AN: This is an old fic, written between spring and fall of 2000. It takes as its starting point "Dark Side of the Moon" and goes alternative universe there. It's something of a melodrama, but I was a freshman in college so I plead ignorance. Just found it lingering on my hard drive and figured, now that all the old Frasier fanfic sites are shut down, I might as well give it some new life here. No need at all to comment; this is solely for your enjoyment.
Rediscovering Daphne: A Chronicle
Part I: The Truth Hurts
I walked out of my psychiatrist's office with my head down and my hands buried in my pockets. I didn't stop walking or even look up until I was safely into the calm, dim elevator. I leaned my face against the cool metal doors.
I was more confused than I'd ever been in my whole bloody life.
I thought psychiatrists were supposed to bloody fix things... Instead, she'd thrown a wrench into the machine, and it was stopping up the gears. Fast. I could feel them creaking to a halt. When they stopped was when it would hit me. Just don't let them stop until I'm in my own room, in my own bathtub, where no one will care if I cry.
The elevator door opened, and I was running through the lobby of the office complex, barreling past people left and right.
Never mind that this is HIS bloody building, where HIS bloody office is, where HE might see me. It just didn't matter. I had to get home.
I drove like a madwoman. Probably not a good idea, considering my state. If I'd been wise, I would have thrown all my concentration into the driving. It would have been a nice diversion. Instead, I made it to Elliot Bay in under five minutes.
I rushed into the building, nodded at dear, sweet Morrie, and pressed the button for the elevator.
Oh, God, I could feel the reality of it all crashing down on me.
Just a bit longer. Please. Until I'm in my room, where it's dark and cool and I can cry.
The elevator door opened happily.
Oh, God, not here.
The cabin was empty.
I threw myself through the doors, waited for them to close, and watched the numbers go up.
Three, four... ten, eleven... sixteen, seventeen...
Oh, good Lord.
I'm in love with Doctor Crane.
Almost on eighteen.
Just before it hit me, just before the machine realized that the bloody wrench was there because it had bleedin' stopped up everything that had been running smoothly before, I jabbed the emergency stop button.
The elevator ground to a stop. The cabin was thrown almost into darkness, with only the dim emergency bulbs at the corners of the cabin to retain some glimmer of light.
I sank into the far corner of the elevator, trembling, buried my face in my hands, and cried.
Good God. I, Daphne Moon, am in love with my employer, Doctor Niles Crane.
And there's not a bloody thing I can do about it.
I was tired.
In fact, I was very tired.
I'll admit that, as far as tolerance and patience go, I was a bit off my mark.
At the knock on my door, I glanced up from my newspaper, frowning. Is it so much to ask to finish the national news report in peace and quiet?
The knock sounded again.
Good God. I finally had gotten Simon Moon out of my apartment by practically threatening his excuse for a life, and I STILL couldn't find solitude!
I sighed, realizing my brother was not going away. What could he possibly want at this time of day? Didn't he have sessions?
Of course, I've long suspected that my brother secretly gave up his psychiatric practice after his divorce because he had uncovered some new, glorious secret about Maris about which she was happy to pay him to keep quiet.
I mean, my God, how else could the man have so much time on his hands?
Yes, I do see the irony that this is coming from a man who works three hours a day.
I stood, yawned, and made my way to the door. Before I'd gotten there, though, he'd knocked at least four more times, the urgency growing with each repeated attempt.
I opened the door just as he had lifted his desperate little fist to knock again. Thankfully, he saw me before letting that one fly.
"Niles," I intoned by way of bored acknowledgment.
"Frasier," he said with the same note of urgency of his knocks. His hair looked slightly windblown, and he was breathing hard. "Where's Daphne?"
Oh, good Lord. Not this. "I don't know, Niles. I imagine she's still at her anger-management session." I rolled my eyes as I turned my back to him and made my way to my wet bar. He followed me in and shut the door behind him. "Sherry?"
He shook his head distractedly. "No, no, she's not." He glanced only briefly at the glass in my outstretched hand. "Oh, no, no, that's all right, Frasier." The troubled, impatient look never left his face. "I saw her, Frasier."
Well, fine, then. If he doesn't want it, I'll drink it myself. I sat down on my couch, sherry in hand, crossed my legs, and watched him skeptically. "Saw her where, precisely? Is there a point to this story?"
He started pacing the area in front of the coffee table. "I saw her in my building. Well, I mean, in the lobby of my office building. I suppose she'd just seen Doctor McCaskill; you know, she's only a floor down from me. But I was coming into my building from lunch with Mel –"
I grinned. "Speaking of which, I heard from Roz that you have some interesting news..."
He shook his head. "Later, Frasier. At any rate, I was coming in when I saw Daphne storming frantically through the lobby, as if she were running for dear life. In fact, several people unfortunate enough to be in her path were bowled over and trodden upon. Well, you can imagine my worry and dismay. I promptly called my secretary, asked her to send Mister McGillis home, and drove to your apartment."
I sighed. "Well, she's not here, Niles."
He glared at me. "Well, her car is here, Frasier. She must be somewhere."
I rolled my eyes again and finished my sherry, placing the empty glass on a coaster on the coffee table.
Wait a minute.
Was my brother panting?
"Niles, it couldn't have taken you so much effort to press your foot against the accelerator in your Mercedes, nor could this rant have worn you out." I smirked. "I've seen you rant before for much greater extents of time without the slightest droplet of perspiration. Why on earth are you out of breath?"
He took several short breaths. "Apparently, the elevator is out of service. I ran up nineteen flights, only pausing for refreshment on the tenth floor when a dear elderly woman found me sprawled across the landing and offered me water to replenish me for the rest of my journey."
I stood up, slightly confused. "It was working fine just half an hour ago."
Niles shrugged. "I'm not really sure. There were quite a few people waiting for it in the lobby, and I heard rumors that someone had stopped it between the eighteenth and nineteenth floors."
It took it a second to dawn on each of us, but when it did, our eyes met. "Daphne."
He shook his head running toward the hall. "I told you something was wrong, Frasier. I've never seen her so upset."
He placed his hands on the elevator doors as if he thought he could pull them apart through brute strength. Or perhaps the strength of his will. "Oh, Niles, stop it, would you? You've sprained your wrist trying to pick up your dry cleaning. Do you really think that's wise?" I pressed my ear against the doors and faintly heard a choking sound. "Daphne?" I called. "Daphne, sweetheart, are you in there? Daphne?"
Just then, the elevator doors opened before me, and I jumped back.
My brother and I looked at each other. The car was empty. We were quiet for several moments. He finally shook his head, looking utterly distraught. I suppose he had seen this as his chance to help her, to save her, even. "I was so sure something was really wrong." Whether he meant with the elevator or with Daphne, I won't guess.
"Wrong with what?" I turned around, surprised, and was greeted by Daphne, who was just stepping out of the stairwell and was now walking toward my apartment door. She had a smile plastered across her face, but I don't think she was fooling either of us. Daphne emits... she emits... oh, all right, she'd probably call it an "aura" or something. Let's pretend that sounded slightly more of-this-earth than it did. The point is, though, it's easy to tell when she's upset, no matter how hard she tries to hide it.
Of course, that makes this scene all the more troubling. Daphne never tries to hide it. I cringed, recalling the recent four-car-pileup she had caused which was her ticket to therapy.
I sighed as she walked into the apartment, for all intents and purposes, aside from her polite, indifferent question, ignoring us completely. I walked up behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder. Niles stood behind, focusing intently on her, looking more worried than I'd ever seen him. "Daphne, are you all right?"
She didn't turn around. She took a deep breath, shrugged my hand off her shoulder, and headed to her room. "I'll be in my room."
We watched her walk away. When she was gone, I turned to my brother. "I'm sorry for being snappish with you, Niles. I see why you were concerned." I leaned back against the arm of my sofa. "I wish there were some way we could find out what was discussed in this little session of hers." I glanced at my brother, suggestion in my eyes.
He gasped. "Frasier, you're not suggesting – I will not invade her privacy, no matter the reason!"
Before I go on, you must understand something, something which you've probably guessed. It must be obvious.
My brother is unconditionally in love with this woman and has been for years.
"Oh, come on, Niles. You'd just have to have lunch with this doctor, remark that you're handling a case regarding a woman who was... I don't know... growing quite upset as her wedding day approached, and ask her if she's seen anything like it. You take lunch with her once in a while, don't you?"
Niles glared at me. "Yes, 'once' being the operative word! And it was simply to discuss the heating system which our two offices share, hers being directly beneath mine. We never could compromise on an appropriate temperature!" He began pacing. "Besides, Frasier, patients do mention specific names while on the couch. Don't you think that the dear doctor has already realized the Crane relationship to Daphne? She would never discuss her case with me."
I nodded. "I see your point." I paused. "There are other ways..."
He shook his head. "What you propose is a breech of ethics so heinous I cannot find it in me to believe that you are my brother." He walked up toward the back hallway.
"Niles, where are you going?"
"To see if she'll talk to me."
I was embarrassed out of my bloody mind when I heard Doctor Crane yelling down to me. So, in the space of a minute or two, I managed to collect myself, press the button for floor eighteen, and restart the elevator. The doors opened immediately. I stepped out, and they closed behind me. After several deep breaths (and a bit of reapplied powder to cover the blotchy redness of my face), I climbed the stairs one flight to floor nineteen.
They were waiting for me.
Now, I was on the phone with Donny. I'd needed to hear his voice to reassure me, to comfort me, to remind me what I have.
To get the machine back in gear.
"Hello, sweetie," he greeted me into the phone. "I have some big news to tell you tonight."
I snuggled into my comforter, pressing the phone against my ear tightly. "What kind of news?"
