On the other side of the room William was pulling out Eileen's chair. When she sat down, her cheek accidentally brushed his as he pushed her in, leaning close. She turned to apologize but suddenly found her lips almost touching William's, his face next to hers. They both paused reluctantly, not knowing what they should do. Blinking, they both pulled back, coming out of the moment.
"Sorry," Eileen apologized.
"No problem at all."
William seated himself across the table, marvelling at her. It still didn't quite register that any of this was really happening. All the times he had imagined this didn't capture at all what it actually felt like being there with her. Just the two of them. He barely even saw the rest of the crowded room.
Eileen watched him quietly, her expression warm. She could still feel a tinge of nervousness at the back of her shoulders, but no where near as much as she had feared she would have. Somehow William made it all seem easy. She was perfectly, well almost perfectly, at ease with him in ways she couldn't describe or have even imagined. It was almost as if they had know each other forever.
As the room continued to fill, they sat there listening to the soft music floating on the air. Both smiled when they caught each other's glance across the table. But they said nothing, enjoying the momentary silence. Finally William spoke.
"Thank you again, Eileen. I'm glad you decided to come."
"Wait a moment. I was the one who asked you, after all. It's me who should be thanking you. I'm glad you decided to come."
"Even if you were to ask me a thousand times, it would always be me in debt to you. And perhaps a Fate or two." William looked down. "So. Do you see them?"
Out of the corner of her eye, Eileen looked across the room. "Our chaperones you mean? Yes, I see them. Claire looks lovely."
"Everyone in steerage thought they could use some time together, after all they done. As considerate as Claire has been, it's strange to think that she most likely still believes we are just an illusion."
Eileen looked deeply into his eyes. "Who's to say that we're not?"
William smiled. "We are such stuff as dreams are made of..."
Eileen nodded with a smile. "The Tempest. Perhaps you've a little bit of Prospero in you after all."
He seemed amused at the thought. "Perhaps we truly are just characters in a story. In any case, I must say I've never seen an imaginary figment look so lovely." William raised his glass as he gazed at her.
Blushing, Eileen raised her glass as well, her eyes on his. "Nor I one as charming."
Most of the guests were finally seated all around them. Waiters began serving the tables and bringing out hor d'oeures. William and Eileen continued to speak softly as dinner began.
From where he watched, Trevor nodded. "Nice. Almost thought it was going to happen for a moment there."
"What, when she grazed his cheek?" Claire asked.
"Exactly. Thought they were about to lock lips."
"Eileen told me she has always had trouble deciding how to do that."
"What's the big deal?" You close your lips and press them against his. If you're really lucky, you pretend your in France and open them."
"Not how to kiss, when to kiss, Trevor."
"No kisses now Claire, thanks for offering. I'm watching WIlliam and Eileen."
"Trevor, you know what I meant. She can never find the right moment."
"Well, that last moment was beating her over the head with a bat. I knew I should have taught her some hand signals. Could have waved her home."
Later Trevor waited impatiently for the next portion of the meal to be served. He poked at the empty space on his plate where his roasted duck in applesauce had been. Though he had devoured it hungrily, now he felt somehow melancholy. Idly, he looked down at the plate's white center and the blue coloring of its rim, intricately lined and accented in gold colored trim. Some of the cups had a similar blue and white design trimmed in gold-coloring. It was all very fancy, very delicate and refined. Perhaps that was the problem. Even the food seemed more like a dissertation than a meal.
"Trevor, this is actually quite good." Claire sat beside him, not even half done with her plate yet. "I'm surprised. Not bad for imaginary eighty year old food."
She looked over and saw the expression he wore. With a gloved hand she pushed back a strand of hair from her face, leaning towards him.
"Trevor, what's wrong?"
He looked up. 'Oh nothing. Just home sick."
Claire raised an eyebrow, taking a sip of wine. "Still yearning for the company of satyrs and nymphs?"
He smiled. "Actually, I meant Chicago. Can't wait to go back. What I wouldn't give for a big sloppy hot dog dripping with everything right now. I wished they served some real food!"
