I'd been awake since way before dawn, listening to Peter, Paul and Mary on my Grip's headphones.
It was 'leaving on a jet plane' played over and over again, in mono. I'd already cried a ten-year allotment of tears.
All too soon, I had to get up, get dressed, and leave the one person on the planet I was sure about. Suck isn't even the word.
Tammy was asleep on the couch—she'd decided to take them up on their offer—and I didn't want to wake her.
So I sat alone in monophonic misery until the sun came up.
I went back into our bedroom and watched Topher sleep. Hit looked so peaceful. Hit'd been a dear to me about leaving, and I didn't want hir to wake up alone before hit had to.
I crept over to hits side and kissed hir gently on the lips.
"Sleep, my dearest. I love you."
"I love you too," hit said, stirring. "Did you sleep well last night?"
"Not a bit. I was just coming in to snuggle."
Hit pulled back the bed clothes. Hit was naked.
I peeled off my pajamas and crawled in beside him. Sex was out of the question with us, not even an issue, but snuggling, skin-to-skin, is a monkey thing. I really enjoy it.
I woke up again when Tammy knocked on the door.
"Are y'all decent in there?"
"Decent, forthright and upstanding," Topher sang out at he door. "Do, come in."
"Yo sista's making breakfast. Do you want coffee?"
"God yes," I confessed. "I've been up all night, worrying."
She didn't ask about what.
"What time is it," I asked. My watch was over on my nightstand, all the way on the other side of the bed, away from my snuggle-bunny.
"About ten o'clock."
Tammy left and we got up and got dressed. I enjoy watching Topher move, even if it doesn't start a hormonal rush. Hit's pretty.
We had breakfast at the bar—ham and eggs and wheat toast, with plenty of coffee and fresh cream. Nobody said a word.
It was 10:20 when we had finished, and I offered to help Mary Jane with the dishes.
"No, dear. You should spend your last hour with Topher."
That made me even more sad. But I didn't cry.
We took a shower together, for the first time, telling ourselves it was to save time. It was 10:45 by the time we got dressed in street clothes.
"Do you have all your gear," Topher asked as the clock ticked up to 11:00.
"It's in my car."
I wasn't going to cry anymore.
Hit stood around for a while, clearly caught in indecision. Finally Mary Jane spoke up.
"Topher, are you gonna him-and-haw all freakin' day? Hit has to leave in ten minutes."
"I know," hit said, his face a dark mask of anguish. "I'll go get it."
I looked at Mary Jane and she raised an eyebrow. Tammy was smiling. Whatever 'it' was, they were both in on it.
Hit came back—grief swallowed—with an earnest look in hits eyes. He had a small box.
"Dani," he asked in a timid, plaintive voice. He snapped open the case. There was a tiny ring inside. Shiny, but gray, not silver.
"I'm not asking you to marry me, Dani. I know we can't. But I love you and I want to be with you. Will you wear my promise ring?"
"I'm not sure I can," I told hir. This was going to be harder than I thought.
But I wouldn't cry.
He was crushed.
"I love you too, Topher, but I can't make a promise when I don't know what is going to happen. I need to do this, alone. Maybe when I get back."
That didn't help either. Mary Jane came over and comforted hir, and gave me the Hairy Eyeball.
Tammy was none too amused either.
"Alright, what do you want me to promise?"
"Nothing," hit said snapping the box closed. "Forget I asked."
"Topher," I told hir, "nothing would make me more happy than to stay with you, to be with you. But I must do this now. Not because it will make me happy, but I hope it might make me complete. I have to strike out on my own. Can't you understand that?"
"Yes," hit said and looked at the clock. "It's time to go."
We were in the car, waiting in line at the bus terminal. Topher was moodier than I'd ever seen hir.
"What kind of ring is it love?" I hoped he hadn't spent too much on it.
"It's titanium. I got it because it's rare; it's tough and light and isn't affected by stray magnetic fields."
"Topher, I love you."
"I love you too, Dani. Let's get you on this bus."
"Wait," I said. "We need to finish this conversation."
"Hey buddy," A thrower said from the curb. "You gonna unload or what?"
"Just a minute," I yelled and rolled up the window. "Talk to me Topher."
"I want to be there for you."
"While I'm gone?"
"That's kind of silly. I'll be away. What if something happens?"
A car behind us honked. A gave the driver the finger.
"I don't know. But we can't make promises like that when we're not together. We both need more space than that."
"What are you saying?"
"Let's just promise to pick up where we left off, when I get back."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure. Whatever happens, I won't find anyone like you. There isn't one. I just don't want the pressure of a long-distance relationship."
"Okay. I can live with that."
The stevedore knocked on the window.
I rolled the window down a crack.
"Give us a second."
I turned back to Topher.
"Okay, try again."
The box was in the console, hit grabbed it up and popped it open.
"Dani, will you come back to me, and pick up where we left off?"
"Yes," I told hir, taking the ring out of the box. "I promise."
It was thin, with tiny rabbits engraved on the surface, half of them running in one direction, the others going opposite. It was charming.
"Let me," hit said and slid it onto my finger.
The driver behind us blared his horn again.
Topher rolled his window down.
"Blow it out your ass," he yelled. "Can't you see I'm trying to get a piece of cotton-tail?"
I laughed and then started crying. It was sad, overwhelmingly so. I'd wanted this to be simple, but there is nothing simple about love.
Our love wasn't like any other in the world. It was based entirely on compatibility and mutual respect. We liked each other.
Topher was tearing up too. He dug into his pocket and pulled out a matching ring.
"Let me," I said and put it on hir's finger.
We were both crying now, and a crowd had gathered around to watch.
I got out opened the hatch. The stevedore grabbed my bags and headed off into the terminal.
I took hits hand and we turned back to the crowd.
"What are you looking at," hit asked them.
"So, are you gonna kiss her or what," a short bald guy with a New York accent asked. "After all that hassle, I figured at least we should get to see you two's kiss."
"No,' hit said, looking at me. I shook my head. No kisses.
"No," I repeated to the little man. "We're not."
This story continues in the serial blog The Peace Flag.