It was the 25th of August, in the year 2007, when the recently turned 24 year old Koko accompanied her parents on an Alaskan cruise. The plan was to spend quality time with her brother as her parents and grandparents celebrated their 25th and 50th wedding anniversaries.
On this particular morning Tomis was dealing with an unpleasant set of demanding senior citizens in a cabin whose wall adjoined Koko’s. In an attempt to appease the seasoned and irritable couple, Tomis intended to personally deliver a bottle of wine to their cabin. Well, at least he thought he was heading to their cabin…
Koko, having just settled into her cabin with her brother, bounced out into the hallway and ran right into a handsome, blue-eyed (but slightly pissed-off looking) officer carrying a bottle of wine. This tall irritated looking individual shoved a bottle of wine into her hands, and attempted to make a quick departure.
Signalled by a hand-waving cabin boy a few doors down, Tomis was alerted to the fact that he had missed the room by one door, and hastily took back the bottle from the attractive young woman that jumped in his path.
Being fully aware of the mistake the poor officer had made, Koko took advantage of the situation and playfully smacked him in the arm before heading back in her room. Jarred by his uncharacteristic mistake, the officer quickly introduced himself as “Tomis the Cellar Master,” and returned 5 minutes later with a free bottle of wine 🙂
The following day Tomis was back in the swing of things and was waiting to start his wine tasting. Not thinking much of seeing Koko again, when she walked in the dining room he was oddly aware of her presence. His reaction to her surprised him, and made him immediately know he would give her a hard time. Midway through the wine tasting, he caught her off-guard with a question regarding a wine she was clearly unfamiliar with.
The directness of Tomis’ question regarding a Shiraz caught Koko by surprise, and she turned bright red with embaressment. However, those that know Koko well know she is not one to allow anyone (particularly a man) to get the better of her. As the wine tasting came to a close, she grabbed a camera and forced Tomis to take a picture with her as she bravely wrapped her arm around his waist, fully knowing it would make him uncomfortable. At least for the moment, she had the last word.
One day passed before Tomis and Koko crossed paths again. It was a beautiful day in front of the glacier, and Koko stood in the middle of the deck drinking a glass of wine. Her brother had abandoned her for hot chocolate, and her parents were temporarily out of sight.
Tomis was curious about the playful woman who didn’t seem intimidated by him. She was alluring to him, but in Tomis’ experience, alluring women were nothing but trouble. Something about this one was different though. When he saw her standing alone, he knew immediately he would take the opportunity to strike up conversation.
Koko, shocked that her occasional combatant was actually talking to her, eventually accepted an invitation to a personal wine tasting later that evening. Meanwhile, Koko’s parents (sneaky little weasels) hid one deck up and took pictures of their conversation 🙂 It was obvious to all, except Tomis and Koko, that they found each other intriguing. It was just a matter of time before they found out how much.
Drinks at the Crows Nest
Around 11pm that night, Koko showed up at the ship’s Crows Nest causally dressed in jeans and a sweater holding an autobiographical book and a magazine centered on world politics. She ordered a horribly fruity drink reccommended by Tomis’ staff, and proceeded to engage in polite conversation with the bartenders, occasionally glancing down at her book. Within a few minutes, Tomis showed up exhausted, and in a suit 🙂
From 11pm to 2am, Koko and Tomis talked and laughed about anything and everything there was to talk about over wine and cigars. Unlike with women he had known before, Tomis quickly found out he could be comfortable and silly with Koko.
Like a gentleman, at the end of the night Tomis escorted Koko down the elevator and to her room. Neither of them attempted to make plans to meet again. However, the following morning, Koko’s brother opened the door to find a specialty coffee delivered to his sister, compliments of the Cellar Master.
Without any effort, Tomis and Koko continued to run into eachother throughout the rest of the cruise. Everynight ended with late night drinks, and longer conversations. The two found out they enjoyed each others company immensely. However, both were unwilling to develop any sort of attachment and made an ironic toast to “no long-distance relationships” before proceding to laugh the night away.
Midway through the cruise was a dessert buffet that followed a formal dining night. Wearing a black tuxedo, Tomis was stationed on the Lido deck next to the fresh crepes when he saw Koko walk through the crowd in a black formal dress. Meanwhile her father (whom he had a few friendly conversation with) approached him and started a conversation just a bit away from the dessert commotion.
Koko, moderatley occupied with her brother, spied her father and Tomis laughing in the distance and carefully walked the swaying deck in her silver heals in their direction. A little tipsy from wine, her father had been regailing Tomis in silly stories from her childhood… one in particular where she imitated a pigeon to make her family laugh. Before having a chance to enter the conversation, her father made a special request that she do the pigeon impression right then… in her formal attire… amidst all the other tuxedos and gowns on the deck. Only slightly embaressed, Koko shrugged, and obliged her father’s request.
