A few weeks later, Charlie said he was going to New York to visit friends. Alexis worked behind the scenes to be in New York simultaneously, while making it look like it was all just coincidence.
Charlie didn't say it, but Alexis was the biggest reason he was coming East.
The fantastic weekend ended. He flew back to Qatar. She started med school.
There was e-mail and Google chat. And then near Thanksgiving, Charlie flew back to this continent for a wedding in Canada. He swung by Philadelphia for 36 hours with Alexis. They hiked the Wissahickon, and had long conversations about family, politics, and medicine. "I remember feeling that it was so unfair how happy I was and how good it felt and how comfortable I was around him" when he lived so far away, Alexis said.
"We were talking on the phone when I was at the airport, about how we get along really well, and it was just sad," said Charlie.
Soon Alexis was thinking ahead to spring break 2011. "I decided to go to Qatar," she said. "It was crazy. We weren't officially together. We really didn't know each other that well. And I had no money." Alexis thought about saving in secret, but then decided if she were making sacrifices for this potential trip, she needed to know Charlie was on the same page.
Charlie also thought a trip was crazy - "Crazy good. Crazy amazing. The best kind of crazy."
March finally came. Charlie cleaned his apartment and bought an extra pillow.
On the plane, Alexis' nerves were a mess. What if she was flying more than 6,000 miles for the most awkward 10 days of her life?
The plane landed, and there was Charlie, wearing a suit, offering her a bouquet. "All the anxiety melted," she said.
At week's end, they were in a Dubai hotel, getting ready for dinner. There were her nerves again. She took a breath. "I feel strongly that I don't want to leave without saying this: I love you."
"I love you, too," Charlie said.
Distance be damned, they made a commitment.
He spent a few weeks in the States that summer, and she in Qatar that winter. In February 2012, he took a media analytics job in Chicago. "In some ways it was harder," he said. "We were so close, but yet we couldn't see each other." Alexis tried to transfer, but when that didn't work, Charlie quit his job and moved to her Washington Square West apartment, where the couple has lived since with white-and-charcoal bunny Humphrey. Charlie is an analyst at BlackRock Financial in Wilmington.
Next month, Alexis graduates and the couple and bunny will move to Chicago, where she will do her ob-gyn residency at the University of Illinois.
How does forever sound?
In June 2013, Alexis and Charlie, both now 27, got an e-mail invite to a friend's get-dressed-up kind of dinner party. "It sounds so fun," Alexis wrote back. "What can I bring?" She bought the suggested chocolate. Then the day-of, their friend made additional requests: Champagne and two glasses, as she didn't have quite enough of either. Charlie and Alexis walked through Rittenhouse Square, on the way to the party, Alexis thought, when he asked if they could sit for a minute.
"I don't want to go to the party," he said.
"What are you talking about?" Alexis asked incredulously. "We're all dressed up! They're anticipating us!"
"No, let's not go to the party," Charlie said. "Let's get married instead."
She said yes, and he gave her a ring made with her grandmother's pearl. (There would later be a second ring made from his great-grandmother's diamonds.)
Alexis realized there was no party. She admired Charlie's creativity as they toasted their engagement with champagne and chocolate.
It was so them
The couple wed at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia in a ceremony based on Jewish traditions but with egalitarian twists. Rather than Alexis circling Charlie seven times, they took turns circling each other. And when Charlie put her veil down before the ceremony, she gave him a new yarmulke so that they covered each other.
The rings were passed among their 200 guests "so that everybody could put good energy and positive vibes into them before we exchanged them," Alexis said.
The reception featured much dancing, to Jewish music as well as R&B and a bit of pop.
The wedding began with Charlie's friends and family dancing him from the ballroom's balcony, down the stairs and to Alexis. "He danced over to me, and whispered in my ear how excited he was and how perfect I am for him," she said. "It was the most amazing thing, and it felt like this was really the beginning of our life together."
"That was the peak of my emotion," Charlie said. "There was so much joy."
A bargain: Alexis found a dress-with-potential for 70 percent off at David's Bridal. Including the work of the seamstress, who in addition to the usual alterations changed the shape of the skirt, turned the halter top into straps, and deepened the back into a V, the cost was $800.
The splurge: After hearing New York's Shalom Orchestra perform at another wedding, Charlie, Alexis, and Alexis' parents agreed a DJ wouldn't do.
Ten days in Hawaii.
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