For those of you that may not be familiar with mine and Austin’s story, I thought I’d share what I wrote for BurtCo‘s 2017 Wedding Photo Giveaway contest. As much as I detest calling it a fairytale, it does involve a castle (manor house), conflict, and the closest thing to Prince Charming that anyone could possibly get.
Here it is, folks. Read it and weep:
Every love story is sweet when it is authentic. In our culture, many of us grew up watching Disney movies and reading Nicholas Sparks novels, and being told we should look for our Prince Charming or Cinderella and strive for a “happily ever after.” We then expect this fairytale romance that leads to years of joy and happiness, even if that isn’t the kind of household most of us grew up in or the examples of “love” we saw as children. It’s part of the American dream; it’s supposed to be the ultimate goal, but it isn’t realistic.
Isn’t it ironic that the people who don’t believe in fairytales, let alone seek them out, are the ones who end up writing out life and love stories that Walt Disney or Mr. Sparks couldn’t even dream up? That being said, this is the beginning of a story of two strong-willed individuals that took off running toward their own goals and dreams, and just so happened to find each other running on the same trail (right on up to their English manor house, pictured in the background of the photo below).
Austin Current was a full time student and professional physique athlete working three jobs when he applied to study abroad for a semester in England at Harlaxton College. He only had one year of classes left to graduate but needed a mental break from the craziness of life. He says if it hadn’t been for heading to Europe, he would’ve dropped out. So off to Europe he went in August 2015, looking for adventure and a few months of sweet sanity.
KaSandra Mitchell had just graduated from college and had landed the internship of her dreams at (you guessed it) Harlaxton College. The year leading up to this point was the hardest of her life. Her dad had been in a debilitating logging accident during her last year at school, and a week before she left for England, her family was hit hard with the news that her dad’s only brother had an aggressive brain tumor that would quickly take his life. Her family suggested she still go, being that there was nothing she could really do for anyone at home. While this was an opportunity of a lifetime, it was incredibly challenging emotionally. So off to Europe she went, looking to start a life of her own, one she’d worked for years to achieve.
Harlaxton is a manor house (NOT a castle) in the English countryside that was purchased by an American university to send US students abroad. Every semester, the school gets a new wave of students and visiting faculty and staff.
KaS arrived at the manor two weeks before the students to begin her work in the Student Development office. One of her roles was to help her team prepare for the students to arrive—getting paperwork ready, creating the Facebook group, assigning rooms, etc. Well, you can imagine how much the upcoming student with a professional physique athlete status stood out. While you may be thinking KaS was starry-eyed over this, you would be mistaken. She was the eye-roller in the group. To her, this was incredibly “douchey” and she could only recall experiences with some real ass hats conceded bodybuilders and powerlifters that left a bitter taste in her mouth for anyone in that industry. So she had it in her mind that she would avoid him at all costs, meanwhile her co-workers were man-crushing HARD. Double eye roll.
Fast forward to the day the students arrived. KaS was the media intern, so a huge part of her job was to follow the students around with a camera. Here’s the not-so-cute meet cute. As she was photographing different groups of students in the front yard of the manor when she looks to her left and sees (admittedly very handsome) Austin…and he sees her too. But it wasn’t eye contact that was made. Oh no. KaS’s first impression of Austin was of him checking her out…head to toe, toe back to head. Her initial thought: Seriously, beefy? Ugh. This had solidified her assumptions that he was a pretty boy charmer, and she wasn’t having it. He tried being chatty with her after that, but her responses were quick and rather annoyed.
Over the next several weeks, KaS did her best to avoid eye contact (or any contact for that matter) and both went on to do their own thing and travel on the weekends. Another part of her job was to lead the students on college organized trips. On the first weekend of October, she was assigned to help lead the trip to Ireland, and this just so happened to be the first school trip Austin went on. While they were going through security at Heathrow, KaS was bringing up the back of the group where Austin and some of his friends were. They had some casual dry humor conversation, and her opinion of him lightened up quite a bit. Who would’ve thought he had a decent personality? Lo and behold, their assigned seats on the plane ended up being right next to each other.
Things Get Interesting
Though she had her headphones in hand, ready to take the opportunity to escape conversation if need be, the conversation was smooth and natural and neither one could stop smiling. They learned that they grew up about 40 miles away from each other and now only lived two hours apart in the states. KaS’s opinion of Austin changed rapidly, and Austin’s view of KaS was validated. Her interest in him rapidly increased on that trip.
