I met Darren for the first time in September of my Sophomore year. The first time I ever noticed him, he was on stage in rehearsal for my High School's musical, The Music Man. He had a one line solo, "I got a box of maple sugar on my birthday," and he sang it in the goofiest voice you've ever heard, AND he made his own prop. A box with the words... maple sugar... drawn across it, and it was wrapped with a bow. It take commitment to be that kind of goofy when you have only one line, and dang if he wasn't adorable. If there was a cuteness scale of High School boys, Darren would beat everyone up with that scale.
It's possible that I am slightly biased, but I don't think so.
Here's proof. This is Darren back when I met him for the first time.
Yes, that's not actually Darren. But it's close. Really really close. Like so close, I don't think it'd be cheating if I once had a dream about Joseph Gordon Levitt.
Which never happened.
Ahem. I got off track somehow. The important information, is that DARREN WAS CUTENESS personified.
All my friends thought so too.
Here's the sucky part about my love story. I almost missed it.
My very best friend in the entire galaxy liked him first. She was standing next to me that first time I heard Darren sing out that solo. We both looked at each other, she raised her eyebrows first, and called dibs.
In High School, I was the goofy girl with bad hair and thrift store clothes who belted out show tunes as I walked down the halls. Emily was the tall blonde who had her arm in the crook of mine and who kept me on tune. (Ish.) She sang the same song as I did. It made sense that we'd like the same guy.
I met Emily in Junior High. We bonded over MASH games and skipping class to hang out in practice rooms to talk about boys. Darren was her first boyfriend, but more than that, he was the first boy who liked her back, and I adored their relationship. Number one fan. Darren liking Emily meant someday a cute boy would like me. I wanted every detail, and Emily was happy to tell me. I kind of lived vicariously through their relationship, which is super weird to think about now.
In a series of strange coincidences, I had the privilege of knowing every girl my husband dated. And it WAS a privilege, because every girl he choose to date made me respect him more. He chose Girls of Quality, and more than that, he chose Girls of Qualities That Most Guys Don't See.
He dated four of my friends in total, and I heard a lot of stories from all four of them. And the more times I heard about people kissing Darren, or dating Darren, or liking Darren, the lower on my list he went, despite the fact that he was the most adorable teenage boy to walk the planet.
To me, he was one of the few boys I thought of as just a friend.
For a couple of weeks in my junior year, he used to drive Emily and I home from play practice. I'd always sit in the passenger seat while she would sit behind Darren, so she could have her hands wrapped around him the whole time. In Emily's defense, this was her very first boyfriend and Darren was delightfully adorable. Because of the route we lived on, he'd drop her off first and I'd sit in the car and read my script while they said goodbye. After a few minutes, Darren would get back in the car and he'd drive me to my house. Along the way we'd have these little conversations. I don't remember exactly what we talked about, but I do remember once, while his car idled in my driveway, Darren said something so surprisingly kind and mature I thought to myself, Darren is such a good guy. He's going to make someone really happy.
My very first date ever, I went with my husband and his girlfriend Emily. My date was a boy named Jeremy. We went to a girl's choice dance in like NOVEMBER... Which meant I waited for...calculating, a long time (still not good at math) after my sixteenth birthday for that first date, and I had to ask him.
After that though, dating became a thing I did. Not a thing I was good at, mind you, but still it was a thing that I did. It was fun.
A few months after that date, Darren and Emily broke up, which shocked my whole world. Emily and I were back to walking home. We were back to liking boys who didn't like us back. In a lot of ways we were back to who we were in Junior High, except that Emily had crossed a threshold that I hadn't even seen yet, and while we were still walking with our arms crooked together, she seemed so much further ahead than me. If I hadn't held her arm in mine, I felt like she would disappear.
Somewhere along the way I put my arm down to my side.
Darren became a background person in my life. Because of loyalty to Emily, I couldn't really be friends with him anymore, and I couldn't ever date him. Not ever.
So he became a cute boy our other friends dated and thought about, and I didn't think about at all.
Not for years.
No until one day he came back into my life.