Mara shoved her carry on bag into the seemingly inadequate space of the overhead bin. Standing between the seats, she struggled to position the bag so it would fit. The crowded interior of the jetliner hummed with the low sounds of the engines and pressurized air behind the quite conversations of passengers as they found their seats. Beside Mara as she fought with the overhead bin, Frank and Claire were already seated, holding hands as Claire looked out the window excitedly.
"I"m so ready to leave, Frank." She said happily.
Mishearing her words, Frank blinked. Did she say she was ready to leave him? "What did you just say?"
"That I'm ready to leave. Finally some time away from Trevor." Smiling, Claire turned towards him, not noticing. "No one to argue with me every second, no one questioning my every action. No more finding him whenever I turn around. No more... Trevor. Mmm. It sounds good just saying it. Doesn't it sound good to you? Almost like music. No... more... Trevor." She exhaled in satisfaction.
Tenderly, Frank touched her face as he leaned in closer, surprised by her enthusiasm, not wanting to lose it in his life. "Is it really all that hard for you to be near Trevor? You make it sound like you've been liberated somehow..."
Claire thought about it. "It's just that... my relationship with Trevor's... complicated. I really like him as a person, but I'm professionally obliged to change who that person is, so it's... I don't know. I guess I can't explain it. Professional always seems to collide with personal where Trevor's involved. It hasn't been easy. But going away for awhile is like a weight off my chest. And as for me feeling liberated," she kissed him softly. "Wait till tonight. I'll show you what liberated feels like..."
Frank kissed her in return, laughing softly as he whispered. "Free at last, free at last..."
Mara still struggled with her bag as she stood beside them, finally squeezing it into the overhead with an almost feral growl. Pleased, she looked down and saw the two of them kissing. She rolled her eyes and looked away, before closing the overhead bin a little more forcefully than was necessary.
Frank and Claire continued to kiss as Mara stepped into the crowded seat aisle. She turned sideways to let someone squeeze past her. Glancing at Frank and Claire, Mara realized they weren't paying any attention to her at all. Grateful for the opportunity, Mara began to walk forward, a small, secretive smile on her face, forcing herself to stay calm as she moved towards the front of the plane.
Carefully she began to count aisles and seats softly to herself as they slid by. Feeling self conscious, she looked back again, but Frank and Claire were too involved with each other to notice she was gone.
Mara continued forward, watching the small seat signs pass by her as she whispered softly. "Row 12... Row 11... Row 10..."
A thrill passed through her and Mara paused. She saw the seat she was looking for, a few feet ahead of her. Taking a breath, she walked silently closer, looking down to find...
"Trevor..!" Mara whispered in relief.
Trevor was sitting there, looking up at her with a smile.
Excited, she knelt beside his chair. "Trevor I'm glad you came. I... wasn't sure you would."
Trevor nodded in understanding. "Neither was I..."
"It's so good you're here, Trevor. Trust me, we'll have a blast in California. You'll definitely be more fun than me watching Frank and Claire being lovey dovey all weekend."
"I know how that feels..." Trevor looked towards the back of the plane. "Since I don't hear any hysterical shouts of professionally accredited protest, I assume you haven't told Claire yet?"
Mara shrugged mischievously. "What she doesn't know won't kill her. Maybe a mild heart attack, but I'll risk it. I don't want her to find out too fast that you're here. So if you could just lay low until we're in the air, then she won't be able to do anything about it."
Trevor looked around. "I can't believe I'm doing this, Mara. Claire's either gonna kill me or make me wish she was going to kill me. But who knows. Maybe it'll be worth it. Still, I didn't have time to bring anything. No one back home knows I even left..."
"Don't worry. We'll take care of that when we land, Trevor. Right now just live in this moment. See where it leads."
"In this moment the only clothes I have are the one's I have on. Umm, Mara...?"
Trevor had to snap her out of a sudden distraction. "Sorry," she said with a guilty smile. "Just picturing something in my head. You in no clothes. Oops. You've caught me. You've seen through my master plan. It won't be a problem, Trevor. I'll handle all that when we land."
Trevor raised an eyebrow. "I haven't felt this kept since Cleopatra got kinky in Cairo..."
Mara smiled. "Don't worry. I didn't pack the leather choke chain. Not the big one, anyway." She looked nervously towards the back of the plane. "Look, just stay low for awhile. And try not to hit on too many stewardesses."
"Ok. That I can do."
Trevor smiled and Mara patted heis arm like he was a co-conspirator before rising to leave. But then she paused, thinking for a second, before kneeling back down beside his chair. Her voice was soft and alluring. "Trevor, that reminds me. Umm, once we're airborne... I was wondering if... well," she grinned seductively. "I was wondering if... you know, you would like to... join the club. Me. You. Airborne. I checked earlier and they have... very roomy lavatories on this flight."
