A story about the tv show, Cupid
Part Five of Five
by Steve 0yervidez

            A happy cheer went up from the crowd of people clustered near the bar as Trevor finally stepped in through the front door and into Taggerty's again, after what had felt like far too long an absence. He paused at the doorstep, looking around the large, nearly empty room. Unoccupied tables stretched across the floor. The high ceiling was just as he remembered it. Exhaling contently, Trevor was glad to be there. Champ was waiting by the bar with the others, clapping just as loudly, laughing to himself as he watched Trevor. It was mid-afternoon as Trevor hobbled over to the crowd, still using a small metal cane for the next few days to partially support himself. Everyone at the bar was all smiles as they surrounded Trevor closing around when he joined them. Talking happily, they were obviously pleased to see him on his feet again. Trevor warmly accepted the barrage of hugs, kisses, and slaps on the back. But he could feel the caution in their hands when they touched him, worried they might agrivate one of his still healing injuries. Trevor could see the worry hidden in their eyes too, and he wondered. Did they even see him as a god anymore? Had they ever?
            It had been three weeks since he had been released from the hospital, and the doctors had told him to take it easy for awhile. It had taken more than awhile. Slowly he was returning to all of his old activities, but he had been reluctant to do much of anything lately, considering all that had happened. Not all the damage from his experience was physical, after all. The scars from where Faith had shot him would still become sore sometimes, especially when he preferred not to be reminded of the incident. Still, he was on his feet again, and he hadn't seen the inside of Taggerty's in almost a month. He could tell everyone had missed him there, and that they were all glad to have him back. Champ walked over to Trevor with a big smile on his face.
            "Glad to see you back in here, Trevor." Champ's eyes flashed brightly as he looked around. "So. Did you miss this place?"
            "Yeah." Trevor grinned as he looked around with fondness. "Yeah, I think I did. I never would have imagined that I would ever miss anything down here, but... I did." A sadness passed momentarily through him, knowing he was talking about more than the bar.
            Everyone gathered closely around, and Trevor looked gratefully across the crowd surrounding him. Behind them, Taggerty's was for the most part empty. Bright sunlight was casting soft, ambient light in through the front windows. It was mid-afternoon, not the busiest part of the day. Most of the people around him were bar employees, doing the prep work for the bar's nightly rush. But there were a few regular customers there as well to welcome him back, and they all seemed happy to see him.
            Trevor hadn't planned on really doing much work today, mainly just wanting to check in. He gazed past everyone standing near him, scanning across the empty tables behind, searching hopefully across the bar. But she wasn't there. He didn't see her. His expression fell a little, disappointed. Until... he finally did notice her, alone at a table by the front windows, a discreet distance from everyone else.
            Claire looked quickly away when she realized Trevor had seen her. She went back to the newspaper in her hands, but somehow Trevor could tell she was only pretending to read, bathed in the indirect light from the windows.
            Trevor looked at her for several moments, growing a little sad. He wanted so much to go over to her, wanted so much to talk to her. But he was still surrounded by the crowd of his friends and well wishers at the bar, all who were eagerly bombarding him with comments and questions. Trevor smiled, trying to share in their enthusiasm as he looked reluctantly away from Claire and answered them.
            "Hey. Hospitals are no place for the god of love to end up," Trevor answered. "Believe me. Catheters and bed pans don't make for the most romantic milieu. Not many beads for the taking under circumstances like that. Still, there were a few upsides. Mechanically adjustable beds do have their advantages when used properly..."
            One of the waitresses smiled at him. "I'll bet the nurses were all over you, Trevor."
            "Yeah. Not to brag about myself, but I could brag about myself that my catheter took three times as long to put in, if you get my meaning..."
            Champ winced. "Trevor, that's more than we really needed to know. On so many levels..."
            Trevor smiled, everyone still talking happily around him. He nodded at them absently, but he wasn't really listening. There was only one person in that room that held his thoughts. He looked back over to Claire's table. The newspaper she had been reading was abandoned on top of it, her chair empty.
