“Can’t she send you somewhere closer?” Alex asked, an incredulous look etched on his face. “Like Brussels or Paris. Somewhere the Eurostar goes, for instance.”
“We don’t have offices there.” I was still too shocked to display empathy towards him, my best friend I was considering leaving behind.
“Do you know what Hong Kong is, Leesbian? It’s China. They’re bloody communists. Do they even have lesbians there?”
“Less chance of heartbreak then.” I refilled his glass of port, catching a lost drop with my finger. “Anyway, I don’t have to go.”
“Don’t be daft.” He leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. “A promotion like that? You’d be the boss. You have to do it.”
“It’s the other side of the fucking world, Alex.”
“You’ll be fine, sweetie. They speak English over there, and I’m sure you’ll find some girls to corrupt.”
The next few days I worked outside of the office as much as possible, giving Lucy a chance to catch her breath. When I went in on Friday, rushing inside the building to catch the lift before the doors closed, I found Lucy in it, as if she was waiting for me.
“I’ll take the next one,” I said.
“Don’t.” She pushed the open-door button so hard the blood almost drained from her finger. I stepped inside, the air heavy with awkwardness. “Have you reached a decision?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said to her reflection in the mirrored door. “I’ll do it. I’ll go to Hong Kong.”
“Good.” The BTG office was on the sixth floor so the ride up didn’t take very long. “I’ll start making the necessary arrangements.” As soon as the doors slid open she hurried out, and, without looking back, walked away.
Everyone I had spoken to, without exception, had advised me to do it. I had let their enthusiasm carry me and, in the end, determine the outcome. I spent the next months finding storage for the stuff I couldn’t take, answering the same questions with meaningless answers over and over again, acquainting myself with Hong Kong labour laws and attending farewell parties that grew more tearful as the date of my departure approached. A week before I was scheduled to leave, the last week of July, a severe bout of panic hit me straight in the gut. Was I really doing this? Could I do it? Would the loneliness not kill me? I turned to the one person I knew who had given up her homeland, for no less than love, decades ago.
“I heard you’re skipping town,” Claire said as soon as she had opened the door to her house to me.
“Oh yeah.” I didn’t wait for her to invite me in. I assumed I was welcome. “I can’t hang around here forever.” I stalked past her and waited in the dimly lit hallway.
“It’s so nice of you to say goodbye.” She leaned against the railing of the stairs, tilting her hips toward me in a way that almost made me want to stay. “Do you want a drink or would you rather go straight upstairs?”
I made no pretence of being there for any other reason. It had to happen, if only as an inevitable last goodbye.
“Is there any chance you’ll go with me?” I asked, only half-joking. I was scared out of my mind by then. Fear of the unknown clinging to my every thought and every action.
“Oh baby,” she said, her hair falling into her eyes as she hunched over me, “we’ve danced that dance a million times. I think it’s time we called it a night.” That’s when I knew I’d made the right choice.