My stomach leaps, in fear or anticipation or something like excitement. All this time, and it feels like a brief two days or just one more morning, all this time apart and yet she walks down the stairs and laughs at my astonished face and folds me into a hug. She always knows how to hug me.
I can't believe it's been all this winding road since June, since the tear-stained departure and the wondering of if, and how, and what happens now that I'm walking through these crunching leaves and changing seasons without her. I can't believe that in the space of a few months I've stretched and pulled and changed, and that she has too.
But the unexpected is the joy, the space that resettles between us just as we have always made it. We cradle our mugs of tea. We cradle our questions and each other's answers. We listen. We talk. I spin the stories that have weighed so heavy on my heart, and she spins out that wisdom, that, "Hil it's all the same lesson, it's all the same obedience" and she reminds me that this long road is full of the unexpected but it's also and always full of Him.
And in between June and this cup of tea, I've missed and wondered and wished for her back. I've asked God sitting outside in the sunshine if the ache in my heart that I can't run up to her office just for a hug and a knowing look - is that ache going to be there forever?
And yesterday the unexpected answer was yes, because the ache is for the love and for the years and for the promise of all that is yet to come. Yes, you'll always have a heartache because you love her.
So I smile, my throat tightening just a little, and look at her, and at the space. You'll always have an ache because the love is real.