Everybody—including him—knew before I said it. The feeling was so strong, so all-consuming, that it dripped from my every word and glance. Even now, a year after we first shared those three little words, I wonder how I could have kept them to myself for as long as I did. How, when I knew so many times before.

I knew when we stayed up all night talking in the dark. It was 4 a.m., and we’d been laughing for hours. My foot was cramping up, so from across the pitch black, he placed it between his hands and gently rolled it back and forth. When he asked if it was helping, I smiled, even though he couldn’t see it, and said yes. Before even taking another breath, he asked me a new question about my childhood. We both had morning plans, but it didn’t matter. We wanted to learn everything there was to know, and it couldn’t wait.

I knew when he got really sick and didn’t want to admit it. He put his head in my lap and pointed out all the things that made this movie’s Batmobile better than any other, despite hardly being able to talk. That night, we fell asleep with the covers banished to the bottom of the bed. It was October, but I wasn’t cold. I had the feverish touch of his skin to keep me warm.

I knew when he showed up at our friends’ house, hiding the sleep in his eyes behind a new-to-me pair of glasses and a strained smile. He was quiet and distant, and by the time we left for his place, I was fighting thoughts of driving home instead. The past couple months had been perfect, effortless, but I was sure this was it. Tonight was different. As he sped ahead in his days-old sports car, leaving me blocks behind to contend with the rain and unknown streets in a four-door that couldn’t keep up, I prepared myself for the closing remarks.

“It’s not you, it’s me.”

“I just don’t think it’s going to work out.”

The standard break-up fare.

At his apartment, I couldn’t look him in the face. His big, round eyes were a deeper shade of chocolate, full of a feeling I didn’t yet recognize. He looked cuter than ever, and I couldn’t stand it.

We sat like kindergartners, cross-legged and fidgety on the corner of his bed, and he started the speech. It was weird to see each other just once a week and on weekends, he said. It was hard to get schoolwork done, and to get good sleep or exercise with such an unbalanced schedule. “I think,” he started, my insides squeezing into a pit, “we should…see each other more often.”

“It’s strange being your boyfriend only certain nights a week. I want to be your boyfriend every night.” For the first time all evening, I looked up, and we never looked back.

I knew without a doubt when he held me close to his heart and said it, and I said it too.