They were seated at a table for four, Finn’s hand on the back of her chair.
Having arrived an hour ago, the speeches were done with and the party had just gotten into full swing.
Zara sipped her glass of champagne. Finn had introduced her to his colleagues as his girlfriend, beaming down at her and holding her close throughout.
It had been exhilarating.
Zara had never felt so flush with happiness.
Now as the DJ began a slow waltz song, Finn stood up and offered her his hand.
“Can I have this dance?“, he asked with a slight bow, his eyes sparkling with humor.
A laugh bubbled through her lips.
The people at their table were already headed toward the dance floor as Finn tucked her palm in his and led her along.
Pausing in the middle of the space, he twirled her around.
Her dress billowing, Zara laughed as he swung her back in his arms, his warm palms coming to rest on her waist.
She wound hers behins his neck, tilting her head back to look at him.
“Thank you for coming.“, he said.
She dismissed it.
“Thank you for asking me.“, she smiled.
Finn smiled back, his chest lifting as he took a deep breath.
Around them, the musical tones played on, the couples on the floor, moving in sync.
“How did your day go?“, he asked, placing a light kiss on her forehead.
Her heart soared.
“It was pretty good.”
She ran her fingers along the back of his neck, feeling the slight rise when goosebumps took hold.
She loved how he reacted to her touch.
“How was yours?”
“Boring. I couldn’t wait to come pick you up.“, he ran his hand up her side and touched her arm.
“Would it be too cheesy to say that I missed you?“, he asked, a sheepish expression on his face.
Zara couldn’t help it.
Leaning forward, she kissed his jaw.
“I missed you.“, she said softly.
Finn smiled, his blue eyes crinkling down at her.
“I think I missed you more.“, he kissed her eyebrow.
Zara trembled and moved closer to him, so that their bodies touched.
They danced in silence, their feet moving to the rhythm of Careless Whisper.
She sensed it the very moment he sighed and began to speak.
“There’s something I need to tell you.”
She moved back.
They came to a halt at the end of the room.
Zara tensed when she saw his face.
Finn ran a hand over his face, his eyes worried.
“I might have to leave in ten days.”
Taking her hand, he led her to a corner where they had some privacy.
Before saying another word, he pulled her to him and hugged her tight.
Zara felt a sickening feeling take hold of her stomach.
Her face buried in the front of his coat, she hugged him back, her hands instinctively holding him tight.
“Finn, you’re scaring me.”
He sighed, causing tendrils of her hair to flutter. His breath was warm on the side of her neck.
Then he pulled back and looked at her.
“I got a call today. I’ve been assigned a project to work on in UK, Washington.”
Zara couldn’t believe her ears.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Zara. And it couldn’t come at a worse time.“, he sounded torn.
Zara felt like she had just taken a punch, low in her gut.
Steadying herself against his frame, she tried to collect herself.
“H-how long will it take?”
“It’s designed to be completed in under five months. But that’s not the point.”
He turned away, running his hands through his hair, messing it up.
“If I say yes, I might not come back.”
Zara’s eyes widened, her body beginning to go cold.
Finn looked anguished.
“It’s an on-the-go sort of thing. There’s no guarantee that I’ll be placed back here anytime soon.”
He came to her and took her hands.
“Please say something.“, he pleaded, bending low to look at her.
“What did you tell them?”
Finn shut his eyes before answering.
“I said that I’d think about it.”
Zara nodded her head.
Everything was spinning.
He wouldn’t be coming back.
Just when her world had seemed perfect.
More than two thousand miles away.
“Zara?“, Finn was holding her, his face inches away from her own, his eyes lost.
She felt the numbness spread through her.
She thought about how much he loved his job. How his demeanor changed, how excited he got when he was explaining to her what he did while at work.
“You should go, Finn.”
He froze, his eyes losing their lustre.
Zara continued, “I think that’s what you want.”
His shoulders slumped.
“I don’t want to lose you.“, he breathed softly, his voice cracking.
Zara saw his watery orbs, her own reflected in them.
He had ditched his glasses for the evening and she could see the light purple bruises under his eyes.
“I don’t know what to do.“, he said again, squeezing his eyes shut.
Zara watched him, her chest hurting.
She comforted him in the only way she knew.
Lifting her arms from where they lay on his biceps, she hugged him at the waist, laying her head on his chest.
They stood like that for a long while.
Zara couldn’t wrap her head around the sudden change.
Was it just this morning that she had woken up full of hope for the beginning of a new chapter in her life? Was it merely days ago that Finn had been on her doorstep, offering her his company with no expectations in return?
Her arms tightened around him.
“Tell me what to do, Zara. I’ve just gotten you.”
She didn’t know what to say.
She wanted to tell him to stay.
That they’d figure something out together. That she couldn’t imagine going through tomorrow without him.
But she couldn’t do it.
Their relationship was new.
Zara was still a student. She had to yet find her place in the world, secure a job, get through university.
Finn was four years older to her. Much more mature. He had his own life. His own decisions to make.
Things between them were good right now. But what about few months, or years, down the line?
If she made this decision for him now, and things between them ended in the long run, he’d detest her for ruining his chance of working on himself.
There were so many things to consider.
So she told him the truth.
“You’ll always be the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Finn stilled, his breath fanning the top of her head.
Then he leaned forward, his arms crushing her to him, as if trying to imprint her on his soul.
Zara struggled to keep the tears at bay.
“I adore you.“, he kissed her head.
“You mean much more to me than you’ll ever know.“, he brushed her hair with his hand.
Zara closed her eyes and let the pain take hold.