“Why didn’t you tell me about the voice mail?”
Will looked away from the warm afternoon sun as it crept through the window, illuminating the deep wooden tones of Dr Habib’s office. He always felt this was a better place for lounging with a scotch and cigar than spilling out one’s insecurities, but maybe that was all part of the plan lull you into a false sense of security. Open-heart surgery on a plush leather couch.
“Will,” Dr Habib pressed again, his voice annoyingly calm. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Will shrugged off the question with a roll of his eyes. “What, you want me to tell you all the shit I’ve been up to while wasted? My college years would make Cheech and Chong blush.”
Habib looked unimpressed.
“It didn’t mean anything, ok?” Will relented under the psychiatrist’s silence. “I was on a smorgasbord of drugs, enough to take down Willie Nelson. I would have professed love for Geraldo Rivera’s moustache if I had its number.”
Habib’s gaze remained unchanged. “So you bringing in Mackenzie’s ex boyfriend; that had nothing to do with it?”
Will immediately tensed up. No, he wanted to say, but the denial couldn’t form in his mouth. “It was... You said it before – it was my sensitivity to betrayal. She betrayed me so that’s why I can’t seem to forgive her. That’s why I wanted to hurt her. Right?”
Jacob gave a small nod then leaned forward in his chair and watched him thoughtfully for a moment.
“Do you know that in the entirety of ‘The Iliad’ and ‘The Odyssey’, in all thirty thousand lines, Homer never once mentions the colour blue?”
Will furrowed his brow in confusion. “When did I sign up for a history lesson?”
“There is hundreds of mentions of black, white, red, green, even yellow – but never blue.” Jacob continued, undeterred.
“…What is this, Ancient Greek Colour-By-Numbers?” Will interjected.
“The thing I find curious though, is that the whole epic is set on the Aegean Sea. That’s pretty much the bluest blue you can get, and yet – nothing. Nothing in the Torah either. Nor the Icelandic sagas, nor the Indian Vedic poems. As far as we know the entire ancient world was practically colour-blind.”
“So you’re saying the water was always wine.” Will quipped flatly.
“I’m saying perception is a powerful thing. There are very few naturally blue things out there in the world. So humans only needed a name for the colour when they could create it. And without the name, without the distinction, without the classification – how could you identify it as a separate colour? A single bit of information can change your perception of the world entirely. Without the word, you’re still seeing the blue; you’re just not noticing it.
These past few months you’ve been acting as if the reality is that Mackenzie rejected you. That you opened up to her in a moment of inebriated weakness and she shot you down. But surely the one simple fact that she never got the message has changed everything? You have dragged out her ex-boyfriend and made her sacrifice her journalistic integrity for ratings, but all the while she stood by you. She supported you while you tore down her world.
These past months you’ve seen it, but you just haven’t noticed it.”
“Noticed what?” Will asked quickly, suddenly riveted to the young doctor.
Habib watched him silently for a moment then leaned back into his chair. “You were the one who made the first move?”
“Noticed what?” Will asked more forcibly, his head swirling with colours and history and shit that he really didn’t need to deal with right now.
The doctor seemed unfazed. “When you two first met, you were the one who asked her out, weren’t you?”
“Yes, I was.” Will sighed in frustration. “As I’m sure you’ve read in that five part tragedy that is my file. What didn’t I notice?”
“Did she say yes? When you asked her out.”
He was late for a lunch.
“What?” He shook his head, trying to clear his mind from the flood of questions and memories.
The coffee. Her smile.
“No. That was… years ago. It doesn’t matter –”
“It does.” Habib interrupted calmly.
“Why?” He barked.
“Because perception is a powerful thing, Will. And you haven’t noticed the colour blue in years.”
A pair of long, slim legs were delicately crossed in the middle of the bustling newsroom.
Will had spotted them in the corner of his eye through the wall of glass that cut off the studio from the busy reality of the office. For the entire segment he made sure he remained focused on the issue and on the others, but every once in a while, when the attention was elsewhere, he found his eyes straying back towards the pit, and back to that pair of mysterious legs.
“How do you think the Republicans will react to her lack of voting record?”
If only the woman would stand up, or just shift slightly to the left, rather than remain hidden behind the flimsy barricade of desks.
He instantly snapped back to the studio to find the two panellists staring at him expectantly.
Lights. Cameras. Opinions. He was still on air.
“Well Ted,” Will quickly recovered with his most casual voice and a small shift in his chair. “I think it’s definitely going to be a key issue in this nomination period. The conservatives do not have any traditional litmus test to go by so I think it’s really going to come down to how much confidence they have in the President’s judgement.”
The young anchor feigned a thoughtful nod then turned to the other panellist. “So considering Chief Justice O’Conner has given her blessing to Miers, how smooth do you think this nomination will be?”
While the question given a vague, circuitous answer, Will saw a shadow move from behind the cameras. A small smile crept out on his mouth as the figure stepped into the light and gave a cheery wave of its fingers.
Will never could tell when Charlie Skinner was drunk or sober, but that’s what happens when one never had a baseline to go off.
