Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

“I don’t want to leave you,” she says, and she is crying. She’s crying as if she will never stop.

Part of me wants to scream at her “Then don’t! Stay here with me!” but it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, a three year transfer overseas to work on marketing for a new product. Very prestigious, very high profile. It’ll make her career, and we both know it.

I hold her close and tight, and wipe her tears away. I kiss her, over and over again, telling her I know, and I love her, I’ll always love her.

“You can’t throw a chance like this away, Honey,” I say. “I’d never forgive myself if you did.”

And so, it’s decided. She’ll be leaving in six weeks.

The first two weeks we go through a period of desperate, all-the-time, every-time-the-last-time, love-making, like we’re storing up every memory we possibly can. We both cry a lot, but we don’t talk about what happens after she has gone.

At the beginning of the third week while we’re eating dinner, she says, “Will you promise me two things please?”

“What?”

“First, that you’ll get a roommate when I’ve gone – a real one. I don’t want to think of you alone here, slipping into depression.”

I try to tell her I’ll be alright, that it isn’t like when Daniel went, that I know she isn’t running away from me, but going to do something she really wants to do. But she’s insistent. She’s so insistent, that I end up calling the paper and putting an ad in for a roommate, right away.

“What’s the other promise?” I ask. It’s hours later, we’re in bed. I’d forgotten about it in the fuss over the roommate, but as we lie here, close, after, I remember.

“Wha…?” she asks sleepily.

“The other promise. You said you wanted me to make two promises.”

“Oh. Yes. That.” She seems reluctant to say anything.

“Rachel?”

She sits up against the pillows, looking down into my face.

“When you find someone else – no, hush, don’t be silly, of course you’ll find someone else eventually, we both will – please, make it a man.”

What?!!!

“Bel, The only reason I can bring myself to go is that I can see that you and I can’t go on forever. I know how much you want kids, and I think that if I stayed you’d end up leaving me sometime, to have them. I’d rather do our growing apart apart, if you see what I mean.”

I nod, seriously.

“If you were to fall in love with another woman, if I found out I was wrong…. it would break my heart.”

I grab hold of her and pull her to me. We’re both crying again. We cling on to each other like we are lost at sea.

Sometime later she says, “If you’d already had kids with Daniel, I wouldn’t be going now you know. They could stuff the job.”

The next few weeks pass in a flurry of activity. There is Rachel’s packing to do, and interviewing for a roommate. I find one, eventually – Tim, a nineteen-year-old Asian student at the university, with a girlfriend who looks like a little Japanese doll, and a father who pays the first six months rent in advance. He seems to have a great sense of humour and we laugh at the same things.

And there are always the nights, when we lose our pain in each other.

And now, at last, it’s time for her to go. Her bags are in the car, and the movers took the rest of her stuff yesterday. She’s travelling Business Class, the company are paying, so she can check in at the last minute. A relief, as neither of us wanted to spend hours hanging around the airport.

“I’ve got something for you,” I say “But only if you promise not to cry.”

She smiles and nods and I give her the small parcel.

She opens it and reads the inscription on the inside of the wide gold band. For my Rachel, Love you forever, Bel.. I pretend not to see the tears, as she clasps it round her wrist. Then she smiles, reaches into her bag and hands me a square, wrapped package. “Great minds think alike,” she murmurs.

It’s a framed photograph. I remember when we took it, over the Christmas holiday. We had to take several, using the timer – we were laughing so hard. It’s us, on the beach, arms round each other’s waists, the wind whipping our hair around, laughing, happy. Obviously in love.

“You aren’t allowed to cry either,” she warns.

I sniff a little and smile.

“Come on, let’s get you to that plane.”

We drive, in silence, scared to say anything in case it breaks our careful composure.

At the airport, we check in her bags, and I walk her to customs.

Call me,” I say. “As soon as you get there.”

She nods, turns to go. Starts to walk away. I can’t just let her go like that.

“Rachel!”

She turns back to me.

“Don’t I get a kiss goodbye?”

And, for the first and last time, I kiss her in public, properly, a long, lovers kiss. I hold her tight, and fuck what anyone watching will think. She’s leaving, and I’m not letting her go without one last kiss.

“I love you,” I whisper in her ear. “I’ll never forget you.”

She’s crying again. I wipe the tears away and smile shakily. “Go on then,” I say, “you’ve got a plane to catch.”

She mouths “I love you” at me, and waves as she goes through the gate.

And she’s gone.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

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