"Well, Sparky over there is a little uptight about being recognized. Paparazzi, Entertainment Tonight, that sort of thing. We're trying to keep a low profile..."
William nodded, not quite believing Trevor's story. "Well, she's quite beautiful, Mr. Hale. You're a very lucky man in any regard."
Trevor smirked. "Not as lucky as you'd think. Claire's quite a handful. And not only in the good way. But since we're talking about getting lucky, let's talk about you. See that woman sitting next to Claire?"
William pretended to take a closer look, even though Trevor knew he had been watching her all evening. As Trevor and William looked over, they noticed Claire and Eileen were watching the two of them as well. Eileen quickly looked away when she realized William was looking.
Keeping up the act, William smiled as if recognizing her for the first time. "Ah yes. Eileen. You, uhh... tried to introduce us last night." By the tightening of Williams shoulders, the introduction hadn't gone well.
Regardless, Trevor's face brightened. His previous persona, if so it was, had obviously had the same goals he did. Trevor continued his pitch. "Well, I'll let you in on a little secret. Claire tells me that Eileen over there is really into you."
William didn't understand. "How could she possibly be in me?"
"Sorry, still getting this language thing worked out. I mean she's attracted to you. You know, she's thinking about you in that romantic, knocking boots sort of way."
"Boots? She's a dancer?"
Trevor smiled as he thought about it. "Of the best kind..."
Across the room, Claire had noticed Eileen look away when the man Trevor was with had looked over. Still facing the crowd, Claire lowered her eyes as she spoke.
"Can I ask you a question, Eileen?"
"Certainly... Claire." Eileen forced herself to use Claire's new name.
"Who was it that hurt you so?"
Eileen was caught off guard for a moment. She let it pass, trying to cover it behind an unconvincing smile as she replied smoothly.
"I don't know what you mean, Miss Allen."
"Yes. You do. I can see it in your eyes. You try to hide it, but it's there. Maybe I can help. If you tell me about it." Claire looked at her, waiting.
"I thought you didn't believe I was even real. Why would you want to help me?"
Claire's smile was full of caring. "Because real or not, I can't stand idly by when I see someone in pain. Look... don't believe what Trevor told you. He likes to goof around, but his stories are just stories. I'm not insane. I'm totally lucid. And I think you need someone to talk to. I'm here, it might as well be me. I'm not going anywhere."
Eileen continued to stare out into the crowd, not facing her. The room before them was a mass of people. The air was filled with laughter and music. But Eileen's face became serious. "That man, standing next to Trevor. I'd never met him until last night when Trevor introduced us. But when we tried to talk, I just couldn't. I don't understand why exactly... But I couldn't do it. And since last night... well, I never thought I would feel this way about anyone again." Eileen looked at Claire. "I haven't been able to get him out of my thoughts. Trevor caught me watching him up on deck this afternoon. I couldn't find it in myself to talk to him then either." She looked back at William. "I still can't."
"Why? What is it Eileen?"
"I just can't trust that he's attracted to me."
Claire thought that was a strange choice of words. "Trust? You... don't think you can trust him." Claire realized there was an underlying problem that Eileen wasn't addressing. "Well, I'm no expert but it seems obvious to me that he's attracted to you. Sure, Trevor may be trying too hard to push you two together, but I wouldn't dismiss his instincts. He can be a pretty good judge of character sometimes."
Eileen's laugh seemed empty. She turned to Claire. "What could he possibly see in me?"
Claire tried to make her see. "You'll never know until you find out. Besides, you're very attractive. Why wouldn't he be interested?"
Eileen didn't seem to believe it. She sighed to herself. "That's a good question. Why indeed."
Standing in the crowd, Trevor was still trying to convince William. "So why don't you go over there?"
"I don't know, Mr. Coll-... I mean... Mr. Hale. We had barely spoken before she found some excuse to leave last night. What makes you so certain she's interested in me?"
"Radar love, baby."
"I see. What's radar?"
"Let's just call it perception. Come on. She's young, she's beautiful, she's in throwing distance. So throw her a line. She's a dam of pent up desire just waiting for you to open up the floodgates. Admit it. You sure wouldn't mind sharing a lifeboat with her, would you?"
"I suppose. But we're basically strangers, Mr. Hale. I wouldn't know what to say." Trevor could see William was weakening even as he protested.
Trevor pressed on. "Look, start out by just talking to her. The best erogenous zone on a woman is her heart. Tickle that and you tickle her soul."
William smiled, caught up in it. "And how does one tickle that?"
Trevor smiled back. "Be creative. Try a song, a poem... a dirty limerick."
"I'll admit, Mr. Hale, that she has caught my eye on more than one occasion. But to just go up to her is so...so forward."
"Hey! No one has ever claimed to find true love by mail-order. Well, not yet anyway. You have to physically go over there and make the first move to get anywhere."
"But what would I say?"
Trevor moaned. "Do I have to write you a script? Tell her she's beautiful. Tell her that she smells nice. Tell her that her scent reminds you of flowers from home. That her eyes glitter like moonlight on the ocean. Quote a poem. Sing a song. Plagiarize baby!"