            Hurriedly, Trevor swept his gaze around the room, searching for her. He finally spotted Claire facing away from him, leaving through the front door as it shut behind her with the ring of a bell.
            Instantly, Trevor began pushing his way through the crowd to follow her, moving a little gingerly from his sore ankle. It was still healing slowly after his fall down the stairs after Faith had shot him. Rushing towards the front door, Trevor followed after her, chasing Claire as best as he could.

            Outside the bar, Claire paused, coming to a stop as she closed her eyes. She took a deep breath to calm herself in the cool air, her mind racing with images of Trevor, surrounded by his friends in the bar... and her not being a part of any of it. But she knew... that was the way it had to be. Without turning, she resolved herself and started walking away, purposefully not looking back.
            A voice suddenly called out behind her in the bright, crisp autumn air as she walked away.
            "Claire! Claire, wait! We really need to talk about this!"
            Claire closed her eyes when she heard Trevor's voice, but she didn't slow down as he came out onto the sidewalk behind her.             When Trevor caught up to her side, Claire didn't turn to face him, still walking forward. But she didn't speed up either. She looked straight ahead, continuing on. "There's nothing to talk about, Trevor."
            Trevor struggled a little to keep up, still feeling a little sore. "Claire, you've been avoiding me."
            "It's for the best, Trevor. I'm not your therapist anymore."
            "But why haven't I had a chance to see you even if you're not? Claire, I haven't seen you for three weeks! You don't return my calls, you don't answer your door. Jaclyn keeps saying you're busy at the office every time I call, and then makes sure that she tells me nothing at all about you. And now, there's not even a working number there. It's been disconnected. I mean, after you blind sided me with all that 'I can't treat you anymore' stuff... Why can't we talk about it? I think I deserve an explanation."
            Claire kept her eyes straight ahead, trying to keep the sadness out of her voice. She knew she had to do this. "I just... I can't be your therapist anymore, Trevor. It wouldn't be right, considering... everything. There's no great secret. That's all there is to it."
            "Claire, you just can't drop a bombshell like that on me and walk away! Not without talking to me. I mean, what did I do wrong? If you just would just tell me what it is, then maybe I could-"
            "Trevor..." Claire finally stopped, turning to face him for the first time. "It's over. OK? This..." She motioned between them. "Us... It's done with. That's all. Sometimes people just move on..."
            "Move on?" He looked into Claire's eyes, beautiful and brown in the sunlight. "Yeah. Right. Yeah, you've really moved on, Claire. Considering how you're dating my current therapist. Good old Doctor Dementia-"
            Claire rolled her eyes, starting to walk again. "Richard's last name is Dehnt, not dementia-"
            "Same difference." Trevor was still having trouble keeping up with her determined strides, but managing to stay at her side. "I can't believe they assigned me to that... that QUACK!"
            "What, Trevor. You would have preferred Dr. Frechette?"
            "Well, sure Dr. Dehnt's better than Captain Drugstore. With that pharmaceutical worshiping, chill pill regimen of his. But come on! Dr. Dehnt? He's about as forgiving as a flesh eating virus at a nudist camp. After his fiasco in anticipating all that Mary/Faith stuff that happened, this is the therapist that the hospital board thinks is going to help me? And to top it all off, as if that wasn't bad enough, you're dating him! He's you're main lovey dovey squeeze now!"
            Claire's lips tightened, but she didn't stop walking, looking straight ahead. Trevor finally reached out and grabbed her shoulder, stopping her in her tracks and forcing her to face him.
            "Why are you with him, Claire?"
            She exhaled angrily, before shaking her head and turning away, starting to walk even faster than before. "I'm not having this conversation, Trevor."
            He did his best to keep up with her, the metal cane still gripped in his hand. "Just answer the question. Why are you with him? What... are you keeping tabs on me? A little bit of pillow talk and suddenly you're able to add a whole new chapter to the book you're writing about me? I know it's not because you love him-"
            Claire whirled on him angrily. "Who the hell have you ever been to tell me anything about who I'm allowed to love?"
            "My point is, that's SO really not moving on on your part, isn't it? And speaking of moving on, why were you sitting at Taggerty's just now?"
