Slowly the weeks passed. And slowly Trevor recovered. Physically recovered, anyway. Claire was there with him everyday. Most everyone from Taggerty's stopped by at one point or another to see him. A lot of people came by to visit from where Claire worked too. So many people cared about Trevor. Even the hospital employees all seemed to love him. His room was never empty during the day, never silent. Mike, Nick, Lawrence, Tina, they all came to see him, littering his shelves with cards, gifts, balloons, usually of the 'Cupid' variety. But Claire kept her distance during those times, inexplicably silent and reserved, smiling politely. But she was always at his bedside every night, or asleep on a small nearby couch.
Dressed in his hospital gown, Trevor was walking gingerly down the hallway, using a metal cane with three small legs at the bottom. Claire watched as the pretty nurses clustered around him tried to help him along, all of them laughing. Trevor smiled, pouring on the charm and flirting with them heavily. Claire could see that he was becoming his old self, the injuries healing both from without and from within.
Trevor stumbled suddenly, and the nurses reached out to grab him.
He laughed. "Love it when you do that..." Trevor said with pleasure, and Claire wasn't sure the stumble hadn't been intentional.
"Claire..." Trevor looked back at her with the smile he always gave only to her. "No peeking back there. These hospital gowns sure don't leave much to the imagination. Remind me to buy you one for Christmas."
Claire's smiled happily at how well he was doing, but she said nothing. Trevor continued to walk down the hall, going back to the raunchy story he was telling the nurses about one embarrassing time when he had been caught naked at the temple of Dionysus. "So I eventually convinced the satyrs that the shrill, female cry they heard was just some suddenly self-aware baklava finally realizing what it was, right before dinner... and they bought it. You know, now that I think about it, I don't think they were the brightest bunch? Anyway, what else was I supposed to do. How was I supposed to know that the cream in the dish I chose to trickle over her waiting body was served piping hot? She never really forgave me, not even after the swelling went down..."
Claire turned and walked back into Trevor's hospital room. When Trevor looked hopefully back down the hallway to see her again, she wasn't there. Trevor blinked when he noticed Claire was gone.
Walking across the room, Claire looked sadly out the window, thinking to herself. She had to tell him. He had to know. Worried, she shook her head. No... Not yet. It wasn't time yet. It wasn't time yet to tell him.
It was afternoon as Claire sat near the foot of Trevor's bed, her notebook computer open before her as she typed away, working on her book. Trevor had a food service tray rolled over his waist, and he was eating voraciously. Apparently, he had no problem at all with hospital food, always wanting more. Not that he had ever had a problem with any food at all.
Claire's face was full of concentration as she typed, pausing to read what she had written. She sighed, worried about the results. Worried about her objectivity in continuing a book about Trevor because of how she realized she felt about him. Starting over, her face became serious... going into full 'work' mode as she continued to type.
Trevor watched her as he chewed, growing thoughtful. Even now, when she looked so serious and reserved, Claire was still so beautiful. Even dressed in a simple t-shirt and sweatpants, with her hair tied back. Claire had such a beautiful spirit, a beautiful soul. She could never, really be ugly to him. His eyes never left her, still eating.
Trevor began to think, still feeling sore from his injuries. He began to wonder why it had all happened. All the lost beads. Being shot by Faith. Was it because he loved Claire? He had almost died, and he didn't want to think about the deeper implications of that right now. All he wanted to think about was Claire, watching her. He knew that no matter what happened, he wouldn't change the way he felt about her. Never. The gods be damned.
Claire looked up, and noticed him watching her. Trevor quickly looked away, embarrassed a little and going back to his food. Claire smiled at his attention, but just slightly. She watched him for a long moment, before going back to her typing.
Dressed in her white lab coat, Claire paused in the empty hallway. She was about to go into the psyche ward at her hospital. The locked security door was right in front of her. She didn't know why she felt so reluctant. This was her realm. She worked here everyday. She was comfortable here. But not today. Claire took a breath, feeling a little uncertain. Finally she stepped forward.
She smiled at the orderly behind the small window in the wall beside the door. "Hello, Kenneth..."
The orderly smiled back, recognizing her. "Good morning, Dr. Allen."
Claire slid her ID card through the lock. There was a beep, and it clicked. Claire pushed the door open with her shoulder, going in.
The orderly nodded calmly, making a point to lean out his window and watch appreciatively as Claire walked away. Then he went back to the book he was reading, Final Exit. Thinking about the book for a moment, he blinked, before leaning back out to watch Claire leaving again. She certainly looked good walking away. With a shrug, he tossed the book into the waist basket, thinking better of it.
The common room in the ward was virtually deserted. A large, muscular orderly waited nearby, standing a few steps away. Claire sat calmly at the single table in the middle of the room, looking across to the woman seated with her. Looking at... Faith.
