The moment I knew: he showed up in a flowing white shirt with a bottle of wine

The first time I saw Piers I was 17 years old. My childhood friend Lucy had just picked me up from Brisbane airport and we’d rushed to a dance class she was late for. He caught my eye instantly, and in the first blush of new adventure I found myself with a crush.

I was born and raised in Alice Springs, but I couldn’t wait to get out of the place. As soon as I graduated high school in 2007 I took off, booking a one way ticket to start a new life in Brisbane.

Lucy had moved there with her family, and was playing host to me. She’d just got her driver’s licence so after the class we gave Piers a lift home. He was very cool, calm and collected during the ride and certainly didn’t pay me any special attention. My curiosity simmered.

I spent the next few years living in Brisbane. Piers and I ran with a similar crowd and developed a nice, easy friendship. While we were both involved in various other relationships during that time, I never stopped mentioning Piers in my journal entries.

In our early 20s the stars aligned and we were single at the same time. One night I was out partying in the West End with Lucy and had made a dancefloor romance. As I hopped into a taxi to head back to his place, Piers called out of the blue. He was around the corner at another bar and keen to catch up. That changed things immediately. I made my apologies and got out of the cab.

When I met him at the bar, his friend made a joke about us finally getting together, but we were still playing it coy, like we were just meeting as friends. As soon as we were out of the bar and around the corner, though, we linked arms and instantly shared this moment of knowing. It was our time.

Unfortunately, the timing was bad. Lucy and I were headed off for a three-month trip to Central America. In our immaturity Piers and I didn’t handle that well. But when I landed back in Brisbane, he was one of the first people I wanted to see.

My Nokia took a full day to reboot after being turned off for three months, but as soon as it was back in action I invited Piers to visit.

He wasted no time in showing up to my door in this flowing white shirt with a bottle of red wine. Despite the overkill with the wardrobe (which earned him the nickname Romeo), that evening Piers’s cool veneer evaporated.

There was a lot of vulnerability and closeness shared that night. In those moments it became apparent this might be serious – that we could be each other’s person.

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Tess and Piers at Mount Sonder, Northern Territory in 2022. They are seated on a rock lit up by the golden light of a setting sun shining from the left of the photo, while behind them can be seen an expansive green valley with a line of mountainous terrain near the horizon.
‘Even though he plays it cool, he’s an incredibly soft and caring person with a really beautiful outlook on life’: Tess and Piers at Mount Sonder, Northern Territory in 2022. Photograph: Tess Millerick

We’ve been together for 11 years now. In 2016 we returned to my desert home for what was supposed to be six months. We’re still here, with two dogs, surrounded by a wonderful community of friends. The last few years have been a challenge as we’ve faced ongoing fertility issues. But we’re both committed to seeing that through and look forward to setting off on the adventure of parenthood together.

A few years into our relationship, one of his friends revealed that the night I’d instantly started crushing on him, he had also been full of questions about me.

Piers is reserved and likes to play his cards close to his chest, so it’s not surprising he never mentioned his early interest in me. Even though he plays it cool, he’s an incredibly soft and caring person. We often say I’m the accelerator and he’s the brakes. But it works. We need both those aspects to be who we are as a couple.