Even if it takes awhile, love finds a way

This is a love story. It's about two people who met, became friends, bonded over a common interest and fell for each other. The rest is history.

But, it's not so much the history of Sara Beldy's relationship with Kevin Rutter that makes it atypical. It's the future.

Rutter, 21, proposed marriage to Beldy, 18, before they officially became a couple. They plan to wed when Beldy turns 40 years old. Why the 22-year engagement? Sara's mother, Cindy Beldy, offers an explanation.

"People with Down syndrome can do anything. It just takes them a little longer," she says.

That's what she has been telling her daughter all her life. Now that she's an adult and in a relationship with someone who also has Down syndrome, she says it a little more often.

Right now, Sara and Kevin aren't thinking about their wedding day. They're too busy thinking about Joy Prom.

It's their second time attending the big dance, which hosts an evening complete with a red carpet, dinner and dancing for teens and adults with cognitive and physical impairments.

On a recent Wednesday evening, Sara and Kevin practiced the cupid shuffle, electric slide and hoedown dances at the Down Syndrome Organization of Southern Nevada. They hope to have them perfected before hitting the Joy Prom dance floor at the M Resort on May 12.

They've been a couple for about three years now. Two and a half, if you deduct the short break they took last August. It's an uncomfortable subject, demonstrated by Sara's shifting eyes and surprising confession when it's brought up.

"I cheated," she blurts out. Her words contradict the sweet face of the woman who wears a ruffled top and flower barrette in her hair.

Cindy corrects her daughter, explaining the difference between cheating and breaking up with someone. The clarification doesn't unravel the awkwardness in the room, but what Sara says next does.

"I decided to be with Kevin because he's more like a man. He's brave and strong."

To that, Kevin flexes his muscles with a wide grin stretched across his face. Sara finds it hysterical. As quickly as the unsettling subject entered the room, it has just as swiftly exited.

Sara has strong communication skills. She gets confused from time to time, but can carry on a conversation with ease. She volunteers at a day care three days a week. Kevin attends Northwest Career and Technical Academy and carries an iPad with him wherever he goes. Through special software, he types words into the Apple device, and a voice reads them aloud. That's how he communicates most of the time.

Sara doesn't need her boyfriend to use the iPad. She understands him just fine without it.

Both their mothers recently decided the couple needs more quality time. "They really seem to miss each other when they're not together," says Trudy Rutter, Kevin's mom.

They've arranged more house visits and more dates. Their mothers always make sure the two are, not supervised, a word Trudy tries not to use, but in someone's "line of vision" at all times. The two have a disability, but it doesn't detract from their curiosity, as evidenced by Sara's Google searches and Kevin's enthusiasm after a recent sex-ed lesson at his school.

Bottom line, she's 18 and he's 21.

Their next date will be with another couple to see "The Three Stooges" for the second time. The mere mention of it has Sara pressing imaginary defibrillator paddles against Kevin's chest. On cue, his upper body vibrates. They burst into laughter.

Kevin touches a button on his iPad: "I love you, Sara."

"Love you, too," she replies.

The iPad isn't finished. A familiar tune starts in, and the words "I've got sunshine on a cloudy day" follow. Sara puts her arm around Kevin, and he does the same to her. For a full 2 minutes and 38 seconds they sway back and forth, singing along to the classic Motown hit "My Girl" in its entirety. It's their song.

Theirs might be the only love connection to ever start at the Santa Fe Station buffet. They had already been friends, but matching buffet plates took it to the next level.

"He ordered meatballs," Sara recalls. "I got meatballs and spaghetti."

Sara, a meatball enthusiast, couldn't contain her feelings any longer at the sight of this. She tapped Kevin's mom on the shoulder and declared, "I love him." A few seconds later, another tap. "I'm gonna marry him."

Kevin got to typing. His iPad had a proposal for Sara: "Will you marry me?"

His future wife calls 40 years old "the perfect age to get married." With a little prompting from her mom, she says by then she might have a savings account and maybe even her own apartment.

Of course she will. Because people with Down syndrome can do anything. It just takes them a little longer.

Contact columnist Xazmin Garza at xgarza@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.