They had both been sitting there silently for some time. Faith didn't look at Claire. She didn't seem to look at much of anything anymore.
Claire glared at her coldly, watching in silence, unable to keep the anger from her eyes. Her face looked hard and unsympathetic. She knew it wasn't a very professional response, but she couldn't help it. Faith had shot Trevor in cold blood, and Claire wasn't so sure she could forgive her for it.
"Faith..." Trying her best to push the anger beneath the surface, Claire finally spoke, her voice cold and soft as she leaned forward. "I don't even really know why I'm here. When I should-" she stopped what she was about to say. "I should hate you for what you did. Trevor's my friend, and you-"
"You're more than friends," Faith interrupted softly, still looking down.
Claire's face hardened even more. "You know what? I really don't know why I came here. Why I arranged to see you. Why I even bothered. Well... maybe I do. It's to get some answers, Faith. To make some sense of it all, I guess. To try to, at least, even if it's hopeless. So... why? Tell me why. Why did you do it."
The room was quiet, before Faith answered, her voice soft. She looked up, staring at Claire with unwavering certainty, her eyes blue and clear.
"Because Trevor needed to believe again..."
Claire shook her head. "Trevor doesn't 'need' to believe."
Faith's eyes didn't falter. "If he didn't need to believe... then he would have stopped believing a long time ago."
Claire looked at her. "What Trevor 'needs' is to get better."
Claire ground her teeth, a little angry. "And why's that?"
"Because of what I've seen," Faith didn't look away, didn't blink. "What I've seen between the two of you. Trevor won't get better. He won't get well. Not with you in his life. He... he cares about you too much..."
Claire looked at her, jaw dropping slightly and blinking once in shock. She pulled back, not expecting that. Not expecting the unvoiced fears that had been churning inside her, fears that had been keeping her awake the last few nights, to be thrown back at her by this... this delusional woman, of all people. This woman she hated. Claire had not expected to... to agree with her. And now, she didn't know how she could argue the point.
They both sat there silently for awhile in that big, empty common room, sitting alone at the table, neither knowing what else to say.
Champ, Jaclyn, and Claire were all visiting Trevor in his hospital room, but Claire was keeping to the back and keeping to herself, as she had been lately. She looked at Trevor with affection, watching silently as the other three laughed, smiling along with them. But she didn't speak, and she didn't come any nearer.
"Hey, Claire bear," Trevor called to her. "Your turn. Come on... fess up. Was there ever a time when you absolutely, positively just had to, and I mean had to, have someone Kibble your bits? Wild your oats? Fruity your pebbles? And you just new it had to be right there and right then?"
Jaclyn giggled, waiting. "Yeah, come on, Claire. Don't hold back on us. I can think of a time or two."
Claire smiled politely. "Nothing comes to mind."
Trevor seemed cocky as he smiled at her. Like he knew something. "Oh really... Well that's not what I heard, Spanky... I mean, Sparky. Let's see if I can give your memory a rub down. I got a chance to talk with you life long friend Joanne back at your high school reunion. You remember her, right? Blond, cute. She told me the little nick name they gave you back in college."
Claire's face went slightly red, blushing as she looked down with an pleasant smile, but she said nothing.
Champ was intrigued. "Nickname?"
"Oh yeah," Trevor smiled at the thought. "Claire had such a voracious appetite that they used to call here 'Anywhere Claire'. The student body was well aware of Claire's student body. She really turned it loose and let her freaky deaky flag fly. Joanne regaled me with several promising tales of her... let's call it congenial outlook, back in college. Imagine that... Our own Dr. Claire Allen, renowned frigidare extraordinare, was quite the little tiger in several studly tanks from what I've heard. Man, I knew I came back in the wrong time... " He looked at her playfully.
Champ and Jaclyn laughed, not believing it. Even Claire couldn't help but chuckle. "That was a long time ago, Trevor..." she said.
Trevor agreed. "Too long ago... I wish I could have known you then, Claire," he thought about it fondly, sighing. "I mean, there are good collegiate memories... and then there are GOOOOOOD collegiate memories."
Claire nodded, still smiling but distracted. Jaclyn looked over and noticed, curious at Claire's reaction.
"Trevor..." Claire stepped forward off the wall, thinking. Finally she looked up and spoke calmly. "I... I think I'd better be going now, Trevor. I'll see you tomorrow."
Claire gathered her things, thinking to herself. Not yet. I can't tell him yet. It can wait.
"Bye guys," She gave them all a generic smile and stepped out into the hallway, leaving the room.
Jaclyn watched her leave, blinking after she was gone. Trevor and Champ were already engrossed in the specifics of the next sorted Claire story, laughing. Jaclyn touched Champ's shoulder. When he looked at her, she tilted her head towards the door to tell him that she was stepping out for a second.
