Claire blinked when she saw the note on her desk.
She was in her office at work, alone, the blue sky outside was bright through her windows. Around her the room was silent as she stood behind her desk. She had only stepped out of her office for a moment, and she remembered locking the door behind her. The keys were still in her hand from unlocking the door when she had come in. Now she found this, right there in the middle of her desk. It wasn't even a note, but instead a piece of paper, ingeniously folded into some sort of origami shape she had never seen before. It was folded into one continuous bow and arrow.
Curious, she slowly reached out and picked it up, gently turning it in her fingers. Claire tried not to smile, knowing instantly who it was from. She hadn't spoken to Trevor in days, not since she had broken down and finally told him, admitted that she loved him. Admitted that she could never let herself be with him.
Claire looked down in wonder at the small paper bow in her hands, and finally she did smile. Her fingers grazed tenderly over it's contours, touched by what Trevor had done. She looked again behind her at what had been her locked office door only a few moments ago. How did he get in? She hadn't been gone for more than a minute. How did he even know she was there? Or not there, as it were?
She looked back at the origami sculpture. It shouldn't surprise her. Because she already knew that Trevor was constantly surprising her. Why should now be any different.
The mid day sky was still a beautiful blue in the window behind her, warm and bright. It was Saturday. Claire looked out of her office door to Jaclyn's empty reception desk. Jaclyn wasn't there, not working today. Claire had only come in to do some extra work, and to get her mind off things.
"How does Trevor always seem to know where to find me..." she whispered softly to herself.
Deciding not to question it, she looked at the small bow and arrow fondly, thinking of Trevor. Then she noticed that one of the corners of the folded paper intentionally made a tab with a small arrow drawn on it, instructing her to pull. Gently, Claire did, and to her surprise the whole construction unfolded easily into a single sheet of intricately folded paper. She had never seen any origami that could do that before. The sheet had a few words of writing on it. Trevor's writing.
Follow me, Claire. You'll love this...
Beneath those words was a simple diagram, more arrows leading out of her office and to another spot in the building she was in.
Claire blinked, wondering what it all meant. She though about it for a moment, holding onto the paper, a little uncertain as she looked over at her open door, considering. Finally she moved, resolved as she decided to follow the map.
Stepping out of her office again, Claire turned and locked the door behind her, her keys softly clattering together in the quiet air. Holding the paper, Claire walked away down the hallway, following the directions, wondering what she was getting herself into.
As she walked through the halls she passed various locked therapist offices, most of them unused on the weekend. The empty spaces echoed with the sound of her steps on the tile flooring. Except for a few offices here and there, she was virtually alone in the building.
Anticipation grew in her over the minutes, and she looked up. The map led to an empty intersection up ahead, slowly moving towards her. Claire stopped in the middle of it and turned, confused. There was no one there, even though the arrow in the diagram definitely ended here. Finally she exhaled, thinking, wondering what to do next.
Then she saw it. Another little paper sculpture, this time folded into an origami heart. Smiling again, she walked over and carefully lifted it off the wall railing where it had been left. The paper heart was beautiful, as intricate and expertly folded as the bow and arrow had been.
Looking, she saw the same small tab. Pulling on it too, the heart unfolded easily into a single sheet of paper. There were no words on this one, only another map Trevor had drawn with a diagram and arrows, pointing out of the building and to a distant spot in the city.
Amazed, she lifted her eyes and looked all around, searching. There was no one in sight. No one was even remotely near her in any direction. Claire started to think. She herself had passed through this intersection not more than a minute ago on her way back to her office. She knew there hadn't been any paper heart sitting there on the railing when she had walked by. And she knew she hadn't seen any sign of Trevor in the building at all. How had he done this?
Claire turned her attention to the first sheet, bending it effortlessly until it folded back into a bow and arrow. She put it tenderly away in her pocket, wanting to keep it. Holding the remaining sheet open and taking a breath, she followed the directions on the second map, walking away and out of the building.
Sometime later, Claire was out on a busy sidewalk when she looked up again, having come to the end of the last arrow. A bustling downtown intersection filled with traffic was there before her, cars honking and speeding by everywhere in the bright sunlight. It was busy, even for a Saturday. Skyscrapers towered high into the blue sky all around her. Claire stood there on the corner, at a loss. And then she spotted something again.
It was out in the middle of traffic, wedged onto the metal pole of a small turning light set in the raised cement medium between traffic lanes. Claire could barely see it there, a small, folded paper shape, ignored as cars sped past it in either direction.
The wind from the passing cars gently blew through Claire's hair as she looked at it, her face bathed in sunshine as she smiled. The street was loud, noisy with traffic. Claire moved over and pushed the button on the traffic post beside her, waiting to cross.
The traffic slowed, and then came to a stop. A green light across the street blinked on, the outline of a person walking, allowing her to go forward. Claire stepped eagerly over to the small cement island, stopping there. She picked up the small paper sculpture Trevor had left, looking at it as the signal light changed again, and the waiting traffic started to move. Cars started whizzing by in front and behind her as she stood there, oblivious to them.
Claire held the paper object up to the sunlight. It was the most intricate figure of them all, an exquisitely folded origami cherub, easily recognizable, seemingly delicate and fragile, yet solid and remarkably well constructed. Trevor's workmanship was amazing. She smiled, engrossed by it, beyond words, lips parted as she gaped. When did he learn how to make origami sculptures? She found the same small tab, like on all the others, and when she pulled it, it unfolded easily.
The opened paper trembled as cars whizzed by on either side of Claire, her hair swaying gently in the wind too. She looked down. It was another map, leading several blocks away. Claire smiled, starting to enjoy the chase. Like before, she refolded the heart origami map back to it's original sculpture. Gently she put the paper heart into her pocket beside the bow and arrow, still surprised at how easily it returned to its original shape, as if it had always been that way.
With the third map now unfolded before her to follow, Claire waited for the traffic to lessen before she moved quickly into the traffic lanes, stepping off the small cement island. She no longer bothered to ask herself how Trevor had so quickly planted these notes for her to find at such varied distances. It didn't bother her today. Somehow she knew she'd find him.
Claire followed the directions, moving down the sidewalk, her figure growing more and more distant. She was just another pedestrian under the towering skyscrapers, a small figure in a big city.
Later Claire walked slowly forward, looking at something ahead as she paused near the end of her directions again. She could see it now, see where the arrows ended. It was a street corner, at the edge of the park. The city park beyond filled several blocks in the middle of downtown, a large expanse of trees, sidewalks, and green grass, nestled in the middle of Chicago's skyscrapers towering all around. She had been there before, remembering the time she had blown soap bubbles. With a smile, she crossed the street and moved to the corner, wondering again how Trevor had planned all this, still curious after all.
When she got to the sidewalk she paused, looking all around, expecting to find another origami clue somewhere. But there was nothing. her brow furrowing, she looked everywhere, under a line of high shrubs that blocked her view of the park, over on top of a small bench where passengers usually waited for the bus, but she found nothing. Perplexed, Claire stopped to think, wondering what to do next. This couldn't be all of it. There had to be more. But no matter where she looked, she found no further sign from Trevor.
Then she noticed that there were people passing her, heading into the park. She blinked, looking over at them. They were talking and laughing, walking into the hidden grassy area beyond the line of shrubs and into the park. And they were not alone. Now that she noticed them, Claire saw that there were several groups entering in small clusters, as if gathering. Slowly she walked around the row of hedges and followed them in.
Claire was stepping on the grass, moving forward. There was no denying it now, people were gathering for something. There seemed to be some sort of event going on up ahead, hidden from view behind another row of hedges. She could hear the sounds of lots of people on the far side, talking, waiting. There was the hum of an electric bass guitar warming up. As she approached, the hedge drew closer to her. Suddenly she stopped when she saw a pink balloon float inadvertently up from beyond the shrubs and into the crystal blue sky, bobbing, shifting as it danced on the breeze, flying free...
People continued past the hedge in front of her. Claire followed them, the sound of the waiting crowd growing louder. She moved tentatively around the edge of the bushes until the scene came into view before her, and she gasped.
A crowd was gathered there, in front of an elevated performance stage erected in the park. It was a sizable group, easily several hundred people. Streamers and balloons decorated the scene everywhere. The perimeter around the stage was lined with food booths and games, including several varieties of kissing booths. Person high canvas walls in all sorts of bright colors encircled everything, their fabric glowing in the sunlight.
Above the stage was a lattice of stage lights. Arranged below them were banks of amplifiers, before which a rock band was warming up, consisting of a dozen or so musicians with various instruments. Behind the stage, two huge arches made of hundreds of smaller balloons tied together swayed gently in the breeze. There was the smell of food in the air and a generally festive mood over the hum of the audience. It was an elaborate event being held, and with anticipation the crowd waited, facing the stage.
Claire looked on in wonder, clueless as to what was going on. As she moved into the waiting throng, people standing all around her, her stunned eyes looked up at the huge banner draped clearly over the stage. In proud, bold letters that could be seen all across the park, it stated it simply.
