I knew quite a lot about Cale before ever having seen him. This was six years ago, when I was working on a pineapple farm in Central America. Elena and Alma, the senior interns on the farm, had gone to great lengths to brief me on the boy our age who would be coming next week. The farm was sponsored by multiple faith-based organizations in the States. I was there to help translate between the local farmhands and the American teams sent on mission trips. It was my first year employed there and, apparently, his fifth year visiting the farm.
“So there’s this guy, he’s with a visiting church, and you’re definitely going to notice him.” Elena and Alma had taken me to the nearest cafe; I halfway paid attention between bites of tres leches. “It’s impossible not to, but we know you’re a massive flirt, so keep your distance, okay? He’s not an option, because he’s already dating someone back home.”
The reference to my character was vaguely irritating, but admittedly not entirely unfounded. I thought of myself as social and fun with everyone, but it was true that I had tended to fixate on the boys from every team since I’d arrived.
It was only later that I came to recognize that my propensity to seek out and secure this sort of attention emerged from the belief that I would never be worth wanting for always. My experience with love had heaped hurt upon hurt on me every time, because every time I had loved, I was left. I’d been left behind and alone in every significant relationship I’d been in up till then, which meant I assumed any lover would eventually tire or otherwise move on from me. My flirting was a way of testing every eligible young bachelor—to see whether he thought I was worthy of being truly and forever wanted. But until Cale, I never came close to believing it myself.
We drove to the airport the next day to welcome the new team. When I saw the boy I instantly knew to be Cale heading in our direction, I was devastated.
Not only was he gorgeous by all objective standards of beauty—the literal incarnation of tall, dark, and handsome—but I felt myself immediately drawn to him. I tried not to stare and spent the bus ride to the farm buried in my book, reading and failing to understand the same sentence over and over again.
Though I’d resolved to keep my distance, the next morning we were assigned to the same worksite. There were only five of us laying bamboo roof together, and so it happened that Cale and I began to talk. He asked me questions, and I was so taken with his thoughtful way of speaking and listening. As the days passed, I found myself telling him all the things I knew and loved, all the while inviting him to share what was on his mind and heart. We walked and talked and sat in the hammocks till the night watchman ordered curfew.
Cale seemed genuinely interested in knowing me, and one night in the hammocks, I couldn’t take it anymore so I asked. As it turned out, he did not have a girlfriend, and in fact, never had! At first, I was livid—I thought the girls must have lied to me out of jealousy. In time, however, the more I came to know pure, trustworthy Cale, the more I realized that they were likely just looking out for him. They cared about him and had witnessed my tendency toward careless behavior with men. It was fair to try to guard the heart of someone like Cale from anyone who might not seriously love him back. And perhaps it was for the best, allowing me to grow close to him first as a person and friend.
On the last day of his trip, I was nervous to say goodbye. We were standing alone, apart from the group, and after attempting to explain what I was feeling, I finally just blurted out that I liked him. He stared back at me and said nothing. Mortified, I quickly walked away. I felt absolutely certain I’d never hear from him again.
I tried to forget him and move on, which was helped by the fact that there was no Internet on the farm and therefore no way to be in contact with him. But when I returned home that fall, there was a message waiting for me. My heart skipped a beat, and when I clicked and heard his voice on the voicemail, I knew this story wasn’t over. Cale and I began to write daily no matter where in the world we were. He was clever, kind, fascinating, and more things than I could ever have wished for in a boy. I was convinced, though, that he was too good to be true—that he would eventually leave as so many others before him had done.
Last year, hundreds of letters and phone calls and cyber-rendezvous after we’d met, I went to see him in Florida. And after I finished my graduate studies in England—when we had only been dating a few months—I moved down to Florida. It felt like the craziest thing I’d ever done—upending my entire life for a boy.
I’d only been there a month when Cale started teaching me how to surf. He paddled out first, and I was supposed to be waiting and watching. But I decided to try and figure it out myself. The waves were wild, and the temperature was so cold that I was fighting for what felt like hours to get past the break. When I finally came up next to him, I began to cry. As soon as he saw me sobbing, Cale was off his board and by my side. He thought I was spent from the rough current, but I wasn’t thinking about any of that.
It had all hit me at once. Everything about Cale was captivating to me; I was entirely his and had been for longer than I’d known. And somehow, out there in the ocean, it became clear to me that he was too wonderful—that what we had couldn’t possibly last. But as I cried, Cale pulled my face toward him and told me, “I’ll never leave you, Bella.”
To this day, I have no idea how he knew I needed to know that. I had waited my whole life to hear someone say that and mean it. It spoke to my deepest heart, and there, in that place, I believed him. For the first time, I was sure that the one I wanted did truly and forever want me.
It was out there in the Atlantic that I knew that it was and always will be Cale. This sort of commitment has perhaps become a rare commodity—but I can assure you that it does still exist. And it is completely worth waiting for.
Cale asked me to marry him almost six years exactly after we first met. Anything beautiful I saw in him before marriage has only become clearer since we married. We live in Florida and own multiple hammocks, and Cale’s still teaching me to surf; I’m only recently (finally) starting to get the hang of it.