Champ smiled at her fondly, before turning back to Trevor's tale. Jaclyn rose and left the hospital room.
Claire turned when she heard her name.
Jaclyn hurried to catch up to her, both of them already several hallways away from Trevor's hospital room. Claire waited patiently, sadly, until Jaclyn came to her side.
"Claire?" Jaclyn gave her a worried look. "Is everything alright?"
"Sure. Everything..." Claire exhaled. "Everything's great."
Jaclyn could see the expression on Claire's face, and she didn't believe it for a second. "Did you and Trevor have a fight or something?"
"No. No... not at all. Why do you ask?"
"It's just..." Jaclyn didn't know how to phrase it. "Well... you've sort of been giving Trevor... umm, the cold shoulder lately. And now... with you leaving so abruptly-"
Claire sighed, but her voice was evasive. "I just... I just have a lot of work to catch up on."
"No..." Jaclyn said softly. "... I mean, that's not it. I can tell. What is it? There seems to be a... a space between you and Trevor now."
Claire shook her head, growing unexplainably annoyed. "Look, he's my patient, ok? My patient... I'm his doctor. That's all. I don't know why I should even-..." Claire waved vaguely at his distant room, before she let out a frustrated sigh. "I-I don't have to be with him twenty four hours a day, Jaclyn! Maybe I need a little space for once! Some room to breathe! Can't you understand that? I... I mean that there are other men out there besides Trevor, you know. And maybe... just maybe I'd like to believe that I have a life..."
In no mood to explain any further, Claire turned angrily and started to walk away. Jaclyn stood there in the hospital hallway for a moment, taken aback a little by the rebuff, before she called out rather pointedly, a little annoyed herself.
"Umm, Excuse me... 'Doctor' Allen?"
Claire stopped several feet away, lowering her head, before reluctantly turning around to look at her.
Jaclyn seemed a little uncomfortable. "I... I really shouldn't be telling you this, but you.... you do know that Trevor's in love with you, right?"
Claire looked at Jaclyn sadly, not surprised in the least. "Believe me, Jaclyn. I know..."
Without another word, Claire slowly turned and began to walk away again.
Jaclyn called out one more time, taking a step towards her. "But Trevor still needs you..."
Claire stopped, thinking about it, but she didn't turn around. "You know, I'm... not so sure that's true anymore, Jaclyn..."
Clutching her coat before her, Claire walked away down the hospital hallway without explaining any further, leaving a dumbfounded Jaclyn behind as she turned a corner and moved out of sight. Jaclyn blinked, wondering what Claire had meant by that, looking confused. Finally she turned and walked down the hallway in the opposite direction, going back to Trevor's hospital room. The hallway was empty behind her
The door to Champ's apartment swung open the next day, and suddenly the quiet room was filled with laughing voices as Trevor, Claire, Champ and Jaclyn all came happily in. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, the sky glowing a gorgeous blue through the living room window, and it was Trevor's first day back from the hospital. Everyone felt a little celebratory, their spirits high. Champ and Jaclyn had hung a banner on the wall earlier over the television set which read Welcome Home, Trevor. He noticed the banner, and walked forward.
Trevor was all smiles as he gazed up at it, nodding contently. He still walked with the small metal cane, but that would only be for another week or so. His broken ankle was healing slowly, as was the rest of his body.
Trevor looked all around, eyes bright. "Free at last, free at last..."
"Home sweet home," Champ said with a smile.
Trevor nodded. "Home sweet home away from home, anyway. I guess you and Jaclyn are gonna miss your little romper room playtime in each and every room of the apartment like while I was gone..."
Suddenly Champ and Jaclyn both looked at each other, both seeming nervous before smiling at him awkwardly. They both quickly shook their heads, trying to laugh it off, a little embarrassed by the implication.
"Don't... don't be silly, Trevor." Jaclyn looked down with a playful expression, like she had been caught in something.
Champ was touching his neck, feeling self conscious about it for some reason, and trying not to blush. "Umm... No, not at all. We're just glad you're back..."
Trevor smiled, obviously having struck close to home. Champ was trying to lift the collar of his shirt without drawing attention to himself, as if to hide his neck. Trevor nodded when he noticed, but he put the pleasant thought out of his mind, eagerly turning and walking towards his bedroom. Standing in his doorway, he looked up. His beads were still hanging there on their string. Still in their dismal state. Trevor sighed, realizing he had a lot of work to catch up on.
Jaclyn stepped forward behind him. "Here Trevor. This is for you."
Trevor turned and took the little wrapped present she offered him. "A gift? Jackie... that's sweet. I didn't get you anything..." Trevor looked over at Champ, who still seemed a little uncomfortable by what Trevor had implied that the two of them had done all over the apartment. "Or... maybe I did."
