Woody Boyd headed down the stairs, from Miss Chambers's apartment. To tell the truth, he wasn't much of a thinking man. But, he found himself thinking now—very hard.
And it all centered on one little fact: Miss Chambers was alone.
Well, he knew Sam loved her—and that, sooner or later, he was going to admit it. But it wasn't just that—Miss Chambers had sounded pretty desperate, wanting to talk to someone.
He paused on the stairs, thinking—hard.
She was his friend…as he'd told her, not too long ago, she and Sam were maybe his two favorite people in the whole world. And…and he didn't like seeing her so sad, like that—sad on the inside, behind her smile…sad because there wasn't anyone around, with her.
Sam and Miss Chambers were good friends…and somehow, Woody got the idea that, if everything were perfect, between them—if they were together—Sam would sure be there for her, whenever she needed him. But…who knew how long that was going to be?
He sighed, and finished his walk down the stairs.
As he went through the doors, suddenly, a thought came to him. He looked up at the apartment building, as he remembered something Miss Chambers had talked about—and then around the street, searching for a phone booth.
He saw one, and smiled. He ran up to it, put in the money, and dialed.
"Hello?" came the voice of Norm Peterson.
"Hey, uh, Mr. Peterson? It's Woody. I sure hope I didn't wake you."
"No, it's okay, Woody—just got back from Cheers. So, what's up—a surplus of beer you want to get rid of?"
Woody frowned. "Uh…no, Mr. Peterson. I haven't checked. Why?"
"Oh…just asking. So, what do you need?"
"Well, um—if it's not too much trouble, Mr. Peterson, I was wondering…"
Diane was unable to sleep, that night. While she didn't regret talking to Woody—not in the slightest!—still…their conversation had invoked many other feelings she'd long thought buried, or forgotten. While it would have been difficult for rest to claim her, before…it was certainly worse, now.
Still, she didn't regret talking to Woody—not in the slightest. And further, she wouldn't be working at Cheers tomorrow—the bar would be closed for the day. Enough time for rest to claim her, certainly.
Lying on her couch, and wearing her dressing gown, she flipped through the channels of her small portable TV. Nothing particularly interesting…so she turned it off, with a sigh.
The honest truth was…well, it was so many things. Not only Sam, and this…endless debacle of emotions, keeping them apart—but…thinking about Coach…and dear Elizabeth—it…it reminded her, yet again, of how alone she felt—the inkling of loneliness afflicting her heart, since she'd ran to escape her wedding to…to poor Frasier. Oh, when she'd returned to Cheers, it was…more or less as it had been, her first year there. But…in a sense it hadn't been. Now, she was all too aware of how alone she truly was. She shared her apartment with her stuffed friends—Mr. Jammers, Freddy Frogbottom, and all the rest…and they'd provided comfort to her before—and they still did, of course…. But—it certainly wasn't the same as a live companion, be it Sam, or Frasier…or even Elizabeth.
Perhaps because of Elizabeth, she'd been able to cope with being "by herself" for so long…able to think and feel alone. Though she liked to think of herself as very social…there was always, it had become increasingly clear to her over the years, something "off"—particularly amongst the "blue-collar" culture of Cheers. Whenever she'd tried to converse about the many things that gave her pleasure or joy—the other so often reacted with a mild impatience…or at best, with the faint smile of amusement, the look of "Ah, there she goes again…Diane, and her monologues and twenty-dollar words."
And oftentimes, it wasn't only them. Dick Cavett choosing to encourage Sam's story over her poetry…Frasier's mother so callously playing such cold-hearted mind-games with her, and then labeling her a "pseudo-intellectual"…so often, even the "crowd" with whom she should, by all accounts, have felt at home—even they would so often make her feel as an outsider.
From childhood's hour, she recited in her mind the verse from Poe, I have not been/ As others were; I have not seen/ As others saw; I could not bring/ My passions from a common spring./ From the same source I have not taken/ My sorrow; I could not awaken/ My heart to joy at the same tone;/ And all I loved…I loved alone….
Oh, she would never have described her arc through the years as quite so dismal—despite, of course the turmoil of her parents…the death of her dear father…or the careless disposal of her by that infernal Sumner Sloan. And yet…when she'd broken up with Sam, that first time…it was as though an old, deep would had been opened—one she'd never known she possessed. But possess it, she had…and it frightened her.