Hoping he wasn't blushing, Trevor tried to catch his breath. Mara enjoyed that she had caused that reaction in him. Trevor struggled to respond. "I... I don't know, Mara. The..uhh, the club I belong to flies a little higher than a mile."
Mara nodded appreciatively, surprised she was able to so easily fluster someone who claimed to be the god of love. "Maybe I can get the pilot to go higher on the return trip. Look, I gotta go before Claire gets suspicious. Stay here. I'll see you in a bit." Without warning she darted in to kiss him quickly on the cheek before standing and walking calmly back to her seat.
Trevor blinked as she left, touching his cheek with a smile. Glancing around, he slid down in his seat slightly, trying not to be seen. He couldn't explain why he had come. Why he had hopped onto a plane on an impulse with nothing but the clothes on his back. And at the moment he didn't care, thinking of Mara's kiss, still tingling on his cheek. But for some strange reason, the thought came to him that he wished Claire had been the one to give it. Did he come for Mara or because he didn't want to be away from Claire? He could almost feel Claire and Frank seated somewhere behind him, knowing they were sitting together. The elated feeling from Mara's kiss was suddenly gone.
The runway sped dizzyingly past the round cabin windows, and the plane began to lift off. The nose of the plane tilted up, and Claire grabbed Frank's arm beside her. Slowly the aircraft rose into the air as Claire looked out of the window, eyes full of an excitement she couldn't contain. She turned back to Frank, enjoying the sensation as they climbed into the sky.
"I don't think I'll ever get blase about the feeling of actually flying through the air..." she said with a smile.
Several rows forward, Trevor didn't have the same reaction. He didn't even notice that they had taken off, asleep in his seat as if he had done it all a million times before.
Later the plane was well into it's level flight as Trevor sat quietly. He was trying to stay out of sight and he was bored beyond belief. He looked at the woman to his right, a slender freckled red head with a kind face who glanced casually up at the man standing in the row just in front of her, before he sat down again. They shared a smile between them that Trevor noticed, but neither said anything as they silently went about their business. The woman bent down to the bag at her feet, searching through it as her other hand rested a paperback she held on top of the seat in front of her. Trevor's eyes fixated on the paperback, until he got an idea.
Scratching his fingers behind his ear in an effort to appear inconspicuous, Trevor looked casually away before his hand darted quickly out, knocking the book cleanly out of the woman's grasp without even looking. The book fell into the seat in front of her as the woman looked up. Uncertain what had happened, she looked at Trevor, who was already flipping through an airline magazine, whistling innocently. The woman blinked, confused.
In the row in front of her, the man rose from his seat, picking up the book after it had fallen past his shoulder. He turned and looked at the woman with a smile.
"Umm. I think this is yours."
"Yeah," she said brightly. "Thanks. I'm sorry. It must have slipped out of my hands."
"My name's Mark, by the way."
"Hi. Glad to meet you. I'm Marian."
Trevor nodded to himself, pleased but not looking at them. He kept his eyes forward at an angle away from them, until he noticed something. There was a man several rows up, watching him. A pale, mousy looking man in thick black glasses who looked younger than he was, watching Trevor intensely before turning away in embarrassment when he realized Trevor had seen him. Trevor tried to place the man's face, knowing he had seen him before. Suddenly he called out, realizing where.
"SureScore! Hey, I know you!" Trevor said.
The man looked at Trevor again, but his eyes widened in shock when he realized Trevor was talking directly to him and he turned away. Trevor got up and walked over to him, kneeling beside his chair, this time remembering to keep his voice down before Claire heard him.
"Hey, I know who you are!" Trevor whispered. "You're one of the geeks-... umm, sorry. I mean Patrons... from that SureScore technique class I went to. Remember? Subliminal pick up lines for the desperate and the virginal? What are you doing here? Did the technique ever work? Or are you still filling your tank at the self service pump? Still seating for one on Friday nights? Why are you going to California? Please say you're going to see someone, I hope?"
The man seemed embarrassed by the attention Trevor was giving him, and the attention it was getting from the other passengers around him. "Could you speak a little more quietly, Mr. Hale?"
"You know my name?"
"Yes. I've seen you in Chicago many times. Too many times. Far too many times. You're always in my way with-" The man in the glasses didn't finish.
Trevor didn't understand. "Oh. Right. Right. So what are you doing on this particular flight?"