Trevor looked at all of them. Jaclyn in Champ's arms. Claire watching silently from the back, as she always did these days. He nodded, suddenly feeling very touched. "Well, this place may not have dozens of bouncy semi nude nymphs playing strip volley ball like my real home back at Olympus, but I'm still glad to be back. You guys are great. Really..."
Still in Champ's arms, Jaclyn reached out and touched Trevor's shoulder. "Welcome home, Trevor."
Trevor smiled. "Thanks..."
Claire finally stepped forward. There seemed to be resolve on her face. "Umm, you guys.... could I have a moment alone with Trevor, please?"
"Claire!" Trevor's face lit up instantly. "How nice of you to offer! Believe me, I was thinking the exact same thing the whole way up here. Now that's what I call a house warming gift. I'll get the body oils, you load the camera. But next time, you really have to buy me dinner first." Trevor started off, but paused. "Wait. That is what you meant, isn't it?"
"Something like that..." Claire smiled slightly, but she still looked so serious, not taking the bait. "Just a few minutes, please?" She said to Champ and Jaclyn, looking over at them.
"Umm... sure, Claire." Champ answered slowly, confused. Neither he nor Jaclyn understood Claire's suddenly serious demeanor or what she had in mind. She seemed so sullen. "I've got to get some groceries anyway before Trevor empties out the fridge..."
"No pork rinds! Hate those things." Trevor offered.
Champ and Jaclyn made their way to the front door, saying nothing else. Silently, they both left, looking back once, before they shut the front door behind them.
Trevor and Claire were alone.
Smiling at her, Trevor noticed her serious expression too. He took a seat on the couch, wondering what was going on.
"Ok, Sparky. You finally got me all to your os so lucky self. We can start in the bedroom if you feel like staring at the stain on my ceiling for the next few blissful hours. Just look at it like one of those paint blot tests you tried to get me to take last month. Of course, I wouldn't mind interpreting my ceiling too, so either way. We have plenty of time to experiment. But I have to warn you, I'm still a little sore so we may have to stop before ohhh.... I don't know, Tuesday..." His smile fell away as he watched her. Nothing. Trevor sighed, not knowing what else to say. The innuendoes were easy, but they didn't seem to lighten the mood.
Claire nodded, not really listening anyway. It was time. It was time to tell him. She couldn't put it off any longer.
Her voice was soft. "Trevor, when you were...." She looked down. "When you were shot, I really thought I was going to lose you. That I would lose you in my life. It forced me to... well, to realize some things."
Trevor could see this was hard for her, whatever this was. So he waited, not saying anything, looking at her standing across the room.
Claire looked anxiously away for a moment, taking in a soft, quivering breath, before she finally managed to continue.
"And I... I was forced to realize... certain things. Things that I've finally had to admit to myself are true..."
Trevor's voice sounded worried as he spoke, but he tried to comfort her, leaning forward. "What is it, Claire?"
Claire looked at him desperately, trying to ignore the pull she felt towards him, the yearning to hold him. "Trevor, I... I have to tell you something. Something that it's been hard for me to admit over the years." She laughed sadly, looking away. "I guess it's still a little hard..."
Trevor nodded, understanding in his eyes. "Wanting to say something, but... finding you can't. Believe me, I know that feeling. It's ok, Claire. Just tell me what you have to say..."
Her eyes locked on his, glittering slightly. "Trevor, I finally realized that I..." She paused, before forcing it out. "...that I can't be your doctor anymore."
Trevor pulled slowly back, stunned, not expecting that. His voice was soft, surprised and hurt. "What...? But-..." He couldn't have looked more shocked if she had claimed she was all a figment of his delusional imagination, a phantom made of air. "But... why?"
Claire took a breath, trying not to cry. She looked at him, saw it all in his eyes, saw what he was feeling. Her heart went out to him in that moment, but she continued. She forced herself to. Her voice shook a little.
"Trevor, I'm think I'm in-..." She stopped, looking away. She couldn't tell him why. Not if she wanted him to get better. Nothing good would come of it. "I just can't be your doctor anymore. Let's leave it at that."
Trevor felt devastated, head dropping as he slowly rose off the couch. "Claire, I...I don't know why you're-" He looked up at her as if she had stabbed a knife through his heart, the pain clear in his confused face. Out of nowhere, he suddenly wondered if this was what Faith had felt when he had rejected her. Trevor stepped towards her, desperate to change her mind, his voice growing animated.
"Claire, look. I'm sorry. Sorry for whatever it was that I did to make you decide... If I offended you in some way or did something wrong, I'll-"
Claire shook her head sadly, tears forming in her eyes and her words cracking. "It's nothing like that, Trevor."
