The Chicago sky sparkled wide and blue over the bustling mid-morning traffic beneath it. A rich sunlight poured warmly over the towering faces of office buildings in the busy city, driving away the last chills of the cool morning. It was a beautiful day, crisp and new, and it spoke of promise and hope. As Claire Allen walked along the sidewalk, she looked up and tried to smile. Soaking in the brightness of her surroundings, she yearned to gather in some of the sunny optimism that seemed to elude her.
She felt contented with her decision. Marrying Alex was the smartest thing she could do. He was intelligent, caring, handsome... everything she could ever want. Then why wasn't she happier? As she gazed up at the buildings around her, glittering in the fresh air, she considered her subdued reaction. She felt sad even, and she didn't know why. She would miss Chicago. It would be hard to leave, but that wasn't it. She felt no rush, no anticipation for the life ahead of her. Something was missing. Something she felt she had lost.
OK, It's not like I'm abandoning him, she thought to herself. Her leaving was, in the end, probably the best thing for Trevor. Maybe Alex was right. If he was holding on to his delusion only to stay near her, or if he did it out of sheer stubbornness to not let her win, either was damaging. Without her around as an incentive against accepting his humanity, perhaps Trevor could finally make some progress. She cared a lot for Trevor, and that personal dynamic had more than likely affected their doctor-patient relationship. he was constantly in her dreams. Her perspective was undoubtedly compromized. She did want him to get better, didn't she? Her leaving was the right thing.
A smile slowly spread across her face. Without a doubt, she would miss him. The way his smile blossomed with eagerness when he saw her. His genuine happiness when two people he nudged together (sometimes, threw was more like it) in the end finally acknowledged their feelings for each other. A honest reaction beyond just sliding another bead over in payment for his return to some delusional Olympus. His enthusiasm for the power of love. His undying hope for a happy ending. His unfettered romanticism towards embracing life. She would miss the way he would cheer her up when she was down. Or deflate her ego when it had gotten too big. She caught herself thinking and stopped suddenly.
"I'm beginning to sound like a Hallmark card," she muttered to herself, annoyed.
More than likely Trevor was in love with her. She wasn't blind to it, after all. Although sometimes she preferred to pretend she was. She wasn't totally certain of it either, considering his 'condition'. But she was certain enough that it had reached a point where she could no longer help him. It was time to step back and accept that.
A car honked at her from the street and she turned towards it. Pulling up to the curb was a factory-new VW bug, its shiny red finish blinding in the sunlight. A voice called out to her from the interior.
"CLAIRE!" The voice was softer as it spoke to the driver. "Hey, man. Thanks for the lift. You did the right thing."
The car door opened and Trevor bounded out, smiling at her. He hurried towards her before remembering to turn back and close the car door. "I'll see you later P-man," he told the person inside. "You take care." With that the car pulled away and Claire caught a glimpse of its license plate.
"Sparky! How are you this fine morning? I was thinking, you probably need to consider finding a new nickname. Your patients must really worry about your treatment techniques with one like 'Sparky'. I have several suggestions that come to mind..."
"Or from somewhere lower, I'm sure. Hello, Trevor. I'm on my way to my office. There's a few... matters that I need to clear up with my supervisors. So. In all the sidewalks, in all the cities, what brings you to mine?"
"A god's appreciation of art? Actually, I just wanted to enjoy the air. Besides when I see a beautiful woman like yourself walking alone, my world suddenly makes less sense. So I decided to join you."
"Your world makes less sense? I guess when it rains it pours." Claire nodded towards the street. "Who was that in the car?"
"Just an old friend of mine. Of both of ours actually, now that I think about it. Preston Milke."
"That... was Preston Milke?"
"Yeah. He didn't seem to remember you. Funny, since you sounded like you knew him. I was helping him pick out a new car."
"Really," Claire said. "And where did you meet Mr. Milke?"
Trevor smiled, realizing what she was implying.
"Here and there."
Claire looked at him meaningfully. "Oh, I'm sure."
"I met the milk man the first week I was here. In the ward at Lakeview before you finally got me out. No need to smirk."
"I'm aware of all the patients at Lakeview, Trevor. There was no-"
"Alias. He used an alias. He really stressed the importance of not giving a real name since some people would try to use it against you." He smiled at her sweetly. "It was good advice so I decided to return the favor today. We talked quite a bit actually, back in Lakeview. Preston's a big fan of game shows."
"Fine, Trevor. I'll take your word for it."
"I came to tell you that I'm sorry Claire."
That lifted her eyebrow. "Sorry?"
"For missing our sessions. I won't do it any more, I promise." Trevor actually sounded sincere.
