The faces of familiar strangers blur past me along the sidewalk. The walk back to my apartment building seems to grow longer and longer everyday. It certainly doesn’t help that my final class everyday is a philosophy lecture. However, it does hold merit in distracting me, if only for a little while, from the fact that Luke won’t be waiting for me at my door.
The morning of his departure, my heart woke with cracks already forming. My eyes fluttered open very early to see Luke next to me, drooling on the sheets. I just laid there watching his peaceful face grow brighter as the sun rose through my cheap drapes.
“Why are you staring at me?” He mumbled sleepily, startling me a bit.
I pulled my brain out of its trance and ran my fingers through his tangled curls, “You’re just so cute,” I said.
He scooched himself across the mattress until his broad shoulders engulfed me in a tight embrace. Calloused fingers stoking my arm, he knocked his pixie nose back and forth against mine, “My pretty girl” he mused.
I sat up against the wall, Luke placed himself cross legged in front of me. The fingers of my left hand tangled into his while the other drew unorganized patterns into his forearm.
“It’s only 4 months,” he intended those four words to be reassuring but they hitched slightly in his throat.
“4 months,” I repeated softly, refusing to meet his gaze.
I felt knuckles meet my chin and my head involuntarily tilted upward. The instant I focused on Luke’s bright cerulean irises my ducts burned with salty tears.
“You’ll wait for me right?” Luke whispered
His thumb stroked across my cheek to catch a single overflowing tear as I nodded slowly, unable to form words. His expression was soft, yet strong. I could tell he was hardening his emotions for me. He kissed my forehead before getting up to shower and gather the suitcases he had brought with him a couple nights before.
Luke unzipped his huge black duffle bag and chucked something at my head. I unfurled the fleece to see that it was the particular pullover I always stole from him.
A huge, giddy smile wrinkled my face, “Really?” I questioned
He just shook his head at me as I shrugged it on and took a long drag of his scent.
I held onto Luke’s arm with both hands as we walked with the other three boys to their security checkpoint. Ashton and Michael each gave me a hug while Calum and I exchanged our secret handshake before leaving Luke to say goodbye.
He ran both sets of fingertips around the perimeter of my face, from hairline to chin. I threw my arms around his waist, burrowing myself in his chest. His lips pressed firmly into the top of my head. I realized when I pulled back that it was my turn to be strong. Luke’s eyes were drooped, flickering around my face as if he were trying to memorize me.
“It’s gonna be okay bub,” I said.
“I already miss you,” he countered.
I kissed along his bearded jawline eventually meeting his lips. His tongue slipped past my teeth and I heard someone whistle from the other side of security. The smile that formed against my mouth swelled my heart almost as much as the squeaky giggle that flitted from Luke.
“Go on,” I flicked my head towards the gates, “go be a rockstar.”
His lips found mine once more, then between my eyebrows, and finally the tip of my nose.
I stood frozen in that same spot as Luke removed his jacket and shoes and passed through the metal detector. He joined the other three who collectively patted him on the back. Luke turned over his shoulder to blow me a final kiss. I returned to gesture and watched him disappear into the vast sea of travelers dragging suitcases.
I meandered alone back to my car. The booming sound of the door closing echoed through the parking garage much longer than seemed possible. My hands curled around the steering wheel. In the six months that I’d been dating Luke we’ve never spent more than 48 hours apart. While everything already felt so empty I knew my strength could carry me for a couple of days. What happens after that?
I dropped my bookbag behind the arm chair as I strode through the door of my apartment. I made a bee line for my nightstand where I had forgotten my phone that morning. A fact I had became acutely aware of when I sat down in my first class then was unable to focus for the rest of the day. I clicked it awake to see three texts and a voicemail. My mom had sent her usual good morning message alongside two texts from my best friend about her coming over later; she was concerned about my impending hermit status. I stared at the final notification for a good two minutes. “1 new voicemail from Luke Hemmings”, it read. I pressed my hand to my chest as I selected play.
“Hi pretty girl,” I blinked back tears over a small grin, “I guess you’re in class or your phone’s dead cause you NEVER hook it up!” Hearing his little laugh after so long made me realize just how much I adored it. “Listen, I know it’s been a few days since I called and I’m so sorry. We have a day off today so when you get this, please call me. I don’t care about the time difference I just need to hear your voice. I love you, baby.”
I knew that the band was scheduled to be in Spain this week, which garnered a seven hour time difference. According to the clock it was nearing 3AM where the boys were. An unavoidable pang of guilt hit my chest as I dialed Luke’s number.
The line buzzed a few times before a burst of dead air cut in.
“Hello?” A groggy, disoriented Luke answered.
“Hey it’s me,” I said.
He let out a relieved sigh as if he had just been given the final dose of a life saving medication.
“I love you I love you I love you,” Luke repeated.
“I love you too, bub.”
I heard him fall back onto the pillows, “What have you been doing?” he asked.
“Oh nothing,” I said, “the usual…”
“Well tell me about it!” He urged
“It’s boring compared to your life right now…”
“I don’t care. Just talk to me.”
I proceeded to tell him every detail of the past four weeks; including the new puppy on the first floor that always poops on the front stoop, and that I had recently aced my creative writing final with the poem he helped me write. Every once in a while Luke would offer a question or comment but mostly he just listened, breathing in my words like oxygen. After a while I ran out of menial tales to tell him. I sat, curled up on the couch, phone fused to my ear. The silence shattered under Luke’s words, “What are you thinking about?”
“I wanna come see you.”
“You have school.”
“I don’t care,” I retorted firmly.
“I don’t want you to miss class for me. I can’t…,”
I cut in, “Luke, please”
He took a deep, pondering breath. Finally he said, “We’ll be in London in three days. You can come then.”
The passport Luke made me get months earlier received its first stamp when I arrived at the customs desk.
“Welcome to London,” the man said.
I thanked him and merged back into the crowd. I glanced at all of the signs trying to remember where Luke said he would be. I turned to examine the map of the airport on the wall, squinting at the microscopic print, ‘Where the fuck am I!?’ I thought. A loud melodic whistle sounded from the other side of the hall. I turned on my heel and there he was; towering over me in a leather jacket, hands burrowed in the front pockets of his tight jeans, sparkling eyes peeking out from under his full eyebrows. It took all of my will power not to full on scream as I leapt into Luke’s arms. In that embrace, every piece of me that had chipped away over our time apart was squeezed back into place and I was whole once more. I dropped down to my feet and moved my arms around Luke’s waist, not willing to let go of him just yet.
“Nice outfit,” he said with a smile in his voice. I looked down at my scuffed high tops, disheveled jeans, and Luke’s sweatshirt.
“It doesn’t smell like you anymore…” I whined into his chest.
He situated my head under his chin, “I guess we’ll just have to trade it back and forth then.”
“Deal,” I replied.
I pressed myself closer against Luke’s body. I felt like if I let him go he may just disappear into thin air.
“Hey,” Luke whispered, “Can I kiss you now?”
“Well since you asked so nicely.”