Trevor didn't stop, coming closer, tears forming in his eyes too. "Tell me what it is... I can change, Claire. I can... I'll even promise not to tease and ogle you anymore, I swear. Well... not tease anyway. Please... Whatever it is, we can get past it. Whatever it is. We can-"
"Believe me, Trevor. There's no getting past this."
"But I can figure out a way to fix whatever-"
"Trevor..." Her voice sounded fragile, like it could shatter with her next breath, yearning and sad. They were both on the verge of tears. "Trevor... don't. Ok? I'm... I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Trevor. For everything..."
Claire looked at him for a long moment, almost as if it were for the last time. "It's for the best, Trevor..."
They both stood there, stunned into silence. The air was filled with so many things between them, so many things that were left unsaid.
Finally Claire took a breath. "Goodbye, Trevor." She turned to leave.
Trevor watched her silently. "This is because of Faith, isn't it?"
Claire turned to him, a tear falling down her face. "What?"
A tear rolled down Trevor's cheek too. He sniffed, face under conscious control as he nodded slowly, looking at the floor, trying to keep his composure. "You blame me for what happened to her..."
"No..." Claire shook her head, trying to comfort him. "No, it's nothing like that."
Trevor seemed crushed, looking away from her sadly, believing he had found the reason. In that moment, Claire realized he didn't seem at all like the all mighty god he claimed to be. As he spoke, he seemed so... vulnerable. So... human. His voice was soft and apologetic. "I'm sorry, Claire. I'm so... so sorry for what happened. You'll... you'll never know how sorry. I know I don't say it enough. I should have listened to you, and now-"
"Trevor, that's not the reason." She came over to him, touching his arm, looking meaningfully into his face. She couldn't let him believe that. Both of them were trying their best to hold back the rest of the tears building in their eyes. "You... you don't have to feel sorry about that. You were the victim, Trevor. I don't blame you... for anything."
Trevor looked at her sadly for several seconds. "Then... what?"
"It's..." Claire swallowed, looking at him. She desperately wanted to tell him. To tell him that she loved him. That he meant everything. That he was everything to her. But she knew she wasn't going to let that happen. Her heart sank with that realization, watching him, before she answered.
"It's the way it is...."
Claire let go of his arm. Turning away, she opened the front door.
"Don't throw us away, Claire. Please..."
Claire closed her eyes, not facing him. She heard it in his voice. When he had said 'us'. And she realized that this was right. She didn't say a word. She didn't turn around. Instead she quietly walked through the door, pulling it shut, not looking back.
The door closed. Trevor stood there, trying to make some sense of it all. He stood there alone, alone in the empty apartment. Alone in the afternoon sunlight, as it flowed brightly in through the window. Alone like he had never been alone before. He sighed to break the silence, body almost quivering desperately. The welcome home banner was still hung on the wall behind him, ignored, as Trevor slowly lowered his head, realizing Claire was gone.
Claire walked onto the sidewalk outside Trevor's building, fighting back tears. She looked sadly up at the late afternoon sky above her, glowing a rich beautiful sunset color. The sun glittered off the watery trails drying on her cheeks. Walking over to her car, she opened the door and got in. As she slammed it shut behind her, her head collapsed down against the top of her steering wheel, crying softly as he shoulders shook.
A slow, bluesy song began to play.
I've got you... under my skin,
I've got you, deep in the heart of me...
Trevor walked sadly back to his bedroom, stunned, heart broken. He was bathed in the glow of the sunset too as he walked through his empty apartment. Looking around in despair, he wondered what he was going to do now. What he was going to do without Claire. Without her in his life. He looked out the window, wondering what he had done to deserve this. Wondering why the gods hated him so...
So deep in my heart,
you're really a part of me.
I've got you, under my skin...
Claire pulled her head up from the steering wheel, wiping her face. Taking a deep breath, she reached out and turned the ignition key. The engine hummed to life as she waited a few moments in silence, trying to compose herself. Finally she pulled away from the curb, the sunset still glittering in her eyes.
She forced herself to look straight ahead as another tear fell. Forced herself not to think about what was behind her. Trevor's apartment fell away into the distance behind her rear window. She closed her eyes for a moment as she drove, before opening them again with a tilt of her head. And no matter how hard it was to do... she didn't look back.
I tried so, not to give in...
I have said to myself this affair,
Never gonna go so well...
Trevor collapsed into his recliner, wet tracks shining on his face too. Without a word he looked up. Looked up at what was hanging above him.
It was his string. His string of beads. His tally to go home. His eyes moved over all his 'lost' matches, all the beads that had slid back. Trevor suddenly realized how far away from home he really was, in more ways than one, now that Claire was gone. Looking at the string, it seemed so heavy as it hung there.
