Chapter 17

Vincent lay awake in the dark. Catherine was tucked in to his side and his arm held her closely. He turned his head and looked at the window. The wind had died down, but it continued to snow. His mind and heart were full – too full to allow him to fall asleep. Catherine turned in her sleep and Vincent gently removed his arm. He bent over her and smoothed her hair back. He kissed her cheek and rose from the bed. He moved quietly into the other room and added a log to the fire. He pulled out his journal and sat at the table, lighting a few candles. He had not written at all since coming to the cabin and so much had happened – walking the woods in the daylight, experiencing the sunshine and the snow, loving Catherine and accepting her love for himself. He uncapped his pen and wrote without stopping for a long time. After a while, he sat back and flexed his aching hand. He sat quietly in his chair and looked into the candle flame. He still felt uneasy, like nervous energy stirring in his soul.

He took out his journal and neatly tore a page from the back and wrote a note to Catherine. He finished dressing, added another log to the fire and tossed his cloak over his shoulders. He opened the door and closing it swiftly, stepped out into the snow and the dark.

He walked to the edge of the lake first and watched the snow falling on the surface. Each flake seemed to glitter for a moment before melting into the water. He turned and looked at ground in front of the cabin. Spring was coming soon enough and the ground was warm enough that the snow would soon be gone, but it laid like a thick blanket on the grassy areas. It would melt quickly, but now it was cold on his feet and when he raised his face to the sky, the snowflakes stung his cheeks. He began walking swiftly along the banks of the lake and then turned suddenly into the trees and began to run, long loping strides into the forest.

Catherine felt a short blast of cold air when Vincent had opened and closed the door to the cabin. She turned in her sleep, searching for the warmth of his body. When she did not find it, she opened her eyes and looked into the dim light from the candle Vincent had left burning on the bedside table. She saw his note, lying on his pillow.

"My Dear Catherine,

"I've never known this happiness – the exhilaration of the day spent in the sunshine, the fierce winds of the storm, the snowflakes melting in your hair. And then understanding the depth of your love; finally I truly understand. My heart is too full to sleep. I'm walking by the lakeside. As long as you remain in the cabin, I can follow the sound of your heartbeat back to you. Do not worry.

"I love you,

"-V."

She smiled and held the note to her chest for a moment and then pulled it back and read it again. She laid back and curled against his pillow. It still smelled like him – warm, earthy with a hint of freshness from the snow that had melted into his hair. She closed her eyes and sighed. She was so happy.

Eventually, however, the baby began to make his needs known and Catherine rose with a groan. She pulled on Vincent's robe and shuffled into the kitchen. She put on water for tea and searched for the saltine crackers with which she had been starting each day. As she munched on the cracker, she rummaged through the cupboards, trying to decide on breakfast. William had told her that Vincent had a decidedly sweet tooth and she thought to make him cinnamon rolls. She had brought plenty of butter and eggs, but did she have flour and yeast in the cabin? To her delight, she did, along with cinnamon. She began mixing up the dough and set the pan to rise near the fireplace. She curled on the sofa and began to read Vincent's book of poetry, sipping at her tea.

Vincent ran easily through the woods they had gotten lost in yesterday. He stopped when he felt her heartbeat change and realized she had gotten up. Her heartbeat seemed a bit faster, but steady. He did not think she was in any distress. He decided to climb another tree. It was invigorating yesterday and he wanted to repeat the experience.

Catherine punched down the dough and rolled out the rolls. She added extra cinnamon. She cut them generously and placed them in a greased pan to rise again. She made another pot of tea.

Vincent sat at the top of the tree, examining the view. It was similar to what he had done in the city, but the view was entirely different. There were no city lights and the stars were hidden by the snow clouds, but there was still interesting things to see in the woods. There were owls hunting and mice scurrying. The snow fell thickly on the ground and the tree limbs and on him. He sat for awhile and began to feel cold. He climbed down quickly and headed back to the warmth of the cabin and of Catherine.

