Home > Still Me (Me Before You #3)(22)

Still Me (Me Before You #3)(22)
Author: Jojo Moyes

All the same, as I walked out, heart thumping, and peered up at the board, I felt oddly nervous. We had been apart only four weeks. This man had seen me at my worst: broken, panicked, sad, contrary, and still apparently liked me. He was still Sam, I told myself. My Sam. Nothing had changed since the first time he had rung my doorbell and asked me, ham-fistedly, through the intercom, for a date.

The sign still said: ‘AWAITING LUGGAGE’.

I wedged myself into position at the barrier, checked my hair again and trained my eyes on the double doors, smiling involuntarily at the shrieks of happiness as long-separated couples found each other. I thought, That’ll be us in a minute. I took a deep breath, noting that my palms had started to sweat. A trickle of people made their way through, and my face kept settling into what I suspected was a slightly mad-looking rictus of anticipation, eyebrows raised, delighted, like a politician fake-spotting someone in a crowd.

And then, as I rummaged in my bag for a handkerchief, I did a double-take. There, a few yards away from me in the mass of people, stood Sam, a head taller than anyone around him, scanning the crowd, just as I was. I muttered, ‘Excuse me,’ to the person on my right at the barrier, ducked under it, and ran towards him. He turned just as I got to him and promptly whacked me, hard, in the shin with his bag.

‘Oh, shoot. Are you okay? Lou? … Lou?’

I clutched my leg, trying not to swear. Tears had sprung to my eyes and when I spoke it came through a gasp of pain. ‘It said your luggage wasn’t through!’ I said, teeth clenched. ‘I can’t believe I missed our great reunion! I was in the loo!’

‘I came hand luggage only.’ He put his hand on my shoulder. ‘Is your leg okay?’

‘But I had it all planned! I had a sign and everything!’ I wrestled it, specially laminated, out of my jacket and straightened, trying to ignore the throbbing in my shin. ‘WORLD’S HANDSOMEST PARAMEDIC’. ‘This was meant to be one of the defining moments of our relationship! One of those moments you look back on and go, “Aah, do you remember that time I met you at JFK?” ’

‘It’s still a great moment,’ he said hopefully. ‘It’s good to see you.’

‘Good to see me?’

‘Great. It’s great to see you. Sorry. I’m knackered. Didn’t sleep.’

I rubbed my shin. We stared at each other for a minute. ‘It’s no good,’ I said. ‘You have to go again.’

‘Go again?’

‘To the barrier. And then I’ll do what I planned, which is hold up my sign, then run towards you and we kiss and we start it all properly.’

He stared at me. ‘Seriously?’

‘It’ll be worth it. Go on. Please.’

It took him a moment longer to confirm that I wasn’t joking, then he began to walk against the tide of arrivals. Several people turned to stare at him, and somebody tutted.

‘Stop!’ I yelled across the noisy concourse. ‘That’ll do!’

But he didn’t hear me. He kept walking, all the way to the double doors – I had a fleeting fear that he might just jump back on the plane.

‘Sam!’ I yelled. ‘STOP!’

Everyone turned. Then he turned, and saw me. And as he started to walk towards me again I ducked back under the barrier. ‘Here! Sam! It’s me!’ I waved my sign and as he walked towards me he was grinning at the ridiculousness of it all.

I dropped the sign and ran towards him, and this time he didn’t bash me in the shin but let his bag fall at his feet and swept me up and we kissed like people do in the movies, fully and with absolute joy and without self-consciousness or fears about coffee breath. Or perhaps we did. I couldn’t tell you. Because from the moment Sam picked me up I was oblivious to everything else, to the bags and the people and the eyes of the crowds. Oh, God, but the feel of his arms around me, the softness of his lips on mine. I didn’t want to let him go. I held onto him and felt the strength of him around me and breathed in the scent of his skin and I buried my face in his neck, my skin against his, feeling like every cell in my body had missed him.

‘Better, you insane person?’ he said, when he finally pulled back so that he could see me properly. I think my lipstick may have been halfway across my face. I almost definitely had stubble rash. My ribs hurt where he was holding me so tightly.

‘Oh, yes,’ I said, unable to stop grinning. ‘Much.’

We decided to drop our bags at the hotel first, me trying not to gabble with excitement. I was talking nonsense – a stream of disjointed thoughts and observations coming out of my mouth unfiltered. He watched me the way you might look at your dog if it did an unprompted dance: with faint amusement and vaguely suppressed alarm. But when the lift doors closed behind us, he pulled me towards him, took my face in his hands and kissed me again.

‘Was that to stop me talking?’ I said, when he released me.

‘No. That was because I’ve wanted to do that for four long weeks and I plan to do it as many times as I can until I go home again.’

‘That’s a good line.’

‘Took me most of the flight.’

I gazed at him as he fed the key-card into the door and, for the five-hundredth time, marvelled at my luck in finding him when I’d thought I could never love anyone again. I felt impulsive, romantic, a character in a Sunday-afternoon movie.

‘Aaaand here we are.’

We stopped in the doorway. The hotel room was smaller than my bedroom at the Gopniks’, carpeted in a brown plaid, and the bed, rather than the luxurious expanse of white Frette linen I had envisaged, was a sunken double with a burgundy and orange checked bedspread. I tried not to think about when it might last have been cleaned. As Sam closed the door behind us, I set down my bag and edged around the bed until I could peer through the bathroom door. There was a shower and no bath, and when you put the light on the extractor whined, like a toddler at a supermarket checkout. The room was scented with a combination of old nicotine and industrial air freshener.

‘You hate it.’ His eyes scanned my face.

‘No! It’s perfect!’

‘It’s not perfect. Sorry. I got it off this booking website when I’d just finished a night shift. Want me to go downstairs and see if they have other rooms?’

‘I heard her saying it was fully booked. Anyway, it’s fine! It has a bed and a shower and it’s in the middle of New York and it has you in it. Which means it’s all wonderful!’

‘Aw, crap. I should have run it past you.’

I never was any good at lying. He reached for my hand and I squeezed his.

‘It’s fine. Really.’

We stood and stared at the bed. And I put my hand over my mouth until I realized I couldn’t not say the thing I was trying not to say.

‘We should probably check for bedbugs, though.’

‘Seriously?’

‘There’s an epidemic of them, according to Ilaria.’

Sam’s shoulders sagged.

‘Even some of the poshest hotels have them.’ I stepped forward and pulled back the covers abruptly, scanning the white sheet before stooping to check the mattress edge. I moved closer. ‘Nothing!’ I said. ‘So that’s good! We’re in a bedbug-free hotel!’ I gave a small thumbs-up. ‘Yay!’

There was a long silence.

‘Let’s go for a walk,’ he said.

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