“Before my friend gives you her phone number, you need to give me a good reason why,” Hannah’s friend teased.
“When you meet people who make good first impressions, it’s best never to let them go,” he replied.
The line was smooth enough to score her phone number. When he called the next day, Hannah agreed to a date — a determinedly unromantic Tuesday lunch meeting, at which she ordered only a cup of soup, expecting it would be a short one.
But they bonded while talking politics and plans for the future. Hannah was still nursing disappointment after interning on John Kerry’s unsuccessful presidential campaign; Olivier knew what that felt like, having worked for the Howard Dean campaign. Although the date went better than expected, Hannah wasn’t looking for love. “I was in such a 23-year-old head space, trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life,” she remembers. “I wasn’t interested in anything serious.”
Olivier was persistent and kept trying to win her over. When she came down with a cold a few weeks later, he drove her to get chicken soup at a health-food store. They were stopped behind another car on the way out of the parking lot when he turned to her and asked, “Do you like surprises?” He leaned over to the passenger seat for their first kiss — and crashed into the car in front of them as his foot slipped off the brake. (It was just a minor fender bender.)
The more time they spent together, the more smitten Olivier became. One night, while out at Café Citron in Dupont Circle, he made a confession. “I told her I was going to marry her,” he says.
One problem: She was leaving the next day for China, where she planned to teach English for the summer.
He drove her to the airport, feeling as though something was slipping through his fingers. They kept in touch sporadically, even after she moved to Boston for a job in public health and he headed to the University of Pennsylvania for law school. Sometimes he’d send flowers or cookie packages to her office; she flew down to be his date to his winter formal. “We were sort of popping in and out of each others’ lives,” Hannah says.
She moved to London in 2007 for graduate school, and they largely fell out of touch. But in March 2008, he was visiting Vienna for a law school case competition. Not yet ready to give up on Hannah, he invited her to join him there.