‘For the record, I would’ve picked you.’ I was smiling so hard my face hurt. Time hasn’t slowed down since.’: Couple finds love during lockdown, ‘When you find your person, you just know’

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“Our love story begins as a phoenix, beginning anew, a fresh start. Our individual circumstances certainly were not ideal, making any chance of our future seem so far from reach and almost impossible. It wasn’t as simple as falling in love and living happily ever after. Like any realistic fairytale, achieving a genuinely true, healthy, and happy relationship took work.

Being in love with someone who does not love you back and wondering whether they loved you or just the idea of you can be really divisive. I was engaged to someone else and actively trying to find a way out so I could be truly happy again. It had been 3 years of endlessly trying to make things work for the both of us but the dream of living happily ever after had faded long ago and had no likelihood of ever returning. This time, though, it really would be the end.

The old saying, ‘When one door closes, another opens,’ seemed so cliche. Little did I know, my end with Chelsea would become the immediate beginning with Sophia. While falling out of love at a speed greater than I thought possible, COVID hit. I lost my job because my company had to shut down. Any chance of being able to distract myself at work diminished. I was looking for anything I could do to channel my emotions and figure out who I was again. That’s when I downloaded TikTok. I figured it could be fun to create videos, so why not?

Turns out other people really liked my content, so my following started to grow very fast. Soon enough, it was May and I was coming up on almost 100 thousand followers. This also happened to be the start of Virtual Pride, which called on LGBTQ+ creators to join together to create virtual experiences since Pride celebrations all over the world were being canceled due to COVID. Since I had the following I did at that time, several people had been asking me to join. I figured I had nothing better to do and it sounded like it could be fun, so again, why not?

After joining, I was quickly brought into Zoom meetings and group chats to begin organizing the month-long event. It just so happened on the first zoom meeting, there was one girl in particular who caught my eye: a seemingly shy person with the kindest and softest eyes, and most genuine smile I had ever seen. Her name was Sophia. After being on the call for some time, one by one people would log off to have to go do something else. Eventually, Sophia had to go and I remember being almost sad I didn’t get to keep talking to her, or at least looking at her. I hoped and wondered if I would get the chance to see her again. Lucky for me, I did.

Courtesy of Natasha Charitonuk

At the next Zoom meeting, I decided to message her privately in the chat bar in regards to the group placements she had made. Right before I sent the message, I made sure to find where her box was on the screen so I could watch her reaction to seeing my message. Her eyes lit up and she turned pink! I was so giddy to see her react that way, it was absolutely adorable. We chatted for the remainder of the zoom call, and quite honestly, I was just hoping the two of us could be friends.

It wasn’t until a few days later the graphic designers for the event dropped out. That’s when I officially joined the core group of organizers for Virtual Pride. Little did I know Sophia would be the person I would work the most with throughout the rest of May and June. While I was in charge of web design and creating content to post on the main Virtual Pride account, Sophia was overseeing and running all of the social media accounts, communicating with the hundreds of creators that were involved, organizing meetings, and basically running everything behind the scenes of the event.

After the two of us had been working together for a week or two, my now ex-fiance had even noticed how close Sophia and I had become. She was overjoyed I had a new friendship that was so strong and was clearly making me so happy. In fact, she couldn’t remember the last time I was that happy. And honestly, that’s what Sophia was to me: an extremely good friend. I genuinely had no idea I was falling in love with her or even had feelings for her. Sophia, however, did know she had feelings for me. As far as she knew, I was engaged, thus making her feel horrible about having feelings for me because I was ‘actively’ in another relationship. In an attempt to ‘fix’ her feelings for me, she tried to fall for other people so those feelings would not be directed at me. To say the least, she failed.

Courtesy of Natasha Charitonuk

It wasn’t until one specific phone call I realized what Sophia meant to me and the type of relationship I wanted with her. The call consisted of myself, Sophia, and Kiara. It had started as it typically did, discussing Virtual Pride matters and consulting each other on things that needed to get done. By the end, we had shifted to a more relaxed call, talking about our day, socializing, and asking weird questions. One question being: ‘If you could date anyone within the core organizers of virtual pride, regardless of age or relationship status, who would you pick?’ Instantly the question was targeted to Sophia, which of course she did not want to answer because I was on the call. She began to stall and reused to give an answer. Eventually, she gave up and just said a random name of one of the other organizers so she would not keep getting questioned.

The entire time she was stalling, I was on edge waiting. It was as if I was waiting for lottery numbers to be read. I couldn’t explain why I felt that way at the moment, but I did. But then once she said someone else’s name, I felt myself fall. The unexpected pain of not hearing my name. The echo of the name she did say. The immediate series of questions in my head of, ‘Why didn’t she say my name? How could she pick her? Well… why would she pick me?’ I was crushed, but why? Why was I so devastated Sophia didn’t pick me? That’s when I realized I was falling in love with Sophia. I felt so stupid to have not noticed it or been able to identify it sooner. But I had to tell her.