She blinked. "Wow, Trevor. That's the first time I think I've heard you call Chicago home. Your making progress."
"It's more home than this place, Claire. I'll get back to Olympus someday. But satyr's aren't as much fun as they look after a while. As for nymphs, I like the ones in Chicago a little better." he looked straight at her with a smile.
Claire gave him a flirty look. "Oh, I don't think I'm the type of nymph you're looking for Trevor."
"Still, I'd love to have you audition."
"That makes one of us."
An older gentleman walked up to them from the spread of tables, greeting Trevor. "Mr. Hale! So good to see you again! I meant to thank you for your advice two evenings ago. You were absolutely right. Who is this lovely young woman you're dining with. Your wife?"
Pleased at that statement, Trevor looked over at Claire. She gave him an annoyed glance before extending her hand.
"No, not at all. I'm Claire Allen." She started to shake his hand, but the older gentleman took it and placed a kiss lightly on the back of her palm.
"Charmed to make your acquaintance, Ms. Allen. I'm George Widner. The two of you may not be married, but by the look of it," he chuckled, "it's only a matter of time and place. Trevor has excellent taste. Don't let this one get away, Mr. Hale."
Appreciating the man's compliment, Claire decided not to correct his misconceptions. "Thank you, Mr. Widner."
Mr. Widner reached over to where Trevor was seated and patted him on the shoulder ."It's good to see you Mr. Hale, but I must get back to my wife. Your advice was priceless. My son told me to thank you on a separate matter, but he wouldn't say what exactly. He said that you would know?"
Trevor smiled. "That I do. Tell Harry 'you're welcome' for me. And to eat well, he'll need his strength."
"I will indeed, good afternoon, Mr. Hale."
Mr. Widner moved back into the crowd. Claire watched him leave before turning to Trevor. "What advice did you give him?"
Trevor looked evasive. "I don't think I'm going to tell you, Claire. Doctor patient privilege. I know that little caveat is one that you tend to ignore, but-"
"You're never going to let me live that down, are you?" Claire poked at her food nervously, not sure of how to phrase her next question. "Everyone seems to think we're a couple."
Trevor cleared his throat. He seemed uncomfortable as well, not able to face her. "Well they see us together a lot. We're here having dinner side by side. Just an honest mistake."
Claire tried to read his expression, before looking down. "I suppose..."
Trevor still seemed nervous. "How long does it take to serve the next course in this joint anyway?"
William laughed. "Sometimes pointless retribution can be quite a catharsis. Still, I'd like to state emphatically that your ex-fiance deserved every bit of it. The man was an absolute fool for leaving you."
Smiling, Eileen lifted her hands in mock agreement. "Yes! That's what I thought! Finally, someone with a little sense."
William pursed his lips in amusement. "I know you don't believe it, but it's true. He was a fool." He picked up his drink slowly, hiding his mouth behind it to speak. "Are they still watching?"
As she cut into her meal, Eileen made an effort not to look at Trevor and Claire. "Yes. They seem to keep quite an interest in us."
"Well Trevor I can understand. He likes play acting the part of Cupid. But why Claire?"
Eileen shrugged. "Maybe at heart she's just a caring person." She looked over at them. "I don't understand why they don't see it."
"How they feel about each other. That they could be happy together."
William followed her gaze. "I had hoped this evening would give them a little push. That's why we arranged it for them. But they still seem more interested in us than in each other."
Eileen smiled at him. "Sometimes it takes some time for people to see what's done for their own good."
William gazed at her. "Trevor told me that humans get so caught up in how everyone else feels that they forget sometimes how they feel themselves. Too bad he doesn't take his own advice."
"Well maybe we should. Enough about them. I have a feeling they'll figure it out eventually. And by the way, only strangers and my mother call me Eileen. People close to me call me Elly." She reached affectionately over and placed her hand on his.
At her touch, William felt a warmth pass through him. He looked into her eyes, blue beyond imagining. "Thank you, Elly."
