As I lay here the night before becoming Mrs. Barnes, I have to think back about the long and winding road that brought me here.

They always say that the quickest way from Point A to Point B is a straight line, and while that may be true, it’s not always the best way.  Getting from Point A to Point B for me has been a challenge.  It has had its rewards and it has had its consequences.

When I met the man that I will call my husband tomorrow afternoon, I was a wrecked soul.  Sure, it sounds sentimental and cliché, but I was.  I was in an abusive relationship and was fairly convinced there was no way of getting out.  And in a time of dire frustration, I called up a friend and in turn, met Neil.  When I walked into Ryan’s house on that fateful winter evening, I had no idea what was in store.  I already told Ryan I didn’t care that it was going to be four guys and me that I just needed companionship – someone to take my mind of things…someone to make me smile and laugh…and Ryan could always do that.  I guess I can’t say it was love at first sight, but once we had an opportunity to sit down and talk, I was completely and utterly in love.

There were quirky things about me back in 2003.  First of all, I loved guys who drove black trucks.  Don’t ask me why, but I did.  I didn’t really know anyone who drove a black truck, but I just liked it…  Also, I was becoming a bit more interested in “alternative” sports – I’m calling them alternative because they aren’t the typical football…basketball…baseball.  I was sick of the jocks that thought they were above everyone else because they played a certain sport.  I was done with it.  It wasn’t fun anymore.

Neil fit into both of those quirks – maybe that’s why I accepted his instant message on AIM.  As a hockey player, he wasn’t very showy about being a hotshot or acting like he “owned the joint”.  He was just…normal.

Quickly after our first “hang out” (I can’t really call it a date…we didn’t go anywhere back then!!), Neil decided to tell his friend Wes that we were “going out”.  Of course, he hadn’t consulted me at the time, but I wasn’t in objection.  Soon after, I received my very first piece of jewelry from someone other than my parents.  It was the most beautiful diamond bracelet…and what special occasion did I receive this token of Neil’s love…?  Easter.  Let’s just say it was the first time I was ever speechless.  Then quickly after Easter, we enjoyed a spring break together in Fort Myers, Florida then prom at Avon High School.  While picking out my very first prom dress, I remember telling my mom that I wanted something “that made me feel like a princess – because that’s how Neil makes me feel”.  Still to this day, I feel like a princess when I am with my prince.  Sure, he doesn’t open doors for me and pull out chairs, but the way he plays with my hair…holds me in his arms…looks in my eyes…I know I’m his princess…

Eighteen months ago, Neil asked me to be his wife.  He asked me to spend the rest of my life.  That’s a pretty serious question.  I said yes and it was the best decision I have ever made.  In the past eighteen months, Neil and I have changed considerably as individuals.  Neil started a new job…I graduated…then graduated again…I interviewed for jobs…we became parents, again…we became homeowners…we dealt with a major crisis ten days before our wedding…and through it all, we’ve become better people – but more importantly, we’ve fallen more in love.  We’ve created a home that is more than we could have ever imagined and we did it all through love.  And now, tomorrow afternoon, we will take all those changes, everything we’ve been through in the past 23 and 24 years, and we will commit to one another the rest of our lives.  We will become one.

Neil and I have had our challenges, we’ve had our triumphs.  We’ve fought.  We’ve cried.  We’ve laughed.  But most importantly, we’ve loved.  We’ve loved each other.  We’ve loved our dogs.  We’ve even loved our little fish.  We’ve discussed important life events and we’ve watched each other grow in our careers and ourselves.

Neil is truly and sincerely my best friend.  He knows all my deepest secrets and knows the way to make me tick.  He knows when I’ve had a bad day before I’ve said anything at all.  He knows how to cheer me up and he knows how to make me laugh uncontrollably.  We share similar passions and he knows that even though I may act tough, I still need to be protected.

He holds the key to my heart.

And when he holds my hand, he takes my breath away.

And when I meet him at the altar tomorrow and he takes my hands, I know I’ll be protected…loved…happy…all the rest of the days of my life.

It wasn’t an easy road – and at times it wasn’t a fun one…but it was worth it, because while it may not have been the quickest route, it was the most successful.  And in the end, I will arrive at Point B as Mrs. Neil Lawrence Barnes…and my life couldn’t be any more complete.