She was pulling the rolls out of the small oven just as Vincent returned to the cabin. The sky was lightening, but it was still snowing. He was covered in it. He tried to shake out his hair and cloak on the porch, but knew it was a lost cause. He gathered another armful of wood, opened the door and swiftly stepped inside.

"Good morning!" she said gaily, turning towards him with the pan in her hands.

"Good morning," he replied. "Catherine, what have you done?"

"I baked cinnamon rolls." He raised his eyebrows at her as he deposited the wood near the fire and took off his cloak. "I know that for the most part, my cooking abilities consist of ordering in and reheating. But there are two things I can make – pasta bolgonese and cinnamon rolls."

"I cannot wait to hear that story."

She set the pan on the table and went to him. "Oh, Vincent, you must be freezing." She pushed him to a chair and bent to unlace his boots. "Your feet are soaked," she chided. She looked up at him. "You should go and change."

He reached down and cupped her cheek in his hand, stroking his thumb over her lips. "You are beautiful this morning, Catherine."

Her cheeks reddened and she cast her gaze downwards, but he held her firmly, leaned forward and kissed her gently, but deeply. Pulling back, he was pleased to see her cheeks were still rosy, but it was a different sort of blush now. "Good morning," he whispered.

"Good morning," she replied, staring into his eyes. Suddenly, the kettle on the stove whistled, startling them both. "Go change. I'll lay the table for breakfast. You must be starved after your midnight jaunt. Afterwards, I'll comb out your hair. It is even worse today."

He smiled down at her and kissed her again. "Yes, my love."

Chapter 18

The cinnamon roll pan was soaking in the sink and the two lovers' stomachs were momentarily satiated. Vincent sat on the floor at Catherine's feet, facing away from her, while she combed out his hair. A fairly large pile of pine needles, dirt and loose hair lay on the table.

"Honestly, Vincent!" she exclaimed. "You should pull up your hood before you climb anymore pine trees. Or maybe just skip the pines and pick a nice elm. Or an oak." She pulled the comb through his long tresses over and over again. Now that the dirt and knots were out, it was a delightful pasttime. Vincent closed his eyes, absorbing the sensation.

"I cannot remember the last time anyone combed my hair for me. I was probably a child."

"I'll do this every night for you, if you want." Catherine put the comb aside and wrapped her arms around his neck. She laid her cheek on his head, revelling in the softness there.

Vincent put his hands on her arms and squeezed them gently. "I'll hold you to that."

She spoke into his hair. "You know, Vincent, it would be so much easier to just come Below rather than my apartment when we return. Most of my things are already there. I don't want to have to unpack and then repack. Let's just go home."

Some of Vincent's old doubts and fears reared their ugly heads. "But, none of your things are unpacked. And where will you put them? My chamber is too small and too cluttered. Perhaps I should expand it? Or maybe find something new for you?"

"Vincent." Catherine slid off her chair and on to his lap. "This is what moving is. You've never done it, have you? You've always lived there?"

He nodded.

"When you move, you pack everything up and put in the new space. It seems like it takes forever and everything is such a mess, but eventually you find a place for everything. It will all work out. Don't worry."

"But when the baby comes..."

Catherine kissed his lips soundly. "Don't worry." She nestled her head on his shoulder. "Did you live there as a child?"

"Yes. It was John Pater's chamber at first. When he was exiled, it stood empty for awhile. After Devin and I and our antics out-grew the nursery, Father put us in there. We were close to him, but we had our own space. The dreams we dreamt in there!" Vincent looked down at Catherine on his lap and saw her eyelids drifting closed. "Catherine? When did you get up this morning?"

"Hmmm?" she sighed. "Probably shortly after you left. It was still dark."

"You need a nap." He rose with some agility, while holding her in his arms. He carried her to bed and tucked her in. He turned to leave the room.

"Where are you going," she asked.

"I'll let you sleep."

