Kelly Thought She and Luke Were Just Friends. Then a Hurricane Hit, and It Changed Everything.

Kelly Thought She and Luke Were Just Friends. Then a Hurricane Hit, and It Changed Everything.

By Ashley Edwards Walker

In September 2018, Hurricane Florence was headed toward the Carolinas, and residents were being encouraged to evacuate. But Kelly, who’d only moved to Charleston, South Carolina, from New York a month earlier, didn’t know many people in her new city. Her roommate invited her to join her at her cousin’s house in Florida—only Kelly’s golden retriever, Kane, wasn’t allowed to come. There was just one person Kelly, a behavioral therapist, had met in Charleston who she knew would be planning a dog-friendly escape: her recent Bumble match, Luke. The problem? After their first-and-only date a month earlier, Kelly “didn’t feel a spark.” But they remained on good terms, following each other on social media and hanging out with mutual friends at cookouts and kickball games. 

Kelly had downloaded Bumble two months earlier as an easy way to meet people in her new city. Luke caught her eye because he’d included a photo of his own golden retriever, Mulligan, as well as pictures with his mom and brother. “He seemed like someone who enjoyed being around family, which I like,” Kelly says. For Luke, who’d been single for more than a year, Bumble offered a chance to find a relationship. “I enjoy Bumble because you know a girl is interested when they message you first,” he says. “It takes a lot of the pressure off.” As a member of the U.S. Air Force, he liked Kelly’s inclusion of an American flag on her profile—and, of course, her photos with Kane.

Kelly and Luke almost missed their window on Bumble; once the app notifies users of a match, women have 24 hours to initiate a conversation. Luke opted to use the Bumble Extend feature, which grants matches an additional 24 hours to get in touch. “That’s how I knew he was really interested,” says Kelly. “I don’t think anyone had ever used it on me before. And when I thought about what I wanted in a relationship, it was someone who’s going to fight for me and put me first.” Once the extension went into effect, Kelly waited all of 10 minutes to message Luke and say hello. 

When they met up for their date in mid-August, Kelly and Luke kicked off the evening by introducing their dogs. Then, Luke took Kelly to dinner while his roommates looked after their pets. From Luke’s perspective, the evening went well; the conversation flowed, and, as a self-described “Southern gentleman,” he made sure to pick up the check and open doors for Kelly. But after their date, Kelly told her mom she saw Luke becoming “a really good friend.” They hung out a couple times after that in group settings, but they never went on a second date. 

Then, in September, with the hurricane barreling toward them, Kelly finally called Luke. They’d remained on good terms, and he invited her to join him and his roommate in the dog-friendly rental they’d found in Orlando, Florida. “That’s when everything started changing,” recalls Luke. Luke’s roommate had to work remotely while they were sheltering in Florida. But Luke and Kelly were off the hook, leaving them plenty of time alone over those five days to explore the local theme parks and get to know each other better. “The more interested he was in me, the more flattered I was,” says Kelly. Still, she had “trust issues” from her previous relationship, and she worried if she and Luke tried dating and it didn’t work out, she’d lose him as a friend. So, a few days after they returned to Charleston, when Luke told Kelly he wanted to date her, she asked him for more time. “My gut was telling me that there is something so special about him,” says Kelly. “I just couldn’t let him go.” 

Two weeks later, Luke, Kelly, and some friends traveled to Luke’s hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, to attend a Halloween event and stayed with Luke’s parents. “I feel like you can tell a lot about a person based on their upbringing,” says Kelly. “And his parents were just the sweetest people.” Seeing Luke with his family, Kelly had an epiphany: she’d run out of reasons not to date Luke. “I was like, ‘OK, I need to stop trying to find something wrong,’” says Kelly. “‘He obviously cares a lot about me. I just need to let my guard down a little bit and give it a try.’” When they returned home to Charleston, Kelly told Luke she was ready to give their relationship a chance. 

A few months into officially dating, Luke traveled to spend New Year’s Eve with Kelly’s friends and family on Long Island, New York. “That’s what sealed the deal for me,” says Kelly. Luke had met her parents on one of their previous visits to Charleston, but she says she was still surprised by how well everyone hit it off—especially Luke and her older brother. “My brother is kind of shy and quiet,” she says. “So when I saw him opening up to him—it was like Luke unlocked something in him that I’d never seen before. Now they’re best friends.” 

Seeing how easily Luke fit into her life, Kelly felt her doubts starting to fade and their relationship grew stronger from there. That June, their respective roommates announced they were each moving on to different apartments or cities, so Luke and Kelly decided to move in together with their golden retrievers. They took the dogs hiking, spent time at local beaches together, and attended amateur baseball games. Finally, Kelly felt the walls she’d built up during her previous relationship start to come down. “That was all Luke,” she says. “He proved to me that he was trustworthy by always being communicative, and he just continued to show up, every day.”

Photo credit: Malena Kee

By October 2020, almost two years after they first matched on Bumble, Luke proposed to Kelly in front of their friends and families on Folly Beach, South Carolina. Looking back, Kelly acknowledges their journey to the altar was “tough.” They met when she wasn’t ready for a serious relationship, and she had to learn to let her guard down and open her heart. But it led to finding the man she’d been looking for her entire life. Thankfully, Luke was willing to wait: “I’m just glad she took a shot with me.” 

Main photo credit: Baylie Robinson