Tomis, not being one for propriety himself, stood amazed as he watched an elegant woman transform into a pigeon. With a sense of wonder he knew he would miss her once the 7 day cruise came to an end.
Last few days of the Cruise
The second to last night of the cruise, after Koko watched a movie with her brother, she joined Tomis for drinks at the ship’s night club. Within the first five minutes they had exchanged contact information; Tomis’ was written on a perfectly square piece of ripped paper that he had crafted earlier, and Koko’s on a napkin. They both intended to keep in touch once the cruise met its end, and for the rest of the night continued to have their now habitual 5 hour long conversation.
Last Day of Cruise
After a long but friendly hug goodbye the night before disembarkment, Tomis asked Koko to make sure and call so he had the opportunity to say goodbye in person. Koko agreed, and as promised, called him the next morning before leaving her room… but he didn’t answer…
Meanwhile, Tomis was deep within his morning routine and anticipated Koko’s call all morning. Much to his dismay, the phone never rang. As he watched her walk down the gangway with her family, the only thing he could think was, “what a brat.” He spent the next few hours contemplating what kind of text message he could send her to make her feel like an immature child.
Back on Dry Land
A few hours after disembarking, Koko and her family had pulled into a pub for burgers. While getting out of the car, Koko felt her phone vibrate and was surprised to see a message from Tomis. It read, “No goodbye? I had a book for your dad. Too bad.” Realizing that there had been a miscommunication, but unwilling to let the snottiness of the message slide, Koko intended to send an equally sharp message back. She waited until after lunch with her family to shoot a perfectly subtle yet wise-ass message back to Tomis. Although the messages were riddled with sarcasm and underlying jabs, they slowly evolved into a jovial and sweet conversation.
Phone Cards Galore
Monday marked the end of Koko’s vacation as she returned to California from Oregon. She was surprised to see she had roses waiting for her in her room. This marked the beginning of chocolates, CDs, and jewelry being delivery to her home weekly. Every single night thereafter, from September until June, Koko and Tomis talked on the phone for a minimum of two hours every night. It quickly became clear that the toast to “no longer distance relationships” would not stand. Despite the distance and the dueling hectic schedules, within a few weeks they were exclusively commmited to each other.
November would be the next time the two would see eachother again. Tomis had been on a world cruise, and this Saturday would be the first time in 3 months they were able to hug again. Koko drove two hours from Long Beach to San Diego to meet Tomis 🙂 This became the beginning of a ritual that had her driving to San Diego every Saturday for the next few months.
By January, five months after having met, Tomis knew that forever was what he wanted. After spending his two week holiday with Koko at a Best Western in Long Beach (as she struggled through a business class), Tomis knew he wanted Koko as more than a girlfriend, he wanted her for a wife. The next time Koko saw him in San Diego he had a very important question for her.
Completely taken aback by the question just posed to her, Koko jumbled her words for a full minute before giving a very definitive “yes”. With tears in their eyes, there was no thought to where they would live, finances, or anything else… Koko and Tomis decided the only thing that mattered was that they be together.
In May, Koko was due to graduate with her degree in Business. It was finally time to discuss where she would work, where Tomis would work, and where they would live together. Tomis’ contract didn’t expire until June, so there was still time to get things settled. The lack of foresight would have mangled other relationships, but to Tomis and Koko it was a small step towards being together. So long as the distance was no longer an obstacle, nothing seemed insurmountable.
California or Washington?
With plans to be married well underway, Koko and Tomis eventually decided the U.S. would be the easiest way for Koko to gain work experience. Both wanting to start a family in as little as two years, discussion regarding the best place to raise a family became a hot topic. They decided together that Southern California was not ideal, and with job opportunities in Seattle for Tomis, Washington became the most attractive option. Pending a job interview Koko had in California the plan would be a move North.
In June, Koko packed up her car and drove 1000 miles up the California coast towards her parents house in Oregon. With a job interview already set up in Seattle, things looked good. When Tomis’ contract ended a week early, he joined her at her parent’s house on the 14th. Fully anticipating a short stay in Oregon before moving further North, Koko and Tomis had no issue being guests of her parents. Little did they know things would not be as easy as they thought.
Being a native Croatian up until early adulthood, Tomis had only ever entered the U.S. on visas. In order to get their life started Tomis and Koko enlisted the help of a very friendly lawyer to sort out any immigration issues they would come across. Fearful of overstaying their welcome at Koko’s parents house, they wanted to make any effort to speed through what ever processes lay ahead of them. Unfortunately, they are tied to the time-frame of the government. Luckily, Koko’s parents and brother enjoy having them in their home, and welcomed them to stay as long as they need. The feeling of love and belongingness is immense, and although this is temporary, it is an excellent start…
… which brings us to the advent of our blog 🙂 July 5th we decided it would be nice to keep our friends and family (both very far away from both of us now) updated on what is going on with us… so the rest resides within the posts of this blog.