"Mr… Mr Gold?"
I can see him in the reflection of the chalice I'm polishing, all nerves and fidgets. His hair seems lighter than it was last night. Perhaps it's just the golden hue of the mirror image.
"Doctor Hopper," I say without turning. "Can I help you in some way?"
A pause. I see him rub his chin in the mottled reflection. I can almost feel the nervous sweat beading on his face.
"I… I wondered if we could just talk about… last night?"
I put down the polished chalice, reaching for a new bauble to buff.
"There's no need," I reply.
A little sigh escapes him, and I hear his footsteps coming nearer to the counter.
"I really think we should…" He begins, but I cut him off.
"I said no, Archie."
I draw in my bottom lip, sucking it thoughtfully in the silence that follows. Though I cannot see him, I already know the shrink has made little attempt to vacate my shop.
"Oscar, would you please look at me?"
I close my eyes for a moment, unnerved by the sudden confidence in his tone. And then I turn, meeting him square in the eyes. I could falter so easily in the honest sky blue of his eyes, if I were to allow such a motion. But it cannot be so.
"Happy now?" I say, a bitter tone leaving its shameful taste on my lips.
Archie takes in a sharp breath, narrowing his eyes at me, searching my deliberately blank face.
"You're right," he says dejectedly, "There's no need to talk, is there?"
"And just what were you planning to say?" I ask in spite of myself. "Because there's one thing that needs explaining, and I do so hate to be out of the loop."
The doctor furrows his brow.
"There's only one thing that needs explaining for you?" He asks. "Because I have a heck of a lot more questions."
Some of the harshness in my face falls away at his helpless tone. And I realise at this moment what he means.
"Am I the first man you've-?"
"Yes," he leaps in before I'm able to say any more. Then he lets his glassy eyes drop to the floor. "But I realise now that I'm not your first… your…"
"Ah, well no," I complete.
He nods slowly, putting his hands into his pockets. After a moment he meets my eyes again and his face is pinker than before, contorted with an awkward expression.
"I think I'm just gonna leave now," he says in a small voice, turning away. He gets a few steps away before temptation forces my thoughts out.
"Why did you leave?" I ask.
Archie stops, fidgeting with the pocket of his waistcoat. He turns his head, half a word on his lips, but fails to speak.
"You weren't there when I woke up…" I add.
"I didn't think you'd want me to be there," he admits, turning away again. Archie quickens his pace to the door, and I could almost let him go.
"You thought wrong."
His hand freezes in a grab for the door handle. He looks back at me again, eyes suddenly brighter.
"So," he begins shakily, "If I were to… come back here later on?"
The urge to grin tugs at the edges of my mouth, but I resist.
"I finish here at six," I reply coolly.
"Six?" Archie says with a shallow breath. A familiar darkness clouds his blue eyes, and a shaky smile turns the corner of his lips upwards on one side.
"Early closing," I explain, feeling my own voice exude in a rasp.
His smile widens.
"Six," he says again, opening the door.
As I watch him exit and pass my windows, still smiling, a torrent of images of the previous night floods my memories. I check the clock. Four whole hours.
Six can't come fast enough.