The anchorman swung back in his chair to face the centre camera. “Well, that’s all we have time for this morning, I’d like to thank Michelle Jennings for coming on the show, and Will McAvoy, as always. I’m Ted Fisher, stay tuned for Kelly Liu and the Wall Street Review.”
The small red light turned off and bright house lights switched on as the studio filled with the sound slow clapping from Charlie as he emerged from behind the cameras.
“Why can’t I get an audience like you everyday?” Ted quipped as he pulled out his earpiece.
“You couldn’t afford me.” Charlie’s gruff voice answered.
“So,” The young anchor shuffled his notes. “What brings you down to the cesspool of the studio?”
“I’ve come to steal Will off you. Do you mind?” Charlie asked with a forced smile.
“Of course not.” Ted responded genially. “He’s all yours.”
Will shot the young man a quick look then took off his earpiece, stood up from the news desk and joined Charlie as they walked out of the studio.
“How thoughtful of you to ask permission.” Will murmured sarcastically under his breath.
“News anchor’s egos are sandcastles, McAvoy: you need to build them up to knock them down.” Charlie pushed open the studio door and led him down the hallway.
“Well give me a heads up when you see the tide roll in for me.”
“Now that could be sooner than you think judging by your little zone-out back there.”
“You saw that?” Will stopped as they reached the door to the dressing room.
“I see everything!” Charlie raised his bushy eyebrows dramatically, yet Will couldn’t help but believe him. “What happened? Supreme Court not thrilling enough anymore?”
“Yeah, because everybody loves some Judicial Branch action.” Will pushed the door open to his dressing room and loosened his tie. “It was just… It was nothing – I got distracted.”
“Well you recovered pretty quickly so there’s hope for you as a newsman yet.” Charlie gave a resolute nod as he stood by the door.
“Thanks.” Will smiled wryly as he took off his tie and rolled up his sleeves. “So what do I owe the privilege?”
“What are you doing for lunch?”
“I’ve got a big date with a turkey sub and a lecture on the fifth amendment.”
“Planning the perfect crime?”
“Planning to teach some sophomores at Columbia.”
“When is it?”
“You could write that speech in your sleep and those kids wouldn’t notice.” Charlie huffed with a wave of his hand. “Come have lunch with me.”
Will smiled inwardly and sat down on the makeup chair. “Where at?”
“My office.” Charlie replied cheerily.
Will raised his eyebrow. “Will there be food?”
“No, but there’ll be bourbon.”
Will leaned back in his chair and studied Charlie suspiciously. “So you came all the way down to the studio and into my dressing room just to ask me out to lunch? People might talk.”
“What can I say, I have a thing for Republicans.” He shrugged playfully.
Will held his gaze. “Charlie, what’s up?”
The director of the news division watched him in silence for a moment with a small, enigmatic smile. “You did an exceptional job reporting on Hurricane Katrina.”
“Thank you.” Will conceded modestly, waiting for his boss to get the point.
“Harvey Moss thinks you did an exceptional job too.”
Will couldn’t contain a small laugh of disbelief, but when Charlie didn’t go along with the joke, his eyebrows shot up. “Hold on – no. You don’t mean Harvey Moss as in Old Man News Night Harvey Moss?”
“Is there any other?”
“I hope not!” Will threw up his arms. “The man can’t stand me! He called me a spineless slice of white bread with as much political conviction as a Hallmark card! What the hell’s he doing giving me a compliment?”
“Why don’t you join us for lunch and find out?” Charlie shouted back, a smile still playing at his lips.
Will sighed and fell back into his chair then looked back up at Charlie. “What aren’t you telling me, boss?”
“Oh, everything.” Charlie looked pleased with himself. “Write your little speech then come up to my office at one o’clock. Trust me, this is a lunch you won’t want to skip.”
He gave a quick wink then opened the door and disappeared down the hallway, leaving Will by himself.
Why on earth would Harvey Moss want to have a meeting with him? The old man had been the anchor of News Night for so many years he had practically rotted into the news desk, where he would look down upon Will like some arrogant child who needed to be taken down a peg. Or five.
He brought his laptop out onto the dressing room counter and tried to start on his lecture but his mind swirled with questions. Moss was old, yes, but the man was more stubborn than an elephant in a tar pit, he wouldn’t retire till they dragged from the desk on a gurney. And if he did, which he definitely would not, retire, then hell would need to freeze over before Moss would allow Will to take his place.
No. There was no chance that would be the reason for the meeting. No chance at all.
Will was thrown out of his thoughts by the piercing ring of his cell phone.
We swore under his breath as he picked it up to answer when his eyes caught the time on the blinking screen.
“Will McAvoy.” He quickly tried to save his document and shutdown his laptop as the familiar voice of his agent chatted in his ear.
“Look, Sam – ” He hurriedly interrupted as he rushed to the door and swung it open. “I can’t talk right now I’m late for a lunch – ”
Just as he stepped outside something crashed right into him.
“Oh!” A high-pitched voice exclaimed as Will felt puddle of warmth spread down his torso.
Dropping the phone from his ear he looked down at his shirt and the large brown stain that had suddenly appeared on it. But then his eyes caught on something else.
Those damn legs.