It was early Friday morning when Trevor started to knock on Claire's front door, but it pushed open unexpectedly at his touch. Cautiously he looked in. It was last minute pandemonium inside. Luggage was arrayed by the front door. As Trevor watched he saw Claire rush by, yelling at an out of view Mara, both bickering like teenagers. She didn't notice that Trevor standing in her open doorway as she walked up the stairs to the second floor.
Without saying a word, Trevor stepped in, softly closing the door behind him. Frank walked up with some more bags, placing them by the others by the door, and giving Trevor a tired look. He stopped and exhaled.
Trevor smiled as he looked down at all the luggage. "Good morning Frank. Invading Germany?"
"How about just... morning, Trevor. The good part of good morning is still up in the air. And hopefully, in less than an hour, so are we. Just one bit of advice. Be thankful you're not going."
"Are Claire and Mara still being... Claire and Mara?"
Frank nodded. "Yes. But it's said pain's good for the soul."
Frank bustled off again, obviously having a lot more to do. As he left, Mara walked up, placing her own bags by the door and smiling at him. "Hello Trevor. Glad you agreed to see us off. I'd offer you breakfast, but this isn't the scenario I had in mind. You are still going with us to the airport, aren't you?"
"Umm... Sure. Absolutely."
"Perfect. Look, I've got some more packing to do, but let me ask you a quick question. Should I take the black, sorta sheer nighty, or the red, even more sheer nighty?"
"I really don't picture you in either."
Mara smiled. "Hmm. Great minds think alike."
Mara looked over her shoulder at Trevor as she walked away. Trevor watched her leave for a few moments, before moving to the stairs and following Claire up.
He found Claire in her bedroom, darting back and forth as she packed the last of her luggage. Turning suddenly, she almost ran into Trevor standing close behind, surprising her.
"Trevor!" Claire pulled back. "I wish you would stop popping up like that! What are you doing here?"
"Do you have a popping up preference? Just wanted to check in before you leave." Trevor stepped forward, looking around as he was suddenly bathed in colored beams of morning light. He looked at the window the light came through. "Wow. This stained glass is amazing."
"Yeah. Frank did that."
"Really? I knew you said he had good hands, but I had no idea this is what you meant. So this is your bedroom. Where no god has gone before..."
"Yes Trevor, this is my bedroom." Claire was still packing things as she spoke. "Is it everything you hoped for?"
Trevor looked towards the ceiling. "Actually, I hoped for a mirror."
"No one ever said you lacked class, Trevor. It was just kind of understood. Mind letting me in on what you're doing here?"
He shrugged. "Before you left Taggerty's last night, Mara invited me to the airport to see you guys off. I thought I'd come up here and see if you needed some help... packing. Love the lingerie." With great interest, Trevor picked up a tiny silk undergarment of Claire's that was hanging out of her luggage bag.
Embarrassed, Claire snatched it from him and shoved it back in. "Never mind what you love. What specific reason are you in my bedroom, Trevor? Measuring a space for a mirror over my bed?"
"No, the workmen don't come until this Saturday..."
"Here. Carry this." Claire shoved the now packed bag into his arms as she quickly put on her coat. Suddenly she paused, looking around as if searching for something.
"What is it, Claire?"
"It's nothing... it's-"
"What are you looking for? Maybe I could help." He lifted his arm excitedly. "Show of hands of deities willing to perform a strip search...."
"Trevor, I really don't have time to drag your pointless fantasies kicking and screaming into the light of... well, reality. We're late and-" There was a honk outside. Frustrated, Claire threw up her hands when she heard it. "-and our ride to the airport is already here. I'm looking for-"
"Nothing. I just need-"
Exasperated that she wasn't finding what she was looking for, Claire looked up. "I'm looking for our boarding-"
She stopped in mid sentence when she saw Trevor holding three airplane tickets in his hand before him, smiling proudly.
"-tickets." Claire snatched them away, irritated at him.
"You're welcome Claire. I saw them when I walked in. You know, I didn't have to give them back. I could have kept them to myself and forced you to stay."
She put them away in her purse and then wrapped her coat around her. "Yeah, and I could have stayed and forced myself to kill you."
"I love it when you get physical..."
