- Met: July 24, 2003
- Engaged: July 24, 2004
- Wedding: December 17, 2004
"The first time I met Corey, I thought, ‘Wow, this guy’s different,’” Cheryl Abitria says on a September afternoon. “I was in Vegas with my brother and a group of friends. Corey was there with his friends. When I first saw him, he was wearing a tank top and shorts. He had long blond hair and, of course, the tattoos.” Miss Abitria, 28, gestures toward her fiancé’s arms, which are completely covered with tattoos.
Corey Allen, 33, looks not a bit sheepish about the flames and faces swirling across the surface of his skin. “I’m a firefighter/paramedic,” Mr. Allen explains. “I got my first tattoo at 17. I got the majority about two years ago. A friend of mine who’s a tattoo artist was putting himself through law school. I let him work on me.”
“There were about 20 people in the group,” Miss Abitria says, continuing the Las Vegas story. Sitting close beside Mr. Allen, she looks as petite and delicate as a doll. “Friends from high school and college. Some people had come from Florida and New York. Corey and I ended up being kind of left out.”
“I remember the first time I really noticed her,” Mr. Allen says, smiling at the memory. “She was fixing drinks. She looked up at me and asked if she could climb me like a tree.”
While the rest of their party gambled, Miss Abitria and Mr. Allen spent time together in the pool. “We got pretty touchy-feely,” Miss Abitria admits. “But then when we got back from Vegas, we didn’t talk for almost a month.”
“She was in denial,” Mr. Allen teases. “I knew, but she was playing hard to get.” “My brother liked Corey,” Miss Abitria explains. “We all went clubbing in downtown San Diego.
My brother said, ‘Why don’t you call Corey?’ I said, ‘Why?’ I was thinking, ‘Leave it in Vegas.’”
“She was a little standoffish when we got back,” Mr. Allen confirms.
“I was not,” Miss Abitria teases back. “I was with all my friends who hadn’t been in Vegas, and Corey’s whispering in my ear, ‘You are so beautiful tonight.’ It was hard.”
After about a month, Miss Abitria called Mr. Allen. He took her surfing at Grandview in North County. “I had never been surfing before,” Miss Abitria says. “He surfs all the time. He went this morning, he’s going this afternoon, then we’re going together after I get off work.” Miss Abitria works as a research and development chemist for Accutech in Vista.
After surfing, Mr. Allen helped Miss Abitria find her dog. “She’d gotten away,” Miss Abitria says. “He helped me drive around and look for her. When we found her, I took him to dinner at Macaroni Grill to thank him.”
“We started going surfing a lot,” Mr. Allen says. “And she started hanging out at the fire station.” Mr. Allen means his workplace, the federal fire station at 32nd Street.
Miss Abitria’s parents were less than thrilled. “My mom and dad are from the Philippines. They’re very traditional. They didn’t like the tattoos. My dad said, ‘This guy’s got a lot of baggage.’ ” Mr. Allen has two boys aged 15 and 13.
“My mom and I would have these arguments,” Miss Abitria remembers. “She would say, ‘If you guys get married, I’m not coming to the wedding.’ I would say, ‘Who says I’m even going to invite you?’ ” Mr. Allen won over the parents. “I did it with persistence,” he says. “I wasn’t afraid to talk to them. I just pretended they liked me.” On the first anniversary of their meeting, Mr. Allen took Miss Abitria to the beach at Grandview. “I wasn’t that excited,” Miss Abitria confesses. “He made me get up at the crack of dawn. We didn’t take any surfboards or swimsuits. We were walking on the beach. I just wanted to sleep in.”
“She couldn’t make up her mind where she wanted to sit,” Mr. Allen recalls. “I finally said, ‘Sit down.’”
After sitting Miss Abitria on his lap, Mr. Allen told her what a wonderful year he’d had with her. He talked about getting married.
“I said, ‘Duh,’” Miss Abitria says. “We had talked before about getting married.”
“I said, ‘No. I’m asking you to marry me.’ She started crying.
“I said, ‘Yes.’ I couldn’t stop crying.” Miss Abitria holds up her ring finger to show off the one-carat solitaire set in white gold. “It’s called a floating diamond,” Mr. Allen explains, pointing out how the bottom of the diamond floats above the band.
The couple plan to be married in front of 200 people this December at St. Mark’s Church in San Marcos. “I’m dreading the wedding,” Miss Abitria admits. “My mom’s planning the whole thing. It means so much to her. I’ve given her guidelines. Like, I want all white flowers. But I don’t care if they’re roses or carnations or what.”
The couple, who haven’t lived together before, plan to buy a house to move into after the wedding. “We wanted to do it right,” Mr. Allen explains. “We wanted to have something to look forward to.” “I want to wake up with him every morning,” Miss Abitria says with a smile.