Mark Brillantes and Candice Chilson loved being together. On weekends, he drove home from college to see her. In between visits, she cried.
The 18-year-olds insisted it went beyond puppy love. This was the real thing.
On Saturday, the two died together in a car accident near Mango, north of Brandon. Brillantes was driving Chilson and her friend home about 4 a.m. when he collided with a car driven by Alan Swan of Valrico, who is also 18.
Brillantes died at the scene. Chilson died shortly after at Brandon Regional Hospital. Swan and the passenger in Brillantes' car, Aziza Karteron, were not seriously hurt.
The accident happened at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Highview Road, less than a mile from Brillantes' home. Brillantes was turning left onto MLK from Highview when he was struck by Swan, who was traveling east on MLK, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Troopers did not know Saturday who had the green light.
Family and friends struggled Saturday to cope with the deaths.
"I still can't believe it," said Brillantes' mother, Susan, at their home on Camrose Drive. "He's like my best friend. We're very close."
Mrs. Brillantes said her son had drove home from the University of Florida in Gainesville on Friday evening to spend time with his girlfriend. They were celebrating six months as a couple.
Chilson was working at her job at TJ Maxx when Brillantes arrived about 6 p.m. He went shopping with his mother, then visited friends at CVS in Brandon, where he worked one weekend a month to earn money for college. He picked up Chilson about 10 p.m.
The couple went to a fall festival at a local church and later drove to Brillantes' house. Chilson and her friend fell asleep. Brillantes stayed up talking to his mom and playing video games.
Brillantes called it quits about 3:30 a.m. and left to take the girls home. They live with Chilson's mother on Sycamore Lane, about 3 miles away. She could not be reached for comment.
Not long after, the Brillanteses received a call that there had been an accident. Mrs. Brillantes figured it couldn't be serious. Her son's a good driver and doesn't drink, she said.
Authorities took blood samples from both drivers and are waiting for results to determine if alcohol was a factor, said Lt. Allan Carter of the Florida Highway Patrol. The tests are routine for most fatal accidents, he said, and there were no obvious signs of drinking. They all were wearing seat belts.
Mrs. Brillantes described the teens as good students who had a lot of friends. He graduated from Brandon High School in 2001; she graduated from Armwood High.
Brillantes received a scholarship to attend UF and planned to go into microbiology. He wanted to do medical research because his paternal grandmother, whom he adored, died of cancer in 1996.
"He was very mature," Mrs. Brillantes said. "He knew what he wanted."
Neighbors of Chilson and Karteron called them friendly and helpful. Bill Strawder, who lives across the street, said they used to give him rides. They had lived in the community of mobile homes for more than two years, he said.
Brillantes was the oldest of four children, all boys. As funeral arrangement were being planned Saturday, Mrs. Brillantes held tight a poem he had written her on Mother's Day this year.
"You have always loved me. I know this is true," part of it read. "Always remember that I love you, too."
_ Staff writer Tamara Lush contributed to this report. Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3463 or thurstonsptimes.com.