Melissa Roster spent so much time with Glenn Hayes the past 21 years that his friends affectionately called her Mrs. Hayes. She took a little bit of time to get used to that title, but after yesterday, it's the one she officially goes by.
Roster and Hayes were married Saturday at Burnt Pines Plantation, ending a 21-year on-and-off courtship that saw a southern, country boy finally manage to woo his northern city girl.
"We were at a concert years ago, and he said, ‘Some day I'm going to marry you Ms. Roster.' I said, ‘No you're not," because I'm hard headed. I wasn't ready; I don't know how it would have been," Roster said Friday on the eve of the wedding. And now? "Now, we're done. We know everything we need to know."
The couple met more than two decades ago at a Garth Brooks and Tricia Yearwood concert, when a mutual friend invited them both to join him.
"Every time I got up to get something, Glenn would get up to get something. Every time our mutual friend wanted something, we would both go," Roster said. "We had more fun walking around together, going to get stuff and talking than the mutual friend had with either one of us."
A week later, Hayes called and said he would like to take her out. She said yes, but the two ended up talking for quite a while that night, the first of many such conversations.
"I learned about what he did, about his cows, and I said, ‘That sounds so cool.' I remember laying across my bed talking to you," Roster said to Hayes Saturday.
The two had their differences. Glenn lived in rural Newton County and worked at the family farm and furniture store. Melissa was born in Atlanta, was raised up north and had settled in Conyers, working as an optician.
But, they loved spending time with each other. The two went on many dates, took several breaks in between, but always ended up calling the other, checking back in and rekindling the feelings.
"I could never let anyone else have him, but I didn't want him at the time, because I didn't want anybody," Roster said. "But we were always touching base. ‘Where you been? How's it going?' Then we'd always pick back up."
"She would call for advice. ‘What do I need to do about this?' Sometimes we'd go a month or two without talking, then we'd talk again. It stayed that way through the years," Hayes said.
When Hayes' mother fell ill last August, both of their lives changed. When Hayes' trusted secretary Judy Dial called Roster, she immediately took a few days off work to support Hayes. Having been particularly close to his mother, Hayes' deeply appreciated Roster's presence.
"It was a different time for him, a whole different direction. I saw him at his lowest. I saw him in a different way. I was with him four days in a row," Roster said. "I knew he needed me, and I was proud to have been able to be there for him. It was a little awkward at first, because we hadn't been around each other that much in such a short period of time."
The two didn't look back, and although Roster knew they'd end up together one day, she had trouble letting those last remaining doubts go.
On a cruise in the Caribbean with his sisters Brenda and Sandra, Hayes finally decided he would buy Roster a wedding ring. Looking through the islands' numerous diamond markets, Hayes finally settled on an old-fashioned ring that he liked.
The question was finally popped at the Arizona Steakhouse, where the staff had been properly notified of the event.
"Glenn sees me and he gets out of chair and gets on his knee to propose to me. All these camera keep flashing, and I'm wondering, ‘Where are these all coming from?'" Roster said. "Of course I said yes. I was all giddy."
Looking back at their relationship, Roster knows the time spent with and away from Hayes led her to make the right decision.
"We would start dating and then something would prompt us to part ways, usually me," Roster said, with an embarrassed smile. Yes she dated other people in between, but no one stole her heart. She also needed a man, who could take care of her 14-year-old daughter Olivia, who will begin high school next year.
"Glenn was there with her. I remember him carrying her into Red Lobster on his shoulder. I knew Glenn was a good man. I'm not that trusting of people I meet randomly. I don't get to know people as easily as I once did. I don't think there's anybody else in my life that I would trust as much with myself and my daughter."
For Hayes, it was a lesson in patience and perseverance.
"We just click. We like to do thing together, we both have good personalities. We both work with the public," Hayes said. "I dated some other folks, and I never did click. I never had the interest. We always got back together sooner or later."
Roster would have never made it out to Covington, if it hadn't been for Hayes. But he and his town are tied together, and she loves that about him.
"I have a sense of community here. It's 100 percent reassurance when everybody you see knows him and cares that much about him. He's well liked and well respected by everybody I've met, and I'm becoming part of it. I'm broadening my circle of friends," Roster said.
She's also taking the time to enjoy the quiet and peaceful nature of the Newton countryside.
Hayes is used to the quiet life, but he enjoys watching Roster live it.
"There are pastures all around. I'm sitting there at night, and she'll be sitting there silently and I'll ask what she's thinking, and she said, ‘It's so quiet.' I said, ‘That's how it is out here. Tree frogs, birds singing; once in a while a cow will bellow, and she'll ask, ‘Which one is that?'"
Despite their long run, they're not entirely on the same page. Melissa plans to add guinea hens, goats, rabbits and chickens to the farms. Hayes seemed OK with that. She also wants two Pyrenees dogs to herd the cows, but Glenn thinks one is enough.
Recalling visions of "My Cousin Vinny" the couple also talked about the future of grits in their marriage.
"I was raised up north. I don't know how to make grits. I don't know what they taste like. But I'm going to try."
"She has a lot of converting to do. I have a lot to teach her," Hayes said. "We'll convert each other...but you have to eat grits."
The two believe they'll work because they're committed to making their marriage work.
"We're both independent, but we both like being around each other a lot more. It'll be different for us. It will be a challenge, but we're willing to make it work, and we want to make it work," Hayes said.
"The funny thing is that Tricia Yearwood and Garth Brooks are together now and we are too," Roster said.