CUPID REVIVAL FESTIVAL
Before Claire even gave herself a chance to take that in, the band beneath the banner began to play suddenly, filling the air with music. As they played a loud, held chord, the drummer rolled his suspended cymbals to heighten the anticipation in the crowd. The crowd began to cheer slightly when the music started. Above the stage, lights flashed rapidly down, colorful and frenetic.
Behind Claire, even more people hurried past her to join the waiting audience, having heard the music starting already. Claire watched it all, stunned. The band still held the loud chord, as a man walked across the stage towards the empty microphone stand waiting up front.
Cheers rose from the crowd when they saw him. Claire gaped even more. It was Trevor, dressed simply enough in a t shirt and jeans, the way he always dressed. With a smile on his face he stepped past the waiting microphone stand and closer to the edge of the elevated stage. Appreciating the cheers he was getting, he spread his arms, standing above the crowd. Trevor bowed with a playful flourish as the crowd cheered louder. When he straightened again he laughed and shook his shoulders at them, goading them on. The crowd clapped in anticipation, waiting.
Trevor stepped back to the microphone, pulling it off the stand. There was a wail of feedback as he lifted it to his lips. Behind him, the band still played the held chord, until it softened slightly into something more reverent and church like. Trevor looked to the sky with a mock expression of piousness. Then as he looked out over the crowd again, his amplified voice rang clearly out over them as he hammed it up, performing like an over the top evangelist.
"Dearly beloved... We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life..."
The crowd yelled it's approval, applauding louder. Trevor was in his element, strutting as he spoke, part elvis, part preacher as he cradled the microphone in his hands. His eyes twinkled above his infectious smile as he continued.
"Electric word, life, it means forever and that's a mighty long time, but I'm here to tell you... There's something else... The afterworld..."
The keyboard player glissandoed up the keys on cue, as Trevor paused for dramatic effect. No one watching would have been at all surprised if he had paused to spray some water into his eyes for pretended emotion.
From where she stood, Claire blinked, recognizing the song. The musical chord still held, waiting, and the crowd applauded even more.
Trevor drank in all the attention, in the middle of his own unique type of sermon. His face beamed in the sunlight, stage lights flashing above him as he smiled and looked to the blue sky, his words echoing across the park. "A world of never-ending happiness. You can always see the sun. Day... Or night."
Claire walked forward slowly, approaching the stage, still stunned as Trevor's voice continued.
"So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills, you know the one... Dr. Everything'll Be Alright." With a grin Trevor pointed his finger right at Claire, his eyes glinting with amusement as behind him the drummer started a faster beat and the music began to quicken. The crowd started to move, swaying, clapping. "Instead of asking her how much of your time is left... ask her how much of your mind, baby."
Some of the crowd started swaying side to side, the music loud over them. Others had their arms in the air. Claire watched as Trevor split his legs apart, dropping to the stage floor and instantly back up in a showy move, causing more cheers. He pulled the microphone in close, still emoting greatly.
"Cause in this life, things are much harder than the afterworld." He looked out at the eager gyrating throng. "In this life... you're on your own..."
Slowly Claire looked over at everyone around her. They were all starting to dance now, really enjoying this. As hard as she tried not to, she couldn't help but smile a little. Trevor Hale, delusional bartender, hospital outpatient, olympian god wannabe, had the crowd in the palm of his hand.
And Trevor knew it, pausing on stage. "And if the elevator tries to bring you down.. Go crazy. Punch the highest floor!"
Trevor spun in place. The crowd roared. Lights flashed on cue. Balloons were released into the sky. The song began in earnest as the full band joined in, loud and raucous. Trevor casually tossed the microphone to the cover band's lead singer, his hosting work at imploring the crowd done. The singer caught the microphone and started to sing the lyrics.
All around Claire, people were dancing. More colored balloons floated in the blue sky. The music was loud in her ears, drowning out nearly everything throughout the park as Claire stood in the middle of a mass of dancing revelers. And she started to recognize faces there. Champ and Jaclyn were in the crowd, dancing energetically in each other's arms, smiling at each other and having a great time, not even aware of anyone else. Allison was there too, dancing happily with another employee from Taggerty's. Most of the members of her singles group were there, Lawrence, Mike, Tina, Nick. Trevor did have a lot of friends, after all.
Trevor dropped off the edge of the stage and onto the grass with a big smile on his face. He looked at the huge celebration party around him, pleased now that it had really gotten started. Still smiling he walked through the crowd towards where he had spotted Claire. But he couldn't stop himself, dancing with a few attractive women along the way, spinning them around for a few seconds. There was a flash of white light, and he noticed a photographer he didn't know, taking pictures from the party's edge, a reporter probably. Another man held a video news camera on his shoulder, taping footage from the perimeter. Trevor didn't mind. He wanted people to know he was fully back, after all.
Around him everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, dancing to the loud music booming out into the park. Moving as best as he could across the crowded grass, Trevor kept looking for Claire, walking forward. He thought he saw her for a moment between dancers, motionless as she watched him, her eyes sad. But then people passed between them, and he lost sight of her. He finally squeezed his way to where he had spotted her, but when he got there there was no sign of her. He turned in place, searching quickly, but there was nothing. Where was she? He saw only a mass of happy, dancing people. Claire was gone.
Trevor face dropped, standing there motionless and disappointed, the only stationary person in a sea of dancing bodies. Suddenly he felt sadder, having wanted to see her. But then his thoughts turned back to the party around him, the party he had thrown for himself. He slowly moved off, disappearing into the boisterous crowd.
It was later in the day, and the sky was still sunny, bright and warm as the music from the stage played slower now, a different song, gentle and relaxing over the crowd. The air was soft with laughter, people talking, as the aroma of food wafted through the party. Trevor walked slowly through the crowd on the grass, trying to enjoy his 'revival' festival, and stepping towards one of the colorful canvas wall parturitions which blocked the other side from view. As he moved along it's length, he suddenly felt a little sad, missing Claire. He hadn't found her anywhere in the crowd. Maybe she had left after all. But looking up, he recognized something, the shadowed outline of a woman, standing motionless on the other side of the parturition up ahead.
He walked quietly up to that part of the canvas, it's color glowing brightly with sunlight on it's far side, to where her outline was. She said nothing, knowing Trevor was there. He looked at her, sensing the quiet moment between them, still separated by the parturition. But at least she was still there. She hadn't left.
He exhaled. "So Claire... How do you like my little identity restoration party..."
He watched her shadow lower her head, looking down. Then she started walking slowly forward. He kept pace with her on his side, the bright canvas sliding slowly past between them.
"Little?" Her voice was soft as she spoke to him. "Elaborate... foolish... over the top... maybe. But not little. A blatant scream for attention? Definitely. In other words, totally appropriate for you, Trevor..."
Trevor smiled, still walking with her. Her voice warmed him more than the sunlight, even if he couldn't see her face. They were alone, just the two of them. Their steps were slow, at ease, both silent for a moment as if afraid to speak, but wanting to be close to each other, even if the canvas separated them while they walked. Trevor looked over at her shadow.
"Claire... Maybe we should talk about--... You know, about what you told me..."
She kept walking, her shadow not looking at him as the canvas slid slowly past. There was a reluctance in her voice. "There's nothing to say, Trevor..."
He watched her. "There's tons to say. Stuff we've never said. Not enough, anyway. Stuff we need to say. Claire... you know I feel the same way about--"
"Don't--... Don't say it, Trevor." She sighed, still walking. "I know... I know you love me. I just kinda hoped you wouldn't remember... I shouldn't have said anything."
"Why? Why shouldn't I remember? I love you Claire.... Do you know how great that is? That never happened to me before I met you. I realize now that it happened that very day. Imagine, the god of love. Year after year of setting up couples... Never knew what it felt like, not really. But now.. I do."
Her voice was soulful, tired. "Love's not enough, Trevor..."
He shook his head. "Why do people always say that? It is enough. It's always enough. All it takes is two people in love, who finally realize that. Instead of forgetting what's really important... I would want to remember, to remember feeling like that. And now... I do."
Her shadow looked down again. "Even when it hurts to remember?"
Trevor spoke with conviction. "I'd rather remember something bad than forget something good. Claire, when I--... when I see you, even when all I see is your shadow, it's like everything else is the shadow and you're--... glowing. You are so beautiful. Your soul is this soft light in a hard world. I--... I see you and my heart... aches. Way deep down..."
He could hear the amusement in her voice, even as the canvas passing between them blocked her from view. "Maybe that's because you eat too many fatty foods. Maybe you just need a cardiologist..."
He smiled too, sensing she didn't want to talk about it. "Maybe... And I do see the irony there."
They were both silent again for several moments. But they kept walking together, moving forward, not wanting to leave. Trevor looked at her shadow walking there next to him. "Or maybe we should just face each other, Claire. Face how we feel..."
The glowing canvas still separated them, moving slowly. Her voice was soft. "I don't know, Trevor. I don't know if we can..."
Looking forward, Trevor noticed that they were walking towards the end of the parturition up ahead, the point where it stopped on the grass. "Claire... if we keep going like this, we'll have to face each other eventually. Today, next week. We'll have to talk about this, confront what we feel. Wow... Imagine that, me giving you the pop psychology tagline..."
