Claire didn't realize when it happened, but she found herself caught up completely in what they were doing. Her face grew brighter each moment, amazed at how well they danced.
"Claire..." Trevor asked.
"Let's really test this, close your eyes..."
Claire closed her eyes and didn't question it. Across from her, Trevor did the same thing, and they both danced without sight. They continue to circle around the floor, not seeing anything around them. The dance moved as smoothly as before. Never once did they mis-step or wander into a table, staying easily in each other's arms. With their eyes closed, they began to see other things, began to remember details of the ballroom. The smell of candlewax was almost distinct in the air. Small whispers of a breeze brushed past from the imagined couples dancing around them. Claire laughed softly out loud at the sensation.
My dreams... came true... because... of you...
On the sidewalk outside of Taggerty's, Alex walked towards the front entrance. As he walked past he looked in through the window and stopped suddenly where he was. He saw Claire and Trevor inside, dancing in the nearly empty restaurant. Claire was laughing, and Alex's face grew cold as he watched them. Several different emotions passed through him, each whirling around the one before it as his stunned lips parted in silence. After a moment, he considered rushing in to stop them, but his indecision held him in place. As he continued to watch them dance, his heart sank. Finally he turned away when he couldn't bear to see any more. Without realizing it, his hand travelled to the small square box he had brought in his pocket. But as he stared blankly out into the street he couldn't bring himself to take it out. Instead all he could picture was the two of them, Trevor and Claire, dancing in his mind. Without a word, he turned and walked back the way he came.
Back inside, the song ended as Trevor dipped Claire, both of their eyes still closed. The drop beneath her back felt like a precipice since she couldn't see, and she laughed up at Trevor again as she held his arm tighter. Slowly, Trevor pulled her back up, not missing a step. They both opened their eyes at last.
Claire still felt elated, warm. "Well... thank you, Trevor. That was... nice. Still, I'm not convinced. That only proves that we both know how to dance."
Trevor smiled back. "You can't say I didn't try."
The electrician on the ladder turned back to his work. The bus boy, who had been watching, applauded softly and picked up his dishes, headed for the kitchen. Together, Trevor and Claire moved back to the bar, where she picked up her purse and faced him.
"You were right, Trevor. It's good to dance every once and a while."
"Well," Trevor said, "I'm just glad I was here to give your day a little spark."
Suddenly a shower of sparks rained momentarily down onto the bar from the row of lights above it, followed by a curse from the electrician as he jerked his hand away. Claire and Trevor both looked over at him.
"Sorry," he apologized. "I must have mis-wired it." He climbed down the ladder on his way to find more parts.
Claire turned back to Trevor. "I'm... late for a meeting with Alex. I've got to go."
"I'll see you tomorrow, Trevor."
Claire started for the door, but Trevor called out after her. "Or maybe earlier... If our dreams align again tonight. By some random event, of course."
Claire smiled back at him. "I doubt that... Goodbye, Trevor."
Trevor watched her leave, his face beaming. His eyes followed her as she walked past the front windows and out of sight. Then he reached up and pinched himself on the arm, hard. He looked around quickly and was relieved that his surroundings didn't change. He didn't suddenly wake up in his bed.
"Good," he said to himself. "Very, very good." With that he rotated in one quick dance step and went back to work.
Claire walked along the sidewalk away from Taggerty's, still smiling from her dance with Trevor. She put her arms out to her sides and twirled once, trying to recapture that feeling. As she continued to walk home, she imagined she heard a fragile, delicate music. A melody of soft, lilting notes, coming as if from a music box. Warm and content, she danced all the way down the street.
The same music filled Claire's bedroom, coming from the open lid of the music box Trevor had given her for Christmas. Hearing it always reminded her of Trevor, and her thoughts were of him now as she darted around the room getting dressed for her dinner with Alex. Claire finished drying her hair with a towel, having just stepped out of the shower. She dropped it onto her bed as she tightened the second towel wrapped around her chest, considering which dress to put on.
