Previously: Principal Jallon Brown has been scrambling to find a permanent building for KIPP Harbor Academy, the public charter school she's just opened in Annapolis. To catch up on earlier episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.
One night five years ago, Jallon Brown was leaning comfortably against a brick wall at Republic Gardens, a Washington nightclub, when she decided to get a drink. When she returned to her place, she found a man there.
"Excuse me," she remembers telling him, "you're standing in my spot."
But Phil Croskey, now 31, refused to budge because, he explains, "she was trying to pick me up."
"He's a liar," laughs Jallon, also 31, recounting the night she and Phil met. "Anyone who knows me, knows that I don't pick people up."
Their brick-wall banter led to hours of dancing and friendly small talk. At the end of the night, Phil asked for Jallon's number, which she gladly gave him.
Her phone rang within an hour. It was Phil, asking if Jallon had gotten home safely. "Really, I think he was trying to make sure that I'd given him the right number," Jallon says. The call didn't last long, but they made lunch plans for the next day.
Soon Phil returned to Delaware, where he was working for a bank. He and Jallon talked almost every night. "Our relationship grew over the phone," she says. "There was a lot of talking, and he was a good listener. I really enjoyed that."
Phil started driving every weekend to Silver Spring, where Jallon was living and working as a fifth-grade teacher. They would go to concerts, to movies and out to dinner. After almost four years of long-distance dating, Phil took a job with a bank in Baltimore and they bought a house in Anne Arundel County, where she was working to open a public charter school in Annapolis.
Last summer they were walking on the beach in South Carolina when Jallon waded into the water. While her back was turned, Phil quickly scribbled a message in the sand: "Jallon, will you marry me?" For a long time, Phil recalls, he waited for Jallon to turn around. "She was staring out at the water," says Phil. "And I was down on one knee."
Finally, she turned around. For an instant, Jallon was confused, she says. Why was Phil on his knee? Then she saw the writing in the sand and the ring he was holding. "I was startled," Jallon says, though they'd been talking about getting married. With tears in her eyes, she said yes to his proposal.
A few weeks later, their lives took another twist. Jallon called Phil from Memphis, where she'd been covering for a sick charter school principal. I'm pregnant, she told him. They had not planned to start a family so quickly; both of their careers were in high gear. But there was never any question about having the baby. Their son, Malachi, was born in January.
Now their wedding is just weeks away. Her time is so scarce that she's had to hire a wedding planner. But on a recent Friday evening, Jallon came home from school, and life suddenly slowed to a crawl. There were a dozen roses from Phil, who opened a bottle of wine for them to share. It was exactly five years ago, he said, that they first met by a patch of brick wall.
-- Tyler Currie