I still remember it like it was yesterday.
We were on the phone. Jeff was 19, a sophomore in college in South Carolina. I was 17, a high school senior in Texas, sitting on the floor in my bedroom at my parents' old house. I had my little silver flip phone phone cradled between my ear and my shoulder because I was using both hands to make him a Valentine's Day card. We were talking about how it was a shame we couldn't be together for Valentine's Day.
And then... he said "Katie..." and I knew exactly what was coming. I put the scissors down and my world was spinning as I said "mmhmm?" Then, just as I had imagined it, out came those three words, "I love you." Everything was moving in slow motion. The thought entered my head that I should cherish this moment and try to remember it. I didn't know then that we'd one day get married and all, but I knew something big was happening, and I remember telling myself to appreciate that moment in the milliseconds before I responded, "I love you too."
Then there was silence. Neither one of us knew what to say next. I was so overwhelmed with happiness that I started to cry a little, and then I ended up laughing at myself and ruining the silence. He told me he'd wanted to say that for a really long time. It was another few months before I found out just how long.
He had mailed me a Valentine's Day package earlier that day. He had written in the card "I <3 you" (with an actual heart shape, not a sideways <3). I finished making my card for him that night. I wrote "I love you" on the inside. Today, both cards live together in a box in our closet.
Five years later, I still love him. It's a deeper, more mature kind of love now... but there's still something so special to me about that pure, innocent love that we started with back then. It's the sort of love that comes from falling head over heels for your best friend before you're even old enough to really know what that means, and it's a beautiful thing to look back on. I love you, Jeff.