Claire was stepping along a sidewalk the next morning, walking to work. Her smile seemed even brighter today than the morning sun shining directly into her face. There was a happiness in her eyes, her slow gait calm, introspective. The dawn felt clear and crisp, slightly cool against her skin as her steps moved her forward, her body free and her heart content.
Suddenly Trevor was there, falling into step by her side like he had so many times before, easily, like it was an old habit. Claire smiled over at him, happy he was there. She had long ago stopped wondering how he always managed to find her, no matter where she was. And now, looking over at him again by her side, she didn't care. As they walked together, she decided to tease him good naturedly.
"Oh look... It's morning. The sun's up. And now I have my own personal coo-coo clock with me."
He nodded with a grin. "Morning to you too, Claire. Thought I'd try something completely different for once and walk with you to work."
"Oooh, that is a new one, Trevor."
"Hey, gotta be me. And may I say, I love that thing around your neck today. It's a great look."
She looked down, her hand touching a simple silver chain resting on her soft skin. "What, my necklace?"
"No, your body. Love that particular accessory. And on the subject of loving your body. I was thinking about us... and finding that romantic moment."
Claire chuckled when she heard him, because he couldn't hide that heated eagerness in his tone. "Hmm. Mr. Romance strikes again. Or should I say, strikes out."
He looked over at her with a smile, the morning sunlight golden on their faces. "Hey. Overwhelming sexual magnetism to the contrary, I can be romantic, you know. I'm not all about some eventual sweaty bump and grind."
Bump and grind...
When he calmly said that, Claire felt her skin flush from the subject matter, feeling it warm against the cool air as she thought about them together, deciding to tease him along. "Seeking useful suggestions from a man who thinks he's a god? Not typically very encouraging. Or from a man who's more universally recognized as, Trevor Hale, Patron Saint of 'Huh?'. So tell me, Trevor. What romantic musings actually managed to survive the crush of your libido."
"Hey, I'm Cupid. I muse a lot."
She laughed. "Trevor, as a delusional outpatient bartender with no powers for years, you do realize that the term 'Cupid' is only a titular designation by this point."
"Titular? And here I thought you already had that covered nicely. I wish you had it covered less nicely, but that's just probably me."
"Ahh... More romance. So tell me something romantic for the two of us, Trevor."
He sighed eagerly. "Well, it's been said that you haven't lived until you've had a god of love drink wine off the small of your back."
Trevor suddenly gave her a definite look, as if imagining that in his mind. Blushing even more now, Claire smiled into the sunrise while Trevor continued.
"No, really. I'm totally serious about the wine thing. We could mug a wino or something. What do you say? I'll put it all together. Set the mood, get the groove on... Just the two of us. Wine, candles, rose petals.... wonder woman outfit."
She chuckled. "I am not wearing a wonder woman outfit."
"Who said anything about you? And why not! You definitely wouldn't be wearing it for long. Talk about sexually repressed..."
She looked at him, amused. "I am not sexually repressed, Trevor. You'll find that out soon enough..."
"Hey, soon enough was a couple of years back, Claire. And yes. You are."
He gave her an appreciative once over, teasing. "You are always so white bread instead of white hot! You're probably so uptight under the sheets that I bet your favorite night time reading material is Jane Austen's Enema."
Claire walked even a little closer beside him, enjoying the game. "Trevor, I... I want to be with you just as... just as..." she said, pausing.
As they walked, they both looked at each other for a moment, sensing the other's willingness, the other's deep eagerness, feeling the need and desire between them. And for that moment, the air seemed to tingle between them, their bodies very much aware of each other.
Trevor stopped on the sidewalk, turning to face her. "Ok. Let's see you prove how free you are, Claire. Say... nipple."
She looked around, but they were alone on the sidewalk, the morning light flowing sideways onto them. "I will not, Trevor."
"I knew it."
She was blushing even more now. "I just don't see how--"
"Then say it."
"Trevor, I'm not--"
"-- going to say it." He looked at her. "I know you're not. I bet you don't even like hearing it."
He leaned in closer, lowering his voice. "Nipple."
The breathy tone in his voice sent a thrill coursing through her. But she held her ground, protesting. "Trevor--"
She shook her head. "I'm--"
"Nipple, nipple, nipple!" he shouted loudly.
With a smile, Claire covered her ears as he yelled out, glancing around and hoping no one else had heard him. Her eyes twinkled, looking at him tenderly. "Okay. Fine. I'll say it. Nipple... There, are you happy?"
Trevor stared blankly at her for a long moment, before his eyes suddenly glazed over, releasing a satisfied groan. "Does anyone else feel like lighting a cigarette?"
Grinning, Claire started to walk again. Trevor automatically stayed by her side again, keeping up with her.
"Regardless, Trevor. It's a myth. The truth is women are just as voracious about wanting sex as men are. To say that they aren't is just a misguided stereotype, And no one likes stereotypes."
He nodded, thinking as he squinted into the sunrise while it climbed higher before them. "Except maybe stereos..."
Claire looked over as they walked. "Yeah, but they all usually just make a bee line to the biggest pair of speakers in the room."
"Claire, all I'm saying is that we both know we're right for each other. We fit together. So why haven't we... fitted together. Come on!" He spoke with enthusiasm, waving his arms. "Claire you're the yin to my yang a lamma ding dong! The sun to my sky, the 'g' to my string! And nothing's happened yet! I just think you should be kissed and often. By someone who knows how."
"Why Brett," she teased him.
"So to get you in the mood Claire, I had this coupon printed up. Nothing ever says romance like coupons. See, it's all professionally done, totally legit." He handed her a fancy looking card.
Taking it, she looked down at it with him, confused as she read. "Hmm. 'This card grants the bearer one free duck'?"
He blinked. "What? Wait.. That's a typo."
He took it back, rubbing at the letter.
Claire smirked. "And people have the nerve to claim that romance isn't an exact science..."
He was suddenly serious. "Come on, Claire. We're right for each other. You know we're right...."
She was suddenly smiling as they moved side by side. After a moment she spoke. "We are right, Trevor. Still doesn't mean we won't get caught."
"We won't get caught."
"Oh really.. And how--... how are we--.. going to do that." Pausing several times, an uncomfortable look came across Claire's face as she walked and realized something was wrong with her shoe. A strap had slipped, so she stopped again on the sidewalk and bent forward, lifting her knee to adjust it, her skirt slipping inadvertently up her thigh slightly, bending a shapely leg, making all kinds of delicate curves.
Walking slowly beside her, Trevor suddenly noticed, transfixed by the image. His voice sounded distracted. "We... we won't get caught. It's all about...spatial awareness..."
Suddenly Trevor walked straight into a street sign he hadn't seen, stopping and looking embarrassed that he hadn't been watching where he was going.
Behind him, Claire hadn't noticed as she finished, straightening up and starting to walk again. Trying to shake off the impact of the sign pole, Trevor kept pace with her.
"Claire, what's stopping us..."
She suddenly paused in her steps, looking ahead into the dawn, and she thought about it. Her face grew softer in the morning light, and she then turned to smile gently at him, pushing a strand of dark hair from her forehead in a slow, delicate motion. Her eyes were tender, her voice soft. "Nothing's stopping us anymore, Trevor."
She gazed at him, her implication absolutely clear.
Trevor looked back at her, a feeling of wonder in his gaze. Underneath him, he
tried to keep his knees from going numb when he saw the sensual warmth in her
Claire felt her own skin blush as well, looking at him pointedly. She
exhaled slowly, the moment brimming with anticipation, and they both turned
and started to walk again, silent and side by side.
"So... tonight?" he asked carefully.
She looked at him, smiling slightly as she did. "Tonight."
