The Pinwheel [X-Files]

The Pinwheel
by Jennifer-Oksana
Fandom: X-Files
rating: PG
Pairing: Withheld
spoilers: Max, Redux II, Emily
summary: An afternoon remembered.
disclaimer: X-Files belongs to CC/1013. Not me.

A lone woman walks down the path between the Washington Monument and the
Lincoln Memorial. She is pretty enough, redheaded with blue eyes, and she
knows she catches the gazes of several men as she goes. She doesn’t care.
Today, she wears unusual clothes for her– a simple grey t-shirt, jean
shorts, tennis shoes, sunglasses. In one hand she carries a pink plastic
bucket, which is full of sundry toy items. A casual observer would simply
think she was a mother on the way to play with her child.

They would be wrong, of course. Nothing about this woman is truly visible
to the naked eye. She had a child for a moment, but it’s dead. And the
bucket has nothing to do with the child, and everything to do with another
lost person.

She finds a bench that faces the Reflecting Pool and sits down, placing
the bucket beside her. Even though she packed it herself, she explores
like she’d never seen each item before.

In her mind she takes an inventory. Two silk daisies. A pack of
bubble-gum. Bazooka Joe bubblegum at that. Bubbles. A peanut butter and
jelly sandwich. An apple. A giant chocolate bar. And, of course, the
pinwheel.

Carefully, ever so carefully, she opens the bubbles, pulls out the wand,
and blows. A few rainbow-colored orbs start to dance in the light breeze,
then pop. The woman smiles a little, then stands up and begins to run a
little, making more bubbles fly through the air, surrounding her, a
cascade of shining things. It makes her laugh at herself, playing at her
age.

Oh, well. She runs back, gets her bucket, then gets as close to the pool
as she can, and blows more bubbles, waving at all the people who look at
her as if she were crazy. And she remembers why she does this.

She’d known forever that he liked her, was attracted to her. It was sweet
that he had a crush on her, flattering to be admired again like she were
back in eighth grade, blowing bubbles with her gum, twirling her hair,
giggling madly when cute guys passed by. But he wasn’t her type. He was
just a little too geeky, a little too shy and kind. Years of living her
dangerous, unpredictable life had sent her tastes toward a darker lover,
one whose eyes regarded her on so many levels, one who needed her with a
madness she responded to. A man who never touched her and never would.

But on that long-lost day in early February– he’d been so cute, so dear
when he came into her office. His palms were sweaty and his pupils dilated
just a little. He’d looked so terrified as he gasped out the words–

“Wouldyouliketogooutonadate?”

She’d been prepared to tell him no, that she thought he was nice and all,
but he just wasn’t her type. But that desperate look in his face, pleading
to her to give him a chance– she couldn’t be that cruel.

“Okay,” she’d said. He took a deep breath.

“Oh. Wow! Good! I have something special in mind,” he said, breathless and
grinning. “Would Saturday afternoon be okay?”

“Sure.”

“Great!” he’d said enthusiastically. “Um, wear something casual, like
jeans. And be prepared to have fun.”

Fun. That had been a lost word from her vocabulary at the time. She’d
given him a half-hearted smile and wondered what exactly he had in mind.

Now, sitting on the lawn, her hair teased by the wind, she remembers fun
again. It still isn’t a major part of her life, more’s the pity. But she
remembers what it is to have fun, and that’s when she sees a vendor
selling sodas. An idea crosses her mind and she acts on it. She races up
to him, out of breath from this sudden sprint. And giggles at the man, a

smile lighting up her beautiful face.

“What’ll you have, ma’am?” he asks, surprised by her. A woman of her age,
pink-cheeked and grinning like she were ten– more power to her.

“Strawberry soda, please!” she chirps. “Do you know if there’s anyone
around who’s selling kites?”

“There’s not enough breeze for that, ma’am,” he tells her.

“I suppose not,” she says regretfully. “Are you having fun today?”

He looks confused at the question as she hands him her money and takes the
soda. “Fun?”

“I’m having fun,” she tells him seriously, and he is again struck by the
fact she looks to be about thirty and talks like she’s a little girl. Then
she waves good-bye and starts skipping– skipping– down the path, and
good God, is she humming?

He’d been in jeans and a t-shirt when they met at the Monument. She’d been
so surprised– he looked boyish, cuter than she’d expected. She herself
was in her typical ‘casual’ and felt just a teensy bit overdressed for
him.

“Hi,” he’d said, instantly shy.

“Hi,” she replied. “You look nice.”

He’d gulped. “Thanks.”

“So, what are we doing that’s so special?” she asked, smiling at him. His
eyes went very wide, but he managed to remember his plan.

“Well, first you have to close your eyes, okay?”

“Okay,” she’d agreed. She’d closed her eyes and waited, wondering exactly
what he had in mind.

“Now open them.”

Slowly, her eyelids had fluttered open to see a small handful of flowers,
obviously fake. She looked at him quizzically. He’d smiled and tossed them
beside them.