Softly, Claire began to hum, singing along with the melody from the music box. She moved lightly back and forth across her bedroom floor, carried by her good mood. Claire only stopped momentarily each time, standing before the full length mirror as she held various dresses flat against her. Trying to decide which to wear, she continued to hum. In the end unsatisfied with each dress she picked, she would rush back to the closet to choose another.
There was little time to get dressed, and she pushed herself to hurry. But somehow it didn't seem to matter. Not really. She couldn't explain it but she felt... almost, giddy. Alive. Never expecting how she would end up today, dancing in an empty bar with Trevor. Just out of the blue. He was still constantly surprising her, no matter how jaded she became about his beliefs. Playing into his delusion as she had, was wrong. But she didn't care. It felt good. As the music filled her bedroom, light on the air, Claire still hummed along with it. She felt more like she was dancing, than hurrying.
Without realizing it, her movements grew more elaborate. Arms out to her sides, she turned and stepped smoothly into the closet again, grabbing a long, elegant black dress. As she turned back, her eyes passed over the clock on her nightstand as the minute changed. Time was short, too short for dancing. So Claire stopped. For a moment. But she couldn't help herself as she started to dance again, dropping the dress she held and singing loudly as she spun. She tilted her head back and smiled, closing her eyes and feeling as if she were floating. A warm, happy, residual feeling from her dance with Trevor. The world held more wonders than she had thought. Trevor had showed them to her. She could almost imagine him in her arms again. And in that moment, Claire didn't mind thinking that she wished they had continued that dance...
Without warning Claire turned and bumped into someone standing in the room with her. She smiled as she opened her eyes, happy that Trevor had followed her from Taggerty's. That maybe they could find time for one more-
It was Alex, standing there watching her.
"Alex," Claire said, trying her best to hide the disappointment on her face. She reached up and gave him a quick kiss. "I'm running a little behind. I was over at Taggerty's talking with Trevor about all the sessions he's been missing with me." Claire hurried back to the closet to grab another dress, the already setting sun flashing golden across her skin. "I'll hurry, I promise. Why didn't you go down there? I told you that's where I would be."
Alex gave her a level stare. "Yes you did." he turned away, his response muted. "I guess I was running late too. Later than I thought."
Claire gave him a curious look, wondering what had affected his mood. She turned back to the mirror, only half-way approving of the dress she held. Still, it would have to do. She tossed it onto the bed as she began to untie the towel wrapped around her. She noticed Alex watching her.
"Now turn around, please. I'm getting dressed."
"Claire, I have seen you naked, you know. From every conceivable angle, even."
"Really? I don't remember. Which one were you again? Steve was it...?" She teased him, trying to get him to lighten his mood.
It seemed to work a little as Alex smiled slightly. "I'm Alex," he said. "I was the guy who loaned you the quarter, and to repay me you... Well, I guess we didn't get to first names before we..."
"Yeah, I guess not. Oh well, there have been so many..."
"So I heard..."
Claire smiled and threw the towel she had wrapped around her at him. "Turn around anyway," she said.
"Why? As a psychiatrist you must realize how ridiculous it is."
"Just call it a girl thing. Turn around please."
As Alex faced the other way Claire quickly slipped into her undergarments before pulling on her dress. She moved over to the dresser and pulled out a small necklace from Trevor's music box, a small necklace with a diamond heart on it. She quickly latched it around her neck, her hair still wet and dishevelled.
"OK, you can look now."
Alex turned around. Claire tried to frame the necklace with her hands, uncertain of the unfinished impact with the wet hair. "I thought I would wear this..." she began.
Alex didn't understand why she thought he would recognize the necklace. He walked up to her slowly, looking at it. He reached out with his hand and lifted it softly off her skin, examining it. "It's nice, where did you get it?" he asked.
Claire seemed surprised. Where...? Hadn't it been a gift from him last Valentine's day, sent to her when he had been in New York? "What do you mean where did I get it? Didn't-" she stopped herself, quickly realizing what had happened. "Trevor..." she muttered angrily to herself. Looking up at Alex she tried to cover. "I got it from Trevor. A gift to commemorate the first annual Cupid's Day."
