I worked at Lone Star College North Harris at the Biology Learning Center tutoring for biology, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, and microbiology. One day in the middle of the Spring 2016 semester, I came into work, and my colleague said, “Hey Cecilia, you took Dr. Sanchez’s class, right? These two students here have some questions about his exams.” I came over and introduced myself, and they introduced themselves as well. One of them was Meredith.
I had noticed her before because she was one of the two girls who would come to study A&P 1 together every day. She also wore scrubs to school, so I knew she worked in the health field. She and her friend asked for study tips for the class; I gave them some tips, and that was that.
They continued studying. I continued working.
At the end of the Spring semester, I decided to buy Tapioca or “Boba” drinks for my coworkers and the regular students at the learning center. I called my manager and asked for each person by name to talk to me on the phone to buy a drink they would like. I couldn’t remember the last student’s name, and I asked my manager, “What’s the name of that girl who always studies with Denisse?” My manager said, “You mean Meredith?” then I said, “Yes! Her! Can I talk to her next?” I bought everyone the drinks to celebrate the end of the semester. And that was that. At that time, I was already in a relationship.
After that semester ended, that relationship went down the drain, and I went into a very dark place. When the first set of summer classes began, my coworkers immediately noticed something was wrong when I came in for my first day of work. The second set of summer classes began, Meredith came back to the learning center to study for her summer A&P 2 course. When she saw me, she asked, “Did something happen to you?” Then I told her about my relationship that mirrored a friend’s relationship that ended in a divorce. Meredith said, “I don’t understand why someone would not be supportive in a relationship to help the other person succeed…”
The Fall semester began, and Meredith is now taking Medical Microbiology. She would stay and study until closing every day, and then I began talking to her as a friend. I asked about her family’s background and about her dental assistant job. I asked about her career path to dental hygiene. She and I would leave school together to get dinner at Potato Patch or Whataburger. Then we would stay in her car to talk for another few hours in the parking lots. I also helped her cope with her anxiety about school as she cried on the restroom floor. I started developing a crush on this girl. But I hesitated because I wasn’t sure if I was ready for another relationship.
Towards the end of the Fall semester, I invited Meredith to stay with me so she can have a quiet place to study. We shared a bed for the first time, and we found out we both like to cuddle. But I hesitated to do anything still. Finally, on November 6th, 2016, Meredith woke up to go to school, but she decided to kiss me, and I kissed her back. We realized at this point that both of us liked each other, but she left for school in a rush.
Later that morning, I went to school and got my usual breakfast tacos from the cafeteria, then I went to the learning center for work. Meredith was already there studying. One of the regular students saw me eating my tacos and said, “Daaaaaang, Cecilia! You really like your salsa!” I smiled and said, “Yeah, because you know, I need some Latina spice in my life,” then I eyed Meredith. She dropped her mouth, and her face went red. The other students laughed, saying that could be a good pickup line, not realizing I was already using it for Meredith.
After about five months of seeing each other, she and I decided that we were ready for a relationship. This was on March 15th, 2017.
Fast-forward to 2020, my busy life from school and work paused because I caught the COVID-19 virus in July. I had time to reflect on my relationship with Meredith. She and I had gone on so many adventures and rollercoasters together. She has been so supportive of me, and I have been so supportive of her. When we first met, she was getting her prerequisites done for dental hygiene. Then she changed her career path, and she’s been accepted to nursing school!
I had plans for her to stop working so I can be her source of income while she focuses on school. Plans to see her as a nurse and me as a doctor and then I realized what I saw: our future together. I called Meredith’s best friend and her fiancé to ask about how he got ready to propose. Later on, I went with Meredith to go grocery shopping at Walmart, and then I lured her to the jewelry section to show me the types of rings she liked. I remembered she admired a yellow diamond. So I went online to look for a yellow diamond ring that looked classic enough to match Meredith’s personality. I finally found a yellow diamond halo ring from Front Jewelers.
In August, I went to the Marriott Marquis in Downtown Houston to ask for the manager’s contact information to plan a photoshoot for my surprise proposal. In September, I contacted David Truong from Always Us Studios because I admired his posts on Facebook and Instagram.
I told Meredith the plan. I hired a photographer for our anniversary, and these will be our pictures before we become a nurse and doctor. Then we’ll have another photoshoot in five years after we have become a nurse and doctor. She agreed to the photoshoot, despite hating taking pictures and shopping for outfits.
On March 13th, 2021, we got our first mani-pedi together. On March 14th, I checked into the Marriott Marquis early to hide balloons, gifts, and flowers in our room. I went home to take Meredith to the hotel. Then we had a relaxing day together. On March 15th, we woke up at 4am to get our hair and make-up done by a friend of mine and David’s, Phuka, and his partner in crime, Thy, while David texted me updates about their arrival and staging.
At 8am, Meredith, Phuka, Thy, and I went to the elevators to go downstairs, but I forgot some stuff for the photoshoot in the room and went back while the others went ahead of me. I went back to the room to meet the videographer to get a hidden mic, and then I pulled out the forty-eight balloons and gifts that I hid in the room.
The photoshoot felt like it went by so fast. When David found the ideal spot for the proposal to happen, he told Meredith that we’re pretending to play a game and that she’ll turn around on “three” while I’m posing behind her. He counted, she turned around, then she froze. Looking at me while I was on my knee holding a closed box. She asked, “What are you doing?” My mind went blank, and I forgot what I wanted to say. Even now, I forgot what I said at that moment. But I remember opening the box and asking, “Meredith, will you marry me?” And she laughed and screamed, “Yes!” After we hugged, she realized other cameras were pointing at us. And then she said “You’re always so extra,” not realizing there was another surprise in our hotel room.
Photography by David Truong