They both gazed at each other for a long time as they stopped there, enjoying that feeling
"Great, Claire. This will be great. We love each other. I just want you to
know that this isn't some frivolous fling for me. I'm in this for the long
haul..." His voice was soft. "I love you, Claire..."
She nodded, eyes tender. "I love you too, Trevor..."
Cautiously, they started walking again in silence, smiles on their faces, still warmed by what they had just agreed to.
"This is good, Claire. This is great. We should do this. We should be
together. So what if you're a mortal and I'm
a god. We love each other and that's all that counts. No drawbacks to that.
Total win-win. Everything to gain, and nothing to--"
Claire stepped out into the street intersection before them, turning back
towards Trevor for a moment with a smile. Suddenly there was a loud
screaming of tires, and a wide instant fear in Claire's eyes. She looked
over at the car barreling down at her, rubber squealing, trying to stop. Trevor darted
forward, grabbing at her arm, pulling at her as his heart started frantically pumping with a desperate fear--
But before he could pull her off the street, the car's front bumper
screeched to a halt less than an inch from Claire's hemline as her body
twitched once in shock, startled as the front end of the vehicle dipped then rose, barely
stopping in time. The driver honked angrily, the noise loud against their
frightened and on edge senses. Trevor and Claire stood numb before the
Trevor finally remembered to breathe again, Claire doing the same beside
him. Looking down, he saw his hands on Claire's arm, before looking over at
the car and realizing that if the car hadn't stopped, he wouldn't have been
in time to pull her away. Trying their best to shake the incident off, they
both moved back onto the sidewalk.
"Thanks, Trevor." She said softly, inhaling. "I think my shoe strap slipped
"No problem..." Trevor replied absently as cars sped past them on the
street. He seemed lost in thought, considering something. Behind him,
Claire straightened her skirt and fixed her shoe, before stepping up to the curb
again. This time she looked both ways down the street, waiting until she was
positive there was a clearing in the busy traffic, before she started
Trevor was still staring blankly ahead, thinking. But when he saw that
Claire was already several steps ahead of him, he smiled again, following
her and pushing the incident away.
Indoors now, Claire was still smiling as she walked through her building
towards her office. She was preoccupied again, thinking of tonight with
Trevor, of finally being with him, feeling how right it felt as she let go of
all the fears that had held them back. The thought of tonight was still putting a warmth
in her body and her heart.
In the hallway several yards behind, Trevor had followed her into the
building, eager to catch up to her. Slowly he drew closer, dodging
people in the crowded hallway, almost to her again, when suddenly Dr. Greeley
was there. Trevor veered off as Dr. Greeley fell into step beside Claire in
the busy ground floor hallway, having spotted her. Trevor followed
discreetly behind them, listening and trying not to be noticed.
"Good morning, Dr. Allen..." the older man offered with a smile.
"Dr. Greeley. Hello. Good morning."
Greeley pulled some files he was carrying closer in to himself, concentrating instead on
speaking with Claire as the busy hallway seemed to slid past all around
them. Behind, Trevor darted back and forth as if alternately occupied by
some poster or stray potted plant, before occasionally sprinting to catch up
again, trying not to be seen as he listened in.
"Claire..." Dr. Greeley began. "I'm glad I ran into you. There's something I
feel I need to tell you."
"Really? What about?"
"Well..." The older man blinked, looking over at her. "It's about Ian
Frechette. I just came from a meeting of the hospital board he called early this
"Concerning you and Mr. Hale."
Claire tried to keep her face calm, eyes looking simply ahead as they walked. Behind them, Trevor listened carefully, picking up some papers from an office inbox slot and pretending to flip through them as he followed, a concerned expression on his face.
Greeley tried to explain. "Frechette's pushing again, Claire. Pushing harder than he ever has before. He's still trying to have Mr. Hale's treatment transferred to him. And now that he's on the board, he has a forum. And he's starting to gain support from several of the other members. Despite my attempts to stop him."
"Well..." Claire swallowed. "Dr. Frechette has always wanted Trevor to be his next pharmaceutical miracle. You know Ian. With him where there's a pill there's a way."
"No, it's different now."
Claire blinked. "What, has he offered the members a share of his wonder drug profits now?"
"He claims there are 'irregularities' in your dealings with Trevor."
She turned to face Greeley, stopping them in the hall. Behind them, Trevor was forced to pull up short, lifting the files he had stolen higher to hide behind them.
"What kind of irregularities?" Claire asked.
Greeley was all seriousness. "He didn't elaborate, Claire. Just vague rumors. He offered no real proof. But something was different. I could sense it. He think's he's on to something, I know it. I have no idea what, but he wouldn't be pushing so hard and risking his reputation if he didn't."
Claire lowered her eyes. Trevor watched them over the top of the papers he held.
Concerned, Greeley stepped closer when he saw her reaction. "Claire, I sympathize. I really do. I know it's been rough with him on the board, second guessing you, nipping at your work..."
Claire looked over at him, a little worried, but with a new strength in her gaze as she smiled. "I know. It has been hard. But I can handle it. I'm not afraid of Frechette. He's a quack."
Greeley chuckled. "Yes, but a quack with influence, Claire. I just wanted to give you the heads up about what's happening on the board. And to tell you to be extra careful..."
"OK. Thanks. I will..."
Greeley gave her a long look before walking away, leaving Claire standing there in the hallway as people passed all around them. As he moved closer, Trevor tried to hide behind the papers.
"Morning, Trevor..." Greeley said without glancing his way, not stopping.
Trevor didn't show his face. "Morning, Dr. Greeley."
Once he was gone, Trevor casually handed the files he held to a random passer by, before stepping quickly up to Claire's side, having heard the conversation.
He lowered his voice. "What was that all about, Claire?"
"It was nothing, Trevor..."
Concern flashed in Trevor's eyes. "Do you think Frechette knows about us?"
"He doesn't know anything at all. Believe me. I've seen his work..." She smiled at the insult, before starting to walk again.
Trevor stayed by her side down the hallway. "This really doesn't put a doubt in your mind about us, does it?"
She smiled again, looking ahead. "No it doesn't, Trevor."
He looked at her, amazed at the change in her. "Wow. I'm surprised, Claire. What brought this about?"
"You..." She gazed over at him, her eyes soft. "I'm not letting anything or anyone scare you away from me again, Trevor. Not idiot doctors, not mythical gods. Nothing. Because as a good friend pointed out to me, you shouldn't squander the second chances you're given in your life."
Claire smiled at him, unconcerned as she moved away. Trevor paused, watching her step ahead of him, admiring the certainty in her voice, before following her towards the elevators.
A few floors up, Trevor and Claire turned the corner together on the final stretch to her office at the end of the hallway. For some reason, he was definitely making sure to stay with her, and that caused Claire to look over at him, her brow wrinkling with curiosity.
"Trevor, why are you following along at my heels like some lost puppy?"
"Umm... No reason." There was an unexplained eagerness twinkling in his eyes that he couldn't hide, even as he tried to look innocent. "Maybe I... just want you to pet my... head, and scratch my tummy."
She smiled, looking away. "Oh wait until tonight, Trevor..."
Beside her, Trevor stumbled slightly when she said that, before correcting himself as they kept walking.
The reception desk at the end of the hallway slid closer, the morning light bright in the window beyond it. As they both approached, Trevor looked over at Claire expectantly as her steps slowed in surprise.
Her office door was shut and Jaclyn hadn't come in for work yet, so there was no one at the desk. But sitting there on it, centered on the reception desk's forward edge was a tall, blooming red rose resting in a slender silver vase. It was one of the most beautiful roses Claire had ever seen, full and vibrant crimson, almost glowing with it's own deep rich red color. It's delicate petals glittered with small spots of what seemed like dew as the sunlight from the window behind the desk streamed past it in golden rays.