There was another impatient honk from the street and Claire did one quick, final check of her bedroom. "Ok. That should do it. Jaclyn's got the spare keys, she's already handling things at the office, so... that's everything. Come on Trevor, it's time to go. If you don't hurry, you're riding in the trunk."
Trevor nodded. "Guess the strip search will have to wait..."
Before he could say anything else, Claire pushed him out of her bedroom, leaving behind dazzling bars of color from the stained glass window.
When Champ heard the early morning knock on his front door go unanswered, he realized Trevor had already left. With a moan he crawled out of bed, walking slowly into the hallway and down the circular staircase to the living room as the knocking continued. His vision was still hazy with sleep.
"Hold on!" Champ said wearily as the knocking continued, trying to stay awake. "Hold on, I'm coming..."
Yawning, he padded over to the front door in his bare feet. He turned the knob and opened it, swinging the door open just far enough to rest his head against it's edge, only half awake.
"Yeah? What do you want."
A very lively young man in a delivery uniform was waiting outside the door. He smiled far too eagerly for Champ's liking. The delivery man was nearly bouncing on his feet and full of energy, obviously a morning person. Champ gave him a disdainful look as he forced himself to wake up a little more.
"Can I help you?"
"These are for you."
Without preamble, the delivery man eagerly shoved a dozen freshly cut roses into Champ's surprised arms. Trying to get a grip on all of them, Champ looked at the delivery man, who was annoyingly filled with far too much pep. The man smiled excitedly, genuinely happy for Champ.
"There you go, Mr. Terrace. Aren't they beautiful?" The delivery man suddenly remembered something. "Oh! I almost forgot. This is for you too!"
A flat, fancy cardboard box tied by a red ribbon was shoved into Champ's arms as well, and he struggled to reposition everything so he wouldn't drop the roses. Looking down at the flowers, Champ came instantly awake. He smiled at all he carried, nodding to himself as his face brightened.
"Hey, wait. Who are these from?" Champ looked down again at his gifts, but he already had a pretty good idea of who had sent them.
The delivery man smiled so brightly that Champ almost had to squint. "There should be a card included, sir. Enjoy the roses. It's a beautiful day! Good, good morning to you sir!"
"Yeah. Umm... thanks."
The delivery man paused, as if not wanting to leave what he saw as a touching moment. But after Champ's annoyed stare, he nodded nervously and turned away. Champ shook his head and closed the door on the energetic delivery man as he walked away. It seemed some people really were morning people.
Curious at his gifts, Champ quickly walked over to the kitchen table, examining the roses he held. All traces of sleep were gone as he sat down with a smile. He had always liked roses, although as a guy he would never admit it to anyone. A quick search produced the card the delivery man had promised would be there. He placed the box and the roses on the table. Carefully he opened the card, reading what was written inside.
Hope you like the roses, Champ.
It should more than cover my debt.
Guess you owe me now.
It's your move. Ante up.
Champ smiled as he put down the card. He reached over to untie the ribbon on the box, lifting it's cover to find... chocolates. He laughed out loud. He had to admit it. This was the first time that a woman had been the one to send him candy and flowers. It was a definite role reversal. He smiled at the image of small, petite Jaclyn sending big, burly him roses and chocolates. Still thinking about her, Champ leaned back and popped a chocolate into his mouth.
"A dozen roses and a box of chocolates, huh? Guess she's raising the bet. Well, we'll see who folds first. Two can play this game."
With a smile, Champ began to think of ways to outdo what Jaclyn had done. A friendly little war of the roses. An escalation he intended to win, but hopefully not too soon. He was in no hurry to finish this game.
The blue morning sky glowed brightly through the panoramic windows of the bustling Chicago airport. Through the wide unobstructed view the shapes of dozens of jetliners of all sizes could be seen on the airport tarmack, several nestled up against passenger terminals. In the distance one plane climbed into the sky, rising from an unseen runway. As passengers waited in the terminal, some seated and some standing, the light from the windows cast them in shadow.
Frank, Claire, Mara, and Trevor suddenly hurried into view, walking quickly as the airport slid by all around them. They moved past the panorama outside, making their way through the busy crowds as they tried to reach their departure terminal. Frank and Claire were arm in arm, shadows against the light as they carried bundles of carry on luggage. Separated by a space, Mara walked beside them. On Mara's far side Trevor walked beside her separated by even less of a space, carrying some of her carry on bags. They hurried forward past the rows of seats between them and the windows.