He sounded excited. I could just imagine him sitting, curly black hair all askew, suit a bit rumpled, feet propped up on his desk, grinning. "Aw, honey, it's big. But I want you to know that I'm not making the decision here. It's all up to you, okay?"
I smiled in spite of myself. "Sounds serious, but don't you think it's a little early to tell me it's up to me when I don't even know what it is? Can't you just tell me now?"
He paused. He was weakening, I could tell. "No, no, no. Wait until dinner. I'm taking you, Daphne, to that brand new bistro-thing downtown."
I smiled faintly. "All right. I'll see you tonight."
"Yeah, bye, honey." He paused. "Oh, and Daphne?"
"Are you okay? You sound sorta out of it. You'd tell me if something was wrong, wouldn't you?"
The funny thing is that it wasn't until then that I realized that my honest answer to that was "no."
I tried to sound cheerful. "Of course. Nothing's wrong. Now, I'm sure you've got some work to do. So get to it, then."
"Yes, ma'am," he replied, laughing.
I wondered then if he realized that I was lying.
There was a soft knock on my door. "I've got to go, love. Goodbye." I hung up, jumped up, and walked toward the door. "Who 's 't?"
"It's Niles." His voice was muted slightly through the door. I wondered briefly why he referred to himself to me by his given name.
I wasn't sure if I could deal with him at the moment, but I supposed I'd have to try. It wasn't as thought I'd be able to stop seeing him entirely. I turned away from the door and walked toward my dresser. "Come on in, then."
He opened the door almost timidly, if the sound of it was any indication, and closed it with the same careful grace. I pretended to be mesmerized by a photo on my dresser.
It wasn't even a real photo. It was the photo that came in the bloody frame. The couple in the photo looked so happy. I'd made up names for them, even. Edward and Victoria. Now, for the first time, it struck me as slightly pathetic. God, Daphne, get a grip. I clutched the edge of the dresser nervously.
"Daphne, we need to talk."
Why does my heart flutter like this whenever he says that?
Oh, never mind. I remember now. We resolved that little mystery this morning.
"Oh, do we, then?"
What about? Has he realized my feelings? Has he come to tell me he's flattered, but he prefers Mel now?
He took a deep breath. "Yes, we do, Daphne. I – I'm worried about you."
I spun on him. I hoped my eyes were blazing. I think I only succeeded in looking fairly ridiculous, though. My hair was a mess, my makeup had tear-streaks running through it, and my face was contorted somewhere between a laugh and a sob.
Of course, he didn't look top-notch himself. His blonde hair was tumbling over his forehead in a messy way that was wonderful but, I knew, unintentional and apart from his usually meticulous ways. His lips were quivering, and his eyes were slightly red. But that always happens when he gets quite nervous. He looked wonderful and passionate and –
"Oh, are you, now? Worried about poor little Daphne, that over-emotional Manchester girl who works for your brother? Well, Doctor Crane, I've already got myself one psychiatrist, and even if I didn't, I doubt I could afford your rates."
He looked stricken. "Daphne, that's not –"
I sat down at the chair in front of my dressing table. "No, I never bloody get it right, do I?"
My God. Does he think? No. The last thing I need is his pity.
He looked close to tears. "Daphne, you know I'm here as a friend."
I glanced over at him, still angry.
I'm not sure exactly why I was angry. He hadn't done anything wrong.
But he hasn't done it right, yet, either. All I really want him to say is, "Daphne, I –" No. I can't go there. I can't upset myself.
Damn that psychiatrist I went to this morning. Why'd she have to throw that bloody wrench in the clockwork?
"Are we even friends, Doctor Crane?" I don't really know why I said it, even. But I did.
He looked worse than stricken this time. He looked crushed. He bowed his head. "I had hoped you saw me in that light, yes."
I closed my mind, taking a step back in my mind. "Oh, Doctor Crane, of course I do, I'm sorry. I'm just... out of sorts today."
He looked down at me. He hadn't moved since he walked in. He stood perfectly still, trenchcoat covering his expensive suit, hands clasped before him. "Daphne, I want you to know that you can tell me anything. Please. Anything. I know something's wrong. Tell me, Daphne."
I laughed slightly. "You know, Doctor Crane, the funniest thing about that is that if anyone could help, it'd be you. Now –" I stood up. "I'm dog-tired. I was going to try to get some shut eye. I've a hectic few days before me, you know."
He nodded, looking sad. "Yes, I know that, Daphne." Then he looked up, questioningly. "Daphne, would you... would you have dinner with me tomorrow night? One last night out before you're married?"
I swallowed. But I suppose I do have to readjust to his company. And, as much as it scared me, I wanted so much to be alone with him. To know that he wanted to be alone with me. "That would be fine, Doctor Crane."
He nodded and looked down at his hands uncomfortably. "Well, Daphne, I hope you feel better. And, uh, if you should decide that you'd like to talk to someone, and that someone happened to be me... you know where to reach me. I said this before, but I want you to know... you truly can tell me anything, Daphne."
If only that were true.
I smiled sadly and walked over to him, giving him a hug. I was still somewhere between laughing and crying, and I felt closer to crying. "You're lovely, Doctor Crane," I murmured as I clung to him.
He held me tightly to him as if he were afraid I'd disappear, his breath hitching in a way that almost made him sound like he was sobbing. "As are you, Daphne," he whispered.
We held each other tightly and longer than was appropriate, but when I felt my own sobs threatening to break loose, I released him, tried to smile, and opened my door to let him out.
He gazed at me with a strange look, halfway between concern and confusion, on his face. Finally, he caught himself and nodded goodbye. "Tomorrow, Daphne? Seven thirty?"
I nodded. "Tomorrow."
After he left, I walked over to my bed and curled up on top of my comforter.
I left Daphne's room having not yet decided if the venture was profitable or not. She still hadn't told me what was bothering her, but she did seem a bit relieved after we'd spoken.
And she'd agreed to dinner.
And she'd hugged me, a wonderful embrace. I live for those moments with her.
Frasier glanced up from the couch. "So, Niles, how'd it go?"
I buried my hands deep in the pockets of my trenchcoat, swaying slightly. "I'm not sure, Frasier. She's definitely profoundly upset. She wouldn't tell me anything about it, though."
He nodded and went back to his paper.
"Has Dad said anything about her behavior these past few days?"
Frasier grinned. "Oh, what does Dad ever say? 'Daphne made me do my exercises,' 'Daphne made me walk Eddie all the way to the park twice today,' 'Daphne told me that horrible story about her great uncle John again today.' I don't think he'd notice a difference."
In the middle of his last sentence, the door opened, and Dad walked in with Eddie. "Notice a difference in what?" he asked indifferently as he walked over to hang his coat up.
I rocked back and forth on my feet. "Daphne."
Dad looked over at me, his eyes growing wide. "Yeah, I've noticed a difference. She's acting weird!" He stopped and shook his head. "Oh, wait, I forgot, she always acts weird. Never mind." He walked over to his chair. "Hey, did you guys catch that ruckus downstairs?"
Frasier took a deep breath and rolled his eyes. "No, Dad, I'm afraid we didn't. To what particular 'ruckus' are you referring?"
That got him started. "Well, lemme tell you! There was this huge crowd in front of the elevator! Apparently some woman'd stopped it dead for like twenty minutes! They called and called and called her on the little phone in there, but no one answered, so, get this, people were saying that old Mrs. McPherson must've died in there! And they had just talked me into calling some old buddies at the fire department when all of a sudden –" He snapped. "– it just started again! It was the damnedest thing!" He shook his head. "The boys downstairs are looking through the footage to see what happened."
Frasier's head shot up. "Footage? Oh, yes, there's a camera in the elevator, isn't there?"
I sniggered. "You should know, Frasier. You're the one who insists on perpetually undressing on the trip up for everyone in the video room to see."
He lifted his head indignantly. "I was tucking in my shirt!" He relaxed. "Niles, we could help them... sift through those tapes. Find out if our suspicions are correct."
"Frasier, I don't see how this is any better than..."
He stood up. "Come on, Niles, it would be very generous of us. After all, they must have so many tapes to go through..."
Dad rolled his eyes. "Yeah, considering the whole ordeal's happened in the past half hour, I bet they have dozens."
"Niles, don't you want to know?"
He was getting to me. I had to know how bad Daphne's situation was...
"Oh, all right, Frasier! We'll go down!"
As we left, I could hear Dad calling to us. "What situation? Boys? What situation!"
My feet pounded against the biking path that encircled the park.
I got into the habit of running when Donny and I first started dating. The plan was to slim him down and tone him up. Not that I have a problem with his figure, mind you, but it's unhealthy. He's putting himself at risk for an early death, if you ask me!
Well, Donny didn't slim down or tone up. In fact, after the first eight or ten three-mile runs with me, he dropped out altogether.
I, on the other hand, became quite the addict. Before, I never understood why Roz had to run so much. Now, I do. It takes your mind off everything. All I have to think about is the rhythm of my feet against the ground.
Two miles down, three to go.
"Daph!" I slowed down and jogged in place a bit, looking around me to find out who'd called. Roz jogged up behind me. "Hey! I didn't know you were comin' out today! Why didn't you call?"
I smiled. "Didn't think about it, I guess. C'mon." We started up. It would be nice to have some company. Company that wouldn't remind me of –
"So, did you hear the latest on Frasier's twerp of a brother?"
Normally, I would have grinned. She's always terrible about him, even though they're quite good friends. They just can't stand being nice to each other.
Now, though, I couldn't smile. "What about him?"
Roz grinned. "Well, I ran into him early this morning at Cafe Nervosa. So we got to talking. Apparently, he proposed to Mel last night."