Trevor quickened his steps, wanting to see her, moving faster forward towards the end of the canvas. "Claire, I'm scared too. I don't know what's going to happen, where this will lead, good or bad. That's always scary. For me too. But I'm not going to hide from us anymore. I'm not going to ignore how we both feel. We need--"
Trevor eagerly swung around the end of the canvas wall, stepping to the other side, wanting to catch a glimpse of her. But he stopped. No one was there. Claire was gone.
Trevor looked around. She was nowhere in sight. Quickly he scanned down both sides of the canvas wall. Even her shadow was gone. She must have moved off in the other direction.
Trevor sighed, realizing he wasn't going to get to see her, or to talk to her about it. Slowly he turned away, his mood somber as he stepped away the canvas wall glowing brightly in the sunlight, heading back to the party.
The city newspaper slammed down onto the conference table.
"Dr. Allen, would you care to explain this?"
Her lips parted, Claire looked down at the paper, caught off guard. She was sitting alone at the table before the hospital review board which had summoned her. The members of the board watched her from the end of the room, looming over her behind their long bench, somber as judges. Which in this case, they very much were. Behind Claire's shoulders, the room was only empty floor. There was no one there to back her up.
Claire swallowed, uncertain what to say as the room remained quiet around her. The board waited, sitting in silent judgment. Claire gingerly picked up the newspaper, taking a better look. In between all of the days news, one headline caught her eye, small yet prominent on the Chicago paper's lower right edge. There was a picture beside it, and a column of text beneath it.
LOCAL OUTPATIENT CLAIMS TO BE CUPID
STAGES IMPROMPTU PARK FESTIVAL
Claire swallowed again, feeling the glare of the review board members. She blinked uncomfortably at how much attention Trevor's festival had drawn, having not seen the article herself. The picture beside the article was of Trevor in the festival crowd, smiling, rejoicing before his banner.
There was a hardness in the man's voice when the leader of the review board asked.
Claire laid the paper onto the table again, feeling very alone. The air was still with anticipation as she gathered herself, struggling for words. Very little in the way of a reasonable explanation came to her mind. "Well... Umm, Trevor's been--"
One of the women on the review board interrupted her, absolutely no sympathy in her voice. "It's been our understanding from you, Dr. Allen, that Trevor Hale had begun to let go of his dependency on the Cupid persona. Your reports led us to believe that his condition had been steadily improving."
Claire's expression froze, caught in the lie of her reports. For weeks she had been writing what she thought the board wanted to hear. Anything they wanted to hear. All to protect Trevor. And now this. Claire stared resolutely at the woman, trying not to give anything away on her face, but sounding a little defensive. "Trevor has been improving. Despite what happened in the park last Saturday. I'm not saying that incident isn't a point of concern, but after all, it was only one minor celebration that he arranged at the last minute and-"
"Minor?" Annoyed, the woman continued, her words hard and berating as she consulted her own notes. "Twenty seven event booths. Over two hundred people in attendance. His 'minor' celebration took up well over a third of the park. All without permits, clearances, or permission of any kind of course. Add to that the electrical set up for the lighting and instruments, which was illegally tapped into the city's power grid. Later, traffic was diverted for blocks when his 'minor' celebration moved out onto surrounding surface streets so that city fire hydrants could be opened for what was labeled... "The Water Dancethon". These are all major violations, Dr. Allen. Violations a patient under your supervision has made."
Claire's lips thinned at the rebuke. "I know... And they are, but--"
An older man on the review board glared disapprovingly at her through his glasses, his profile outlined against the brightness of the windows to the room's side as he spoke. "This patient obviously still believes he is Cupid. Revels in it, in fact. A belief you had informed us had rescinded. Would you care to explain, Dr. Allen?"
Claire's tone grew harder at their accusations. "The party was a relapse of the Cupid persona. I readily admit that. A slight one. But that's not to say that there has been no improve--"
"Slight? This is far beyond slight. This 'relapse' was covered in all the morning papers. Some local news broadcasts led with this, where Trevor Hale was widely reported as an outpatient of this hospital. An out of control one, as it seems. Do you understand how this incident make's our hospital's program look?"
Claire snapped back. "My purview is as a therapist, not hospital PR. My concern is for the treatment of the patient."
"Or lack there of, in this case."
Claire bit off another biting remark in reply, trying to stay calm. "As I've already acknowledged, this is a setback. But Trevor Hale still has the potential to-"
Another man interrupted with a scornful sneer. Claire was beginning to wonder if she would ever get a chance to complete a sentence.
The new speaker leaned forward from behind the leader of the board, coming into view outlined against the windows. His head was slightly balding, he was wearing glasses, and sporting a thin beard on his chin as he sneered down at Claire from his seat on the review board. Dr. Frechette barely managed to conceal the disdain he felt as he spoke in falsely reasonable tones. "A setback. You call this a setback. Well... you've been well versed in those during your treatment of Trevor Hale, haven't you. So please... Tell us, Dr. Allen. How do you consider this latest incident to be an example of your 'progress' with the patient."
Claire's eyes narrowed at him, glaring at the hospital review board's latest addition. She did her best to keep her words calm, but she still felt furious that she even had to answer to him at all. "Trevor's case is a complicated issue, as any reasonably intelligent therapist would see if he took the time to look. His delusion is not one that readily avails itself to some sort of instantaneous recovery. I think the therapeutic regimen I've enacted holds the most--"
"But we're not talking instantaneous here, are we Dr. Allen? You've had years with this patient..." Dr. Frechette's voice dripped with contempt. "Let's look over those years, shall we?"
Claire shifted, feeling helpless to stop him.
Dr. Frechette smugly pushed his glasses back, as he consulted Claire's therapy notes, still speaking in falsely measured tones. "In the past 12 months alone, there have been several such 'setbacks' haven't there? Mr. Hale's interactions with another outpatient, named Mary Simmons, for instance. Hmm... that ended in a fairly violent way, didn't it? Mary shot Mr. Hale with a handgun. By her own admission, because she was trying to disprove some rather reckless claims that Trevor had fed to her. After which, you resigned from Trevor's care for a time, perhaps a tacit acknowledgement of that failure. Soon after that, Trevor physically assaulted his interim therapist, Dr. Dehnt. Striking him in his office I believe. It seems your 'progress' failed to have any lasting affect in that instance as well. Add to that, the fact that when eventually transferred back to your care, Mr. Hale promptly went missing for well over three months, leaving Chicago completely, without supervision, without treatment, and in direct violation of his release order. And now, we have this new incident in the park, which has turned this hospital into a virtual laughing stock. How can you possibly defend all this, Dr. Allen?"
"I don't defend it... It's--It's what happened and--" Looking down, Claire clamped her lips shut. Her resolve seemed to weaken under the attack from all sides. But she still argued her point, her voice had grown soft with futility. "It was just a harmless party..."
Frechette stared coldly at her. "Violated city ordinances and the pile of complaints we've received say otherwise. But to you, I suppose that too counts as... 'progress'. Seems more like regression to me, Dr. Allen. Have you helped him in any way to recover? Helped him in any way at all... to lead a normal life?"
Her voice was beaten, almost indiscernible, not even looking at them. "Trevor has a normal life..."
Frechette ignored her, looking away. "Then again... perhaps your close 'relationship', with the patient has clouded your objectivity."
This time Claire didn't care if her anger showed. There was a new heat, an anger in her eyes as she fixed him with a glare that could have melted steel. "Just what are you implying, Dr. Frechette?"
He was all ice, not flickering under her glare as he stared coldly back at her. "I'm not implying, Dr. Allen. Since Trevor Hale has been in your care, this board has twice had to redress charges leveled against you, of having 'inappropriate' intimate contact with Mr. Hale. Once from a former hospital employee, and once from Dr. Dehnt himself."
"Neither of which have ever been substantiated in any way, Dr. Frechette." she paused, glaring at him. "As you full well know..."
"Yes..." He smiled scornfully. "Neither of which have been substantiated. Funny how it seems to keep coming up, though..."
Claire blinked, feeling the hospital board as a whole staring at her, giving her no support.
"Dr. Allen..." The head of the review board finally spoke up again, trying to dissipate the obvious tension in Frechette and Claire's exchange. "We've all read your case reports. You've been consistent in your claims that Trevor Hale has made progress. Yet the incident in the park seems to speak otherwise. If he had been under any other doctor, we would have removed him from their care a long time ago. What with incidents like these... assaults, a shooting, flight risks and public disruptions. But with you, we've left Trevor Hale free and on the street..."
The man took a deep breath. "Claire...Your record here at the hospital has been exemplary. You are an impeccable therapist, Dr. Allen. With a sterling reputation--"
"Usually this is the point where someone offers up a big 'however'..." Claire said simply.
The head of the board paused. "However... every doctor has their failures. Patients that they just can't help. Even if she can't admit it to herself. Suffices to say, we have our concerns, Dr. Allen. Because of what you have previously led us to believe... Can you explain the discrepancy between your reports and Trevor Hale's continuing delusion?"
