True Love at 16?
by Sirena Van Schaik
I didn’t expect to find my true love when I was 16 and I definitely didn’t expect my friend’s brother to be my true love. In fact, when I found out James was moving down to Vancouver from Ontario, I figured we would just be friends. I had already met him, a few months before, and while I had felt some little spark of recognition at the time, I didn’t think anything of it.
I was 16 after all and dating was the last thing on my mind. In fact, I was adamantly against it. Oh sure, I had dated a few boys over my teen years but I found dating had more headaches and pressures than I cared to have at that age so as my seventeenth birthday loomed a few months ahead, I was enjoying the last year and a half dateless.
When James arrived, he simply moved into my life without even a hint of upset. He was there to walk me home when I left my friend’s house and he was there when I needed to talk to someone. In the mornings, he would walk me to school and as he wandered away, I felt upset that I wouldn’t see him for the whole day.
It often felt like I had known him forever and I found myself looking forward to seeing him, something that was so unusual for me. In addition, I felt completely at ease with him and I didn’t feel pressured or like he was simply waiting for me to give in and start dating.
I found that it was easy and for the first time in a very confusing childhood, I didn’t have to pretend or act happy when I wasn’t. I didn’t have to hold back on my opinions or pretend to be something I wasn’t. I was me, in all my opinionated, strange and dark way. I could laugh without being scared to do so and more importantly, I could cry and actually explain the reason why I did.
It was a wonderful experience for me, and I cherished the friendship that we were building in such a short time. But it was just a friendship, I had told myself. I mean, who finds their true love at 16?
As summer quickly shifted into fall, I realized that I had feelings building for James. We didn’t talk about them, we talked about everything else but what was happening. The days became crisp and the leaves began to change, a vivid color display amidst the evergreens. And then one day, I looked up at him as he slipped his fingers between mine and I knew this was the man that I loved.
Panic seized me. I was 16, how could I know what love was? I was 16 but I knew without a doubt that I wasn’t the right person for him. I panicked, and I fled the next day, telling my friend that I couldn’t see him anymore. I told her that I wasn’t right for him, wasn’t the best person for him and I was too confused, too immature, had too many problems to date anyone, let alone him.
She looked at me, wrapped her arms around me and said, “I think you need to tell James, not me.”
II didn’t know what to say, what to do. Everything was too new and too overwhelming but eventually I agreed to let her talk to him for me. Later that evening, I met with him and he simply shared the space.
We didn’t talk, he didn’t accuse me of anything or tell me I was being childish. We sat there in silence and I simply enjoyed his closeness. Finally, he looked at me in his quiet way and smiled, his brown eyes warm as he said, “None of it matters to me. Only you matter to me.”
I think it was his eyes that convinced me enough to stay and we simply enjoyed each others company until it got late and I had to go home. When I closed the door after he left, I knew that I didn’t have to leave, didn’t have to panic. I had found someone that understood who I was, no matter how strange or complicated I was. I knew that I had found someone that I could love without being afraid to love.
The next day I saw James, and the day after that, and the week after that. The days flew into weeks, the weeks into months and then finally the months into years. We didn’t rush into anything but we were married when I was 21 and now at the age of 33, I still look into his brown eyes and see the quiet man that he is. I see my heart and I know that, despite all the odds, I found my true love at 16 and I look forward to spending the rest of my life with him.
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