This was it. This was where every piece of happiness that connected to the puzzle would break and fall apart, scattered around in now-unidentifiable specks. At first she’d thought he’d been joking with her, pulling a cruel prank, but his sober expression on the way to the airport had told her otherwise. Not only was he leaving the country for five years, he had broken up with her, too. He’s lying—he has to be, she had thought but when her eyes slid back to glance at his profile she knew he had been telling the truth. The four, wonderful, passionate years they had spent together were officially over just because he had to go to Italy for his career in photography. She knew it was something he cared about and had a deep passion for, but five years was a little much wasn’t it? And besides, the country of Italy was filled with beautiful women; he would be taking pictures of them while they expressed themselves in various poses and states of garments. That made her nervous, self-conscious and irritated all at the same time. Couldn’t he do some kind of photography deal in the state instead of outside it? That way they could continue to be together and she could see him still, talk to him, and feel his warm hand wrap around hers. But instead he was being taken away from her because of his job.
“Flight 279 is now boarding.”
The voice from the PA made her jump, jarring her out of her thoughts and back to the present. She was aware of strong, warm arms around her and dark eyes boring intently into her face. Vanessa blinked slowly as he brushed her hair back and felt an immediate tidal wave of shame and regret wash over her. She shouldn’t be blaming him and his job for taking him on an opportune trip he wouldn’t get elsewhere when, deep down inside, they’d both known something like this was going to happen sooner or later. In truth she was happy he was getting out in the world thanks to his skills with the camera, though her heart still ached as she met his gaze. This was the man she had found herself being swept into love with, the one whose perfect and eye-capturing work with the camera, easy personality, charm and wit had made her fall head over heels for him. And any second now, he would be walking away from her and leaving the memories they’d built and shared together.
When his hands cradled her cheeks, however, she froze and her eyes went wide as she realized his intentions. No, please don’t, she wanted to tell him. She didn’t think she’d be able to handle a kiss goodbye in the airport when he was moments away from boarding the plane to Italy. And then his lips met hers and her mind went quiet. Emotion roared through Vanessa at the passion of the kiss and her arms wrapped around his neck, her body pressing up to his, her lips returning the hard kiss. She wanted it to end and she wanted it to last forever, for this moment to pause, so that nothing could separate them.
And then the contact between them was broken and she inhaled a startled breath. He was so close to her still that she wanted nothing more than to resume the kiss, but it would just bring more devastation upon herself. Unintentional tears stung her eyes and then fell down her cheeks at his words, leaving wet trails to stain her light complexion. Before she could return them to his ears he was gone, his arms leaving her body and his broad back the only thing in front of her eyes as he headed into the crowd and then was submerged by a mass of people, disappearing from sight in a millisecond. Her throat was tight and she felt cold, lost, confused. “I love you too,” she whispered, although they were spoken to no one except herself and empty air.
Less than a week later, she snapped.
- Five Years Later -
“Come on, Vanessa. The wedding is only a couple months away; what’s wrong with taking a break to go out on a girl’s night? You need it.”
Vanessa released a loud sigh and plopped down onto the sofa, her gaze roaming over to the window. By the shed she could see Eva tromping around with her nose glued to the ground as she sniffed out some scent trail. It was after six and the sun was going down, casting long shadows across the yard and meeting the porch. Early fall was here and already she could see most of the leaves changing colors and the days were getting cooler and longer. She was going to miss summer; the past one had been great, filled with memories she’d shared with her friends and fiancé of nine months, Darren.
Darren was an architect and the two had met at an party, the first of many that Vanessa had been persuaded to go to after getting over her bout of depression. That night had changed her life and she didn’t regret going. Immediately she and Darren had hit it off and they’d gone out on countless dates that left her feeling warm and fuzzy with happiness until eventually, on the night of their two year anniversary, he popped the question. Without hesitation she had accepted at once and the two had returned to his home, laughing and kissing with joy. Thinking back on that night made her smile until she remembered that, on the night of the proposal, she had thought of The Guy. After she’d moved on from her depression and met Darren he’d rarely occupied her thoughts, maybe a few times every other month or so, but now it was becoming more frequent and the reason to that was because it had been five years since he’d left for Italy.
Eyes glazing over with nostalgia she wondered how he was doing, if he was still in Italy, and if he’d met anyone. Most likely he had—how could he not? With his looks, and the looks of the models he’d been shooting, it was hard to believe he had not found someone after all that time. However, before she could ponder over that too much she pushed it from her mind and uncrossed her legs, stood up from the couch, and walked over to the window. Crossing an arm over her chest she leaned her head against the glass and gnawed on her bottom lip, debating on whether or not she should go, knowing that Stacy was waiting on the other line for her answer. Because of the wedding coming up swiftly she was just so busy now that taking a night to go hang out with her friends didn’t seem like the wisest choice. Yet she craved it, and she missed their company badly, and felt terrible for ditching out on them. Darren wasn’t a problem—he encouraged her to go—so the only thing really holding back was herself.
It’s only for tonight, she rationalized. What could hurt? Clearing her throat Vanessa said in response, “Okay, I’ll come. Where are we going?”