After that brief, awkward, snot wiping episode in the parking lot, life went back to normal. With classes to attend, tests to study for and papers to write there wasn’t much of time for socializing.

Before I knew it, December had arrived and so had the Christmas spirit. By far, Christmas was my favorite time of year. I loved everything about it…the music, the hustle and bustle of shopping, the lights and decorations, the food and family and of course…the gifts!

This would be my first Christmas away from home. Oh, I would be going home for Christmas, but I wouldn’t be there for the decorating and shopping. My mom went all out for the holidays with plenty of holiday cooking and decking of the halls….oh how I would miss that. But, I was not about to let that ruin my Christmas fun…I planned to make my own Christmas memories this year.

As a tradition, each of the school dorms would host an open house to show off their Christmas cheer. This event was the one and ONLY time the boys could enter the girls dorm and vice versa…so we made the best of it! Ginger and I decorated our room as best we could with what little we had and then waited for the tour to begin. One by one, the boys from Welch Hall came down our hall to admire our Christmas works of art. Eventually, the Oklahoma boys made an appearance…Brad, Doug and of course Scotty were all there…but there was no Devin. He did not show. I wondered where he was and why he was not participating in the festivities…I figured he was back to being his usual blah self.

As my Mom had done for years, I decided I was going to hand out Christmas cards to all of my new-found friends. I purchased a box of assorted cards and went to work. After dinner one night, I moved to an empty table in the cafeteria so I could have some peace and quiet to think and plenty of room to work. I made out my list for the girls, Ginger, Kay, Tammy and Zack…the list continued. Then for the guys…there was Darrell, Doug, Brad, Scotty and Devin…the list kept growing along with my excitement! Once all of the cards were signed and stuffed in their envelopes, it was time to address them. I would need to write the name and room number on each one…and then I would be set!

As I made my way through the list, I had a few put to the side that needed room numbers on them and a few that I didn’t have last names for. I was awful with names, and last names were even harder for me to remember. I never asked for anyone’s last name because I knew I’d never remember it anyway 😉 When I got to Devin’s name, I realized his card was one that didn’t have a last name. I racked my brain trying to think of it. I couldn’t even remember if I had ever heard his last name before. To me, he was just Devin and that’s all I needed to know. He didn’t exactly give out personal information to people…so I was at a loss. About that time I saw Scotty walk by. I figured he would know, so I yelled, “hey Scotty, can you come here a minute?” He stopped what he was doing and came over to see what I needed. “can you tell me what Devin’s last name is?” He gave me a puzzled look and said, “what?” “I know this is a stupid question, but I don’t know Devin’s last name.” I said. “Rohr” he said quickly. “WHAT?” I asked “can you repeat that?” “Rohr”, he said once again. “how do you spell that”, I asked. “R-O-H-R”, he replied. “Rohr? That’s a god awful name! I would hate to know I had to spend the rest of my life with a name like Rohr!”, I said. Scotty just smiled and went on his way. All of that time, and I had never heard Devin’s last name…and now I knew why…because he was too embarrassed to say it out loud, that’s why! Geeze…what a weirdo name I thought, as I wrote it on the front of his card.

A few weeks before Christmas, Devin, Brad and myself went to the local mall to look around. Neither one of us had any money to buy anything, but the window shopping was free. As we passed by a shop window I spied a cute sweater being displayed on a mannequin. It was white sweater, with pink sheep all over it, with one lone, black sheep in the middle. It was love at first sight! I wanted that sweater so bad I could taste it, and I was sure it wanted me too. But this love affair was not to be… there was just no money for such things.

The end of our first semester was quickly coming to an end. We had only two more days of finals and then I would hop a plane to Alabama for Christmas. I could hardly wait to be reunited with my family and friends. As one last hoorah before we all left for Christmas break, some of the boys from Oklahoma and I went out to eat. While we were out, they presented me with a Christmas gift. I was stunned and a little embarrassed because I didn’t have anything for them. No one ever said anything about exchanging gifts! They were all smiles as I excitedly opened the crudely wrapped gift. As I tore the paper away, I was thrilled to find that cute little sweater with the pink sheep! I was elated and a little misty eyed that they would do this for me. I thanked them all and hugged their necks…these boys were so special to me. We had all grown to love each other…they were like brothers that I never had and I was like their sister. I was going to miss them for sure.

After we had finished dinner, it was time to head back to campus and get ready for our last day of finals. We were all in Devin’s car. He was driving of course, I was sitting between he and Scotty in the front seat, and the others were in the back. As we drove up to the campus parking lot, Devin pulled up to their dorm and let the guys out…leaving me alone in the car with him. This felt very odd. I was rarely alone with any of them, it was either all of us together, or none at all…so being alone with just one of the guys was kind of awkward to say the least. Devin quickly drove off leaving the campus parking lot once again. “where are we going?” I asked nervously. “well, I wanted to give you your Christmas present”, he said with a smile. “But you already gave me my Christmas present” I explained. “well, that gift was from all of us…I bought you something from me”, he said. Now I was really getting nervous…all I could think of was…we are just friends…we are just friends…this feels so weird!

