Bodhi shakes his head, his smile still beaming. “It looks like Japan suits you better than high school.”
“Yeah, but I still miss third period.”
His grin fades a tiny fraction. “I miss you too. But … I’m so freaking happy for you and for me when I get to live vicariously through your postcards. Look …” He repositions his computer screen to the wall behind his bed.
I send him a post card from every new city, no matter how big or small. He has them tacked to the wall above his bed. “What happens when you run out of wall space?”
He repositions the camera so it’s back on him. “I have three other walls.”
If I send him enough postcards to cover all of his bedroom walls, I’m certain it would take a decade, and after two months and one new country, I’m ready to go home to Bodhi.
But … life.
“Have you picked up the language?”
I laugh. “Maybe sign language. I’m pretty good at charades. The locals find me entertaining.” I shrug. “I’ve mastered some of the language. Enough to not feel like a tourist every day.”
“Are you going to tell me where you’re going tomorrow? What new country?”
“Nope.” I pop the P. “I told you, I’ll tell you when I get there.”
Bodhi chuckles, scratching his stubbly face. He looks so damn sexy with a neatly trimmed winter beard. My fingers ache, missing his touch.
“You don’t know, do you?”
I roll my eyes. “I have a plane ticket in my bag. Of course I know where I’m going tomorrow.” Releasing a long sigh, I ask the question that makes me the most nervous. “How’s your dad?”
His brows draw together. “He’s fine. The last round of chemo took a lot out of him, but he’s bouncing back a little more each day. How about you? Where’s your pain level?”
“Surprisingly not awful. I honestly didn’t anticipate staying in a country so long with such harsh punishments for using marijuana.”
“The acupuncture and herbs have helped?”
“God, yes … so much. After that first miserable week here, which I’m certain it was the long flight that did a number on my back, I’ve been functional.” I grin. “And sober. Okay, I may have shared some hot sake with a few of my new friends during late night gatherings at the hostel, but that’s it.”
“Not my cuppa, but this is a wasted experience if I don’t try new things. I don’t even want to tell you some of the foods I’ve tried. Sushi dad would never let me live it down.”
Bodhi chuckles. It hurts … all of it.
That handsome face.
Those eyes …
“I wanna come home,” I whisper as emotions burn my eyes.
“Baby …” He lifts his hand to touch the screen. “Japan is one country. The world is your dream.”
“You’re my dream.”
He frowns. “It’s just because we’re seeing each other like this—live, like we’re together when we’re not. I’ve seen too many pictures of you over the last two months with the biggest smiles and your eyes beaming like you just discovered the meaning of life. Don’t cheat yourself. You’ll regret it.”
We’ve never discussed how long. How long will I be gone? Before Bodhi, I thought at least two years with Juni, Zach, and my dad meeting me for visits in some of their favorite countries. If I go home, even for a quick holiday visit, I know I won’t be able to get back on a plane again. I will make a beeline to Bodhi Malone, and that’s where I’ll stay.
So, I’m not going home until my travels are complete.
“Tell me about the rumors,” I say.
“Rumors?” His head cocks to the side.
“There’s always rumors. After I dropped out, what were people saying? Did they suspect us?”
He glances at his watch. Our different time zones suck. He has school soon, and I have bed soon.
“Kids are always talking shit. I ignore it, but …” Bodhi chews on the inside of his lip.
“Some of the female students have been a little …”
“Sluts! They’re after you, aren’t they?” Jealousy nips at my nerves.
“I’ve had to take care of some inappropriate notes and texts. That’s all.”
“I’d better go before I get the urge to kill something.”
Bodhi rubs his chin, a triumphant grin playing along his lips. “I love you, Hell. I love you so fucking much.”
I nod, choking on the emotion that always hovers like a dark cloud over our goodbyes. “Wait for me.”
“Henna, I’m not going anywhere.”