"No, Vincent. I woke up because you were gone. It has only been two nights, but I can't sleep well without you."

Vincent smiled and came back to the bed. "I'm a little tired too." She opened her arms and the covers to him and he laid down beside her. They cuddled together and fell asleep. And the snow fell on.

Peter skipped down the steps into Father's study and tossed the Sunday paper on his table. "Good morning, Jacob! Did you hear about the freak snowstorm hitting Connecticut this weekend?"

"What?" Father dropped his book and picked up the paper, scanning the article quickly. "Vincent is in Connecticut this weekend with Catherine!"

"Really? That was this weekend? Well, I hope they are having a good time." Peter chuckled as he set out the chessboard for his weekly game with his old friend.

"How can you laugh at a time like this?" Father snapped, glaring over the paper at Peter.

"Why not? Catherine is a sensible woman. Vincent is terribly cautious. And, now the two of them are finally alone. Trust me, Jacob. This is a good thing. Now," he said rubbing his hands together. "How about I spot you a rook?"

Father tossed the paper to the side. He sighed deeply. "I still won't stand a chance."

"What is really wrong, Jacob?"

"How can you ask? He is up there, away from here, trapped in a cabin in the middle of a snowstorm. Anything can happen! How will he get back?" Father began to sputter.

Peter laughed and laid his hand on his friend's arm. "Jacob. You sound like I did when Susan went to her first dance. Face it, your little boy is growing up!" He laughed harder at the thought of big, strong Vincent as a little boy.

Father glared a little at his friend, and then his face softened and he nearly smiled. He looked out over the chessboard. "How did you ever survive it?"

Peter smiled broadly. "I had a good friend who distracted me from my worries by teaching me to play chess. Want me to teach you?"

Father finally smiled and then laughed. "No, I think I'm a lost cause." He studied the board again. "How about you spot me a rook and a bishop?"

Catherine woke up in the mid-afternoon. She turned and looked at Vincent. He was lying on his side, facing her, with his head propped up on one arm. With his other hand, he was stroking the bump of their baby through her nightgown. She smiled.

"Is it possible?" Vincent murmured.

"What Vincent?"

"I think I feel him moving."

"Really?" She propped herself up on her elbows. She looked down at her belly. "The books say it is too early to feel anything."

"I am something that has never been, Catherine. We are something that has never been. We are not in any books."

"That is true." She watched his hand continue to caress her belly. She looked up at him. "'He?'"

Vincent smiled and blushed a little bit. "You have a feeling."

"Oh, Vincent," she exclaimed rolling over and pushing him on to his back. "I do love you." She leaned towards him and kissed him softly. She laid her head on his shoulder.

"It is all going to work out, isn't it?" he mused into her hair.

"Yes. We have to believe that."

"Hmmm." They lay there in silence, Catherine holding him around the waist, Vincent smoothing her hair. Catherine sat up suddenly. She looked at the window.

"Vincent, I think it has stopped snowing."

"I believe you are right."

"Come on!" She jumped out of bed. "Get dressed!"

"What?"

Catherine's head popped out of the neck of her sweater. "Vincent, do you want to build a snowman?"

Chapter 19

Vincent woke the next morning with a blinding headache. He was cold. He could not open his eyes without the pain intenisfying. He reached out, across the bed, searching for Catherine. He rasped her name when his hand found nothing. He put both hands over his eyes and head and moaned in pain.

Catherine opened the door to the bathroom, dressed with her hair wrapped in a damp towel. Here eyes went to Vincent and immediately she knelt at his side. She touched his hands and whispered, "Vincent? What is it?"

"My head. My eyes. It is so bright," Vincent murmured haltingly.

Catherine turned from him to the window and looked at the bright morning sun glittering on the crisp, white snow. "Oh," she said, jumping up and closing the curtains, darkening the room considerably. She went back to the bathroom and wet a washcloth under cold water. She wrung it out and came back, crawling across the bed. "Here, love," she said quietly and gently pulled his hands from his eyes and replaced them with the cloth.