            Claire couldn't look at him, starting to walk again down the sidewalk. Traffic whooshed by on the street beside them. "Trevor..."
            "Why were you sitting at Taggerty's just now? You must have known I was coming in today. So why were you there?"
            Claire sighed, still striding forcefully forward, sunlight falling warmly on both of them as the store fronts slid past on their right. Finally she decided to tell him the truth... part of it, anyway, trying to pick her words carefully, but still walking. "I wanted to see if you were okay, Trevor. I wanted to see how you were doing. But that's all. I never intended to talk to you."
            Claire suddenly stopped on the sidewalk, turning to face him. The sun felt bright and warm in her face, as a cool breeze wafted softly through her hair. She looked at Trevor affectionately, realizing that maybe she had finally come to accept her decision on some level. Her decision not to tell him that she was in-... Her decision to let him go. "I never meant for it to go anywhere beyond just 'seeing' you there, Trevor. So this is good bye..."
            Trevor looked at her dejectedly, blinking. He couldn't believe it. She wasn't sad. She wasn't angry. Her face almost seemed... content. Her expression was serene and accepting, and she gave him a small smile that instantly cut through him.
            "So... good bye, Trevor. Have a nice... imaginary life. I'm glad I got a chance to know you..."
            She nodded, her face soft as she gazed at him fondly, wanting to keep that in her memories. They looked into each other's eyes for a long, silent moment, so close to each other, but still so immeasurably far away. Slowly, Claire turned, and began to leave, walking away.
            Trevor blinked, realizing she really meant it. And really meant it forever. He started after her again, a little desperate.
            "Claire, wait. Claire..."
            She didn't stop. And no matter how hard Trevor tried, this time he couldn't catch up as she walked faster than before. He helplessly watched her pull further away from him as he struggled forward. There was no sadness in her steps. No reluctance in her shoulders. And she never looked back.
            And with that, she was gone, growing smaller as she walked away down the sidewalk.
            Trevor finally admitted to himself that he wasn't going to catch her, and he stopped, growing angry. He threw his useless cane across the sidewalk, frustrated that he couldn't move any faster. It clattered across the cement as he stood there, fuming. He muttered angrily to himself.
            "I"m tired of always being left behind!"

            The inside of Dr. Dehnt's office was quiet as Trevor settled uncomfortably down into the single seat in front of Richard's desk. His shoulders were stiff as he looked around, body tense in the chair. He was still getting used to the different furnishings of this office. Trevor hated it here. He never felt comfortable in this place. Never felt at ease, no matter how many times he came here. He had grown to dread these sessions. Dread them with a passion. Sisyphus must have had it easy compared to this. The sessions were never any fun. Trevor had never realized until he had come here how at ease he had felt in Claire's office. Like he was welcomed there... well, usually. But here he felt... like spilled scrambled eggs that Dr. Dehnt looked down on with distain, and was determined to clean up. Where was the public service announcement of Rachel Leigh Cook smashing up a kitchen with a frying pan when you needed her? At least she was cute.
            Richard was seated behind his desk, looking at him. Trevor seemed subdued, he thought. He always seemed subdued during their sessions together. Not at all like Claire had described Trevor to him.
            Pushing the thought aside, Richard inhaled. He had dealt with mythological delusions before with Mary. And despite what had happened to her, the hospital still felt he was the closest remaining thing they had to an expert on Trevor's particular branch of psychosis, outside of Claire of course, when she had worked for the hospital. Opening Trevor's file, he placed a blank notepad beside it, pen in hand as he jumped right in from where they had left off during the last session.
            "So Trevor, let's start again. Tell me about your Cupid delusion."
            Trevor shook his head, tilting it in annoyance as his eyes simmered at Richard. "Do you always have to call it that?"
            Richard didn't seem to falter, still watching Trevor calmly. "Yes. Yes I do. Because that's what it is. So your Cupid delusion. Tell me how the delusion benefits you. How do you gain from it?"
