The skirt and sweater or the dress? Slacks? Hair down or
up? Heels? Flats? She tried every permutation before finally deciding on
the skirt ensemble. The flats would do. She didn't know how tall he was, and
just in case….
He sounds so young. If I hadn't seen his date of birth on the MRI, I'd never have taken him to be over thirty. But he has the wisdom of someone so much older. Maybe because of all he's seen. Or what he lived through as a boy.
He'd shared it with her, his childhood. For Reid, it had been something that was both challenging and cathartic. He'd never told the whole story, all at once, to anyone. Even with the team, even with JJ, it had come out in bits and pieces. But somehow he'd wanted Maeve to know it. He'd felt like he was telling her the worst about himself, knowing it wasn't actually the worst. That conversation had come much later. But he had, eventually, told her the worst. Told her about the drugs, and the addiction.
He needed to test me. To see if I would run away from him, even before we'd ever met. But I didn't run, did I, Spencer? You were afraid I would hurt you. And I haven't. Now I have to pray that you won't hurt me.
She carried her past with her, too. The relationship with Bobby, and the pursuit by the stalker, had traumatized her. Millimeters at a time, she was working her way back to normalcy. But she still had so far to go.
The internal conversation brought Maeve to think about her own upbringing. Her parents were scientists, like herself. Neither rich, nor famous, but respected in their fields. And she'd followed her mother's path, into genetics. Frustrated because now, when her mother needed her the most, she was on the sidelines, not participating in research, not actively searching for the cure.
"It's all genetics, Maeve. Everything is genetics," her mother always said. And Maeve had come to agree with her. But now, when she should have been using her expert knowledge of genetics to find the way to cure her mother's cancer, she was, instead, hiding in a loft apartment rented under her parents' names.
But it's almost over, I can feel it. I'll see Spencer tonight, and it will be okay. And that will mean I can get back to the lab. He's gone away, whoever he is, and I'm safe again.
At first she'd thought it might be Bobby. Even when the early photos from the stalker included shots of him, she'd thought it was a ruse. She'd thought he wanted her to need him. The man I thought I wanted to marry. He'd so obviously needed to be needed. And she so obviously was a strong, accomplished, fully mature woman. The two had not gone together. No matter how much she loved him, Maeve had come to realize they would never be compatible enough to stay together. He wants someone to protect, and I want to be someone who doesn't need protecting. I want to be someone who accomplishes.
And so, she'd broken it off. "It will only hurt more the longer it goes on," she'd told him. He'd argued, he'd cried, he'd raged, and she'd been stoic in the face of it. Finally, giving up, he'd left.
Almost immediately after the breakup, she'd come across Spencer. She'd read his article, and written to him. He'd responded, intrigued with her work, because of his headaches. He had needed her. As they'd grown their relationship, letter by letter and phone call by phone call, they'd come to realize their mutual dependence and combined strength. She'd come to know him deeply and respect him. Eventually, she felt like she'd even come to love him. And she'd let it slip on more than one occasion. But she'd not heard it in return.
What if he doesn't like me? What if I'm not who he pictured? Who he thought I was?
Please, please, let this go well. She picked up the gift she'd gotten him. The Narrative of John Smith. The first, long lost, work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. She'd spent a long time deciding how to inscribe it. In the end, it had been easy. Wiser humans than she had put into words how she felt about Spencer, and their relationship. She'd borrowed their words, to tell the one she loved how she felt about him. How she felt about them.
Maeve checked herself in the mirror one more time. Taking a deep breath, she headed out to the waiting cab. Spencer, I'm on my way.
As he drove over to the restaurant, Reid thought back to the conversation he'd had with Maeve this afternoon. Having been freed of the constraints of a weekly phone call, Reid had taken to calling her every day. He'd even used his cell for the last two calls. Maeve was feeling that confident that her stalker had given up and fled.
"I'm really looking forward to this, Maeve."
"Oh, Spencer, you've no idea how long I've been waiting to be able to do this. I've so wanted to be with you, in person."
It was the way in which they were the most different. Reid could have gone on indefinitely, exploring her fascinating mind, her kindred spirit. But Maeve was more accustomed to relationship, more conventional in what she desired. Reid knew he was supposed to want to meet in person but, truthfully, it wasn't the same kind of ardent desire on his part.
I hope you're right, JJ. I hope she'll like me in person as much as she does on the phone.
Now he began to obsess on how he would handle himself physically. Touching could be such a difficult thing for him. It had taken a long time, and many casual pats on the back, and ruffling of his hair, and short, friendly hugs, but JJ had broken through. It was easy for him now, with her, natural. It had even become something he could do with Emily. With Garcia, it was unavoidable, so he'd had to get used to her. But Maeve was someone new, and the stakes were high.
