“Summer loving had me a blast
Summer loving happened so fast
I met a girl crazy for me
Met a boy cute as can be …”
When you hear the story of Michael and Nicole Ellis, you can almost hear those words from “Grease,” sung by teenagers Sandy and Danny. Unlike the young, budding romance in that movie, though, Nicole and Michael’s young love, with the beach as a backdrop, was real.
It was 2010, and Nicole Pintado was the new girl at Currituck High School in the small coastal town on North Carolina’s Outer Banks; she was a junior and Michael a senior. The school was small, so folks noticed the new girl from Seattle, Washington — especially Michael. For one thing, the two had a something in common: Their fathers were both in the Navy and their families had moved across the country.
The friendship took a slow course, the two hanging out together with no strings attached. It was summer and life at the beach was laid back. Their days were spent at Nags Head, eating ice cream at Scoops just across Croatan Highway from Jockey’s Ridge State Park. During the last summer before Nicole went away to college at UNCG, Michael finally asked her on a real date.
Then, in August of 2010, the day came for Nicole to move to Greensboro. She made a bold decision, and was the first to use the “L” word.
“I told Michael I loved him and didn’t want it to end,” she says today, with a smile. “I wanted to try long-distance.”
Michael felt the same way, and the two agreed to take the relationship a day at a time. They took turns visiting each other once a month, alternating between Currituck and Greensboro. While Nicole was studying business, Michael was at Elizabeth City State College working as a lifeguard. They soon tired of being so far apart, and by second semester of college, Michael transferred to UNCG to be closer to Nicole. In 2012, Nicole moved off campus — and into Michael’s apartment.
Then came graduation time. After Nicole graduated from UNCG in 2014 with a bachelor’s in consumer, apparel and retail studies, her best friend got married. It was a conversation-starter for Nicole, who thought after five years of dating it was time she and Michael get hitched. But after talking, the two decided not to rush it.
“We wanted to make sure our lives were cohesively woven together before committing to marriage,” Nicole says.
The couple was vacationing in Ireland with Michael’s family during New Year’s 2017. On January 2, he woke Nicole at 3 a.m.; he wanted to drive to the Cliffs of Moher to see the sunrise. The pretense was that it was to celebrate Michael’s brother’s birthday. After arriving at 7 a.m., the couple walked around the area waiting, ostensibly, for the park to open. The family stayed behind while Michael and Nicole strolled to a small cliff for the view.