"I'm going to California to attend a function-"
Trevor interrupted him, not really interested. "Hey, that's really, really... swell." Trevor was more concerned about other aspects of conversation. "What about SureScore? Did it work? Did you win the love of your life?"
"No," the man pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, "No, she saw right through it. Nevertheless, when it comes to winning the love of my life," the man looked around nervously, glancing towards the back of the plane. "Lets just say I'm still in the middle of working on it."
"Hey man, don't give up. Keep firing away. She'll come around."
The man laughed with an awkward enthusiasm, before giving Trevor a thumbs up, smiling eagerly.
As the flight continued along it's course, Claire was alone with Frank. Mara had gone off somewhere. Claire looked out at the clouds, fluffy and white to the horizon as they slid gently by. It was a sight she never became blase about. Frank held her hand, continuing the conversation they were having.
"Claire, all I'm saying is that we're going to spend the entire weekend with Mara. You both could put in a little more effort here. I mean, you're adults. You should be able to find a way to get along."
Claire turned to him. "We should, but I can almost guarantee that we won't. I'd bet money on it."
Frank looked at her, but said nothing. Claire nodded at his disapproval.
"I know, Frank. I really do. But whenever we get near each other it's like we're in high school all over again. Mara's always done whatever the hell she wants, without any consideration for the consequences, or to what other people may feel about someone. She follows every impulse without a second thought, and I always get to clean up the mess. I always have to be the responsible one, I always have to keep things together. I always have to reason and reign her in and I'm tired of it. I get enough of that from Trevor..."
Frank smiled. "I guess I'll have to accept that that's as close as you're going to get to the possibility of an attempt at getting along. Still, all in all, nice try."
"It's just not that easy Frank." Claire sighed. "But, you're right. You're absolutely right. OK, for you, I'll try a little harder. I promise. See? I'm making a vow here and now that no matter what Mara does, no matter how infuriating, I won't let her get to me..."
"Hello Claire!" Trevor interrupted brightly.
"TREVOR!" Claire's eyes went wide with shock. "Tre- What the hell are you doing here?!"
Leaning on the chair in front of her, Trevor's smile faded under her blistering stare. He blinked. "Well happy hello to you too, Claire."
"Trevor, how-!?" Passengers started to turn as Claire fumed, words catching in her throat, completely furious. "Trevor how-... Why-... Why are-..?"
Trevor looked at her. "Careful Claire. You'll bust an adverb. Are you feeling ok? Do you need some ice water? Coffee? Tea? Milk?"
Claire shook her head, stunned. "But you can't be-...! You-... But-... but-..."
Trevor looked around. "Is there a vulcanologist in the house? I think Vesuvius here is about to blow her top..."
Finally, Claire was able to speak, her words as shocked as her expression. "Trevor, what are you doing here!?"
Suddenly Mara was at Trevor's side, smiling sweetly at her as if nothing were out of the ordinary. "Is there something wrong, Claire?"
"Yes! Trevor's not a thousand miles behind us!!"
"Oh that. Well.. I bought him a ticket. I thought I would surprise you. I invited Trevor to our high school reunion with me."
Claire paused incredulously. "Whatever the hell for?!"
Mara was glacialy pleasant, but her smile was genuine as she watched Claire's reaction. "Well, you're taking Frank to the reunion, aren't you? I don't want to show up without someone on my arm any more than you do. So I bought Trevor a ticket. He's my date for the reunion."
It took a while for that to sink in. Claire shook her head. "Oh no no no! Absolutely no way! You can't do that, Mara!"
Mara blinked at how upset Claire was, amused by it. "Why not?" she said innocently.
Claire waved at Trevor, stunned that she even had to explain. "He's..he's... an outpatient!" she whispered.
Trevor tilted his head. "You make that sound like a bad thing..."
Mara nodded, pretending to consider Claire's statement. "Outpatient. Right. Wait... what's your point again?"
Claire's eyes went wide in disbelief. "My point is he's crazy! He's nuts. He's... he's here!"
Mara's brow furrowed. "Sorry. I'm not following..."
"Mara! Trevor's an outpatient! He's under supervised psychiatric care! He can't just leave Chicago without proper supervision! What were you thinking?"
"I was thinking I like Trevor. I wanted him to be my date to the reunion. And why not? He's a great guy. I wanted to show him off. And as for him leaving Chicago without supervision, I guess it's lucky for him that he's on the same flight as his therapist. That should pretty much cover it, don't you think? Really? You do? Great. See you when we land, Claire." With a smile, she walked off, as if the matter were settled.