From above, the air was filled with loudspeaker announcements, but thankfully none yet for their flight.
Claire held Franks arm a little tighter as they hurried. Her mood had lifted with excitement for the impending trip. She smiled at him. "Frank, I can't believe we're finally getting away. I'm really looking forward to spending a few days away from Chicago. Seeing my old school, my old friends..."
As Claire spoke, Trevor looked over at the three of them, quieter than usual. He couldn't help but notice that he was the only one without any luggage of his own since he wasn't going with them. All the bags he carried were for Mara. He felt a little melancholy at seeing Claire leave. As she walked beside him, Mara noticed Trevor's mood and smiled.
"So how much are you going to miss Claire, Trevor?" Mara asked.
Trevor looked at her, amused she had seen it on his face. "Well... I'm sure I'm going to miss parts of Claire, anyway."
From where she still held Frank's arm, Claire looked over. "I'd appreciate it if you weren't too explicit as to which parts you're going to miss, Trevor." She smiled at him, for once in a better mood. And maybe a little touched that he had admitted he was going to miss her.
Trevor looked over, an affectionate glint in his eye that he tried to hide. "Well, I won't miss the parts that are always trying to scramble my mind according to some accepted societal cookbook. This is your brain. This is your brain on Claire. This is a breakfast omelet. Mmm... A breakfast omelet sounds good... Sorry. I haven't had breakfast yet. But on the other hand... I will miss the parts of Claire that make me smile."
Claire raised an eyebrow. "What parts would those be?"
"I don't know. The parts you shower with..."
Claire laughed softly. "Thank you Trevor. But don't get so dramatic. It's only for one weekend. I'll see you on Monday. That's not very long. I'm sure you'll find someone else to make you smile in the meantime."
"Maybe." Trevor thought about it. "Does that actress on Snoops ever take showers in town?"
Mara got an idea, and looked over at Claire mischievously. "Claire. Are you going to miss Trevor?"
Claire gave Mara a look. "It's only one weekend..."
Mara blinked a few times in amusement. "Is that a yes?"
Seeing Claire's reluctance, Trevor decided to tease her too. "Hey, I admitted I'm going to miss you, Claire. Come on. Are you going to miss me?"
As they walked, all three of them watched her for an answer. Claire felt uncomfortable under the scrutiny.
"Well... I guess that... I, I..." Claire finally sighed. "Ok. Fine. Maybe some teeny tiny miniscule part of me that's not smart enough to know better is going to momentarily bump into the vicinity of missing you, Trevor. And that's maybe..."
Trevor smiled at Mara. "Can you feel the love?"
Frank teased Claire. "Wow, that's quite an outpouring of affection, Claire. I feel a little jealous..."
Claire raised an eyebrow at him. "Never feed Trevor's ego, Frank. It'll only come back for seconds. And thirds. And fourths until it never leaves you doorstep."
Trevor nodded. "Actually, if you're offering, my ego could use a bath."
"Yeah, or a flea dip." Claire replied.
They finally reached their terminal. The other passengers were already waiting to board the flight. Just as they came to a stop, the woman at the small desk by boarding gate spoke into a microphone, her voice coming out of speakers overhead.
"Flight 419 to California now boarding. Flight 419 to California now boarding..."
The waiting passengers rose from their chairs and began filing towards the gate doors, flowing past the four of them as they stood there silently. Mara, Frank, and Claire all stepped away from Trevor and faced him, as he stood there alone. With a smile, he handed the bags he carried to Mara.
"Well," Claire said. "I guess this is where we say good-bye." Claire wondered why it felt so awkward saying good-bye to Trevor. It wasn't like she wouldn't see him soon enough. It was only for a few days. "Umm... thanks for seeing us to the airport, Trevor."
"Not a problem."
"So, I guess... I'll see you on Monday." Claire waited silently for a moment, before nodding once to herself, deciding that was enough and turning away.
Trevor smiled at how self-conscious Claire was being. "Good-bye, Claire. Try not to let that teeny, tiny, miniscule part of you miss me too much."
Claire gave him a look. "That's getting less likely by the second, Trevor."