            Trevor's laugh sounded hollow. "What makes you think I gain from it? I... I don't gain from it. It's just who I am. It's what I am. I can't change that. It's why I'm here..."
            Richard nodded, thinking. "Actually... Mary said the exact same thing to me once..."
            Trevor looked at him accusingly, voice full of scorn. "Yeah. That treatment really went well for you, didn't it?"
            Richard's jaw hardened, ignoring that statement as best he could, before he continued.
            "Basically, Mary told me the same thing you just did, Trevor. Almost exactly word for word. Aren't you afraid that..." Richard looked straight into Trevor's eyes, pointedly making his implication clear. "... that you'll end up like her?"
            Trevor didn't move, simmering in an angry silence. He gave Dr. Dehnt a small, empty smile. "I can't be held to the analogies you choose to make...."
            "Then let's consider the analogies you've chosen instead. How does the Cupid delusion make your life better, Trevor?" Richard was still calm as he leaned forward, already starting to write notes on his waiting, empty pad with the pen he held.
            Trevor looked suspiciously down at him writing. "It... It doesn't make my life better. I never said that it does. Sometimes I think my life would be a whole lot easier if I wasn't who I was..."
            Richard stopped writing, and looked up. "Then why do you cling to it?"
            Trevor couldn't believe it, exhaling as he looked away. His face was hard as he answered. "You won't give an inch, will you?"
            "Why are you hiding in the Cupid delusion, Trevor?"
            Trevor couldn't help but grow angrier, rankled by how infuriatingly calm Richard's voice was. "It's not a delus-"
            Richard didn't even let him finish, interrupting him. "What are you running from, Trevor? What are you hiding from inside? Why are you hiding from the real world?"
            "Huhh, you shrinks always make the same assumptions," Trevor said bitterly. "You think you know everything. You think you know all there is to know out there. But it's doctors like you who are really shut off from the real world. There's more out there than you know. You think you have me all figured out, right? Did it ever even occur to you, for even a single second, that maybe I'm not hiding from the real world? That maybe I'm hiding from the gods..."
            That immediately peaked Dr. Dehnt's interest. He leaned forward over his desk, intrigued by the new tract of Trevor's reasoning. "Really... What do you mean, Trevor?"
            Trevor paused when he realized what he had said, annoyed as he bit his lower lip, not really in a mood to explain further. He had known he shouldn't let that slip in front of Richard, even as he had said it. But seeing Richard's expression, Trevor could tell that he wasn't going to let up on this. Richard looked at him with renewed anticipation, like he had found a new toy. Trevor exhaled, reluctantly conceding, not really having a choice.
            "When... when I was shot... when I almost died. The gods didn't lift a finger to help me."
            Richard nodded once at that admission, before responding in a calm, patient voice. "You're right, Trevor. 'The gods' didn't. That should tell you something, shouldn't it? It was people, real people, who helped you."
            Trevor nodded. "Mortals. You guys. It was mortals that seemed to be the only ones that even cared. I couldn't understand why-why the gods did nothing. They just left me there... left me there to die, you know? I couldn't-... I don't know. Maybe that's what they wanted."
            "And now-" Richard paused to scribble a quick note, before looking back up at him. "And now you're wondering if... maybe they arranged to have you shot? Fated it in some way, as some sort of punishment?"
            Trevor laughed disdainfully, hearing those words come from Richard's mouth. Words Trevor knew Richard didn't believe for a single moment.
            Richard continued. "Is that what you really believe that you're hiding from, Trevor?"
            Trevor exhaled nervously, reluctant to answer.
            "I... I don't know, ok?" Trevor's tone had changed. His eyes looked worried, sad. And his voice was slightly angry, but fearful too. "I don't know for sure. Not anymore. I just don't know. Maybe I should finish off what Faith started and find out. Maybe I should walk right out of here and throw myself off the Sears Tower to force the gods hand. Find out once and for all. Shed this... this small, mortal coil. You ever think about that? Have you ever really stopped to realize how small your bodies actually are? You have no idea. Not a clue. And now, I'm trapped in one, trapped with you guys. Trapped in this... this shell. This feeble, bendable, breakable shell. Where your bones break. Your skin breaks. Your heart... breaks. Maybe I should shed this small body and see. See if... if the gods will take my soul back at least." Trevor chuckled in despair. "Don't you get it? There's nothing left for me here! Not since she-... not anymore. I need to go home. I need to get out of here. So maybe I should find out for sure. Force them to take me back, or to just... let me fade away." Trevor's eyes were already moistened over, and he took a breath, lost in his sudden outpouring of words.