Should I shake hands? Do I give her a hug? Do I kiss her?
It suddenly occurred to him that he'd only been envisioning the beginning of the date, and not the end. It would be one thing to give Maeve a quick peck on the cheek when they met. But what do I do at the end? Do I really kiss her? Will she expect it?
He wasn't totally inexperienced with these things, having kissed the young actress, Lila Archer, in the pool. But that was, literally, the full extent of his kissing history. Reid briefly wondered if he should have asked JJ for help in that area as well. Somehow he didn't think that would have gone over so well with his best friend. He could almost hear her telling him, "There are limits, Reid."
He'd arrived. Grateful for having found a spot on the street, only a block away, he pulled Maeve's gift from his messenger bag and tied a ribbon around it. The Narrative of John Smith. She'll love it. She'll especially love the quote I inscribed.
He'd used one of their joint favorites, Rainer Maria Rilke. The quote read, "Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other."
There, I've told her. I've told her that I love her. Maybe the poet said it for me, but I've told her.
He was pleased, and hoped she would be as well. He knew it might be quite some time before he could get the words to come from his own lips.
Reid went to the hostess and gave his name. Apparently, he was the first to arrive. Following the hostess to their table, he took his seat and settled himself. He took the book out of his messenger bag again and fixed the bow, just so.
As he looked up again, and started noticing the patrons in the restaurant, Reid felt eyes on him. He was drawn to the left, where there was a row of booths. A man was looking at him, head turned, watching over his shoulder. The hackles on Reid's neck stood up. This was wrong. Something was wrong. There was danger here. He had to keep Maeve away. He had to protect her.
Reid grabbed for his phone and punched her number. The one he'd only recently had permission to call.
"Maeve, it's me. Don't come to the restaurant."
What? "But I'm right outside, I'm already here."
It was killing him, but he had to turn her away. "Don't come in. It doesn't feel right. I think your stalker is here."
Just hearing the words made her light-headed. No!
"Spencer, I told you, I haven't heard from him in weeks. He's gone."
Reid knew he was operating completely on instinct. It was something he'd rarely done before, he who was so in love with facts, and statistics. But he was also certain.
"Maeve, he's here. I know it. Don't come in. Go home!"
She wanted to cry. Finally feeling as though she'd been reclaiming her life, she was now reminded that the power resided elsewhere.
"Spencer, come outside. We'll leave together!"
He'd already considered it. But now, being so close to her stalker, it was his opportunity to put an end to her suffering. He needed to know she'd be safe, but he was staying.
"No, Maeve, I'm going to put an end to this, right now. Please go. I'll call you later."
"Maeve, go!" He broke the connection.
Frightened tears covered her face as she turned back to the cab she'd just exited, and got back in. This time, her fear wasn't for herself. She was concerned about him. About what might happen to him. About whether he would ever really know how she felt about him. Before the cab pulled away, she asked the driver to wait, for just a moment. She had something to do.
Inside, Reid kept his eyes on the man who'd been watching him, whose own face was now turned away. He rose and started across the restaurant to him. Movement in the periphery caught his eye, and he watched as a second man approached the first one. The two greeted each other, and it became clear that they'd been planning to meet at the restaurant.
Did I get it wrong? But he was definitely looking at me. Repeatedly. But…
Now Reid was mentally kicking himself. Had he sent Maeve away for nothing? Had he frightened her needlessly? Now that she's finally feeling free of her stalker, have I brought back his presence? Needlessly? Did I hurt her?
Briefly, he thought about calling her again, and asking her to come back. But the evening had already been ruined. He was angry with himself, too angry to show that side of himself to her. Maybe I'm just not good enough for her, anyway.
As he started to gather his things to leave, the hostess came over with a bag.
"Excuse me, sir. But a woman left this package for you."
He was confused. Was she still here? Could she be outside? He looked inside the bag and pulled out what it contained. A book. Reid's lips formed a rueful smile as he read the title. The Narrative of John Smith. If he'd needed any kind of confirmation about their connection, here it was. They'd gotten each other the same gift.
Reid opened the front cover and saw what she'd inscribed. A quote from another one of their favorites, Thomas Merton. "Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone. We find it with another."
Someone watching might have noticed as his face became a study in contrasts, the smile on his lips, the tears in his eyes. Quickly, Reid grabbed everything and ran out of the restaurant, looking for her. But the sidewalk was empty. There was no one waiting for him.
He'd sent her away, and she had gone.