With this clarity came the same feeling I’d had when I would wake up and see Pippa asleep on the pillow next to mine, or walk down the stairs in the Vermont house and see her long legs stretched out on the couch as she read. The sensation was that giddy tightening, that nearly painful punch a heart gives when it’s got something to say.
I missed her. I wanted her. I wanted her here with me—or me with her—and I wanted to find that joy with the small things she seemed to have mastered.
I missed the wild, thrill-ride sound of her laugh and the way she scrunched her nose when someone used the word moist. I missed the way she would slowly draw letters and clouds and spirals on my back when I rested over her, catching my breath. I missed the way it felt to be inside her, but more than that, I missed the way it felt to be with her. Not doing anything, really, just . . . being together.
Standing, I jogged upstairs, pulled down the first suitcase I could find, and began throwing things inside: shirts, pants, boxers. I swiped the contents of the bathroom cupboard into the bag and closed it with a sharp click.
I didn’t know what I would say when I got there—or what she would say in return—so I repeated the same words over and over in my mind: I love you. I know it was supposed to be casual, but it’s not. I want to figure the rest out.
It occurred to me as I merged onto I-90 that I didn’t even have a flight booked to London. Laughing, I directed my phone to call the Delta reservations line. Cars sped by on either side of me, and within just a few minutes, my call rang through.
“Hello,” the woman said in a cheerful, helpful voice. “We’ve recognized your call from your phone number. Can you confirm your home address?”
I rattled it off, catching the urgency in my own voice.
She hummed into the line, asking what I needed, where I was flying, when I wanted to leave. If my last-minute inquiry to fly across the Atlantic was anything out of the ordinary, she didn’t let on. “And the date you’d be returning?”
I paused; I hadn’t considered that part. Taking work or any other kind of responsibility out of the equation, the best outcome I could hope for would be to stay for a week—maybe two—before going home. Hopefully we’d return together, or at the very least with some kind of understanding between us and a plan to move forward. I could do waiting. I could do patient.
What I didn’t seem to be handling very well was settling for Ring me when you come to London.
“I’d like to leave that open,” I said.
“No problem,” the woman said, and then, as if sensing my worry, she finished with, “We do these all the time. Do you know which cabin you’d prefer, Mr. Bergstrom?”
“It doesn’t matter,” I told her. “As long as I’m on the flight.”
“Okay.” More keystroke clicks. “And would you—” She paused for a moment and I found myself looking up at the speaker, worrying that I’d lost the call.
“Yes, sorry,” she said, coming back. “Would you be interested in using miles?”
“Yes, you have, um, quite a few,” she said, and then laughed. “Nearly eight hundred thousand, actually.”
London was gray as ever upon our descent, but once we’d dropped below the clouds we could see Tower Bridge and the London Eye, the River Thames as it snaked its way through the streets. My nerves, having dissipated somewhat during the long flight, sparked to life again as the whole city came into view.
The Shard reminded me of a story Pippa told us about visiting the observation deck on the seventy-second floor and how hilarious she thought it was that there was a Yelp page where people could “voice their disapproval of the view.”
Seeing Wembley Stadium reminded me of Pippa describing a concert she’d seen there, how being in the stadium with her eyes closed, surrounded by ninety thousand people while the music beat through every bone in her body, was as close to pure bliss as she’d ever been.
I wanted to be the one at her side when she experienced her next moment like that.
I felt reenergized as we deplaned and headed through the terminal, through customs, and finally toward baggage. The routine felt so natural, so normal, that it freed up my brain to imagine—a hundred times—how it might feel walking to her flat, or meeting her in her corner pub, or simply running into her on the sidewalk. I’d been practicing my little speech, but I was beginning to realize that it didn’t really matter what I said when I saw her. If she wanted me, we’d figure the rest out.
I felt like the guy in the movie, on a mission and hoping he hadn’t realized how he felt far too late.
The organized chaos of Heathrow buzzed around me and I found a quiet corner just off the baggage terminal. It was chilly and damp next to a set of automatic doors, and I set down my bags, pulling my phone from my pocket.
Opening her contact information, I burst out laughing once I saw the thumbnail picture beside her name. It was a photo she’d taken at the Jedediah Hawkins Inn early on in the trip. In it, she was grimacing, lips pushed out, eyes crossed. Ruby had said we needed to add everyone into our contacts, and Pippa had taken the worst selfie, sending it around once she had all of our numbers.
Just below her photo was her address. It was early afternoon on Saturday; I didn’t know whether she would be home or out with friends, but I had to try. Walking outside, I hailed a cab.
The streets grew narrower as the taxi made its way from the M4 and into the city. I watched from the backseat as we passed rows of tiny houses and apartments fashioned at odd angles. Most of the trees were bare this time of year, and the knobby trunks grew up and out from the cobbled sidewalks to stand starkly against gray brick.