Slowly stepping up to it, Claire smiled quietly. Behind her, Trevor hung back a little, watching her as she looked at his gift. The vase had a simple white card tied with a slim ribbon around it which read The flower is the leaf mad with love..
He smiled. "Sometimes the old classics are the best."
"It's beautiful..." She leaned forward, her form outlined in the morning light as it beamed down past her. Gently she inhaled the delicate scent from the lush flower.
"It is beautiful. Very beautiful... but I think the rose ain't bad either." Trevor said, before he moved around behind the desk to face her, the rose between them in the bright morning rays. "So... We're still on for tonight?"
Claire smiled, looking at him in that golden light, in agreement. "Tonight..."
"Great..." Trevor's face was beaming, looking at her tenderly. Then his gaze shifted past her shoulder to the hallway behind her and his eyes widened. He quickly moved around the side of the desk, walking over to the person approaching behind her, making Claire turn around.
Dr. Frechette was approaching down the hallway. He had a perpetually dour look on his face as playfully Trevor ran straight up to him, forcing him to stop. When Trevor spoke, he had a mischievous glint in his eye, deciding to tease him.
"Hey Look! It's Dr. Free--"
Dr. Frechette interrupted him with a raised finger and a glare. "Don't. For the last time, Mr. Hale. My name is pronounced 'Frechette'. Not Free and--" he stopped himself. "--and the way you pronounce it."
Turning, Trevor looked back at Claire as she watched them. "Look, Claire. Sir lacks a lot is here."
Trevor noticed Frechette's face grow harder beside him, before responding to it.
"Oh... Sorry. Touchy subject. Amazing how a nickname like that can just spread around a hospital. I'm sure it's just a rumor. Probably more about your personality than any physical ... shortcomings. All my fault. Never should have started it. Anyway, while you're here let me apologize too for that stripper service ad I placed in the paper under your home number. Hey, honest mistake, right? You're just that damn sexy. I'll admit, I sort of hoped the add would help you get out of the house more... but nothing works all the time."
Frechette glared at him, paying no attention to what Trevor had just said. His aloof face seemed carved in stone, yet he suddenly looked curious. "Mr. Hale... And why are you at Claire's office so early in the morning Mr. Hale?"
Trevor tried to look serious in response for a moment, before he smiled again and exhaled. "Ok. You caught us. Claire and I have been working on something of monumental importance. One of life's great mysteries. Exactly why was Old Smokey covered in cheese?"
With a glare Frechette stepped past him and up to Claire, where she was leaning back against the reception desk, waiting for him with her arms crossed, the rose behind her.
Both of them didn't quite manage to conceal the contempt in their voices.
Frechette was carrying a file with him which he opened. "Dr. Allen, it is my understanding from Dr. Dehnt's records that you collaborated with him on the Mary Simmons case. That is before you collaborated with him on a more personal level... Did he share any of her case file work with you?"
"Yes. He did." Claire wasn't being overly helpful.
Frechette blinked. "Do you still have them?"
"Somewhere I suppose..."
He glared at her. "I would like all files, notes, or conclusions you have on the Simmons case transferred to my office."
"Hit a wall already?" Claire smiled sweetly.
"I want the material, Dr. Allen, so I can incorporate it into my own approach."
"Your approach? Don't you mean chemically drugged into low earth orbit? Doctor, when I think about your approach, the first thought that comes to my mind is 'Oh look, Huey Lewis just served me fries...' Your approach is barbaric. Outdated...."
Anger glistened in his eyes, but his voice was level. "I'll take the files without the editorial, Dr. Allen."
Nodding, Claire kept her arms crossed, not backing down. "So I gather you haven't lobotomized her mind away to nothing with pharmaceuticals yet."
He looked at her. "No. I have not. But that isn't your concern. What IS your concern, is that you do what one of your direct superiors has directed you to do."
There was a coldness in Claire's eyes as she glared at him. "Oh, I know all about what your trying to direct me to do on the board, Ian."
He smiled wickedly. "Oh? What's that Ms. Allen..."
"You still want Trevor's case transferred to you so you can make him the latest guinea pig for your own personal pill patrol. Well, you're wasting your time. You can't have him." Her eyes were bright, glancing at Trevor over Frechette's shoulder for a moment. "He's mine."
Behind Frechette, Trevor slowly smiled at the certainty of Claire's words.
Unconcerned, Frechette smiled in a different context. "For the moment only, Dr. Allen..."
Claire didn't budge, not looking away.
Suddenly Frechette's attention shifted over towards the rose on the reception desk behind her, still upright in it's vase. Slowly he walked up to it, frowning as he lifted the card dispassionately and read it.
"Did someone send you a flower, Dr. Allen?" He asked innocently.
Loathing that he was standing so near to her, Claire's voice remained certain. "Secret admirer."
"Well..." Frechette looked straight back at Trevor for a long moment, before turning back to Claire. "There are all sorts of secrets, it seems..."
Claire didn't reply.
"I'll expect those files in my office by the end of the day, Dr. Allen."
Claire still decided to say nothing. Frechette walked away, barreling towards Trevor as if he couldn't be bothered to see that Trevor was even there. Trevor had to quickly step out of the way to avoid being run down. He looked annoyed as he watched Frechette leave, yelling out as Frechette moved further down the hallway.
"Hey, did you know Solvent Green is people? People! Shine on you crazy diamond!" Trevor thrust a fist into the air in mock solidarity. And then Frechette was gone as he disappeared around the corner. Claire finally exhaled behind Trevor, no longer looking as steadfast as she had been.
Nodding, Trevor walked back up to her. "You know, I'm starting to think that him and cute don't mix."
Claire blew out a breath as she looked over at her rose, her fingers gently touching it in the morning light. "That was close, Trevor. Thank god you didn't sign this. I'm just glad that for once you decided not to go overboard with something." she said with a smile.
Suddenly Trevor seemed nervous for some reason. "Umm, yeah... Hey, you know me. King of low key."
Claire noticed his reaction. "Trevor, what is it?"
"Nothing... Look, Just... just remembered... There must be somewhere else I need to be right now. Bye Claire."
He left her at the desk and escaped as quickly as he could. Claire's brow furrowed as he disappeared around the bend of the hallway, wondering what had gotten into him. She turned back to the rose, smiling again as she admired it. It really was the most beautiful rose she had ever seen, never having seen another like it.
"Well, no harm done I guess. It's just a rose. Nothing gossip worthy. Wonder why Trevor left so quickly though..."
She picked up the slender silver metal vase, smelling the rose, deciding to keep it in her office. Moving to her locked office door, Claire pulled out her keys, ready to begin her day. Once she unlocked it, she pushed the door open, looking inside, before her jaw dropped.
"Oh my god..."
The inside of her office was buried in a swarm of red, brimming and filled with roses, each identical and as beautiful as the one she was holding, a wash of delicate crimson, covering every surface. Claire stood there motionless, as the keys dropped from her stunned hand.
Frechette was in another session with Faith later on that same day.
He sat quietly in his office, his mind working over what Faith had just calmly told him. She had given him a long and non-breaking narrative of minutiae and detail on Trevor and Claire's purported life together. Full of details that she should have no way of knowing anything about, but for which Faith seemed absolutely certain. Frechette looked down at the copious notes he had just taken, amazed by the total ease of her narrative, as if every part of it was burned with absolute clarity into her mind.
Pausing, the balding doctor searched for words, his brow wrinkled as he tried futilely to take it all in. "Amazing, Faith... That's quite impressive. You know all this from memory? How? Are you certain you've had no contact with them at all? How do you know this? Mary... do you have someone following them outside the hospital?"