I know this, but time distorts emotions and breeds resentment. Time could destroy us. I cough a laugh to hide the impending sobs. “I leave early. Have a good day at work.” My tears chase my goodbye. I try not to let him see how much this hurts.
“Have a safe flight to … wherever.”
I nod, plastering on a smile to mask the ugly cry climbing up my throat to escape my bleeding heart. “Bye.” Pressing End, I completely fall apart. I will never be immune to my love for him.
Bodhi: Close your eyes and let me kiss away those tears. Fall asleep in the memory of my arms wrapped around you. Dream of us.
This makes me cry more, but I do it. I find comfort and eventually sleep in the warmth of us.
March in China: Twelve postcards, daily texts, one FaceTime. I meet five new friends that I hope to see again someday.
April and May in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia: Thirty-two postcards (I fall in love with Southeast Asia), texts most days but not every day, one FaceTime. Bodhi gets the flu, but still makes it to Coachella. I meet eleven new friends and a million friendly faces. I head for my next adventure forever changed because the aftermath of war, genocide, communism, and poverty is still etched into the faces of the locals.
June in Vanuatu: Six postcards, texts several times a week, one FaceTime. I meet three new friends, and … a guy.
Me: Yesterday my diving instructor asked me to dinner. He’s nice. Ten years older than me. I said no. He texted me this morning from my front door. He brought me breakfast. His name is Noah. I feel guilty for eating breakfast with him.
Bodhi: I worry that your guilt could get in the way. Don’t feel guilty. Live, Henna. That’s the point, right?
Why can’t he be a little upset or show an ounce of jealousy?
Me: I want to say those same words back to you. When will you “live?”
Bodhi: I have to go. My dad has an appointment. Love you.
Me: Love you too.
Vanuatu is a paradise nestled off the coast of Australia. I chose it because I’ve been to Fiji with Juni and Zach, and I want this trip to be my new discoveries, not reliving old adventures. Paradise has a way of making the rest of the world seem nonexistent. On a tiny island so far from the life I left behind, it’s hard to do anything but live in the moment, especially with my tan, dark curly-haired friend, Noah. Aside from being my hired diving instructor, he takes it upon himself to make sure I get private snorkeling in the afternoons, parasailing, and picnics on the beach.
“I call bullshit. There’s no way you’re a doctor. Like … a real medical doctor.” I toss a chunk of pineapple at Noah. It lands on his tan washboard abs.
He grins, blowing the little bit of sand off it, and pops it into his mouth, giving my bikini-clad body the once-over. I hide my blush beneath my wide-brimmed hat. “Total truth. I’m a third-generation doctor of medicine.” He runs his toe along the instep of my foot.
“You’re too young.”
“Says the nineteen-year-old girl traveling the world by herself.”
I give him a flirty smile, letting my eyes shift to his small boat anchored fifty yards from the abandoned beach. The day is perfect. And while I miss Bodhi always, in this exact moment, it doesn’t cause physical pain to my heart. Noah gets the credit—or the blame—for that.
“Fine, Dr. Noah, why are you on a beach with a nineteen-year-old nomad instead of saving lives?”
He stares out at the pristine Pacific, chewing on the end of a toothpick while the breeze ruffles his dark wavy hair. “My wife …”
“I met her when she was about your age. I’m not sure how you feel about love at first sight, but I just knew I was a goner when she gave me this guilty smile after accidentally taking my black coffee instead of her latte at the hospital cafeteria. She was a nurse on the oncology floor. I was a resident in the ER. We married three months later.” He smiles. It’s equally sad and romantic at the same time. “She was pregnant by the next month. But she went into labor at thirty weeks.” His brows knit together as his gaze sinks to the sand between us. “We were traveling. She told me to save the baby.” Noah shakes his head. “I couldn’t save him, and … I couldn’t save her. There was just so much blood.”
Reaching across the sandy divide, I grab his hand.
“It changed me so profoundly I couldn’t walk back into another hospital.”
I know about love at first sight. And I know about things in life that change you profoundly.