She smiled and looked away as she pulled her hand back. Both of them continued their meals. Eileen glanced quickly back at Trevor and Claire. "They are still watching us though." she said.
William chuckled, simply enjoying her company. "I wonder how they think this is going?"
"It seems to be going well," Claire was saying.
"Yes it does. I love a woman who makes first contact. Nothing like a little skin to skin to get your heart thumping. You should try it sometime, Claire.
"Hmm. Good thing I'm wearing these gloves before you get any ideas."
He looked over. "Who said I would touch you on the hand?"
He looked back, trying to judge Eileen and William's body language since they were out of hearing range. "See that move there? Perfect. A smiling face, a coy little laugh. Not to mention how Eileen's reacting. So far so good. Look at them. Who couldn't tell they belong together? They must be blind not to see it."
"Sometimes people can be too close to see how close they really are, Trevor."
"Scoot over Claire. You keep elbowing my arm."
The final course had been served and Trevor and Claire were still watching Eileen and William. Claire nodded at what she saw, the entire meal seemed to be going well so far. "No major blow ups. They seem to be doing fine all on their own."
"I hope so, Claire. They both deserve it. Letting go of the past is hard." He made sure not to look at her as he spoke. "Sometimes people have to be forced to move on."
Claire noticed anyway. She gave him a level look as she stabbed her food with a fork. "If that's your thinly veiled attempt at psycho analyzing me, don't bother Trevor."
"You've dabbled in matchmaking a time or two, Claire. So why can't I do the same?"
"I don't dabble! Helping couples is my job after all, not just some delusional mission. And I don't use the whatever works works approach like some people at this table. I observe, I evaluate, I consider. I-"
"Put off living your life? That's what you've been doing the last month, isn't it Claire? Waiting in, instead of moving on? Hiding away in your apartment as life passes you by? Should I go on? You're no different than William and Eileen were. Except they learned from their mistakes."
"So after a little dabbling of your own-"
"Hey, that's 3000 years of dabbling, just to let you know-"
"-you're suddenly an expert on analysis? Fine Trevor. Wow me with your wisdom." She tossed her napkin down angrily.
Trevor turned to her, not backing off. "You're afraid, Claire."
"That's news to me, Trevor." She sounded agitated. "Tell me. What is it I'm so afraid of?"
Trevor spoke emphatically, trying to make her see. "Of all the things that have changed in your life. Things that didn't turn out like you expected. Bet that little plan in your head included marriage by now. With Kids right? White picket fence? Since that hasn't happened and your suddenly single again, those failed hopes end up hurting you. And because of that you're afraid, Claire. Afraid of what happens next."
She paused. "That's the biggest load of-"
"I know you loved Frank," Trevor looked down, "even though you've never told me much about what split you up. I know it hurt you when he left. But maybe it's time for you to get over-"
"Don't even say it! Yes I loved Frank, Trevor. But this isn't about some biological clock ticking away. It's about me, loving him! A kind of love you've never felt for... someone, or won't let yourself feel! I loved him with everything I had, everything I was."
"Exactly, Claire. I know you well enough to know that's how you are in love. That's why your always so shattered when-"
"Well love hurts, Trevor! It hurt me more than you'll ever know. The kind of hurt you just don't 'get over'!"
"I know that Claire! Believe me I do! Now grief is fine. I'm all for getting it out of your system. But you've let yours move in and pay rent with you."
She rolled her eyes. "Just because I didn't drop my pants at the first man you threw my way doesn't mean-"
"That's not what I'm talking about. Claire, let me ask you something. Before I dragged you to the carnival, when was the last time you smiled? I actually saw you smile a time or two since we've been here. I had to double check, since I almost didn't recognize it. When was the last time you actually enjoyed yourself?"
Her voice was angry. "Well, I know right now doesn't come screaming to mind-!"
"That's not an answer Claire."
"Some of us have jobs, Trevor!"
"Yeah, and some of us have lives."
She glared at him. "And what about you, Trevor? Let's examine the fullness of that so called life of yours."