Faith sighed, sounding tired by his words, and a little annoyed that he still didn't see. "I don't need someone following them. Ask around. I never leave lock down. I have no visitors, I receive no phone calls. I thought I already explained this to you. I know what I know because the gods tell me. They're preparing me for what I'm destined to do. And when the time is right, and Trevor has crossed the point of no return, I'll be the gods messenger. Their executioner. I'll be Trevor's final salvation. His savior... Like he will be for me."
Frechette blinked at her fanatical words, trying to wrap his mind around the twisted ramblings of Faith's elusive delusion, feeling like he was helpless, wandering, lost in a fog that grew thicker with each session.
His gaze shifted to dialogue, dialogue Faith insisted Trevor and Claire would say to each other at some point, but for which he could never prove. Almost like everything that was happening was preordained. He looked at some of the things Claire 'would' say. Will it always be like this? Sneaking off, stealing moments... And another one Faith claimed Claire would say. Trevor, with you... I'm finally living. Frechette's mind poured over the words. They were too fragmentary. There was no context. He had no idea what to do with information like this.
Suddenly the phone on his desk rang, and he reached over and picked it up.
"Dr. Frechette..." he answered simply.
Faith leaned back against her chair and waited.
Someone was talking to Dr. Frechette on the other end of the phone line. His face went calm as he listened, looking over at the sleek LED clock glowing red in a black face, built into a spotless silver frame, resting on a nearby shelf. He had lost track of time during Faith's narrative. Frechette didn't look over at her, instead seeming to listen to the voice on the other end of the phone, answering back to it every few moments.
"Really... That's good to hear... So it's ready now?... Ok. I'll be right there..."
Frechette hung up the phone, looking down at his desk, distracted as he thought about something. He made sure not to look at her. For her part, Faith simply sat silent across from him, not reacting to what he was doing at all. Instead, her eyes slowly slid past his shoulder, to the wide window behind him, watching the bright, inviting vista of the world outside the hospital, glowing under the sun as the morning started to burn away into mid-day.
Frechette exhaled quietly, acting almost a little embarrassed at what he had to do, before he stood up from his chair and straightened his tie. When he spoke, he still wasn't looking at her. "Mary... Something unexpected has come up that I have to attend to. I'll have to step out of the office for a few minutes, but I won't be gone long. Wait right here..."
Stepping around the desk, Frechette walked right past her without so much as a second thought, seemingly distracted. Seated there, Faith did nothing, her eyes still locked on the daylight glowing outside the window, a tinge of longing in her eyes as she watched, still encased in the confines of Frechette's office.
Behind her, Frechette walked away and opened his closed office door. But as he opened it, he gave her a harsh look where she couldn't see him, before gently placing the door open to rest against the wall. Then he stepped calmly out into the hallway as if nothing was wrong, disappearing from sight. The door to the office remained wide open, the hallway bright behind Faith's turned back. The long empty corridor Frechette was leaving down stretched out of view in either direction.
The office remained quiet. Faith suddenly seemed to tense, but she didn't move. There was no noise or motion in the office at all. Her eyes hadn't shifted, but somehow they didn't seem to be looking out of the window anymore. And though the position of her body hadn't changed in the slightest, as she sat there it somehow seemed that she drew to attention, fully aware of that open space behind her, sensing it, feeling that empty doorway waiting there.
And suddenly... there was a different sort of glint in Faith's eyes, as she sat in Frechette's silent and unguarded room.
Down the hallway and well out of view of the office interior, Dr. Frechette was walking calmly down the long corridor, looking totally unconcerned and in no hurry. He glanced once casually back over his shoulder to the receding office door as it remained there, gapingly wide open. But even then, Frechette didn't seem worried, walking forward as if everything was as it should be.
It was some distance to the end of the hallway where it turned again, and he calmly walked around the corner that blocked the view ahead of him. He came to a stop in front of three muscular hospital orderlies who were patiently waiting, not surprised to see them there at all.
Frechette gave each one a level look, totally sure of himself. "Your men are all in place?' he asked.
"Yes, sir. At both ends of the hallway. We have all the exits discreetly covered, and all my men are out of sight. Every way out is watched. We even have someone watching the exterior window in case she tries to break it out."
"Air ducts?" he asked casually.
"You've been watching too many movies. No one could fit through those tiny things."
Frechette nodded, acknowledging that everything was in place. Turning around, he calmly looked around the corner towards his distant office door. It was still open, but there was no apparent movement from inside. There was no sound. There was nothing.
His eyes were cold as he waited, expecting to see Faith running frantically out at any moment, now that she was unattended and could try to escape.
The orderly who had spoken shifted his feet, a little restless. A round wall clock jutted out into the hallway above their heads, it's hair thin second hand twitching around, ticking quietly above them.
"Dr. Frechette, I'm still not sure what this is all about. How long are we supposed to do this?"
Frechette didn't answer, still watching calmly around the corner, his gaze locked on that distant doorway, waiting.
"For as long as it takes. I want to test her..." he finally said.
The orderly said nothing else, stepping back.
Frechette waited, a hardening resolve on his face. He felt like he was in the middle of a game. Some sort of waiting game between him and Faith, both seeing which would blink first. It wouldn't be him. He was prepared to wait her out, if need be.
There was still no motion at all from Frechette's open office door.
Above their heads, the seconds ticked, the minutes passed away, as Frechette and the three orderlies waited. Some leaned against the wall, then later stood away from it in a cluster. But they waited. He couldn't see them, but Frechette knew that others were in position too at the far end of the hallway, all playing the same silent waiting game with Faith, everyone impatient and on edge.
Minute after minute passed, and still nothing. No motion at all from Frechette's door. He exhaled, growing frustrated. Thoughts careened through his head. There were too many doors, too many windows. Could they really cover them all? What if she was already out? Would she find some way they hadn't thought of? What was she doing? Lifting his hand, he looked at the expensive watch on his wrist, checking how much time had passed.
Inside the office... Faith still hadn't moved. The daylight in the window looked so bright and inviting to her. But she still didn't move, absolutely silent, her hands resting penitently together on her lap. She could feel that open door behind her, feel it calling on her shoulder blades. But she didn't move, and the quiet in the office continued to stretch.
And then slowly, as she sat there, no intention of doing anything else...
... Faith started to smile.
Frechette was still watching from his vantage point down the hallway, but nothing happened. And slowly the meaning of that silence was beginning to sink in for him.
Defeated, he let his shoulders relax, lowering his head as the orderlies waited impatiently behind him. But Frechette still didn't seem to notice them at all, not concerned about them as he fired an annoyed glare towards his distant door.
There were soft footsteps approaching down the corridor as Faith sat patiently in her chair. The footsteps were even, growing louder, coming closer. And then Frechette stepped into view again. He paused, outlined in the open doorway, watching her, her back towards him. And he was surprised that she hadn't moved at all. It suddenly struck him that she had known exactly what he had been doing.
His expression weary as he closed the door, Frechette sealed the two of them in again, before walking past her and back to his desk. Faith glared quietly at him, pleased with herself. He sat down, not returning her gaze. Finally he picked up the phone and dialed a number.
"Yes... That will be all. Thank you..." he said.
Hanging up the phone, Frechette leaned forward to put his elbows on the desk, interlocking his fingers and resting them against his lips. After a moment in that position, he lifted his eyes to stare over at Faith, surrounded by the quiet of his office, his eyes probing, searching for answers, trying to understand.
Faith didn't seem bothered by his gaze in the least, her features filled with a confidence and a look of victory.