Courtesy of Natasha Charitonuk

Later that night when it was just me and Sophia on the phone, I waited until the time seemed appropriate and I said, ‘Hey, I know we only asked you that question and I feel bad you were called out like that so, for the record, if I had been asked… I would’ve picked you.’ Before I could even feel the pressure fall off my chest of saying that, I watched Sophia fly across her bed, launching herself toward her phone to explain herself. She poured everything out, that she would pick me, that she actively wants to pick me.

I cannot describe even if I tried the feeling of when she said that. My face hurt because of how hard I was smiling. Sophia picked me. Sophia, the beautifully kind, unbelievably intelligent, overwhelmingly compassionate Sophia, picked me of all people. The fact Sophia would even look at me, let alone pick me, was astonishing.

Courtesy of Natasha Charitonuk

This put us in an awkward situation we had to try and figure out how to manage: I was in a dying engagement to someone else I had been solely trying to fix for months, of which we were still in each other’s lives, all the while Sophia and I were wanting to start a new relationship. I didn’t want to hide anything from either of them. I had been telling Chelsea for months at this point I didn’t think I could forgive her for the things she said and did during our relationship and I was falling out of love with her. We had been on a break for some time and we would reconvene to discuss the relationship at the end of every week. This time, I told her everything about Sophia, just as I had told Sophia everything about Chelsea. I didn’t want either of them thinking I was hiding anything so I was honest with both of them with everything.

Naturally, after hearing this, my ex-fiance had a change of heart and wanted to put effort into the relationship so it wouldn’t end, but it was too late. At this time, we were not living together and because of COVID, we didn’t even meet face to face. She asked for one more chance so she could work on things to save the relationship. I told her I didn’t think it would happen but I would give her another chance. However, I wanted to remain on the break, as any time I interacted with her was miserable at this point.

It did not take long before I called off the relationship. I had wanted so badly to break up in person, given the depth and length of the relationship, but she gave me no choice. Chelsea became very aggressive, hostile, and rude to me about why the relationship was ending. The only thing in her mind that could possibly explain the end of the relationship was Sophia. She blamed everything on Sophia. It got to the point where any time we spoke, we fought over Sophia. I would spend hours attempting to remind her I was leaving her because of the hurtful things she said and did to me throughout the 3 years we were together, and the final straw was her saying she didn’t love me. She never accepted she was the reason for it ending.

Courtesy of Natasha Charitonuk

By the time that mess of a relationship ended, there was no part of me that could honestly say I was in love with Chelsea anymore. Sophia brought communication, patience, maturity, a sense of self, passion, and a love I have never known. The only problem now was I was in Montreal and she was in San Diego, and due to COVID, the US-Canadian borders were closed. We spent hours calling and researching trying to find some way we could go and see each other, and each time, it was another dead end.

After months of waiting to see each other, the perfect opportunity came: my lease was ending and my company was closed until further notice because of COVID. So we began talking about the possibility of me moving to California and finding work there. After all, the base of my industry in the US is in the LA and Burbank area, so why not? While searching for new places to live, I realized I was running out of time to find an apartment and a job. That’s when Sophia said if I needed to, I could crash on her couch until I found an apartment of my own, that way I didn’t have to sign a lease just because I ran out of time. She made sure to specify, though, if I were to crash on her couch I wouldn’t actually be on the couch and I could just sleep with her in her room. Then one of us joked, ‘Well at that point, I might as well just move in,’ and the idea just kind of stuck.

Courtesy of Natasha Charitonuk

When the time came for me to move out, I packed all of my things into a U-Haul and I drove from Montreal to Maryland, where my parents live. While I was there, I began going through my things to figure out what  I wanted to bring to San Diego. The day after I arrived in Maryland, Sophia flew out to meet me so she could help me pack. When I went to get her at the airport, I wasn’t nervous. There weren’t anxious butterflies, only peace and the overwhelming feeling of coming home. When I first saw Sophia, all I could think about was the time I had spent dreaming about just hugging her, and I could finally know what it felt like.

The first hug could’ve been a minute, it could’ve been ten. I have no idea how long we stood outside the airport baggage claim just hugging each other because time seemed to stop. All that mattered in the world was I finally was holding my soulmate and I was never going to let her go. Never in my life have I ever felt so calm, overjoyed, and at home as I did at that moment. It may sound cliche, but when you find your person, you just know, everything clicks into place. Life becomes so simple, so easy.

Courtesy of Natasha Charitonuk

The next chapter for us really flew by and time hasn’t slowed down since. We moved out to San Diego where we are right now with our four cats. She’s about to become a pediatric oncology nurse and once she gets her certification, we are planning to move out to either LA or Toronto. Until then, we’re enjoying San Diego while still under California’s quarantine. Every day is a blessing I get to spend it with my best friend. She makes me a better person, one I never thought I could be, and I am incredibly grateful to have her in my life. Loving Sophia is by far the easiest thing I have ever done, and I am so excited to spend forever with my soulmate. Sometimes a second chance is all it takes to achieve your happily ever after.”

Courtesy of Natasha Charitonuk

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Natasha Charitonuk from San Diego, California. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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