I think I've shared the how-we-met-story here before and if not the whole story there's most likely bits and pieces of it scattered around.
The story starts in September 2002. I was 17, almost 18. There was a lot going on in my life. I had just graduated high school. I was working for my dad running his ebay venture and trying to work out what to do and where I wanted to be for the rest of my existence. Beki, my little sister had just turned 15 and was about to become my best friend. She had also just found out she was 3 months pregnant with Cameron - the cause of our sudden best friendness.
Looking back I realise I was at the biggest fork in the road of my life I'd ever stand at. Anything could have happened. I could have ended up anywhere, doing anything. What happened in September 2002 is pretty much what made me who I am now and shaped my entire life from then on.
With all the confusion and craziness going on with my family's situation and trying to find myself I somehow found myself emailing an American boy one rainy Saturday morning. I think I was really just looking for someone who didn't know anything about what was going on - someone who wouldn't ask what I was doing with my life or what my little sister was going to do with her life and the one in her womb. I didn't want to witness any more judging or condemning concerning that. It was also a pretty lonely time, with everyone's attention elsewhere.
I had found Stuart's hotmail profile and saw he was the same religion as me. I emailed him and asked if he knew where he was going on his mission and that was it. I didn't hear from him until a week later. His reply was short and seemed slightly rude. He answered my question and that was all; he didn't know where he was going. I didn't reply.
A few days later I received another email from him apologising. He thought I was one of a number of other Laura's he knew. He replied properly and hoped to hear from me again. And he did. Within a couple of months he started to phone me every Sunday and my schedule was arranged around chatting to him on msn as often as possible. We emailed every day and although we didn't seem to have that much in common we were still interested in each other. Compatibility at it's finest. Not having that much in common gave us a lot to talk about and still does although we're more similar to one another than we were then.
I started applying for my passport and saving up so I could visit him. I had scraped together enough money when a huge gas bill came in and needed paid. The bill was enormous and unexpected so there was no money set aside to pay for it. I handed over my plane ticket money to help pay it off. Stuart had been working hard for a company laying AstroTurf and saving up to go on his mission. He'd been working so much overtime he had a pretty healthy savings account which he assured me had plenty in it and he wanted to buy my ticket so I could still visit. I promised to repay him. It felt right.
I remember standing in the livingroom pitching the idea to my mum and dad because Stuart wouldn't buy the tickets if it wasn't ok with them. I can still see exactly where we were all standing, the light coming in the window and the look on my dad's face. My dad was strongly opposed. My heart dropped and I thought that was the end of it, there's not much point in ever arguing with my dad and I understood where he was coming from - he was doing his part to protect me - but I was still sad. The next couple of years were rich with lessons for me of how much my dad loves me. With a firm, "no" from him and a sigh from me, I heard (and still can) my mum's sweet voice, "Weeell..." she said, drawn out in a way that you just know something good is coming, anyone who knows my mum will know how this is, your ears perk up and her smile appears after she's finished, "Weeeell... I was 19 when I first went to America. This is an opportunity she'll never have again. An adventure."
And just like that my dad's mind was changed. Tickets were purchased and sent to me in the post. In April 2003 Cameron was born, I was flying for the first time, leaving the UK for the first time, alone and responsible in a brand new way.
It all happened 8 years ago and my mum was right, it's been a once in a lifetime adventure.