Frechette finally spoke, his voice dry. "Faith, I know you believe that you have to eventually leave this hospital to finish your mission. Just now... the door was open, nobody was around. Why didn't you try to escape?"
Faith looked at him. Her eyes remained calm, but it seemed more that they were sad about his lack of understanding, his lack of faith in what really was. When she spoke, it was as if she was disappointed in him. Disappointed that he still couldn't see. "I didn't leave, because you really don't understand me at all. You don't understand the meaning of what I'm trying to do. You don't see that... it's not up to you to give me my freedom. But beyond that... the most important reason I didn't try to escape is because it's not destined yet for me to leave..."
Frechette growled at her words, slamming a pen down, angry and frustrated as his gaze dropped to his notes. He looked down at them, growing more curious about them, eyes traveling over the copious, detailed specifics Faith had recited to him about Trevor's ongoing relationship with Claire. Provided, supposedly, by the gods. For an unguarded moment, he started to wonder. For an unguarded moment, he didn't know what to believe.
It was the same park in the middle of Chicago again. But this time instead of the clear blue from earlier in the day, the air held a slight feeling of restlessness under a gray overcast sky. The sidewalk was the same long expanse across the green of the grass, a straight line stretching the length of the park. The entire park was nearly empty, no one in sight today except for one small park bench near the exact center of the long sidewalk. It was occupied by one man who seemed to be engrossed in the daily paper, holding it up in the gray light and for all purposes oblivious to the world, remaining out of view behind it. Beyond him, there was no one.
Walking into the far end of the park, Claire Allen took a breath as she stepped onto the end of that long sidewalk, like she had so many times before, an expression of pleased anticipation on her face. Stepping forward, she acknowledged to herself how this nearly daily walk through the park had become a bit of a minor ritual for her. Claire gazed expectantly towards the far end of the sidewalk, still moving, until she saw why she was there. And why she enjoyed this one particular ritual so much.
In the distance at the other end of the park, Trevor turned a corner and was there, walking calmly towards her on the same sidewalk. And as the two of them converged, they both to all outward appearances acted innocently enough, having done this before. But as always, as they approached each other, neither could help but offer the other a tiny smile.
Gently, Claire's hand dropped to her side, fingers tingling in anticipation of that grazing touch she was about to share with Trevor as they passed, neither planning to stop. That brief touch, secret yet out in the open, day after day, had become such a simple and erotic thing to them. Almost like a seductive dance between the two of them. And as Claire approached Trevor, she thought about how whenever she walked this sidewalk, Trevor was somehow always there, warming her with the same brush pass, day after day. Even now it warmed her to see him there, watching him grow closer in the distance. Knowing that soon his hand was about to touch hers again, even if it was only for the briefest of moments.
Neither of them seemed worried as they shared that gaze. No one else was around anyway. There was only the unseen man reading a newspaper, and he couldn't see anything as he sat behind it. So as the distance closed between them, Claire and Trevor walked confidently towards each other, smiling, feeling that quick rising thrill of anticipation flowing through them.
They were nearly together, a few steps away.
And then, the man holding the newspaper calmly lowered it, absently turning the page and coming fully into view.
Dr. Frechette was sitting there on the park bench exactly where Trevor and Claire would pass before him, leaning back as if completely at ease, nothing out of the ordinary. Frechette shifted the paper lower, pretending to read it, pretending not to be watching them approach.
Instantly, a panic and coldness passed through both Trevor and Claire the moment the spotted him there, their faces going stiff and blank as they kept walking towards each other. They couldn't stop now. It was like an accident waiting to happen, both stepping helplessly forward, neither making any suspicious moves. Claire pulled her hand up from her side, the panic she felt almost visible in her eyes.
Overhead, dropping from the gray overcast sky, distant thunder rumbled.
Trying to be casual, Trevor and Claire averted their gazes from each other in those final steps, a nervous fear settling sharply across Claire's shoulders as in that instant they both reached Frechette at the same time.
Still walking, Trevor and Claire looked up to each other as if just spotting the other, right before they passed, their bodies stiff and unconvincing as their voices sounded. Overhead there were more rumbles of thunder.
"Hello, Dr. Allen." Trevor said.
"Hello, Mr. Hale." Claire said.
As they awkwardly passed each other in front of him, Frechette shifted his cold eyes up to them for the briefest of moments. Neither of them stopped, going on their way as if they didn't see him there. Their fingers didn't touch. Frechette looked back down at his paper as if nothing were wrong.
And then it began to rain.
Water drops started pouring down onto all of them out of the grey overcast sky, quickly pelting Frechette as he sat on the park bench, and doing the same to Trevor and Claire as they walked away from each other on the sidewalk. The rainfall quickly blanketed over them, and the sidewalk became slick, gleaming with moisture as rain fell and dripped off everything.
And even though Trevor and Claire were getting soaked in the deluge, neither changed their pace, retreating nervously, their backs to each other. They were simply trying to escape Frechette's gaze without doing anything suspicious.
Frechette himself seemed oblivious to the heavy downpour, sitting on the park bench as if nothing was wrong. But now his brow was hard in thought, and there was a frown on his wet face, water speckling his glasses. Looking up, Trevor and Claire had finally left the park. He watched where they had separately disappeared, his mind tumbling with all sorts of thoughts. All around, the rain continued to pelt him, filling the air with an ambient, wet hiss. Drops were rolling down his face, but he didn't seem to notice.
Slowly Frechette reached into his pocket, pulling out a slip of paper. It had two quick notes he had written down, taken from the longer notes Faith had given him today.
Looking down at the tiny slip of paper as it twitched in the pounding rain, Frechette read what he had written there. Faith had predicted everything that should have happened here. Trevor and Claire. A brush of hands in the park, even the time and place it would happen today. And as Frechette looked down at it, he saw that he had scribbled down one last bit about Faith's prediction in the park, putting it in parenthesis beside it. A single word.
Frechette's mind tumbled over what he had just witnessed, not believing what he had really seen. It had all happened exactly as Faith had predicted. She had gotten every detail absolutely right. Except for the brush of Trevor and Claire's fingers, which he was certain would have happened if he hadn't been there. He blinked in disbelief, having come here to disprove Faith, and instead proving his own assumptions wrong.
Rainwater poured down his cheek. It had to all be a coincidence. A lucky guess. It couldn't be that Faith was.... Frechette looked down at the second item he had written from Faith's account. It was the other item he had decided to check on, just a simple snippet of words. The name of a nurse, at the hospital where Trevor had been treated when he had been shot. The name of a nurse who apparently had seen something. The name of a nurse he should talk to.
The end of the grimy alley was almost a complete sheet of falling water, pouring off the roof, backlit by the gray, raining sky beyond it as the downpour continued on, thick as ever, the sound of thunder rolling overhead. The fallen rain was running in rivulets down the center of the alley and dropping off into a gutter. Everything was soaked and wet, moist and miserable.
Someone suddenly moved into sight, hiding in the concrete recess of a loading dock in the run down alley. He was standing there, waiting with wet brick all around him. It was Trevor, poking his head out from the recess, looking towards the end of the alley and waiting nervously as he paced, soaked to the bone from the downpour he had walked through.
The outline of a female figure appeared, before darting quickly through the cascading sheet of water at the end of the alley, desperate as she ran deeper in. Claire quickly spotted Trevor hiding there, waiting for her, and she raced up the wet steps to him as the rain continued to pour down between both their frightened faces.
Claire finally collapsed into Trevor's arms, both of them stepping back into the deeper recesses of the loading dock and out of view of the alley. She held him tightly, just as soaked as he was, both trying to calm their breathing.