Roz jogged on for several paces before she realized I wasn't up with her.
First what I learned this morning, and now – this?
"Hey, Daph, are you okay? Damn, you look like you're about to faint. C'mon, let's get you sitting down. How far have you run, anyway?" She helped me to a bench, my knees continually buckling under me on the way. She sat beside me. "Daph, I know none of us like Mel, but you for one should be relieved. I know you've been worried about this since Christmas, and now you don't have to be anymore!"
I forced a smile. "Quite right, yes. You know, Roz, I'm feeling a bit winded. I think I might go back to the apartment."
She looked quite concerned. I felt a bit bad for making her worry, really.
I glanced at my watch. "Oh, and besides," I said cheerfully. "Donny's picking me up in a just an hour! I'd better get ready."
She raised an eyebrow at me, clearly doubting my story. "Well, all right, Daph. If you're sure you're all right." I nodded and stood. "You call me tomorrow, okay?"
I smiled. "Of course I will, silly. In fact, Donny said he has some big news for me tonight, so I'll probably be calling you first thing in the morning to tell you."
She grinned. "Sounds mysterious. You get 'em, girl."
I jogged back toward the Towers. When I got to the apartment, the Cranes were nowhere to be found.
I went to my room, took a hot bath, tried to forget everything I'd discovered that day, and got ready for my dinner with my fiance.
"I don't know, Niles, it's awfully dark." We had convinced the security team at Elliot Bay to let us watch some of the footage. I explained to them simply that I was terribly worried about the elevator system and that I didn't know how I could live here, much less ride the elevator, if I didn't know what was behind the mysterious occurrence earlier in the day.
They agreed, but grudgingly.
"No, Frasier, I'm sure that's her. There's enough light to tell that!" He pointed to a form, crouched in the corner of the elevator, shaking violently.
I looked over at the security workers. "Would you boys mind rewinding this a bit?"
They scanned it back several minutes and began playing it. Sure enough, we clearly saw our Daphne step onto the elevator. She looked a wreck. She was pacing wildly about, watching the number at the top of the car as it ascended. And she was whispering to herself.
"There's no sound, I take it."
Leo, the head man, shook his head. "Naw, Doctor Crane. Sorry about that."
I shook my head. "Quite all right."
At some point, Daphne's eyes grew wide. She looked as if she'd been overcome by something terrible. She slammed her hand into the button, dragging the elevator to a stop. The lights in the cabin went off, and she collapsed into the corner weeping.
I glanced over at my brother. He was shaking.
"Frasier. Frasier. Look what's happened to her. Frasier, I've got to do something."
I glanced over at the boys. "Thanks, fellas. We appreciate it. Won't have to worry about falling to our deaths in that elevator, I shouldn't think."
I pulled Niles out of the office. We'd been down nearly an hour. Niles looked dazed. "Frasier, I've got to help her."
I shook his shoulders. "Snap out of it, man! There's nothing you can do!" I sighed. "Come back up to the apartment for a sherry. And tell me about this development with Mel. You'll feel better, Niles." I didn't want to tell him how worried I was.
He nodded. "Oh, well, all right."
Of course, it didn't help that we ran into Daphne and Donny on the way up. She looked... well, completely recovered. She looked radiant, altogether, as she so often does. It's times like these when I almost understand my brother's obsession.
We bid them good evening. As soon as they left, Niles fell hyperventilating on the couch. "Did – did – did you see – how happy – she – she – she looked?"
I took a deep breath and sat beside him. "Yes, Niles, I did. She clearly learned something this morning that temporarily put her under a great amount of stress. I think it's safe to say she's feeling better."
Niles looked destitute. "How can he make her that happy, Frasier? How?"
I don't often feel genuinely sorry for my brother. At that moment, though, I did. "I'm not sure, Niles, but apparently he does." I paused. "So what's this about Mel?"
He attempted a smile. "We're engaged."
I watched him carefully. This was wrong. I had to make him see that.
No. I have interfered in his life quite enough. Time to keep my mouth shut. "Well, that's... wonderful, Niles."
He cocked his head at me. "Surely you have an opinion on this, Frasier. You consider it rash or... or..."
I shrugged, going for indifference. "No, Niles. I'm happy for you. Now what would you say to dinner? On me?"
He took a deep breath. "Yes, Frasier, I think I'd appreciate that right now."
She'd been acting really nervous and high-strung all night. I blamed it on nerves. I mean, c'mon, we're getting married in, what, three days? The day after tomorrow, we had the rehearsal, and then the wedding.
And then we'd be married.
I've always been pretty skeptical about marriage. I mean, c'mon, I'm a divorce lawyer. And I'm not gonna lie and say that being with Daphne has totally alleviated that.
But it sure helps a lot.
I think, sometimes, about what she told me her dad said those nights on her stoop while they looked at the stars, that the only man good enough for her would be the man who'd give up everything to catch stars in the sky for her.
And then, I start wondering if I'm really that good.
Because I start doubting that I really would give up everything for her...
Don't get me wrong. I love her madly, like I never dreamed of loving anyone.
On this particular night, though, I didn't have to test my suspicion, because I didn't have to give up anything. I was lucky. It didn't hit me until later why she was so cooperative about the whole deal.
Anyway, she'd been nervous, so I finally decided, don't make her wait any more. Just tell her.
"Daphne." She looked up, surprised, like she'd, I dunno, forgotten that I was there or something. "Daphne, about what I had to tell you." She nodded and took a bite of her salad. "Well, ya see, honey, I've just found out about this great opportunity. There's this amazing law firm in Boston called Nickelson, Heathly, and Rowe. These guys are big. I mean, three of the top lawyers in the country. And, well, they heard about some of my recent work, and they want to bring me in. With the high probability of becoming a full partner within five years. I'd handle divorce claims and proceedings." I paused and looked at her, terrified.
What would I do if she said no?
Try to convince her, I imagine.
She was staring at me. Her mouth was open slightly, and her fork was hanging limp in her hand. "What?"
"My salary would almost double. And I could end up a partner in one of the most well-respected firms in the country. I mean, these are the kinds of guys who defend the O.J. Simpsons and the Bill Clintons of the world. Wouldn't that be exciting, honey? I'd be handling the divorces of the rich and famous. I bet we'd really brush shoulders with the elite!"
She was now staring vaguely over my shoulder at some spot on the wall. "Leave Seattle?"
I took a deep breath. "Well, that would be the downside, of course. But you could fly back to visit whenever you wanted. Or they could come to Boston. Frasier's in Boston a lot, anyway." I put my hand on hers. "Just think about it, okay? It would be an amazing opportunity for me."
Her gaze shifted, and she was finally looking in my eyes. She looked resolved. But she didn't look happy. Oh, God. She's gonna say no –
"I don't have to think about it, Donny."
Here it comes. Now I've gotta think up a strategy to get her to change her mind.
"I'll go with you."
I looked at the clock on my bedside table. Damn. Three in the morning.
I fumbled for the phone and finally found it. If it was Frasier, I was going to kill him.
Ugh. "Daphne, when I said tomorrow, I meant tomorrow after the sun comes up."
I could hear her taking deep, shaky breaths, like she'd just been crying. Oh, no.
"What's wrong, Daph?"
"Nothing. Nothing's wrong." She was quiet for a little bit. I was about to ask her if we could talk in the morning when she started again. "I'm moving to Boston, Roz."
I sat straight up in bed, turning on my bedside light. "You WHAT?"
"I'm moving. To Boston."
I shook my head. "Daph, this is crazy! Where are you?"
"Is Donny there?"
"Was this his idea?"
"Yes." She paused. "He got a very good job offer. One of the top law firms in the country, in fact. He's going to be a partner. Well, not now, but eventually."
I couldn't believe it. "And you agreed to this? To leaving Seattle?"
She gave a little half-laugh. "Well, I don't really have anything keeping me here."
I sighed. "Is this about Niles, Daph? Because I told you, he's over you."
She let out this weird little choked sob. "No. It's not. I just think it would be better for Donny and I to start fresh."
I hesitated. "Are you sure, Daph? We're gonna miss you so much."
I could almost hear her smiling. "I'll come back sometimes. Don't worry, Roz. We won't lose touch."
And the damnedest thing was that she sounded so sure. I knew right then that I'd never be able to convince her otherwise. I leaned back against the headboard of my bed. "So when're you leaving?"
"Well, after the wedding, we'll leave for the honeymoon, and the only thing we'll come back for after that is to pack everything. We've got an apartment waiting for us in Boston."
Wait a second. "Wait a second. When did he tell you about this?"
"And he already had an apartment lined up? What if you'd said no, Daph?"
She laughed. "Oh, he hadn't put any money down on it yet. He would have just called and said we didn't need it."
I wasn't so sure about that.
"Well, Daph, I guess we won't see each other much before then, except at your wedding. How about lunch tomorrow? Err- today?"
"Actually, I've got some last minute things to finish for the wedding, Roz. We'll take a rain check, all right?"
I nodded. "So, have you told the Cranes yet, Daph?"
She sighed. "No. Not yet. It shouldn't be a problem, though. I've been saying for years that Mister Crane doesn't really need me anymore."
Oh, they need you, all right, Daph. You hold them together. "When are you going to tell them?"
She was quiet for a little bit. "I'm not sure." She paused. "I should let you get back to sleep."
I turned off the light by my bed. "Okay. Goodnight, Daph."
She yawned. "Right. Goodnight, Roz."
This was going to crush them.
I lay down again but couldn't go to sleep. All I could think of was how I was going to keep this from Frasier tomorrow.
Or if I would at all.
