They met when she was six, and he was eight. Her family had moved next door to his and as their parents bonded, they did as well, quickly becoming close friends. The neighbors would often go on vacations together and if one family was traveling, but the other was not, they would always take either the girl or the boy with them, whoever's family it was not. She made him promise one camping trip, as they sat roasting marshmallows side by side, that he would only marry her and no one else in this world. It was a sacred covenant in the minds of the children. Then, not too long afterwards her parents obtained new jobs, moving them many states away from their friends. But she still thought often of him, and he of her.
When she was fifteen and he was seventeen, her family moved back to that small town of her childhood. A romance developed between the two teens and they dated all throughout high school. It was no surprise to anyone when, once they were both finished and graduated, they married. A "storybrook engagement - and wedding" people called it. Their marriage began well and soon children came.
Four years later she stood in the kitchen, two screaming children at her feet, dirty dishes piled high in the sink, laundry stacked atop the washer and tears streaming down her face. She was overflowing with depression - this was not how it was supposed to be, or even how she had imagined it to be. She took off her apron, dropped her children off at her parents house and left town that same day, abandoning her family. She called that night and asked how the children were, if they were doing alright. He told her, and she abruptly hung up. Every night for the rest of that week she called, but gradually that became every other night, every few nights and then, once a week. Her husband would beg and plead for her to come home. He told her the children missed her, he missed her, he loved her, whatever he'd done wrong, he would try to fix it. At the end of each exchange he would always ask and attempt to find out where she was. But every time the conversation would begin to drift in that direction she would hang up.
Finally, in desperation, he withdrew all their savings from the bank and hired a detective to help him find his wife. It was some weeks before the detective contacted him again. His wife was living in a run-down hotel two states away. The young husband borrowed what money he could from his in-laws and family, bought a plane ticket and flew out to see her. Once he arrived, a cab took him to the hotel and he walked up to the third floor where his wife's room was. He stood outside her door for a moment, very still and quiet. Then, with doubt in his eyes, fear in his heart and sweat on his face, he lifted a trembling hand and knocked. When she opened the door his prepared speech slipped from his mind and he simply said, "I love you. So much. Won't you please come home?" She began to weep, falling into his arms. They went home that night, together, and the marriage slowly began to heal.
It was about a month later, with their children tucked in bed, that the young couple sat before the fireplace. They talked about their problems and issues, how to fix them, how to do this and how to do that, steps to take to keep making things right. At last the husband struck up enough courage to ask the question that had been haunting him those past weeks. "Why wouldn't you come home when I asked you to?" he said. "All those nights on the phone, when I told you how much I loved you, how much the kids missed you - why didn't you come? Why wouldn't you come home?" His wife's answer was profoundly simple. "Because," she said. "Before, those were just words. But then, you came."