He drove us to a park by Evangel College and parked the car. My heart was pounding out of my chest and my head was full of questions. What is happening? How should I react? What is he going to give me? Finally, he reached in his back seat and pulled out a small package that he had obviously wrapped himself. He handed it to me, and with a smile on his face, he said, “Merry Christmas” I smiled in return, anxious to see what was so important that we needed to be alone for it. I carefully tore the paper away, and to my surprise he had bought me a beautiful pair of knitted mittens! “Oh Devin, these are beautiful!” I said “I love them!” “well, I know how cold your hands get, so I thought these might help keep them warm.” I was moved by his thoughtfulness and for the time and effort he took to pick out such a perfect gift. I leaned over to thank him, but before I even had a chance to hug his neck, he gave me something else.

A card.

He handed it to me with such care and asked me to open it and read it.

I have to admit, I was a little confused. A thousand thoughts ran through my blond head. Had I missed something? Had I unknowingly been sending some sort of signal? We are just friends, aren’t we? My mind raced back…making mental checks to see if I had missed some important clues…well, we DID say ‘I love you’ before we parted each night…but everyone in our group did that…because we all loved each other…as FRIENDS!

I took the card from his hand, it was addressed:

To Tonya Kittrell
(santa’s honey)

I pulled it out of its envelope. On the front of the card was a cartoon of Snoopy sitting in the snow. He was wearing a red and white Santa hat and was looking up at a single, falling, snowflake (it reminded me of the snowflake Devin had shown me on his coat sleeve just days before) and directly over Snoopys head, was a thought bubble that read:

“If a snow flake fell every time I thought of you…”

And one on the inside it read:

“…we’d have a really white Christmas! And look what has happened…it hasn’t stopped snowing yet! Merry Christmas! I Love you! Devin.

I felt all warm inside…kind of flushed actually. I smiled and thanked him for such a sweet card. He grinned and motioned with his eyes and said, “there’s more…read the rest.” I looked on the left side of the card and saw where he had written an entire page full of words…I still wasn’t sure what was happening. I knew he wrote “I love you”, but we always said that, so I wasn’t sure what to make of it…I surely didn’t want to jump to conclusions and make a fool of myself.

I slowly read what he had written, it read:

Hey Honey,

You are the most loveable and sweetest girl on campus (and probably the whole world next to granny) Seeing and being with you make each and every one of my days. I just don’t know what I’ll do for the next 2 1/2 weeks. Not being able to see that big grin and foxy smile.

Tonya, you mean a lot to me and I love you very much. Man! You’re good lookin’! I think you’re the greatest.

P.S. have I told you how much I love you today? (then he drew one single falling snow flake)

P.S.S. I think I’ve got it bad!

Have the best Christmas ever!

After reading the entirety of the card, there was no more confusion…no more questions…it was clear that he wanted to be more than just friends.

“we’ll, what do you think?” He said. I smiled and said, “this is all so nice, I love my mittens!” “And the card?” he said, “what did you think of the card?” “it was very nice too”, I said. “but what do you think about what I wrote?” he questioned again.

I knew what he was trying to do…but I was not about to discuss what was said in the card until I heard him say it with his own mouth. There was no way I was going to assume anything and take the risk of being wrong and looking like an idiot! He would have to tell me in person, in his own words, with his own mouth…then, and only then would I respond!

“everything is so nice Devin, I love the mittens and the card” I said. Then I waited for him to do the rest. What he said next melted my heart like I never dreamed possible. He said, “before I say anything, I want you to know that I loved you as a friend before I loved you in any other way, so if you say no, that’s ok, I will still love you!

I had never had anyone say something so sweet to me or handle my feeling with such care. I could feel his sincerity and trusted what he said completely. I listened intently as he said, “I love you as a friend but I also love you in another way…and I was wondering if you would be interested in dating?”

Welp, there it was! The cat was now out of the bag and you could have knocked me over with a feather! I was stunned to say the least…call me stupid but I never saw this one coming! There he sat, waiting for my reaction…and my answer. I opened my mouth, and through my toothy grin, I said…

“yes!”

As soon as I gave him my answer, he reached over and gave me a big bear hug that lasted, for what seemed like, an hour…I’m sure it didn’t last that long but I was seriously wondering if he was going to let me go! Then I realized why his hug was lasting so long…. he was praying. Then I heard him whisper, ever so softly, “thank you Jesus!” I was moved by his tenderness, and the care he took to make sure this relationship was God’s will for his life, as well as mine. When the hug was over, I could see the tears in his eyes and the emotion on his face…it was real…and it was making an impression on my young, tender heart.

As if all of this wasn’t enough…he then asked for permission to kiss me. Permission? No one had ever asked for permission before! Who is this guy? All this time I thought I had him figured out, to be a cold-hearted, cynic that didn’t need anything or anybody! Boy was I wrong! I agreed to his offer of a kiss without reservation. He kissed me with such tenderness and respect that my heart was now puddy in his warm hands. I was hooked!

It was getting late and our curfew was quickly approaching. We had to jump off this emotional roller coaster at once, and get back to campus. I sat closely beside him as he drove me back to my dorm. He pulled up, gave me another quick kiss and walked me to my door. I made it back just in time to beat curfew. As I walked up the stares and down the hall to my room…it suddenly hit me! Oh my gosh! What have I done? I just agreed to date one of my dearest friends! Oh God I hope I know what I’m doing! To be continued…