Over the next week or so, they talked more frequently when they would pass in the hallway or see each other in the refectory for meals. KaS was secretly thinking of how she would reach out to him when they got back to the states and suggest coffee or drinks. My, how the tables do turn.
By the middle of October, they had talked about meeting up with friends in the Bistro (the only mini-pub at the manor) for drinks one Thursday night. To their dismay, the Bistro was closed. So they went out on a limb and snuck into town and went to a little hole in the wall pub for ciders. They were both nervous wrecks. It was kind of frowned upon (or so they thought) for an intern to take up with the students romantically. So they decided to keep it very hush hush, as this was KaS’s first professional gig and she didn’t want to do anything to mess it up.
After a few ciders, they walked through the cool damp English streets and went back to the manor. They stayed up talking until 5:30am. No funny business, just good conversation; the kind that deeply connects people in unexplainable ways.
And So the Story Goes…
The stealthy sneaking around the manor house began. KaS was pulling an all-nighter for a work project and Austin wanted to come talk to her for a bit. They had been hanging out and chatting for several days at this point, and she was starting to wonder when the kiss was coming because the chemistry was all too real. To paint a decent picture, they were locked up in her office, both sitting in rolling office chairs and scooting awkwardly around each other. Typical. After about an hour, she was rambling on about something and Austin stood up and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but…” and then he leaned over, grabbed her face and kissed her. Freaking electric, man. So they made out for about forty-five minutes and Austin went on his merry little way so KaS could actually get some work done. Both were giddy and hooked.
By the last weekend of October, they were train-bound for Edinburgh, Scotland—their favorite place and trip to date. They booked a sweet little Airbnb within walking distance of Old Town and ate up every second of the weekend. Their first full day, they took a day tour through the Highlands and fell in love with Scotland. On Halloween night, they went on their first real date at The Elephant House, supposedly the location where J.K. Rowling started writing her Harry Potter series. They started their dinner with red wine and chocolate cake, with an exceptional meal to follow. “Dessert first” is their specialty.
After dinner, we met up with two of our closest friends (our partners in crime and confidants during our Harlaxton experience), and went to an underground rave where we had the best night of our lives. The place was at another hole in the wall in Old Town Edinburgh, an incredible authentic medieval setting, with fantastic music and a place so alive in the cold historic city that the stone walls were sweating. That isn’t an exaggeration. They danced for hours. KaS was blown away by Austin’s legitimate ability to dance and Austin was amused at her inability to be led. They couldn’t have dreamt of a better experience.
On their last morning in Edinburgh, KaS got a call from her parents saying that her uncle had passed away. The group consoled her, and Austin handled the situation perfectly. He was attentive and present, but not overbearing. This spoke volumes to KaS. They followed through with their day plans to hike up Arthur’s Seat before catching their train back to Harlaxton. To their amazement, it was a crystal clear day in gloomy Scotland. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. That day brought so many waves of emotion: grief, relief, gratitude, happiness, and an abundance of love. They high-tailed it up to Arthur’s Seat it in time to see the sunset. They were sweaty and flushed by the time they made it to the top, but it was so worth it. For KaS, it was the end of something, a kiss goodbye. At the same time, it was the beginning of something beautiful—something life-changing. They both knew it. They sat there quietly, her back leaning into his chest, and watched the sunset over their favorite city.
KaS flew to the states later the next week to attend the funeral. She was back five days later, worked for two days, and jumped on another plane to Barcelona to meet up with Austin and their partners in crime. Another country, another Airbnb, another epic trip despite KaS coming down with bronchitis (affectionately dubbed “the whooping cough” by Austin). They went for a walk one afternoon and found a really cool little outdoor cafe on the beach where they got some coffee and grub.
With the sun lowering behind Austin, KaS decided this was the moment to ask, “what is this?” She told him that she understood if he didn’t want to continue things once they got back to the states, but if that were the case she needed to start pulling back because she was getting really attached. He told her he’d been wondering the same thing, and that he would like to keep things going once they got home. They both thought it was too good of a thing to cut off. Thank God.
The following week they were in KaS’s room and Austin looked troubled, or like he was about to be sick. So she asked him what he was thinking. He grinned and said, “I think I’m in love with you.” Teary-eyed and smiling wide, KaS said, “Well, I know I’m in love with you.” They kissed, duh. Austin hugged her and told her he knew it when they were at Arthur’s Seat. She said she did, too.