Claire swallowed, silent for a moment. "I can't..."
The head of the board leaned back when he heard that, disappointed.
Claire spoke quickly, trying to stop what was happening. "Trevor isn't a threat to anyone. He's not some psychologically unstable patient who's a danger to society. There isn't a need for radical action here. We shouldn't abandon his current treatment because of a little embarrassment to the hospital. He's had a minor setback, that's all. Please... please, I can handle it. I just need some continued leeway--"
"We've already given you leeway, Dr. Allen. More than any other doctor would have received..." The head of the review board exhaled, thinking to himself in frustration as Claire waited on pins and needles. After several long moments, he spoke, looking sternly at her. "Very well... We'll keep Trevor Hale under your care for now. But unless with see some radical indications of progress, we will rethink that decision. But be aware, this is the last such 'incident' that will easily pass our attention. That is all, Dr. Allen..."
Claire's face was tight, feeling the threat in his ominous words. She tried to keep her expression neutral, hoping to hide the fear blossoming in her eyes. Without a further word from the review board, she gathered her files from the table before her and rose from her chair. Her steps echoed on the floor as she walked across the empty space at the back of the room and towards the doors. Annoyed, Frechette watched her leave, a frown on his face.
When the door closed behind her, Dr. Frechette leaned forward again, turning to look over at the other members of the review board there seated beside him. He sounded indignant as he looked into their now equally concerned faces.
"How long are we going to let this continue?" he asked.
Jaclyn stood when she heard Claire come out of the hearing room. She had been sitting a few feet down the hall on a bench, waiting for Claire to come out. Quickly Jaclyn walked over to her, concern in her voice.
"Claire? How did it go?"
Looking at her silently, Claire said nothing.
Jaclyn exhaled, silent as well, needing no further explanation.
Claire still watched her, no words passing between them. A few moments passed. Then Claire's eyes wilted, welling up with tears, trying to hold it in. Jaclyn noticed in surprise, a second before Claire suddenly came forward and desperately took Jaclyn into her arms, needing the support. Jaclyn tried to comfort her, holding Claire gently. Trying not to cry, Claire gasped softly onto Jaclyn's shoulder.
Jaclyn held her gently. "So I can take that as 'not well'?"
Claire held onto Jaclyn like a lifeline, her thoughts chaotic as fear after fear flashed through her mind. She tried to compose herself a little, still looking over Jaclyn's shoulder as the light from the hallway window beside them bathed her face with a pale light, glittering in her eyes.
"I'm losing him, Jaclyn..."
Jaclyn didn't ask, already knowing what Claire feared would soon happen. If not now, eventually. She held Claire tighter, feeling the despair through her shoulders. She didn't know what to say, what to tell Claire that would make it any better or comfort her, nothing that could hide the truth they both knew.
The two women held each other silently in the hallway, standing before the doors of the hearing room. The air was quiet. They were alone, two small figures in the bare hallway that stretched empty before them.
Claire looked anxious when she pushed open the door into Taggerty's and stepped in. The bell rung softly above her as the door swung in. She paused, scanning the interior of the bar. It was half filled with customers, music playing from the jukebox. The large room was illuminated by the light coming through the front windows. Claire stepped further inside, letting the door close behind her, still searching.
She needed to find Trevor. After what had just happened at the review board she had to talk to him, warn him about what consequences could be in store if he continued to flout his delusion. Tell him what treatment options the board might consider next if she didn't stop him, didn't reign him back under control. Quickly she looked around, stepping closer to the bar. Then she spotted him.
Trevor was laughing, seated at a table across from an older man, 'working'. The two were talking softly between themselves, and Claire only had to guess to know about what. Trevor never ever let up on his delusion, did he? With a sigh she stepped forward, her expression falling at the sight.
Trevor laughed again, not seeming to notice her as Claire approached from behind and stopped, waiting behind his table. He reached out and pressed his palm onto the shoulder of the man he was talking to. "See... It's not so complicated. Take my advice. She'll go for it, I promise..."
The man smiled, feeling better. "Thank's, Trevor."
"Hey, no problem. Always here to help..."
The man stood up from his chair, a new smile of hope on his face.
Trevor looked up at him proudly, still seated. "Go get her, tiger."
The man crossed his fingers and walked away, leaving the table and stepping past Claire. Trevor stayed where he was, not turning around, a contented smile on his face.
Curious, Claire watched the other man leave, wondering what had just happened. Then she turned back to Trevor. He still had his back to her, apparently not noticing she was there. Claire's lips opened, about to speak.
"Hello, Claire." Trevor smiled, before he finally turned around to look at her, not surprised she was there in the least.
Claire blinked. "How did you know it was me?"
He shrugged. "I'm always aware of where you are. Remember?"
Claire immediately stepped torwards him, taking the seat the departing man had vacated. "Trevor, we really need to talk. Something important happened. I was just at a meeting of the--"
Trevor wasn't really listening, lost in his own thoughts as he interrupted her, his voice soft. "You see that guy who just left, Claire?"
She blinked, looking up. She could just see him outside the bar windows, walking past on the sidewalk and out of sight. "Umm, yeah... Trevor, some major stuff's happened, and--"
Still distracted, he didn't seem to hear her, staring into space. "That man... his heart's hung up on this girl. Totally gaga over her. You could even say 'crazy' about her. But things keep getting in the way. A shame really, because he's a great guy. Know what he does for a living? He's a tax accountant. Pretty boring, right? But he told me about it. How when he's working, that for him... it's like each tax return becomes this grand, heroic quest. Chasing deductions, tracking down loopholes... like he's some larger than life hunter, reveling in his own imagined glory. Turning his own little life... into this vast amazing thing. In some ways I admire him... Maybe because I understand, more than you know..."
Claire's expression was serious, an urgency in her eyes as she tried to get him to hear her. "Trevor, we really need to talk."
As he looked over, his face brightened. "Really? Because I know of this small tribe in Uganda who start each conversation by licking the saliva off each other's tongues. Is that flavored lipstick I hope?"
She gave him a dour look. "There is no such custom, Trevor."
"Oh well. Worth a shot..."
"Trevor, something serious has happened."
"What, John Lithgow not letting the kiddies dance in his backwater little town?"
"Trevor that revival party you threw. You know, where you decided to get delusionally reacquainted with you inner Cupid? The review board knows about it."
he leaned contently back. "Yeah we were kinda loud, weren't we? Sorry if the respectables on the board got all scold-ish. In retrospect, the erotic skywriting might have been a touch over the top..." He looked at her. "Speaking of memorable erotic marks, is it suddenly cold in here or are you just happy to see me?"
She gave him an annoyed look. "It's cold in here..."
He nodded appreciatively. "Knew breaking the thermostat would be a good idea. Still... that shirt's probably getting the impression that you REALLY like me."
"Trevor, your festival.... The whole thing was a huge mistake!"
He blinked at her, standing up from the table, heading towards the bar and back to work. "Why? Why do they even care?"
"Trevor you made the hospital look bad."
He shrugged as she followed him. "So what. I always do that. So does sunlight, now that I think about it..."
Claire touched his shoulder, turning him around. "Trevor, I just came from a fairly unpleasant meeting. One specifically called to bring me in and chew me out! I was lucky to leave with my skull intact..."
"See, those padded headboards I gave you on your birthday paid off... So what's the big bad from your meeting of the virginal--... Excuse me, 'romantically challenged' members of the review board?"
"Trevor, they were absolutely livid about what you did, the embarassement it caused to the hospital. They're furious about this whole thing in the park--"
He looked at her in his own defense. "Hey, I would have invited them, but we were trying to actually have fun."
"Trevor, this is serious."
"What, one little party and they get all bent out of shape? Maybe this really is John Lithgow territory. They already know I think I'm Cupid. What's the big deal?"
He started to walk away from her again. Claire stayed where she was, looking uncomfortable. Trevor noticed and turned around, perplexed at her reaction.
She swallowed. "Trevor... they seem to think you've been making progress."
He blinked, genuinely surprised by that statement. "Why?"
She exhaled. "I lied."
"You--..." He smiled, not believing what he was hearing. "You--"
She nodded. "--lied. In my reports about you..."
Trevor grinned even more at her revelation. "Wow.. Dr. Claire Allen finally walks on the dark side. Isn't that one of the signs of the apocalypse? You really lied about me? On official reports? Sober?"
She looked uncomfortable. "No... I consistently wrote down the absolute truth every single time... Before I deleted that and made up the stuff they wanted to hear..."
He smiled at her. "Why? A late blooming rebellious streak? Most people usually just try leather underwear and handcuffs."
"Trevor, I was protecting you." Claire looked at him, concern in her eyes, growing quiet for a moment. "When you ran away and came back, they were concerned. The review board wanted results. So I was trying to protect you from... other measures."
He thought about it. "Hmm... First you lie to me... then you lie for me. You're two for two. Are those pants you're wearing flame resistant? Because I know this rhyme that goes--"
She snapped her fingers at him quickly in frustration as if trying to get the attention of a stubborn child. "Trevor! Focus! You've got to stop being Cupid. Now. Right now. For your own sake..."
