What If - by Christine
Spoilers: Dead Irish Writers
Disclaimers: None of the characters belong to me. They all belong to AS and Co.
She thinks about it late at night, when the stars are twinkling down at her as she sits on the fire escape after another long day. Another day full of too many meetings to schedule and briefing memos to type. Another day full of meaningless quips and endless banter. Another day of watching him slip further away from her.
She never thought she would be at this place, at this time. When she was a child, she had everything planned: meet the right boy, fall in love, get married. She discovered it wasn't that easy. Sometimes he wasn't the right boy. Sometimes it wasn't really love. And once, when she convinced herself it was both, time taught her differently.
This time it really is love. And he is most definitely the right boy. The next logical steps would be a relationship and then marriage. But she's grown up now, and life isn't quite that simple. Maybe he loves her, too. She's not always sure. But it doesn't really matter. They can't be together and she knows it. So she sits on her fire escape, watching the clouds cover the stars, and thinks about what could be, what might be and what can't be.
She drags herself through the front door and tosses her keys on a table. She's tired and cranky and wants nothing more then to curl up in bed. But she realizes that what she really craves is the feel of someone's arms around her as she lays in the dark, offering her love and support.
But her bed is as empty as her apartment. No one calls out a greeting when she comes home; no one is here to hug her on days like these. The only sounds are the muted traffic outside the window and the laugh track of a sitcom playing on her neighbor's television. Her home is silent.
Sometimes, when she feels it's hopeless to wish for the love of a man, she longs for the simple devotion of a pet. But she knows that's impossible. She's rarely home long enough to provide the care required by another living creature. Even her houseplants die of neglect. Besides, it's not really a pet that she wants anyway.
So she discards her suit and crawls between the cold, lonely covers of her bed. She hugs a pillow to her body as she cries.
He sits at the smoky bar and watches the other patrons. It's late and most have gotten to the point in the evening where they are becoming sloppy and drunk. But he sits on the bar stool with his back straight, sober despite the three scotches he has already consumed.
He signals the bartender for another drink, staring at the mirrored image of himself behind the bar. He wonders when he started to look so sad, so disillusioned. Was it when his marriage ended? Maybe it was when his friends reached out in need, and unable to comfort them, he lashed out in anger. Or maybe it was when one more image of a hero crumbled to dust and revealed just a man. He likes to think that he has always been above thinking only of the consequences. But recently, he's realized that he is like all the others, thinking politically first, personally last. It's not something of which he's proud.
He puffs on a cigar and he thinks. And when the words become too cluttered in his mind, he reaches for a napkin and he begins to write.
He closes the laptop in front of him and releases a deep sigh. Leaning back against the cushions of his couch, he removes his glasses. His back aches and his head throbs. He wants nothing more than to take a scalding shower and sleep, but his mind is too restless to allow him peace.
He gets up and looks at the quiet neighborhood outside his window and thinks about the busier view from his old apartment in New York. In the city, there was always a rush of activity. Nothing ever seemed to slow down, even late at night. Sometimes, he misses the rush. Other times, he just misses what his life in New York symbolized: security and the knowledge that nothing would ever upset the certain, cautious life he had planned.
This new life he has built, this job, are uncertain. And sometimes he feels as if he isn't accomplishing anything. But each morning he walks into his office determined to make a difference. Sometimes he does, but more often then not, he feels like he is useless.
He doesn't regret walking out of Gage-Whitney to pursue this dream, but sometimes he wonders what might have been. His hand reaches for the phone and almost dials the familiar 212 area code, but he hesitates and replaces the receiver. The number has long since been changed and all that is left are his memories.
He drives across town to his home in Georgetown. She asked him to stay it's an offer she makes every time - but he is reluctant. It's not that he doesn't care about her, he does. But he worries that if they didn't have these jobs, this political connection, that their relationship would crumble. And a small part of him knows that what he feels for her isn't really love. So he keeps a bit of himself separate from her, not quite sharing all.
It bothers him that he doesn't have this problem with the other woman in his life. She knows his secrets, his fears, his dreams and his nightmares. He knows all of hers as well, and that gives him hope. They are only friends, but there is a connection there that he's never had with any other woman. Because of this, he's certain that they have some sort of future together. But then something happens, and his certainty is shattered, leaving him struggling, trying to find assurances in a world turned upside down.
He parks his car in its familiar spot and walks up the steps. It's starting to rain, the gloomy atmosphere matching his mood. He knows that nothing can be done about his life tonight. Some things can't be solved in a day, a month or even a year. So for now, he will go upstairs, put on his too big pajamas and sleep.
She wakes up and feels a cold breeze blowing against her skin. The window is open, and a storm is brewing, whipping the curtains around in a frenzy.
She gets up to close the window, but stops to watch the storm clouds form. Here in the city, she can hear the thunder and see the flashes of light, but she misses seeing the actual bolts of lightening. At home, she would sit at the window for hours on end, watching the storms. Hurricane season was particularly interesting to her. She would watch the sky turn a peculiar shade of gray and see the fat drops of rain land on the ground. Later, when the storm was over, she would turn on the news and watch the newscasters report the damage to the surrounding areas.
Sometimes, she thinks it's odd that the destructive force of nature fascinates her so much. It isn't normal. But she has always been different. When she was a girl, she preferred reading Brontė to playing on the swing set at the park. Now, her differences are apparent in her work. Lawyers are common, and she is certainly no exception, but her workplace is anything but the norm. She has chosen to make herself the single voice of dissension in an office full of agreement. She wouldn't trade her job for anything, but it makes her wonder sometimes. She's drawn to the storm, but she's scared by it too. And she wonders if one day, the lightening will strike her when she's not careful.
She goes to close the window, but doesn't. Instead, she pulls a chair close to the sill, props her chin in her hand, and just watches the sky.
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