            Richard looked at him for several long moments. He seemed concerned at Trevor's reaction. "Is letting someone fade away... letting them shed their mortal coil as you put it. Is that something that you've had to deal with in the past?"
            Trevor glared at him harshly, eyes still glittering. "What is that supposed to mean?"
            Richard watched him quietly. "You would be surprised how often patients subconsciously answer their own questions, Trevor. We usually fear what we've felt or feared before. What you're really afraid of is that you'll die. That they'll let you die..."
            Richard scribbled in his notebook as he spoke, looking down.

            Fear of death. Did Trevor watch someone he cared about die?

            Trevor didn't notice, still a little upset. He shrugged quickly, answering Richard's question and not knowing how to argue the point. "I don't know. Maybe. Maybe the gods don't even really want me back. Maybe it's the real reason they sent me down here, and there was no lesson for me to learn at all. Maybe what happened with Faith is exactly what the gods hoped would happen, and they have no real intention of letting me go home. I mean, I was-"
            Trevor swallowed, pausing in mid sentence. He didn't like to think about it, but he forced himself to continue anyway. "I was that close to dying. If that bullet had been one inch over... Can you imagine that? It all came down to one tiny inch. I mean, I'm the god of love, right? I've been alive for over 7000 years. I've seen things and been places that you aren't even physically equipped to even begin to imagine. 7000 years of all that, the width and breadth of my existence, condensed to one... tiny... inch. And... I would have been gone. Done. And all that time I-... I lay there bleeding. I wondered, where were the gods? Why were they letting this happen? But... they never helped me..."
            Trevor was staring painfully into space with the memory, looking down towards the floor, his eyes sad and introspective, brimming with moisture. He finally looked up at Richard, before trying to hide it all behind a smug smile. "No more Trevor Hale. No more, Cupid."
            Richard looked at him. "No more delusion?"
            Trevor glared at him silently for the rebuke, but said nothing.
            Dr. Dehnt put down his pen, waiting quietly for a few moments. "Trevor... sometimes it's better to finally accept things the way they really are..."
            As Richard continued, Trevor sank a little into his chair, feeling a speech coming. Annoyed, he tilted his head and looked away, his expression hard but level. He began to tune Dr. Dehnt out, hearing his voice only at the back of his thoughts, and starting to remember instead. A sadness slowly crept across his features, as he remembered that morning, before he had come to the session.

            Since he had been in the building anyway, Trevor had gone by Claire's office earlier that day. After talking to her on the sidewalk yesterday he had wanted to see her again, missing her all the more. He had been curious as to why it seemed Jaclyn never seemed to answer Claire's office number anymore. The number had even given him a disconnected message. As he had walked up to Claire's office, his steps slowing, he had understood why.
            Claire's office was deserted. No one was sitting behind the reception desk. Opening her door, the room inside was empty. All her furniture was missing. Her desk, her files, the pictures on her walls, her entire life... was all gone. She was gone, her practice shut down. For what seemed to be at least a week, by the dust. Claire hadn't been kidding. She really was moving on. He had learned a little later that she had decided to devote all her time to being an author now, and to writing her books. The abandoned office seemed like only a shadow of her memory.
            Trevor had stood there, alone in her empty office, stunned by the abrupt change around him, not knowing what to do next. No one else had moved into her offices yet. It all seemed to have happened so quickly, happened when he wasn't looking. He had been going to that office for over two years. One moment, Claire was there. The next, she was gone. Everything always happened so fast down here.
