Please welcome talented author and friend Julie James! You are about to be totally charmed with this tale of teenage love. Leave a comment for Julie, and qualify to win your choice of either Just the Sexiest Man Alive or Practice Makes Perfect tomorrow morning!
Inspiration from a Hawaiian Vacation by Julie James
Ahh. . . Hawaii. Warm tropical breezes, white sandy beaches, the scent of hibiscus in the air. . . what’s not to love? When Beth told me about her upcoming release, Paradise Rules, my first thought was that she’d picked the absolute perfect setting for a romance.
Every time I think of Hawaii, I smile. Why, might you ask? Well, perhaps it has to do with the fact that I’ve received two diamond rings from different men during my travels to the Aloha state.
Now, before you start thinking I’m some diamond-digging trollop, let me clarify. The second ring came from my husband, when he proposed during our trip to Maui and Kauai. That’s a story I’ll keep for myself. The first ring, however, turned out not to be a real diamond, and I wasn’t even actually in Hawaii when the “man”—a sixteen year-old boy—gave it to me.
Want to hear the full story?
Okay, here it is: I was fourteen years old, and it was the summer before my sophomore year of high school. My sister, who was nine at the time, and I were spending the weekend with my grandparents, who lived in a Chicago suburb about a thirty-minute drive from our house (this becomes relevant later).
I can’t remember exactly where we were going—probably nowhere important—but it was one of those lazy summer afternoons and my sister and I decided to go for a walk. We’d gone a few blocks when a cute boy drove by on a purple Honda Spree scooter (remember—this was the early 90’s).
The boy on the purple scooter slowed when he saw us, pulled over, and introduced himself to me. His name was Dave, he had spiky blond hair, gorgeous blue eyes, and a purple scooter. My fourteen year-old, early 90’s self was smitten. And that’s how Dave became my first boyfriend.
Distance, of course, was our main problem. Being only fourteen, I had no car, and Dave had a full-time job that kept him busy during the day. Apparently Dave grew tired of only seeing me on the occasional weekends I visited my grandparents, and decided to take some initiative. But for some reason—maybe it was his job, although frankly I’m going with poor judgment—he decided to visit me at two o’clock in the morning.
So picture it: in the dead of night, he hopped on his purple Spree scooter and drove thirty miles to my house. (Keep in mind, since Spree scooters top out around thirty-five miles per hour, this was not a quick trip.) But what Dave didn’t think about was the fact that there were two problems working against him in his endeavor: (1) I didn’t know he was coming, and (2) he didn’t know which bedroom was mine. Problem #2 turned out to be the bigger one, and came to a head when David showed up at my house in the middle of the night and apparently decided, “Oh—this must be Julie’s,” and knocked on the window.
To my nine year-old sister’s bedroom.
Seeing a strange man staring into her bedroom window, my sister screamed and ran to get my parents. Quite a lot of commotion ensued, and then my mom stepped outside. Dave scrambled out of our bushes and said, as easily as if it was noon, “Hi, there—I’m Dave. Is Julie home?” To which my mother replied that Julie wasn’t in the habit of receiving visitors before sunrise, and sent Dave on his way.
A few days after the visit from “That Strange Boy in the Bushes” (as my parents now called him), I was going on a trip to Hawaii with my sister and grandparents. Dave had a gift, he said, that he wanted to give me before I left. I didn’t see or hear from him for a day or so after that, so I assumed he must have forgotten.
Oh, he had not.
Cut to me at the airport. My family boarded the plane and got settled into our seats. We were literally minutes from take-off when I suddenly heard my name being called over the intercom, asking me to come back out to the gate. (Remember—this was pre-9/11.) The whole plane, including my grandparents and nine year-old sister, watched as I de-boarded. When I got out to the gate, there was a circle of flight attendants standing off to the side, smiling. Front and center was Dave, holding a small jewelry box. No clue what he had told the airline attendants to get them to pull me off the plane, but keep in mind—I was fourteen.
By now a crowd had gathered, and everyone watched as Dave got down on one knee (yep, remember, we’re still fourteen and sixteen years old at this point) and pulled out this diamond(ish) ring and says something about how it’s a promise ring, etc., etc. The crowd cheered when I accepted the ring, and I think we probably hugged, and then amongst the clapping I reboarded the plane, having some serious “˜splaining to do to my grandparents about why I now had a diamond(ish) ring on my finger.
As I sit here now, reliving this story, something occurs to me. I’ve never known exactly where or when the desire to write romance and romantic comedies came to me, but I’m thinking that it might have something to do with that day in the airport. I can vividly recall the thrill of that moment—even though I knew it was crazy—when I first saw Dave standing at the gate with his diamond(ish) ring. The smiles on the faces of the flight attendants, and the cheering of the crowd that had gathered. Because everyone, at every age, loves a happy ending.
Speaking of endings, you’re probably wondering what happened to Dave. We dated for the rest of the summer, although living thirty miles apart, attending different high schools remained an issue, as did my sneaking suspicion that Dave was a bit. . . well, over the top. Eventually it ended—as it turns out, not all distances can be conquered by young love. Not even with a purple Spree scooter.
But that’s the great thing about young love—it can happen more than once, lots of times even. And shortly after Dave took off into the sunset on his purple Spree scooter, summer turned into fall and something else happened that would become forever embedded in my formative romantic teenage mind.
I met The Bad Boy.
Whose name was Jason.
Those of you who’ve read Just the Sexiest Man Alive might recognize the name. . .