nat? You do remember who you are talking to.” I yanked her hair playfully.
“Yeah, but you’re my best friend, Zaire. I mean like boyfriend material.” she laughed. But it felt like a punch to my gut. I felt vomit coming up… no… word vomit.
“I like you Nat… more than a friend.” My words came out so fast, that her body wasn’t the only one that became stiff. That was not how I wanted to tell her, I wanted it to be a while after her heart break.
“Wait, what?” she leans out of my lap and looks at me. “Since when?”
I gazed at her and grinned, “Since the first time I told you I wanted to marry you.”
Then I cupped her face and kissed her… and she kissed back. Man, the books were right when they said you will see fireworks when you kiss someone you love. But damn, it was like a goddamn explosion.
When we pulled away from each other we both were redder than a strawberry. We both agreed to give each other time to process everything as well as allow her to get over the heartbreak. That way we both wouldn't get hurt. I respected her decision because she was right, I did not want to hurt her. She is too great for that. After a week, one night I heard a tap on my window. I looked out and saw her.
“Nat!?” I whispered yelled as she climbed through my window. “What are you…”
I was cut off by her kiss. Her lips were thin but perfect, her scent of cinnamon, and the way her hair felt in my hands… she was perfect.
“Okay Zaire, I accept. I want to be your girlfriend.” she smiled. I smiled from ear to ear and pulled her back with a kiss.
Graduation came and went, we moved out of our homes and moved to New York. I went to the police academy, and she went to New York School of Visual Arts. We learned to live together, to work together, thrive together. Our small flat was probably the most run down apartment you may have ever seen… but it was ours. It was home, and home is anywhere Nat is.
Once we both graduated, we both were at the top of our class (thanks to our competitiveness), we were put straight to work. I started out at NYPD and she was selling art locally.
Over time she became well known all over the world. Her paintings and art was sought after by many buyers and she even did a few pieces for a famous artist she had been looking up to as she grew up. I remember her receiving an offer for one of her pieces during her 4th art show from a french man named Victor. She had researched his work and based a few of her paintings from his as inspiration. I'm not really sure what she was meaning, but I was so proud of her. I was starting as a rookie with the police force. Nothing exciting besides a few calls but she was proud of me. I do not make as much as she does but she never cared. Even when I requested my parents not to send me money anymore. I was determined to take care of Natalie and myself.
Ten years have flown by since we got together at 16 and now is the time to ask her to be mine. I have been saving, working extra over time, on weekends and holidays. But I bought her the antique ring she has been wanting since she I could remember. I had it made and styled exactly the way she wanted and it is beautiful. Ten years seems like a long time to wait to get married but I wanted to make sure she had what she wanted and worked so hard for. I was not going to ask for money from her, I wanted to do this myself.
Tomorrow is the night she will no longer be my girlfriend, she will become my fiance.