Finalist Number 1 – Our 25

Our 25

Every love story has a great beginning. This is ours. When least expected, our soul mate can walk into our lives and change things forever. Such is the case with us, Scott and Leanna.

June of 1982, I was living in the greater Los Angeles area and working for one of the first sexual fantasy phone services, a funky little place called Lips International. Far away in Seattle, Washington, my true love was working for a travel agency at the Sea Tac airport. It would seem impossible for two such people to meet, but never underestimate the power of love.

Since most calls came at night, I was working swing/graveyard shift. Scott worked graveyard. Like most guys, Scott read the current men’s magazines of the time, and like most sexual fantasy businesses, Lips advertised in those magazines with an 800 number no less! Scott would often call our number, but since he didn’t meet the criteria for a paying fantasy (no credit card), he would just chat with some of the girls, including me. One night he called and, being the manager of that shift, the girls passed his call to me. You are such a nice guy, but we can’t keep talking to you for free, was my response. Unbeknownst to Scott, I was planning to meet one of my customers in Seattle the next night. A gentleman I had been talking to for some time, wanted to meet me and was willing to pay for plane fair from LA to Seattle. Recently divorced from my first husband, I figured I had nothing to lose by meeting this guy. So, I told Scott that I would be in! Seattle the next night and I promised to call him. He gave me his work number and we said goodbye for now.

The next evening I arrived at LAX to take the red eye mail flight from LA to Seattle with a stop in San Francisco. I was 28 years old and had never flown on a commercial flight. Sure enough, my ticket was paid for and ready for me to pickup at check in. I settled into a seat and tried to prepare myself for this meeting with my customer. Growing up in the Missouri Ozarks, the distance from LA to Seattle really did not register. It also never occurred to me that the man I was about to meet might be some kind of psycho creep, or worse. I had a one way ticket, $40 bucks, and an ATM card in my purse and I was off on an adventure!

Two hours, five cigarettes (yes, that’s when you could smoke on a plane), and several drinks later I arrived in Seattle. As expected, I met my customer. We were in the process of impressing each other when he announced that he would get his car and drive around to the United terminal entrance. I could get my belongings out of baggage claim and meet him out front. With a few minutes to myself, I thought I could dash to the ladies room and then call Scott, as I had promised. I grabbed my bag, hit the ladies room, and ran to the bank of pay phones. I dialed the number Scott gave me the night before and a nice voice told me that he wasn’t there at the moment. Oh, well, I tried. After all, I promised I would try, I thought. About that same time, it occurred to me that my rendezvous neglected to mention what kind of car he drove.

No big deal, by now it was 1:00am and not too many people at the airport. I walked out the terminal doors and waited by the curb. 30 minutes passed and no car. I went inside and had him paged. No answer. 30 more minutes passed, another page, and still no car or answer. By now, the only people in the airport terminal were me, a clerk at the United counter and a guy pushing a broom. Had I been in a movie, this is where the music would sound very ominous. After waiting for two hours, the gravity of the situation came pressing down hard. What did I get into? Tears were starting to slide down my cheek. I reached into my purse for a Kleenex and saw the slip of paper with Scott’s number. Trying not to panic, I walked back into the terminal and approaching a pay phone, took out the number and once again called Scott’s work. Oh yes, he’s here said the nice voice from before. Hello, this is Scott. I’ve been stood up; I started and then came the tears. And I don’t mean the little ladylike drops, but the big boo hoo kind.

Where are you at, he asked. I’m at the United terminal. Don’t move. I’ll be right there. I hung up and stood right where I was facing the pay phone, not moving. Within a few minutes, Scott came waking around the corner. Leanna? The voice belonged to a young man with kind, brown eyes, a tee shirt and a pair of jeans. Scott, I blubbered? And yes, the stars aligned, time stood still, and two young people looking for, but never expecting it, found each other and an everlasting love. My customer disappeared into the night and only later did I learn than he was using another guy’s credit card to pay for his calls and was afraid he would get caught in the fraud. 24 hours later, I was on a plane back to LA and Scott were back to work. But oh, those 24 hours! The attraction was instant and mutual, and not knowing if we would ever see each other again, we acted on it, becoming each other’s fantasy. As Scott put me on a plane the next night, he looked into my eyes and said I will see you again. That summer I flew back to Seattle twice and drove up once. The romance was on and our phone bills became astronomical. By October, Scott was laid off, and I convinced him to move to Los Angeles.

When people say they started off with nothing, I have always wondered how you have nothing. Looking back, I realize we had literally nothing. We did have a television, although a few years later when the TV died, we went a long time without one. Scott had his stereo and a pillow he swiped from a Motel 6 on his way down to LA. I had a bed (my settlement from my first marriage) and some dishes. Didn’t matter, we had each other. After a short period of living together, I looked Scott straight into his eyes and told him If you want to marry me, don’t just expect it to happen. You will have to ask. Christmas of 1984, he did, on one knee, and with a diamond ring. I said yes and finally my parents stopped referring to him as that guy and started calling Scott by name.

