The Contest: It was hard to pick one couple this year- I was sent so many wonderful stories! Reading them is exciting and I want to watch romantic comedies. I just finished watching Midnight in Paris....my daughter insisted on that one.
The Couple: Jerah was in Newark, NJ for work, and the project was for a giant pharmaceutical company, "Where the buildings felt like jails, or better yet, taken directly from the office building Joe worked at in Joe vs the Volcano. It was horribly depressing." Jerah wasn't in the happiest place at this point in life. He was traveling for work a lot, previous marriage had gone horribly awry, and he was worried about his three children. His life consisted of airports, work, cramming a week of parenting in to 24 hours, and very little sleep. When I read this, I had an image in my head of gloomy gray skies, gritty factory air, and a thin man with vacant eyes, plodding slowly towards a punch clock.
On a Tuesday, Jerah decided to quiet his growling stomach with something other than the usual fare that surrounds hotels. Things were about to change for Jerah over an order of Lily's Chicken. He met Halley, who was working the bar that night. Jareh says, "Our eyes met, and I felt like she looked right into my soul. My heart was beating 569 beats a second." Halley says, "His smile got me flustered and fogged my brain. I could feel myself thinking, “act cool,” as I fumbled with daily tasks I usually did effortlessly." Instead of take-out, Jerah stayed put. I imagine he ate that Lily's Chicken as slowly as he could without looking obvious. He left Halley a ridiculously huge tip, and plotted out when he could return to the restaurant again. Halley was bummed when he finished and left. She had a sinking feeling she would never see him again, and was frustrated she hadn't talked to him more. Halley says, "I felt ridiculous for the attraction I felt toward a man I knew nothing about, but there was something undeniable about the impression he made on me. We had one of those “magnetic connections,” or, at least I convinced myself we did right before he walked out of there. I worked almost every night the rest of that week, foolishly thinking he might be back in to see me".
Work took Jerah away, and a bad car accident kept Halley home recovering. For Halley, that time off of work allowed her to deal with some issues she'd been avoiding. Father's Day had arrived, and she was grateful to not have to put on the fake smile of happiness at work. She explains, "It was only my second father’s day since I lost my dad, my best friend, I wasn't ready to pretend I could spread fake smiles all day. I was his primary caretaker through college, and a year after. He was my day job, and I made my fair share of martinis to cover my student loans and rent."
Halley was able to spend Father's Day sitting on the beach, "talking" to her father. She says it was exactly what she needed: Acceptance, honestly, and a deep-emotional release. "I’d been going full-speed through 2 moves, 2 half marathons with the American Cancer Society, and now a new competition prep while I studied to become a cancer rehab specialist. It was exactly the day I needed to grieve, reflect, let go, and move forward. I felt ready to move forward, and with that came forgiving myself for all the “mistakes” I had made rushing through what was meant to be lived."
Back in Colorado, Jerah was hanging in there. He was, "Living with my brother and his new wife, I was finally feeling human again. Finally taking some time for myself, to be with myself, to breathe, to heal. I was doing well in my new position, I was working out, eating fairly well, and taking care of my kids. Even though it was exhausting, I seemed to have more energy than I had in a long time." He was looking forward to his next dinner order of Lily's Chicken.
On June 21st, 2010, the stars aligned for them. Eyes locked, shy smiles happened, hearts raced, fingers fumbled. He had dinner, she prolonged his stay with alcohol and a gigantic brownie. She nearly blew it by hiding in the kitchen at the end of her shift, but thankfully a co-worker of Halley's decided to step in and take over. She approached Jerah and asked, “Are you single?”, “Yes” I replied. “Good, come with me”. She took me by the hand and found Halley. She proceeded, “He’s single. She’s single. He’s interested. She’s interested. And then made us go sit down at a table and talk." Hours passed, the magical kiss happened, and Jerah and Halley found their lives intertwined.
I hope Jerah and Halley have sent that co-worker a giant gift basket.
Photo by www.deadboltphoto.com