The Brownstone remained a hive of activity. There was no winding down from the tensions of kidnapping, treasure hunting and confronting the enemy. Jacob realized that his life was really just starting. All the loose ends of his amazing journey from the tunnels, to the world above, had to be tied together if the happiness, so long denied his parents, was to be realized.
He sought out Joe and Diana for a private conversation. The Senator had become a Godfather of sorts, helping him to understand his mother better. The twenty-four year age gap between his parents and the zero age gap between him and his mother presented challenges. Jacob knew little of his mother's life outside the tunnels and she had a difficult time understanding that he was already a grown man.
Joe shared his stories of Catherine's days as a ADA. He also gave Jacob a list of her friends. During his executorship, Joe had held back on notifying anyone, including Jenny, her best friend. He felt any public notice would have resulted in just the kind of situation which the family faced before they even left California. Now he would alolow Jacob to be the one to call her friends one by one.
Jacob, in turn, had a few favours to ask Joe and Diana. Both were able to comply. He thanked them warmly for all their support.
Terry and Jason were getting ready to return to LA. They sat with Vincent and Catherine on the night before their departure discussing the whole life altering adventure.
'I never could have written the ending for this story in a million years' Terry laughed.
'It is better than I might have written for myself too. In those days before I could speak, I don't think that being able to sit with Vincent again ever crossed my mind. I would have been happy just to be able to say his name.'
'It was a challenge Catherine, but your courage exceeded even your worst physical limitations.'
'Terry, you moved me from Gina back to Catherine with your love and support. The journey may seem small to others but I truly understand what a gift it was for me and what a sacrifice it was for you. Don't shake your head! I know that you fought many battles for my sanity, including Joe's stubbornness and sense of responsibility.'
Terry chuckled remembering many of her very dry conversations with Joe, when he was just a number on the other end of the line.
Jason and Vincent sat quietly allowing the women to share these intimate memories with each other. They had not been privy to the birth of the shared energy of the relationship. An unshakeable bond had been created. Earlier in the day, as promised, Catherine spoke with Terry about feeling comfortable during the intimacy she hoped to rebuild with Vincent. Terry gave her some advice that she knew would indeed help.
'I feel that I can ask you anything Terry. You have seen me at my worst and most vulnerable. That is what's real to me. I trust you with my life, because I have seen what you did with it before I knew myself or you.'
Now as the four shared goodbyes Catherine knew there was little else to add to her already poignant thanks. Rob would be picking up Jason and Terry very early in the morning to head for the airport.
'You will let us know, the minute the little one arrives right.'
'I will of course. Your love for Vincent is the miracle that helped to create this life. You are just as important as Jason and I.'
'Terry, I thank you again for Catherine, and for returning my heart to me. 'And Jason,' Vincent said turning towards the tall handsome man who shared this incredible journey, 'I have grown up with many children. The tunnels are the best orphanage in the world. I have a brother too and many friends. Even though my world is so full in its limited accommodation. I have not met anyone with your courage or sense of adventure who has managed to hang on to a warm and loving heart. It has not always been easy for me to blend the world above with mine below but I did with you.'
'Vincent, I am sorry I did not get down below but someday I will, OK?'
The two men shook hands, hugged briefly and parted. Terry and Jason were headed to bed after a busy day of packing, and sightseeing. They had not been able to go down to the tunnels. Terry especially wanted to go and see where Catherine fell in love but Jason and Vincent both agreed it was not safe. 'I hope a visit to my home will be worth another trip to New York,' Vincent had offered as a compromise.
Long after the two travelers retired to bed Catherine and Vincent remained up, talking. Terry's departure was mitigated slightly by the knowledge that Sue at least would be staying. She had fallen in love with the house and kitchen, finding, in all its modern conveniences, a love of cooking. Catherine recalled their surprising conversation.
'I have been with you so long Catherine that I wouldn't know what to do. I know you need me for a bit longer but your home in California was my home too so I am a little lost.'
'I hadn't thought of that you know. Thank you for reminding me Sue. Of course, I want you to stay as long as you like and not just because I like your cooking.'
'I promise to love New York. It sure is different.'
'We will work out something with the money when I get myself sorted out Sue.'
'Don't worry. I have saved up quite a bit over the past six years. I fine for now….Just happy to be here.'
