Read Part I of the short story!
“Airlie, I needed to come back for you.”
Liam, drenched with sweat, was standing near the foyer door. It looked like he had set up a nice dinner and some ambient music. Airlie was flattered, but still bothered.
“Liam, what are you doing here?”
“I was in Australia and it just didn’t feel right. I was missing something. I was missing you. You are the missing link.”
It was at that moment that Liam pulled out an envelope that he was holding from behind his back.
“I got you a plane ticket. It’s a one way ticket leaving on Saturday, three days from now. Come back with me?”
Airlie was a bit perplexed. She was fighting within herself because she truly loved and treasured Liam, but this didn’t feel quite right. While she was flattered that this man flew thousands of miles just for her, he came back with a plane ticket and nothing else? Was he really trying to get her to go be with him on the other side of the world, below the equator, without promise of a future other than the fact that they both knew deep down they cared for one another? It wasn’t enough. Airlie felt that this was a big request and almost absurd to ask.
“Liam… I really care about you. In fact, I was just rereading your letter, but we have never talked about what any of this means. We are good friends and the Lord has blessed us in many ways, but I don’t know how you really feel and what you are ready to commit to.”
“Airlie! I am here. I spent over $4,000 on coming back here and a ticket for you! Doesn’t that say enough?”
“Actually, no it doesn’t. When I first saw you and heard your heart, I was blown away at what you had to say and it made me feel very wanted. But as I stand here and look at where we are, it feel that maybe this is too good to be true. Liam, do you love me?”
Liam’s face changed. It almost contorted in a painful wait. The “L” word seemed throw him off guard. He started fumbling with the ticket and looked down at his shoes.
“Airlie, I do in fact love you dearly. I can understand what you may think. The fact is I have always loved you, but I wasn’t ready to do anything about it until now. I love you as my best friend and I can’t imagine living away from you. But you have to know that I am not ready for anything more than what we have now as friends.”
“Liam, you should leave. I will be in touch. I hope that you enjoy your time in Australia, I know it will be awesome.”
“Airlie, are you sure? I mean, I would love your company.”
“I am sure. It seems like you miss home and familiar things, even me. But the love you have for me isn’t the kind of love that will make me leave all that I have built here. The love you have for me will always be. I love you as well, but I don’t think you can accept what I have to give now. You just admitted to it. That says to me that you want all of the perks of someone by your side, but you don’t want to honor them with the commitment of your heart. That’s selfish, Liam. I don’t have time for selfish. Thanks for coming out, but I hope that ticket is refundable.”
At that moment Airlie turned and ran upstairs. Tears streaming down her cheeks she threw herself on to the bed and sobbed loudly. She didn’t care if Liam heard or not. How dare he be so bullheaded! If Airlie had one thing going for her it was self-respect. She understood Liam’s sentiment. She wanted him around too, but not like that. Besides, if she were to leave and go to Australia she would have no job, no financial security, no home, and she would end up being dependent on him. Plus how would that look? They were both attracted to each other and even shared an awkward kiss last year. She knew that if she went with him, it would only be a matter of time before they fell into something they deeply regretted. She didn’t want to be a convenience or an option for someone who wasn’t ready to do the work. It wouldn’t be wise, nor would it be fair to her. Airlie curled up in her blanket and she heard the front door close. Far off down the street she heard an engine turn and she knew it was Liam driving away. She had to stick to what she knew was right. If and when he was ready, he could offer something to her that made sense, not some extended play time with nothing to show for it. Somehow, Airlie was able to fall asleep.
The next morning, Airlie rolled out of bed. She felt like she has been at a fight club all night. Her face was puffy and her eyes were swollen.
“Ugh… I definitely need a massage and spa day.” She put on a mint green chevron printed maxi dress with her bronze leather gladiator sandals and went downstairs. She was juicing her favorite combination of apples, carrots, ginger, beets, and spinach when she eyed an envelope on the counter. She poured her juice in a travel tumbler, grabbed the envelope and rushed out the door. In the car Airlie made a few calls to set up a facial, massage, manicure, and pedicure. She got her nails done first. It took a while to get just the right setting on the massage chair for the pedicure. While her feet were pampered she pulled out the envelope. Liam had left the ticket for her. Should she reconsider?
Airlie stared at the ticket for a good 15 minutes until the nail technician tapped her on the shoulder to tell her that she forgot to pick a nail color before sitting down. She asked for a nice pastel to match her dress and the technician brought over graphite grey and a mint green. “I can do a mint and grey French pedicure if you like.” Airlie really didn’t care; she just wanted to feel like she was being pampered. “You going somewhere nice?” the technician asked.
“Oh, a friend got me a plane ticket to Australia.”
“That’s a nice friend. When do you leave?”
“I don’t know if I am going to go…see it’s a good friend of mine that’s a guy… an..”
“OH NO!” the technician interrupted. “Guys who give expensive gifts like that are only interested in one thing. I don’t see a ring!”
Airlie felt annoyed. This lady was certainly digging in a place where she didn’t belong. Plus Liam wasn’t like that. Misguided and slow, yes, but not a player. But, she was right. Liam stated he wasn’t ready to be more than friends so there was no way Airlie was going to change her life for a man who couldn’t give her some type of expectation for the future. The technician further said that “good girls make a man wait until the wedding night.” Airlie definitely wanted to be good. Not because society said she must, but because she knew what a mess her life was before she got serious about being a Christian, and just how much the Lord did to bring her to this point. No one was worth going back to the old lifestyle. As much as she loved Liam, there were no real boundaries, and it would be easy to fall in to the grey abyss of lust with him. Airlie looked at the tickets again and then stuffed them in her purse before she closed her eyes for a quick nap.
Three hours later Airlie’s afternoon of pampering was over and she decided to head to buy groceries to make a couple of Vegan dishes, including dessert. Airlie was in the right lane at a red light waiting to turn. She thought she was in the clear and BAM! A black suv came out of nowhere and hit Airlie on the driver side. She was startled but not hurt badly. The airbag did not deploy. Suddenly, a man was frantically knocking on her window. She could hear him in a panic, though the sound was muffled through the glass. He frantically screamed, “Ma’am are you OK. Oh my goodness!” The next thing Airlie remembers, she was in a daze, was a police officer and a paramedic asking her questions about her name, colors, and the number of fingers. Apparently Airlie’s head hit the window upon impact. She had a huge knot and bruise on her forehead. Out of the corner of her left eye, Airlie noticed a man pacing. He was average build and tall. She turned her head to get a closer look. He locked eyes with Airlie and seemed to perk up when contact was made.
“Ma’am, I am so sorry! I didn’t see you when I was making that U-turn!”
“What’s your name?” Airlie asked.
“Peyton. Peyton Reynolds.”
To be continue….