If you are new, click here to catch up on the story. From Part 8: “I just don’t understand. I told the guy exactly what make and model the Jeep was. I’ve replaced brake shoes plenty of times. These seem really hot, though“.
An acrid odor filled the Jeep. Something was definitely wrong with the brake shoes. Poor Chuck. He had replaced dozens of brake shoes before with no issues. Me? I was completely clueless.
Two hours into our drive, we pulled over at a rest stop, the only civilized spot for miles. The break shoes were heating up, but holding out just fine. It was January in Alaska and the temperature hovered at about 15 degrees farenheit. Back in the Jeep, Chuck said he going to have to take the brake shoes apart when we arrived at my parents.
Meeting my parents was exactly the awkward, sweat inducing moment you are imagining. I had kept it no secret from my family when I arrived home from Teen Missions that I was interested in Chuck. And here he was, all the way from British Columbia, Canada for a visit. In January. As Chuck’s dad would say later, “I knew something was up. No one visits Alaska in January“.
Bright and early the next morning, Chuck was checking the brake shoes. In the freezing weather.
“What’s Chuck doing to the Jeep?” my parents asked.
“Oh, he replaced the brake shoes…now he’s just checking them out”.
Chuck returned to the house, looking a bit stricken.
“They gave me the wrong brake shoes! I knew something was wrong. I have to replace those…before we head back to your grandma’s house.”
“You need to replace the brake shoes you just replaced?“
Twenty-two year old Chuck was overwhelmed and flustered. He was in a foreign county, meeting his romantic interest and her family, buying car parts. Back in BC, he would go directly to a car parts shop. Here in the US, he had gone to a brake shop. He felt like something was off with the brake shoes, but was nervous and suddenly unsure of himself. When the man at the shop gave him the wrong ones, insisting they were correct, he didn’t argue; even when his gut told him something was wrong. He was trying so hard to make a big impression and feared he was blowing it big-time.
So we made up some excuse about driving around and found an auto parts store. Then we bought new brake shoes.
Back at my parents’ house, Chuck set to work putting in new brake shoes. Again.
“What is Chuck doing out there?” asked my mom.
“Looking at the brake shoes” I answered honestly. He was looking at them. Very closely. While he changed them.
We joked that my parents must think he was the most thorough, conscientious mechanic ever. Better that than thinking he was completely incompetent.
Which he wasn’t.
The brakes shoes were replaced and all was good.
Despite the cold January weather and several feet of snow, Chuck and I decided to take a walk on the alone beach. It was after dinner when we bundled up in the dark. Coat, boots, had and gloves. We took a leisurely walk down the beach, the cold air on our faces.
“It almost feels like my nose hairs are frozen” said Chuck, the snow crunching under our feet noisily.
“They are” I responded. Frozen nose hairs were definitely not a favorite part of winter for me.
We eventually approached on a large hunk of ice, a giant iceberg-like structure.
Chuck sat down.
“Here, sit on my lap” he said.
Well, there was no way I was plopping my tush on a frozen iceberg…so onto Chuck’s lap I sat.
We sat there for a long time. We talked a bit, but mostly just enjoyed each other’s company and gazed up at the stars.
Eventually Chuck stood up and took my hands in his and looked down at me.
“Renee,” he said.
“Here it comes” I thought. “He’s going to kiss me”.
But he didn’t. Instead he said, “Will you marry me?”
You might think hearing those words would be thrilling. But it wasn’t. You might think they would make my heart jump for joy. They didn’t.
Instead the plot of every true crime book I’d ever read went through my mind.
“Oh no,” I thought. “He’s crazy. He just got here. We haven’t even been out on a date!. He’s a stalker. He’s not going to leave me alone. How and I going to get away from him?”
But that’s not what I said to him.