Vincent smiled happily in the darkened room as he and Catherine lay down together. They discussed and shared every aspect of their lives together before settling in to sleep each night. It brought them closer to each other and left no room for misunderstandings which could drive a wedge between then. 'We have been so lucky Catherine. Many would not agree but I wonder how many are given a second chance to fall in love again and make it be just the way they want it to be.' Their warm hug and tender kiss said more than words ever could.
Jacob on the other hands, seemed so busy. He returned to work and gradually moved his things out of his apartment to the flat upstairs. He saw Cathy often. They seemed to have a lot to share. Christmas came and went before the family really had a chance to sit down and talk. Jacob apologized profusely to his parents but in their own happiness they could wait. There had been so much catching up to do. Eventually Jacob and his parents found a quiet evening to hear the final story. Jacob stood looking out the window as he often did when deep in thought. Snow was falling outside, the city looked beautiful.
'Dad, there are a few things you should know before I tell you this story,' he began gently.
'You were a special, long awaited birth among the Lion People. Raeburn had to acknowledge that Pater would be the one to have the special child. During the last two weeks before your birth, Raeburn should have attended a conference but he faked illness and stayed behind. Although the competition between him and Pater for head of the organization was fierce he had to take the opportunity to eliminate Coralee and the child she was expecting. Raeburn was the one who told Anna about the impending birth and encouraged her to take away the child as soon as Pater was gone.
The way things turned out, having you grow up in the Tunnels was more of a punishment to Pater than if Anna had given you away to strangers. It is sad what men do to each other for power.'
'I felt the struggle between Paracelsus and Father. I am glad it was over before you were born.'
'Your Father also struggled with Paracelsus, Jacob. It was a terrible time in the tunnels,' Catherine reminded Vincent.
'But here we are years later and you have both survived Paracelsus, Gabriel, and now Raeburn. Let's hope that the struggle is over and we can all put the past behind us.'
'Except for one final story Jacob. Who did this one come from?'
'Mama! I realized that reading the past through energy fields, depletes the resources of the person I am reading. I tried not to draw too much from you, but this is a story which I think you both need to hear. The energy of it was insistent. It also clarifies other impressions I got from Dad that were not clear in my head.'
Jacob shares the final story
'When Coralee left you in the basket, she quickly walked around to the front of the hospital. She hoped to see if she could find some help. She had tucked you into a corner hoping that with a little money she could return before anyone found you. She desperately wanted to find food. Her head was down and eyes were filled with tears. At the same moment she turned the corner, a young man, ran down the steps of the hospital. He bumped right into Coralee and knocked her to the ground. He apologized profusely, helping Coralee to her feet.
'Did I hurt you?' he asked, deeply contrite.
'But you are crying,' he said.
'So are you.' she responded looking at his face.
'My wife is ill,' he blurted out. 'I was worried and not paying attention. Are you hurt?'
'No, I don't think so.' Coralee moved tentatively. He could clearly see that she was in discomfort.
'I am sorry. I ….I had bad news about my wife. She just lost a baby.' The man needed to talk and shared a little of his concern with Coralee. 'What are you doing here?' he asked finally.
'I'm hungry. I was looking for food and I have no place to live.'
'Oh my dear child! Here, take this. Get some food. There is enough to get a few nights at the YWCA.' The man handed Coralee 20. dollars. It was more than she had ever had in her life. She was desperate and took the money, knowing it would help to feed herself and her baby.
'Thank you, thank you, thank you,' she cried. 'I hope your wife feels better soon.' I am sorry about your baby.'
'IThanks, I hope she feels better soon too. Listen, here is my name and business address and telephone. If you ever need a job give me a call. I feel really sorry for knocking you over but I thank you for listening to me talk.'
The man inquired one more time if Coralee was alright before making his way to a car parked at the side of the road. Coralee looked at the card. 'Charles Chandler 'it said. Coralee smiled and ran back around the corner to get her baby. Now she did not have to be parted from him. To her shock and horror, he was gone. Coralee screamed into her hands. It hadn't been that long. Who could have taken him already? Frantic, she ran around the block looking down the road in all directions, hoping to see a figure with a basket in hand. There was none.
Aching and sore, she gave up defeated and just kept walking until pain and exhaustion forced her to sit on a park bench. She couldn't sleep or cry.
The sun was rising when she forced herself back to the area of the hospital. She waited all day, hoping.
