Heavy raindrops on the window blurred her vision, transforming the scene beyond the bus window into an abstract landscape akin to what she might have created in her art classes at home. “What am I doing?” She thought to herself, for what felt like it had to be the millionth time over the past several hours since she had taken her place in her seat on the bus in Houston. Instantly, an all too familiar sense of panic began to set in and she responded to it by pulling her phone from the side pocket of her bag and tapping out a simple text.
She knew he would read the words and understand exactly what they meant; he always did. This is why she was leaving the entirety of her life behind her to move across the country to go to him, as if she were leaving much to be said behind her anyway. Time stood still and her lungs began to burn until her phone chimed with an incoming message and brought with it cool fresh oxygen as she realized she had been holding her breath.
“Breathe, sweet girl.”
How did he always know? She had to stifle the small giggle the seemed to bubble out of her when he called her that and for a moment her anxieties were forgotten.
She wanted this more than anything, and she had for a long while, to be with him. There was nothing worth keeping tying her to a life in Texas yet she worried if once she’d arrived in Seattle his desire to have her there would change and she would be left with nothing ahead of her and nothing behind. After months of text messages and phone calls with him reassuring her there was no reason for her doubts, she’d finally agreed to let him buy her a bus ticket. Then after rather unceremoniously quitting the job she despised without notice and packing the few possessions she cared about taking with her, she’d boarded bus # 1301 en route to Seattle, Washington leaving all that she knew in the rearview mirror.
“Am I crazy? To be doing this?” She tapped out nervously, not even having to explain further, knowing he would understand.
“No.” Was the reply. It was so absolute, leaving no question or doubt.
“And you’re not going to change your mind the moment you see me?” She chewed her lip nervously as she asked this question yet again.
“No. I want you with me.” She sighed with relief, as if he had not said these words to her numerous times before.
“Okay.” Was her only response, but then her phone immediately chimed again.
“Write for me.”
Without the need for an answer, she pulled her small Vera Bradley backpack from its place beneath the seat in front of hers and reached into it, withdrawing a small, brown leatherbound moleskin notebook and a pen. The soft texture of the cover beneath her fingertips brought with it a wave of calm as this was an exercise he’d taken her through countless times before. She paused at first unsure where to begin, then as he’d taught her to do, she put the pen to the page and began to write.
‘I want to be with you more than you will ever know, but I am afraid. I am anxious, I am nervous. and I worry that you will not want me once you’ve actually seen me. What will I do then? Where will I go if you longer want me?’
She paused, reading the words and realizing how utterly raw they were now wishing she could erase them and cursed herself for writing in ink. But that was one of his rules, one which she hadn’t really registered until now. Always honest, always in ink, no pages torn out. He had sent her the small journal a couple of months prior when they began discussing the possibility of her relocation, along with a small note that simply stated, ‘Write for me.’
He’d explained further in a later conversation that it was intended to be used as an avenue of voicing the thoughts that she dared not speak out loud, whether they were good, bad, or indifferent it did not matter, as long as they were honest. Once they were written inside, she was to leave them there, to allow this small vessel to contain the thoughts fears and emotions for her until she arrived in his care. Once she had, his expectation was that she would relinquish it to his charge, at which time he would read it and keep it put it away for her until such time that she needed it. In this way, she would have an avenue to speak, when her voice failed her. He knew she struggled with vocalizing her thoughts audibly, and allowing for communication within him in this unique method, he accepted that as a part of her. “Write it down, then let it be. Let me take it for you.” He’d instructed her.
Closing the notebook and binding it with a thin leather strap around a brass button on the front cover, she returned it to its place within her bag and yet again picked up her phone. The illuminated screen brought with it the affirmation she subconsciously sought with two simple words. The simple message brought with it a small smile as she always beamed knowing when she had pleased him.
The miles between them dwindled as the bus charged its way north, and she finally allowed herself to drift quietly, her eyelids heavy with the sleep she had long denied them until she was startled awake by the air brakes engaging as the bus pulled into the station and the indoor lights illuminated causing her to squint. She scrambled to collect herself, as the few other passengers began to rise and gather their belongings preparing to disembark. Hurriedly she pulled her long brown locks from their messy ponytail and attempted to reassemble it with some sense of organization.
Using the front facing camera on her phone she hurriedly scanned her pale face, unsure of what she hoped to do aside from transforming herself into something more presentable as she knew he would be waiting just inside the station. Her heavy green eyes and deep purple circles beneath them truly illustrated how she felt and she despised her inability to filter her inner expression. “Be better.” She chided herself and rose pulling her bag over her shoulder as the last of the other passengers had long passed her in the aisle and the driver stood waiting on her to bring up to the end of the line. She slowly stumbled her way out of the bus doors, mumbling a shy thank you to the middle-aged driver who offered a kind but weary smile as she brushed past and after stepping carefully down the deep stairs, she slowly ventured into the depo.
Once she had stepped down off of the bus, she was greeted by an icy wind which cut through her barely there jacket. Without anything more useful available she pulled the thin fabric tighter around her body, quickly gathered her bag from the ground on the sidewalk beside the open luggage bins and rushed inside toward what she hoped would be warmer air. Inside the depot, she found it larger than what it had appeared from the outside but thankfully warmer as well, filled with people bustling from one destination to another. She allowed her eyes to scan the sea of unfamiliar faces, anxiously searching for the familiar yellow shade of the hooded sweatshirt he promised that he’d be wearing when they met. It was to be how she would recognize him. That was until a voice coming caused her to drop her bag in surprise.
Slowly she turned to face the sound, trying to ignore the voice in her mind screaming for her to flee, all the while keeping her eyes glued to the floor.
A pair of weathered white tennis shoes stepped into her frame of vision as well as a pair of deep blue denim legs. The warmth of his hand on her check elicited a sigh and with two fingers beneath her chin he guided her to look up and face him. She obeyed yet she couldn’t bring her eyes to meet his, her insecurities welling up inside of her stinging the backs of her eyes and causing her breath to stall in her chest.
“Look at me, please.” She knew the please was for her benefit so she immediately did as he’d asked, and her obedience was rewarded with the kind embrace of a pair of beautiful turquoise eyes warm and welcoming; genuinely happy to see her.
“Hi there.” He greeted her softly. “Hi” she whispered in an anxious reply.
He pulled her body into his chest and her face closer to his causing her to panic slightly not sure if he was trying to kiss her. She didn’t even want to wonder how atrocious her breath must smell after nearly three days on the road. But then he brought his lips to her forehead and planted a warm kiss on the crease which had formed directly between her eyebrows.
“Breathe, sweet girl.”
She relaxed into his embrace and just stood inhaling the mixed aromas of his cologne intermingled with his body wash. The smell was heavenly and she exhaled deeply, only further tightening her arms around his torso. Thankfully he did not pull away or even attempt to move, they only stood in place for a long while allowing her to process, absorb, and just to feel his embrace. He held her embrace in silence for several minutes until her gripped finally began to relax, and only then did he pull away to face her again.
When she nodded, he leaned down to retrieve her bag, slinging it over his shoulder before taking her hand into his and leading her through the doors once again and out to where his truck sat waiting, before beginning the drive back to what would be their new home together.