Sam was not content with letting it stay the way that he had left it. He crept out of bed once Emma and Kathy had departed. He took in the crowded space of their combined lounge and kitchen and after a couple of laps in which he had turned on the kettle and made his cup of coffee, before cycling back around to turn on the radio and hope the heat had drifted from his drink so he could take the caffeine hit he needed.
All the time he measured how close Kathy was getting to her departure, where they would be, how long it was before her plane took off. And against that he assessed the possibility of making a last ditch intervention. As the moments ticked by and it gradually became less feasible to make the trip before Kathy left he became less and less convinced of the distance he had forced between them. Sam knew that despite Kathy being the one who was heading off towards a distant country where contact would be minimal, he was the one who had driven any relationship out of the realm of possibility. In a moment of obscene arrogance he felt responsible for Kathy’s flight from the life she led. He saw that she would have stayed if he had asked.
But only part of Sam wanted that. There was part of him that cherished his independence so dearly that he was happy to hide behind the ruse of waiting for the right woman. Deep inside he wondered if that was what this was all about, for both of them. Their combined reluctance to put words to what was between them, to settle for existing in a borderline space rather than have to define and determine the something that for Sam was some way short of the certainty he looked for. He contrasted it with his thoughts about Alex, he had always felt very sure of his attraction, always knowing what he thought he wanted. But then that was never to be, and that made it easier for him to be certain, it gave Sam the safety net of never having to see it through, of never having to live with the consequences of being in love. The unrequited love was a comfort, it was an easy option, it led him on, allowed him to think that his affection was actual when it was only ever one-sided infatuation.
With Kathy it was all so much harder, the chance of reciprocated love hung in his midst, it loitered in front of him, trying to coax him away from his contented solitude and fantasised affection. And it was all too much. He could not bear the pressure of being the one for whom someone else decided what their life was all about, the thought that someone else might act in a different way because he was near, or reorder their life around him, it was all beyond his comprehension. Attraction had always been the respectable part of infatuation. A relationship was always the theoretical end point of his attraction but never a reality he had encountered, therefore it waited for him like a child waited for the monsters to leave the wardrobe. The otherness it represented was a barrier to high for him to hurdle.
As he sipped his coffee and watched the clock and made his calculations he decided that it was almost too late, in fact, there was no way short of a miracle or a unexpected delay that would make it possible for him to reach Kathy before she left for good. It was in anticipation of making a forlorn but visible gesture that he left his cup half empty as he flew out the door.
Sam wished the tube to move faster, despite expecting, perhaps intending, that he was already too late. He contemplated what he would do when he got there. The romantic inside him erred towards the grand gesture, the impetuous purchase of a ticket to Benin and jumping on board the plane with his rucksack containing nothing but what he would normally carry around each day. The addition of a passport was a nod towards serious consideration of this option.
Another part of him wanted to get there in time to stop Kathy walking through the departure gates, declare his undying love for her in anticipation of feelings he hoped were only waiting to be mined. The realist had already written this option off, she would have long since walked through security, leaving Emma waiting behind, perhaps already on her return journey.
A combination of his realism and pecuniary instinct meant neither of these options were truly under consideration, which was perhaps why having left it so late he still made the journey. He know that he would not be able to stop her from flying, and knew that he would baulk at the reckless abandon needed to head through the gates inadequately prepared on the possibility that his feelings were strong enough, and Kathy did not spurn them.
He texted Emma as the tube surfaced to enquire of their status but got no response. He waited in agony, it felt as though he was convincing himself of his feelings, each fleeting thought of Kathy seemed to deepen his affection towards her. Every time he asked himself if he really liked her he became a little more sure that he did. And everything he recalled of her interactions towards him told him that she was acting out of the same fear of commitment that haunted his own life. The two of them seemed destined to avoid articulating their feelings but all the time confirming the strength of their emotions. Kathy’s insistence on continuing her trip had been in spite of her attraction towards Sam and not because of any lack thereof, he thought as he emerged from the station and into the airport.
Sam had almost convinced himself that he would do whatever it took because their relationship was now bound to succeed as if its trajectory had been set by his commitment to the grandiose romantic action. He would pull out his credit card and buy whatever seat he could get, he would follow on the next flight, he would trek through a jungle if it meant they could be together. Almost.
And he saw the departure board. Flight AF293 to Cotonou via Paris had just departed after a fifteen minute delay. Fifteen minutes in which Sam had made and drunk most of his coffee. Fifteen minutes in which he entertained fantasies of stopping Kathy from leaving, and dismissed them as such. Fifteen minutes in which he might of made it. He would never know.
His phone went, it was Emma, calling. Sam was about to answer when he saw the solitary girl walk the wrong way through the security checks. The phone kept ringing in his hand and he hit reject, because she was there in front of him.
Sam moved across the concourse and placed himself in the seat beside her. Together they sat in silence as passengers bustled past. Emma finally spoke to her brother, “She’s gone.”