“I was like, ‘Whoa, I want to be friends with this girl,’ ” recalls Cloyd, a 31-year-old outreach coordinator at the U.S. Global Change Research Program. At the end of the session, she followed Braverman into the elevator, gave her a card and suggested she touch base once she was settled in the city.
But an e-mail never came. Every once in a while, Cloyd would wonder out loud to her mother about the interesting girl she met trying out for the game show.
The interaction barely registered with Braverman, now 28. She was studying to take the bar exam, packing up her place in Ann Arbor and figuring out the logistics of her move. Somewhere along the way, Cloyd’s card was lost.
That December, Cloyd got a call saying she’d been picked to compete on the show in January.
She was nervous, but then she spotted Braverman. “I’m like, ‘It’s the girl from the audition!’ I was just excited,” she says.
Cloyd and Braverman watched other players compete in the first three matches and sat together during a lunch break. Then their names were called to compete in the same episode. Braverman took the lead early and ran away with the win.
This time, when Cloyd offered her card, Braverman kept it. They stayed in touch via e-mail and planned a joint viewing party to benefit Bread for the City when their episode aired in March.
Later, Cloyd posted something on Facebook about going berry picking. Braverman mentioned she’d love to tag along. When the excursion finally came together in May, only Braverman and one other friend were available.
Throughout the day, Braverman remembers thinking, “I’m really enjoying hanging out with this girl.” A few weeks later, they met up for Jazz in the Sculpture Garden and then a Nationals game and then an ice cream party. They learned that they’d both been library volunteers as kids, Quiz Bowl participants in high school and shared an ongoing, fervent love of the Oxford English Dictionary.
With each interaction, Braverman could feel herself growing more interested. “The things that she loves, she makes no apologies for and loves them so much,” Braverman says. “Whether it’s Michigan or cooking or just anything. And I wanted to be on that list.”
But she wasn’t sure whether Cloyd dated women. Cloyd had in the past, but she hadn’t told many friends or family members about it.
After Cloyd mentioned she loved sunflowers, Braverman showed up at her birthday with a bunch of them. Cloyd detected the crush and realized the interest was mutual, but both women were nervous about making a move. On one occasion, Cloyd walked Braverman home to her apartment in Southwest Washington and sat close to her on the couch.