The light music and the chatting sound from other tables mingle together. His cup is half-filled, near which there is a half-filled glass of Chardonnay with lipstick print on the rim and a wrinkled napkin next to the empty plate. The vacant chair next to his reminds him to look up to the exit of the restaurant. There she is, clad in her royal blue dress walking away in a hasty stride. He stands up from his chair instantly and runs after her. His steps quicken as he sees her turn around the corner and loses the sight of her. When he makes it to the lobby, he finds himself rubbing shoulders with a crowd. Why are there suddenly so many people? He doesn’t know, nor does he care to figure out. He’s busy looking for her in the crowd. A tiny spot of that blue color appears and then disappears as he tries to make his way through the crowd. He’s got the feeling of a deja vu, but he has no time to recollect.
“I can’t. I’m sorry. I want to, but I can’t.” Her words echo in his mind. As he gradually approaches her, she has reached the revolving door.
“Excuse me! Diane!” Rushing through the crowd, he yells her name, but she doesn’t look back and then disappears in the spinning glass.
“Diane!” As he goes through the door and tries to reach her, he finds himself not at the outside of the hotel but is surrounded by dazzling white light, so bright that he has to block his eyes with his hand.
When he opens his eyes, again, he is lying in the bed of his cabin. He’s alone, but the pillow next to his still smells of her perfume, the only trace that she was here last night.
“It’s me missing you and hoping you feel likewise.” He recalls her sparkling eyes filled with affection and tenderness. His reminiscing is interrupted by the sound of heels hitting the wooden floor from outside the half-opened door. He gets up, walks through the hallway and goes downstairs to trace her by following the sound of her steps. As he reaches the living room, he hears the front door is opened.
“Diane?” He turns from the staircase to face the door, only catching her back attired in that beige coat. Her slender fingers holding the doorknob gradually disappear before the door is heavily shut behind her. He runs to the door, hearing the sound of tyre grinding the gravelled road.
“Diane!” He opens the door. Again, there’s no leaving vehicle but a strong light that pokes his eyes.
He is sitting on the stand, but he notices that the attorneys, the judge, and the audience are looking at the same direction. He follows their stare. Her heels hit the marble floor of the courtroom resoundingly, only leaving him the back of her striding figure to the door.
“No. Not this time.” He stands up and almost jumps out of the bench, running after her. His hand holds the door before it shuts. His eyes reflexively squint in fear of another shoot of strong light, but there is nothing but an empty hallway.
“Where is she?” He looks around. He walks through the hallway. Turning around the corner, he finds her leaving the courthouse but clad in a black dress-suit that he has never seen before. Catching up with her steps, he grabs her arm before she can reach the door.
“I can explain.” Out of his breath, he says.
She turns, looking at him confused. “Excuse me? Are you mistaking me for someone else, sir?” She smiles at him politely, still wearing a confused look.
“Diane, what do you mean?” Startled by her answer, he frowns.
“Ah, yes, that’s my name. Have we worked together before?” A little scared but also interested, she rids her arm of his hold, acting like he is a total stranger.
“I, uh, the Broussard homicide, Diane, that brought us together.” He cannot believe he is explaining how they met but he has no idea what else to say.
“Broussard…” She frowns for a second. Then her eyes widen, like being hit by an epiphany. “Oh, Will’s case. Right, that’s why you look familiar.” She smiles.
“Will’s case?” His voice raises, astounded.
“Yes, Will Gardener, my late partner. He was the litigator on that case.” Her words hit him like a bat on the head.
The images flash in front of his eyes. He was in Will’s office, sharing his strategy on Broussard case. When leaving, he shot a look at the office opposite, only an empty red chair in the sight. In his farm, it was Will to whom he duplicated the shooting and showed the similar wound of the victim. He went for another appointment with him to share his opinion on Bianca Price trial. He shot a look at the female partner’s office while waiting for Will. The blonde partner was occupied in a meeting with a young reporter. He could hear the confident throaty laughs coming through her open door, but she never noticed him. When he was leaning against the wall outside the courtroom waiting to give his testimony, she walked past in a haste, not even shed a glimpse to him. He worked on Sweeney’s gunshot case as a returning favor for Will Gardner’s previous defence for his lawsuit against Jason Beltran. She was never involved in these cases directly. He only saw this powerful feminist partner through glass walls while co-working with her partner. There was never an occasion where he had the chance to talk to her, not to mention getting involved with her. They never started anything.