Wait. It did seem heavier.
Trevor blinked, realizing that his string was hanging lower than usual. He rose to his feet, looking over at it. Curious, he turned and slid his recliner beneath it. Being careful of his sore ankle, Trevor stepped up onto his recliner, standing shakily on top of it, rising eye to eye with the string. With a look of deep sadness, he grazed his fingers over each of the beads, seeing them closer than before.
Claire's car sped away down the middle of the street, growing smaller as it drove off into the distance, not stopping.
But why should I try to resist,
When baby, I know you so well,
I have got you, under my skin...
Trevor turned his head as his fingers examined the hook he had nailed into the wall when he had first moved in. It was loose, weighed down by the string. He absently pushed it back in. The string straightened smoothly out, and the beads... all instantly slid back to the positions they had been in all along.
He suddenly stopped when he noticed that, speechless.
Trevor couldn't believe it, realizing what had happened. He looked at the count. He hadn't lost any couples at all. He had actually gained a few. Champ had been right. The nail had just been loose.
Trevor blinked in surprise, stepping down from the recliner as he looked up in wonder at the string hanging above him. His 'couples' situation wasn't as bad as he had feared. His elation was short lived, and his face fell, thinking about Claire. Thinking that he might never see her again. Somehow the sight of those beads on his string... didn't make him feel any better for once.
Don't you know blue eyes,
You never can win...
Use you're mentality, step up to reality...
Claire couldn't drive anymore. Realizing Trevor's apartment was far behind her, she finally pulled the car over to the curb, face still bathed in the golden light of the sunset. The car engine stopped as traffic whizzed by on the street. She sat there, all alone in her car, not even knowing where she was, still trying to hold it in. Finally she couldn't, crying as she sat there. She leaned forward, resting her head against the top of the steering wheel again, her arms crossed in front of her. She sobbed there for several minutes, not lifting her head. Her world seemed to have crumbled around her as she sat there, parked on some nameless street.
Looking down from his string of beads, Trevor suddenly noticed something in his bedroom, seeing it out of the corner of his eye. He looked over at the window, where the sun's light was flowing warmly through. Suddenly he blinked in surprise when he saw a small statue on his window sill. A small winged figurine, bathed in rays of golden light.
Trevor stepped forward slowly, wondering what it was. Then as he got closer... he recognized it. Recognized the small wings, the small, smiling, cherubic face. The bow with its arrow notched and pointed at him. It was Faith's statue. The statue from her Eros Society. Trevor looked around, wondering how it had gotten there. The small statue smiled at him, mocking him as it's arrow pointed at his chest. Mocking his feelings for Claire. Like it didn't need to fire a single shot, because the damage was already done. A chill passed through Trevor when he realized something. When had Faith been in his bedroom? Trevor suddenly jerked his cane around and knocked the statue angrily off the ledge.
But each time I do,
just the thought of you,
makes me stop before I begin,
I got you, under my skin..
Claire's fingers traced delicately over the small winged figure on Trevor's music box.
She was at home, alone in her bedroom. Night had fallen outside her window.
As she sat there, she touched it again, thinking wistfully of Trevor. It was the music box he had given her for Christmas. Seated at her dresser, she looked at it, ignoring the open notebook computer she had on before her. Claire sighed as her fingers came off his gift, turning instead to the blank, empty screen glowing coldly on top of her dresser.
She really needed to work. If for no other reason than to get her mind off things. But instead, she put the book file aside, opening a new file in her word processor. She had to explain it to him. She had to. She had to explain to Trevor, because she couldn't leave things like this. Finding the resolve at last, she leaned forward and began to type a letter to him, not holding back.
Trevor, I have to tell you why I did what I did...
Claire just... wrote. Wrote without thinking, without reservation. A very personal passage began to appear on her screen. It came in fits and starts, slow at first, but quicker as she allowed herself to open up to her feelings. She wrote about all that had happened... and all that she felt for him, into that letter to Trevor, starting to sniff sadly as she did.
A dark alcoholic liquid was poured into a shot glass, waiting on top of some nameless bar. The fluid glowed with color in the dimly lit room, and Trevor slowly took it, offering a weak 'thanks' towards the bartender. He brought the glass to his lips but he didn't drink, continuing his tale.
"So then... so then it all blew up in my face. Just... Bl-oom! Over. Done. Bolt from the heavens sorta deal. Just like that. Just like--what is it about women anyway?" Trevor instantly changed tracts. The bartender only smiled to himself, listening as Trevor continued in his slurred voice. "I mean-... I mean I don't have a clue how any of their minds work. How do they work!? I don't... don't... really... know, you know? Don't understand a single one of them. Not Persephone, not... not Athena, not mom, not none of them. And especially not her! Not little Miss Doctor's degree. Little Miss Freezer Pleaser! And I really should. I reaaally should, considering what I do for a living. But... but they're all... INSANE. They're all completely insane. Then they try to tell you that you're insane. Try to get your friends to believe it too. Try to get the... get the 'HOSPITAL' to believe you're insane, but... they're the ones. They're the ones who are completely... completely... Wait..." Trevor just registered what the bartender had said when he had started explaining several minutes ago. "Wait... how did you know I was in here because of a woman anyway?"
