"I don't want to do this," I said.
Cayden leaned across the middle console and put his arm around me.
"I know you don't, baby," he said while rubbing his hand up and down my arm. "I don't want to get on that plane any more than you want to let me."
We'd done the airport goodbye so many times, you'd think we'd be good at it by now. The last time we said goodbye three months before, I'd managed to do it without shedding a tear. I'd walked out of the airport with a smile on my face and an optimistic feeling about the future. But this time was different.
"We can do this," Cayden said. I shrugged, picked up my keys and swung my door open. I didn't let me feet touch the floor just yet. I knew if they touched the floor, we'd be on our way to the terminal. On our way to let go until Christmas.
Cayden stepped out of the car and yanked his oversized duffle bag out of my trunk. His next task was to yank me out of the front seat. I wasn't going to make it easy. I knew I was acting like a 5-year-old, but I felt like pouting. I would have thrown myself on the ground in a full-blown temper tantrum, flailing arms and hiccups and everything, but that meant getting out of the car. Part of me wished he'd just give me a kiss, shut the door and walk away. Rip the band aid off.
He held his hand out to me like a prince in a Disney movie. I stared at it for a while, then I begrudgingly flopped my limp hand in his, very unlike a Disney princess. With one swift yank, I was out of the car and trying to steady myself on two feet. He closed my car door behind me and slipped my keys into my pocket. With his backpack and duffle over his shoulder, he pulled a strong arm around me, kissed the top of my head, and led me toward the terminal doors.
I stayed quiet while we stood in line to check his bag. I knew if I tried to talk, I'd end up bawling.
"So, Austin was fun," Cayden said, trying to spark a conversation.
"And Shanna's wedding. And kickball. And your birthday..."
I nodded again. He was right. I'd had a blast with him. I always had a blast with him, and now I was going to have to wait until Christmas to have a blast again.
While Cayden poked away at the touchscreen bag-check kiosk, I closed my eyes and tried to meditate. Keep calm and carry on, right? With each breath, I felt the lump in my throat rise and fall. I would cry. I wouldn't cry. I would cry. I wouldn't cry. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.
"Ready?" I heard Cayden say. I wasn't ready to open my eyes. Wasn't ready to say goodbye. Wasn't ready to watch him walk through the security check and disappear beyond the gate.
"Ready," I lied.
He held my hand tightly while we walked slowly to the security line.
"Just a little less than three months," he said. "And I'll be back." He had his hands on my shoulders, like a coach does when he's giving one of his players a pep talk.
"I know, I know," I said. I looked away from him when I felt hot tears teeter edge their way along my bottom eyelids.
"It will be Christmas before we know it!" His enthusiasm made me lift my eyes to his. I loves seeing his excited face.
"But first there's Halloween," I said. The lump rose. "Everyone will be in couples costumes. I'll be solo. I'll be solo at all the parties."
Hot tears rolled down my face. I didn't even try to wipe them away.
"And then there's Thanksgiving. The whole family will be together and it won't be the same without you there." My voice wavered and my throat was so tight I almost couldn't get the last few words out. Cayden tried to wipe my tears, but quickly realized it wouldn't stop them.
"And then all of the Christmas parties. Yeah, you'll be here for Christmas, but what about all of the parties beforehand?" I tried to take a deep breath but hiccuped part way through. "The mistletoe. The Christmas music..."
People were looking at me. I could feel their eyes on me.
"I know, I know," he said. "It kills me, too, that I can't be here for those. But at least I'll be here for Christmas. We'll wake up next to each other on Christmas morning. We'll kiss at midnight on New Years Eve. Midnight in the UK and midnight in Texas."
He pulled me in for a hug and I put my hands in his shirt to get closer. I cried into his shirt and hugged him closer. I knew I was making this goodbye harder than it needed to be, but I couldn't help myself. I was just so sick of the distance. So sick of waiting. Sick of missing him. Sick of being without him.
He finally pulled away and I tried not to fight him.
"Have a safe flight," I blubbered.
"Please don't cry. We'll get through this. We always do."
"I'll be OK. Now go catch your flight. See you at Christmas."
After a final exchange of "I love yous" we kissed one more time and I turned for the door. I didn't look back. I stomped out to the car and slammed my door shut. I turned up my music and rolled down the windows. The warm breeze dried my tears as fast as they left my eyes. I had to lock it up before I got back to work. I planned on burying myself in work when I got back to the office so I wouldn't have time to think about the fact that I'd be going home alone that night.
Ten minutes away from the office, I'd finally composed myself. I could take a full breath without my chin quivering and aside from my bloodshot eyes, you could barely tell I'd been crying.
Then my phone rang.
"Hello?" I said, hoping it was Cayden and he was telling me his flight was canceled and there wasn't another flight out until next year.
"Just checking on you, baby."
His voice opened the floodgates once again.
"I'll email you instead," he said when he couldn't understand me through the tears.
From: XXXX911@hotmail.com (Cayden)
To: XXXXXXwp@gmail.com (Whitney)
Date: Mon, Oct 3, 2011 at 12:33 PM
Sorry you ended up crying on the phone. I'm really struggling in the departure lounge. I have to keep looking up at the ceiling to try and lock it up. This is by far the most difficult goodbye i've said to you. I'm so glad there are only 2 more to go like this.
I've had the most amazing week ever. It really felt like I live in Dallas and I can't wait for it to be forever now. I want to spend every day with you.
Ok well I'm going to try and walk around a little and try to lock this shit up because I'm still almost crying. I'm half tempted to go to the bathroom, lock myself in a cubicle and just cry my eyes out but I'm afraid I'll sound like Marshall when he is in Forgetting Sarah Marshall haha.
I'll try and call quickly at Chicago if I have time but if not, I'll email when I get back in London and I'll try and call you tomorrow morning if I manage to get my phone charged up.
I love you sooooooo much. I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with you.
Date: Mon, Oct 3, 2011 at 12:43 PM
Subject: RE: I MISS YOU ALREADY
Subject: RE: I MISS YOU ALREADY
Big, bad Cayden almost cried? Never! Haha, its nice to know you're human, just like me. I had finally locked it up and then you called and I got all cry-y all over again. Punk. They aren't sad tears though. They're frustrated tears. I can't wait for our future. But right now I can't wait until December. I love you :)