"Well, Jenny, I think that, although your boyfriend might be hurt that you got married to someone else in Vegas this weekend, he nevertheless needs to know. If I were you, I would tell him as soon as possible."
Dear, God. What was it with these calls today?
I sighed. "Roz, who's next on the line?"
Roz looked up, a curious look on her face.
She'd been acting strangely all morning.
Like she knew something. Something she was dying to tell me.
But at the same time, she seemed... strangely upset.
"Next on the line is John. He's in love with one woman but engaged to another, and he's confused about the direction he should take."
I rolled my eyes. If my brother was calling just to get my attention, to get me to give him my opinion –
I smirked. "Well, JOHN... Or are you my brother?"
There was a pause. "What?"
Oh. Never mind. "Ahem. Just kidding, John, ah, brother." Oh, God. This day keeps getting worse and worse. "Well, a friend of mine is facing a similar problem. John, this woman you're engaged to. Do you love her?"
A pause. "I'm not sure."
"What do you think was your reason for proposing, John?"
Another pause. "I'm not sure."
"Do you think it had to do with your urgency to get the woman you love off your mind?"
Pause. This was getting irritating. "Maybe."
I rolled my eyes. "John, you've got to give me something to work with here."
"I just really don't know, Doctor Crane. I mean... uh... we'd been dating a while, and... uh... my girlfriend was getting a little... uh... jumpy. And this woman that I love, she... she wasn't coming any closer to falling in love with me."
I assumed my sincere, fatherly, radio tone. "John, as anxious as I know you are to get over this woman, you must not marry someone else just to forget her. If you were to do this, you would be doing both yourself and your girlfriend a great disservice." I paused. "Don't let yourself marry just to clear your mind of this woman. If you really do love your girlfriend, fine. But you can't ethically marry someone you don't love. You simply can't. And until you find someone you can love as much as you love this mysterious other woman, you can't commit your life in this way. Oh, and John?"
"Does this other woman know how you feel?"
Another pause. "No. I don't think so."
"Maybe you should think about telling her."
"Yeah, maybe. Thanks, Doc."
"You're quite welcome, John." Frasier's voice sounded tinny over the airwaves.
I looked up from my work at my desk to the radio. I suppose I can't really make fun of the insignificant problems of Frasier's viewers, now, seeing that this "John" seems to share his biggest problem with me. Well, Frasier hadn't wanted to express his opinion last night, but he certainly just did.
I took a deep breath. As much as I hated it, I almost always followed Frasier's advice. Even though he's sometimes wrong, he's my big brother, and I've always trusted his opinion. I think I always will trust it. "I think this means I can't get married right now."
"Did you say something, Doctor Crane?" My secretary, Mrs. Woodson, was looking at me strangely as she placed my mail on my desk.
"Oh, nothing. Nothing."
I motioned for Frasier to wrap it up. I try to do that a few minutes before I really have to, because he tends to talk on well after the signal. Sometimes, I have to bang on the glass between us before he even notices me.
All day, I hadn't been able to stop thinking about two things: Niles getting married and Daphne moving.
I mean, I don't like to admit it, but Niles is... well, he's a friend, all right? And Daphne. God, she's just about my best friend. Other than Frasier, of course.
Frasier had walked up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. I glanced up. "Good show today, Frasier."
He looked concerned. "Are you all right, honey?"
I took a deep breath. "Not really, no."
He rolled his eyes. "Is this about a man, Roz?"
I scrunched up my face. "I guess you could say that, yeah."
He smiled at me. "Do you want to talk to me about it?"
"Well, yeah, but I really don't think I can. See, it's not about me, so I don't think it's my place to tell you."
That got to him. "Oh, come on, Roz, since when have you thought twice before gossiping to me? You told me about my brother's engagement before he did!"
I stood up and looked at him. "Don't tell anyone?"
He looked hesitant. He has a big mouth. I can see how he'd be worried. "Oh, all right."
"Daphne and Donny are moving to Boston in a couple weeks."
He opened his mouth. Closed it. Opened his mouth again. "Moving? Permanently?"
I nodded again. "She told me this morning. Donny asked her to last night. Apparently he's got some great job offer. He's going to be a partner in some mega-huge law firm."
He still looked dazed. "Moving? Oh, God, what am I going to tell Dad? And Niles?"
I glared at him. "You won't tell them anything. Daphne's telling them. And act surprised when she tells you."
"But Roz, if Niles hears this from her without a little buffer... He's very sensitive."
I grabbed his tie and pulled him down to me. "Frasier, she told me then in strictest confidence. If you dare tell him, I will kill you. Do you understand?" He nodded, his eyes sort of bulging. It was funny, really. I let him go. "Now how about a late lunch?"
I looked at my watch. It was seven-fifteen. Frasier'd gotten home hours ago and gone straight to his room. We hadn't seen him since. And let me tell you, that is WEIRD for him. Usually you can't get away from him. I mean, don't get me wrong, he's my son and I love him, but... well, he can be a pain in the ass.
Daphne had been working with me on my exercises since six. She was being a real slave-driver today, and I could tell she had something big on her mind.
"Aw, Daph, we've been going for an hour. Can't we give it a rest?" She'd been working my hip to death, and, yeah, I felt good, better even than I have since before the accident, but I was tired and I was hungry and I wanted a beer.
"Oh, you lazy old sod, get up." She was smiling, but I could tell something was wrong behind that.
She walked toward the kitchen, and I followed her. "Daph, are you all right?"
She stopped at the refrigerator and reached in. She took out a beer and handed it to me. Damn, I'm gonna miss her when she's married and lives across town, even if I don't like to admit it.
"Actually, Mister Crane, there is something I'd like to speak with you about."
Uh oh. It sounded serious. "What is it, Daph?"
She took a deep breath. I opened my beer and took a swallow. "Well, uh, to start off, I think your hip's doing very well, Mister Crane." She walked out toward the breakfast table, and I followed her.
I grinned and nodded. "Yep, I am doing pretty good, aren't I?"
She nodded, but she didn't smile.
"Well, Mister Crane, you remember a while ago, when you thought about moving in with Doctor Crane, and I told you I didn't think you needed full-time care anymore..."
I was getting sorta suspicious. "Yeah..."
"Well... I think you're at a point where you'll be fine without it, as long as you do a couple of exercises every day. The ones you can do yourself, I mean."
Man, I was shocked. And sorta scared. The last thing I needed was my own son trying to kill me again. "But, Daph, you said you'd stay on after you were married. You told us we'd still see you all the time."
She took a deep breath. "I know I did, Mister Crane. But, well, you see, Donny and I have decided to move to Boston."
"WHAT?" I shook my head. She nodded kinda sad-like. "Daph, are you sure about this?"
"Yes, Mister Crane, I'm afraid I am."
Aw, Jeez. Poor Niles. I mean, it's one thing that he's head over heels in love with her. But she's also just about his best friend, other than Frasier. I mean, he tells her just about everything (other than how he feels about her), and she's the same with him. Of course, they haven't seen nearly so much of each other since she went and got engaged in front of him, poor kid, but still.
"Well, Daph, you know we're gonna miss you." She hugged me tightly. "I don't really know what we're going to do without you. But you know, Daphne, you'll always have family in Seattle."
She nodded into my shoulder. "I know."
Just then, the door opened. It was Niles, looking all spiffy in his best grey suit. "Hi, all. I thought I'd just let myself in. Is Daphne –" He looked up and stopped. Daphne was still hugging me. "Is something wrong?"
I looked at Daph as she pulled away from me. She shook her head. No, she hadn't told him, and no, she didn't want me to tell him. She'd do it herself. "Good evening, Doctor Crane. I just need to go change and I'll be ready."
With that, she took off into her room. I looked over at my son curiously. "What's that about?"
"Oh." He paused. "Dinner tonight. I'm about fifteen minutes early." He looked nervous, almost like he thought this was a real date or something.
I just looked at him. "What are you doing?"
He scowled. "Nothing, Dad! Having dinner! That's it!"
I sighed. "I know this must be hard on you, son. I'm sorry about everything."
He nodded and looked down. I tried to brighten him up. "But about Mel... That's some good news, right?"
He looked pretty uncomfortable. "Uh... yes, I suppose."
Aw, Jeez. "What'd you do, Niles."
He started pacing. "Nothing! Nothing!"
Daphne chose that moment to come out of her room. She's changed into a lovely purple gown and had swept her hair up over her head, in one of those... you know... swept up hairdos... aw, never mind. She looked about as nervous as he did. But she still looked gorgeous. That girl always does.
Why did I feel like I was sending my daughter away to her first prom?
I guess Daphne is the daughter I never had.
Aw, Jeez, now I'm getting all sentimental.
Niles smiled at her self-consciously. "You look radiant, Daphne. You're ready?"
She smiled and nodded and was about to take his arm when I walked over to her and pulled her aside. He looked really confused, but I had to say this. "Are you gonna tell him tonight, Daph?" I whispered. She nodded, still looking sad. "Daph, please, be careful how you tell him. He's sensitive. I don't want him to get hurt." She looked confused and, if possible, even sadder, but she nodded and tried to smile.
"Goodnight, Mister Crane." Then, she walked up to him, took his arm, and let him escort her to the door.
It was a bittersweet scene, really.
If everything had gone right, this would've been what their first date would've been like instead of their last one, their final goodbye.
The door closed behind them. "Dad, are you all right?" Aw, damn. Frasier. I told you he could never stay lost too long.
"Uh... yeah, son. I'm fine. Something in my eye."
"Doctor Crane, this restaurant is lovely. I've never been here."
He smiled. "I thought you might not have been."
The maitre'd led us to a dark corner, almost as if he thought we were on a date.
Oh, well... I could pretend for a little while, I suppose.
