True love is what it's all about, right? After two disastrous marriages and two soul-sapping divorces, the legal assistant sipping white wine on her pool deck the other twilight remembered when she'd have said: Not so fast.
Plotting all that had gone wrong on a spreadsheet of her life, she concluded that romance was for dopes and suckers. Also, that her maiden name amounted to cosmic mockery.
Bridget Trulove meant it when she said she'd never again marry. "Each time," she says, "I'd had to rebuild myself." A daughter, Melinda, now 14, watched and suffered, too.
But Bridget's database hadn't accounted for Troy Marvin King III. This may be because King himself defies calculation.
He is, to say no more, a study in extremes. One moment a scary Thunderdome survivor, wildly pierced and ornately tattooed; the next a human beanbag chair for toddlers. King is 6 feet 8 inches of complications.
In another life, he drank himself out of the Air Force and a Chicago steel mill, shattered his skull racing his motorcycle through a traffic sign, then embarked on a series of risky adventures that King concedes were experiments in suicide by other means.
Then, not quite a dozen years ago, his attempts to "live hard and die young" having met no useful end, he abruptly quit his career as an "angry stoner-drunk." Sober since, King spent years occupied almost exclusively by cellular tower construction in the Far West and apologizing for past bad behavior.
Through it all, King's single constant was the way his heart tripped whenever he imagined Bridget Trulove, just as it had since his family moved into her neighborhood when they were freshmen at Rich South High School on the south side of Chicago.
"Every day I followed her home from the bus stop," he says, "because my house was past hers, you know?"
"I had a stalker," she says. "Don't take that away from me."
"Anyway, every day I'd try to think of some way to talk to her, to ask her out. But every time I tried, I just couldn't find the words."
Not that Troy was her type. He sought the spotlight. Bridget hoped to survive high school unnoticed.
Graduation sent them spinning in different directions, neither, as we have seen, finding much in the way of lasting joy. At least Troy, working in Denver, knew where his might lie.
In January 2010, he found Bridget, living in Clearwater, on Facebook. She accepted his friend request, and they began to chat, Troy finding, at his keyboard, the words he'd always lacked. He confessed it all — the crush, the crash, the abyss and crawling out — and he hoped she wouldn't recoil when he suggested they meet the next time he was nearby.
"OK," she said, "but don't get your hopes up."
He took an efficiency on St. Pete Beach for a weekend in June, but got lost on the way to her office, arriving more than an hour late. She was at the copier, her back to him. "She turned and she smiled," Troy says, "and I knew, right then, she was the one for me."
Well, after all, at 40, Bridget could be the younger sister of actor Gail O'Grady ("American Dreams," "NYPD Blue"), right down to the porcelain blue eyes.
If Bridget was a tougher sell, Troy was up to the task. Never mind that she turned dinner into a quick drink. She had a beer. He sipped water. Her mind raced. "He looked like the kind of guy my girlfriends would cross the street to avoid."
At the end of the evening, "I kissed him and dumped him." Troy spent the rest of the weekend alone on the beach, undeterred. He devoted himself to long-distance wooing. Two dozen red roses arrived the next week with a card Bridget keeps even now. It begins, "I was 21 years, 1 hour and 15 minutes late."
Making up for lost time, he glowed, melting her ice. He cherished her. She adored the sensation. They discovered common ground in books, food and, out of the blue, Broadway musicals. They went together to their 20-year high school reunion — the couple least likely — and laughed at the surprised faces.
A year later, on Valentine's Day 2011, he booked them on a sunset cruise out of St. Petersburg: Bridget, Troy, Melinda and a friend. As the sky turned orange, he took her hand and, classically, dropped to one knee.
The ring was a "stunt double," borrowed from Melinda, with whom he'd gained preclearance. When Troy popped the question, she glanced to her daughter, and found her beaming: "I already told him we'd marry him!"
The wedding was last June, but only recently, when he landed a job with Ericsson erecting cell towers on Florida's Gulf Coast, have they shared a permanent address, a five-bedroom house on 2 acres nestled in an oak hammock near Trinity.
This feels the way it's supposed to feel, Bridget says, solid, lasting, affectionate and timely. "If we'd gotten together earlier," she says, "we would not have survived."
Something to think about this Valentine's Eve, even as Troy plots new surprises for the couple's day of days. Sometimes separations are just detours on the way to true love's destination.