It was late on a breezy, hot summer afternoon in June, when an old friend and I were walking home together, as we had been in the habit of doing for the past six months. Since we worked close to each other and we lived in the same apartment complex (because it was the only one in our small town), we had gotten into the habit of walking to and from work together every day down a stretch of The Delaware River that became the background to our relationship. Elijah would wait for me faithfully each day staring out at the moving water, even though he got off work about an hour earlier than I did most of the time.
Always the gallant type, I had first met Elijah in 8th grade some ten years ago, and after we went our separate ways for college, we were both surprised to discover that we each had moved back to the small town we had grown to love as kids. Since his wiry, nerdy days of high school, when everyone made fun of his freckled face and red hair, Elijah had grown into a strong, well-built and not unhandsome man. He was actually employed at our former high school, as the 11th and 12th grade biology teacher. He had studied biology in college and was now working through a master’s program at a local university in the time he wasn’t busy teaching or walking me home. I respected his knowledge of biology – I had minored in it myself – and it helped me to like him as a person even more. He was planning to work in research after finishing his master’s program.
As we walked by the Delaware River, Elijah said something that I would never forget and that would change the course of our lives forever. While I had always liked him as a smart, good-natured friend, I had never even considered him as ever being anything more. He and I had been in completely opposite circles in school. He was, as I said earlier, a complete nerd. He was the straight-A student that everyone in school hated. He never seemed to study, yet he aced every exam and paper we were assigned. I, on the other hand, could not care less about school at that time. I was too busy cheerleading, playing tennis, being in theatre and choir, and going to every party and dance I could get to, to even think about school, or, much less, to study. And, of course, my grades reflected this. I changed my ways in college, though, and studied business. I made tolerably good grades and eventually landed a stable job at a marketing firm that had a branch in our hometown.
“Amelia, I have always admired you. Ever since I first met you, I hoped that one day I would marry you. I love you and I cannot imagine not having you in my life forever,” he said. I was taken aback by this heartfelt declaration of love but the river seemed unmoved as if this was just in the order of things. Even though everyone else in the town was convinced we were dating, and that it was a perfect match, we were not officially doing so. When I first moved back to town, I had met a guy at work, Bill, who I had dated up until about three months ago. Elijah certainly had known this, since we talked about everything on our daily walks. I was, therefore, even more surprised at his statement.
I had dated plenty of guys in college, but, now that I thought about it, I realized that no one had ever walked me home. No guy I knew would even consider waiting an hour after their job was over, just to walk with me, when they could be doing anything else instead. No one would offer me his coat in the cold or his sunglasses in the summer, like Elijah had done so often during our walks on the banks of The Delaware River when we usually seemed too cold or too hot. No guy had ever really respected me or showed me that he did care about me.
In sum, no one I knew was able to match the caliber of Elijah. He was unique. No one that I had ever dated had treated me like he did, had respected me, or had ever told me he loved me without wanting something in return. Elijah was rare. And, in the moments that seemed like days that he stood there waiting, patiently, for my reply, I realized what I guess I had known deep down all along – but had never really thought about. I loved him, too. And I told him so. The river said nothing but I felt sure that it had always known this too! Elijah was elated.
He smiled so much and shone with so much joy that even people we met on the way couldn’t help noticing his joy. He was truly and genuinely thrilled as the river moved slowly on. We continued our walk, but, instead of going straight on to our complex, we stopped by a park on the way. We sat there on one of the park benches for hours, talking, listening, and watching the Delaware roll on by. We were oblivious to everyone, everything, and even time itself.
Elijah did not try to kiss me, or treat me like any of my old boyfriends had done. He really respected me and his true love showed through. We simply talked and learned even more about each other. We were both enraptured and high on the moment. Before we knew it, it was well past dark, and I was getting tired. I rose to say that we should go home, since tomorrow was a work day. Then Elijah surprised me even more. He said that he had known all along how I felt, that he could tell that I loved him, even though I didn’t really know it myself. He moved to get up, too, but, instead, he kneeled, produced a beautiful ring from his pocket, and asked me to be his wife. I readily accepted this proposal, and we were wed some seven months later, there at that same, precious spot, beside the Delaware river, where I first fell in love with Elijah.