She'd been so sure, when she'd begun her relationship with Frasier, that she'd found someone, at last—an oasis in this desert, who'd understand her, and express that understanding in a seamless camaraderie. And in a sense, he did. And yet…even then, she was somehow alone, in herself.
Oh, she'd eventually came to understand why, in part: in many ways, Sam Malone understood her far better. Much as Diane loved to jest about his lack of culture or higher learning…he truly did. And it was only with him, she'd long come to discover, that this feeling of inner isolation would vanish. And if that wasn't "love"—true, full love…then she had no understanding of the term, whatsoever.
But Sam wasn't here, with her. And in many ways, she was to blame for it—not only because she'd turned down his beautiful proposal…but tonight, when she'd decided to return here, rather than satisfy the mutual passions of the moment. For all she knew, letting his jest slide tonight, and proceeding as they both so desired…it could well have led to a proposal in the immediate aftermath. But she hadn't done that—and so, they were both alone, for tonight.
And right now, the only thing keeping her from falling into melancholy was…it was the knowledge that he did love her, in kind. If he hadn't, he wouldn't have proposed as he had…hadn't bared his heart and his soul, as he had. He…wouldn't have been as pained or embittered as he was, when she'd said "no"…with what was so clearly nothing less than the pain and bitterness of a broken heart.
Diane's heart was pained as well, now…and not only with regret; now, those feelings of loneliness were threatening to re-surface—and only by securing herself in the confident, smiling knowledge that Sam Malone would ask for her hand again, soon…only thus could she hold those feelings at bay.
She only…well, right now—she was beginning to fear it wouldn't be enough.
A knock on the door.
Diane straightened up on the couch, "Who is it?" she called.
"It's me, Miss Chambers."
"Oh—" Diane rose to her feet, and headed to the door, opening it. "What's wrong, Woody? Did you forget something?"
Woody smiled at her. "No, nothing's wrong, Miss Chambers. I…just thought I'd give you something."
Diane blinked, and suddenly noticed the small box—a shoe box. She chuckled, as she stepped aside, for him to enter. "Why…Woody! I'm—touched! May I inquire as to the occasion?"
Woody shrugged, as he came in, Diane closing the door. "Well, I thought of it, and I thought you'd like it—especially after everything we talked about, tonight."
Well, now! This was interesting, at that—Woody of all people, being cryptic? Diane chuckled again, shaking her head. "Well, then? You're not going to keep me in the dark for long, now, are—?"
She heard a noise from the box—a small noise, almost shrill, but not unpleasant in the slightest. She wasn't sure, but it sounded like a—
Diane froze, her mouth opening in a silent gasp. She looked up at Woody, who beamed back at her.
"W-Woody…!" she managed to whisper. "Is—is that—?"
Woody grinned, and handed her the box, "Why not open it and see, Miss Chambers?"
Diane slowly took it, taking it to the coffee table, setting it down as she sat on the couch. She opened it…and yes, it was.
"Oh—oh, Woody!" she managed to say, as she lifted the kitten out of the box. "He…he's so—"
Woody chuckled, as he sat down beside her. "Yeah, he's cute, isn't he?"
Diane nodded, happy tears forming in her eyes as she smiled at the little one in her hands. "He's absolutely adorable, Woody. Was—is he, perchance, one of…well, formerly of Carla's cat?"
"Yeah, I figured Mr. Peterson wouldn't mind giving at least one of them away…especially if it meant helping you out, Miss Chambers."
Diane turned to Woody, frowning a little. "Come again?"
Woody paused for a moment, and said, "Well, I…kinda figured you've been pretty much alone, for a while, and…well, you know, I kinda thought you—kinda needed…"
"Oh, Woody…!" Diane set the kitten back in the open box…and put her arms around Woody, holding him tight…letting her tears run free.
She held him for a moment…and when she released him, she wiped away her tears, such as she could, and turned back to the kitten. Clearing her throat, she said, "I…don't suppose you—brought the appropriate supplies—?
"Oh, yeah, absolutely! The bag's just outside in the hall, if you want me to go get it."
