Providence, five years later
Keisha Jordan skimmed the stone and watch as it bounced across the water, causing ripples.
So that was it. Last day in town. The bus would be coming in an hour to take them away into the next stage of their travels.
Their first year had been spent inter-railing around the States, then four years here at Brown getting an education. They were lucky – their training, combined with the compensation money, meant they could study pretty much anywhere they wanted. A lot of the others just did a year of university – their skills and training giving them the opportunity for her to fast-track. But for them, it was about the experience – the chance to be young again, be among peers, do what so many others did in young adulthood. The chance to be normal.
And now there was time again to travel – this time to visit Japan, see Ando and Nita and the kids. They’d fallen on their feet with IT jobs, a lovely home, Ando’s family nearby – a life that seemed idyllic – everything she’d ever hoped for them but had once feared they would never have.
Then onto Australia and New Zealand, where Ethan and Liana were currently living, and then Europe to catch up with Jacques and Irina and hopefully find a way to make the visit coincide with Ollie and Katja or Leif and Jennifer coming back. She hadn’t been back to Beacon since and had no desire to. She was glad Leif and Jennifer and Ollie and Katja had found a home there but she couldn’t have imagined it for herself.
‘Keisha, we have to go. The bus will be here soon.’
The second year of travelling had been Niamh’s idea – the first had been so much fun, but they’d seen so little of the world during it – and straight after university was the perfect opportunity to see the rest, before the responsibilities of work or relationships tied them down.
Keisha took one last look around – the towers of the university’s tallest buildings, the beach they’d enjoyed so many parties on, the houses of Rhode Island – and the little hollow in the trees where she and Jamal had made love that first semester of her studies.
They’d agreed not to annul their marriage upon leaving Beacon as so many others had done. But she needed time, she needed freedom, and so he’d agreed for her to spend the year travelling with Niamh whilst he spent much-needed time with his family. It wasn’t an ending, it was a break, time for them to find themselves before coming back together.
And when she told him she was too young to be tied down, that she needed to study, he understood. They tried to make the long distance thing happen for a while – phone calls and emails and the occasional love letter. And that first semester he managed to fly over for a week, a week that they both knew would either save their marriage or end it for good.
And as they’d made love that night on the sand, under the leaves, with the wind gently fluttering around their ears and the sea lapping the shore behind them, they crashed against each other in what they knew without words was a goodbye.
She’d asked the others not to tell her what he was up to although she knew they’d all kept in touch, even him and Niamh. It was too painful. In another time, another place, they might have met, older and wiser and freer and they might have loved, not for a brief time, but forever.
She picked up one final stone and as it skittered away from her she wished upon it every happiness in the world for him, and for herself.
For now, new horizons beckoned.