"Don't change the subject-"
Claire didn't listen. "You're always so busy setting up couple after couple. The god of love's all important mission! Yet, strangely enough, good old Eros never partakes himself. That's funny. How many women have you been with since I've known you?"
"That's got nothing to do with-"
Claire plowed over him. "I mean, you've had ample opportunity haven't you Trevor? Even here." Her jaw hardened at the thought. "I've seen the way women make passes at you at Taggerty's. But you turn them down. All of them. Poor little things are always so disappointed, aren't they? How many times have you regaled the singles group with your tales of past sexual exploits? Where are the recent ones, Trevor? How many has it been... twenty? A hundred? No. It's been none. Zero! The truth is you have even less of a life than I do so what are you afraid of? Who would have imagined the god of love would be so celibate! So tell me Trevor. Women have offered. Why haven't you?"
"I have told you Claire. The gods have decreed that I can't have-"
"Oh sure," Claire said sarcastically. "That's the reason. We both know your on Earth because of how much you've always obeyed the gods. Seems Eileen and William weren't the only ones running from their feelings. You won't let anyone love you Trevor because you're just as scared of being hurt as I am! Must be tough being a god when you can't even own up to being a man!"
"I just want to go home, Claire."
"So do I, Trevor." She snapped back. "The difference is that for me home is Chicago, a place that actually exists. For you home is just another delusion that lets you run from reality while the rest of us simple 'mortals' are left to live in the real world. Of the two of us, who seems to be hiding from life the most?"
Trevor looked up to see Mr. Brailey standing beside their table. He was watching the two of them with a concerned expression. As they both looked around, Trevor and Claire realized several nearby tables were watching them as well, having heard their argument.
Claire glared at all of them.
"We're married!" she said forcefully.
"Oh!" They all said in unison, suddenly understanding en masse as if that explained everything. Calmly now, they turned back to their meals and conversations.
Trevor turned back to Mr. Brailey. "Yeah, fingers. What is it?"
"I'm ready to play the song you requested. Remember? You cornered me below decks while Claire was touring the ship. Is now a bad time?"
"As depressing as it sounds, there won't be a better time."
Claire looked at Trevor. "Song?"
"Go ahead, Mr. Brailey," Trevor told him. "And thank you."
Mr. Brailey bowed. Straightening his musician's jacket, he moved off, glancing back at them as he wondered what they had been arguing about. He walked across the room to Mr. Hartley and the other musicians, whispering into his ear. Mr. Hartley nodded and cadenced the others to a halt, stopping the string piece they had been playing. The room grew silent except for the hush of conversations and of dinner-ware being used. Mr. Brailey took his place at the piano.
Claire asked again. ""What song, Trevor?"
"Clair de Lune. Mr. Bailey already had it in his repertoire, so I thought he could play it for you."
She blinked. "Why?"
He looked at her. "You know. Clair instead of Claire? Dumb, I know, but I'm sure there were days when even Picasso was just throwing paint against the wall. You haven't found my ear anywhere have you? The title Clair de Lune is French for-"
"Moonlight," Claire said softly, smiling at him. She tried to cover her reaction, remembering she was still mad at him, but she couldn't quite manage it. "Debussy. right?"
Trevor's face brightened. "Someone must have taken an elective between sorority mixers..." he sounded impressed.
She shrugged. "A friend of mine studied music. Besides, the professor was cute."
"Oh I get it. An A for an A. Did you know your first name means 'light' in French?. It... suits you. I personally know you would do old Selene proud."
Claire snapped her fingers, remembering more. "Claude Debussy, 19th century french composer who specialized in Impressionism."
"Show off. You get a gold star, Claire." Trevor searched his pockets. "Wait. I think I left them in my other dementia..."
The music began, a serene piano solo that was slow and beautiful. The melody almost shimmered, sparse and light, hinting at tranquility and moonlit skies. As the delicate music flowed across the room, Claire looked over at Trevor, calmer than before.
"This is how you think of me, Trevor?"