I'd spent 16 days with Cayden without wanting to kill him. That had to count for something, right? It was the longest amount of time we'd ever spent together, and I wasn't ready to let him go. I'd gotten so used to falling asleep on his chest or wrapped around his waist with my forehead against his back. I'd gotten used to coming home to him every night, eating dinner together and watching out favorite shows. More than anything, I'd gotten used to being happy. One-hundred percent happy.
But I drove toward the airport knowing I wouldn't shed a tear. There was something exciting about knowing it was our last airport goodbye. The last time I'd have to let go of him and walk back to my car alone. The next time we'd see each other at the airport, it would be forever. The thought of it made a smile spread across my face.
"What are you smiling about?" Cayden said, eyeballing me from the passenger seat. I'd been so lost in thought I hadn't noticed him watching me.
"Oh, I was just thinking about the next time I pick you up from the airport," I said.
"I always think about that," he said, mirroring my smile.
"Does it scare the shit out of you? Does it make you want to run screaming back onto the plane?"
He laughed at me and shook his head.
"No, I think about it whenever I'm feeling down. Or when I'm missing you. Or when I'm frustrated with something at work," he said. "I picture you running up to me and wrapping your arms around me like you always do. Just knowing the next trip isn't just a visit... it's forever. It puts me in such a good mood."
That thought was going to get me through the next three months. And if that didn't work, the image of him waiting for me at the end of the aisle, waiting to say "I do," would surely do the trick. The butterflies in my stomach nearly had asthma attacks just thinking about it. No wonder so many people passed out at weddings.
"You're thinking about the wedding, aren't you?"
I glanced at him and batted my eyelashes in an attempt to look innocent.
"It's going to be amazing," he said, resting his hand on the back of my neck and giving it a squeeze.
"As long as no one dies of heat exhaustion." I was serious. It was the only potential aspect of the wedding that filled me with dread. I was grasping to the small sliver of hope that our excessively warm winter would call for an uncharacteristically cold summer.
I pulled into a parking spot in the front row of the airport parking garage.
"Are you ready?" I asked, a little bit of my earlier excitement fading away. Last airport goodbye or not, it was still a goodbye and I hated saying it.
"I'm ready for forever with you if that's what you're asking."
I already knew that.
He pulled me in for a kiss and I clasped my hands behind his neck so he couldn't pull away. I could have torn his clothes off and made that final goodbye pretty memorable if I didn't fear a public indecency citation. When you're trying to get approved for a fiance visa, it's best to avoid any runs ins with the law. But that doesn't mean we couldn't have a hardcore high-school make-out session complete with wandering hands and foggy windows a la Titanic.
I needed to store up enough Cayden kisses to last another two and a half months. Too bad that wasn't you could buy in bulk as Sam's club. "Uh, yes. I'd like a two-month supply of rock-my-face-off sex and a one-month supply of tender kisses. Thanks."
"We can do this," he said, when he freed himself from my death grip and caught his breath. "Less than three months."
Three months doesn't sound that long when you're talking about the duration of a low-carb diet or a 10K training program, but when you're talking about three months of no sex, kisses or cuddles... three months of drinking wine alone on the couch during date night... three months of only seeing your boyfriend on an 11-inch screen that freezes from time to time and makes his voice sound like a robot...three months is a long fucking time.
I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
"We can do this."
As we walked toward the terminal, I pretended I was walking down the aisle. I tried my most graceful walk and made a mental note to wear flats instead of heels with my dress. I pictured him standing there at the baggage check kiosk, waiting for my dad to hand me off. The people around us with their suitcases and crying toddlers weren't travelers. They were my wedding guests and all eyes were on us. I smiled at them, my best smile, because I wanted them to know how ridiculously happy I was. I received weird looks in exchange. I didn't care.
The airline attendant behind the counter ruined my daydream when she said, "Passport and boarding pass?" instead of "Do you take this man?"
I came screeching back to reality.
I wasn't going to cry. I was going to pull up my big girl panties and walk out of there with my mascara and emotional stability in tact.
We made it to Goodbye Point without any tears. Goodbye Point is what I named the 4-foot by 4-foot space a few yards from the security line where we always said goodbye. He pulled me in against his chest and gave me a tight squeeze. This is the point at which I usually start crying if I didn't start in the parking lot. But this time, I absorbed his scent instead of snotting on him. I forced myself to memorize every second of that hug so I could play it over and over again in my head when I needed him.
"Three months and then you can't get rid of me," he said.
"I'm going to go sprawl out in the middle of my bed now and pee with the bathroom door open while I still have the chance," I said, only half kidding.
"Fair enough," he said.
He kissed me on the neck, then the lips, then the forehead. "I can't wait to marry you," he whispered.
"I wish we didn't have to wait."
With one last kiss, we parted ways for the last time. I wanted to stand there and hit fast forward until it was time for him to come back like that scene from "Like Crazy."
But I had to walk away.