She watched Mr. Chandler pass in and out of the hospital. She hid, not wanting him to know that she had also lost her baby. Shame washed over her. She saw when Mrs. Chandler left the hospital later that day. Coralee knew they would not be back.
As night began to fall, Coralee remembered the 20 dollars in her pocket. She could not return to the small flat Mr. Pater had rented for her. Without the baby he would be angry. She tried to recall what Mr. Chandler had said about a YWCA, where she could go.
Woodenly, she asked a stranger to show her the way. With money in her pocket, she was welcomed and shown a cot in a room with another woman. She huddled down and wept, muffling her sobs in the pillow.
Coralee, somehow knew that she had one chance in life. She did not want to die. She would never find her baby if she died. She took courage and called Mr. Chandler. To her surprise, he answered her call and invited her to come for an interview.
Mrs. Chandler, who had recently miscarried, was weak and vulnerable. Her doctor was worried about her health. He suggested that she not take anymore chances with a pregnancy. Coralee went to live at the house and to care for Mrs. Chandler, comforting her.
She stayed for over four years. It was a happy time. She cooked, cleaned, and prepared simple foods, gradually getting stronger herself. Towards the end of the four years, she developed an internal sickness. Mrs. Chandler's doctor told Coralee she had radiation sickness. Mrs. Chandler was also pregnant again. Coralee was able to stay until the baby girl was born but her body became weaker as the sickness spread throughout her. She left, a few weeks after Mrs. Chandler came home. It was impossible for her to do her job and they needed someone healthy.
Coralee returned to the hospital where she first met Mr. Chandler. She was cared for, thanks to the generosity of her employer. Although it was some months before she died, she had everything she needed.
By coincidence, Mr. Pater who had been beside himself with grief after losing Coralee, his baby, his place in the tunnel community and the organization, was visiting someone else in the hospital when he saw Coralee. She was close to death. He hardly recognized her. He was able to convince the hospital that he was a distant relative, her only one. He knew enough about her to pass scrutiny. At her death, he claimed her body. Very little conversation passed between Pater and Coralee at the end. Although he was angry that she left him, he understood why, and knew Raeburn had a hand in it. He was also able to tell her that for better or worse, Vincent was well and happy growing up in a safe place. In the last days before her death, Pater realized that he had loved Coralee and did her a great injustice with his duplicity. She was too young and impressionable to have sustained a relationship with a man like Pater.
'The rest you know Dad. He immortalized her in the tomb.'
'Jacob, I thank you for telling this story. It further validates this love I have for your mother. Our lives have been entwined by a greater destiny than even we could imagine.'
'What nicer connection could we have had than this Vincent? My father would have been just the man to welcome Coralee. It seems like she had a happy time living with us.'
'From the impressions I get, I do believe she was as happy as she had ever been.'
'Thank you my son. Your gift of insight and clairvoyance is a blessing to you and to all of us.'
'Dad, I'm not so sure yet. The 'gift' is a blessing but I don't understand it fully. It frightens me sometimes. When I was with Raeburn, I found I could not control my anger and fear. I sometimes said and did things that were foreign to the way I normally know myself. Cathy and I have been talking and I think I may return below to live, at least for awhile. I want to be absolutely sure that I can control all aspects of my life.'
'Are you sure?'
'Cathy is willing to live below. Mama is not ready and may never be but I want more than anything for you both to have time to be happy with each other. The kids need someone Dad. I saw that so clearly the other day with Riley. I can't take your place, but I can stand in for you while you enjoy a life together.'
Vincent and Catherine were overwhelmed with the generosity of their son. To be able to share a life together, without compromising their other obligations, would be a dream come true. Neither of them would be torn between the two worlds.
There would need to be further discussion with Father and Mary at the right time. Vincent knew that Jacob was the 'special long awaited child'. He and Catherine were merely conduits. He could sense Jacob's insecurity about this role. The safety of the tunnels would provide a better environment for him to learn more about who he was and how to harness his internal energy. In this respect, I can help him, he thought.
In the New Year, Catherine and Vincent were given good news from her MD. Her neurological system had regenerated itself to better than 90 percent. He marveled at her incredible gross motor skills. Other fine motor, functions were less well tuned but still adequate for everyday..