"Thank-you," he whispered and pressed his palms over the cloth, back on to his eyes.

Catherine went back to the bathroom and pulled extra towels from the small linen closet and tossed them over the curtain rod in the bedroom, darkening the room further. She then went to the other room and drew the curtains on the windows in there. She added towels until the cabin was as dim as the Tunnels.

She pulled the wet towel from her hair and went back to Vincent. She sat beside him, asking quietly, "Is that better?"

"Yes, but my head still hurts."

"I brought some Tylenol. Can you take that?"

"I'm not sure. Father says that I do not react 'normally' to most medications."

Catherine had gone to the bathroom and pulled out a bottle of pills from her make-up case. "Does 'acetaminophen' sound familiar?"

"Um," Vincent sighed and tried to think. "I'm not sure."

Catherine disappeared into the bathroom once more. "There's some aspirin here. I think its Daddy's. God, it must be as old as the hills." She brought it out to the bedroom.

"I've taken that."

"Were you all right? Did it help you?"

"I've taken it for severe headaches before. It has helped." Vincent sighed and turned his head away from the windows, searching for darkness.

"Let me get you some water." Catherine reappeared with two tablets in her palm and a glass of water in her other hand. She approached him and touched his hair. "Let me help, Vincent." He parted his lips and she slipped the pills in. Then, with her free hand, she lifted his head and put the glass to his mouth. He drank two swallows and then pulled back and she eased him back down to the pillow.

"It hurts more to move," he whispered.

"I'm sorry. Stay still now. I'm going to make tea."

Catherine slid off the bed and Vincent sighed again. He felt so foolish. He and Catherine had spent a wonderful afternoon playing in the snow. As the day passed, the clouds disappeared and they had watched a glorious sunset wrapped in each other's arms. After dinner was eaten and the dishes put away, they had lounged by the fireplace, reading poetry by candlelight. After Catherine had gone to sleep, Vincent kept the curtains open, gazing at the stars through the window. He had no idea that the light from the morning sun on the newly-fallen snow would have a glare so piercing that it felt as if there were great knives stabbing his skull. He heard Catherine puttering in the kitchen. He should be making her tea; he should be caring for her. He tried rolling to his side to rise from the bed and moaned loudly.

"Vincent?" Catherine had dashed back into the bedroom at his sound of pain. "Vincent," she said, soothing his forehead and pressing him back on the pillows. "Don't try to get up."

"But, Catherine," he began.

"Vincent, let me take care of you. I'm brewing some tea and when you're hungry, I'll bring you breakfast in bed. Just try to relax and let the aspirin and the darkness work."

"I feel so helpless, so foolish."

"Don't."

"I left the curtains open."

"How many times have you awakened to sunlight on the snow?" He remained silent. "I should have warned you. I didn't think of it because the sun didn't seem to bother you on our first day, but I should have known how much brighter it would be on the snowfall. I'm so sorry."

"Catherine," he began again, but she cut him off again.

"Let me take care of you, Vincent. Please."

He heaved a heavy sigh and shook his head slightly. "It seems I have no choice."

She stood up. "It is good you've finally realized that the woman is always right." He smiled slightly at her words. "I'm making some toast with the last of the bread. If it doesn't warm up and melt the snow, we may need to bake more. I'm not sure when we can drive out."

"Father will worry."

"Father would worry if we were at the Chamber of the Falls."

"True." Vincent settled on the pillow.

"Are you going to lie still?"

"Yes."

"And I don't need to hover over you? I can finish breakfast?"

"Yes." Vincent smiled.

"All right then. Let me take care of you. I love you."

"I love you, Catherine."

She walked off, muttering something about hard-headed, stubborn men. He stayed on the pillow, with the towel over his eyes, knowing that she was just as stubborn and hard-headed as he. Perhaps, he had finally met his match.