Home is Where Their Hearts (and Careers) Are

The first time Alison Brooke Zhuk encountered Jay Phillip Parker, in 2004, he was a disembodied voice on a speaker phone in a Miami conference room, ready to close a deal.

At the time, Ms. Zhuk and her husband were buying a house in Miami Beach; Mr. Parker, a real estate lawyer, was the attorney representing its sellers. A dozen years later, the housing market reunited them under very different circumstances.

Ms. Zhuk, now 45, is a senior director of luxury sales at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Miami. Mr. Parker, 49, is now chief executive of Douglas Elliman’s Florida region. When the Miami Beach house was changing hands in 2004, he was married too. But by the time they started pulling up to the same office building for work in 2016, she was three years single.

It was that very same house that brought Ms. Zhuk back to Douglas Elliman as an agent after her divorce. “It was no longer a pleasure to maintain,” she said. “That became the impetus for getting my license.” Its sale — her first — landed her back in Mr. Parker’s orbit on a regular basis.

Ms. Zhuk grew up in Great Neck, N.Y. Before her real estate career, she worked as an in-house public relations associate at Neiman Marcus in Bal Harbour, Fla. Later, she opened a still-active gift business called Petite Chic.

Mr. Parker traded legal work for his chief executive duties in 2013. When he and Ms. Zhuk first started bumping into each other around the office in 2016, he was still married. But he had the makings of a friend: The two had already traveled in similar Miami social circles, and both had ties to Toronto, where both Mr. Parker and Ms. Zhuk’s ex-husband had grown up.

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Within months of joining Douglas Elliman, where all agents are independent contractors, Ms. Zhuk thought of Mr. Parker as someone she trusted enough to help resuscitate her romantic life. “I remember asking him if he knew any nice guys he could set me up with,” she said.

He became that guy the following year. In February 2017, when a mutual friend from Toronto was in town, Ms. Zhuk called Mr. Parker and asked if he and his wife were available to join them for dinner.

“I said, ‘I guess you haven’t heard the news,’” he said. “‘We’re getting divorced.’” Then he asked if she would be his date for a wedding the following weekend. “I said, ‘I can’t bear to be there by myself.’ I wasn’t saying, ‘Hey, let’s go and hopefully have our first kiss.’ I was saying, ‘Hey, come hold my hand.’”

She dodged the question anyway. “I was skeptical about joining him for a multitude of reasons,” she said, not least of which was his still-fresh separation. So “I talked to him as a friend, consoling him, like, ‘Everything in life happens for a reason.’” But before they hung up, he steered the conversation back toward the question of her being his plus one. A few days later she reluctantly agreed. The night of the wedding, they fell in love.

“I remember watching her dance with the mother of the bride or groom and thinking, she’s one of the most extraordinary women I’ve ever seen,” Mr. Parker said. “I’ve never looked back.”

Neither rushed into announcing their new relationship, though. Ms. Zhuk and Mr. Parker each have two children: Ms. Zhuk has an 18-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter; Mr. Parker has 12-year-old twin sons. Both wanted to avoid hasty introductions to the other’s children before Mr. Parker’s divorce was final in July 2017. “We had become inseparable, but we were guarded about it to that point,” she said. The kids met almost six months later.

In 2019, Ms. Zhuk moved into Mr. Parker’s Miami house, where they still live. On a trip to the Italian island of Capri on July 25, 2021, he proposed. Their Feb. 11 wedding at Indian Creek Country Club in Indian Creek, Fla., was a whittled version of the one for close to 400 they had spent more than a year planning.

A few months before the date, “I woke up one morning and looked at Jay and said, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this,’” Ms. Zhuk said. “We’re both really social people, and we were so grateful for the friends who rallied around us.” But inviting them all was beginning to feel like a concession to intimacy. “I think we both recognized we always wanted it to be about family,” Mr. Parker said.

Their 24-person wedding, officiated by Rabbi Paul Offenkrantz, was just that. For both, a post-ceremony dance floor moment with all four children still inspires happy tears.

“Our kids love each other like they were from the same family,” Mr. Parker said. “At the end of our first dance, they all joined us. It was like you see in a sporting event: We all hugged each other and started jumping up and down.”

Sumber: www.nytimes.com