Claire turned and started walking. Trevor hurried to keep up, dodging through the busy sidewalk crowd to stay at her side. He spoke in fits and starts as he sporadically came near.
"I mean," he continued, "I was actually starting to feel happy and accepted as the god of love and then I realized I wasn't used to it. The sessions will be a good way for me to get my Claire fix before I actually start liking myself."
"Considering your vow of abstinence, liking yourself probably isn't a problem. Regardless, it's sort of a moot point now."
"Look, I said I'm sorry and I'll do better. What more do you want?"
She didn't look at him. "A private sidewalk? Regardless, it doesn't matter."
Claire started walking faster, hoping that the quicker she went the quicker their conversation would end. Telling Trevor what she had to tell him was not something she wanted to do.
"There won't be any more sessions, Trevor."
"Fine by me. I've always felt we might use some more unorthodox methods. I know this clothing-optional bar with a great hot tub..."
Claire finally stopped walking, turning to face him.
"Trevor, I can't be your therapist any more."
His face looked shocked as he stopped next to her. The crowd flowed past in either direction as they stood silently facing each other for a few moments.
"What do you mean?" Trevor asked cautiously.
Claire took a nervous breath. "I mean... what I'm trying to say... is that I can't treat you any more."
Out of nowhere, Trevor smiled again. "You mean I finally did it? I've finally convinced you that I'm really Cupid?"
"No, Trevor. I can't believe that because your not... Cupid, I mean. And frankly, we both have to face certain facts."
Trevor's smile evaporated as his face grew more concerned. He blinked and tried to speak, but his voice remained slightly flustered. "Then I... I don't understand what-"
"Trevor, I'm giving up! I've already consulted with my supervisors at Lakeview over the phone and they've come to agree with me. I'm on my way to clear some final things up right now. I've had zero progress with your case, so they're consulting me to assign you to someone else."
Trevor's jaw held a hard line as he looked at her. "Well, that depends on how you define progress."
"Progress is some sign Trevor, some small indication that you are getting better. Well... you're not. And I'm sorry but the hospital and I have decided that its time you moved on to another therapist."
"I don't want somebody else. I want you."
Claire leaned her head and looked away as if afraid that was what he was going to say. "Look... Trevor. I can't help you any more. Maybe someone else can do a better job. Achieve the breakthrough I couldn't. You may not want to hear this, but you need to get well." Trevor turned from her angrily as Claire continued. "And I'm just holding you back."
"Holding me back? How?" He looked at her. "What's some new guy going to do that you don't? Except maybe dope me up and tie me down? It's because of you that I've avoided all that. You're the one that's let me live my life."
"Trevor, that's the point."
"What point? How has that held me back?" he asked.
"You want to know? You really want to know?" Her voice took on an angry edge of its own. "Fine, I'll tell you. I've held you back because I'm way too fond of you Trevor."
He held out his arms to his sides. "Is that a crime? Aren't you allowed to like your patients?"
"Trevor, I've lost my objectivity! I can't be certain I'm giving you an unbiased evaluation any more. You've invaded my thoughts, my dreams. I need some space! I was warned about this from the beginning. I like you too much to question what's happening. To you. To us. The concept that love conquer's all, that passion is the paramount force in the universe, that love is the only thing worth fighting for. Your delusion can be quite... seductive and I'm afraid I've been caught up in it. Caught up in you. Umm...your outlook, I mean. So I have to question whether or not I've tried hard enough to help you... because I like you the way you are."
Trevor reached out and held her shoulders as he looked straight into her eyes. For once she didn't shake him off. "You don't question my beliefs about love because you've always believed those things yourself. Long before I ever came along. And why not? All of them are absolutely true. What's so crazy in believing in true love anyway? In believing that we all have somebody we're destined to be with? With trying to find that pure, precious love for someone else? Or if your lucky, yourself? I try to make two people happy and then I try it with two more. Where's the delusion in that?"
"Looking for love is not the delusion, Trevor. Believing you're the god of love is."
"But how is that bad? How does that hurt me?"
As gently as she could, she reached up and took his hands off her shoulders. Looking into his eyes she tried to fill her voice with understanding, hoping he would see. "Because its a fantasy. It's not who you really are."
"Don't I have a say in who I really am?"
"You can't create yourself, Trevor."
"People create themselves everyday! They create themselves into doctors, lawyers," he motioned towards her, "psychologists. So what's so wrong with believing your Cupid? Even if it were a delusion, which it most certainly is NOT, as delusions go its not so bad. It's not like I have family problems...."
"The god of love didn't have family problems?"
