“Good morning, Dr. Allen. Lovely morning, isn’t it?”
Claire huffed, eyeing the dense, dark clouds as she reached for her umbrella. “If by lovely you mean grim, then sure. It’s lovely.”
“Your coffee, madam.” He handed over her cup. “My, you’re looking particularly fetching this morning.”
Claire looked down at her regular shoes, the jacket she’d had for several years now. “This is how I dress every day.”
“I didn’t say it was a new development.”
“Trevor, is there something you want?”
“Claire! You wound me.” He clutched dramatically at his heart. “Assuming I must automatically have some ulterior motive. Is it hard, going through life so untrusting -”
“- and grim and -”
“- with such utter callous disbelief in the innate goodness of -”
He blinked. “There’s no need to yell.”
She pinched the bridge of her nose. “If you have a point, make it. If not, I’m sure you have someone else whose life you can insert yourself into.”
“Why, Doctor,” he leered. “If you’re interested in insertion, you could have just -”
She held up one hand. “Nope.”
“Right. Let’s play it more subtle. You and I are much more old-school banter, anyway.”
They had paused beside her car. “Mr. Hale. You have until I unlock this car to say whatever it is you came here for. Which, I’m assuming, will be some keen insight into the human condition.”
“Do I ever disappoint? Don’t answer that.” He flashed her a grin. “Actually, I just wanted to ask about the extra group session you’d mentioned last week.”
“You couldn’t just call?”
“And miss the chance to bask in your gentle glow?”
Claire sighed, setting her bag down in the passenger seat. “It’s tomorrow, at 6:30. Nothing all that unusual. Any other questions?”
“Give me a chance. I could think up some gems.”
“And on that note, goodbye, Trevor.”
“Have an inspiring day, Dr. Allen.”
She pulled away from the curb, glancing back in her mirror to find him sweeping an exaggerated bow.
So there was that.
Claire managed to see two patients and get a few hundred words of her newest paper written before her door opened without any preamble.
“You could try knocking,” she suggested without looking up from her computer.
“Nah.” Trevor all but bounced into her office. “You busy right now?”
“I doubt that.”
She groaned. “Is there some kind of Trevor-proof door I can invest in for this office?”
“No such luck.”
She pulled off her reading glasses, rubbing her eyes and propping her chin on one hand. “To what do I owe this unsurprising invasion?”
“Invasion?” He raised an eyebrow. “This goes back to your lack of trust we talked about this morning, Doctor. Do we need to set up some sessions so I can help you work through this?”
“Do you have an off button?”
“You don’t want to know where,” he grinned. “But relax. I’m just here to bring you lunch.”
Claire frowned, skeptical, but sure enough, he produced a white carryout bag from Taggerty’s, and a to-go cup of iced tea.
“Oh.” She blinked, accepting his offerings. “Um. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, my lady.”
He just fixed her with a lopsided smile, and Claire felt her cheeks getting warm. Just when she thought Trevor didn’t do sincere, he kept surprising her. She peered inside the bag, finding a delicious-looking sandwich and a little plastic container of salad. “This looks good.”
“No worries. I only save you the good stuff.” He glanced at his watch. “I should probably get back. I wasn’t technically supposed to leave.”
“Thank you for lunch.”
“Don’t mention it.” He turned to go, but looked back. “I like your pin, by the way. Is it new?”
“This?” She looked down. “Oh. Yes. A present, from my dad.”
“It suits you.”
He was gone before she could come up with a response.
That got weird.
Weird in that it was...bizarrely normal. Unlike Trevor. She tugged at her lapel, looking at the brooch her dad had sent from Norway, from his latest tour. It was a delicate thing, intricate silver filigree and little blue gems. She didn’t wear much jewelry, but she loved this.
Claire shrugged. Trying to figure out Trevor Hale’s behavior had long proved a study in futility.
So she pulled out the lunch he’d brought, finding an extra napkin tucked beneath her sandwich, with a message scrawled on it in permanent marker.
Did you know elephant seals have female harems? Nice to know the animal kingdom is so open-minded.
It was dark outside when Claire woke with a start, her back sore, and realized that she’d fallen asleep at her desk. Ow. She stretched, wincing at the pull in her shoulders. I have to stop doing this.
A glance at her clock told her it was already eight; the dull ache in her stomach reminded her she’d had nothing to eat since noon. Claire sighed, sitting back in her chair.
There was another bag from Taggerty’s on the corner of her desk, with a note taped to it: You really should sleep more. Although you’re cute when you’re snoring.
Claire rolled her eyes, though he wasn’t there to get the benefit,
There was another sandwich inside, but perched atop it was an extra napkin, folded carefully. A little origami butterfly.
She picked it up carefully, tracing its wings with gentle fingers. Origami. That was new.
And letting her sleep? Bringing food, but not waking her up for more pestering? Even newer.
Claire paused for a moment, finally picking up her phone and dialing.
Champ answered. “Taggerty’s.” She could hear the normal noise of the bar in the background, the jangle of music and clamoring voices.
“Champ, it’s Claire. Is Trevor there?”
“Yeah, he’s handing out drinks. One second.”
There was a blur of noise as the phone was passed over, and then Trevor’s cheerful voice. “Claire-Bear! You finally woke up. I was getting worried.”
“Afraid I’d sleep a hundred years?”
“Are you suggesting I should have kissed you to speed up the process?”
“That’s not even -”
“Because I think you are.”
“Trevor.” She sighed. “I was actually just - calling to say thank you. I’ve had a long, busy day, and I appreciate the food.”
“I’m just happy I could help.”
There was a warmth in his voice that rang, even through the noise of his surroundings, and Claire was blindsided by the knot in her throat.
This wasn’t them. This odd gentleness, out of place in their relationship of bicker and banter.
Even in the solitude of her office, she felt strangely, oddly exposed.
“So, um. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Not coming down to the bar tonight?”
“I suppose that’s fair.” She heard someone calling for a beer in the distance. “I should let you go and get back to work. The natives are getting restless.”
“Right.” She was about to say goodbye, but she bit her lip. “Trevor? What’s with the butterfly?”
“Oh. That.” There was a long pause. “It just occurred to me. Why?”
“I just - I like it.”
“Good. I’m glad.”
She cleared her throat. “Well. I’ll let you go. Good night, Trevor.”
“Sleep well, Doctor.”
It pricked at her mind, a constant, faint question at the fringes of her concentration as she brushed her teeth that night. Something. She was missing something.
It wasn’t until she was in bed, leaning over to switch off the light and go to sleep, that it dawned on her, a memory that floated up as soft as a feather.
Trevor had never recognized the name Psyche, had he? He still insisted that wasn’t part of the story. His story. The one in his mind.
But Claire remembered reading about Psyche, the princess-turned-goddess, painted and sculpted as a beautiful woman. With butterfly wings.