He held my chair out for me then seated himself and ordered our wine. Something incredibly pricey, no doubt.
He smiled at me a bit nervously, looking quite charming in his charcoal suit, his hair immaculately done, his tie... his tie was the one I gave him for Christmas this year. It was a wonderful earth-tone that brought out the gold in his eyes. My heart fluttered.
"So, Doctor Crane, what should I order?" He gave me some suggestions (all of which were quite expensive), and I followed them. I was glad I did. He has good taste.
About half-way through our meal, he took a deep breath. "Daphne, there was something I wanted to talk to you about."
I looked up sharply, and then tried to respond nonchalantly. "Oh?"
He nodded. "First of all... Daphne. Are you feeling better today? I wish you'd tell me what upset you so badly yesterday."
I tried to smile. "Oh, it was nothing. Just Daphne overreacting as usual."
He looked at me a kind of concern that made my heart break. "Are you sure, Daphne? I'm here for you, no matter what. I hope you know that." I nodded but couldn't speak. "Also, Daphne –" He played with his food a bit with his fork.
"Yes?" Was that hope in my voice?
"I've been thinking about something you said yesterday... when you asked me if we're friends."
I mentally slapped myself. "You know I didn't mean that, Doctor Crane. I was just upset."
He nodded and reached over for my hand. "I know. But it made me think that... that before your wedding, I should let you know... how... how much I care about you." He smiled nervously and looked down, holding my hand in his awkwardly. He was adorable. My heart leapt. He looked back up at me. "Daphne, through the years, I've grown to see you as... Well... I've never been one to make friends easily. It's always come hard for me. I tend to be standoffish, and I have trouble expressing my emotions. But Daphne –" He gazed at me. I wanted to cry. "Aside from my brother, you're the best friend I've ever had. And that might sound strange, since we haven't exactly spent much time together recently... But when we used to spend so much time together, after my divorce –"
I smiled. "I feel the same way, Doctor Crane. Thank you. It means so much for you to say so."
He leaned back in his chair, grinning at me. "You could call me Niles, you know. I really wouldn't mind. I don't understand at all how you can hear me tell you you're my closest friend and still call me Doctor Crane."
I laughed a bit. "It sounds a bit awkward, is all... 'NILES, how is your dinner?' 'Good to see you today, NILES.' 'Let's get married, NILES.'"
Oops. Did I just say that? I tried to cover it up by laughing. I think I overdid it a bit. I felt like a loon. He looked shocked.
So I went back to his question, seriously. "Would you like for me to?"
Poor dear. He looked utterly lost. "To... uh... to... uh... Yes. No. What was the question?"
I squeezed his hand. "Would you like for me to call you Niles?"
He looked down. "Very much."
I nodded. "Then Niles it is."
I retracted my hand and started again on my dinner. How to tell him what I really had to tell him now?
I felt dazed. "Let's get married, Niles." That one was definitely going into my long-term memory, to be repeated over and over...
Dinner was finished, and we were walking arm in arm out of the restaurant. "Niles?" She giggled a little self-consciously at the use of my name.
I smiled back at her. "Daphne?"
"Do you have any other plans on this evening's agenda, or was dinner to be all?"
I fumbled. As a matter of fact, I didn't have any other plans. "Well..."
"Let's go ice skating."
I was confused. "What?"
She rolled her eyes. "Ice skating. You know, where you strap little steel blades to your feet and skate around the ice..." She giggled again, and I slapped her arm lightly.
"I know that, silly. But now?"
She smiled enigmatically. "Why not?"
"Well, for one thing, we're hardly dressed for it."
She shrugged. "And so what?" She elbowed me playfully. "Be adventurous. Try new things. You don't have enough fun."
I stood back and gasped jokingly. "I'll have you know I have PLENTY of fun. Why, just last year... er, two years ago... er, sometime, I took my friend Daphne dancing."
She smiled a bit sadly and took my arm again. "Ooh, we had quite a time that night, didn't we?"
"Yes, Daphne. That we did." I paused. "So you want to go ice skating? Dressed like this?" She nodded at me, her eyes glimmering. "Then ice skating it shall be."
Frasier sat beside me on my couch. The nature channel played softly behind us. On it were two wolves doing...
Oh, god, I didn't need to see that.
"Can we turn this off already, Frasier?"
He rolled his eyes. "It is apparent you have absolutely no appreciation of our natural world, Roz."
"Yeah, well, I know enough about that side of the natural world without seeing it on television."
"Well, EXCUSE me," he grouched and flipped the channel.
He'd gotten to my apartment about an hour before, walked in, sat down, and flipped on the tv. At first, I tried to just ignore him. I fed Alice, I cleaned up the kitchen, I got ready for bed. He gets like this sometimes, and you know what they say about itches and things like that: "If you ignore it, it'll go away."
Well, wouldn't you know this is the one time they're wrong.
Who are "they," anyway? Probably the same old wives who told all those tales that were just as wrong as this one.
"Okay, look, I give! You come here, you sit on my sofa, you watch my tv, all without a word to me. Is this about Daphne? Or Niles? Or both? Tell me, Frasier."
He sighed. "I'm just getting the feeling that this marriage isn't a good idea."
I grinned. "You didn't seem to think so last weekend in Vegas, Frasier."
He bristled. "Fine. I won't tell you."
I rolled my eyes. "You'll just sit on my couch until your butt burns a hole in the cushion. Hell, no, buster. You're gonna tell me what's on your mind. Which marriage are we talking about here?"
He sighed and crumpled his face up like a little boy. "Both."
He looked up at me. "Well, you talked to her, Roz. Did she seem like she wanted to move?"
I sighed. "Well, not exactly. She sorta seemed like... like she thought it was her only way out."
He looked over at me. "Out? Out of what?"
"I don't know. Well –" I watched him carefully. "I'm gonna tell you something, and you have to promise not to repeat it, Frasier. I don't think this is exactly something you'll want to repeat anyway."
He nodded for me to go on.
"Well, you remember before Christmas, when your back went out? And Niles took you to that guy who gave you those pills?" He nodded again. "And do you remember when Daphne gave you that massage? Well, Frasier, when you were out of it, you sort of let something slip that you weren't supposed to."
I could see him searching for it in his mind. "I remember telling her something terribly embarrassing about Dad's chair."
I shook my head and grinned. "No, no, this is worse. You sort of let it slip how Niles feels about her."
His eyebrows shot up. "Me?"
"Yes, you loser, you."
He looked horrified. "Oh, my God!"
"So, anyway, she's been really tense about it since then. I think she sort of sees this as a way to run from that."
Frasier shook his head. "Oh, poor Niles. To think that she's leaving just so she won't have to face his feelings for her!" He looked as me suddenly. "What should we do?"
"Nothing, you idiot. Just leave well enough alone. I already told her about Niles and Mel and that I think he's over her, but that doesn't seem to help, and if that doesn't help, nothing will." I pointed at him. "You, Frasier, need to keep your fat nose out of it. The road to hell and all that jazz..."
He sighed and leaned back on the couch in a little "woe is me" pose, like he was some great martyr or something. "All right, Roz. If you really think that's best."
"It is, Frasier. Now turn the tv back on, and for God's sake, keep it off that nature program and let those poor wolves finish the deed in private!"
He flipped the channel.
Good boy. He's so well-trained.
"Daphne, I should tell you I've never ice-skated before."
She looked at me curiously. "Never? Not even when you were a little boy?"
I thought back. "Well, once. I fell down, came up with a bloody nose, and for five years insisted that my mother leave ice out of my tea."
She took my arm. "Don't you worry. I used to go all the time with my brothers when the back pond would ice over. We'll make a go together, shall we? Now grab the edge of the rink... yes. That'll steady you, you see."
I glanced around. Everyone was staring. We must've looked the sight, I in Armani, she in a fabulous purple number for which I had no idea where she had gotten the money. But I didn't care. "All right." So there I stood, the wall of the rink on my right arm and Daphne on my left.
"Now come away from it a bit. I'll hold you up."
And then we were skating around the rink, and it was wonderful. When she let me go, I skated on my own for a ways without even falling flat on my face. I did have to grab hold of the edge of the rink after a few seconds, but every time I went on my own, I was able to skate longer, until I eventually on my own for a whole ten seconds.
All right, so that last time, I did manage to fall on my face. I'll admit it.
Eventually, I think she felt sorry for me and led me over to a bench off the ice. But I felt wonderful. And free. Almost free enough to tell her right there –
She looked up at me sadly. "I have to tell you something, Niles. I've wanted to all evening, but I didn't want to ruin anything."
I didn't know what to say. "What... what..."
She wrapped both her arms around my arm and leaned her head against my shoulder. I extracted my arm from hers and wrapped it around her shoulders instead. Together, we watched the happy families and children skate around the rink, my arm around her, her head on my shoulder. I felt so happy. "I'm moving to Boston, Niles."
I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. My answer probably sounded calm. Neither of us moved a centimeter except perhaps for that slight spasm in my arm that caused me to pull her closer. "Oh, are you?"
"Yes. Donny's gotten an offer... He's going to be a partner in one of the most well-respected law firms in the country."
"Is he, now?" I pulled my arm away from her and leaned down to start unlacing my skates. "You must be very proud."
I fumbled violently with the laces.
Damn these knots! I felt like some poor Samuel Beckett character.
Blaming my boot on the problems of my feet...
I had waited so long, in vain, for – what?
"Here, stop, let me get those." She knelt down in front of me and undid the laces easily, pulling the skates off my feet. I couldn't look at her. If I did, I thought I might start crying. So instead I crossed my arms and turned my head away from her, leaving her to wrangle with my skates. She'd gotten the first one off and had her hands poised to work with the second when she stopped. "Are you angry with me?"