"Valentine's Day. Trevor doesn't like some musty old saint taking all his credit. I thought it was... appropriate since... well, since he brought us together..."
The more Alex looked at the necklace, the emptier his face grew. Claire quickly took it off. "Maybe some other time..." she said as she put it away. Trevor would hear it from her about this little stunt.
Alex nodded to himself, seeming to have come to a decision.
"Look, Alex. As soon as I finish my hair, slap a little something on my face, we'll be on our way."
"Sure, Claire. But there was something I wanted to talk to you about first."
"Sit down, please." He motioned towards the bed.
Slowly Claire did, feeling slightly ridiculous in an slinky evening gown with her hair still wet from the shower.
"Claire, you know that I love you. Deeply. You mean everything to me. I can't think of my life with out you. Without you with me. But lately, I've started to realize something. Something coming between us. Something we need to address."
Claire looked over at the necklace, hoping that Alex wasn't getting the wrong idea.
"Look, Alex. It was just a gift. A little on the elaborate side, but given in friendship. I'm sure it-"
Claire stopped in mid-sentence as Alex formally, slowly, knelt down. Onto one knee. A sudden understanding passed through her, and she felt out of place, as if she were a spectator in her own body. The bed, the furniture, the apartment, all seemed to look back at her as strangers. She tried to grasp, to accept what was happening. What she hadn't expected. Alex reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box, holding it gently up to her as she sat on the bed.
"I've got to be honest, Claire. I came to Chicago not just hoping to spend the week with you. I came hoping to spend my life with you."
Claire was frozen, held by surprise and shock. The melody from Trevor's music box still played softly in the quiet room.
Alex carefully opened the lid on small box he held, revealing a glittering ring beneath, adorned with a huge diamond, flashing like a cold blue star in the fading sunlight.
"Claire, will you marry me?"
She didn't know what to say. Staring off into the distance, she knew she should be thinking about Alex's offer, but she wasn't. Instead she found herself staring at Trevor's music box, the small ivory angel on its top upside down and slanted as it hung from the open lid.
She wasn't even aware of when she answered, as if someone else spoke instead of her.
"Alex.. yes. I will marry you."
Before she realized it, Alex was kissing her, and slowly she responded. His kiss was warm, safe, familiar. The kind of kiss you spent your lifetime with, if not the kind of kiss you spent your lifetime for. She circled her arms around him.
Alex finally pulled back. "That's great, Claire. I love you so much. I'm hoping you'll move to New York with me..."
"New York?" she asked, surprised.
"Well, yes. If we're going to be married we should at least live in the same city. Don't worry. You moving is not a deal breaker or anything, I'll marry you any way I can, but I want you with me. I want to spend each available second with you. With you as my wife."
Claire looked reluctant.
"Look, I'm sure you could sell just as many books in New York, more even. The city's full of neurotic people for you to treat. Unless... something's holding you back. Is there a reason you should stay here?"
Claire looked into his eyes, trying to understand the man before her. She knew who that 'something' referred to by his level stare.
"No," she said. "There's no one here that I should stay for."
"Great," he smiled. "That's great, Claire. You'll love New York."
"I'm sure I will."
"We're going to be so happy together." He kissed her again.
Claire smiled as he pulled back, his enthusiasm becoming infectious as it spread through her. Playfully she pushed his shoulder.
"Now get out of here. I still need to get dressed."
"Sure, a girl thing... I know." He kissed her quickly once more and left the room, leaving her sitting there alone. The sunlight faded as the sun dipped completely beneath the horizon, dropping Claire into soft twilight.
Claire sat quietly for several seconds, thinking about what had just happened. She felt a strand of wet hair clinging to her cheek and she pushed it away. She looked at herself in the mirror, hair soaking and dressed in an evening gown, and she smiled at the image. The smile faded as she heard the music still playing. Her eyes shifted to Trevor's music box.
Slowly, she got up and walked towards it. She thought about the dance they had shared that afternoon. It had been great, wonderful even. But it had passed and was over. It was time to move on. Reluctantly, she closed the music box, her fingers lingering on the angel on its lid, as the music... stopped.