Ashleigh Hughes was working on her bucket list.
She had just gotten out of a strict relationship, an engagement, actually, that she said made her feel stifled and harnessed. She was done. She was ready to go skydiving. And she was ready to buy a motorcycle, to zip around town on two wheels by herself.
She strolled around a motorcycle lot looking at the bikes, figuring out what she liked. She didn't realize that inside the shop, an employee named Christopher Horton had noticed her from behind the glass. He hadn't seen too many people who looked like Ashleigh shopping for bikes. He was intrigued but didn't go outside.
Ashleigh left and went to a different shop. She bought a blue Kawasaki sport bike called a Ninja, petite like her. She loved it, but some of her friends teased her about its size, said she should go bigger. She went back to Christopher's shop to look again. He saw her. He still didn't say anything.
Ashleigh decided to keep the motorcycle she had and left. Christopher asked his co-workers about the pretty blond who kept coming to look at motorcycles. They said she was sweet and told him her name.
He Googled Ashleigh. He emailed her a long note, saying all the things he couldn't verbalize at the shop. He told her he had a new puppy named Zeus, that he worked at the motorcycle shop and had seen her twice. She was a little wary of him, not looking for a relationship, let alone with someone she hadn't even met. But she agreed to meet him at the dog park.
At the last minute, she canceled. She felt bad right away and rescheduled a meeting at Quaker Steak & Lube for a motorcycle show. Neither of them rode their motorcycles. He wanted to bring his puppy. She didn't want to ruin her hair.
When they met, she thought he was really cute and he was smitten with her all over again. They walked around through the roaring engines of the motorcycles and didn't talk much, still.
A few days later, Christopher and Ashleigh had dinner at Island Way Grill, sharing some wine and finally connecting. They talked about his career in motorsports and hers in nursing. Ashleigh learned Christopher hadn't had a girlfriend in six years, and Christopher learned Ashleigh was a picky eater. He got her to try crab legs. At the end of the night he dropped her at her place. She thought it was a little weird that he didn't walk her up. A few minutes later, a text came through.
I should have walked you to the door.
They were together every day afterward. They rode their motorcycles together down highways and country roads. Ashleigh realized she actually preferred riding on the back of Christopher's bike, wrapping her arms around his waist until she felt so safe she could have gone to sleep. She went skydiving, and though he was afraid for her, he didn't protest.
They took cruises to Honduras, Belize, St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands, Mexico. On one cruise, Christopher first hid a video camera in Ashleigh's shoes on the counter of their room, then he gave her a Chanel watch and then a ring. He asked her to marry him. Ashleigh felt a release.
Ashleigh, 25, and Christopher, 30, got married Sept. 1 at the Event Factory in Tampa, a wedding venue designed to look like a fairy tale castle with a secret garden. They took a cruise for their honeymoon and came back and settled into their life together in Largo.
Christopher is now co-owner of his own motorcycle shop, Buy Here Pay Here Motorsports. Ashleigh visits sometimes, walking through the lot to meet her husband.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8857.