Trevor looked at Claire, trying to placate her with a soothing smile. "Don't worry, Sparky! This will be fun. I'm going to speak to the pilots. You know, exchange flying stories with them... Maybe convince them to do a barrel roll. That way, hopefully the passengers will start to inadvertently bump body parts." Trevor patted Claire's stiff shoulder enthusiastically. "This is going to be a great trip, Claire! We're gonna have a blast!"
Trevor turned and walked away. Silent the entire time, Frank sat nervously beside Claire, watching for the eruption.
Claire seemed too stunned to yell, still dazed. She sputtered despondently. "But... but... my weekend... no Trevor... my no Trevor weekend. I should have known. Mara ruined it."
Frank tried to comfort her. "Maybe it won't be-" he paused when she glared at him, changing his choice of words, "-completely disastrous."
Claire stared straight ahead, not believing what had happened. "How did I piss off the gods so to the extent that I deserve this..?"
Frank lifted her hand affectionately, holding it in his and trying to make it seem better.
"See?" He smiled weakly. "You and Mara getting along. Was that so hard?"
Trevor was in his seat and restless, feeling confined and penned in. His seat seemed so far away from Claire. He looked down at his watch with great interest, but it wasn't time yet. So he fidgeted some more. Frustrated, he looked around. He had already talked to the passengers around him. Most of them were romantic dead ends, either not wanting to be bothered or just not wanting to be bothered by him. Trevor started drumming on the chair in front of him to burn off some excess energy. The very large body of the man seated there rose, turning to look at Trevor with a glare.
"Sorry." Trevor said, craning his head back to look up at him. "I didn't realized you were so... huge. I'll stop what I'm doing and be more like the rest of you zombies. It's ok. Return to your normal, comatose state."
After the man had seated himself, Trevor began drumming on his knees. Quickly he stood up, stretching unnecessarily. Exhaling from boredom he sat down again, checking at his watch. A woman across the aisle noticed Trevor's nervousness, and that he kept checking his watch.
"Hi," Trevor said to her. "I'm a little fidgety. Not used to flying indoors. Just waiting for twenty minutes to pass." He checked his watch again before looking back at her. The woman stared at him silently as if he were from another planet. Trevor tried to explain. "See, there's this friend of mine, umm, Dr. Claire Allen. Wait. Have you heard of her? Author, therapist, righteous babe, total hottie?"
He got only a blank stare in response, so he continued.
"Right... Anyway. She's not too happy with me right now. I was back there where she's seated, for a little while, but I guess I was... starting to get on her nerves." Trevor laughed. "Imagine that, huh?"
The woman didn't laugh. The woman didn't anything.
"Yeah... So Claire challenged me. She said I couldn't go twenty minutes and leave her in peace and quiet. So I said, hey, I'm the god of love, right? I can go twenty minutes with one wing tied behind my back. I can go twenty minutes with-"
Suddenly Trevor's watch beeped.
"Sorry that's twenty! Gotta go."
Trevor jumped up like a racehorse out of the gate, quickly heading down the aisle and back to Claire. He moved briskly, feeling re-energized and in desperate need of a Claire fix. As he approached them, he saw Mara sitting in the aisle seat. Looking up, Mara smiled at him and pulled the headphones she had been listening to off her ears. Her face lit up, happy to see him. Trevor glanced beside Mara as he came closer... and stopped in his tracks.
Frank and Claire were leaning close to each other as they kissed softly, quietly, unnoticed. Trevor's face fell, smile melting away as he watched them from the aisle.
Mara's expression changed when she noticed Trevor wasn't coming any closer. Curious, she followed Trevor's gaze, looking beside her. She finally realized Claire and Frank were kissing beside her. Sadly, she looked back at Trevor with understanding in her eyes.
Trevor looked at Mara silently, crestfallen. He knew she understood. Mara watched him in sympathy, mouth opening to offer words of comfort... but not able to think of anything.
Trevor nodded, grateful for the attempt, but he couldn't bring himself any closer. He looked back at Frank and Claire, who were still kissing quietly and hadn't even noticed him standing there. Trevor sighed, his enthusiasm from a moment ago was gone. Sadly, he turned and walked back to his seat, realizing that maybe coming on this trip hadn't been such a good idea after all.
After Trevor was gone, anger grew on Mara's face as she glanced at Frank and Claire. Turning away, she re-adjusted herself in her seat, purposefully jamming her elbow into Claire's unsuspecting side.
"Mara!" Claire cried out. She broke her kiss with Frank and rubbed her ribs. "Watch it. That hurt..."
Mara gave her a false smile. "Sorry, Claire. Didn't notice were you there. That seems to be going around..."
Claire could tell something else was going on, but she had no idea what it was. Mara put her headphones back on, reading her book again.