She stood up from the couch to leave, smiling a sweet, easy good-bye. For half a moment, he believed that just seeing that was worth the empty echo moment after the door settled shut behind her, and he smiled back without a thought. When she turned her back, crossing the room to gather her things, he let his eyes drift to the floor.
Her feet tapped lightly against the floor, and she rustled into her coat, and the edge of every sound held edge and echo, sharp and hollow.
“Can you stay a little longer?” he asked quietly.
She paused, then hung her hands on the collar of her coat for a moment, her smile steady as always. “I could,” she murmured.
He laughed a little at himself, at her phrasing, and hung his head. Brushing a hand roughly through his hair, he looked back up at her, and shook his head a little. “Will you?”
“No,” she murmured.
He laughed a little more firmly. He had known that was coming.
“You know how much I like my hellos,” she said.
He nodded without looking at her. “And you don’t get one without a good-bye.”
She paused again, and shook her head. “No,” she said. “I don’t need a good-bye. Just a until next time.”
He watched her face carefully, and understood why those smiles as she left the couch came out so smoothly. For another moment, he believed they were worth the echo.