"A poem you say?" He and Trevor both looked over at Claire and Eileen.
Trevor's face became thoughtful. He decided to get William started. "She walks in beauty, like the night..."
William smiled when he heard it. He knew this poem. "...of cloudless climes and starry skies," he replied.
Impressed, a smile pursed Trevor's lips as he nodded. Looking once at William, they both turned and continued to recite together, both watching Claire and Eileen.
"And all that's best of dark and bright-"
As they continued, Trevor's mind wandered. His eyes caught Claire's. She was watching him closely, and he realized she was curious about what he was doing. Somehow that made him feel better. As Trevor looked at her, with her eyes on his, he felt a warm sensation cross his chest. Trevor allowed himself to remember how beautiful she was, and the rest of the room seemed to fall away.
"-meet in her aspect, and her eyes. Thus mellowed to that tender light, which heaven to gaudy day denies..."
Beside him, William stopped reciting when he noticed Trevor's reaction. Turning he saw the look on Trevor's face as he gazed at Claire with barely concealed adoration.
Eyes still only for her, Trevor didn't notice as he continued. "One shade the more, one ray the less had half-impaired the nameless grace which waves in every raven tress..."
It finally broke into Trevor's consciousness that he was the only one speaking, breaking his reverie. He found William looking at him knowingly.
"It would seem Mr. Hale, that I'm not the only one who has found himself smitten here."
Trevor smiled. "I wouldn't go that far. I'm just fond of the poem. I was a bit of a ghostwriter on it."
"And you really believe a simple poem will work?"
Now Trevor really was becoming exasperated. "Look, whatever works is whatever works! There's no set formula. If something bombs, try something else. Keep trying until you find something that moves her, touches her, makes her laugh. The functioning word here is TRY."
William's face sobered up, as if he were about to admit something painful. "Mr. Hale, I'm just not ready. I just lost my-"
Trevor thought he was stalling. Grabbing William by the shoulders, he began to push. "Less talk, more walk. We're going over there. Time to sink or swim, no pun intended. Just forget about the water, take a deep breath, and dive in. The lifeboats can wait."
Claire moaned when she saw Trevor and William walk up to them. She was on the verge of getting Eileen to open up. Talk about unbelievably bad timing. Eileen wasn't in the mind set for Trevor's dating games. She was very vulnerable at the moment. And Claire could already see the scorch marks of a crash and burn forming. Beside her, Eileen stiffened as they walked up. Standing silently before the two women, William didn't seem much better. For the thousandth time since she had known him, Claire found herself wishing that Trevor would just butt out.
Trevor didn't seem to notice. "Hello beautiful ladies. Hi honey." Trevor leaned in for a kiss but was stopped by a heated glare from Claire, who obviously wasn't in a joking mood. Smiling, Trevor pulled back, never tiring of rattling her cage.
"Eileen," Trevor began. "William here tells me that he's from the same hometown as you. Where did you say that was again, William?"
"Actually, I don't think I ever told you which-"
"Great! The two of you should have a lot to talk about."
Claire stood up angrily. "Trevor, could I talk to you?"
Trevor recognized her tone. He had obviously boiled her hot buttons again. No doubt he was in for every excruciating detail of what she felt he had done wrong. But if it allowed Eileen and William to be alone together, he was all for it.
"Excuse me," Trevor said. "I think I saw someone inventing Riverdance, and we're going over to toss him overboard. We'll be over there where-" Claire grabbed him and yanked him away.
They walked out of ear-shot into a quiet corner of the crowd. Behind them, Eileen and William were still gripped in an awkward silence. Claire whirled on Trevor, her voice angry and soft.
"Trevor, what the hell are you doing?"
"I'm sorry, we must not have met." he said sarcastically. "I'm Cupid, god of love." He held out his hand in greeting.
Claire batted it away, not amused. "Why are you interfering with these people's lives, Trevor?"
"It's kinda what I do. I thought that was clear by now. Haven't you been paying attention the last few years?"
"You're still trying to set people up?" Her voice was incredulous, trying to make him see the absudity of it.
"For what possible reason?"
Trevor spoke as if it were as plain as the light of day. "Because... they really need it?"
"Trevor, these people either exist only in our heads, or most of them will be dead in three days. That doesn't bother you?"
"All the more reason to start early."
She couldn't believe it. "You really don't care about these people's feelings, do you? You don't care that you're setting them up for what can only be heartbreak and loss. They may not know what's going to happen in the next few days, but you do! But you don't care what they might lose, that's secondary, isn't it? Everything is always secondary to your all-important mission. Why don't you think about somebody else for once."
"I am. Their feelings are why I'm doing this. I don't see a string of beads anywhere, do you? This isn't about that, Claire. I'm trying to give them a little happiness-"
Claire didn't want to listen. "Eileen is in a very vulnerable state right now! She's confused, she's unsure. And what she doesn't need is the self-proclaimed god of love force feeding here some new boy-toy. For that matter, William doesn't seem to be chomping at the bit either. Why can't you just leave things alone, Trevor?"