I glanced down at her. Her hands were resting on the top of my feet and she was looking up at me pleadingly. I reached my hand down, took hers, and pulled her back up beside me. "No, Daphne. Of course I'm not angry... It's just that... that..."
She looked at me in the same way she had on the balcony at Christmas. "Yes?"
"Well, it's just that..."
And I couldn't say it. I couldn't ruin this for her. I wouldn't let her leave feeling guilty for letting me down. And she would feel guilty. She'd feel as though it was somehow her fault, something she should have tried to prevent. "It's just that we'll all miss you so much. Will you visit? Write often?"
She bowed her head, and her shoulders sagged a bit. "Yes. Of course."
But I had to tell her. "We all love you so much. I love you, Daphne."
She nodded sadly. "I love you, too, Niles." If she only meant it in the way I did. "I'll miss you all so much."
I sighed and bent down to unlace my other skate as she did the same. "When do you leave?"
"Right after the honeymoon."
Good God. So soon. I suppose this can't help but be good for me, though... To be separated from her. "So I guess this is our last night together. Just the two of us, I mean." I stood up and held my arm out for her. She accepted it.
"Yes, I suppose it is."
"It's getting late." We exchanged our skates for our shoes.
"Yes, 't 's."
"I should take you home."
She nodded. "Will you be at the rehearsal tomorrow?"
I tried to smile. "Yes. With Mel."
Daphne shuddered slightly. I took off my jacket and handed it to her. "Thank you."
The walk to my Mercedes was made in silence. I opened her door for her, and she climbed in. I made my way to my side of the car, feeling as if every step might be my last.
It's a wonder I hadn't had a panic attack. On the whole, I thought that I'd handled myself quite well. Perhaps this spells progress. Or perhaps it means, more importantly, that I CAN make progress.
I got into the car and cranked the ignition. "So, Daphne, when is your family coming into town?"
She smiled vaguely. "Tomorrow."
"You must be excited to see them. Not that Simon hasn't been a riot, I mean."
"Yes, I am. I can't wait to see Stephen, especially."
"He's the one you're closest to, correct?" I glanced at her. She was looking out her window into the dark. She nodded.
"Yes, Stephen and Billy. Billy's the one who convinced me to come to America, and Stephen... Stephen's the one I always confided in. I could use a long discussion with him right about now."
I sighed. "Something's still wrong, Daphne. Is it the move? Are you unsure about it?"
She shook her head. "No. What I'm confused about is the reason I'm so sure I have to move." She looked up at me. "Can I ask you a personal question?"
My grip on the steering wheel tightened, but I felt strangely relaxed otherwise. "Yes, Daphne. You can ask me anything."
"What does it feel like... to be in love? I don't think I've ever felt it before, until now, and I need to make sure of what I'm feeling..."
I cringed. I didn't want to hear how much she loves Donny, how he's the first man she's loved. "Well, Daphne, I imagine it's different for every person who feels it."
She looked down. "Niles... were you ever in love? Truly?"
I took a deep breath. "I've been in love twice, although in very different ways."
"Did they love you?"
I swallowed. "I think they both loved me as much as they could."
"What did it feel like?"
She paused. "What was the difference?"
How to state this? "One was a comfortable love. The other was a passionate one."
"The second one."
I closed my eyes.
Then I realized that I was driving. Good job, Niles.
"It felt... It's when you know you could never be happier than when you're with her. It's when she can make your darkest, most terrible day wonderful just by smiling at you. Of course, she also has the power to make a wonderful day terrible, because she can bring you more pain than anyone in the world. But she's amazing. Being in the same room with her makes you melt. You would rather die than see her unhappy..." I paused and realized what I said. "I'm sorry, Daphne. I got a little carried away there."
I pulled up in front of Frasier's building and parked. She glanced over at me. "No, it's all right." She paused and looked straight into my eyes. "Niles, are you still in love?"
That's when it hit me.
Oh, my God. She knows. She knows. She knows. She knows. My mouth felt dry. This couldn't be happening. "Yes. I think I always will be."
She glanced down at her hands. "Niles, I –"
My breath caught. "Yes?"
"I..." She looked like she was about to cry. I still couldn't breathe.
"I..." She fumbled with the door handle. "I've got to go. You don't have to walk me up. It's been lovely. Wonderful. You're wonderful."
And then, miracle of miracles, she leaned over to me and kissed me. Her lips just barely touched mine, and she was still for a second. I could feel her breath in my mouth. And then, she pulled back, and I was left to wonder if we had actually touched at all. It was a chaste kiss, a kiss goodbye. It made me want to cry.
She leaned back toward her door, opened it, and stepped out. Then, she leaned back in, took my hand, and gave me a slow smile. Her eyes were glistening with tears. "I'll miss you more than anyone, Niles."
I looked at her for a few moments. "I'll miss you, too, Daphne. I love you."
She smiled and squeezed my hand. "I know. Goodnight."
And with that, she ran toward Frasier's building.
I didn't see Daphne again until just before she moved.
I didn't go to the rehearsal. I didn't even go to my best friend's wedding, although I did entertain several fantasies about dressing up in a red bowtie and stopping the ceremony.
You're probably wondering about Mel, given she was supposed to be my date. On a quiet trip to her office the day after my night with Daphne, I broke things off between us. Frasier was right. I couldn't do that to either of us.
I know it was immature of me to miss the wedding, but I... I couldn't. Frasier and Dad understood. And with Daphne's new knowledge, I'm sure she did, too.
I think back to that night sometimes, though, about the way she kissed me. It was a declaration of love. Not the kind of love I felt, I was sure, but love just the same. And that was enough.
The ceremony went off without a hitch. I even caught the bouquet! Course, she tossed it right to me.
I won't describe the whole ceremony or anything, because, and this might sound bad, weddings are all the same.
It's enough to say this: Daph looked gorgeous, as she always does. Her brothers were all pains in the ass, except for two really cute ones: Stephen and Billy. Of course, then I remembered that Stephen's the one that's married and Billy's the one that used to peek at Nigel in the shower.
So, in other words, no new romances here.
Daphne's dad couldn't make it. I get the feeling they've drifted a lot over the years. Martin walked her down the aisle without his cane and did a damn good job of it.
Frasier cried, although he kept trying to convince me he had an eyelash in his eye or something. Whenever someone would try to comfort him or anything, he's say, "Damn contact! Does anyone have any saline?" You know how melodramatic he can be. He doesn't even wear contacts. Whatever.
Daph... I don't know. She looked really happy.
Oh, yeah. And Niles wasn't there.
What a wussie.
Anyway, we all said bye to Daph and Donny, and none of us saw any of them again for a week.
Come to think of it, I don't think any of us saw Niles for a good week, either. He was probably off in some love cabin with Mel. I shudder at the thought...
But a week later, they were back from their Alaskan honeymoon. I spent the week at Frasier's helping Daph pack. We'd spend the days packing, and then at night she'd go to Donny's and help him pack more and I'd go home to little Alice. Most of our packing time was spent reliving some old memories of our times together. "Oh, man, Daph, do you remember this picture? From the night you dragged us to that costume party?" Or, "Hey, Daph, that road trip we took together!" Or, "Roz, do you remember that time you dragged me to that male strip club for my thirty-seventh?" "Oh, please, Daph, you know you liked it." Yeah, Daph and I've had some times.
Our last day of packing was the most memorable. We were doing some last-minute boxing in Daph's room. I was sorting through her closet when I came across a stack of oil paintings. "Daph, what're these?"
She glanced over. "Oh, some things I did years ago that I've never known what to do with."
I looked through them. They were good, really good. I looked at one. In it, you could see the silhouette of a man in front of a body of water. His head was bowed down, and he looked worn. "Who's this one of?"
She came over and sat beside me, hugging her knees to her chest. "That's my dad on the docks where he works just after sunset."
"And this one?"
"Grammy Moon telling us stories before bedtime. She always lit the candle like that, because most of her stories were intended to scare us to death so we wouldn't make pests of ourselves during the night. Of course, that only made all my brothers crowd into my room until I could convince them that grandad wasn't really going to come after them in their sleep."
Uh... whatever. "What about this?"
"The countryside, a little way's outside of Manchester."
She smiled. "That's from a trip Stephen and I took down to what's called the Ridgeway. It's an old, chalk road in southern England that's been there for thousands and thousands of years. The countryside along that road is some of the most beautiful in the world, if you ask me. Although Stevie and I took little notice while we were trying to cover each other in chalk, let me tell you."
I glanced at the next one. "Stephen!" He looked incredible and dashing.
She giggled. "Yes, he finally agreed to pose for me."
I made my way through a couple more in the large stack. Whoa. Scantilly-clad Daphne. A big painting, at least two feet by three feet. She had her back turned to the artist and had a sheet wrapped around her, but it wasn't covering her shoulders or any of her back. She was looking over her shoulder, toward the artist. Her gaze was... was... what's the word... piercing, I guess. Her hair was blowing in the wind. "Daph! A self-portrait!" I said jokingly.
She grinned self-consciously. "Ooh, don't ask about that one. That was during a phase. I wanted more than anything to be a romantic, tragic heroine, like Catherine Linton or Anna Karenina or Sonia Ivanovna [may I just say this – who?], and I decided the best and only way to make myself that was to paint myself that way."
I was still looking at it. It looked just like her. Well, just like her but younger. She was probably around twenty-five in the painting. "It's really gorgeous, Daph. But how on earth did you do it?"
She grinned. "Strategically placed mirrors." We giggled.
There were several more paintings and quite a few sketch-books in her enormous collection.
She looked up at me. "Roz, feel free to take any of those you'd like. Donny says it'd be bloody hard to ship them and that I should probably try to give them away."