Trevor looked at her, his face growing serious for a long moment when he realized she really meant it. Without looking at her, he walked curtly around and behind the bar. "I'm not stopping."
"Trevor, you have to. They'll never accept you the way you are! Especially if you keep rubbing their noses in it! There are only so many excuses of mine that they're willing to hear. Frechette is already itching for one more reason, one more pretense. They won't believe me again. I'm powerless here. Influenced out. If they decide on somethign radical, I--I can't stand for you Trevor!" She lowered her eyes. "And I can't fall for you, either..."
He looked at her with affection. "Funny... Because you've already done both."
They were both silent for a moment. Trevor put his hands out on the bar and looked down, thinking about what she had said, running it through his mind. "I'm not stopping, Claire."
"Trevor, you're not Cupid. You're risking--"
"I'm not stopping. I can't stop who I am." He leaned forward, looking into her eyes. "Can you say the same?"
Her lips hung open, stung by that. There was a little anger in her tone. "Wha--what is that supposed to mean?"
He looked at her intensely, the bar still between them. "You know how you feel about me. How I feel about you. But you've been denying it, denying it because of Them. Lying to me, lying to yourself... all on their behalf. When will you learn that you can't 'make' people. You can't make 'THEM'! You can only make yourself. And you've been denying that..."
"Trevor, I'm your doctor! We can't do this no matter how we feel. I'm the only one keeping you out of a room with cushions in place of wallpaper."
He groaned. "Oh. The old 'I don't make the rules, I just enforce them with an iron fist' speech."
Her face was hard, annoyed. "It's still the truth."
Trevor fired back. "No, it's still an excuse."
"Trevor!" Her voice was exasperated, frustrated that he didn't see it, groaning to herself. "No! No it isn't, Trevor! They're serious this time! They're this close from taking you away from me!"
Trevor blinked in genuine surprise as he noticed Claire's expression grow more frantic, almost losing control before him as she spoke, her eyes starting to glitter with held back tears.
"If they ever took, I can't--... I can't even imagine how I'd--.... Trevor, if they--"
"Hey..." His voice softened too, looking at her tenderly. His hand reached out to comfort her, laying it openly over hers on the counter. "Listen. They can't, Claire. You have me. They can't take me away from you. Not in any way that matters..."
She sighed, wiping at her eyes. Reluctantly she pulled her hand out from under his, not wanting to. She looked nervously around to see if anyone had seen. Trevor swallowed, stepping back in disappointment, looking down.
Claire's voice sounded raw, soft and fragile. "Trevor please. For me. I'm asking you. If you really love me you'll stop. Because if you end up in a some place that--... Trevor, why do you keep hurting me this way..."
He sighed, resolved. "Because the only real truth anyone has, is to be true to themselves. I wouldn't be doing that if I pretended I was someone else. And I can't be afraid of what people 'might' do to me. I can only live my life..."
Claire looked at him sadly.
The bell above the door rang softly as a woman stepped into the bar. With one last sympathetic look at Claire, Trevor walked over to the new customer, standing behind the bar as he spoke to her clearly.
"Hi... I'm Trevor Hale. God of Love. What can I get you for..."
Claire turned as the woman smiled and ordered a drink. Uncertain, Claire walked away, no longer sure what to think anymore, as if she ever had been at all...
Claire sat quietly in her office during a session with one of her patients. There was a woman seated across the desk from her, tearfully pouring her heart out about problems with her husband. But as she watched, Claire wasn't listening. The woman's mouth moved, but Claire didn't seem to hear the words. She started staring straight ahead, and her mind wandered, pre-occupied. Claire was thinking of Trevor, thinking about what he had told her about truth. She knew in some ways he was right. She knew how she felt, recognized it deep down, but she still refused to accept it out of fear. Where was the truth in that? It was almost as if she were--
She knew what she had to do.
Claire rushed into Trevor's apartment without knocking, looking everywhere as the door banged into the wall beside her. Trevor looked up in surprise from the kitchen table where he was seated eating a bowl of cereal, staring at her in bewilderment.
The dazzling morning sun was pouring into the room, bright and certain ,beaming through the windows. Claire strode purposefully up to him through those golden rays, unwavering. "Trevor, I can't hide what we feel anymore. And I'm not taking no for an answer."
She swept the bowl free of his stunned hands, the cereal and milk splattering onto the wall and floor. Grabbing his shoulders she shoved him into his chair, arching him back underneath her as she hovered passionately over him, holding him there. Trevor looked up into her face, fierce with adoration and a smoldering heat in his eyes. His breath caught helplessly in his throat with anticipation. She smiled confidently, making him wait and enjoying it. Then her lips dropping forcefully towards his warm mouth, feeling the flush of her heart cresting louder in her ears like a roaring wave, until--
Claire's awareness snapped back to the quietness of her office again, realizing that her patient had finally noticed her distraction and was looking at her. Claire tried to clear her head, leaning forward slightly, answering the woman's question. "I'm sorry Elizabeth. My mind wandered a bit. Please continue..."
Sniffling slightly, the woman spoke. "So what should I do, Dr. Allen?"
Claire looked at her for a long time. A gentleness came into her eyes. "You really love your husband, don't you?"
The woman blinked. "Yes... I do. Very much..."
Claire nodded. "Then I think you should be honest with him about how you feel. Tell him, Elisabeth. Tell him all those fears you have locked up inside you of where this marriage is headed."
"I've tried to..." The woman exhaled sadly. "I really have. But every time I do, it's just--... It's like--"
Claire finished for her, from experience. "It's like this pit just opens up and you can't go through with it. Even though you know you should, even though you want to talk to him so badly, but... you just can't..."
The woman nodded. "Yes. Exactly. I don't know why that is..."
Claire looked at her.
"You're afraid..." she said simply. Claire smiled in sympathy. "You're afraid of what might happen. Of what you might lose, or what you might find. The things you might risk going wrong. How it could change your life..." Claire paused, thinking to herself. "Afraid of getting hurt again..."
The woman's lips thinned with worry, nodding in agreement at what Claire said. "I suppose I am... Guess I never looked at it that way before. Guess I didn't want to."
Claire looked down. "It's hard. I know... Hard to face that fear. To open yourself up to it, instead of... putting up walls. But in the end, there's only one question for you, Elisabeth. You love him, you say want him to change, but... if you remember back to when you first felt that spark inside you. Who was the man you fell in love with?"
Elisabeth blinked, seriously considering her words in silence.
Claire leaned forward. "If you got everything you wanted and he changed, if he were different than he is now, would he still be the man you loved? You can't keep denying who he already is. Who he always was. And you can't run from the fact that you're still in love with who he always was, and that you can't change it..."
Claire blinked as she spoke, as if realizing something. "Despite the risks to both of you... You won't resolve those fears until you face them..."
Claire looked down at what she had been holding in her hands. She had been cradling it gently in one palm the entire session, fingers grazing over it with tenderness. It was a brand new origami rose Trevor had left for her, it's layer upon layer of delicate paper petals caught in time, as if it had just bloomed and always would. As she touched it, her thoughts were filled with him, and she knew what she had to do.
Trevor slipped past the elevator doors as they slid open before him, stepping out into the darkened corridor outside of the coffee bar where Claire's singles group usually met. It was night, and the hallway was covered in shadows. The building was completely empty so late after hours. Curious, Trevor paused to look around, but no was there, not even a cleaning crew. He walked forward, crossing the hall to Cuppa Java. The glass door of the coffee bar was unlocked, a few lights glowing dimly from inside. Quickly Trevor opened the door, calmly walking in.
The interior of Cuppa Java was dark and empty. All the chairs Claire usually had lined up in overly neat little rows for her singles group were packed away and put up for the night. Most of the usual day patron tables were gone too. Above the bar, a single bright point light shined down onto the bare floor where only a single table was.
Trevor stepped further in, wondering what was going on. Looking around, he tried to see if anyone else was there. Then he saw her. Claire was there, standing in the shadows by the large window near the back of the room. Her outline was shadowed against the lights of the Chicago skyline beyond. She was facing away from him, her chin nestled onto the palm of her left hand, deep in thought as she looked out of the window.
Trevor rotated one shoulder, loosening it up as he slowly walked forward. He could already tell from Claire's posture that she wasn't waiting for a party. Slipping his hands into his pockets, he stood there in the circle of light coming from above the bar, not sure what to say.
She turned, finally realizing he was there. But she didn't come any closer, still a dark outline against the city. Her voice was soft, a sadness in it as she spoke. "Trevor... there you are."
Pursing his lips, he tilted his head to one side slightly, expecting he wouldn't like where this was leading. He watched her stand in the shadows. "So you wanted to see me. After hours... in an empty coffee bar. What's up?"
She sighed, her shadow lowering her head. "I"m glad you came, Trevor..."
Trevor looked around the bar at all the stacked up chairs. He tried to fill the silence between them, speaking absently. "How'd you get in here?"
There was the soft jingle of metal rattling together as she lifted her hand, shaking it. "I have the keys to the building. Umm... for the group..." she explained.
