I FIDDLE with my star necklace as I wait at the Starbucks counter. Early in the morning, even John F. Kennedy airport is quiet, hushed.
It doesn’t match my energy at all. I’m practically humming with excitement, even though we have a long flight ahead.
I’ve never been on an airplane before. I’ve never seen the world from the sky in any capacity.
This is a beginning, and I have Sebastian by my side.
The barista slides our coffees over. Iced with oat milk for me, a whole milk latte for him. “Thanks.”
“You’re not going to drink both of those, right?” She leans across the counter, readjusting her apron. If I had to guess, I’d say she’s just a couple years older than me. She knotted her sleek black hair into a bun, and freckles dot her face like splattered paint. They remind me of Penny. I miss her already—but at least she and Cooper are coming to visit over spring break. “Who are you traveling with?”
“My boyfriend.” I take a sip of my coffee. I don’t need the caffeine jolt, with such a long flight ahead, but the taste is comforting. I hope I’ll be able to find a good coffee place near the university. Honestly, it could be mediocre, and I’ll just be glad I’m not the one making it. “He’s getting breakfast tacos for us.”
“What’s your name?”
“Aadhya. What about you?”
“That’s pretty.” I take another sip of coffee. “I’m Mia.”
“Also pretty.” She grabs a rag and wipes down the countertop. “Where are you going?”
“Switzerland. I’m doing a study abroad program. Astrophysics.”
“Is he doing it too?”
“That would be a disaster,” Sebastian drawls as he walks over to us. He gives me a kiss, languid and casual and yet possessive too, and cuffs me lightly under the chin as he steps back. “I stopped paying attention in science class after ninth grade.”
He’s in gray sweatpants and a McKee sweatshirt, his backpack slung over his shoulder, and he’s wearing a new necklace around his throat. My Christmas present to him, which I gave him after our Monopoly win against his siblings on Christmas Eve. A gold compass to match the star he gave me last summer.
“And I’ll repeat, yet again, that cooking is science,” I say.
“Nah,” he says, giving me a grin as he plucks his latte out of my hand. “Cooking is art. Baking is science.”
“You make such a cute couple,” Aadhya says.
“We’re something,” I say dryly at the same time Sebastian says, “Thank you.”
I roll my eyes. The grin doesn’t leave his face. I’d elbow him in the stomach, but I don’t want to risk anything happening to my precious coffee in the ensuing battle.
“Sometimes she has trouble expressing the depth of her feelings for me,” he says. He clasps his hand over his heart dramatically. “Her favorite way to ask for sex is to say I look acceptable in whatever I’m wearing.”
I can’t help it; I stomp on his foot. “Sebastian!”
His laughter peals through the air like bells. “Love you, angel.”
I try to step on his toes again, but he’s too quick. “You’re lucky I love you,” I grumble.
“Oh, believe me, I know.” He reaches for my hand. “Come on, let’s eat before it gets cold.”
“Good luck,” Aadhya says. “I hope you have a good flight.”
“Thanks,” I say. “I hope you fight off the zombie horde of under-caffeinated travelers successfully.”
Her laughter follows us as we walk down the long hallway to our gate. Early morning sun streams in through the large windows, lighting a trail for us to follow, step after step.
“I’m proud of you,” he says.
“For everything.” He stops in his tracks, even though we’re nowhere near the gate, and tilts my face up. He looks serious enough my breath catches in my throat. “But right now? For trusting me to go on this journey with you.”
I rise onto my toes and kiss him. He smells of mint and tastes of espresso, and for a moment I let myself lean into it. I love these kisses of ours, unhurried and deep. I keep thinking I’m going to get used to them, but I haven’t yet, and I hope I never do.
Eventually, I step back, and he holds out his hand. “Ready?”
I take it, squeezing our fingers together without reservation. Without fear. Without anything but love coursing through me, connecting us like planets orbiting the same sun.
Our stars align.
I smile—my true smile, the one I only use with a very small list of people that is headlined by him—and know he sees everything he’ll ever need to know in that smile. He’s mine and I’m his, and this adventure is just the beginning of a long, purposeful, passionate future. A future that belongs to us, together, and no one else.