The Fear of Falling
The airport isn’t busy with people coming and going, instead it’s uncharacteristically quiet for a Friday night as I watch the fading sunset through the windows. With each minute that passes the airport grows quieter, and I eventually sense his presence as he slides into the empty seat beside me and bumps his shoulder with mine.
“Holy Hipster.” He beams at me, eyes lit with bliss. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wear a pair of ripped jeans or with such straight long hair covered by a beanie hat.”
“Hey, buddy. Nice to see you too.” I say biting back a laugh. Of course, he noticed I made few personal adjustments over the summer. One of them being I grew my hair past my shoulders to about mid back and yes, I bought a beanie hat. I also bought two pairs of ripped jeans, which I realize is totally out of character, but Jonathon told me my butt looked fantastic in jeans so I bought them. “Is this your annoying way of telling me how good I look?”
He laughs. “Aw I missed you, Jonesy.” He doesn’t shy away from his proclamation when I look over at him. After a pause with strange, mutual inspection, he asks, “Did you pierce your nose too?”
I nod. “Yes. I did.” When he makes a face I playfully shove him. “Don’t pretend you don’t like it.”
“I leave you for one summer and suddenly you’re wearing beanie hats, probably bicycling all over San Francisco, and I bet you’re even putting avocado on everything.”
“Hey I may be borderline hipster, but you look like a homeless person.” I say abruptly, playfully teasing him right back. “Your skin is brown and leathery from the sun… and seriously why is your hair so long and stringy?”
“It’s beach hair.”
Laughing I continue, “You also have the worst beard.”
He looks at my eyes, my cheeks, my lips for a long moment before meeting my eyes again. “Aw just admit you love my new Zen appearance just as much as I love you as a hipster.”
He grins over at me. “Come on Jonesy, time to give your best bud a hug.”
He wraps his arms around me and holds me close. He smells like the ocean and peppermint toothpaste. I hug him back and realize how much I missed him too. I missed his incessant need to tease me, our friendly banter and his warm embrace. It feels like forever since we’ve seen each other and I don’t want to ever let go. That is until he playfully starts to rub his beard all over my face. It itches against my skin and I wrestle against him to break free, both of us laughing.
And it’s when he pulls away from our hug that I meet the eyes of a guy approaching Ryan with a tray of coffee in hand. He appears to be a few years older than we are and tall, with light blonde hair and bright blue mischievous eyes. He has a well maintained beard framing his full lips. He’s watching us and smiling. He doesn’t look away when our eyes meet. If anything, his smile gets bigger.
He nudges Ryan in the back. “Here, mate. Your coffee.”
Wait…was that an Australian accent too? My goodness this guy is drool worthy.
Ryan stands to greet him. “Thanks bud.”
The blonde stranger smiles down at me. “I got one for you too…Jonesy right?” What he says makes me draw back and look over at Ryan to assess his reaction. “You like two milk, no sugar?”
“I’m sorry, do I know you?”
Ryan laughs and drapes his arm around my shoulder. “Jonesy this is Liam George. We worked together on the farm. He’s going to be crashing with me Jayce and Kale for a while.”
Oh. Liam continues to watch me with an amused grin.
“Nice to meet you. My actual name is Ella.” I say and take the coffee from him. “Jonesy is what Ryan likes to call me.”
With a smirk, he shakes my hand. “Well Ella, it’s nice to finally meet you. Ryan has told me a lot about you.”
“Has he now?” I detect a hint of blush on Ryan’s cheeks.
“One thing he neglected to tell me though was how beautiful you are,” Liam gives me a wink from one of his clear baby blues. “I love your nose ring.”
Ryan shifts his gaze curiously between us.
I place my palm on Liam’s chest. “Aw that’s so kind of you to say.” He puffs out his chest clearly enjoying my advances. “And I must say, I do love your beard. So well maintained.”
“We should probably head over to baggage claim – “Ryan cuts in, muscling his way between me and Liam as he rolls his carry-on behind him. Liam shrugs and we follow Ryan as he leads the way.