Paula & Anthony, continued
Three days later I got a response. Anthony sent me an e-mail suggesting I go to the Chelsea Street Pub and asked me what 0309 from my screen name meant. I explained that it was my birthday. It turns out it was his birthday too.
Later that night, I was online when I received an instant message from him. We chatted, sending messages back and forth for two hours before I went to work. He told me that he was originally from New Jersey and had lived in Texas for two years. We talked about our families, music and work. He is a banker and I am a correctional officer. What a combination.
Still, there was a feeling of comfort and knowing that was undeniable. We decided to talk on the phone the next night and we talked for three hours. It was like we had known each other all our lives.
I never did end up going with my girlfriend on the Austin trip because my dad underwent heart by-pass surgery. Three weeks later, Anthony and I decided to meet and I drove four hours from East Texas to meet a man whom I'd never even seen a picture of.
We met at Austin's Highland Mall parking lot at 7 a.m. and immediately gave each other a big hug. I thought he was cute and very polite. We ate breakfast at the International House of Pancakes and he told me later that he couldn't stop looking at my eyes because he couldn't believe how green they were.
After breakfast, we went back to his apartment so I could rest. That might seem like risky behavior to some people, but my instincts about people are usually correct and I felt strongly that Anthony was someone I could trust. I had been awake for over 30 hours and was so tired that I went to sleep sitting on the couch. When I woke up, Anthony was holding my hand. I can't believe such a small gesture could mean so much. At that moment I knew that he was a sensitive and caring person. I was comfortable staying with him at his apartment, and he was kind enough to give me his bedroom and make up a bed for himself on the couch.
We did a lot of things during our first weekend together. We went to see the movie "Duets." We had dinner with his parents, and of course, we went to karaoke. I sang "Valentine" by Martina McBride and Anthony sang "I'll Be" by Edwin McCain. We also sang a duet: "Just You and I" by Eddie Rabbit and Crystal Gayle.
Anthony also told me that his sister had met someone online and had gotten married, but that he didn't think it could happen to him. Something was happening, though. In spite of the fact that I had fears about getting into a relationship before my final divorce papers were signed, and Anthony had gotten hurt in two previous relationships, our connection was growing.
Three weeks later, Anthony came to visit me and meet my family and friends at karaoke. Three more weeks passed and he invited me to his bank's Christmas party. That weekend he told me he loved me. It scared me to death. I told him that I liked him a lot and enjoyed his company but I wasn't ready to say those words to him. Little did I know that I would be ready much sooner than I thought.
On January 7 we were talking by IM after I returned from an evening of karaoke with some friends. I was telling him about the evening, how much I missed him, and that it just wasn't the same anymore without him there with me. He asked me if I ever wanted to get married again. I told him that I that I might. The next thing I knew, he sent me an e-mail at 2:22 a.m. asking, "Will you marry me?" I responded, "Yes, but you will have to ask me again in person."
We weren't able to see each other again until January 20th. This time I met his sister and her family and we joined all of his family and his co-workers at the Chelsea Street Pub for an evening of karaoke. Anthony was one of the first to turn in a song to sing, but when they called him up, he said he had something to say first and asked me to come up on the stage.
Anthony got down on one knee and said, "Paula, you know how happy you have made me and you know how much I love you. Will you marry me?" All I could do was stand there with my hands over my face. After I got over the shock, of course I said yes. The audience stood up, clapping and cheering. We are engaged to be married on Feb. 2, 2002.
On April 3, 2001, I got a job transfer and moved to Austin to be with the love of my life.
This experience has taught me several things: love can come when you least expect it, love comes in unexpected ways and if love between two people is meant to be, it will happen. They will find each other, even somewhere as vast as the Internet.