A day later, it was Belle and Jason who were saying goodbyes. In Terminal 2 at the Lester B. Pearson airport, Belle awkwardly stood beside her partner, waiting to board the plane. They weren’t speaking... they’d barely spoken a word more than necessarysince they’d left the hotel. And yet, they’d stayed close... neither partner was willing to be completely alone.
“Flight 402 to Montreal, now boarding,” a voice announced over the P.A. system. “Would all passengers on flight 402 to Montreal please go to the boarding gate, gate 7, now.”
“That’s you guys.” Elizabeth hoisted her bag onto her shoulder and walked over to Belle. “You guys had better get going ...”
“Yeah.” Belle gave her friend a half-smile and picked up her own bag. “And you guys will be leaving soon, too, right?”
“Yup,” her friend replied, gesturing to Gate 5, where her husband was waiting for her. “We should be boarding soon.”
“Liz...” Belle turned furtively to make sure her partner was facing the opposite direction, then quickly engulfed her friend in a hug. “God, Liz, what am I going to do all alone? Without you, without Wing-Yee, without anyone?”
Elizabeth smiled at Belle’s melodramatics. “Don’t worry,” she said wryly. “I’m sure you’ll live. Plus...” Her tone softened. “You’ve still got him.”
Belle shook her head in frustration. “I don’t. And until I do...” She trailed off, giving her friend a Look. “Liz, you know what I mean.”
“I do,” Elizabeth agreed. “But Belle, there’s only so many times I can tell you it’s gonna be okay or that you’ll figure it out. There’s one step left. Only you can take it.”
“Flight 402 to Montreal, final call for boarding,” the P.A. system boomed. “Flight 402...”
“Belle...” Jason said only the one word, and completed his sentence by nodding towards Gate 7.
“It’s obvious he isn’t moving until you go,” Elizabeth laughed. “Go on.”
Belle started to follow her partner, but a call from Elizabeth stopped her mid-way. Her friend was waving good-bye, and as she turned to wave back, she saw Elizabeth clearly mouthing three words: “He loves you!”
Belle shook her head in reply, but Elizabeth just nodded vigorously. Then, “Call me!” she mouthed, and with a final wave, Elizabeth turned and went to join her husband.
Belle followed her partner through bag check and onto the plane, Elizabeth’s words ringing in her head the entire way. “There’s only one step left, Belle... only you can take it ... He loves you...”
The flight to Montreal took less than two hours, but it seemed, to the partners, like days. Sitting next to each other but not talking, hastily pulling away any time they accidentally came into physical contact... it was like they were strangers. Just the thought was enough to send her into tears. Jason... he who had been her partner, her best friend, her lover... a stranger? How had it come to this? How?
Evidently, he was thinking the same thing. As she struggled to find a comfortable position in which to sleep in her seat without touching him at all, he watched her shifting and had to say something.
“Belle,” he began, a look of defeat in his eyes. “Don’t do this. We can’t do this...”
“Do what?” she tried to ask innocently.
“You know.” He sighed. “Acting like I’m not here. Like I’m a stranger.”
She didn’t reply, but her answer was in the way she looked away.
“God, Belle, us!” Jason shook his head. “Us, acting like strangers. I can’t imagine... even after...” It was his turn to turn away.
For a split second, Belle had a horrible fear that her partner was going to cry. But a minute later, he turned back to her. “Look,” he said, trying to stay composed. “We can’t do this. No matter what, I won’t have us acting like strangers with each other. Not that, Belle. Not us.”
She nodded quietly.
“I know we’ve got things to... sort out,” he continued gently. “But until then... even if... Belle, we have to remember.”
She knew what he meant. Remember everything. The way it was before. The way it was... at first. The way it was in those moments when they’d been together and had forgotten, for a few precious hours, how wrong it all was. Partnership, friendship,love... remember it all.
“Okay,” she whispered. One simple word, but it was a promise.
“Now, you wanted to sleep, right?” he asked quietly. She nodded hesitantly. “So, sleep.”
Again, she could translate what he was really saying. Tentatively, she leaned against him... and minutes later, her head was resting on his shoulder, his arm was loosely around her, and she was fast asleep.