"Oh... If I crave a late night jolt of overpriced caffeine, I usually just break in a window. Your way's better though." He nodded, looking up at her again. The side of his face was outlined in the bright light from the bar. "So why did you want to see me?"
Her shadow watched him.
"I wanted to see you because you were right, Trevor. We do have to finally talk about us..." Slowly she began to walk away from the window, until she stepped out of the shadows and into the light from the bar, illuminating the worry on her face. "It's time we talked face to face, Trevor... About how we feel."
Trevor looked at her sad expression, not feeling very comforted by it. She certainly didn't look happy about her decision. He let out a tired breath. "Let me guess... This is the part where I have to convince you why we should be together."
Claire swallowed, looking down. "No... This is the part where I convince you why we shouldn't be..."
She walked over to the single round table centered on the floor. It was in middle of the same circle of light from the bar, surrounded by shadows. Carefully she sat down in the chair on her side. Another was opposite her where Trevor was. Looking gently up at him as he stood there, she drew her arms in tightly around her, waiting uncomfortably for him.
Trevor gazed at her, the rest of the coffee bar dim around them. In the end he didn't come any closer, stubbornly crossing his arms, not wanting to hear her arguments.
Claire remained calm, resolved, her eyes sad. Reaching across the table, she pushed out the chair on the far side. It's legs screeched across the floor, loud in the quiet room.
"Have a seat, Trevor..."
He stayed where he was, fighting it, still separated from where Claire was by several feet. Opening his mouth, he started to protest, but he stopped himself, no words coming from his lips. After a moment he moved reluctantly towards her, pulling out his seat. Placing his hands on the table, he started to lower himself down when he paused, looking at his right hand. His fingers were inadvertently touching hers, resting together on the table. Both of them tensed at the unexpected contact, waiting. They looked up at each other in silence. Trevor held his breath for a long moment, enjoying the feeling of her hand touching his, looking into her face. Why was it that no matter when he touched her, it always felt so perfect?
Claire looked gently into his eyes, their fingers still in contact. This wasn't like before at the bar. Now there was no one there to see them. No one there to judge or dissaprove. But nonetheless, a sadness came in her eyes, a sadness flowing out from what she knew she couldn't let happen. Slowly she pulled her hand away, sliding it free of his.
Disappointed, Trevor's lips tightened, before lowering himself the rest of the way into the chair. Leaning back, he looked at her, his face calm and defiant.
They both sat there quietly for several long moments, two figures seated at an illuminated table in an otherwise darkened room. The long awaited 'talk' stretched on with no words, no compromises. Neither knew what to say as they sat there in silence alone, separated by the table between them.
The head of the hospital review board was at home.
He was seated behind a richly polished brown wood desk, his darkened study dim around him. The room's elegant walls were filled with shelves of books, framed degrees, all the accomplishments of a successful career and a prestigious position at the hospital. He was at home, working on various case files and progress reports, spread on the desk before him. A small golden desk lamp sprayed light down onto the documents, it's green porcelain hood glowing softly. Bent over the papers, the pen he held in his hand scribbled, the sound oddly comforting in the quiet. Engrossed in his work, he paused only to push his slipping glasses back up on his face.
The rest of his house was quiet, everyone else asleep. But he enjoyed the silence, the serenity of it, allowing him to get his work done, concentrating on nothing else. He turned a page, the sound soft as he continued on the draft of the report he was writing, still engrossed.
Suddenly the peaceful quiet was broken by the ring from the phone sitting on the polished surface of his desk. He looked over at it, pausing for a moment. As he continued to write he reached out with his free hand, picking the phone up and nestling the receiver against his ear.
In his office at the hospital, Dr. Frechette was putting his work away. He was standing after what had turned out to be an extremely long day. He had his cell phone against his ear, having just called the head of the review board at home. All day, through an aggravating pile of work which had stretched endlessly into night, something had been squirming under Frechette's skin, something he needed to deal with. Something he knew he couldn't let wait until morning. So he had decided to call, even at this late hour.
The head of the review board's voice came through the line again, but Frechette said nothing.
Frechette's jaw twitched, a coldness in his voice. Finally he spoke, not bothering to announce himself, not needing to. "We need to talk..."
"Dr. Frechette..." In his ear, the head of the review board's voice sounded surprised. "It's late Dr. Frechette. What's this about?"
Still holding the cell phone, Frechette slipped his coat onto his shoulders, his jaw hard as he answered. "You know what this is about..."
A sigh come through the line. "I'm afraid I do... It's about her."
Frechette nodded. "And him... Dr. Allen and her out of control patient."
Back in his darkened study at home, the head of the review board leaned back into his finely made leather chair, his face grim at the request.
"When?" he asked simply.
Frechette's reply came through the phone. "We can talk about it right now..."
The man nodded, setting down his pen, already knowing Frechette would suggest that. As he thought about it, his eye glistened in the light from his desk, hard as steel. "Fine. Come by the house. I'll be waiting..."
Standing in his office, Frechette was instantly smug, a confident smile on his face. "On my way..."
Frechette hung up the cell phone against his ear, dropping it into his coat pocket. He looked contently out the window at the night skyline of Chicago. Finally, he would get a chance to clean up one long ongoing embarrassment to the hospital and the profession. He would finally fix the inept mistakes of Claire Allen's misguided approach. He would finally put both of them and their smug arrogance in their place. He knew it. It was only a matter of time.
With a thin smile on his face, he reached out and turned out the light on his desk, plunging his office into darkness.
Finished with her point, Claire tried to catch her breath as Trevor leaned back in his chair, sitting across the table from her, exasperated that their conversation had already degraded into a heated argument.
Trevor shook his head. "I can't believe a so called relationship expert could still think that way!" Standing angrily up, he started pacing off to one side. "How is it that someone who's supposed to make me sane is driving me so crazy! The gods MUST be laughing at me..."
Still seated, Claire glared at him, but she didn't give in. "I think that way because we both have to think that way, Trevor. The dangers of our current situation are more important than how we feel about each other. Don't you like your freedom? Going where you want? Doing what you want, unhampered by court ordered pharmaceuticals? Free to walk outside, away from locked doors and bitter orderlies? Better enjoy it while it lasts! We can't be together, Trevor. Because they will lock you up, lock you away if anyone else gets hold of your treatment. And they will, if we act on how we feel and they find out about it. It's not fair. But you'll never be what they want you to be."
He stared at her. "Am I what you want me to be?"
Claire looked away. "That doesn't matter..."
"Yes it does." He stepped closer, an urgency in his expression as he looked into her eyes. Leaning forward, his hands were on the table. "It's the only thing that does matter. You love me, Claire. I love you. There's nothing stopping us from being together anymore..."
There was disdain in her voice. "Except maybe the whole crush of reality."
Trevor shook his head. "You just
don't see it, Claire. You help people everyday. Why can't you help yourself? For
months and months you searched for me, and when you finally found me, you backed
away. Why? Why can't you accept how you feel about me?"
"Feel about you?" she shot back. There was a hurt in her eyes,
an anger in her voice. "Who are you, Trevor? Tell me... What am I in love with?
A fantasy... A delusion. That's not good enough for me anymore. I'm not like
you, Trevor. I can't live my life chasing shadows. I have to live in the real
world, where there are just some things I can't risk anymore. Places
deep inside that I just can't let hurt again. They've been hurt
Trevor blinked. "Why? Why
does it hurt to simply accept me the way that I am?"
Still angry, Claire lowered her eyes. "You are not Cupid,
Trevor. You never were. That's just one memory loss replaced with another. It's a fantasy.
It's all in your head."
trying to lighten her mood, pretending to think about it. "Or... Maybe it's in yours... What if you've been
imagining me all this time and I don't really exist?"
She shuddered. "There's one disturbing thought... But you're still
"Because eventually we have to grow up and accept that there's
no such thing as fairy tales, no happily ever after endings. The world's a lot grayer, a lot harder than that. You can't be this, Trevor!
No matter how much you want to be..."
His face softened. "I can't be anything else. I am this. Maybe I need
Frustrated, she exhaled.
"Then what? Let's say you are Cupid. Let's just throw the last bit of sanity in
either of us to the wind and pretend it's true. Tell me. Do you honestly think
the gods are just going to magically approve of you falling in love with a
Trevor didn't look away
from her, certainty in his voice. "I don't care. You may not believe it, but
there are risks on my side too. The difference is, I accept them. Because the
only true power is love, Claire. The gods knew it. The gods feared it. They
hated that I had that power of them, so they sent me down here. And when I was shot, I realized something. That maybe they abandoned me down here just to die. With no help, no powers, and only ONE rule. A rule I'm willing to
break with you. Even if it kills me"
Annoyed, she tilted her head, looking at him. "This could destroy us
both, Trevor. It could destroy both of us."
"So what! Claire the only way to avoid risk is to avoid living! I
don't think us together is so impossible! But you seem to think we're a million
to one shot. Well you know what? I'm willing to take that one. Because unlike
you, I'm not afraid to believe."
Claire slowly rose from her chair, turning to face him as she crossed her arms.
