From six feet apart to side by side, one couple spends their first Valentine’s Day together

Marshall Hammer and Gina Cornejo are celebrating their first Valentine’s Day together this year after starting their relationship during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Gina Cornejo)

By Isaac Klein

It’s nice to love yourself. However, when you’re attractive, interesting, intelligent, and compelling, people are bound to fall in love with you. For people who are that fortunate, they are trying to adapt to the challenges of establishing and celebrating their relationships during a global pandemic.

Carolina Connection’s Isaac Klein reports on how one couple met, fell in love six feet apart, and are now spending their first Valentine’s Day together.


ISAAC KLEIN: It’s Friday night in Asheville, and Gina Cornejo and Marshall Hammer are snuggled on the couch watching TV.


KLEIN: Marshall is a Reiki practitioner who works with animals. She was not expecting to have a new girlfriend this winter.

MARSHALL: I’ve been pretty single mostly for years. 

KLEIN: Gina is a writer and performer. After her 2018 divorce, she was in no hurry to couple back up again.

GINA: I’ve been good. I’m solid by myself. I’ve been figuring my own stuff out. I’ve been sifting and sorting through everything I’ve needed to by myself, in my own head, in isolation in quarantine style. 

KLEIN: The two women are both in their mid thirties. They met in September at a friend’s backyard birthday party. For safety, the guest list was limited to ten. Everyone sat in chairs they’d brought from home, in a big circle around a fire pit.  Marshall and Gina started talking from across the circle.

MARSHALL: (LAUGHS) Well, I remember that at one point we were both kind of leaned forward, and the person in the middle was leaned back, maybe picking up on something. 

KLEIN: After the party, they connected on Instagram, and began messaging back and forth. Soon they were meeting up for outdoor coffees, and hikes, and drinks in Marshall’s backyard. As September turned into October, their attraction grew, and they made plans for their first hug, for after Marshall returned from a trip to Virginia.

GINA: She did get a COVID test and it came back negative because she texted me and she was like, “Hey, it’s negative.” And I’m like, “I’m in the car, I’m comin over!” (Laughing.) 

MARSHALL: And so, when she came over, (sighs) and we hugged for the first time, it was like 45 minutes. 

KLEIN: The new couple started spending time up close and indoors together. Gina remembers when she realized what she’d been missing over the past year.

GINA: She made me breakfast, and I cried, because I hadn’t been able to have that moment of sitting with someone, across from someone, having them make me food. 

KLEIN: Gina has made a big impact on Marshall’s life, too.

MARSHALL: I have said that Gina’s the lover that I’ve always needed but never had, and so to have met her during this pandemic is like…I feel very grateful.

KLEIN: Life is still tough for them both these days, but it’s a little easier now that they’re together. In Chapel Hill, I’m Isaac Klein.  

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