I wrinkled my nose. "He told you to give them away? I mean, Daph, I would love a few of them, but..." I shook my head. I refused to say anything to mess with what she had with Donny. Frasier and I made a deal.
She smiled. "Which ones would you like?"
I grinned evilly. "Ooh, the one of Stephen is definitely coming with me, if you're willing to part with it."
"Ooh, take them all if you want. I don't need them."
"Um... this one of... what'd you call it... the Ridgeway is amazing, too." I was picking out a few more to cover the walls in my much-too-bleak apartment when Niles walked in.
"Knock knock," he said, smiling slightly and holding a small gift-box.
She looked up brightly and stood up to hug him. What?
"I missed you at the ceremony."
He nodded. "I'm sorry I wasn't there. But I –"
She nodded back. "I know."
What was going on between these two?
"I brought you something." He handed her the box.
She smiled. "You shouldn't have." She paused. "Do you want me to open it now?"
He shook his head. "No. Please don't. Wait until I'm gone. I wanted to come by to say..." He trailed off as he noticed me for the first time. Yeah, buddy, I'm here. He started to glare, but then he noticed the stack of paintings I was sitting among. "Daphne, are these the ones you told me about?"
She looked surprised. "You remember that? That must've been years ago."
He knelt by me. "Shouldn't you be packing them up?"
I grimaced. "Donny's making her give them away."
He looked up sharply. "He what?"
She shook her head. "No, it's not like that. It's just that they'd be bloody hard to transport, and it would be much easier not to have to. Besides, I really don't have any reason to keep them. They just sit in the closet and collect dust."
I grinned. "So I get first pick."
She smiled. "If you hadn't come across them, I probably would have just let them sit there until Doctor Crane noticed them, oh, say, next year."
Niles looked at the ones I had picked. He rolled his eyes when he came across Stephen. "Oh, Roz, you would take home Daphne's attached older brother, wouldn't you?" I hit him and Daphne laughed. "Daphne, may I have one?"
She smiled. "Of course. If you really like them. Pick anything you want, Niles."
She looked at me strangely. "What?
I stood up and walked over to her, grabbing her arm and walking with her to the other side of the room. Niles watched us strangely to begin with but then went back to looking through her paintings. "You just called him Niles!" I whispered to her. "Is there something you're not telling me?"
She rolled her eyes. "You're the one who always says I make things too bloody confusing."
I watched her. "Are you sure you're telling me everything?"
She smiled. "Yes. Now help me with these boxes."
We managed to get all of her boxes into the living room, only needing to be marked before they were ready to go down to the post office to ship. Frasier glanced at it all from where he sat on the sofa reading his newspaper. "Is that all of it?" It really wasn't much, to think that she's been living here seven years. A big wardrobe box for her clothes, another for more hanging clothes, and a few boxes of her possessions – mostly keepsakes, photos, things like that. She wasn't taking her furniture with her to Boston. She told Frasier he could do anything he wanted with it. I had a feeling he would leave it the way it was for a while. As much as he liked his study, he loved Daphne, and her being gone was hard enough on him without her things being gone too.
She smiled. "That's the last of it."
I nudged her. "Except the rest of the paintings."
Frasier raised an eyebrow. "Paintings?"
Just then, Niles walked out with three large paintings in tow. Poor guy could barely figure out how to carry them.
I don't think either of us had to ask which ones he'd chosen, and he didn't show them. One of them was the self-portrait. It would remind him of her, and he needed that.
I sort of envy him, knowing so absolutely what he wants. Of course, then again, he didn't get it.
I wondered how Mel would react to his chosen paintings...
"I've picked," he said, pulling his loot toward the door.
Daph smiled and walked over to him. "This is the last time I'll see you until I come back, isn't it?" I don't know why she said that. I guess she knew, but she wasn't actually leaving town for a couple days. Maybe he could only handle seeing her this last time. I don't know. But they were both acting weird.
Frasier cleared his throat. "So, Daphne, when are you coming back?"
She smiled sadly from the doorway, where she was helping Niles with the paintings. "I'm not really very sure. I'm sure we'll be busy these first few months, at least until the end of summer. Sometime in fall, maybe. Or Christmas."
Damn. That's a lot of time. "You'd better call me, girl."
Daph grinned. "Of course I will, Roz." She looked up at Niles. "I guess this is goodbye."
He nodded. "Goodbye, Daphne."
That's when everything started getting REALLY weird. Daphne went back to her room and stayed there a few minutes. But by the time Niles had gotten the paintings out into the hallway and closed the door behind him, she was out again, running toward the door.
Just as she got to the door, Frasier stopped her. "Daphne? Are you all right?"
She looked around a little nervously and then said, "Well, I was just thinking how big those paintings are. Maybe your brother needs help with them."
Frasier stood hastily. "I'll help him."
She shook her head. "No, no, no. I've got this. Doctor Crane, you could be a dear and get these packages labeled and addressed." She smiled sweetly, and he gave in. Ha ha. He's such a pushover sometimes.
And then, she was out the door.
As soon as the door closed, I rushed over to the door. "They're acting weird, Frasier. She called him Niles."
He looked suspiciously at the door. "He wouldn't do anything stupid. Would he?"
Then, the idea hit me. "Well..." I ran to her bedroom, Frasier in tow. Just as I thought, his present to her was lying in the now unwrapped box on her bed. I lifted it out of the box. It was a beautiful, thick white gold bracelet, embedded alternately with diamonds and blue sapphires. "God. This must have cost him a fortune."
Frasier snatched it from me. "Look! There's an inscription!"
I glared. "And? What is it?"
"'To D, From N, With All My Love.'" He looked at the box. "Roz! A note!"
I grabbed that one before he had a chance to get his grubby mitts on it. "Ahem. 'Daphne, I'm so sorry I missed the ceremony. I suppose you can understand why I had to...'" I drifted off. I couldn't read this out loud. Not to Frasier. I felt guilty enough reading it myself. So I made up a couple more lines. "I saw this bracelet and thought of you. Consider it my wedding present. Niles."
Frasier glanced up at me. "That's it?"
I nodded. "Yup. Looks like he didn't do anything stupid after all." He tried to grab at the note, but I kept it away from him. "Stop, Frasier! We need to get this stuff back the way we found it."
So we did. It looked like we'd never touched it. But before we left, I read his note one more time.
"Daphne, I'm so sorry I missed the ceremony. I suppose you can understand why I had to. I'm sure you were beautiful, though, as you always are, and I'm sorry especially that I missed that. Consider this a late wedding present, from me to you. The word 'diamond' comes from the Greek 'amaras,' which means 'unconquerable.' And sapphire, your birthstone. You know, it's known as the stone of destiny in the Orient. Together, I suppose it becomes an... and unconquerable destiny. And that's what I want for you. With love, Niles."
I raised an eyebrow and walked out to the living room to find Frasier. For once in my life, there was something I wasn't going to tell him.
I wondered if she really knew how much she was missing.
I caught up with him before the doors of the elevator closed. "Hallo, again," I said as he looked at me curiously. "I thought you might need some help with these..." He had just nodded and waited for me to get in.
Now, I glanced at him for the first time as we rode down on the elevator with my paintings. I hadn't looked to see which three he'd picked, yet. I didn't know what to say, after opening his gift... reading his note...
I took a deep breath. "So which ones did you choose?"
He looked a bit self-conscious. "I'm sure you can imagine."
I smiled. "Did you take... me?"
He glanced over at me with a half-smile. "It was exquisite, Daphne. They all were. I never knew you could do this."
He displayed his other two selections for me. Dad and Grammy Moon.
He looked down at his feet. "Oh, I don't know."
I grinned. "Yes, you do. Tell me."
He swallowed. "All right. I picked the ones that reminded me the most of you. Of course, your self-portrait. The other two remind me of your stories and who you are and where you came from. I'm going to miss all that, Daphne."
I smiled at him and looked down, speaking softly. "Thank you. It means a lot to me that... that that means something to you." Oh, bloody hell. Now I'm just fumbling. My smile became self-conscious.
"Why did you start, Daphne?"
I looked up. "It was Grammy Moon's idea. I kept a lot of thoughts and feelings bottled up when I was a girl, and she convinced me to express them."
He looked down, and when he looked back up, he seemed very serious. "Daphne, will you keep in touch? I mean, not, 'Will you say you're going to keep in touch?' I mean, will you, really? More than just an occasional Christmas card?"
I looked at him. Honestly, I didn't know. As much as I loved them, and him especially, I almost felt as though it would be emotionally easier for me simply to cut all ties. It would be so hard to be close to Niles now, after these past few weeks... and after that note. I have it in writing, now. I have it engraved in gold.
"I'll try, yes."
He nodded as the elevator opened, and together, we took the paintings out to his car. We managed to squeeze them into the trunk and finally closed it, grinning and laughing at the effort it took. He made his way to the driver's side, and I followed him.
"Thank you for those, Daphne."
I smiled. "Thank you for wanting them. And thank you for your present."
He looked up at me sharply. "You opened it already?"
I nodded. "It's the most wonderful gift I've ever received. It means so much."
He watched me for a few moments. "I'll miss you."
I nodded. "I know. I'll miss you, too."
He leaned over and hugged me, then, squeezing tightly, and we clung to each other like that for several minutes. Then, he leaned back, and he kissed me.
Nothing earth-shattering. Just an affirmation of our friendship, just like mine the week before. Perhaps slightly longer than was appropriate, but utterly innocent. I smiled into his lips.
He leaned back and watched me for a bit. "I –" He stopped. He couldn't say it. Not anymore. It was too late.
I nodded. "I know. Me too."