Her eyes were moist again, a hopeless sadness in her voice. "Why, Trevor... What
has there ever been, to make you think there's any hope for us..."
"Because even at a million to one, I still see a chance! Don't you see? A chance you're scared to take."
Her voice was louder. "Why, because unlike you I'm not blind to
what's going on around us? What do you expect me to do, ignore evrything? Live in a fantasyland and bury my head in the sand like you? What do you want from
"To take the risk!
Don't hide yourself away because you're scared! Run through the sprinklers, Claire! French kiss your
mailman, eat that extra doughnut, rip off your shirt when you score the winning goal! But don't be afraid
to live your life..."
Her voice was
soft, defeated as she stood before him. "If they ever found out about us, Trevor, it would all crash
down. Everything. It would be over. Your treatment, my career... You wouldn't be free anymore... After the drugs,
you wouldn't even be you anymore. The review board--"
Trevor stepped closer to her, one side of his face bathed in
light, the coffee bar dark behind him. His voice was firm. "This has
nothing to do with the review board, Claire. It has to do with you. You're so
afraid of getting hurt, you run away before you can be. When I left Chicago--"
Claire closed her eyes.
Trevor continued. "--when I left, what was it that you missed? Me? Or the part
inside you that cared for me. Did you miss me while you were looking for yourself
Claire glared at him
bitterly, stung by his words. "Meaning what?"
There was sympaythy in Trevor's eyes. "Meaning love
isn't about finding someone else. It's about finding those parts in yourself you
always wanted, through them. Claire... for you love's always been about letting go.
Letting go of Alex, Jack Conathan when his plane crashed... Letting go of your father
when he left your mother. When is love finally gonna be about holding
Claire's tearful face was hard, eyes
glittering with conviction. "WE... are never going to happen, Trevor. It's time
you realized that. Never... Do you know what never is? Never is hard. Harder than
diamonds, harder than time.. Never is the hardest thing in the world."
He exhaled, his voice gentle. "But still not stronger than
love... You're the only one stopping us. Why? You give me all these reasons, but
that's not what it's really about... You weren't like this before. What changed? What
made you think we were a 'never'?"
Not looking at him, Claire started to pace nervously. "Just drop it,
"I'm not going to drop
"I don't want to talk about
really tends to get in the way of lying to yourself."
She stepped towards him angrily. "You want to
"I want to know."
"You really want to know? What finally
convinced me that we'll never work? Fine. I'll tell you. The last few months,
Trevor. The last few months. Because when push came to shove, you forgot about me..."
He gaped in disbelief, feeling unfairly
critiscized. "Hello.. Whole rushing car, massive head injury in there you conviently
manage to ignore--"
"I'm talking about
before that, Trevor." Fear blossomed painfully in her eyes. "Why did you leave Chicago, if not to forget me..."
Trevor was speechless, not expecting that.
Claire couldn't bring
herself to look at him, hiding a tear on her cheek. They both stood there alone
in the coffee bar, surrounded by shadows, the city lights glittering through the
window. "You left me, Trevor... I told you I loved you, and the first thing you
did was... vanish. When you came back, the next thing you did was forget me.
Maybe because deep down, that's what you really want, what you really need so you can go home. And I admit... some small part of me didn't wnat you to remember being Cupid. Not because that was better for you, because if you were back the way you were you might decideyou have to leave again.. You...
LEFT me, Trevor. Like Alex did. Like my father did... How do I know you won't just
leave me again now..."
Tears fell abruptly down her face. "You left me! Every man I've ever loved has left me. Do you know how much it hurt when you did? What's
stopping you from walking away right now! This may come as a suprise to an
invulnerable 'god' like yourself but in my case, there's only so much hurt left
Trevor could see the anguish in her watery eyes, the
wound that he had inadvertently caused. He tried to comfort her, his voice soft, but not
coming closer. "Yes. I left, Claire. To protect you from them, not to hurt you. But I did anyway... Claire, I came back. You still haven't. You're
still running. Truth is, you've been running all your life. I'm not running
anymore. I love you."
She sniffed, the tears stopping. "What am I
running from, Trevor?"
all the really important truths. The truths you can't
prove, can't control. Like love... or hope. Feelings that when they fill you, feel better each time, like they never existed before that moment. Love. Hope. Belief. They're not tangible. They're not quantifiable. You
can't put them in a labeled box of chocolates. They just are..."
Claire looked at him with a sudden fondness, remembering how stubborn he alwaya was.
Trevor nodded, a glint in his eye. "Starting to thaw
out a little, aren't you?"
shrugged. "Maybe just a little... But I still haven't change my mind. You can't
ignore what we both know. The dangers we see around us. I know you understand how
the world really works, Trevor..."
"Maybe. Or maybe the world's bigger than you think. With more possibilities in it than you realize. Miracles. Everywhere, there are miracles that people never know about,
happening every day. Even in this very building..."
Claire couldn't help but laugh softly to herself at his absolute conviction,
the hopeful certainty in him. "Oh really... Fine,
Trevor. Show me a miracle."
paused at his belt, as if about to do something he knew she would object to. Finally he shhok his head and smiled, changing his mind. "No... This will work too.. Follow me,
The head of the review
board opened his front door, peering out at his doorstep, illuminated from a
light above. Beyond it, a finely kept lawn stretched into the night. A curved
brick driveway intersected it, and a car was parked there. The driver of the car
was standing on his doorstep, staring at him with a dour look on his face
as he waited.
Dr. Frechette didn't
smile. He didn't speak. He just waited. As the two men stood before each other in the cool night
air, they both knew why he had come.
The head of the review board accepted Frechette
couldn't be put off any longer, no matter how much he would have prefered that.
He let out a deep sigh, looking at him wearily.
"Come in, Dr. Frechette..."
Without saying a word, Frechette stepped into the house.
The door closed behind the two men, locking
out the driveway and lawn, leaving the doorway silent under a beautiful starry night sky that neither man had noticed even once.
metal door opened slowly, swinging out onto the rooftop of the building where
Cuppa Java was several floors down. Trevor and Claire stepped out onto
the pebbled surface, the same starry night sky stretching above them. Trevor
looked all around, his steps crunching confidently forward, familiar with his
surroundings even in the dim shadows created by the city lights.
Behind him, Claire followed more cautiously, unfamiliar with where she was,
having never been on the roof of the building before.
"What are we doing up here, Trevor?" she
Trevor led the way, not lowering his voice. "I'm gonna show you something. You mean you've
never been up here before?"
blinked, trying to see, careful with her steps in the dark. "Never felt the need
"Oh. Too bad. Guess
you and Alex preferred coffee bar floors to pebble burn..." He turned,
offering his hand to her. "Come on, this is what I wanted to show
She looked at him reluctantly,
thinking to herself. Then carefully, she placed her hand in his, their fingers
warm against each other. A contented wave coursed through both of them at that
touch. Trevor sighed, her skin soft in his palm as their fingers clutched each other. He led Claire to an isolated
spot on the flat rooftob, passing vents and pipes as they moved carefully, in no
rush. The open rooftop doorway grew smaller behind them. Claire started to look around
at their dark surroundings. Her hand was still in Trevor's as she took in the wide expanse of
the city glittering around. The pebbles crunched under their steps.
Trevor stopped in front of several wooden
crates and some chairs that appeared to have been up there for some time. Someone
must have hauled them up there long ago. Trevor and Claire's hands seperated when
they were no longer walking. With a smile, Trevor looked up into the night sky,
craning his head back as he gazed up at the distant stars glittering dimly far
Claire felt a little cold in
the night air, rubbing her arms. But she smiled, watching Trevor's face,
stepping closer to his side. Finally, she looked up at the sky as well, watching
the stars with him, the cool night air moving softly through her hair.
Trevor was still looking up in wonder as he spoke. "One of the building's employees arranged this little make shift observatory up here. For star gazing, making out... that sort of thing. She's had it up here for years... Guess you never knew about it. I did..."
She tilted her head slightly, looking at the stars, an amused glint in her eyes. "So for which reason did you bring me up here, Trevor? Plan on making out?"
Blinking in surprise at her words, he looked over at her in the dim light. "No.. Brought you up here to show you a miracle, remember?"
Claire said nothing, feeling a little flushed for some reason. But she still stayed close to him, their shoulders grazing each other as they stood side by side. When she looked over at him again, Trevor was still looking up at the stars.
"There's always been something about the night sky..." he said reverently. "Something about those distant, unreachable points of light that fascinate people. I mean... people wish on them. Fall in love under them. Even worship them. For centuries people have been fascinated by them. But they're just these huge flaming balls of gas. Burning for nearly forever, shining across millions of miles. Each one capable of turning entire planets into blackened crisps. Nothing miraculous, really. Except for every single thing I just said... Some people just see stars, I see sparks. Still burning from the big bang. Caught suspended, frozen in time as they desperately try to hold on to that fire, the unquenchable heat and passion from that fraction of a millisecond when it all happened, keeping it to light up a cold universe... Sort of like love..."