Holding her bags, Claire started to leave. Beside her, Frank seemed lost in thought, considering something. Then he reached out and touched her arm, looking at her carefully. "Claire, hold on. You and Trevor are friends. You've known each other for a while. You can do better than that. Don't you think he at least deserves a hug?"
Claire gazed at Frank in disbelief, before shaking her head. "Oh I don't think so."
Frank looked at her sweetly. "Why not? Is there a problem?"
"Come on, Claire. "Mara piped in. "Don't be so uptight."
"I'm not uptight, I'm just..." Falling silent, Claire looked at Trevor, as if for once actually considering why she was so reluctant.
Trevor grinned at her discomfort. Not saying a word, he spread his arms wide, waiting for her. All three of them watched her expectantly.
With a moan, Claire finally conceded. "Oh all right."
Stiffly, Claire stepped closer to Trevor, reaching out but... pausing. She put her arms cautiously around him, giving him one small squeeze for only the briefest of moments, as if embarrassed. Quickly Claire pulled away, relieved it was over. Her reaction puzzled her. She didn't understand why or when this had become so hard, considering that she had hugged Trevor before.
"There, are you happy?" Claire asked.
Frank nodded, having watched the entire thing carefully, as if looking for something. "Yeah. I guess so..." His voice seemed somber and introspective. And not all that happy.
With a sigh of relief Claire looped her arm around his again, trying to get his attention. "Frank? Hello..? Can we board now?"
He came out of his reverie, looking at her. "What? Oh. Yeah. Sure, Claire. Umm... good-bye, Trevor."
"Good-bye, Frank. Break a bedspring for me in California."
Frank and Claire began to walk away, carrying their bags. But Mara held back as they did, looking over at the two of them when they turned, but staying with Trevor. "I wanted to say good-bye too," she explained. "Could Trevor and I have a moment alone?"
Claire nodded, and she and Frank turned and walked away. Mara waited in front of Trevor, smiling at him as they stood several feet apart.
"So..." she said warmly.
"So." Trevor's eyes glinted, happy they were alone. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Mara. I only wish we could have spent more time together."
"Yeah," she agreed. "Yeah. Me too. You know meeting you almost made staying at Claire's place bearable for a day or two."
"Well..." Trevor paused, uncertain of what to say. "Maybe... you know... when you get back..."
Mara smiled at him affectionately. "Yeah. I'd like that. I'm really glad you came to the airport to see us off, Trevor. I was really hoping you would. Counting on it, actually."
"Don't worry, Mara. It's only a single weekend with Claire. I'm almost fifty percent sure that you two won't end up killing each other."
"Almost fifty percent. An optimist. I like that." Mara looked over to where Frank and Claire were waiting. Carefully she stepped closer. "Do you think you could spare a hug for me too, Trevor?"
"Sure. Wrapping your arms around someone never goes out of style. Not in the last 3000 years, anyway."
Mara slipped her arms easily around him, hugging him tightly without any of the reservations that Claire had had. Trevor blinked in her arms, considering the sensation. Mara's lips hovered against the side of his neck, rising slowly uagainst his skin. With a small smile, she whispered warmly into his ear.
Trevor swallowed. "Ye-... yeah?"
Mara's hand eased down to his waist, slipping into his pocket.
"Follow me onboard in about a minute..."
Without further explanation she pulled away suddenly. Her hand slipped out of his pocket and she walked back towards Frank and Claire to board the plane. Claire gave her an annoyed glare for the 'good-bye' Mara had given Trevor, but said nothing. The three of them disappeared down the boarding tunnel.
Trevor stood there motionless, trying to figure out what had just happened. He reached into his pocket and pulled out what Mara had put into it.
It was a plane ticket. A plane ticket for him. For the very flight the three of them had just boarded. Trevor looked at the plane ticket in wonder, standing there alone in the boarding area after all the other passengers had left. A woman's voice sounded on the overhead speakers.
"Final boarding call, Flight 419. Final boarding call, Flight 419."
Trevor stood there, mind racing. This was totally unexpected. He had nothing packed, nothing to take with him. No clothes, no money, no luggage. But he couldn't deny the overwhelming urge he felt to use the ticket he held in his hand. He stood there undecided as the final boarding call sounded again. Looking up, he saw the attendant was already moving the door to the boarding tunnel, slowly closing it.