But what about those memories with her? Her bending over and kissing him passionately before leaving on their first date; her staring at him affectionately after throwing jealous comment on his student; her looking so hurt when his affair was exposed in court. Are those illusions? He feels a lump in his throat and tears pricking his eyes. “What is happening?”
“Sorry that I haven’t properly introduced myself. Diane Lockhart, Mr?” She shoots him a big grin, reaching out her hand.
“Kurt McVeigh.” He swallows before answering powerlessly and shaking her delicate hand. On the touch of her flesh, he recollects how her cold fingers once on his cheek and in his hair. The feeling is so real.
“McVeigh? Oh, what an unfortunate name! Hopefully, no relations?” She laughs hard before feeling sorry for her careless joke and gathering herself.
“Sorry, no offense. It’s always a pleasure to talk with someone who worked with Will, but I’m really late. Nice meeting you, Mr…uh…McVeigh.” She smiles at him, a little embarrassed, before walking away and leaving the door shut behind her.
He stands there, aghast, still shocked by the revelation that he has been weaving an illusional relationship with her. He has never been in her life? His sight blurs. His head is spinning. His heart is racing. He cannot catch his breath.
“If none of those memories are real, there would be no marriage, no betrayal, no Florrick trial. Then where am I? What am I doing?” He hears a muffled voice. He looks around the empty hall. There’s no one. Then the voice becomes clearer.
“Kurt.” It’s his name. He tries to find where the voice comes from. If this is some kind of prank, someone, please, ends it.
“Diane?” He recognizes her voice.
He blinks hard before opening his eyes. Panting heavily, he stares at the ceiling. His heart is racing frantically. Realizing where he is, he feels her cold hand on his chest. Dark as it is, he gradually catches her face lighted by the milky moonlight pouring through the window.
“Kurt, are you alright?” She asked concernedly, bracing herself with her elbow against the pillow.
Still feeling dizzy, he cannot squeeze a word other than stare at her with eyes wide open and mouth ajar.
“You’re talking in your dream.” The sound of his pumping vessel is still punching his ears. He holds his tears at bay on hearing her almost whispering voice.
Putting her hand on his cheek, she wants to make sure that he is with her. He takes her hand in his palm. Placing his quivering lips on the back of her long fingers, he gives a kiss on her wedding ring. Thank god, this is reality.
Separating his back from the mattress, he wraps her tightly in his arms.
“Oh,” Startled by his sudden embrace, she runs her fingers in his hair and whispers in his ear softly, “What’s wrong?”
The touch of her soft breasts on his chest makes him wide awake. He buries his face in the crook of her neck and drops small kisses on her shoulder.
“Thank you for being in my life.” His voice is a bit shaking. Landing her on her side of the bed and pulling back, he gazes at her with his glistening eyes.
“What?” She frowns, without a clue where this is coming from.
“I miss you so much, Diane.” He dips his head and kisses her fully. The touch of her soft lips reassures him that she is right here with him and has been a major part of his life since the day they met in her office.
“God forbid. Whatever it takes, I will never let her leave me again.” His arm clings around her narrow waist, holding her more tightly against him.
Forgetting her confusion, she wraps her arms around his neck and squirms under him, responding to his firm lips. They keep cuddling for a long while until both fall asleep in one another’s arms.
The noise of light traffic and the sound of birds’ twitting creep in her ears. She wakes, but the heaviness of her eyelids prevents her from opening her eyes. She reaches her hand to his side of the bed only finding it empty. Frowning, fighting the sleepiness, she opens her eyes. Her heart sinks. There’s no trace of him, but her mood is slightly lightened seeing her silk robe neatly folded on his pillow. Rubbing her eyes, she takes a big yawn, trying to recover from the extra exercise last night. She gets up and puts on her rope before collecting her laptop and glasses from the coffee table and climbing back to bed. The screen remains the renting website she scanned yesterday.
Scrolling the webpages, she cannot take in any information. Not just annoyed by the lousy options that she would never live in, she cannot vacate her mind from the wild sex they had hours ago, nor can she stop thinking about his murmuring of her name that woke her in the middle of the night. Given how dreadful he looked, it was certainly a nightmare. But what did he mean by “being in his life”? Did he have a dream that she died?
“Good morning.” Taking off her glasses, she greets back. Not knowing that he hasn’t left yet, she’s a little startled by his appearance.
“What’s with the boxes?” Too occupied elsewhere, he didn’t notice the boxes piled up around the couch last night.
She tells him that she’s considering moving.
“Just for a change.” She shrugs slightly, trying to sound no big deal.
“Change to what?” He keeps pursuing while adjusting his suit jacket.
