Aaron looked so cautious, suddenly. I could see there was hidden excitement behind his eyes, but he was holding back. I wasn’t sure why, but he wasn’t letting loose.
“What’s going on, Aaron?” I was starting to get nervous, and feel impatient.
He grabbed me by the hand and led me back into our room, sitting me down on the edge of the bed. He sat next to me and grabbed my hands in his.
“Aleah, this is a huge opportunity. For me, for my career, and possibly for us...” he trailed off, looking down at our clasped hands, smiling. When he looked back up into my eyes, there was a new look of sadness. “But, it’s also going to be a huge trial in our relationship, too.”
“Aaron! Seriously. Just spit it out already!”
He took a deep breath. “I can’t give you all the details right now. Partly because I don’t know them, but partly because I won’t be able to due to confidentiality. But, I was directed... no, asked to go undercover.”
“I didn’t think you were part of the narc unit?”
“I’m not. Really anyone could. Sometimes they are asked because of certain circumstances, sometimes they offer. I had offered a long time ago, way before I met you, but nothing ever came up that suit me.”
“So... where will you be? Will we still see each other often? I’m so excited for you! That does sound like a great opportunity... and, what does it mean for us? Do you know what you’re going undercover for?”
Aaron lightly laughed. “Slow down, babe. I can honestly say I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, except that I hope it means we will be able to work it out and stay together.” At that, he squeezed my hands. “But other than that, I really don’t know. And I don’t know if I could tell you if I did know.”
“When will you be starting?”
His eyes shifted uncomfortably away from me. “Well, that’s the thing...”
I raised my eyebrows at him.
“I’m not flying back to Lincoln with you today...”
“What?” It sounded more like a statement than a question. Oops.
He let go of my hands, wrapping his strong arms around me, pulling me into him. “I’m sorry, Aleah. I’m flying to Chicago, because I guess I’m meeting some people there. All I know, which I think I can tell you, but keep it to yourself in case I really shouldn’t be telling you, is that I’m working with Chicago PD, but I don’t think I’m actually going to be in Chicago. I really don’t know where, though. We have flights leaving the same time, but we aren’t going to the same place.” He finished this with a sigh at the end.
I could feel the disappointment setting in. And the fear of the unknown, which I hadn’t felt in awhile. Since December, Aaron had been my constant, my protector.
He grabbed my shoulders and held me out at arms’ length. “I love you, Aleah.”
Since Aaron had first told me he loved me, I hadn’t said it back. I knew I loved him down to my soul, but I just hadn’t been able to say it. It was scary. I already felt completely vulnerable, and I felt like that was the last thing I could hide and keep to myself a little longer, to help protect myself.
But in this moment I didn’t care. I didn’t know when the next time I would see him would be. I didn’t know when I would talk to him again. I didn’t know if what he was doing was dangerous, and he could get hurt. I didn’t want him going away, and not knowing how I really feel.
I threw my arms around his neck, pulling his forehead against mine, our noses touching. Breathing him in. Remembering his smell. Memorizing his voice. Savoring his touch. “I love you, too, Aaron.”
We didn’t have much time before we had to leave for the airport, but we used every second to the best of our ability then.
When we got to the airport, he walked me to my boarding area and waited with me until the last possible time in order to make it to his area. Before he left, I looked at him sadly. “Aaron, I do love you. And will you call me later tonight?”
He looked defeated. “Of course I will. Don’t be ridiculous. You know I’ll call you whenever I can, as much as I can. And I’ll also tell you whatever I can, when I can. I can tell you what this is not. This is not goodbye. I love you, Aleah, and don’t want to do anything to risk you not being in my life.”
I nodded my head, because I didn’t want to cry, and knew opening my mouth would risk tears forming.
“Plus,” he continued, “if anything, you know I’ll be back this fall for... you know.”
I nodded my head again, this time because I didn’t want to acknowledge out loud what he was referring to: the trial.
He grabbed my face between his hands and kissed my forehead, then my nose, and lastly, gently on my lips.
He smiled at me. “I love you. And I’ll see you soon, okay?”
I nodded my head one more time. “I love you, too.” And I watched him walk away, though, I knew it wasn’t goodbye.
I smiled, feeling that faint reassurance in my heart. It wasn’t goodbye.
I buckled my seat belt on the plane, mentally going over what I knew I needed to do once I landed. I needed to talk to Victoria, again.