She concentrated and tried again to propel herself more than a few steps forward. Inside the security checkpoint, an infringement of TSA agents languidly examined passports and gesture-directed passengers, occasionally patting one down. Decades of living waited on the other side of that line. And still she lingered, hesitating whenever she veered too close.
“You, um….you don’t want to miss the flight,” he said, the cheer in his voice so obviously forced that you could sense it from the parking garage. “Might be the final one today.”
“Listen. This isn’t an ending,” she replied, doing her best to believe it. The words burned. “I’ve spent every night for the past month staring at my ceiling, praying I’ll have some last-minute revelation, something that’ll allow me to stay. But it’s not coming.” She hugged her best friend and hoped she looked confident. “The apartment is rented, I start the job on Monday…anything less than a purely cinematic moment can’t stop me from getting on that plane.”
And already feeling the vertigo from the drop just ahead, he allowed their embrace to crumble. His hands slid into hers. “In that case,” he said, his voice like static but clear enough so that she heard every word, “I have a confession to make.”
Neither moved. Dozens of passengers, airport employees, security personnel, and vendors swirled around them, their final destinations anywhere but here. “Mr. Donovan Cobb, please pick up a white courtesy phone,” a polite woman implored over the public address system. “Mr. Donovan Cobb. Thank you.“
Her hands broke apart, shaking slightly. She focused on the floor to shield her face. “Please, whatever you’re going to say…don’t. The confessional’s closed,” she pleaded quietly. “If you open that box, nothing will ever be able to–“
“I know, but…it’s killing me, and not saying it isn’t fair to either of us. So I–“
“Stop. What I said about a cinematic moment, I didn’t mean…look, I’m wrong anyway, aren’t I? You’re not imagining something with sweeping music and a joyfully tearful confession of my own? I won’t be able to unhear it. I’d never see you again, and…I can’t bear that. I can’t ever bear that.”
He inhaled, a sharp sound, wiping the tears as discreetly as possible. “Boarding’s in, um, half an hour. You really ought to–“
“Y-Yeah,” she stammered. She closed her eyes. Eight steps to the security checkpoint. Eight steps half a world away.