“A new place.” She’s not answering the question, shooting him a smile before returning her eyes to the screen.
She instantly folds up the laptop when he walks closer and gingerly seats himself on the edge of her bedside, hands folded on his lap.
“Do you want to move in together?” He gazes expectantly at her vigilant eyes.
She looks aside, avoiding his gaze. Last time he proposed to live together, it was some time after his affair. An attempt for change was made out of guilt to compensate his betrayal. She felt stupid every time she recalled herself naively rejoicing over his fake thoughtfulness. Now, a new proposal is made out of sympathy, the last thing she wants from anyone, especially him. Rubbing her thumb over her laptop, she looks like contemplating, like she needs to.
“No.” Short and resolute.
“Why not?” She smirks in her thought. What a pair they are! He looks naive expecting to receive a different answer.
“It’s my problem.” She doesn’t bother if her emphasis might hurt him. She just wants to close the subject. Besides, she is telling the truth. They have been living separate lives before and after they got married. She has to admit that they were occasional lovers, a colorful name once thrown at her by the vetting staff for her supreme court judgeship. There hasn’t been a “them” in their relationship. A marriage certificate hasn’t changed that fact, which can hardly make what they are having a real marriage.
Putting the laptop on the mattress, she thinks the matter’s settled. But he moves forward closing the gap between them and stares at her unyieldingly before pressing his lips firmly on hers. Sunk into his kiss, she feels dizzy and helpless. His bristled lips brush hers dearly, reminding her where they have been last night. She feels heated in her lungs, making her chest heaving unevenly. She is about to respond to him before he gradually draws away. Taking a breath, she tries to wake her brain back to work.
“I have to get to work.” Her eyes linger on his lips shortly before drifting away.
“Diane, let me help.” He offers sincerely.
She eyes his silver hair, his affectionate orbs and then his lips.
“Kurt, last night was great, but I have to get to work.” Apparently, “great” underestimates what they had, and she knows. Hands against the mattress, she braces herself to sit straight, a movement forcing him to remove his hands previously residing beside her hips. As she does so, his hand innocently grazes the slick fabric of her robe over her thigh. He takes the hint and sits further away reluctantly. She puts her glasses on the nightstand. Taking in enough of her feint indifference, he pats her knee softly before standing up and heading to the door. Now certain that he is leaving, she feels at loss. Lightly biting her bottom lip, she tastes the bitterness of mouthwash left by him.
He knows his wife well enough to understand that nothing could make her take his gesture, not in their separation, but he couldn’t help making his offer. It agonizes him that he couldn’t tell how she really feels about him based on her shifting attitudes. With no idea if there is anything else he can do to make up to her apart from giving her space and time, he is just relived that she doesn’t resent his presence any more, at least not evidently. Blinking hard, he feels his eyes so heavy. He rarely slept after that horrifying dream. It still scares him that there might be a parallel universe where he lives a totally different life without even a chance to know her. It’s stupid to ponder over a meaningless dream, but if she never forgives him and finally decides to erase him from her life, he will be nobody but a stranger to her, just like the way in his dream.
“Kurt!” Before he reaches the front door, his name is called. Has she changed her mind?
“Yes?” He turns with a hint of exhilaration in his voice.
Her long legs show from time to time as she descends downstairs. He cannot help staring.
Standing in front him, she looks a little embarrassed by his previous blatant staring.
“It’s just…you forgot your tie.” She hands him the roll. “I found it at the foot of the bed.”
“Ah…” He takes it, looking disappointed, “Thanks.” Putting it in his pocket, he is about to leave.
“Kurt.” He turns to her. “I just want to tell you, uh, you don’t need to worry about me. It’s a bad time, but I’ve met worse. I mean, way worse.” She forces a short smile before continuing seriously. “I’m not shutting you out. I can handle it.”
His gaze softens, with a lopsided smile emerging on his face.
“I believe you can. You’re always my hero.”
She smiles shyly.
“So,” He continues, “Care for that dinner I still owe you? Maybe after you claim a victory in your new firm?”
“Sure.” She laughs.
“Great.” He leans closer and drops a peck kiss on her cheek before turning the doorknob. A gust of wind flips the hemline of her robe. The cool air runs through her body reminds her that she’s not wearing any underwear. “I’ll call.” He shoots her another smile before closing the door behind him.
Standing on the kitchen floor, she pours herself a cup of coffee. Taking a bite of the toast she just made, she realizes that she has skipped breakfast for a while. She finds it unusually delicious. She keeps telling herself that it is because of her deliberate plan to claim her value in the firm, but it is clear who is occupying her mind right now.