I am pinching myself that I’m actually writing this post. It still all feels so surreal but so amazing.
Matt and I got engaged on the 11th of December in our favourite city, Liverpool, overlooking the River Mersey. Growing up, you picture that moment a hundred times, but it’s nothing like when it really happens. Surprise and joy were just some of the feelings that I felt as I stared at Matt in shock that night.
I had no idea that it was going to happen and it wasn’t ever something that we really spoke about in any depth or planned, which makes it that much more special and surprising.
Going back a few years, Matt and I met in September 2009, in a chance encounter at a bar in Louisville, Kentucky. It was not love at first sight, or even at second sight. In fact, after being pelted by Apple Jacks by Matt and his friends, I was not Matt’s biggest fan, something which remained until Christmas Day in December 2009.
Somehow we ended up chatting on Facebook on and off throughout Christmas Day as I battled feelings of homesickness. Initially we spoke about my visit to Philadelphia, which is home to Matt’s favourite film, Rocky. Steadily the conversation deepened and something changed for me. Did I know at that stage that this man would come to mean more to me than anyone ever has before? No. At twenty years old, a long distance relationship with an Englishman is not something to contemplate, and I’m sure Matt felt much the same.
And yet, it did happen. Despite the odds, challenges and break ups, we’ve come full circle in some way as we look forward to our first Christmas as an engaged couple. There were moments when our future was so unclear, with my being in South Africa and Matt in England, that I thought we were both mad and that life would be a lot easier if we each found someone closer. But neither of us did. I blame our mutual stubbornness, as well as our love for each other, as the reasons for where we are today.
Back to the present day.
Liverpool has always been a very special place for both of us – in part because of our love for Liverpool football club but also because of the city’s soul. I love the way that its blue collar history is weaved throughout the city, even as it goes through a period of regeneration.
We arrived on Sunday afternoon and checked into the Titanic Hotel, a magnificent restored Victorian shipping warehouse just off of the docks. I was already buzzing from the beautiful hotel, which had been kept a secret until we arrived. Matt was buzzing too, but mostly because the West Ham football team were staying in our hotel too.
We headed into town to watch the Liverpool/West Ham game in a bar just across from the Albert Docks. While the game didn’t exactly go smoothly and Liverpool drew, we decided to make the most of it and walk down to the Albert Docks. Did I have any idea about what was going to happen? Nope, not a clue. Matt was acting just like himself, if not slightly more excitable, but I attributed that to the pints that we had drunk and the fact that we were in our favourite place in the world.
As we stood underneath the street lamp next to the waters edge, I made a joke about the love locks along the chain link fence and how we should have brought a lock with us. When I had mentioned it in the past, Matt had never seemed overly keen on the gesture, so I expected him to laugh it off and we’d move on.
But he didn’t.
Instead, he brought out a beautifully decorated little box and handed it to me. Inside there was a heart-shaped lock with a key. I was so distracted by the fact that he’d brought a lock with him, that I didn’t immediately read what it said.
Engraved on the lock were the words ‘Matt & Sarah. Engaged 11/12/16’. I looked up at him in shock and asked, ‘Are you serious?’
He replied, ‘Are you saying yes?’
To which I retorted that he hadn’t actually asked me. And so he did.
And I said yes.