‘I was in an abusive relationship. She was a lesbian with a man she didn’t love. I was falling for her. One day, she strolled up to me, a grin on her face. ‘I want to be with you.’

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“I met the love of my life back in March of 2016, but I didn’t know it then. I would later break my own rule of never getting involved with a co-worker. She would also become the first woman I have ever been with.

I had started a new job at Meijer, a supercenter chain based in the Midwest, working in the fashion department. It was my job to keep the floor clean, put away clothes, hang them up, fold them, etc. One night, our team leader told me I would be working with someone I hadn’t yet worked with and she would show me how to markdown jewelry. That’s when I was first introduced to Emily.

We stood at the jewelry spinners for hours, marking down jewelry. We talked about our favorite bands, what we liked to do for fun, favorite animals, etc. We clicked in a way that I don’t often experience with people. Little did I know that a spark had started and a bond had been formed. Unfortunately, her shift was soon changed and we didn’t see each other much. She now had the third shift, and I had the second. This went on for a few months.

Meanwhile, I was struggling in a long-distance relationship with a man who I thought I loved. It had been almost 6 years and it wasn’t going anywhere. He had no intentions of moving up to be with me to start a life together. I had convinced myself that I truly loved him and he was the best thing ever. I was wrong.

I got fed up with him, with all of it. He would tell me I would never find anyone who would love me like he did, that I couldn’t make it without him. He would make threats to harm himself if I left him. He played mind games with me and for years I allowed it, but I was finally coming out of the fog and bettering myself through work. I officially and finally broke up with him in the summer of 2016. I felt better, lighter, happier. I was still struggling with other things during the summer, but I would leave those worries at home and go to work to forget for a few hours.

Emily moved back to first and second shifts during those summer months too, but she was working all over the store. We didn’t work shifts together, but I would find myself looking for her, wondering if she was working that day, and being so happy when I would see her walk up. We could never talk for long because we had things we had to get done, but we always tried to connect as much as possible. I had never dated anyone other than my ex I had recently broken up with.

Emily was the first woman I found myself interested in although I had always been open to the possibility of being with a woman. I just had never met a woman who sparked my interest. I didn’t even realize it at the time, but I was falling for her. I told her how I just had ended a relationship and I wasn’t interested in dating anyone. I even told her I was meant to be alone. She’s the most optimistic person I have ever met and quickly said, ‘No, you’ll find someone.’

During this time, we talked about her relationship issues she was suffering through. She was in a 5-year relationship with a man that she didn’t love. It was all very complicated and she was denying who she really is: a lesbian. Her family was never accepting of who she is and wanted to ‘fix’ her. She was depressed, drinking too much, and overweight. She was eating her feelings and washing it all down with booze. She was also always playing video games when she wasn’t working and isolating herself.

I could see it in her face how unhappy she was. Her father had also died a few years earlier and it weighed on her deeply, adding to her depression. One day, she said to me that she needed a dad. My heart broke for her and I told her, ‘I have a stepfather you can borrow anytime.’ I can still vividly see her smile when I told her that. The more we talked, the more I encouraged her to end her relationship. She deserved better. He was dragging her down. He was nasty and unappreciative of her. She wasn’t being true to herself.

She was so unsure at times. Always hoping for the best, always giving people one last chance. All the while, she was spiraling down and becoming more and more unhealthy. Drinking too much and eating too much. I would listen to her and never judged her. I just always told her she deserved more. I realize now that I was falling in love with her then and I wanted to be the one to protect her and save her, but I was very resistant to another relationship and I did not feel comfortable getting involved with a co-worker.

She finally broke up with him and was free of him always weighing her down. We continued talking and sharing about ourselves. And on Labor Day weekend of 2016, everything changed. My mom and stepfather got a wonderful opportunity to move three and a half hours away to better themselves and their life. I was still living with them as I could not afford to be on my own even though I should have been. I would have to move too. I was ecstatic for them because they’ve dealt with a lot over the years and something good finally happened for them. Secretly, however, I was slightly heartbroken because I knew I’d be leaving behind a job I absolutely loved, friendships I had created, and one very special co-worker in particular.

Courtesy of Samantha Berry

One weekend, I went with my mom and stepfather to look at houses in our soon-to-be new town. We left early in the morning and I texted Emily the entire time. I sent her pictures of the area, pictures of the houses, etc. I was sharing everything I could with her. She was the only one at work who knew I would be moving. I just wanted to share everything with her. Then, suddenly she texted me that she had to go help an ex-girlfriend, turned friends with benefits, because she had a flat tire and she would talk to me later. I instantly became jealous and upset because I was worried they would get back together. I knew then that I was a goner for her. I wanted her, but I didn’t allow myself to tell her because of work and the fact that I was moving.

