She waited at the door, a beer in one hand, having already started on her own. It was about the time Patrick would come home, she knew, and while her greeting him with a beer wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, there was a bit more behind it this time. Vivian sighed, running her fingers through her hair as the nerves that threatened to overwhelm her bubbled beneath the surface, waiting for a moment of weakness. It was all about to end, this dream world she and Pat had forged for themselves. She wasn’t ready. And yet, the rational part of her knew that it was time. Her meeting Pat had been a happy accident. They had both known that if things had been even a little bit different, they never would have met.
She heard the jingle of keys and footsteps approach the porch. That was her cue, and she opened the door with a smile.
“Ah, my two favourite things,” Pat teased, opening the screen door and stepping in. He set his briefcase on the floor before sweeping Vivian up into a large hug ending with a kiss. She melted into the embrace, her own kiss filled with enthusiasm.
He had this mischievous grin on his face as she pulled away and out of his arms. She would remember that look for the rest of her days. “We have dinner reservations, remember?”
“It can wait.”
With reluctance, she slid out of his arms and offered him the beer instead. “There’s something I want to talk to you about.”
He gave a pout and a gentle swat to her backside before taking the beer and following her over to the couch. As she walked passed him, she found herself being pulled down into his lap. Vivian laughed, giving him a peck on the cheek before reaching out for her own beer from the side table. “So, what’s up?” he asked, taking a swig from the bottle.
“Ah, well,” she started. “I found a job.”
“That’s awesome!” Vivian had been looking for a job for several months now ever since she knew her show was ending, but hadn’t been having much luck. She had picked up a couple of shifts here and there at the bar to keep busy, but Vivian was all about theatre and that was what she had set out to do, not to tend to tables and wait upon people. Pat knew that she had been unhappy as far as her professional life went, and was delighted for her to have found something that lit her eyes up.
Ah, there it was. The shadow that lurked behind her brown eyes. “Except?” He echoed, afraid of the answer.
She twirled her bottle in her hands, not meeting his gaze. “It’s back in the States.”
Vivian nodded. The hint of tears started to build. Pat managed a smile for her, reaching out and touching her cheek gently. She nuzzled into his hand. “Yes. I can’t stay here forever.”
“It has been a dream, Pat. Every minute of this, of you-” she looked at him. “Unexpected.”
“But great.” It was their touchphrase, something that had been born over the months. They really hadn’t expected anything — after all, Vivian came over on a work visa and had only expected to work and to hang out with her dear friend, Sid. Pat had been interested in meeting Sid’s American friend, of course, but never had he thought he would have such an interest in her even after one evening quickly found — or made — excuses for them to spend time together. One thing led to another, and there they were. They were approaching one year: one year of Vivian being in the UK, and, not too long after, a year of them having found their other half.
“And now it’s coming to an end.” Viv finished. “I have to go back. This wasn’t even supposed to be this way,” the rest of her words disappeared within Pat’s kiss. “And I did the math,” she added as she pulled away.
His response was automatic: “maths”.
“Maths,” she corrected herself with a smile. Pat was slowly indoctrinating her into the British culture. “And the column to stay just isn’t as good as the column to leave.” An array of emotion was crossing’s Pat’s face. Some of the thoughts she could guess at, and some were foreign as she watched him absorb the news.
After a long minute in which both of them made quite a mark on their beers, he spoke. “You’ll remain in touch?” Pat asked quietly, looking at her.
It wasn’t the answer she had been expecting, but it was sort of a relief that he was supporting her in her decision. She had feared that there would have been more resistance. Leaving was going to be hard enough as it was, but if he was against it… “Of course.” She wrapped her fingers around his. “And we’ll remain friends.”
“We better.” He hugged her and held her close. “I’m obviously going to be devastated.”
“Me too,” she admitted, nestling in his arms. “I don’t want to go.”
“And yet you do.” He understood. Sort of. His job was stable and secure and he had a future there. It was hard for him to imagine having a career that could end at any time and have to find another one on short notice. “I do not want to be the main reason you stay. I can see it becoming a source of contention between us and I do not want you to resent me over time. So yes, I’ll support you in this.”
“As you have in all things.” She sighed. “Jay will be happy at least.” She kept in touch with her best friend and previous roommate. They talked every other week on several hour long calls and it was partially due to Jaina that she had found out about this new job. “Even if we’re both sad.”
“Yes, I suppose so. How long-?”
“I’m to start in a month.” They sat there in relative silence; Vivian was content just being held by him, and he wanted the comfort of her company. They took a raincheck on the dinner — Sid and Zach understood and placed dibs on hosting Vivian’s farewell party.
The next few weeks passed all too quickly. Pat took some time off from work and they quickly crossed off the rest of the list of things they had once said they would do together. Every night, Vivian would come home and pack a little, even if it meant just folding a stack of clothes from the laundry. She hadn’t come over with too much; it had meant to be a temporary engagement to start with that she extended due to her starting to date Pat, and had slowly been rebuilding since she decided to settle. Most of the bigger items, he would keep. It was the little things, the trinkets they had picked up, the jewellery he had given her, the ticket stubs from the places they had attended together. Those, she packed away carefully. Sometimes, she woke up in the of the night, panicked that she forgot something, only to be soothed by Pat who was photographing everything as she packed it to confirm that it would indeed be going back to the States with her.
As promised, Sid hosted the farewell party. They had bought out the pub for the night. Everyone there was someone Vivian knew. They bought drinks and food and stories of the time they all shared together and what they would miss with Vivian gone. She held herself together the best she could, never venturing too far away from Pat. That was, until Sid came over at the end of the night with a scrapbook with notes, letters, and photos from all of her friends. Maybe it was the alcohol, or the overwhelming emotions from leaving the life she had made for herself in the past year, or just feeling the love from everyone, but Vivian was a sobbing, uncontrollable mess and Pat had to excuse them both to take her home and tuck her into bed.
And then, the day came. Vivian slept poorly, waking every thirty to sixty minutes. After a few times of this, Pat gave up on trying and the two of them stayed up. He put on some show on the television and it played softly as they talked and he held her. They left super early for the airport. Everything had been boxed up and shipped previously, so Vivian had a carry-on and a small travel bag with her remaining possessions and the clothes she had worn the past few days. She was almost certain the two of them got strange looks on the train, for both were crying silently, but she didn’t care. They sat outside until the last possible calculated moment, and then
through the airport
tears streaming down her face
she brushed them away just in time to see a joyous couple reunite, and her vision blurred once more. Somehow, she made it to her gate.
She boarded the plane, praying that the seat next to her would be unoccupied. After all, she had chosen the seat in the very back of the plane to be as far away from people as she could. She watched as waves of people came at her, all coming to a stop before her seat, and, at last, there was an announcement the doors were closed.
And there was no one next to her. It was everything she could have hoped for. She dug through her pack for her blanket, and curled up under it, the emotional exhaustion overriding her. Sleep was a welcome blessing.