By ALIX STRAUSS
It started as many relationships do: Someone thought they were in one.
In this case it was Ayanna Ross, who was 11 when she met Shawn Martinbrough, also 11, in the 1980s at Summer Pines Day Camp in New Rochelle, N.Y.
“It was very clear Ayanna liked me,” said Mr. Martinbrough, 45, a native of the Bronx and an illustrator for DC Comics, Image Comics and Marvel Entertainment. “But I didn’t get the memo we were dating. She was very pushy. We would hang out, but there was never a commitment.”
This was news to Ms. Ross, who insisted the two were a thing.
“I was drawn to him instantly; I remember loving the way his skin smelled,” said Ms. Ross, 44, who grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and is a lawyer in Washington, where the couple live. “I knew he liked me because he followed me everywhere. When we did out-of-camp excursions, he always wanted to be on my team. I don’t see where he could have thought he wasn’t my boyfriend.”
Ms. Ross wasn’t alone in her thinking. Mr. Martinbrough had similar feelings, said his childhood friend Noel Estrada.
“Shawn was interested, whether he wants to admit it or not,” Mr. Estrada, 44, said. “He told me he thought she was pretty. As kids, we’d have sleepovers and prank-call Ayanna. We didn’t have texting or Snapchat, and back then that’s how silly boys showed their interest and tried to get a girl’s attention.”
A shorter, and more traumatic, exchange played out when the two, unbeknown to each other, ended up attending Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in Manhattan; she for dance, he for art.
“During my first month, I saw him with a group of friends standing on the sidewalk,” Ms. Ross said. “He was taller, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s my boyfriend.’ It was like no time had passed. We hadn’t kept in touch, but I still thought we were dating, so I went up to him, said hi and asked if I could wear his jacket. He said, ‘O.K.’ I’d seen ‘Grease,’ so I thought: ‘Cool. I’m his girlfriend.’”
With jacket in tow, she rejoined her pals. Shortly after, Mr. Martinbrough sent one of his buddies to retrieve it.
The relationship ended there. Ms. Ross threw the jacket at his friend. A week later, she was dating a senior.
“I felt really dejected,” she said. “He should have come over and gotten it himself. The jacket incident shaped my interactions with potential dates to come. I developed a very thick skin, and after that I never called any boy. If someone was interested, they would have to be the initiator.”
Mr. Martinbrough’s reaction was less dramatic.
“I couldn’t be bothered,” he said. “I was a late bloomer. I was into Japanese animation and comic books.”
Over the years, however, he found himself wondering if she was the one who got away. “What if I had taken her up on her offer?” he said. “I looked for her on the web, but I wasn’t sure how she spelled her name, so I could never find her.”
They went to different colleges, and Mr. Martinbrough met his first wife at his. The couple divorced in 2001, after eight years of marriage. By then, he was living in Washington and drawing for DC Comics. Ms. Ross had also moved on. She was living on the Upper East Side, working as an assistant district attorney and dating someone she had met in law school.
Chance brought them together in 2008, when Mr. Martinbrough spotted Ms. Ross at a book party at the restaurant Barna, now closed, on Park Avenue South.
He had returned to New York to visit his family and was supposed to attend the event with his sister, who unexpectedly had to work late and couldn’t go. Mr. Martinbrough had been working relentlessly on an illustration project. This was his first social outing in months, so he decided to go alone.
“I was getting my coat from coat check, and I see this cute woman,” he said. “I thought it was Ayanna but wasn’t sure. When I turned around, she was standing in front of me. It was her, but she didn’t recognize me. I tried to explain how I knew her, and she didn’t believe me until I mentioned the jacket and camp.”
It was true. She had no idea who he was.
“I saw this tall, muscular guy by coat check,” she said. “‘Sex on a Platter’ started playing in my head as I saw myself and my life and everything, like a movie. When I got close enough to him, he said, ‘I think I know you.’ He pronounced my name correctly [a-wanna], which no one does.” She then believed he really must have known her.