He smiled a beautiful smile as he sunk into the seat of his car. "Goodbye, Daphne."
It sounded so final. And I knew, for better or for worse, things could never, ever be the same between us.
He drove away, watching me as he left. I stayed in the parking garage, thinking, for close to half an hour, when Donny drove up.
I smiled. "Donny!"
"What're you doing out here?"
For the first time, I realized that the weather was turning bad. "Oh. You remember those paintings I told you about? I've been trying to find good homes for them. I just helped Ni– Doctor Crane bring a few down to his car."
Donny nodded. "Oh, yeah? See, honey, I told you you'd be able to get rid of 'em."
Get rid of them?
"Yes, Roz and Doctor Crane were quite happy to take a few apiece."
He took my arm and walked with me inside and to the elevator. "Well, I thought I'd stop by to help you with the boxes, since there's not much left to do at home."
"At home." You know, there's another reason why I was glad we were going somewhere new. I'd spent the past few nights at Donny's, but I don't think it could ever have been "home." It was HIS home, not mine, just like the Towers was Doctor Crane's home, not mine, and the house I grew up in was my dad's home, my mum's home, even my brothers' home, but not mine. I've always been the outsider looking in. But, suddenly, I felt as if for the first time in my life I was going somewhere that was my own, MY home.
It felt good.
I drove home in a daze, thinking about her.
About kissing her.
About her smell. Cherry bark and almonds. And beneath that, a mix of the English countryside and heather and shampoos and scents and bourbon...
About her saying that...
She did, didn't she? I didn't imagine that... that, "I know. Me, too." Even after she'd read that note...
I finally arrived at Montana and managed to get the paintings up to my apartment without either harm to them or to myself.
They really were exquisite.
The self-portrait reminded me of a classical scene, a Greek tragedy, painted by some Pre-Raphaelite master, a bit reminiscent of Rossetti's 'Proserpine.' It was dark and mysterious. The brush strokes were bolder and freer than in something of that period, though, almost... impressionistic in nature.
Her eyes... or the eyes of the classical, tragic Daphne, bored into the soul.
It was the kind of painting that should have been entitled, "Daphne Repentant," or "Daphne Resolved," or "Daphne Undone," or "Rediscovering Daphne," about a woman, a martyr, who had given her life to the quest.
"Rediscovering Daphne?" I rather liked that. Perhaps that's what I'd tell people who dropped by the apartment and saw it. "What's it titled?" they'd ask. "Rediscovering Daphne," I'd reply. "Who painted it? It's extraordinary," they'd comment momentarily. "Why don't you take a guess," I'd suggest. "Millais? Turner?" "Actually, it's by a friend." "Are you joking?" "Not at all." "Your friend has a gift." "Yes. I know."
I lifted the painting and moved it here and there, trying to decide where to hang it. I finally chose a subtle spot on the wall at the top of the stairs. All I had to do now was to choose a frame. Something dark and exotic. Daphne.
The others, I hung in my study. They matched the decor splendidly, with their dark, earthy tones.
I suppose that's really all she is to me, now. A tragic painting.
I don't really think she'll keep in touch. I think we'd both be better off if she didn't.
But do you want to know the scariest part of it all?
I think Frasier's right. I don't think I can even think of marrying until I find someone I can love that much.
Oh, good Lord. But maybe he's not right. He's not right so often, you know.
Mel wasn't right, because this... this dilemma with Daphne came in the middle of my relationship with her, and that threw a strange light on it.
But maybe I could marry again simply for companionship. I could marry someone simply to have someone to grow old with. Someone other than... my brother.
I still say he's "that other one," you know.
After all, who will he have? I think Frasier lost all his marrying instincts years ago. He proposed to three women in the span of five years and was only dumped before the marriage by one of them. Maybe he's had his fill. I firmly believe he'll be alone for the rest of his life. But then again, so will Roz, as she's in no hurry to marry and would rather work her way through man after man after man. I can see it now, Frasier and Roz in a home together, grey hair and no teeth, comparing how many of the nurses have found them attractive.
Unless, of course, Lilith comes back, and they remarry. After all, she seems no better at finding a permanent mate than Frasier is. And I'm not just saying that because Freddie's dastardly little plot implanted the idea. Although our strange little menage a toi was quite awkward, I do feel as though I understand her better now than I ever did before. She's a good woman, as much as I hate to admit it. But knowing both of them as I do, I can see why they had to go their separate ways. They're too similar, I think. And you know what they say: opposites attract.
Case and point, Kit. Though that was just a phase I went through, and, besides, she was nuts.
If I do remain alone, it won't be like that. I'd bury myself in my work and books, and I'd probably still be trying to publish from my deathbed.
How bad could that be? To simply throw my passions into my work? Let my passion for her enable me to produce more proficient, more original work than I ever have before?
I changed into my dressing gown, walked downstairs, pausing to gaze at her painting, which was lying on the floor beneath where I planned to hang it, and chose a book from my shelves. I walked over to my fainting couch, sat down, looked to see what I had picked (it was a much-abused copy of Man and His Symbols by Jung), and began to read.
We stood in the middle of the airport terminal. It smelt like fast food and luggage and perfume and plastic.
I kissed her and then leaned back to look at her. "God, how you've changed in seven years, Daphne."
She giggled. "You're no spring chicken, yourself, Doctor Crane."
I rolled my eyes. "Oh, go on. If you're simply going to insult my years, then you can just get on that plane now."
She looked at me slyly. "Oh, give me another hug, you dear man. I'll miss you, despite everything, you know."
I held on tight. I felt like my little sister was leaving home for the first time. Roz will be the first to tell you that I'm protective of Daphne. After all, she's been caught downwind of my fierce sentiments several times, including one notable time when she wanted to set Daphne up with one of her old boyfriends. Of course, that was before she really knew Daphne. I think she actually held that grudge up until they became friends.
Besides, look who Daphne's married to now...
I don't know if Daphne has ever realized how much I do care for her. Would she be surprised that I feel as thought she's my own blood? I squeezed her one last time. "I love you, Daphne. We all do."
She smiled. "And I love you."
Donny grinned at me. "C'mon, Doctor Crane, you'll see her again. We'll visit. Don't worry."
Of course, I didn't really give a damn if he visited or not. As happy as I am that he gave my brother his life back, I'm still angry that he snatched it away again in his next breath. I tried to laugh as I let her go to shake his hand. "Oh, I know. Daphne couldn't stay away from the Cranes for too long. We're family."
She smiled self-consciously and then walked over to Dad. "Oh, c'mere, you lazy old sod, and give Daphne a hug goodbye."
He rolled his eyes, but I could tell he was close to tears. And Dad doesn't cry often, let me tell you. "Aw, Jeez, Daph, let's not make a big show of this. You've got a plane to catch."
She smiled as she wrapped her arms around him. "Oh, I've got time to give the man I consider a second father a hug goodbye, I do. I'll miss you, you old bear."
He squeezed her into an embrace. "I'll miss you, too, Daph. You promise you'll call as soon as you get there so we'll know you made it fine?"
She leaned back. "I promise. And you promise me you'll do your exercises as soon as you get home."
He wrinkled his nose. "Aw, Daph, c'mon!"
Roz grinned. "You heard her, Martin. I'll make sure you do 'em." She smiled at Daphne. "Oh, c'mere, girl! I'm gonna miss you! I'm still gonna call you with all the gossip."
Daphne hugged her. "You'd better."
Daphne and Roz are extremely close. They weren't always, mind you. They spent time together, but only if neither of them had anything else to do. But during the past year or so, they've become like sisters. I think it's because of the wedding. Roz has been living through Daphne almost vicariously, and Daphne's been living the single life through Roz. I think they both want a bit more of what the other has, but don't let anyone hear me say that.
"Well, guys," interrupted Donny. "That's final boarding call. We'll talk to you all tonight, I'm sure." He kissed Roz on the cheek, shook hands with Dad, and they were off.
We watched the plane until it took off. I don't usually do that. Usually, I bid my companions adieu, watch them board the plane, and then leave. But when Niles and I were small and our mother used to have to leave for psychiatric conventions, Niles would demand to stay right next to the window until her plane was so high he couldn't see it anymore.
Now, I'm reminded of those times, bidding Mom goodbye. I always knew, logically, that she'd be back in four or five days, but Niles never seemed to realize that. He'd cling to her before she left like she was never returning, and he'd press his little nose against the glass desperately until the end. And then he'd say that Mom was like a bird, free in the air, and he'd spend the rest of the day with his little arms spread out, pretending to fly around the living room. Well, that or hiding under the piano. She'd call, of course, later that night, and he'd be the first to talk to her, before Dad, even. He'd asked her if she liked being a bird. I don't know what she told him, but he'd get a huge grin on his face and hum himself happily to sleep that night from across the room in our house on Wallace Lane.
I watched Daphne's plane, my nose against the glass, for the half hour it was in Seattle before finally taking off into the friendly skies. I felt as though as big a piece of me were leaving as I had when my own mother left. The only difference was that Daphne wasn't coming back.
And that Niles wasn't here to say goodbye and whisper how she's a bird, how she's free.
Which is probably best, because she's anything but that, now.
I have always thought that it's a much more difficult experience to be left than to leave. When you're the one leaving, it's a conscious decision. You're going out to face new possibilities and new adventures. Everything is new, everything is exciting. When you're the one who's left, everything is the same. Everything but the hole that the person who is gone left in your life. Life without Daphne will be hard.
I looked down at Roz, who was at the glass window beside me. She was crying just slightly, although she'd deny it.
She looked up to me, smiled, and wrapped her arms around my waist just as Daphne's plane was taking off.
It'd be hard, but we'd make it.