As they wrapped up their time in the UK, they enjoyed a Mumford & Sons concert in Nottingham after a football match, followed by ciders and table tennis at a pub they were incredibly undressed for, enjoyed their first rugby match in Leicester in the cold rain (‘cause England in autumn), and ate and drank all of the fancy things in their fancy English home with their genuine American friends.
Their last adventure away from the manor was spent overnight in London in a less than twin sized bed in an all-girl hostel dorm room (which ended as well as you would expect). While they were riding the Tube between stations, KaS told Austin about this really awesome couple she’d met less than a week before she had moved to England. They were a husband and wife photography team that had touched her much more deeply than they could have realized at the time. They have this mantra, “love intensely,” and they live by it. KaS told him about how they fell in love super hard, super fast, and how Ethan knew he wanted to marry Bethany less than a month after meeting her. She told him that you could see how much they loved each other; you couldn’t deny feeling it in their presence. Austin grinned and looked at KaS in a way that would melt any stick of butter and said, “I think when you know, you just know.”
The next several months flew by. They were home in time for the holidays, Austin started classes back on campus, and KaS started bartending again to pass the time until she figured out her next move. They had some really sweet moments, including a trip to Gulf Shores with his grandparents and another amazing Mumford & Sons concert in Nashville. That was the first night he told her he wanted to ask her to marry him, but said he needed to graduate first.
Austin spent seven weeks in Tampa for an internship over the summer, and KaS started going crazy in Kentucky. This was the first and only super stressful time of their relationship, and before they knew it, the relationship was becoming very fragile. Austin was propelling forward, and KaS felt like she was floundering around and wasting time in Kentucky. The old sense of independence was starting to make her question where she was in life and where she should be going. Both were fearful they weren’t going in the same direction anymore.
All it really took was one serious talk during sunset on a riverfront bench to get back on track. Neither of them were certain where they were headed, but they knew they wanted it to be together. Before Austin started his fall semester classes, they took a road trip to Michigan and Canada to uphold a promise they made to each other that they would go to at least one new state and country together every year. This seemed the most reasonable with their time frame.
Just after Austin started classes, KaS quit her bartending gig and started ruthlessly hunting for her next opportunity. She told Austin she wanted to check out the Pacific Northwest and Australia because he was graduating soon and those were two places that peaked their interest and she had contacts in both places. Without missing a beat, he told her to go.
She flew to Seattle to visit with friends and check out the area (which she fell in love with), she came home for a couple of weeks, and then she flew out again to the land down under. While she was there, she volunteered in her friend Kristin’s office (one of the partners in crime from their time in the UK) in hopes of finding job opportunities.
When she got back to the states, they took their next step by moving in together. One weekend they drove past a state park and Austin said, “do you want to go for a hike tomorrow?” KaS agreed that it would be fun. So on a sweet Sunday afternoon, she thought they’d be going out to play with their cameras and have a nice trail walk. KaS has little experience with a tripod, so Austin set it up and was trying to help her with it. She honestly thought they were going to take cutesy couple photos, so she sat down on a bench and waited for him to set the timer. Then he walked toward her and pulled something out of his back pocket.
She blacked out and sadly can’t remember the details, but Austin says that her first reaction was, “are we really doing this right now?” He laughed and told her, “yes, we are really doing this right now.” He told her that he had planned on doing it after he graduated and they were traveling, but the more he thought about it, the more he thought the timing was important and not the place, and he didn’t want to wait anymore.
He had listened to her when she said she never liked diamonds, and unless it was sentimental to him she didn’t want one, so he asked for his mother’s (and it was the perfect fit!). He listened when she said she didn’t want something big and elaborate, so he asked privately and it was precious. He had no idea that the park he proposed at was the park where her mother and stepfather wed, but it made it that much more special to her.
She had no idea he was going to do it. She respected his wish months in advance to swallow her Wonder Woman pill and not propose to him because he wanted to live out that tradition (although she teased him a lot by saying, “I’m not asking, but I’m thinking it”). She cried her eyes out for half an hour after he asked, cliché but true.
What’s Happening Now
Austin graduated from the University of Southern Indiana in December 2016. KaSandra accepted a new job in at CISaustralia and the two of them moved to the Gold Coast in Queensland on the first of February after eloping in the Smokey Mountains.
They weren’t looking to write a love story, but they were blessed with the pen and paper. They will continue to live their lives intensely, and love each other with steadfast intensity.
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Kalu Ndukwe Kalu
The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.