I DON’T KNOW why I’m racing through the airport. There’s no plane to catch, no deadline to slide under.
This isn’t my last chance to tell Wyn how I feel.
Instead, it’s the earliest moment I can possibly get to him. I don’t want to miss another minute. So I barrel down the hallway, through the security exit, my bag scraping along behind me. I almost smack into the sliding glass doors as they’re opening, then trip out onto the curb, blinking against the sun, shivering at the chill.
Not a single cab idles in the pickup/drop-off lane. I pull out my phone and hammer out a search for car services in Knott’s Harbor. The first number I dial gives me a busy signal.
I didn’t know busy signals still existed. I let out a wordless, angry grunt and end the call, scanning the parking lot helplessly, as if hitchhiking might be a viable option.
Then I see it. A flash of red that makes my heart stop.
A car pulling into a space. A man jumping out, wind batting his sun-streaked hair around.
My lungs spasm from the shock of him, his presence always a bit more solid than anything else around me.
When our eyes lock, he freezes, the car door still ajar behind him. I seem to be floating across the lane until a car lays on its horn, letting me know I’ve cut it off.
I break into a jog. Wyn drifts forward too. We meet in an empty spot in the craggy lot.
“You’re here,” he says, out of breath.
I’m still working on regaining the power of speech.
“You didn’t say goodbye,” he says.
The best I can do in that moment is “I couldn’t.”
His brows pinch. The moment holds.
“Is that all?” I ask.
“Did you drive all the way here to say goodbye?” I say.
He scratches the back of his head, glances sidelong toward the thicket of trees at the edge of the lot, then back to me. The corners of his mouth twist, and my heart mimics the motion, wringing every last bit of love into my veins.
“Why aren’t you on the plane?” he says.
“It’s going in the wrong direction.”
His brow tenses on a slight shake of his head.
“You said I need to figure out what I want,” I say. “That I can’t keep doing what other people think is right for me.”
“I meant it.” His voice rattles.
“Does that include you?” I ask.
“What do you mean?” he says.
“I mean . . .” I move close enough to breathe him in, my shoulders melting with relief at his nearness. “Do you get to tell me what will or won’t make me happy?”
His brow furrows. “I wasn’t trying to do that.”
“You were,” I say. “And I get why. I could come out to Montana, and maybe someday I realize I want to—I don’t know—get into clowning or something.”
One side of his mouth quirks. “Clowning?”
“Or marine biology,” I say. “I have to leave to study whales, or octopi.”
“Closer,” he allows.
“And everything could implode again,” I say. “Worse than last time. So badly we couldn’t find our way back to each other.”
His chin dips once, his voice abrading. “It could.”
“You’re right that I don’t know what I want to do next,” I admit. “I’m going to have to find some other job that I hate a little less and chip away at my loans while I figure it out. But I know what I don’t want.
“I don’t want to be tired all the time. I don’t want to be on opposite schedules from everyone I love, or on call during dates. I don’t want to be on my feet for eight hours at a time and have my knuckles bleed in the winter from overwashing my hands. I don’t want to feel like I don’t have time or energy to try anything new because everything I have is getting poured into a job I don’t even like. I don’t want to live my life like it’s a triathlon and all that matters is getting to some imaginary ribbon. I want my life to be like—like making pottery. I want to enjoy it while it’s happening, not just for where it might get me eventually.
“And I don’t want to be across the country from you. Or your family. I don’t want to miss a single holiday with them. I don’t want to go to sleep without being able to put my feet on your calves to warm them up, and I don’t want to say goodbye to your rodeo shirt, and I don’t want to let you leave here without understanding that I trust myself on this. And you can tell me to go right now, and I will, but you don’t get to think it’s noble. You don’t get to think you’re right.”
His eyes widen. “Right about what?”
“About all of it!” I cry. “That I don’t want you! That you can’t make me happy! That if I go back to California right now it has anything to do with what I want. That you’re the lucky one in this relationship when it’s obviously always been me. That Grocery Gladiators is a real game, and that it makes any sense to put glasses on the bottom rack of the dishwasher. You can tell me no, Wyn, but you can’t tell yourself it’s what I want. If you’re too afraid, if you can’t have faith in me, then tell me to go, but don’t convince yourself it’s what I wanted.”
“Harriet,” he says coarsely.
My heart teeter-totters in my chest, readying itself to fly skyward or plummet.
Wyn takes hold of my face. “I am scared.”
A beat of quiet. Nothing but our breath and the icy wind fluttering a curl across my face.
“Oh,” I breathe out.
His slight smile unzips me, vertebra by vertebra. His fingers slip back into my hair. His jaw works as he swallows. “When I woke up this morning, the bed was already cold where you’re supposed to be.”
His gaze lifts, so light and clear, hardly any fog.
“I would’ve done anything to bring you back to me for one last minute,” he says. “But I couldn’t, so I followed you. And if you hadn’t come out here, I would’ve bought a ticket. And if I got inside and you were already boarded, I would’ve gotten on the plane. I would’ve waited until we landed in Boston to talk to you. And if somehow I missed you in deboarding, I would’ve found your next gate to talk. And as I was driving here, watching this stupid fucking plan form for how I would get to you and say goodbye in person, I realized why we can do this.”
My heart whirs, lifts toward him as if pulled by a magnet. “Why?”
He smiles down at me, and it feels like a fist on my heart, a tight hug that verges on a heart attack. “Because there’s nowhere I wouldn’t go for you. And if you get out to Montana and realize there’s somewhere else you need to be, there’s nothing I’m not willing to do to make it work. I’d rather have you five days a year than anyone else all the time. I’d rather argue with you than not talk, and whether we’re together or we’re not, I’m yours, so let’s be together, Harriet. As much as we can. As long as we can. As soon as we can. Everything else, we’ll figure out later.”
“Wyn,” I whisper shakily. His fingers twitch, tightening through my curls. “Are you saying I can come home?”
“I’m saying,” he murmurs softly, “it’s not home unless you’re there.”
My arms twine around him, my heart speeding wildly as the wind batters us. “I love you,” I tell him.
“In every universe.” He kisses me then, a windblown curl caught between our lips. Like it’s a first and a last. The end of one era and the beginning of another.
This, I know, is exactly where I want to be.