Even before their first real date, Jesse Peoples had gotten in the habit of waking Aimee Pringle with a text message: “Good morning, sunshine.”
When he first saw her among a crowd of young women on a 2006 Fourth of July boat cruise in New York, he pronounced, “You must be the mean friend,” because Aimee wasn’t laughing like the others.
But when he spotted her again at the end of the night, he caught a glimpse of her smile. It was enough to make him strike up a second conversation. They sat talking after they got off the boat and discovered they’d been students at Howard University during overlapping years.
“She has a great smile, but she also has a shyness to her. So she would look at me and laugh, and then look at me and laugh. I just thought it was real cute,” remembers Jesse, an engineer who lived in Washington.
He asked for her number and promised to call the next day. When she didn’t hear from him, she sent him a text with just a sad face.
“I was really intrigued by him because I just felt like we had a connection from that moment. And I hadn’t felt that way about anyone,” says Aimee, who was a law school student in New York at the time. “His energy just felt really comfortable to me.”
He texted back that she just hadn’t given him a chance to fulfill his promise yet. They talked that night and the night after that. Soon they fell into a routine — good morning texts and long conversations before bed.
It was strange to be growing so close to someone she’d met only briefly, but the setup worked for Aimee. She was busy with a summer internship and nights out with friends. And besides, she’d always been somewhat wary of commitment. This way, they didn’t have to define what was happening between them.
At the end of July, Jesse went back to New York. The law firm where Aimee was working wooed its summer associates with food, and she had gained a few pounds. On the day they were to meet, her zipper popped. Her nerves grew as she stood in a tailor’s shop being sewn back into her dress.
But at a Chinese restaurant in Harlem, she relaxed. He was impressed that she remembered his birthday and even brought a present — a toy Batmobile, because his friends sometimes called him Batman. That night, he kissed her.
Over the next six months they found reasons to be in the same city — she went to a recruiting fair in D.C.; he went to see friends in New York. Neither was sure where the relationship would lead, but they were both growing increasingly attached.
Aimee loved the way he talked about his family, with such loyalty and affection. And although he claimed he never missed people, he admitted at one point that he was sad when they had to say goodbye.
“We kind of contrasted in things,” says Jesse, now 32. “I believe I’m trying to take over the world, and I believe she’s trying to save the world. She was very passionate about trying to do things for others — that really attracted me to her.”
When Aimee graduated from law school and started studying for the bar in the summer of 2007, she had little time and a lot of stress. “That was a really difficult period, and knowing that he was willing to adjust to it — that my being busy and unavailable wasn’t scaring him away — meant a lot to me.”
She moved to Washington and started a career in civil rights law the following spring, but being in the same city was a trickier adjustment than either of them had imagined. “How are we going to navigate being in each other’s space and seeing each other?” Aimee remembers thinking. “It was almost like starting the relationship again.”
In time, they found comfort in their close proximity. As Jesse prepared to buy a house in early 2010, they began to think about moving in together. But both were very clear that cohabitation was meant to be a precursor to marriage.
“Both of our parents divorced when we were younger, so I’m deathly afraid of divorce,” says Aimee, now 30. “Huge steps make me nervous. Living together was a big step, but a baby step as well.”
And as they lived together, merging her pink-loving, girly style with his swords-on-the-walls, masculine aesthetic, her fear of commitment eased. “All of our relationship steps have been really deliberate because we’re really thoughtful, logical people. So everything has been, ‘Is this something I want to do?’ And weighing the pros and cons,” she says. “We haven’t overvalued ‘easy.’ That’s always given me relationship security — to know that it was a decision.”
After a year of living together, Jesse knew “it would hurt more for me to be without her than not.” He bought a ring and proposed during a July 2011 trip to Chicago, one of Aimee’s favorite cities.
Rain clouds cleared away just in time for their May 11 wedding ceremony at Sequoia Restaurant on the Georgetown waterfront. “I thought God was testing me to become a stronger man,” Jesse told Aimee in his vows. “I know now He was preparing me to be your husband.”
She replied: “Today I stand here knowing that I could conquer the world with one hand as long as you’re holding the other.”