Numbers were exchanged. That night, Mr. Martinbrough couldn’t stop thinking about her.
While visiting his father the next day, his cellphone rang. Ms. Ross, who had finally remembered him and broken her “I’m not calling you, you have to call me” rule, was on the line.
“I’d never done that before,” she said. “It’s ironic that I called the one guy who made me not want to be the aggressor because of what he did years ago.”
This time, Mr. Martinbrough wasn’t turned off but rather fond of her forwardness, which he now found refreshing.
“She beat me to the punch,” he said. “It’s one of the things I love about her. I didn’t view her as pushy anymore because we were grown up. I thought she was charming.”
They met for dinner. The next day it was lunch. Then again that same evening. Ms. Ross had to leave the next morning for Las Vegas. Mr. Martinbrough watched her pack. They talked all night. Neither went to sleep. Then he drove her to the airport. He extended his stay in New York by a week and was waiting at the arrivals hall for her when she returned.
The roles had finally switched.
“I knew I wanted to marry her in the first month,” Mr. Martinbrough said, “but having been married before, I swore I’d wait at least three years into a relationship before doing it again.”
And although things between them moved fast, Ms. Ross didn’t mind. She liked the man he had become.
Over the next six years, they became inseparable and took turns visiting each other over the weekends. Finally, sick of the commute, Ms. Ross moved in with Mr. Martinbrough.
On one of the unluckiest days of the year, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, he proposed. Ms. Ross immediately said yes.
Not everyone was alerted to the early love story.
“I had no idea she had a crush on him; we were just kids,” said Douglas Coleman, 44, who was also a camper at Summer Pines that year. “When they started dating and Shawn reintroduced me to her, he said, ‘Do you realize who this is?’ I couldn’t believe it. To know they found each other, and that they’re getting married, is fate. You have to give that some credibility.”
Mr. Estrada added: “Ayanna’s very good for Shawn. She’s smart, and she challenges him. He really feels like his life has come together.”
Before their wedding, several snafus happened: They received a text message that the three-piece student band they had hired, to pay tribute to their high school, was not coming; the Vera Wang suit Mr. Martinbrough had rented didn’t fit; and Ms. Ross forgot the music for their cocktail hour. Then there was the weather. It didn’t just rain, it poured. All day. Nonstop. The couple had rented the Sunset Terrace at the Chelsea Piers in Manhattan specifically for the sunset and the outdoor accessibility.
They fixed what they could. They hired a flutist. The groom wore a Calvin Klein suit from his closet. Ms. Ross’s niece became the musical backup, plugging her iPhone into the speaker system. And the rain, well, that was out of their hands.
“I really wanted to kiss Shawn at 7:02, when the sun was supposed to set,” said a very calm Ms. Ross, who was taking a quiet moment before heading downstairs to greet guests.
The groom was just as calm, and remained optimistic.
“Rain is good luck,” he said, looking at his bride. “The two of us are here together celebrating our love. That’s all that matters.”
Ms. Ross, touched by his words, agreed. “There will be a silver lining,” she said. “Instead of a sunset, something cool will happen during the ceremony.”
The couple was married at 7:08 — six minutes later than scheduled — on Friday, March 31. The Rev. Sheldon Williams of the Co-Op City Baptist Church officiated in front of 75 guests.
“He was my grandmother’s pastor,” Mr. Martinbrough said. “She passed away last year, so having him do our service is like having her with us.”
And though the new Mrs. Ross-Martinbrough didn’t get her sunset, she did get her silver lining: She married the love of her life.
“It’s O.K. that we didn’t have the sunset,” she said. “Shawn is my sunlight. He lights up my heart.”
Mr. Williams pronounced them husband and wife, and as they began to kiss, a large boat made a surprise appearance, seemingly from nowhere. She found her inspiration. “It’s a sign that we’re supposed to go on and sail off,” she said, “and that we’ll be doing big things together.”