I was working one evening and she has already clocked out for the night. But out of nowhere she strolled up to me with a cart and a grin on her face (one of the things I first fell in love with). She told me she’s broken it off completely with her ex-girlfriend/friends with benefits girl. ‘I want a chance to be with you,’ she said.

I was shocked and confused and taken aback. My head was spinning. I stammered, stuttered, and turned into a blubbering mess. I also turned mean which I will always regret, but it was my way of pushing her away to protect myself from what I already knew. I listed all the reasons why it wouldn’t work, why I couldn’t do it. I also told her to get a hobby and go play her video games. I will always remember the look she gave me as she turned and walked away from me, shoulders slumped, and shattered. I instantly regretted it, but it was my own self-preservation I was looking after.

That night, my mom picked me up from work. The second I got into the car, I told her that I think I broke this girl’s heart at work and she asked why (I hadn’t told anyone about what had been going on). And so I told her. My mom, my family are extremely accepting of everyone. I have a stepbrother who is gay and family friends too. I knew she wouldn’t have a problem with it and what she said next I will always remember. She asked me, ‘What do you have to lose? You could be together for the next 60 years.’ You could have knocked me over with a feather. It hit me just right and that’s when I decided to let things just happen and see where they went.

I apologized to her for being so cruel and explained why I said what I did. Luckily, she forgave me and we moved on. We hung out one Monday night and watched Dancing with the Stars. After it was over, she left abruptly because it was late. I texted her that night and told her we needed to get together to discuss everything. Soon after, we set up our first official date on November 2, 2016.

That very day, she picked me up after I got off work at 10pm. We went to iHop and had a late breakfast (ha) and the flood gates opened. We discussed everything for hours. I was still a bit shy around her at this point and had a hard time looking her in the eyes, but it was magical. Everything felt right. I was so comfortable with her. After a while, we ended up leaving and parking in Kroger’s parking lot and talked some more. It was the easiest thing in the world. I wanted her to kiss me so badly.

She eventually drove me home at around 2 o’clock in the morning and we finally kissed on the porch. It was awful. It was awkward. It wasn’t anything like in the movies, but it was the beginning of us and is a standing joke between us to this day.

We spent as much time together as we possibly could after that. It was literally 16 days and nights because I was moving soon. We kept our relationship private and nobody knew at work. We didn’t kiss, didn’t hold hands, nothing. I wanted everything to remain professional. I spent every night I could with her at her apartment. She was shy and embarrassed to undress in front of me because of her weight, but I never saw her for that. I loved her for who she is. I’d wrap myself around her in bed and fall asleep in her arms. She’s beautiful to me, but I was concerned about her health. I want her to be around for years and years to come so I would gently express this to her and she slowly started eating better and eating smaller portions. It was the beginning of a healthier life for her.

I put in my two-weeks notice at work and was officially moving on November 19, 2016. She helped me pack. She helped all of us pack. The night before we were moving, I didn’t want her to leave. She didn’t want to leave. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t. I wanted to remain strong for her. The very first picture I took of us was on that night and it was of us holding hands. It felt significant. We were never letting go of each other even if distance separated us.

Courtesy of Samantha Berry

The morning of the move, I was exhausted emotionally and physically. But it was time to roll. We made it there and started to settle in. In no time, we started making plans for her to move up to be with me, but there were bumps along the way. I was scared about making that kind of commitment so early in our relationship. She would be moving in with me, my mom, and stepfather. It was a huge decision and one I was very uncertain of. But it was finally made and she transferred to the Meijer that we now both work at. She officially moved in on January 29, 2017.

It wasn’t easy a lot of the time. There were fights and arguments, but there were a lot of good times too. Over this time, she lost a lot of weight and became healthier and the happiest she has ever been. I’ve always told her that no matter her weight, she’s beautiful. At first, she didn’t always get along with my mom. We came close to breaking up several times, but it all eventually worked out. After almost two years of living there with my parents, we moved out on August 9, 2018. It was the true beginning of our relationship.

Courtesy of Samantha Berry

We were on our own and navigating in a new world, but it’s been amazing. We are so completely and totally happy together and with our lives that I think it annoys people when we talk about it. I wish everyone could be as happy as we are.

I never wanted to get married and I was hesitant when she asked, but we did on December 4, 2018. No big wedding. It was at the courthouse with my mom, stepfather, and two friends. I’m the happiest I have ever been in my life. She is everything I never knew I needed and I am so thankful she came into my life. I am a better person because of her. I typed this all while we were waking up this morning, drinking our coffee, and watching television.

Courtesy of Samantha Berry
Courtesy of Samantha Berry

I look over at her and I wonder how I got so lucky to be the one to love her. To wake up to her every morning and go to bed with her every night. She will tell anyone who will listen that she fell in love with me the moment she saw me and I will tell anyone that will listen that I did too. It just took me a little while longer to realize it.”

Courtesy of Samantha Berry

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Samantha Berry of Defiance, Ohio. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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