Claire closed her eyes, leaning gratefully against him as the fear of Frechette sitting there waiting for them in the park started to subside. Leaning against Trevor, he held her tightly, both feeling the warmth of the other through their wet clothes, the rainy air cold on their skin.
Gently, Trevor rested his face against hers, stroking her wet hair, closing his eyes too, while they both tried to calm down.
"That was close, Claire..." he whispered.
Looking over his shoulder, there was a tinge of fear in her sad eyes. "It's like Frechette's everywhere now, closing in around us... Trevor, he couldn't have been in the park by accident."
"I know..." he said softly, holding her.
"Frechette must suspect something. He must know something. He has to, Trevor."
"We'll just have to be more careful, Claire. That's all..."
She nodded, quietly accepting that. And then she held him tighter, losing herself just in the feel of them pressed together, alone finally in each other's arms after what had turned into a long day. When she spoke again, it was quietly, feeling such contentment there with him, but also a little frustration.
"Trevor, I hate how we have to hide like this..."
"Me too..." His face against her hair, he closed his eyes, inhaling the smell of her, of her body, of her perfume. "You smell good..."
Claire smiled, holding him. "Well, Trevor... Secluded spot, nobody watching us, the two of us alone... Usually you're all over me by now."
Softly he sighed, pulling her close, looking over her shoulder. "Not everything is about sex, Claire... I just... I just want to hold you."
"While we can..." Claire sighed, checking her watch. She didn't have much time, before there was a meeting she wanted to go to. "Trevor.. Will it always be this way? Sneaking off, stealing moments... hiding in shadows?"
The alley was quiet except for the noise of the rain as they held each other. Trevor pulled her in tight, thinking about Claire's question, not letting her go. But as he thought about it, a concerned look came into his face, and he realized that he didn't have a good answer for her.
The rain clouds pulled back, rolling away to reveal a brightening blue sky over the city of Chicago, as the uncovered sun began to fall towards the horizon, painting everything in the light of a lazy, late afternoon.
In the apartment he shared with Jaclyn, Champ pulled up the window blinds, smiling into the afternoon sun, the glass speckled with dots of rainwater. He slid the window open, inhaling the moist, clean air, filling his lungs, making him feel better.
Champ loved the smell after the rain. Somehow it always seemed to refresh him, invigorate him. As he stepped back from the window, he looked around at the small apartment he shared with Jaclyn. And all his fears began to fade. This wasn't a bad life. What had he been so afraid of? Why had he been so negative before about the bridal magazine. Would that really be that bad?
His mind worked over that. The sunlight in the open window behind him, as clean breeze blew across his shoulders before he walked away. A small television was on in the living room, as an attractive anchorwoman was delivering the news. Champ listened absently as the anchorwoman spoke.
"And tonight is the big night for all you lovelorn moon gazers out there. Yes, it's finally here. Tonight is lunar perigee, the point where the moon comes the closest to the earth. Selenologists say that tonight's particular lunar perigee will be the closest the moon has come in several decades. Something to see. So for all you romantic types out there, catch it while you can... More after this..."
Champ watched, smiling to himself as the news program faded. He was thinking of Jaclyn as he stood in their apartment, thinking of them having a life together, thinking good thoughts. It was then when he heard the simple and romantic music coming from the television, a lush orchestration when he looked over at the commercial that was playing.
It had no dialogue, just images. Images of happy faces, of a woman turning, draped in a beautiful wedding dress, her face beaming. And as the music crescendoed, it suddenly focused on images of wedding rings. It was a diamond ring commercial without words, and Champ watched it intently.
Suddenly there was a knock at his front door. Shaking the pleasant thoughts away, Champ turned off the television and walked over to answer it, swinging the door open.
Trevor was standing there, absolutely soaked to the bone, a deeply introspective look on his face.
"Trevor..." Champ said, surprised at his condition. "You're soaked! Come inside. What, have you been doing laps in the rain?"
Trevor splashed into the apartment, his eyes intent. Water scattered off him in droplets, his steps sounding wet. Champ quickly closed the door, but as Trevor turned to face him. He didn't seem concerned about his clothes at all, fixing Champ with a stare.
"Trevor, maybe we should get you dried up and--"
"Don't worry about that. I came to talk about you. What's up with you and Jaclyn? Something's wrong, I know it."
Champ paused, amazed that Trevor was so concerned about him and Jaclyn considering his current waterlogged condition. But he recognized that fire in his eyes. Trevor wouldn't be put off this. Champ nodded, looking at him.
"OK, Trevor. I'll tell you everything. Let's go grab a seat... And a towel."
The sidewalks were still shimmering with residual rain under the clearing afternoon sky. Claire rushed to the appointment she was already late for. Her clothes were still as soaked as Trevor's, but they were starting to dry, her hair a chaotic mess. Having calmed down, she looked up at the building before her for a moment, before going inside.
It was a small intimate jazz club, but no one was there yet, so early in the afternoon. But despite the empty tables, it still looked like it would be a great place to spend an evening with an audience, casual and classy. Claire looked around, hearing the sounds of musicians rehearsing. Not knowing the layout of the place, she moved over to the bartender setting up for tonight.
"Bill Allen?" she asked him.
He nodded towards the back, in the direction of the sounds of rehearsing. Claire thanked him and started to walk away, her expression calmly trying to ignore the fact that her clothes were still heavy with water, and her dark hair was plastered against her head. The bartender gave her a strange look as she left, wondering why she was so soaked. But Claire didn't notice, going deeper into the jazz club.
Slowly the stage slid into sight, coming into view beyond tables blocking the way. Bill Allen was on stage with some other musicians. It was an extremely casual scene, all of them just gathered in the empty jazz bar to rehearse and improvise, just having a good time. They were playing softly, making it all up on the spot, with Claire's father bent over his guitar, his eyes closed and lost in the music.
Claire paused, watching her father play. Watching her father do what he loved, without reservation. And slowly a smile spread across her face. So she simply listened, enjoying the music. She pulled her purse in, and it splashed against her as the music continued. Giving her purse a strange look, Claire tilted it slowly, water pouring out of it in a stream to splash on the floor.
The group of musicians was still playing on stage, caught up in their music. Finally they all cadenced, chuckling at each other as the last notes faded. Then a single pair of hands applauded from the back of the room, and they all turned their heads.
Bill Allen smiled. "Honey.. There you are. I didn't know if you were still coming..."
He put down his guitar, stepping off the stage and moving through the empty tables over to her. Claire smiled as he approached, happy to see him. "Hi dad..."
He blinked at her wet state, but Claire didn't seem to notice as she gave him a deep hug instead, water slowly seeping into her father's clothes.
He smiled, wondering what was going on with her. "Claire honey... Let's sit down."
She smiled back. "Ok."
Bill Allen looked over at his daughter when they were finally seated at one of the small tables in the empty jazz club. In the background behind them, the other musicians had started playing again, creating a longing, unpredictable improv, filling the club with quiet, delicate sounds. Bill Allen looked at his daughter for a long time, the music behind them. She still hadn't said anything, distracted by something, her hair still glistening with rainwater.
He blinked, wondering, speaking in his warm, gravelly voice. "Honey.. What's wrong?"
There was the barest smile on Claire's lips. "Why do you think something's wrong?"
Chuckling, he leaned back, still a little concerned. "Well.... You tell me suddenly that you want to meet me today. That there was something you wanted to talk to me about. Then you show up late, totally soaked, totally distracted by something..."
Claire nodded, but there was a light in her eyes as she lowered her gaze, thinking quietly.
Her father tilted his head. "I recognize that look.."
She raised her gaze to him. "What look?"
"That one. I've seen it before. Watching you grow up. Saw it later on the woman you would become. I've seen that look before..." He smiled. "This is about a man in your life, isn't it?"