Claire looked up at the stars with new eyes. "You know Trevor, there are some scientific theories that describe all these tiny bubble universes, forming constantly in different realities. New stars, new galaxies being born every second. So somewhere, in some reality... there could be a big bang going on right this moment..."
Trevor paused, thinking. "Am I the only one turned on right now?"
Flashing her a flirtatious glance, he looked back up to the sky. "The stars are always there, Sparky. Even in daylight when you can't seem them. No matter how bad things get, they're there. Watching. Smiling... winking at us. Like they know something. Something they have to teach. Funny thing about stars... They're smarter than you think. I think they're miracles..."
Claire shook her head, a small smile on her face as she looked up with him. "Not much of a miracle, Trevor..."
"Maybe..." He looked over at her. "Or maybe it depends on how you look at it..."
Trevor walked over to one of the crates, pulling something out as Claire continued to look up into the night sky. He walked up, sliding close in behind her until his face was next to hers over her shoulder, making her tense slightly. But Claire didn't recoil, didn't pull away, wanting him near.
"Close your eyes, Claire..."
Thinking about what might happen for a moment, she seemed skeptical. Trevor's skin felt warm, so close to her cheek. Finally she did close her eyes, deciding to play along as she tilted her face back to the sky. She felt rather than saw Trevor's arms lift on either side of her. Felt his fingers graze across her cheek tenderly, making her hold her breath, her lips parting. Trevor slid even closer to her, pressed in behind her. Claire's skin seemed to tingle at the sensation of their bodies pressed together, as she felt him slip something heavy over her eyes. There was a whine, faint and electronic.
Trevor's breath whispered softly into her ear. "Ok.. Open your eyes, Claire..."
She did, her face still tilted to the sky. Almost immediately she gasped in wonder at what she saw.
"Oh my god..."
The night sky was filled with stars, dazzled with distant points of light. She could see hundreds more now, perhaps thousands, perhaps millions. It was amazing. The sight filled her like a wave of deep reverence and warmth, like she was suspended in some eternal an awe inspiring musical chord under a glittering night sky unlike any she had ever seen before. What had been a few bright dots was now a luminous expanse filled with a swarm of glittering points of light, covering the sky from horizon to horizon. The universe seemed to have opened up to her, huge and twisting, bright through it's infinite depths, a grand celestial tapestry filled at once with woner and intent. Claire started to realize what she was seeing. The sky had a different texture to it. As she looked around the city's lights flared brightly around her like spotlights. She was gazing though low light goggles Trevor had placed on her head. But that didn't lessen the impact for her, the joy of how huge, how expansive and wonderful the universe was in that one moment. And that it had always been there without her realizing it, stretching invisibly over everything she had ever known as she now watched, amazed.
"Trevor... This is... Wow... It's beautiful..."
"Yes..." Trevor wasn't looking at the stars. Her was looking at her, the joy in her expression. His face was still beside hers as he stood close behind her, holding her shoulders gently, adoration twinkling in his eyes. "It is beautiful..."
His breath was soft on her cheek as he spoke. "Sometimes there's more going on than meets the eye, Claire. There are miracles everywhere, if you just bother to look. The universe has more room than you think." Trevor smiled. "Like the song says, you can see the stars and still not see the light..."
Claire's voice was still an awed whisper, looking around, now able to see her surroundings on the roof clearly. "How did you find this, Trevor?"
"I didn't. It found me. The woman who set this place up wanted my help with something. Funny what you find when you're not looking..."
Carefully, Claire pulled the low light goggles off of her face, turning her head to his, his face still there over her shoulder as he looked at her too. He was still so close, so warm. Their lips hovered closer, waiting, wanting. Claire held her breath, looking into his eyes without shame, and neither one pulled back.
But in the end Trevor pulled away first, surprising her. Her lips almost imperceptibly chased out after his, before she caught herself. Gently he took the low light goggles from her hands and put them back in the crate. Claire stood there, watching him with a smile, not upset at all.
"We should go back down, Trevor..." she said.
They walked together out of the darkened stairwell from the roof and onto the top floor of the building. There was no one else there, just the two of them in the dim hallway as they stood in front of the elevator doors, waiting.
Smiling, Claire pushed the button for the elevator. It glowed under her finger and she pulled back. "Thank you, Trevor. The stars were beautiful... Still not sure that constitutes a miracle, though..."
"Cynic.." He looked at her, amused. "What does constitute a miracle?"
She laughed. "Something a little less universally constant. Rare. Unlikely. Unexplainable. Improbable and impossible all at the same time. Miraculous..." she explained simply.
"Like a therpist falling in love with her insane patient? Or a god of love god falling for a disbelieving mortal?"
"I said miraculous, not misguided..." she teased. "A miracle should be one of a kind. Something that should never happen but does anyway. Against all logic or odds, taking you by surprise..."
"Oh... That never happens..." he admitted playfully.
The elevator door chimed as the cab reached their floor. The doors slipped open and Trevor and Claire walked into the lit interior.
Turning, Claire pushed the button for the floor where Cuppa Java was. "No it doesn't. Time we realized the world isn't a movie. No soaring romantic orchestral accompaniment. No happy happenstance, no fortunate accidents, no lucky bumps that bump people together in the night, Trevor. And life definitely isn't like a box of chocolates..."
The doors slowly closed on them, leaving the hallway dark.
On the far side of Chicago, a night breeze gently blew through the night air, swaying tree limbs in it's passing. It moved lazily over the city buildings, picking up all sort of debris from the ground far below, before it blew itself past and was gone. Power lines swayed in it's wake, some teetering as if they would break. But in the end they didn't, growing steady again, calm. Then in the dark night, something white began to sweep down from high up in the air where it had been blown .
It was single, long white feather, gently rocking in the air, twisting and turning as it fell ever closer to the dark buildings down below. Another following breeze pushed it sideways, skimming it across the roof of a smaller building, lifting it in an updraft before it gently began to fall again, twirling downward.
Beneath it, power lines stretched innocuously above an alleyway as they came to a stop again after swaying in the breeze. Oblivious, the feather tumbled down towards the dark suspended wires beneath it. It swayed one way, then swooped another, riding the still air, moving past the power line on both sides as it dropped from far above. Finally the feather paused in mid air, it's momentum lost, before it finally fell straight down, landing delicately on top of the powerline. The air was still with anticipation.
The feather rested there for several moments, the alley quiet beneath it.
Nothing continued to happen for a long time as the feather rested on the wire. There was no wind at all. Then almost imperceptibly, the feather began to tilt... until it fell off, twirling to the cement of the alley floor. Above the powerline was motionless, undisturbed, unconcerned.
Until suddenly the utility pole at the end of the alley erupted into a shower of sparks. It exploded brigtly, followed by the next pole in the distance, and the next, moving in both directions, a rolling shower of golden sparks, dazzling points of bright light bouncing off the concrete like stars.
Far far below, the city of Chicago was stretched out like a flattened jewel, glitterring in a gridwork of lights beside Lake Michigan. But then, one by one, the grid sections winked out, going dark as the blackout cascaded outward and spread quickly in a circle of black until evrything was down. For a moment the air was still and quiet, broken only by the distant sound of honking cars. Above, the stars glittered even more brightly than before, freed from the constant haze of the city's light in the darkness.
Dr. Frechette was sitting across from the head of the review board in the man's study, the light from the lamp on the desk dimly illuminating them both as they talked.
Dr. Frechette continued. "Obviously we've reached a breaking point here. The Trevor Hale problem has to be dealt with. Maybe we should try to--"
Suddenly the light on the desk winked out, plunging them into darkness. Only starlight came through the window, the rest of the city dark.
The cab of the elevator jostled suddenly, sending Claire and Trevor together as it jerked to a halt and the lights inside went out, flooding them in darkness. Almost instantly, dim battery powered emergency lights came on. The elevator was quite. Nothing was moving.
Claire came out of Trevor's arms after the jolt when he had caught her. "What happened?"
Trevor walked over, pushing the elevator buttons inside the halted cab. But they remained dark, and there was no response at all as he thought. "We lost power. Seems like a blackout. Looks like we stopped between floors..."
"You mean we're stuck in here?"
He looked up at the roof, thinking. "Seems that way... Wonder if I can get a ceiling hatch open or something--"
He jumped, reaching for the ceiling. But almost instantly he slipped, falling to a awkward sprawl on the floor at her feet. Getting up, he tried not to feel embarrassed as Claire tried not to smile. Shaking it self consciously off, Trevor turned, putting his back against the elevator wall and sliding down, taking a seat on the floor. "Better settle in, Claire. We might be here a while..."
Reluctantly, Claire did the same, sliding down to take a seat on the floor opposite him. She brought her knees up, crossing her arms over them, annoyed and not in a talkative mood. Across from her Trevor brough one knee up, resting his forearm across it. Claire glared over at him, angry that she was stuck there with him. Trevor simply smiled sweetly at her discomfort. Claire turned slightly sideways so she wouldn't have to look at him. The silence stretched between them as they sat in the dim light of the stopped elevator.
Claire exhaled. "Great.... Just great." she said wearily, starting to search through her purse.