The bartender shrugged, still smiling. "Isn't that why anyone's in here?"
"Yes!" Trevor pointed forcefully at him, his mind still a little hazy. "MY exact-... my-... exactly... Point my-... Exactly... Yes. So you... you understand, right...?"
Chuckling, the bartender shook his head. "Not really..."
Trevor continued, not listening. "Great! See, it's all her. All... her! Her with her 'assessments'. And her with... her 'evaluations'. Her rules for love. Rules for love. Rules! Can you believe it? I mean, how crazy... how crazy is that?"
The bartender tried to follow Trevor's ramblings, thinking of how insane he sounded as he answered. "Certifiable..."
"Yes! Her and her rules. Her 'compatibilities'. Her..." Trevor grew even sadder, voice softening. " Her laugh. Her and her face. Her... her lips. I just want to see her laugh again. I miss her. I miss her laugh, the way her eyes light up... They light up like the constellations on the dark side of the moon. Just one more time. That's all. I wanna see it one last time. One little smile. One little... Wait... what was I saying?"
The bartender smiled, reminding him patiently. "Women...".
"Yes," Trevor nodded sloppily. "Caveat amator! Let the lovers beware! Women... They're almost half of the entire problem..."
"What's the rest?"
"So let me guess the rest of the story..." the bartender said calmly, having heard it all a million times before. "She broke your heart..."
"No. No... She stole my heart. She just took it. I wasn't even looking, and she took it. She didn't even have the courtesy to ask, you know? Didn't even bother to ask. No 'Hey, can I have that?'. Nooooo... Just swooped in... and took it. Grabbed it and ran. Grabbed it and said," Trevor momentarily switched to a mocking, falsetto voice, "'I can't be you're doctor anymore'. Man... man that's cold, you know. And that's not the worst. Not the worst. After she took it, she broke it. And stomped on it. Hard. And stomped on it again. Into a million pieces. Stomp... Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!"
Trevor banged loudly with each word on the bar for emphasis, making the glasses rattle. The few other dreary looking patrons in the run down place turned to look for a moment, before quickly losing interest and going back to their drinks, each sitting alone.
The bar tender grabbed Trevor's glass so it wouldn't spill, trying to temper Trevor's enthusiasm. "Hey. Easy there, drummer boy..."
"Sorry." Trevor apologized.
Claire's eyes moved over her computer screen, reading what she had just written. Her eyes began to widen slightly. It all read like some incoherent high school love letter! The passage she had written was all about Trevor, and how she loved him, but she couldn't objectively be his doctor anymore. Or even tell him why before. How she had wanted so desperately to explain and tell him the truth, but she couldn't. She couldn't tell him that she loved him.
Full of sadness, Claire looked away from the letter, thinking. This man, this love of her life... was delusional. She was certain of that. The irony of her situation wasn't lost on her. All the people she tried to help, who's tortured psyches she tried to heal. And she falls in love with the one man that she couldn't. Or maybe didn't want to. She couldn't let herself love Trevor as a delusional man. She couldn't. Otherwise he would never get better. But the way he was now... was the way she loved him. It was that man she loved. Why should she change that? Still, she wasn't going to stand in the way of Trevor getting better, no matter what the personal costs.
Claire sighed, her shoulders falling as she realized everything she had written was all mush. It was far.. far too personal. Not a very 'clinical' perspective to the situation at all. She suddenly missed him deeply, growing sadder. Claire looked over at the music box, thinking of Trevor, wondering where he was. Wondering if she should even send him the letter after all. Finally she sighed again, and deleted the entire passage from her screen.
I would sacrifice anything, come what might,
For the sake of having you near...
The bartender shook his head. "I don't think she blames you, Trevor."
Trevor fluttered a disbelieving raspberry through his closed lips in rebuttal. "Of course she does! What else could it be..."
The bartender lifted an eyebrow. "Maybe it's because she really cares about you. Maybe she wants you to get better. Maybe it's because she... well, you know. Loves you..."
Trevor laughed, slumping down until his forehead rested on the top of the bar. "And they call me crazy..."
The bartender shrugged. "Look, it's just a thought..."
In spite of a warning voice,
that comes in the night,
And repeats then it shouts in my ear...
