When Felix and Hazel were teenagers, they lived in a town that was big enough for Felix but too small for Hazel. When Hazel was a teenager, her favorite thing to do was take walks around the town and its outskirts, and daydream about the place she’d live when she grew up. When Felix was a teenager, his favorite thing to do was be around Hazel. Ergo, he went on a lot of these walks.
Every day it was something different. “When I grow up,” Hazel said, “I will live in a house that’s pink like a cherry blossom.” On another day it was, “When I grow up, I will live close enough to a body of water that I can go and sit on a dock and read.”
Hazel watched the houses and the trees, willing the houses to be pastel and the trees to be sand. Felix watched Hazel, wishing he could hold her and that her awe-filled blue eyes spent more time looking at him.
When Felix and Hazel were in their twenties, they experienced not living five minutes away from each other for the first time in their lives. When Hazel turned twenty, she was at a university on the east coast and majoring in interior design. When Felix turned twenty, he was finishing up an associate’s degree while working full time at the local grocery store. Hazel was deciding that she might like to live in a big city, maybe move to California. Felix was deciding that he’d like to own his own grocery store one day. But he wanted to do it the old-fashioned way. He wanted a small shop and to know his regular customers by name. He wanted to employ the future versions of himself, kids who needed to pay the bills without being stopped from accomplishing their dreams.
Hazel wrote him letters every Sunday and Wednesday. She didn’t dare ask him to spend the money for a long-distance call. She knew once she started speaking to him, she’d never stop. It’d been too long since she’d heard his voice. So she let her insides spill out onto the page — her plans to see the Pacific Ocean, her shift toward modern design, her newfound love for veggie burgers — and sealed each letter into its envelope with a kiss. And Felix read every single word at least three times, always wishing for the invitation to call.
When Felix and Hazel were teenagers, they missed every high school dance. Hazel always tried to make her own dress, but it was never ready on time. There were always more embellishments to be added or last-minute changes to be made. By the time she’d finish the dress, the dance would be long past. So Felix would pack up his boombox and take her to one of the local parks and ask her to dance.
Hazel’s favorite “high school dance” was the one when she had made a dress the same cherry blossom pink as the house she dreamed of. It hugged her torso but billowed out into a full skirt that stopped at her ankles. The whole thing sparkled like it was covered in stars. She curled her hair, let it drape over her bare shoulders. Felix had looked at her like he was seeing an angel.
Then, during their second dance — the song was “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith — it began to rain. Not just rain, pour. Hazel’s makeup was running down her face, her curls were disappearing and the beautiful corsage that Felix had spent his allowance on was crumpling fast. They ran off to a nearby gazebo to wait out the storm.
Hazel looked down at her water-soaked dress, tears welling in her eyes. “My dress! It’s ruined!” She ran her fingers through her hair. “Oh, I must look like a mess!”
Without hesitation, Felix grabbed her by the shoulders and began examining her, his face serious and thoughtful. Hazel’s eyebrows furrowed. “What is it?” she asked.
Felix looked her right in the eye, still as serious as a heart attack, and said, “You’re the most beautiful girl to ever attend a high school dance.”
When Felix and Hazel were 24, Hazel came home. She was getting ready to move to California and went to Felix’s apartment to say goodbye, worried she’d never see him again. According to her mother, he was seeing one of the girls they’d gone to high school with — Hazel never liked that Mindy Mae Brown anyway — and was likely going to marry her.
She knocked on the front door. Felix answered within seconds. Before she could say anything, he grabbed her arm, pulled her inside and sat her down on the couch.
Then he told her, “Hazel, I’ve been too scared to say any of this for a decade and if I don’t say it right now I might burst.”
Hazel’s eyes widened. She nodded for him to continue.
“Hazel, I don’t know if you know this, but I think you’re amazing. I think I would have had a much sadder existence without you and I don’t know what I would’ve done without your letters these last few years. And I know you want to move to California and have a pink house and read on the docks and dance in the rain and decorate every room with fairy lights. And I want you to do it all.”
“That’s, um, that’s good to hear Felix, um, because I came to, um, to tell you that —”
He interrupted her, “I bought a house in San Diego. It might be the wrong shade of pink, but we can always paint it. The first floor is meant to be a shop, but there are two floors for living above it. And there are public docks within walking distance and parks to dance in and there’s even a gazebo in the nearest park.”
Hazel could barely get the words out, “You bought yourself a shop and a house in San Diego?”
He shook his head and his face reminded her of that time in the gazebo all those years ago. “I bought us a shop and a house in San Diego. That is, assuming you want this.” And then he got down on his knees in front of her and suddenly there was a ring box in his hands. The ring was rose gold with a beautiful cherry blossom stone in the middle.
When Felix and Hazel were in their twenties, they moved to San Diego. And the daydreams became reality and the walks were by the ocean and the kisses were placed on faces instead of envelopes and there was no need for long-distance calls.