I met my love when we were children covered in dirt and sand and didn't have a care in the world. We played with my Tonka trucks and laughed when our mothers grimaced at our filthy hands and faces. My love was the coolest kid I'd ever met and I made sure our moms exchanged phone numbers so we could play again. I was a pretty smart seven year old.

That cool kid became my best friend. We did everything together, from riding bikes to playing sports and video games. We had sleepovers and movie marathons. Didn't matter what we were doing, skateboarding or reading comics, as long as we were together we had a blast. We got ourselves into all kinds of trouble, but we always had each other's backs.

I never thought we were different from other kids until we started middle school. Our classmates were pairing off and dating. There was flirting and hand holding and kisses everywhere we looked. Some of the flirting was directed at us, but we always laughed it off. Neither of us was interested in anyone that way. At the time, it didn't occur to us that our lack of interest in other people had anything to do with the way we felt about each other.

My best friend became my love the summer before our sophomore year of high school. The two of us drove to a lake for a weekend fishing trip. We hiked and fished and things between us seemed...different. On the second night of our trip we decided on a midnight swim. I don't remember whose idea it was to go skinny dipping. All I remember was skin and touching and our shared first kiss. That kiss led to grinding and confessions of secret crushes and wants.

It wasn't always easy being a couple. We were harassed and bullied by the narrow minded bigots of our tiny Washington town. There were fist fights, busted lips, and angry tears. People didn't understand our love, but we couldn't have cared less. We had each other and the support of our families. We endured the hell that was high school and left for college in love and excited for our future.

Two years of dorm life, a brief breakup, and adjusting to our new lives passed and we moved into our own apartment. We lived in a blissful bubble of sex, arguments over housework, and couch cuddles watching tv. Life was great, until it wasn't. My love became the victim of a hate crime.

The evils of the world left him battered and beaten and barely alive. I sat in a hospital for weeks holding his hand and praying he'd wake up and give me his lopsided smile. When he woke, I kissed him and begged him to never leave me. I didn't see the cuts or broken bones, all I saw was the love shining in his blue eyes.

It's the twentieth anniversary of meeting my love in a playground sandbox. He's shirtless and handsome while we walk on a beach in Hawaii. It's the first time he's been comfortable enough to walk around in only trunks in public, and I couldn't be more proud of him. People are staring, some smile, while others glare and whisper. They see an ugly scar running down the left side of his face. I see sparkling eyes and dimples. They openly gawk at the scars on his chest, stomach, and back. Scars caused by stab wounds and hate, or from surgery to repair injuries brought on by that hate. I'd be pissed if it wasn't for the look on his face. The look of pride and strength and serenity. Five years of therapy, both physical and psychological, have brought us to this moment. We are happy. We are healthy. We are alive. He looks over at me with the same lopsided smile he gave me at seven years old. "Hey Edward? Let's build a sandcastle. I feel like getting dirty."