We've been living in the same city for about eight months now. Eight wonderful, amazing, revealing months. During that time, we've grown into a routine that naturally favors togetherness, with most of our free hours spent in the comfort of one another's company. Dinners, workouts, daily commutes, and lazy evenings are the things we share more often than not. Your tangible presence in my life, although a relatively new reality for us, has so effortlessly become the norm, and the moments that we're not together feel a bit lonelier than they used to.

But it's times like these, when we're separated by distance, that I remember the dull ache of missing you desperately. I think back to the empty nights lying awake in bed, praying that God keep you safe while I couldn't. Wondering if the long periods without you would ever end, recognizing with every prayer that it was completely out of my hands.

Even clearer in my mind's eye, however, are the glorious reunions.

I always go back to our first Valentine's Day together, cliché as it sounds. I was wearing my maroon and grey striped dress, my hair curled and pulled back with a bow. It was one of those rare moments that I knew I looked beautiful, and after an hour or two of blending and primping, I hoped you would know it was all for you. We had been dating for almost six months, but butterflies still filled my stomach when I got off the plane in Midland. A small eternity (five weeks or so) had gone by since our last visit, and the anticipation of seeing you again was killing me. I made my way to the exit and stepped outside into the untimely warmth, suitcase in hand, anxiously looking left and right for any sign of your arrival. Sixty-five degrees and still shivering from the rush of adrenaline. A few excruciating minutes passed by as I watched my fellow travelers find their loved ones and disappear. I smoothed my dress, took a deep breath, and checked my phone for messages. Inbox empty.

Left, right. Hundreds of people, not one of which was mine. Only about three minutes had passed, but man did it feel like thirty. 
When your car finally pulled up to the curb in front of me, the worst of my fears dissolved into nothing as sweet relief washed over me.

You were here, and you were safe. 

The first thing I saw through the glass was your giant smile, immediately sending my heart into overdrive. Despite the nerves and excitement coursing through my veins, I made sure to take in everything about the moment and tuck it away for a rainy day: the background chatter of strangers' voices, the sun bright in my eyes, the emotions running high. The way that time seemed to stop for just a second or two, and in that instant, all was right with the world.

Once out of the car and on your feet, you ran up to my side of the curb so as not to waste any more of that precious thing we both hated and held most dear, and hugged me until my own feet came off the ground. I melted, breathed in your familiar scent of fabric softener and aftershave, and silently wished we could just stay in that blessed spot forever. It was then and there that I realized I was loved beyond imagination; and simultaneously, it dawned on me just how much love I was capable of myself. A beautiful, terrifying, holy thing. 

The entire drive back from the airport, we held hands and smiled until our faces hurt. Neither of us had a whole lot to talk about, but the passion in our eyes said it all. We were so happy to see each other, and nothing could take away our joy. That day (and the nine days following) were some of the most memorable I've experienced in my 23 years, and I will never forget what they felt like: soft 2am kisses, long afternoon walks, conversations by firelight, a subtle buzz after a few glasses of wine, slow dances in your living room, and the smell of freshly-baked strawberry cookies. All of life's simplest and purest pleasures wrapped up in one week of unadulterated bliss. The closest to Heaven I've ever been.

Inevitably, our years together will grow more and more comfortable, and occasionally be overshadowed by routines and schedules and the ordinary-ness of daily life. But as your fiancée (and eventually your wife), I won't forget to see beyond all of that. I won't forget the man that gave me butterflies more often than not, or the young woman who made it a point to look her absolute best for him. The intoxicating euphoria of falling in love for the first time will forever remain a part of me; I felt it in my bones that day, and a year later, I still do. Every morning you greet me at your door, every evening that I pick you up from work. It brings me back to West Texas, on a particularly sunny week in the middle of winter. To a girl with a maroon bow in her hair and a boy with a giant smile on his face. Alive with anticipation of simply being together again.