            Still sadly re-living the scene in his head, Trevor could nonetheless hear Richard's voice barging in. Hear it droning on, in that annoyingly patient tone. In his mind he knew he was still sitting in Richard's office. But in his heart he was standing there in front of Claire's door, and only hearing Richard's voice as he remembered.

            "Sometimes Trevor, we have to face up to reality. No matter how difficult it is..."

            Trevor remembered walking out of her office, turning back to close the door. He had looked up at the glass, looked at the black lettering painted across it. Dr. Claire Allen. Psychologist. His fingers had traced delicately over the words.

            "Sometimes, Trevor, it's better to just let go... Umm, Trevor?"

            In his memories, Trevor turned at that question, as if Dr. Dehnt had been ther with him in front of Claire's door, even though he knew he had been there alone.

            Trevor blinked when he suddenly realized he was actually sitting in Dr. Dehnt's office. Richard was behind his desk, waiting, watching him silently. Trevor didn't know what to say, the moisture he held back in his eyes brightening even more, sadden by the memories of visiting Claire's office. Finally he nodded, his voice soft.
            "Maybe... maybe you're right." Trevor felt tired, he felt so tired, as he rubbed his forehead. His head bent downward slightly, sighing as he sadly closed his eyes, shutting out the sight of Richard's office around him.
            In his memories, he felt like he was still standing in all those empty spaces where Claire's office had been, where they had both been, together. It felt like he would never get back to a place where any of that ever existed again. The reception desk was empty and desolate. Even Jaclyn was gone. The desktop was absent of all papers and objects. In his mind, Trevor turned from Claire's now empty office, and finally walked away.

            Claire was depressed.
            She couldn't deny it to herself any longer. She wasn't handling this as well as she had thought. Not after seeing him yesterday at Taggerty's, all the questions in his eyes she couldn't allow herself to answer.
            Standing in her living room, Claire looked sadly out the front window as the sun went down in the deepening sky. Seeing Trevor yesterday had affected her more than she realized. She missed him. She could almost feel him there with her. There was a literal ache deep in her chest, a sense of empty yearning she thought she should know better than to feel.
            Claire lowered her eyes. She should be past this. She should be past her feelings for Trevor. She thought she had convinced herself that she was. That she had come to accept things the way they were. But seeing him... had changed all those perceptions in her. Maybe she had just been kidding herself the whole time.
            Sighing, Claire looked up at the rich swath of colors glowing along the sunset horizon, before closing her eyes. She could still see his face. Still see the confusion in his eyes at what she had done. The changes she had forced in his life. Maybe going to see him yesterday had not been such a good idea after all.
            Suddenly the phone rang in her quiet home. It took a while for the sound to register in her mind, slowly bringing her out of her thoughts. She blinked suddenly, finally recognizing the sound. Absently, she walked over to the phone and picked it up. For once she didn't worry that it might be Trevor trying to call her again. Right now, she didn't care if it was. Claire nestled the receiver to her ear before the answering machine could pick up the call for her, like she had been letting it do for the last few days.
            "Dr. Allen?"
            Claire pulled back a little, disappointed, as she recognized the voice of her book editor. She brought herself back to awareness once she realized it was him. Still, her voice seemed reluctant. "Oh. Gene. Hi. I've... I've been meaning to call you..."
            Holding the phone to her ear, Claire walked across her living room, listening as her book editor started to speak.
            "Claire, hello. There you are! You've been a little hard to contact the last few weeks. I was seriously considering starting a relationship with your answering machine, since it's all I've heard lately. Actually, I was just calling to check in, see how the work's progressing."
            Claire nodded. "It's really coming along, I think..."
            "Great. There's something I needed to tell you, Claire."
            "Good news, I hope..." Claire didn't sound very enthused, her voice soft and tired.
            Her book editor didn't seem to notice. "Yes, it is. Everyone who's read portions of your new book has loved it. They're all absolutely thrilled with the segments that you've been sending in. We really think you might have another best seller on your hands. Really, really gripping... intriguing stuff."
            Claire looked down, answering quietly. "Well... I'm, I'm glad you liked it."