She pretended to be offended, but she smiled even more. "Dad..."
"What's wrong, honey. Are you miserable?"
"Do I look miserable?"
"No..." His voice trailed off as he gave her a keen look, watching her sitting there with her clothes soaked. "No you look... Happy. You're worried about something, I can see, but deep down... My daughter looks happy."
She smiled even wider, realizing he saw what she already felt.
Claire sighed, feeling better. "Dad, I wanted to ask you about you and mom. You still love mom, don't you?"
"Of course I do. I always will. You know that."
"But before things went the way they did between you two..." Claire paused, searching her father's eyes. "... how did you know? How did you know it was right?"
He smiled as his eyes glittered with memories. "You just feel it, honey. When it's right, you don't ask. Because deep down you already know. Like you." He gave her a knowing look, his voice full of kindness. "Like you know right now. I don't know who he is, but I can see. You already know, Claire... You don't need too ask me. But you always can."
Claire smiled brightly, happy, loving her father so much in that moment. She reached out and took his hand in hers on the table, holding it tightly, glad he was there.
Bill Allen was warmed by her gesture, smiling. "Do you think I'll ever get to meet him?"
Claire thought about it, her eyes sparkling. "Maybe... Someday."
Pleased, he sighed, looking at her. "I'm glad you made it over this afternoon honey. I needed to tell you I'll be performing pretty late tonight. Some really big time players are coming in to play with us, and we'll probably be at it here till the wee hours. It's going to be great. And after..." he coughed slightly. "Well... I've been invited to a friend's place overnight. So I might not make it home, so you'll have the house to yourself. If that's ok."
Claire smiled, giving him a look. "What's her name?"
Laughing, Claire looked at him. Finally she leaned across the tiny table, giving him a warm hug.
"Sure thing, honey."
They stayed that way for a few tender moments, a father and a daughter hugging in an empty jazz club.
"I gotta go," he said, pulling out of her arms as he stood up. "The guys are waiting..."
"My dad the demon fingers..." She teased as she smiled up at him. "I'll see you tomorrow..."
"Absolutely. Bye, Claire."
With that he walked over to join the other musicians playing on the stage.
Claire sighed, looking at him as he picked up his guitar, before standing from her seat at the small table herself. She grabbed her wet purse, her body feeling drier now, lighter. Like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. And she couldn't stop smiling, thinking about tonight with Trevor. She turned and walked, heading for home, and for the first time, totally certain.
"Ok, talk to me Champoo..."
Still soaked, Trevor's gaze was intense as he looked over the kitchen table at Champ where they were seated across from each other. Jaclyn's small apartment was around them, but no one else was there but the two of them as the bright afternoon light glowed in the open window, a cleansing breeze sweeping through behind them.
Trevor hardly noticed, fixated on the changing expressions on Champ's face, fixated on the problems he saw churning there. Problems he had been ignoring lately as the god of love, and shouldn't have been. Problems that had obviously gone on for far too long. "So what's up, Mr. Terrace. Why have you been Mount Negativity lately about romance? Past few days you've been a wetter blanket than I am right now. What's going on?'
Champ blinked defensively. "I.... I haven't been negative..."
"Yes you have." Trevor interrupted, in no mood for games. "Remember? A few days ago at the bar? You were actually trying to talk me out of being with Claire. That's not like you. You're usually 'just shut up and do it already' when it comes to Claire and me. So that tells me it's not about Claire and me. So what is it? Is something wrong between you and Jaclyn?"
Champ paused, searching for words. "No, it's... It's nothing like that. It's about something else. Something I found..."
Trevor shook his head. "Look, every woman sometimes needs a little pick me up when their guy's not around. Just because she has, or uses, one of those doesn't mean--"
"No, not that Trevor." Champ sighed, giving Trevor a long nervous look. "A bridal magazine..."
Trevor blinked slowly, leaning back. "Oh..."
"Yeah..." Champ nodded. "Oh..."
Concerned, Trevor searched Champ's face, trying to judge his reaction. "And is that necessarily... a bad thing?"
"I don't know, Trevor. I love Jaclyn. But that's a big step. I didn't even know we were at that point yet."
Trevor smiled. "Well do you know now?"
"I don't--... Well, maybe." Champ let out a whispery laugh, pleased and nervous all at once as he thought about it. "I mean, it wouldn't be so bad, would it?"
Trevor chuckled. "Hey, if Claire wasn't around, I'd snatch up Jaclyn in a second," he teased.
Champ smiled, thinking about it.
Trevor leaned forward, prompting his friend on. "Champ... don't ruin what you have with Jaclyn by keeping this thing from her. You've got to be honest with her. You've got to tell her you found the magazine. You've got to talk to her about it. Don't keep it twisting inside. The only way this can work itself out, is if you work it out between you, out in the open. By being honest with each other. And by being honest with what's inside you. Inside your heart..."
Champ thought about that, about seriously talking marriage with Jaclyn. And out of nowhere his chest warmed as he pushed those fears down, somewhere down deep, and he imagined what it would be like discussing it with her. Maybe even really doing it. Planning it. And suddenly there was an electricity in him. He saw how foolish he had been not to just tell the woman he loved. Trevor was right. He would tell her. Tonight.
Sitting across from Trevor, Champ actually laughed, releasing his nervousness. Trevor pulled back, smiling, amazed at the change in Champ's eyes. The afternoon breeze still blew cool over them from the open window, clean and cool from the earlier rain as the day continued to deepen towards sunset.
Champ looked at Trevor gratefully. "Thank's Trevor... You're right. It's simple, but you're right. I'll tell her, talk to her about it tonight. I'm glad you came by. You always manage to clear things up..."
Trevor smiled, nodding. "Well that's me. Trevor Hale. Neighborhood Love Jedi..." He started waving an imaginary light saber around, making wzzzz noises.
Champ nodded,standing up as Trevor did the same across from him. His clothes starting to dry now, Trevor looked around the apartment, not as worried about Champ and Jaclyn as he had been. "Look, I gotta go. Tell Jaclyn hi for me. I just stopped by because I felt you probably needed a nudge with whatever was wrong. Are you working at Taggerty's tonight?"
"No. Why?" Champ asked.
"Oh nothing..." Trevor smiled. "I just... wanted you to tell Linda I wouldn't be in for my shift tonight."
Blinking, Champ picked up on an eagerness in Trevor's eyes. "Why not?"
"Oh... Something's come up. Tonight I have other plans..."
Champ wondered what that enigmatic look was about. He walked Trevor over to the front door, but not asking any further. "Thanks for coming by Trevor..."
Trevor whirled towards him quickly, a stern look on his face again, pointing a finger. "You WILL talk to Jaclyn about this, right?"
Champ smiled. "I will Trevor. I'll talk to her. I promise..."
""Ok..." Trevor stepped out the door and into the hallway. "And look, if you feel yourself slipping, chickening out, can't do it, come by my apartment. Doesn't matter when, ok? You two have to face this. Come see me. I'll help you both work this out. I'll get you two through this..."
"Ok, Trevor. Bye."
Trevor wrung some water out from the hem of his shirt, his face suddenly curious. "Do you think I might be using a bit too much moisturizer?"
Champ rolled his eyes. "Bye, Trevor."
Champ closed the door, smiling to himself. He looked around the apartment, feeling content there. And for the first time, he thought this was going to work out. He knew how he felt about Jaclyn. His fears were a thing of the past.
Walking forward he thought of that image in the magazine. The wedding dress Jaclyn had circled where she had written 'This is the one!'. And he pictured Jaclyn in that dress. Pictured himself taking her hand, taking her into the rest of their lives together as his wife. Kissing her, being with her, and no one else. And the thought warmed him, filling him with joy, those remaining, lingering doubts pushed aside.
