The instant I realized: during the holiday season, we belted out 90s ballads close to each other’s faces.

Despite their evident chemistry, Emily Levins hesitated to acknowledge her genuine emotions for Jared. However, during a Christmas karaoke session, she had an epiphany.
We crossed paths in the most clichéd manner imaginable: sitting side by side at the wedding of mutual friends in 2019. Jared on my left, both of us with a negroni and a glass of champagne, surrounded by friends who were in on our potential connection. I had been informed about the seating arrangement a few weeks prior, and I distinctly remember how sweaty my palms were as I approached the table. When Jared looked up and smiled, it was the most beautiful smile I had ever seen.
Fortunately, the wedding lasted for three days, and our friends turned out to be excellent matchmakers – an understatement to say the least. Back in Sydney, we exchanged thousands of text messages and went on several dates over the next few months. Despite our obvious and immediate chemistry, I was somewhat unsure, or at least pretended to be, for shallow reasons such as “He’s too nice” and “Should I date someone I’ve been set up with?” But anyone who knew me well could see that I genuinely liked Jared, and that we complemented each other more than I let on.
As Christmas approached, I found myself doing what anyone in a new relationship does – contemplating whether or not to buy Jared a gift. Giving a present might reveal my feelings too early on. However, I spent an exorbitant amount of time shopping, searching for just the right thing, a clear sign of my true emotions.
On Christmas Day, I went to my parents’ house while Jared went to our recently married mutual friends’ house with a group of friends. My mom noticed me frequently checking my phone and smiling at messages. She asked with curiousity, “What’s Jared doing today?” I explained that I had been invited to join him later at our friends’ house, a 45-minute drive away. I was taken aback when my usually frugal mother encouraged me, saying, “Book the Uber! Who cares about the cost.” So I booked the second most expensive ride I’ve ever taken. While crossing the Harbour Bridge, my palms started sweating again, and I checked my reflection every few minutes.
When I arrived, the excitement of my friends made me feel like the most beloved person in the world. As the night went on, the living room transformed into a karaoke lounge. While Jared and I belted out 90s ballads at each other, I was overwhelmed with happiness. In that moment, I realized, “I feel completely myself right now, and I always do with Jared.” It was a refreshing contrast to how I may have felt or acted in front of previous boyfriends, so I allowed myself to embrace this wonderful feeling.
Later, Jared whispered in my ear, “I got you a present.” I replied, “Same.” We were on equal footing.
Four years later, we are about to celebrate our first Christmas with our daughter. Although the only singing that will likely occur after midnight this year will be Sesame Street’s “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon” as we lull our baby to sleep, I already know it will be our best Christmas yet.
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