The idea of you leaving doesn't seem real until you take out your passport. Until a female voice reads out a string of words and numbers that ring like warning bells through the air and you mumble 'that's my flight'. Only then does it hit me that after you pass that border, I'll be walking back to the car alone. The seat beside me will be empty. There'll be no one to pop in for dinner with the most beautiful song that is your voice. And the emptiness will linger for years - the ache of my arms when I've no one to wrap them round, the iciness of my hands when you aren't there to warm them. Years, until you came back again.
You reach into your haversack and carefully extract a translucent pink glass box. I know that box: it's my princess box, your mother's Christmas present to me when we were six. It has a crown ornament on the top and glitter all around and I used to to keep my most precious possessions in it. A rose petal from Mum's bath stuff, a small crystal keychain in the shape of an angel, a metallic red rock I found on the ground. When I was seventeen I emptied the box and gave it to you because you were too big to fit in it.
I open it: it's filled with saga seeds, tiny red hearts, whispers of childhood memories and of love. "They're all from Corie," you say awkwardly, your eyes glued to my hands, to the box. Corie. Even the way you it takes me years back. Corie was the tree we found at the end of the street where we lived; one Saturday when we were seven, you burst into my room saying 'Hey Dee, I found little hearts." Subsequent afternoons were spent underneath the little hearts tree, scouting for the red seeds and comparing whose were more heart-shaped, or lying in the shade waiting for one to drop on our faces. Soon we decided it needed a name: Corazone, Spanish for 'heart', but it didn't sound right for the tiny seeds it produced, so we called it Corie.
I put a few fingers into the box, feel the little hard hearts against them. Excess. "I've been collecting them since last year, when I got the letter." If you knew at age eight that you were capable of collecting these many seeds when you were older, you wouldn't have bragged about your find of five new ones every other week. You used to clench your right fist tightly as you walked up to me, the seeds carefully nestled in the middle, protected, the little hearts. Then you'd uncurl your fingers and reveal the bright red hearts, strikingly bold against your pale white palm. That was how you confessed to me, too, when we were sixteen; in the park a few streets away, you reached into your pocket and pulled out a closed fist and opened it to reveal a single saga seed: "that's my heart and I'm giving it to you."
As I slowly pull my fingers out one drops to the floor. You bend down, reach for it, offer it back to me: it's in your white palm, just like it was that day. I look into your eyes and I know you're recalling that day too, how I took the seed smiling and cautiously leaned into your embrace. How I said 'My heart's yours, too.'
'So I guess this is it,' I say. I close the pink box, slip it into my shoulder bag and manage a smile. Suddenly you're all around me and I let my breath be taken with your grip. The smell of you and the detergent your mum uses. It brings me back again. Me sleeping on your bed - at seven, and at seventeen. I feel a tear on your cheek - wait, it's mine. I let my arms soak you in one last time. Your soft cotton tee and the warm comfort of your skin.
You walk through the gates and all I can do is to stand and watch from the other side. The glass wall deceives: it makes me think I'm still within reach of you, before the cold hard truth hits me again, again. I sit on the short metal railings and watch you disappear. Then I take out the box again. The red seeds, fire, warmth, love, little whispers of love.