September 7, 1985, we were married on a sunny day in Port Orchard, Washington. The sparkling water of Puget Sound and the sky line of Seattle served as a backdrop to a very happy day. So now the story is supposed to go and they lived happily ever after. Not exactly. It was the 80’s, in Los Angeles, and before long we were living life in the fast lane. Now say what you want and remember what you’ve heard about drugs, but until you live through an addiction, keep your judgment to yourself. Cocaine became our drug of choice and soon snorting wasn’t enough, so free basing took over. As good as the high was and the great sex that came with the altered state of being, the depression and low that followed were abysmal. One day, after spending the rent money and whatever else was in our meager bank account, we took a paper bag and put all the drug paraphernalia inside, grabbed a hammer and smashed everything. You would think that action alone would have broken the habit and for a time it did, but within months we replaced cocaine with another drug crystal meth. At this time in Southern California, meth was making the scene. It’s a wicked little drug that makes one believe you are invincible and able to multi task like the Tasmanian Devil. In truth, you are very vulnerable and running around in circles with one foot tied down. It didn’t take long for the daily use to change our lives completely.

By 1990, during this time of drug abuse, the best friend I will ever have died of AIDS. The loss fueled my drug abuse ever more. Soon, I lost my job, making money even tighter. I became a consummate dumpster diver, hustling cans and bottles to recycle for cash. The next year we had to file bankruptcy and with that came the repo of our car, the loss of our residence, and a huge strain on our relationship. Scott kept up a brave front at his job, but the drugs were taking their toll. Soon we could no longer afford our own place and we moved in with a friend and took up residence in her garage. Scott was still working and I was selling things I would find in dumpsters at the local swap meets. It was spring of 1993 and in Texas, my oldest nephew was planning his wedding. We managed to scrounge up enough money for me to fly to Houston to attend. That separation started a change in our lives we never anticipated. Could there be life away from LA?

The next month my niece was also married in Houston. This time we both came to Texas and so did our little secret. No one in our families really knew what we were going through. They knew we were experiencing some hard times due to job loss and my friend’s death. But no one knew the extent . Later I would learn that this was about the time my sister started praying that someone would come into our lives and help us.

When we came back to LA after the wedding, we began to talk about changing our lives. By September my sister became involved in a writing project that required all of her time. So she invited me to come to Texas for six weeks and help her with the housework and her day to day stuff so she could concentrate on her project. I came and it was the longest time Scott and I had ever spent apart. During those six weeks Scott mailed me enough meth to keep going, but when I returned home, I knew things had to change. How were we going to survive? God responded to the prayers lifted up in our name and doors began to open. That Christmas we flew to Washington to be with Scott’s family and his parents agreed to give us the money to move. Ultimately we knew that the only way to break our addiction was to completely move from California. We could go north to Washington to be close to Scott’s family or east to Texas to be with mine. The U-Haul went east and we became Texans.

Everything we owned went into that U-Haul and our car was hitched behind. Somewhere in the sorting, packing and snorting, my wedding ring was lost.

I cried inconsolably, but I still had Scott. So what’s a ring? Any woman will tell you that her wedding ring is just as much a part of her as her soul. Losing mine was like losing one of the best parts of myself. The diamond wasn’t large, but it was mine, just like the man who gave it to me. When you look into the brilliance of a diamond, you can lose yourself. A jeweler may tell you that it all is in the cut, clarity, and color, but the beauty lies in what each sparkle represents. I would stare into my ring and with each flash of refracted light I could see the possibility of good things to come in our lives together. It was a constant reminder that I truly belonged to someone who loved me. Something inside me still believes that I will find it one day, tucked away in a box long forgotten. Someday . . .

It took four long driving days to reach Texas from California. Compared to starting over in every detail of our lives, the time it took to move was very short. We had no jobs, no money, except the deposit for returning the U-Haul, and no clue what to expect. My sister lovingly opened her home to us and within six weeks we both had jobs and an apartment of our own. Now, you’re thinking, comes the happily ever after. Not quite.

Come this February it will be sixteen years since we came to Texas. In that time, so much has happened. We renewed our wedding vows on our 10th anniversary. We have lost loved ones and gained new members in our families. We have struggled with finances and still have been blessed with abundance. We have enjoyed good times and endured bad times. In short, we have lived life and everything that comes with it. I don’t know if anyone ever lives happily ever after, but I do know that our relationship has survived and flourished. We find the love and commitment we share grows every day by serving others; through our church, our community, and our work. I could list all the things we don’t have, but the reality is that we have everything we need and more. In a quiet moment, sitting on the couch, I can reach out, touch Scott’s arm, and just the feel of his skin on my fingertips stirs feelings of passion and comfort.

For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, these are the things we promised and have experienced them all. We were given an extraordinary gift; each other. Through God’s love and mercy we will continue to cherish and culture this great gift.

Congratulations, Diamond Cutters International. We know what twenty-five years is all about. It’s a journey every day. Our story is not complete because we are not finished yet. The next chapter is waiting to be written. One thing, I know for a certainty. When we are really old, we will look back on the improbable beginning of our relationship and through tears and laughter, we will know that this love was truly meant to be.

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