            "More than liked." The book editor continued his praises, trying to stoke her ego. "Adored. Marveled. Coveted. We're all waiting with baited breath for more, Claire. It seems to be going well. Gonna be one hell of a book. The way you provide such insightful analysis of Trevor Hale and this delusion he's embraced. Really, quite intriguing. I couldn't put it down. Let's admit it. You're a hell of a writer, Claire. Honestly, I never expected output like this. Your best work so far. Easily topping LOVE, A USER'S MANUAL. All we need now is to finally get the finished manuscript from you, Claire. The publisher's really chomping at the bit. By the way, everyone loves the scene where Trevor gets shot. Really some great stuff..."
            Claire was suddenly angry at the casual tone of his words. Her voice was harder as she interrupted him. "Hey. Wait a minute! That's not just some plot twist, you know! This isn't some... some fanciful yarn I've spun simply for your amusement! Got it? This happened to REAL people. Understand? And people really got hurt. People I happen to care about. God! How can you just-... Trevor was really shot. He almost died. Do you get that? I almost watched him die. This isn't just 'stuff' to me, ok?" Claire shook her head, annoyed at how lightly her book editor took what he had been reading. How callous and unsympathetic he had always seemed to be about Trevor in general.
            There was a silence on the line for a few moments as her book editor realized how upset Claire was. He continued a little more cautiously, but there was a hardness in his voice too at how she had rebuked him. "Well... All I'm saying is that it's a good book, Claire. And your best work in what unfortunately, has been far too long."
            Claire nodded, tongue in her cheek. "Actually... I was still debating whether or not to remove that sequence of Trevor being... being shot. I was always reluctant to put it in in the first place."
            "What? The shooting scene? Why? We all thought it should really stay in. It's a great moment. A real turning point in Trevor's delusion..."
            "I know... I..." Claire seemed reluctant to talk about it, still feeling a little too close to the events, and feeling too close to Trevor. "And I know I always wanted to provide a complete and honest case study of him, I was just wondering if it really fit in with the rest. When I started this book, I wanted it to be about healing, not gunplay..."
            "Why can't it be about both?" The book editor didn't have a clue at how callous he sounded, still trying to mollify her. "It still is about healing, Claire. Really. You've provided some dramatic insight into Trevor's character. Why shouldn't he provide some drama for your book? What a find Trevor is! What a character. I had no idea when I met him before. Besides, the shooting really spices up the story. We don't want you to cut it. In fact, we've loved everything so far, exactly the way it is..."
            "Yeah..." Claire looked sadly out her window again, not sharing in his enthusiasm. The sky was full of orange and reds, as she thought about Trevor. "I just wish it had a better ending. That I would have been able to help him... to cure Trevor of his delusions..."
            The book editor misunderstood. "Don't worry about it. Marketing won't have a problem with that at all. It still holds together very well, even without a definitive resolution. It'll definitely sell as is. Believe me, Claire. You've really impressed all of us. Besides, readers love the mystery of unresolved conundrums. And... even if you didn't get the resolution you were hoping for this time... that just leaves more room for a follow up book, doesn't it?"
            Claire's small laugh didn't hold any mirth in it. "I'm afraid there... there won't be a follow up book about Trevor. I'm... I'm not treating him any more."
            There was a disapproving silence on the other end of the line at that statement. "Well... that's a shame, Claire. Trevor's an intriguing subject. And speaking again of him... do you have any idea at all when you might be sending us the completed manuscript?"
            "Well..." Claire's lower lip fell, reluctant to answer. She paused, looking into her living room. Her eyes suddenly fixed on her writing desk, where a large, sealed, vanilla envelope rested, thick and wrapped tightly, ready for delivery. It was obviously the full, finished book, ready to be sent to the publisher, but sitting there idly for the last several days.
            Claire looked away, unable to look at it. Not wanting to, for some reason. Not wanting to close off that chapter in her life yet. She turned away, holding the phone against the side of her face as she closed her eyes.
            "I... I haven't finished it yet."
            Her voice was soft, as she stood there alone in her living room, the completed manuscript lying finished and unsent behind her.