"Oh, no need, at the moment," Diane said, as she cuddled the little one in her arms. The kitten snuggled up to her, letting out a purr.
"Hey, I think he likes you, Miss Chambers!" Woody said.
Diane nodded. "Yes, I believe he does…. All right, little one, what should we call you, hmm? Did Norman and his wife already name him, Woody?"
Woody frowned, "No, I don't think so…."
"Well!" Diane grinned at the kitten, "I suppose I'll have to call him Christopher, then. Christopher Marlowe."
"Uh, wouldn't that be…Christopher Chambers, or something?"
Diane chuckled, turning to Woody, "No, Woody—Christopher Marlowe was an Elizabethan poet and dramatist. I found his work highly memorable—not as influential to me as that of Elizabeth Barrett Browning or Sylvia Plath, but…still, I thought it'd be highly appropriate."
"Oh, okay. Could I just call him 'Christopher', or something?"
Diane nodded, smiling. "I…think that would be ideal."
Woody frowned for a moment, thinking. Finally he said, "I don't get it. Your first cat wrote poetry?"
Diane laughed. "No, Woody—she was named after the poetess Elizabeth Barrett Browning."
Christopher looked up at her, and let out another small but insistent "Mew!"
"Oh—" Diane straightened up. "Woody, I don't suppose Carla supplied Norman with milk from his mother?
Woody shook his head. "I don't think so. She'd said something about their being weaned ahead of time, before she gave them away."
"Of course she did…" Diane muttered, shaking her head. "Well—he certainly looks about old enough…heaven knows why, though. Something tells me they were already 'around' long before Carla discovered them…which, to be blunt—speaks volumes about her observational skills!"
"Regardless, I suppose we'd better be safe…certainly for tonight. Is there any kitten milk in the bag? Not food, mind you—"
"Uh—yeah, there is, Miss Chambers! I'll go bring it all in…."
He did so, taking out a bottle and a bowl. Diane rose, carrying Christopher over, as she instructed Woody with what she remembered from her many readings—but Woody knew the rest, as Norman had presumably given him the instructions. Finally, with everything in the bowl, Diane set the kitten down, guiding him until he began to drink on his own.
Diane sighed. "Tomorrow, I suppose I'll have to bring him to a veterinarian. He'll certainly need it, with Carla's…considerable impatience."
"Okay, Miss Chambers. I don't suppose you'll need me for anything more, tonight?"
Diane smiled up at Woody, and shook her head. "No, Woody…I think you've done quite wonderfully, already."
Woody nodded, returning the smile. "Well—good night, Miss Chambers."
"Yeah, Miss Chambers?"
Diane's smile grew, as she kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you," she said.
Woody nodded again. "You're welcome, Miss Chambers. And…good luck. With Christopher, and…with Sam, too."
Dane nodded, straightening up. "Thank you, Woody. But—never fear about Sam and me: no matter what obstacles come our way, we shall unite in the bonds of matrimony, ever pledging our undying and eternal love."
"And…then you'll marry, right?"
Diane chuckled, nodding. "Good night, Woody."
"G'night, Miss Chambers." And he closed the door…and that was that.
Diane turned to little Christopher, who was consuming to his heart's content. She went to work, taking the box and fixing it appropriately, filling it with litter from the bag. And when Christopher was done, Diane took him, placing him in the box.
"I sincerely hope," she said to him, "that Sam won't somehow prove allergic to you."
Christopher said nothing, looking at her questioningly.
Diane smiled. "Sam Malone—he's your new father. But—don't tell him just yet. He doesn't think he's ready. Now…"
She took the box, carrying it to her bedroom, setting it down beside the bed. And after washing her hands, she turned off the lights of the apartment, and climbed into bed.
After a moment, she felt a soft tuff of fur. She opened her eyes, and saw little Christopher right there, resting peacefully beside her.
Diane smiled, moved the comforter over him…and closed her eyes, as sleep claimed her, at last.
Note: By the way, if you're wondering, I'd personally speculate Christopher is the particularly "adventurous" kitten on Norm's shoulder and arm, near the end of "The Cape Cad." That one struck me as the kitty least "content" with the current situation….