Prompt #7: Embrace
Word Count: 2,011
Stacy sat primly at the little table near the café, crossing one leg over the other as she idly played with the handle of her coffee cup. Her expression was distant as she eyed the arrivals board, looking every inch the calm, cool sophisticate she had become during her short time in Europe. Dressed in chic black Givenchy, high heels and a cloche hat over smooth, sleek, dark blond hair, it would be easy to mistake her for a native. Indeed, no one passing by her table on the second level of Terminal 1 in the Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle gave her so much as a second look.
She had come to Paris for study abroad and had totally fallen in love with the city, staying longer than her allotted one semester. She had been 'discovered' at a little café in Paris during her extended stay, sipping a light soda on a warm spring afternoon, and had quickly moved into some lower-level print work for one of the smaller fashion houses. It had been an amusing adventure, and one that fit rather perfectly with her major, fashion design. It was her dream to one day work with Givenchy, who had sculpted Audrey Hepburn's classic look in the mid-'60s – and if modeling got her in that door, she was more than ready to pursue such a path.
The choice to stay in Paris for an extra semester, and now over the summer, had been an easy one to make. She'd eventually worked everything out with her school back in the States, and once she started modeling, had moved out of her host family's home into her own little apartment on the outskirts of the city. She'd even managed to win over her parent's objections, pointing out that Renee was just across the Channel finishing up graduate work at Oxford, so it wasn't like she was alone on her side of the world – merely 350 miles away from the nearest family member.
It wasn't Renee who was arriving today, however.
For all that she looked cosmopolitan and collected, Stacy felt anything but on the inside, nervous anticipation swirling through her stomach as she drummed her perfectly manicured nails against the ceramic cup. It had been nearly two years since she'd seen him, and she was as jittery today as she had been the first time she'd realized she'd felt something special for him. And yet, in all the years since that day, so much had happened – most of it good, some of it not – that she felt silly all the same.
She knew him – she'd grown up with him – she'd loved him for a very long time.
And now, Ryan was coming to visit her for the first time, nearly two years to the day since the end of their relationship.
The split had been amicable, albeit unwanted; he was moving to Seattle following his graduation from university, knowing his career opportunities were better on the West Coast. She'd just started her second year at the Fashion Institute in New York, and both knew that 3,000 miles was too much, too long, too far to conduct a proper relationship. It had been hard, letting him go; she had little interest in dating, even after arriving in the posh French capital. Time had finally healed the wound that distance had ripped open, hence her rather impulsive decision to invite him to visit, after two years of only occasional letters and phone calls.
She wasn't sure how to react, now that this long-anticipated reunion was almost upon her. She'd learned how to leash her somewhat impetuous emotions over the years, and had perfected a façade of icy grace during her time in Europe. It was her attitude as much as her looks that had won her the modeling contract, and spending time even in the lower rungs of haute couture fashion had only reinforced the desire to appear cool and in control at all times. She'd tried to think of how a gorgeous Parisian would react to meeting a former lover, and attempted to act accordingly, but it was hard.
On the inside, she was still an overeager twelve-year-old, bubbling with excited anticipation at being within five feet of her once-and-only crush object. Ryan had been her first in every significant meaning of the word, so thinking about him also drew those memories to the surface – the giddy feelings of falling in love, the comfort of being held and cared for, the darker desires of love and lust. Even now, conjuring up her last memory of seeing him made her entire body flush hot and cold, gooseflesh rising over her bare legs.
Her coffee had grown cold in her cup as she stared into the depths of the dark liquid, half-wondering and half-deciding how she would react when she greeted him at his gate. Would she remain cool, calm, and sophisticated? Could she see herself walking up to him, greeting him with a nonchalant handshake, or perhaps even the double air kisses Europeans were so fond of? Could she restrain her smile and the look in her eyes, inquire about the weather and his plane ride over, as if they were merely cordial friends in a casual meeting?
Or would she fall apart with just one look, memories overriding her good judgment as she threw herself in his arms, like no time had passed since their final parting?
She glanced up, her heart picking up speed as her eyes latched onto the latest arrival notice to scroll up on the board. "Nine-fifteen from JFK," she murmured under her breath. That's his flight.
She stood, taking a moment to smooth her skirt over her legs and twist her purse over her shoulder before dropping a few francs on the table and moving away, her heels clicking smartly against the tile as she passed the other shops and restaurants on the second level.
