I didn’t know how long I stood there watching, scanning the heads of travellers on the other side of airport security, heading into duty free. Maybe he’d turn back, change his mind about leaving. Maybe he’d come and see if I was still here, watching for him. And if he did, I wanted to make sure I was.
A small child ran into me and I moved my legs apart to keep from losing my balance. As I bent down to steady her, she ran off. It broke my concentration and I looked at my watch. Five minutes past take off time. I checked the board. It wasn’t delayed. He was in the air. Gone.
The dull ache in my stomach that had been threatening to break through since last night engulfed me. I stumbled to a nearby bench and sat with my head in my hands. He was really gone. We’d finally had the discussion about the future. Ethan hadn’t asked me to go to New York. I’d wanted him to, but he hadn’t. But he hadn’t ended it either. He’d told me he loved me. He’d told me he wanted to make it work and I’d said it all back to him. We were going to do the long distance thing. Relief and elation had held off complicated for a few hours until now. Now the reality of him heading to another country was right here, and living on different continents meant complication. That reality was almost unbearable
I fumbled in my bag, and took out my keys and my phone. What was next? I couldn’t remember.
I stood resolutely. Home. That was what was next. I headed to the exit and found a cab. Had I told the driver where to go? I closed my eyes and let my head fall back.
I lifted my head from the back of the seat. It was the cab driver. The car had stopped. I looked out of the window. Home.
“Sorry to wake you, love,” he said. “You got jet lag?”
He hadn’t woken me, not from sleep anyway.
I mumbled at him and pushed some money into his hand.
I was soothed by familiar surroundings as I entered the flat. It wasn’t home but it was the closest thing I had. The ache inside me pulsed as I remembered I’d have to find somewhere to live. I had this place until the end of March. What would happen between now and then? Nothing had been decided between us other than that we wanted to make it work.
I kicked off my shoes, went into the bedroom and, fully clothed, I crawled under the covers. I could still smell him. Feel him.
I woke to the sound of my phone muffled by my pillow. It was still dark. I flicked my fingers across the words “Sex God”.
“Hey,” I croaked.
“God, you sound so sexy when you’ve just woken.”
I couldn’t help but grin through my cloud of half-sleep.
“You sound sexy all the time,” I said. “Where are you?”
“In a cab. Sorry to wake you.”
“Don’t be sorry. I’ve missed you.”
I nodded. “Yes.”
“Only three weeks, beautiful.”
We had to get through Christmas first and then I was flying to New York. “Three weeks,” I repeated.
“And I’m still going to make you come every day.”
I groaned and squeezed my thighs together. Ethan had assured me that the long distance thing could work because he gave good phone sex, but the thought of not touching him, of him not touching me, for three weeks was horrifying.
“Hearing you groan like that is making me hard, and that’s just not playing fair when you know I’m in the back of a cab.”
I grinned again. I could get to him despite being three thousand miles away. That eased my ache slightly.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to.”
“You don’t have to try. You just have to exist.”
“God, I love you, Ethan.”
“I love you. Now get in the shower because you have that meeting that starts at 8:30.” I loved that he knew my schedule. How long would that last? He knew what I was doing this week but what about the week after that?
“What time is it?”
“Just before seven your time,” he replied.
I groaned again. I could sleep for a week, or maybe until it was time to fly to New York.
“Sorry. Don’t go.”
“You have to get in the shower. I’ll speak to you when I wake up later. Stop pouting.”
I laughed. I was pouting.
“Okay, I love you. Sleep well.”
“I will, I’ll dream of you.”
* * * * *
I took the tube to work, like most of London, but I didn’t feel like most of London. Somehow the city didn’t seem as bright as usual, it was like someone had turned the contrast down—there was something gray about everyone. I felt disconnected, as if I knew something they didn’t. I walked at my new pace, people rushing past me, bumping me from left and right but it was okay because I was different. I knew. I knew what it was to really, truly, love someone. And it was incredible and entirely petrifying. I’d never felt so exposed and vulnerable.