DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Kathy Schoggins and is copyright (c) 2001 by Kathy Schoggins.


Kathy Schoggins

Dr. Christine Chapel let herself into her forty-first floor apartment in the Bay Arms Complex. It wasn't a penthouse. It should have been for what it cost. Still, compared to her quarters on the Enterprise, it sure looked like one. She'd been back on Earth for nearly three years now. She had a great job at Star Fleet HQ and the apartment was the one luxury she afforded herself. She had furnished it all in neutrals and, every time she came home, a peaceful feeling came over her. She tossed her mail carelessly on a chest that sat squarely in the middle of her living room. The décor in the apartment was stylish and well thought out. The chest seemed to stick out like an unwelcome guest. The pile of mail and magazines piled haphazardly on top of it only heightened the effect.

She crossed to her bedroom peeling clothes from her body as she went. She kicked off her shoes as soon as she got close to the closet. Normally an extremely neat individual Christine was worn to the bone today. Work had been exceptionally frustrating and long today. All she wanted was a hot shower, a stiff drink and maybe a holovid later.

The shower relaxed her somewhat, but tonight was a no company night for sure. She pulled on her favorite old, baggy tee and comfy slippers. She shuffled back out to the living room to pick out a vid. Halfway across the room her gaze came to rest on the aged mahogany chest. A frown formed on her otherwise friendly face. Oh, not tonight. I just can't deal with this tonight. She continued on her way and flipped through her extensive collection of vids. Why is it almost all my vids are old romances? I don't need this! She found a less objectionable thriller and carried it back to the viewer. Once it was running she curled up on sofa.

Not five minutes went by when she found her gaze returning to the chest. Aunt Sarah, why couldn't you have just thrown it out? "Oh, no, Christine I couldn't do that. Your hope chest, all your treasures I could never throw them away. Now you just put this in the back of that speeder and take it home. You'll thank me someday." It's been over a month now, Aunt Sarah, and I'm still not thanking you. Last time I looked in there was thirteen years ago. A lifetime ago. Ya gotta have hope to have a hope chest.

She quickly jumped off the couch and went to the liquor cabinet. She wasn't much of a drinker, but every now and then a cocktail was a pleasant end to a hard day. She took out a big tumbler and mixed a double vodka and tonic on the rocks. She left the bottle out. Tonight might be a double, double night. Once back on the sofa she tried to pay attention to the vid, but as the night wore on she found her eyes returning again and again to chest. Finally in disgust she turned off the vid. She got up and crossed to the chest. In one swipe of her hand all the gathered mail and magazines were swept to the floor. The aged mahogany was etched with rosettes and leaves. The words "Always and Forever" had been carved amongst the flowers at the top. Okay, Christine. Time for another round! Why couldn't I just have a peaceful night? With a sigh she moved to mix another drink.

Armed with her second drink Christine approached the trunk. She moved up on it slowly as if it were a coiled rattlesnake. She loosed one long heart-wrenching sigh then slowly settled to her knees in front of the trunk. There was no lock on the clasp. She had never seen the need. Who would ever want to steal Christine Chapel's hopes and dreams? Well, you were a lot younger then Chris. She reached out and gently lifted the lid. The smell of the cedar lining brought back thoughts of her old home, and with it the thought that it was the last place she was ever happy.

On the top sat the plans for a three-bedroom two-bath cottage and a deed to twenty-eight acres, with a private lake, in Maine. Roger had designed the plan himself. It had been his dream home for years. He had presented it to her with the deed to the land as an engagement present. She had forgotten about the deed. She would make sure her lawyer returned it to his family. The plans had been his dream and she could never bring herself to live in it without him. Those she would also return. Folded underneath these items were crisp damask table linens and a set of pale peach satin sheets. The years had not been kind to either. They both had yellowed with age. Just as well; they didn't suit her all these years later. She heaped them carelessly to the floor.

She reached once more into the trunk. Well, this is more like it. At least some of it might be useful. The pewter candlesticks and the antique silver tea service would set off her sideboard nicely. The set of matched champagne flutes, well you never know maybe someday she'd like a little hot steamy ... Oh, who was she kidding? Add them to the bar collection Christine. And stop thinking about sex. Sex means men and men mean trouble. Those days are long over. There's never gonna be another man to hurt this girl. No how, no way! She moved all three things to the floor on the other side of the trunk. The next item was a queen-sized hand-stitched quilt and shams to match. They were ecru in color and had dozens of appliqued butterflies fluttering across the tops. She groaned as she thought of all the hours and pricked fingers that had gone into them. I know a gift for Aunt Sarah a gift for "keeping my treasures." A halfway tipsy giggle escaped her lips. She did feel a little tipsy. She thought about it for a moment then concluded that it was time for another little nip.

