He takes to her dinner at the Signature Room. She meets him at his condo, prime West Loop realty and already sold to another up-and-coming editor. She tries hard not to be a sentimentalist, but when she sees the bare walls and the stacks of boxes, she almost cries.
Claire doesn't believe in settling. She doesn't believe in derailing your life for a man, either, so as much as she wants to wrap her arms around Alex's legs and beg him not to leave, she doesn't. If the Times came calling for her, she'd go - she might not even tell anyone, just split town in the middle of the night.
So she understands, but understanding and emotion are two different beasts a lot of the time, and Claire doesn't need all the degrees she's got to know that.
They drink a bottle of champagne and toast New York; the food is great. They take a cab back to Claire's place, and the sex is great. The romantic in Claire has always wanted the kind of airport send off that she gives him the next day, but the romance has gone out of the whole scenario.
He kisses her one last time, and it's a little dirty, a little sweet, a little sad.
Trevor's sitting on her couch in the dark when she lets herself in. He doesn't say anything. She flops down next to him and says, "This sucks."
"I know," Trevor says, and Claire gets the feeling he does.
Later, much later, Claire takes the letter she wrote to Alex and types it into her computer, into her manuscript; she changes the names and lets it serve as a warning to everyone else: conclusions that you shouldn't jump to in a relationship of any sort.
She's got her pride; she's got her education. No matter what Trevor says, she's right more than she's wrong, and if she was wrong just this once - well. Making up is better than fighting, Claire knows that for sure, and the next morning over coffee, Alex says, "Good morning," and "Sleep well?" and "I ... you know."
Claire says, "I ... you know, too."
He has the good sense to look sheepish when she says it, at least, and he rubs a hand through his hair so it stands up even more than it usually does. If Claire was making a list of things she loves about Alex, which she isn't, because she's just not that kind of girl, his spectacular bedhead would be on it. And the way his smile curls up higher at one corner of his mouth than the other, and the way he talks about his writing, and the way that he makes her feel like the most incredible woman in the whole world.
Not that she has a list; but if she did.
Later, much later, Claire thinks that she should have stuck by everything that she said in that letter; it would have hurt less than it did later on.
After Trevor catches them mid-coitus, they're a little more careful - about locking the doors. They have sex in Alex's office at lunchtime, shades drawn, lock turned, chair wedged under the doorknob. In Claire's office, on her kitchen floor, in the backseat of Alex's SUV in the parking garage at State and Lake at 4 in the morning.
Trevor tells her she's looking well fucked. Claire tells him that it's none of his damn business, but she can't keep the smile off her face when she says it; she's having trouble keeping a smile off her face at all these days. She smiles at strangers on the El, she smiles at infuriating, annoying, smug Trevor whenever she sees him.
Alex wakes her up in the morning with his mouth pressed against her neck, stubble scraping against the edge of her jaw, and the sex is slow, soft, sleepy. By the time she's out of the shower, half the pot of coffee is gone and he's reading the paper back to front, starting with the White Sox scores, ending with the local pages crushed underneath Claire on the kitchen table. Alex tastes like Dark French Roast when she pulls him down for a kiss.
And every night it ends with clothes all over her living room, and the kind of half-dozing intimate conversation that Claire gave up on ever having again, and she falls asleep with his weight warm against her back.
So she's looking well fucked? So what. She's happy.
Claire doesn't believe in love at first sight; she's not stupid, after all, she's a trained professional. Claire has well-reasoned explanations about hormones and pheromones and drunken stupidity that all add up to a terrible misconception about love at first sight, but she doesn't believe in it.
And thank God, Trevor believes in a lot of stupid shit, but at the end of the day, most of the time he at least doesn't believe in love at first sight, so Claire's spared that.
She can admit that aside from the fact that Alex DeMouy is her boss, Trevor didn't entirely miss this boat on this one. There isn't one of her exes who would baby-sit at 5 AM while she talked to patients in costumes, for one thing – and there isn't a single one of her exes who's nearly as gorgeous.
Not that Claire puts any kind of faith in her lust, but this time it almost seems to be pointing in the right direction.
A pot of coffee and a heated argument about Calvin Trillin later, they're naked on her kitchen floor, Alex's jacket in the sink and Claire's dress somewhere on top of the fridge. "I don't normally sleep with strange men on the first date," Claire says. Alex laughs and kisses her again, and Claire's stomach fills up with butterflies, the good kind of butterflies. "Really," she says. "I'm actually a very nice girl."
"I'll keep that in mind," Alex says.
Claire is late to work that morning.
author's notes: for h., who made me watch the j.flan episodes when i was in philly in february, and to whom i am greatly indebted for that. 1000 words on the nose - each section is 250 exactly. mike doughty provided the title. why was this show cancelled, again?