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“Okay. I promise.” I swallowed. “Anything else?” “No. I just want to sleep next to you and Bea tonight. Is that okay?” “Of course.” I took his hand. “It’s going to be okay, Justin. We’ll be okay.” He smiled and whispered, “Yeah.” Justin placed Bea between the two of us. As she lay in the middle, Justin and I looked into each other’s eyes until sleep finally claimed us. *** When I woke up the next morning, panic hit me for a brief moment because Justin was gone from the bed. Looking at the clock, I calmed down, realizing it was only 9AM. He wasn’t scheduled to leave until around noon. The smell of his signature coffee brewing wafted up the stairwell and immediately made me sad. It would be the last time I would smell his coffee fusion for a long time. Feeling my eyes getting watery, I took my sweet time before going downstairs, hoping to regain my composure before then. I did some mindless things: cleaned the bedroom, threw a load of laundry in, anything than to have him see me break down. Bea was watching me from her Exersaucer as I ran around my room like a maniac. Justin walked in as I was vacuuming my rug. I wouldn’t look up at him as I moved the vacuum back and forth. “Amelia.” I pushed it along the carpet faster. “Amelia!” he yelled. I finally looked at him. He must have seen the sadness in my eyes because his expression slowly darkened. I just stared at him as the vacuum continued to run, even though I’d stopped moving it. A teardrop fell down my cheek, and I knew I had officially lost my ability to hide my feelings. He slowly approached and shut off the vacuum, his hand lingering over mine which was still gripping the handle. “I’ve been waiting to have coffee with you,” he said. “I need to have breakfast with you and Bea one last time before I leave. It’s my favorite thing in the world.” I wiped my eyes. “Okay.” “It’s fucking okay to be sad. Stop trying to hide it from me. I won’t hide it, either.” His voice cracked a little. “I’m so fucking sad right now, Amelia. The last thing I want to do right now is leave you guys. But time is running out. Don’t waste it hiding from me.” He was right. Sniffling, I nodded. “Let’s go have coffee.” Justin lifted Bea into his arms as he closed his eyes tightly and breathed in her scent as if he wanted to burn it into memory. When he pulled back, he lifted her up into the air as she looked down at him. “Are you my Bumblebee?” She smiled at him, and if that didn’t feel like a knife to the heart, I didn’t know what did. My emotions were all over the place again. A part of me was still selfishly angry at him. How could you leave us? Why haven’t you told me you love me? Why haven’t you told Bea you love her? You don’t love us. A bigger part was angry at myself for even having those kinds of thoughts again. I was coming to realize that it wasn’t so much the fact that he was leaving that bothered me as it was the fact that he was leaving me so unsure about where things really stood with us. He treated me as if he loved me, but even when we were acting like a family, he’d never defined our relationship, never even labeled me his girlfriend. As Justin prepared the mugs of coffee like he always did, I followed every move he made and couldn’t help but wonder what the next time I’d watch him make coffee would be like. When he handed me my cup, I put on the best smile I could. I didn’t want him to leave thinking of my sad face. Just as I was trying like hell to put on a happy facade, his own expression turned sullen. “What is it, Justin?” “I just feel helpless. If you need anything, I told Tom you might call him from time to time. I left his number on the fridge. He said anytime day or night, don’t hesitate. Call him instead of that tool next door, please. I also installed a new alarm system.” He waved a hand, leading me to the door. “Come on, I’ll show you how to use it.” Everything he was saying was muffled as my eyes followed his fingers, hands, and lips as he explained how to maneuver the alarm control pad. His voice was fading into the background, losing the battle with my accumulating panic. Justin took notice and stopped talking. “You know what? I’ll email you the instructions.” He stared at me for a bit before pulling me into an embrace. He held me for what seemed like several minutes, slowly rubbing my back. There wasn’t anything we could do to slow down time. I watched from the window as Justin loaded his luggage into the back of the Range Rover. When he came back inside, we took a quick but quiet walk on the beach with Bea. At one point, I stayed behind as Justin took Bea closer to the shore. He whispered something in her ear. That made me curious, but I never asked him what he’d said to her. Once we returned to the house, it was time for Justin to leave. The morning had flown by way too fast; it almost seemed unfair. Trying to suppress my tears, I said, “I can’t believe this moment is finally here.” Miraculously, I was able to keep the crying at bay because, mostly, I was in shock. The best thing I could do for him right now was to reassure him that I would support him while he experienced this new chapter, let him know that I would be there for him in the very way we started—as a friend. I returned his own sentiments from earlier. “The same goes for you, Justin. If you need me, or you get lonely, or maybe you’re feeling doubtful, you call me day or night. I’ll be here.” Justin was still holding Bea as he placed his forehead on mine and simply said, “Thank you.” We stayed like that for a while with Bea sandwiched in the middle of us. Still wanting to avoid breaking out in tears, I forced myself away. “You’d better go. You’ll miss your flight.” He kissed Bea’s head gently then said, “I’ll call you when I land in Minneapolis.” Bea and I stood in the doorway, watching as he walked away. He got in the car and started it but didn’t move. He looked over at us as we continued to wait. Bea was reaching out her hand to him and babbling; she obviously had no clue what was going on. Why wasn’t he moving? He suddenly got out of the car, slamming the door. My heartbeat accelerated with each step he took toward me. Before I could ask him whether he’d forgotten something, his hand wrapped around the back of my head, pulling me into him. He opened his mouth wide over mine, plunging his tongue inside and twirling it around at an almost desperate pace as he groaned into my mouth. He tasted like coffee and a flavor all his own. This was not the time to be getting aroused, but I couldn’t help my body’s reaction. When he forced himself back, his eyes were hazy, filled with just as much confusion as passion. I had to once again remind myself of the old adage of setting someone free, that if they come back they’re yours; if they don’t, they never were. Please come back to me. He said nothing else as he walked back to the car, started it and this time…drove off. CHAPTER 18 Blind faith. That was the only thing helping me get through that first month with Justin away. Somehow, I just had to convince myself to trust his actions and judgement, even though I couldn’t be there to see what was actually happening. He called us every night. Sometimes, it would be during what he referred to as his relaxation time around 8PM, right before their 9PM performances. Other times, it would be during his lunch or dinner break. From what he’d told me, his daily itinerary was jam-packed with sound checks and rehearsals at each new venue. The only down time was after the show, and by then, he was roped into after parties or just plain exhausted. If the band stayed more than one night in the same city, they would all check into a hotel. If they had to be in another locale the next day, they would drive through the night and sleep on the bus.
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