A few good healthy swallows later Christine returned to the contents of her hope chest. That's hopeless, girl! There she found an object wrapped in a copious amount of acid free tissue. She peeled back the layers to reveal a watered silk wedding dress strewn with pearls and there was a matching veil. Both were as white as the day they were made thanks to the tissue. Let's see. I believe it's a size eight, and that little ensign Beverly something just got engaged. It might fit her. Somebody should wear it. Lord knows I won't. I'll ask her Monday. There was a box with satin slippers too, but not too women many have dogs a size nine! These she tossed in the discard heap.

She pulled out a small velvet box. Opening it she encountered a set of platinum wedding bands his and hers. They were twelve and seven in size. They could have been resold, but were marred by engraving. She didn't have to read them. She had already read it once today. Each had Forever and Always with their initials carved inside. She snapped the box closed and tossed it on top of the junk pile. Forever and Always -- what a joke! It hurt so much, Roger, I didn't think I would make it. I did though, and I thought about things a lot too. You weren't the man I thought you were, Roger. If you were, you never would have let it happen. You would never have let yourself become the monster you became. I didn't know you like I thought I did. I wonder if it had been different, if you had stayed here on Earth what would have happened? Would we have made it, or would you still have become a monster? I started to think maybe it had been wrong all along, and then there was Spock. He was so good. I saw so many things in him that no one else seemed to see. I started having feelings for him and that's when I knew for sure. I knew we had never been right for each other all along. Anyway I hope you've found your peace now. You were a good man once. She picked the box back up and looked at the rings once more. It was still a good sentiment even if she was never to have it with someone. She placed them gently back on the pile.

What she found next caused her heart to constrict in her chest. There was a perfect crocheted baby afghan in pink and blue, even worse, an antique lace-christening gown with matching bonnet and booties. The gown had been in the Chapel family for generations. She held the gown tenderly and a single tear coursed down her cheek. She could never throw these items away even if she would never have a use for them. Oh, Dad, I'm sorry. I guess the buck stops here. No more Chapel genes! You know how I wanted a family and kids. I guess it just wasn't meant to be, but, God, how I wish I could have had the family I wanted. She wiped her cheeks dry and drank a little (actually a lot) more.

She looked in the chest again. This time it was empty. A somewhat sarcastic grin spread across her face. Empty! It can't be empty. There must be a picture or other memento of a certain tall dark Vulcan. Nothing? It can't be. No wait. Let me think. No, that's right I wasn't good enough for you, was I, Spock? At first I thought it was because I was Human, but that wasn't it, was it? I mean I heard about the others. Zarabeth, well maybe she's not a good choice. After all, you weren't exactly yourself then. But how bout Droxine? Huh? You were fine and dandy then and from what I heard you did your fair share of looking there, buddy boy. Oh, yeah, and she wasn't Vulcan, was she? What she was was a bimbo with a capital B! For five years I loved you. For five years I waited, I hoped, for one small sign. But nothing. You took the last of my hopes and dreams, damn you! I never got over you, Spock! I've tried so hard, but finally I just gave up. I just had to learn to live without hope. So like I said, who needs a hope chest? She shut the lid sharply and the sound echoed in the too empty apartment. It was done. Now all she had to do was figure out what to do with the chest itself. It was too heavy for her to dump in the trash. Maybe she could pay someone. She shook her head and rose to her feet. She was more than tipsy now. In fact she was fairly sure she was on her way towards roaring drunk and she was getting pretty darned tired. The chest could wait until morning.

Christine fell into a deep dreamless sleep and to her surprise woke without a hangover. She sat on the couch munching her breakfast cereal all the while contemplating the chest. She had showered and was almost through dressing when an idea came upon her. She laughed over the insult she was about to bestow, one that would never be understood. But she would have the satisfaction of knowing. She had nothing and would have nothing. The last of her hopes and dreams had been taken away the day she had left the Enterprise. He hadn't meant to hurt her, but he hadn't cared enough not to, either. The more she thought about it, the more perfect it sounded.

She placed a call to Astral Express and asked for a messenger to pick up a large object for shipping. She supplied the pertinent information when asked. Ship to: Attn: Spock etc. etc. Return address: None. Card to read: What once was mine, I now give to you. May you have as much good fortune with it as I have had. Signed: Leave Blank. The messenger arrived within the hour. Christine tipped him heavily. She looked over the living room and thought it looked much better this way. As she walked to the couch, she started to laugh. She laughed so hard tears formed and eventually tears of mirth turned bitter as she relived the last twenty-four hours. The curse of the hope chest is now yours, Spock. May it bring you as much pain as it brought me. Now where did I leave that bottle of vodka?

The End