"Well, let me see... Mama's alright. Daddy's alright..."
Claire finished for him. "They're both just a little weird... Yeah I know the lyric. I'm surprised you get Cheap Trick on Olympus."
"You would be surprised what we get on Olympus. Although I prefer the song 'I want you to want me' for obvious reasons. Why is it that you can create me into the image of what I should be, but I'm not allowed to do that for myself? Of the two of us, who has the bigger delusions of god-hood here..."
"What I'm doing is trying to make you face reality so you can get better, Trevor. What you're doing is running away from it." Claire turned and moved off as if her point were made. Trevor followed at her side, unconvinced. He did his best to stay even with her as she walked faster.
"For someone running away, I'm sure having a hard time catching up. Face reality? I never question who you are, Claire. I accept you as the stubborn, beautiful, caring person you seem to me. Yet you do nothing but question who I am. I believe in you, Claire. Why can't you believe in me?" They both stopped again.
"Regardless, Trevor." Claire looked at him, her expression a mixture of caring and sadness as she saw the emotions on his face. She felt something deeply for him in that moment, something she couldn't explain to herself. She was silent for several seconds, uncertain of what she should say. A small breeze danced through her hair as the crowd on the sidewalk passed behind her. Her eyes were full and brown, dilated in the bright sunshine. Trevor had never seen her look at him that way, had never seen her more beautiful. He felt himself melt.
"Trevor, as hard as it is to do, it's time for both of us to move on. So I have to say this now while I still have the chance. It's been a pleasure knowing you. We've had a lot of fun together. I'll miss you... everyday, because I'll remember you everyday. But I doubt we'll ever see each other again. Goodbye, Trevor." She started to walk away, afraid he would see the moisture forming in her eyes.
"No, Claire. Wait... please." Trevor moved to stop her but held back. He called out to her as she left, his voice more stern than it had been. "I think you owe me more than that, Claire."
"I owe you?" She turned back towards him, her voice incredulous.
"You owe me. More than just 'Goodbye. I'll never see you again' ." He looked at her from where he stood, hoping she would come back. "You owe me at least a reason. And don't give me the 'zero progress' speech again. That's about as phony as an ABC exec with taste. You've been making zero progress with me for almost a year. Why the sudden change of heart? Why now Claire?"
Reluctantly she walked back up to him. Then finally she told him. "Because I won't be here, Trevor. I'm moving to New York. As soon as possible."
"To be with Alex?" Trevor asked like it made no sense.
Slowly Claire raised her hand into the light. The engagement ring Alex had given her glittered between them as she watched Trevor's reaction. His expression fell when he realized what it was, and he looked away. A deep pit felt like it had opened in his chest.
"He asked me to marry him, Trevor. And I said yes."
"You can't do this, Claire. You can't marry Alex."
"I love him," she said simply.
"It's a mistake, Claire. He's not the one for you."
Claire's eyes narrowed as she grew annoyed. "Not the one for me? This coming from the self-proclaimed god of love who set us up..."
"Well, I was wrong. Actually I never really felt that--"
"You have a lot of nerve, Trevor. Maybe Alex was right about you."
"Right about what? What has Mr. Chiselled-Chin been saying about me?"
"That you've been trying to break us apart all along, Trevor. That you always had other plans. I just told you that I'm getting married. One more all important bead for Trevor Hale's grand delusion. And what's your reaction? 'Don't do it, Claire. It's a mistake, Claire.' Strange attitude for someone who's mission in life is to match me up with my true love."
"I am. But Alex isn't it. There's no bead there. I know it. I feel it in my gut, my heart, Claire."
"You have no special insight, Trevor. You're a flawed human being just like the rest of us. Capable of the same mistakes. Stop me if you've heard this before..."
"Well, then those flaws apply to both of us, don't they. If you would just be honest with yourself, you'd see that I'm right. Follow your heart, Claire. You don't want to marry Alex."
"You know, Cupid or not... how do you have any right to tell me who I love or what I want?"
"Because you're not willing to tell yourself."
Claire took offense. "Well, I am an adult, Trevor. I can make my own decisions."
"Fine. Then make this one."
"I have," she said petulantly.
"Have you? Or did Alex make it for you?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Are you marrying him because it's what you want or because he asked? Because it's what you believe should happen next on some relationship flow chart. If you ask me, that's the easy way out of actually having to live your own life."
"Now you just hold it right there, Trevor." Angrily she wondered why she always forgot how annoying he could be sometimes.
