By Kris Kitto - 09/14/09 10:21 PM EDT
When a mutual friend introduced them, however, all she could muster was a snide remark.
She couldn’t run far. It was August, and the two were at a Riverside County, Calif., Republican committee meeting — Melissa on the campaign of Gary Jeandron, then a candidate for the State Legislature, Jon-Marc as Rep. Mary Bono Mack’s (R) campaign manager. The meeting was long and boring, Melissa recounts, but it gave them a chance to make eyes at each other from across the room.
At the meeting’s conclusion, Melissa, 24, ran away again before Jon-Marc, 27, could catch her. But in the next year, he won her over. This past August, the two got married in California’s Palm Springs area, where both are from.
Melissa, now a communications assistant for Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), went to her aunt’s house the night she met Jon-Marc and told her, “I met my boyfriend-husband.” But it took a few more false starts before the two carried on a face-to-face conversation.
Because of their jobs, Melissa and Jon-Marc ran into each other almost daily — at community events, joint meetings with their bosses, campaign activities. At another meeting, she asked a mutual friend for Jon-Marc’s phone number and sent him a text message.
He didn’t answer it.
Or so she thought. Feeling scorned, Melissa had planned to flee yet another meeting in order to avoid an embarrassing run-in with Jon-Marc. This time he intercepted her.
“He caught me at the door, and he was like, ‘Hey, you never responded to me,’ ” she says. Jon-Marc told her he had returned her text message four or five times, but her phone stopped working.
“I was like, ‘Oh — oh.’ I felt stupid,” she says.
Melissa wasn’t finished yet with giving him a hard time.
“Now you have my number … holler at me later,” he told her.
“You holler at me,” she replied, thinking that was “the dorkiest thing I ever heard.”
They both quickly looked past initial missteps. Jon-Marc asked Melissa out on a date and the two started spending nearly every non-campaign hour together — so much so that Melissa’s colleagues knew early on what she was doing on her personal time.
“I’d be like, ‘All right, guys, see you tomorrow,’ and they’d be like, ‘Where are you going? To work on the Bono Mack campaign?’ ” she says.
Melissa estimates they went on about a dozen dates before they became a couple, but Jon-Marc says it felt more like “25,000,” all of which he says he paid for. (“I paid for one,” Melissa reminds him.)
“She made me work hard,” he says. He describes his initial reaction to their first meeting — when she said his two first names were “fancy” — as, “Oh, wow, that didn’t go well.”
But Jon-Marc says he immediately found Melissa beautiful and liked her sassiness. And Melissa says Jon-Marc has “always been very good to me.”
Their fledgling relationship reached a crossroads in November, when Bono Mack was reelected to Congress and Jeandron, Melissa’s candidate, lost. Jon-Marc got an offer to return to Washington as a legislative assistant. Melissa encouraged him to take it and said she’d follow him east.
“I was thrilled,” Jon-Marc says. “From there, I knew even more so … that she was ready to commit to me.”
The two moved in together, and while Jon-Marc was settling back into Bono Mack’s office at the beginning of the year, Melissa looked for a job and “was like a housewife,” cooking Puerto Rican food and other specialty dishes for her boyfriend.
“It was all just very romantic,” she says.
Melissa landed an internship at the House Republican Study Committee and then moved to McCotter’s office.
In June, Melissa’s mom, Bonnie Garcia, a former California State Assemblywoman, visited Washington. Garcia joked with Melissa and Jon-Marc that she was ready to be a grandmother. Melissa and Jon-Marc dismissed her as crazy.
Melissa broke her news to a thrilled Garcia, who reminded her daughter that her status as an elected official allowed her to perform wedding ceremonies.
Melissa and Jon-Marc laughed it off — until the next day, when Melissa asked him, “Wanna get hitched?”
Jon-Marc was planning on proposing in December, thinking Melissa would want a big, traditional wedding. Did she not want that? he asked her.
“Not really,” Melissa recalls saying, “I want to marry you, and that’s it.”
They had two weeks to plan the wedding. They decided to have it at Jon-Marc’s parents’ house near Palm Springs. Melissa bought a $30 dress from Amazon.com. It arrived the day they left for California, and she didn’t try it on. They told very few friends, inviting only about 50 family members and close friends. Melissa’s favorite Mexican restaurant catered the party, and her family got the cake, flowers and decorations.
Melissa told most of her friends about her wedding through a Facebook update: “Melissa Garcia is getting hitched!” Jon-Marc called a few of his friends before the wedding but also let others know through Facebook.
The two already had planned a trip to France and Germany for earlier this month — Jon-Marc was the best man in a friend’s wedding in Berlin — so they decided to make it their honeymoon.
Jon-Marc regrets only that he wasn’t able to propose to Melissa properly; he was planning on getting down on a knee in Europe.
“Now that we did it this way … it was beautiful how it happened,” he says. “And I wouldn’t have it any other way now. It’s really our story.”