“This is sort of a theme setting thing. You see, we’re going to have a
theme afternoon.”

“A theme afternoon?”

He’d flourished a pink plastic bucket, full to the brim with items. Her
confusion must have shown through on her on her face.

“Yes,” he said. “None of that icky love stuff. We’re just going to have
fun. Play. Does that sound good to you?”

“Okay,” she said, surprised. He’d burst into delighted laughter.

“Great!” he said. Then he’d leaned over and tapped her on the shoulder.
“Tag. You’re it!”

Then, like a madman, he’d gone running down the Mall, leaving her to
shriek with unexpected laughter and surprise and run after him.

She thinks of him now, and also of her daughter. She would give anything
to be able to go chasing down the Mall on this humid, nasty May day, with
someone, anyone. She sighs, and attacks her sandwich. It tastes good,
sticky peanut butter and grape jelly. She gulps strawberry soda, not being
too neat, and that’s okay, because she has napkins in the bucket, too.

On that February day, he’d forgotten napkins. They’d had to lick their
fingers clean, and that had been all right. Tired out by chasing him and
not catching him, they’d settled down in a nice spot and eaten lunch. Her
cheeks had been flushed and she was grinning ear to ear. How long had it
been since she’d been out on a date that wasn’t a date? How long had it
been since she’d laughed such throaty, honest laughs?

“You look so pretty,” he’d said. “I didn’t know you’d look so pretty
laughing.”

“Well, I guess it’s been a while since I’ve laughed,” she admitted.
“Thanks.”

“For what?”

“This. This is wonderful.”

He’d smiled. “Our afternoon is not over yet. I have more presents for
you.”

“You didn’t have to get me anything,” she protested. He shook his head and
rummaged in the bucket. He’d then presented her with a pinwheel, a shining
silver and blue toy that fluttered with the wind.

“And that’s just for starters,” he’d told her. “When I saw it, I thought
of you. It’s so bright, and I thought– I thought it would make you
smile.”

The same pinwheel is in her hand now. She blows on it, watches it spin and
take her back and forth in time, to remember things that make her laugh
and make her stop laughing.

She’d nearly cried with laughter when the bubbles he blew with his gum
popped and stuck to his face. He’d looked so sheepish, too, so silly, but
she is sure she looked funny, too, popping the gum and then trying to get
a bigger bubble. They’d played like children, the care slowly easing from
her mind. It had been bliss.

That afternoon of fun was as ephemeral as the lazy bubbles she blows today,
more than a year later, beautiful but fragile. She will not forget
it. She cannot. It is too precious.

They were sitting on a bench, laughing so hard at events. She’d tripped
and fallen, running while she’d blown bubbles, and now she was a mess. But
she hadn’t been this happy in a long time, and as she gasped and laughed
and brushed debris out of her hair– that was when he kissed her.

One soft kiss. It was so gentle, so sweet. She hadn’t felt a rush of
desire, or a heady surprise. This wasn’t the kiss of an ardent lover. This
was the kiss of a friend, but not exactly. For a moment she’d felt
content, a premonition of a possible future with him. Not mad and wild and
exciting like it would be with her other man. Gentle, it would be peaceful
and quiet– and for a moment, she thought maybe this simple happiness
could be enough.

Then he’d pulled back.

“You have a nosebleed,” he’d said.

Her hand had flown to her nose, and the reality of her life had stolen her
away, back into the abyss where life was not fun, it was short and brutal
and nasty, and tears had leapt into her eyes. Anxiously, she’d wiped the
blood away, looked up at him in helpless despair.

“Oh. I get them sometimes,” she’d lied. He couldn’t know, not that she was
dying. “It’s okay. I’m fine.”

“Dana,” and he’d said her name with such care. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” she’d replied. “Thank you. Thank you.”

She didn’t use his name that day. She’d forgotten it, but it hadn’t
mattered at that point.

“What?” he’d said with surprise. The tears flustered him.

“I told you before, I had fun. This was exactly what I needed,” she’d
said, fumbling. “And I– I’d be willing to do it again.”

His heart had leapt into his eyes. “Really?”

“Any time,” she’d replied. “Any time.”

And she’d meant it.

But there had been no repeat of that afternoon. Instead, the next time
she’d seen him, in that little bar, his blood had splattered against her,
and her worthless life had been preserved again, for no good reason at
all.

Life is unfair.

She wipes away just tears today, no blood. She is alive by chance or God’s
grace. The pinwheel spins in the breeze.

The lone woman stands up, resolved to keep joy in her life as a tribute to
the man who reminded her how to laugh, as a tribute to the way she lived on,
even when she couldn’t understand why she did.

She walks on, through the Mall crowded with tourists, past them all. And
she laughs, dreaming of a life where the joy of an afternoon is
commonplace, dreaming of a world where fun lasts longer than bubbles.

END

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