"Champoo..." a distant voice yelled.
He blinked, wondering where that was coming from. It took him a few moments of looking around the apartment before he heard that call again, coming out of the distance from the open apartment window.
He walked over to the window and looked down, smiling. Trevor was on the drying sidewalk below, waving his arms, calling up to him, finally seeing Champ in the window.
"Talk to her!" He yelled up, reminding him urgently.
Champ nodded, yelling back down. "I will!""
With that Trevor turned around, starting to walk away, leaving wet shoe prints on the sidewalk.
The sunlight glowed warm in Champ's face, and he breathed in the air. He would talk to Jaclyn. It was getting later. The sun was already sinking towards late afternoon, and she would probably be home soon. But then he paused. He looked back at the tv sitting turned off in the living room behind him. Then he looked at the time, doing calculations in his head.
Champ smiled. "Wait... I got a better idea..."
Trevor was introspective as he walked down the busy Chicago streets towards his apartment, thinking about Champ and Jaclyn, about the possible happy future they might have together now. But he was also thinking about him and Claire, about how much he loved her.
He knew he couldn't think in quite those terms with Claire. It was unthinkable, right? Or was it? As he walked the sidewalk, Trevor was suddenly filled with a need to show Claire how much she really meant to him, and would always mean. He thought of how far they had come, how much they had been through together. He wanted her to know that his feelings wouldn't change, that his future was with her, and he would never abandon it again. He had to show her in some way how serious he was about her.
Suddenly Trevor smiled, stopping there on the sidewalk as traffic and people flowed past all around him. He looked up into the sun, happy. Feeling it warm him.
"Wait..." he said softly to himself. "I got a better idea..."
He almost laughed, knowing what to do now. Wanting to do it for her, despite the risks, despite the chances he was taking. He knew this was right. Changing direction away from home, Trevor headed downtown instead, hoping he'd make it before it was closed.
The sun was beginning to set, filling Jaclyn's apartment with a warm, delicate light. Then there was the sound of keys, before the front door swung open. Jaclyn stepped in, a little tired as she closed the door, putting her stuff down. She looked expectantly around the apartment, but came away a little disappointed that Champ wasn't there.
Tired, she moved through her living room. The sun was a beautiful orange red orb in an amazing canvas of color, bathing her in it's lush glow. Jaclyn sighed, rubbing her neck, happy to be home, but wanting Champ there. Thinking of him, she suddenly felt warm, introspective in the sunset light. She walked towards the kitchen table, and when she accidentally looked down, she smiled.
There was a scribbled note to her from Champ. Still bathed in vibrant sunlight, Jaclyn lifted the note, bringing it closer to her face, smiling as she read it.
Stepped out, Jackie. Trevor says hello. Thank the gods for him. He made me confront something. Something we need to discuss. I'll be back in a few hours. I can't wait to see you. Miss you. Love, Champ.
Jaclyn exhaled contently, holding the note against her chest, grateful even for that small contact. Bathed in the sun's light, she looked around, missing him. Warmed by him. She wondered what he meant, what he wanted to talk about, but she didn't have a clue. She pushed it out of her mind. Champ not being there gave her the opportunity to do something she needed to do.
Without another word she headed towards the bedroom, towards the bridal magazine she had hidden in her dresser drawer where she hoped Champ wouldn't find it.
Trevor's mind was spinning. But he knew he wanted to do this.
He was on a downtown sidewalk, looking up at the building stretching above him in the quickly deepening sunset, the distant sky far behind a vibrant shade of endless purple, glowing above the dark shadows of buildings all around.
Trevor paused there on the dim sidewalk, taking a breath. But finally he gathered his courage and stepped forward, opening the door of the building before him and going inside.
The dresser drawer in Jaclyn's apartment slid open. Her fingers reached down, shifting clothes, pulling them aside. Her pale, delicate hands finally found it, the magazine she had hidden. The bridal magazine she didn't want Champ to know about.
Her smile widened, picking the thick magazine up gently in her grasp. She sat back on the bed, looking at it with excitement in her eyes, starting to flip through the pages ever so fondly.
Champ's mind was spinning. But he knew he wanted to do this.
He was on a downtown sidewalk, the sky almost completely dark above him as the sun disappeared further below the horizon. He paced nervously on the dark sidewalk, looking up at the building before him, trying to calm down. Deep down, he convinced himself. He knew this was right. He knew it.
Taking a deep breath to calm himself, Champ smiled, feeling certain. Finally he gathered his courage and stepped forward, opening the door of the building before him and going inside.
Jaclyn's fingers trailed over the bridal magazine, happy Champ hadn't found it. She gazed down on the page she had it open to. It was a picture of a woman. A woman in a beautiful wedding dress. The picture which she had circled and written 'This is the one!' beside. She smiled at the image, seeing how perfect it looked, how perfect it was, and would be for her.
Finally decided at last, she reached over and picked up the phone, still smiling, contently dialing a number.
After a few seconds, her expression lit up. Someone answered on the other end. Jaclyn's eyes sparkled with joy.
"Melanie, hi! I'm glad I caught you. Yeah, things are going great. Hope they're great over there. I think I finally did it... I finally found the perfect wedding dress... Yeah, in the magazine you sent me to look at. It's beautiful, Melanie. Totally perfect for you. You've got to see it! So... Maybe we could have lunch tomorrow. I could show which one to you, and we could talk, maybe go see it in person before you have to decide?"
Trevor walked back out into the street again, the twilight sky just starting to deepen as all around, streetlights started blinking to life in the distance. He paused on the sidewalk, looking up, lookin up at those first dim stars, a bright smile on his face as he stared into infinity. He was thinking of Claire, of her beautiful face, thinking of their future together. He hoped those stars up there approved. This was right. He knew it was right.
He felt like he was walking on air, ignoring the heaviness and the soreness of the day, elated instead as he walked away down the sidewalk. He had to show it to Claire. He had to. He couldn't believe he had gone through with it. But she had to see it.
As he walked, happy beyond what he could have ever believed, he passed under a row of streetlamps angling over the sidewalk, heading home, thinking about tonight. And coincidentally or not, as he walked under each lamp, it suddenly lit up, coming to life in a row, one after another as he passed, following him. And as he moved with patient, joyous steps, the lamps brightened... lighting Trevor's way.
Champ walked back onto the street again, all the streetlamps already glowing in the darkness all around him. He paused nervously on the sidewalk, lifting his face, looking up at the brightening stars. His nervousness was overwhelmed for a moment by a small smile, thinking of Jaclyn. Of her beautiful face waiting at home, of their future together. This was right. He hoped it was right.
And suddenly, it seemed again that his doubts were gone and he was totally certain, as he started down the sidewalk. He couldn't believe he had done it. He couldn't believe what he had just done. But he had to show Jaclyn. He had to. She had to see it.
And for a brief moment, the thought of that made him so happy. He paused, feeling it there against him, knowing what it was. He couldn't help it, pulling it out, taking a deep breath as he held what he had gotten from the store.
It was a small hinged box, covered in soft material as his fingers gently opened the lid.
And inside... was an engagement ring.
Laughing nervously, Champ exhaled, watching it sparkle in the streetlights, feeling some pull, as if some pull from above had caused this. Or maybe it was the moon, or the tides or something. But he didn't care. His fingers trailed over the delicate ring, imagining it on Jaclyn's finger.
Champ smiled, shutting the box. And with that, he walked down the sidewalk towards home, towards Jaclyn. Above him, the streetlights were already lit, sparkling under a brand new night sky.