Against lost odds

Against lost odds

If one were a cynic, one could say that the romance between Leslie Brady and Nate Kenser didn’t have the most auspicious of beginnings. But like all great love affairs, theirs evolved dramatically over time.

Exhibit A of their bumpy start: The couple met in 2003 while on-shift at Chili’s, the chain Mexican restaurant perhaps known for spawning more hookups than lasting bonds among its predominately young, single staff.

Nate Kenser and Leslie Brady
July 4, 2009
Photo by Sarah Cramer

Nate, who was 21 at the time, wasn’t looking for love. He was looking for a roommate. Leslie, 18, desperately needed a place to live. 

Enter exhibit B. No sooner had 5’2” Leslie unpacked her toaster did she begin to develop feelings for her 6’2” roommate. “He was always making jokes and making me laugh,” she says. “I liked him a lot, so I made it very obvious how I felt.”

Nate—ever the gentleman—spurned her advances, though he was secretly captivated by her smile. “I knew I didn’t want to have a relationship with a roommate because if it goes bad it affects your whole life,” he says.

One evening, as Leslie was goofing off in front of Nate, she tripped over his gym-bag, and fell face first to the floor. She didn’t move. “At first I thought she was being dramatic,” says Nate. When he reached down to help her up, he felt oozing liquid on his hand. He rolled her over, and saw that Leslie had busted her nose open, having cracked her face against a bookcase on the way down. She was out cold.

Nate helped to revive her, then carried her into the bathroom to clean her face. When she caught sight of her reflection, she started crying hysterically. “I thought I’d been mutilated,” she says. “This wasn’t how I envisioned our relationship unfolding.”

Nate carried her into the car and drove her to the emergency room, where “he held my hand the entire time,” says Leslie.

For the next two months, Leslie had to face her crush with two unflattering stitches down the middle of her nose. Her usually playful demeanor became a tad more sheepish. For some hot-and-heavy roommates, a similar situation would have translated into “Exhibit C.”

But for Leslie and Nate, that’s precisely when goofy infatuation blossomed to genuine feeling. Soon enough, the roommates became a couple. All was right with the world. (They didn’t even have to look for a place to live.)

Then, less than a year after they started dating, Nate got deployed to Afghanistan, forcing the couple apart for a year and a half.

“It was so hard,” says Leslie of their time apart. “But it allowed us got to know each other in a different, deeper way, through phone calls and letters.”

When Nate finally returned to Virginia on July 4, 2005, they’d decided to wed. Nate dropped out of the army and, after having been accepted into law school at UVA, which begins this fall, moved with Leslie to Charlottesville.

To commemorate Nate’s homecoming, the couple wed at UVA Chapel on July 4, a day that marks the transition from their iffy beginnings to rock-solid togetherness. And as Leslie points out, “Because it’s a national holiday, we’re always guaranteed a day off on our anniversary.”