The words flowed onto Claire's computer screen again, since she had returned to writing her book. This time was different. Her sentences were concise. Clean. Clinical. But no matter how hard she tried to concentrate on them, she couldn't. She realized that they were... empty. They lacked what she really felt inside. Her eyes moistened over and she kept looking over at Trevor's music box, realizing her train of thought was repeatedly being interrupted by it.
A tear rolled down her cheek.
Claire couldn't take it anymore. She couldn't think clearly. Not with that there. Rising from her chair, she took the music box into her hands and walked off.
Everything was pitch dark and silent, until the door to the closet opened. Claire was on the other side, in her softly lit bedroom. She held a cardboard box in her hands. A box filled with everything Trevor had ever given her. The music box, the Christmas card it had came with, a blue bottle of bubbles for blowing. And... a small necklace in the shape of a heart, studding with diamonds. It was supposedly from Alex, but deep down, she knew.... Trevor had sent it in Alex's name. Deep down, she had always known.
Claire lifted the box up on to the shelf over her clothes, shoving it to the back where she couldn't see it. Without looking back, she turned and closed the door, and the interior of the closet went dark again.
Don't you know y'old fool,
You never can win,
Use your mentality, wake up to reality...
Trevor blinked up at the bartender, wondering what they were arguing about. "Wait... who's side are you on?"
The bartender smiled. "Yours... as long as you keep buying."
Trevor's face lit up, not offended. "You're a good man! Good... good man! Look, I'd better go."
The bartender chuckled. "Had enough, huh?"
"Yeah..." Trevor stumbled to his feet, trying to keep his balance. "Hey, remember... From now on you're on good terms with the god of love. God of Love! LOVE! Lo-.... Wow, that's fun to say. Come on, sing it with me. LOOOVE!" Trevor laughed sadly and moved towards the door. "Hey, next time I'm in here, I'll turn all your water into wine! Screw that, I'll turn it into whiskey! Help you on your bar expenses. Believe me, I've done it at beach parties and it's a big hit..."
Trevor turned and stumbled across the room. Out of nowhere, he started hugging a startled stranger at one of the tables
"Hey... Hey, I know you. Look, about that crush you had in high school, that one that went really bad... Look.... I just wanted to say.... I'm sorry I did that to you, man. I thought it would be funny. Get a laugh, that sort of thing. It wasn't... I understand now how... how much something like that can hurt, man. It... it hurts a lot. I'm... sorry." Trevor patted the confused man's shoulder, stumbling away from the table.
Finally Trevor made it over to the front door and opened it. The bartender smiled as he left, taking the full shot glass Trevor had left on top of the bar.
Another patron sitting at the bar turned to the bartender, watching Trevor walk past the front glass. "Wow." The man nodded over. "Thinks he's the god of love, huh? How many did he have?"
The bartender shrugged, wiping his hands with his towel. "Not a drop. He never took a sip..."
Outside, Trevor stumbled down the sidewalk in the cold night air, his breath misting before him. Winter was coming. A cold, lonely winter. In the distance behind him, pale, solitary street lights glowed with many colors. He felt lost, totally alone for the first time in his existence. Abandoned by everyone he cared about. Trevor paused... before turning and rushing over to cough and gag into a nearby trash can.
But each time I do,
just the thought of you,
makes me stop before I begin,
I've got you, under my skin..
Claire knew she wouldn't get anything done tonight. Her face was sad as she closed her computer, and her eyes sparkled with new tears. She stood up beside her dresser. Her hand reached up, full of emotion as she clutched at the center of her chest. She couldn't stop thinking about him. Couldn't get him out of her thoughts. She missed him. She missed him so much.
Claire inhaled, trying not to cry. She wiped her eyes dry, but more tears were already following behind. Thinking about him, she shook her head. This wasn't working. She had to get over Trevor. She had to find some way to forget him. Some way to move on. The sooner the better. But she wasn't so sure she could.
I love you, under my skin...
Claire sat down on the side of her bed, looking over at the phone, not certain what to do. She finally reached out, lifting the receiver and resting it against her shoulder as she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She didn't pay attention to the number she dialed, trusting blindly that it would be right one, the one that was there... in her heart.
The line began to ring in her ear. She waited, wiping her eyes again as she sniffed. Finally someone picked up on the other end.
"Tr-..Richard?" Claire seemed surprised to hear him, her voice soft. "Is that you?"
"Claire? Hi." There was a pause. "What's... wait, what's wrong?"
Claire sniffed sadly, looking over at her closed closet door as a tear rolled down her cheek. She shook her head, wiping the tear away.
"Nothing. It's... umm, nothing's wrong, Richard. I was just calling to tell you. I... I think I'm finally ready for that second date..."
To Be Continued in
HANGING BY A STRING
Part Five of Five
Work In Progress...