Trevor talked right over her objection, trying to make his point. "Don't play it safe, Claire. Life's too precious to play it safe. Look, I've only been mortal for a short time, but it's been long enough for me to realize how fleeting this existence is. You don't get a second chance at this one moment, this one life. You have to make the most out of every minute, every second. Squeeze them for all the joy that their worth. You can't do that following schedules and agendas! You've got to take chances, break rules... listen to your cardio-muscle. Fpr example, what did you dream about last night, Claire?"
"Oh no! Don't start that up again!" she said.
Trevor pressed his question. "What did you dream about?"
"Trevor, people dream all the time..."
"Yes and dreams are an answer to a question we're afraid to ask. To a question you need to ask. Your dreams are there for a reason, Claire. You have to face them wothout being afraid."
She placed her hands on her hips as she gave him an angry stare. "What do you think I'm afraid of, Trevor?"
"Of your feelings. That maybe you don't love Alex."
"Oh. So in your godly, yet strangely sporadic, insight you've decreed from on high that I'm afraid to face my feelings. Fine. Let's see if the pot dresses in kettle black, shall we? Let's talk about your feelings for a second. Or are you afraid?"
"I don't know what you're talking about, Claire."
"Don't know? Or is it that you don't want to know. You don't want to know that you can be anything less than a god. Either way, I think deep down you know exactly what I'm talking about."
"Is this ever going to find a line of sight to the point, Claire?"
"Since I've known you, Trevor, you've done nothing but hit on me. Little sexual innuendoes here, making quick glances there. Why do you bother? What's the point? I think you hide behind them because your afraid of how you really feel, as simple and as human as that is. So. Let's get it all out into the open." She motioned to the bustling sidewalk around her as people walked by, for the most part ignoring them. "Since I can't say I've had much success in figuring you out in the last year, why don't you help me out with a little honesty. No more games..."
"I don't play games, Claire."
She reached into her pocket and carefully took out the necklace Trevor had given her. She held it out to him, firmly clutched in her hand. "Case in point, Trevor. You gave me this. You. Without a doubt you knew I would figure that little fact out the second that Alex didn't recognize it. It was inevitable, so why did you give it to me? What did you hope to accomplish?"
"I was trying to help out, Claire. I was trying to keep Alex and you together."
"And now you're trying to keep us apart."
Claire paused for a moment, frustrated as she tried to understand his motives. She held back tears as she confronted him. "I mean... what do you want from me, Trevor? To get me into bed so I can be another notch on your 3000 year old bedpost? Maybe I'm just a quick roll in the hay so you can cast off your immortal coil and destroy any hope of going back to Olympus. After all, you've said several times that you can't go back if you have sex with a mortal, yet you constantly imply that that's exactly what you want from me. So what am I supposed to make of that, Trevor? Is sex all that you're after? Or is sex what you use to push away something more. Something deeper than the afterglow from an afternoon quickie. I mean... do you have feelings for me? Are you in love with me? Come on, tell me, Trevor." Her last few sentences were pleading and quiet.
Trevor found he couldn't answer her. He felt the pull of the words inside him, but he couldn't force them out. "What I want is..." his voice faltered. "I guess, what my feelings are..."
Claire nodded to herself, as she wiped away a tear. "Well, that's what I thought. And you say I'm the one who's afraid to face my feelings."
"Claire," Trevor began softly. "All I ever wanted was for you to be happy. To find someone who loves you as much as you love them. Where every moment is a triumph of pure love, requited and boundless. And you're right. That can only come from the person that you choose, it can't be chosen for you. Not by Cupid, and not by Alex."
"You believe that person's you, don't you? Is that what you've been trying to tell me all along instead of just being honest with me?"
"I'm not the one who can answer that question, Claire."
"Maybe not, but is it what you believe?"
"I... don't know." The words still didn't come, no matter how hard he tried
"You know, I was hoping to get a straight answer out of you for once. But I was crazy to think that I could. Forget it, Trevor. It doesn't matter any more." She threw the necklace against his chest, where it fell to the sidewalk between them. Trevor looked down at it, then up at her. His eyes were filled with sadness.
"Goodbye, Trevor." Her words were hard and deliberate as she spoke. "I'm moving to New York. I'm marrying Alex. And I don't think I'll miss you as much as I thought." She turned and without another word walked away, leaving him standing on the sidewalk as the crowd flowed past him along with her. He watched her leave, hoping she would turn back but knowing she wouldn't. He had never felt so alone in his life. Slowly, Trevor knelt down to pick up the necklace from the sidewalk where it lay abandoned in the sun. As he clutched it into his hand, he was finally able to speak.
"I love you, Claire..."
A tear fell down his cheek as he said it. But standing alone in a city full of people walking by, there was no on there to hear it. Trevor turned and walked towards home.