Terminal 1 was a true sight to behold, and she allowed her eyes to drift up, up, up as she walked under the seventy-foot skylight, cradled in the middle of the building, flooding the light, airy structure with warmth and sunshine. Elsewise, the structure looked like something out of the future, the connecting corridors between floors encased in long glass tubes. Stacy joined fellow travelers on the moving sidewalks that took the place of escalators, traveling up to the fifth floor, which connected the terminal with the arrival gates.
As she stepped off onto her chosen floor, her eyes flew to the nearest arrivals board, and she noted with some trepidation that his flight listing had risen faster than she expected. His gate was one of the furthest away, and she would have to move quickly to even meet him halfway. She stayed the impulse, however, weaving through the thickening crowd with practiced ease, one hand closing around her purse where it lay at her hip.
When she crested the corridor, she noticed a wave of people walking towards her, spilling from the three gates closest to the end of the hall. All around her, happy family members called into the crowd, each cry and shriek sending a shiver of anticipation rolling down Stacy's spine. She pressed forward, her eyes roving over the faces of the weary travelers, suddenly on guard to expect the unexpected.
She spotted him almost immediately, her breath hitching in her chest. Like most of his fellow passengers, he was dressed for maximum comfort – his version of which meant dark jeans paired with a nondescript black t-shirt, dark aviator shades in place, and his omnipresent leather jacket casually slung over one arm. He carried a huge duffel bag, and she could almost make out the straps of a backpack resting against his shoulders as well. Her heart skipped a beat when she noticed classic black Chuck Taylors at the hems of his jeans. To her eyes, he looked deliciously sexy and rumpled for someone who'd just flown overnight on a trans-Atlantic flight, and she could feel her resolve beginning to slip.
She felt it, the moment he found her in this virtual sea of humanity. Her eyes flickered to his as he reached up with his free hand to peel his sunglasses from his face, a slow smile curving his mouth all the while. Every fiber of her being was suddenly set ablaze with fiery anticipation, any pretense of remaining the silent sophisticate abandoning her beneath the flood of desire that threatened to overwhelm her. In an instant, she knew this would be no casual visit between old friends. If only his smile could affect her so much, there was no way she'd be able to be in his presence for two minutes, much less two weeks, without wanting to return to the way things were before interests and distance had torn them apart.
She was unable to suppress her own smile as she quickened her pace, moving as swiftly as her four inch heels would allow. She dodged fellow well-wishers, squeezing between friends and families as her focus narrowed to him, and only him. The muscles of her torso constricted as they closed the gap, and she was surprised to feel a heady heaviness in her chest, rising up to back of her throat and settling behind her eyes.
Two steps away, he dropped his bag and his coat, opening his arms to her. She stepped into the eager embrace, reaching out to touch him fleetingly before her mouth found his, the intimate touch causing her heart to immediately burst, the very core of her being filled with longing and loss and love, each emotion cascading into the next. Tears slipped from the corners of her eyes as she pressed closer, her hands raking through his hair, relishing every nip and tug of their mouths, every brush of their tongues. She felt his arms close around her, his hands roving expertly over familiar territory, drifting up the planes of her back to her shoulders, drawing her body into his, until she was flush against him, her hips cradling perfectly into his, just like always.
"Wow, Stace," he mumbled against her lips, his breath heavy and hard, "if I had known this would be your greeting, I would've visited a lot sooner."
She smiled, pressing her forehead to his as she pushed air back into her lungs, her hands curling into his hair as her elbows rested against the straps of the backpack on his shoulders. Perhaps deep down, she'd always known it would be like this – or, at least, that she could never doubt her own reaction, the way she was drawn to him like metal to a magnet, no matter what the circumstances. Maybe now she could admit that she'd been afraid – that he'd forgotten, or gotten over her, or moved on with his life, leaving no space for her in it. She'd survived enough unrequited love to last her a lifetime, but learning that she'd lost him forever would've broken her spirit in a way that not even career success could bolster.
"I've missed you," she admitted, her voice gravelly with pent-up emotion.
He shook his head slightly, tightening the brace of his arms around her. "Not half as much as I've missed you," he replied, capturing her lips in another sweet kiss.
Her hands slipped from his hair, smoothing over his arms before drifting down to capture his, giving them a tiny squeeze. "Come on," she murmured, breaking away slightly. "Let's go."
He stilled her with a single, piercing glance. "Where am I staying?" he asked softly, his eyes narrowing in questioning assessment as he studied her.
She smiled, reaching for fistfuls of his shirt. "With me, of course," she declared in response, her eyes glittering boldly as they met his. She had no doubt in her mind that by the end of the day, their reunion would be complete in every sense of the word. "It's not much, but I call it home."
"Then let's go home," he murmured, leaning down to kiss her again.