'Ms Chandler, I can tell you that you have made a remarkable recovery. I will continue to monitor you but there are very few cautions I would have at this time. Work is out of the question, but any brain activity which does not physically stress you at the same time would be acceptable. Most of your weakness is upper body strength.'
'Can I walk any distance?'
'With help and support...yes. I will check back with you in three months.'
'I hope to come to your office in three months.'
Catherine was elated. Vincent was not in the house when the doctor visited but he would return soon. Catherine longed to go below and see the family again. She hoped to be well enough to attend Winterfest. Jacob had plans for this year's celebrations. His mother thought he might marry Cathy. Her goddaughter was a lovely girl and a perfect wife for her son. She smiled waiting impatiently for Vincent to return. Her only blip on an otherwise perfect day was being called Ms. Chandler. She longed to be Mrs. Vincent Wells. Her main job right now was being his wife. If she ever returned to Law, she would continue to be Catherine Chandler, but that seemed highly unlikely.
It was the night of Winterfest 2008. Catherine and Vincent left the Brownstone on foot and made their way across the park. There had been a lot of snow but the path to their secret entrance was cleared by the helpers of the community. Everyone knew that Catherine had been returned to Vincent and their son Jacob. No one had seen her. Rumours were rampant that she had been badly disfigured, was crippled and unable to walk. None of the talk was overt. It was just whispered. Many of the older folk of course knew her and who she was but the newer members of the community only knew that Jacob's mother was dead. So how could she be alive?
Vincent was very careful not to be too over protective of Catherine. He allowed her to walk on her own keeping a watchful eye on her progress. This was their first major outing.
'Not a problem if I fall. I don't know if I have ever seen so much snow.'
Vincent grunted. He was worried. The steps were slippery. Jacob was not available to help.
'I'll be fine Vincent.' Catherine offered her reassurance. She felt quite strong.
They made their way through the tunnels and slowly down the stairs. Vincent went first. Catherine rested her hands on his shoulders to support herself.
'Where is everyone Vincent?' Catherine asked, not seeing the crowd of people.
'They are already inside. We have been instructed to make an entrance.'
Ever so slowly, the pair approached the door. Vincent knocked and the door was opened by Jacob. The room was dark when they entered. Candles were lit one by one with murmurs of 'Welcome home Catherine' whispered, until it became a roar, echoing around the Great Hall Chamber.'
At the head of the table, stood Father, white haired, and bent with age. Beside him Mary sat smiling, her own special welcome visible in her hand gestures.
'Come in children, come in.' Father began. 'Family and Friends, tonight is Winterfest, the season of the year when we celebrate with, and honour the help and support of our community and the community above. It is a joyous time for all of us, highlighted by the lighting of candles to guide us into the coming year. This year in particular holds a special meaning for us and our helpers. One who was lost to us is returned and it is a celebration for all our hearts.'
Everyone murmured their assent.
'Tonight we will not only celebrate the return of our dear daughter Catherine, we will celebrate the marriage of Catherine to Vincent.'
There was general cheering and clapping. The words, 'a wedding' continued to echo around the chamber.
Catherine smiled at Vincent. He in turn shrugged his shoulders indicating his lack of knowledge. Jacob came over and hugged both his parents. Out of the dark Cathy came forward, dressed in a blue gown, draped very beautifully around her body, and two bouquet in her hands.
'I am to be your bridesmaid,' she said smiling and handing over the larger of the two flower sets.
More candles were lit and now everyone could see the other end of the room where an arbour stood with winter flowers threaded through the wood. Jacob pulled his Father by the arm. 'Come with me Dad.'
'What's going on son?'
'Dad, I know that you may not like all this fuss but it is expected from the community, and from me too, that you will marry my mother in front of the people who love you the most.'
'I would have liked that son, but you know I have no papers. My birth was never registered. We are married emotionally and our souls have been married from the beginning of time but I could not do a legal ceremony.' Vincent hated to admit the truth of his words. He did consider Catherine his wife but legally she could never be.
Jacob reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. He handed it to his father. Vincent looked down at it. His eyes filled with tears.
There was his name, Vincent Daniel, his birth date and place, his mother's name, Coralee Wynter and his father, Jacob Wells. It was his birth certificate.
'How is this possible?'
Jacob turned and pointed towards Joe and Diana. Joe did it for me. The specific information was supplied by John Pater in the books we found.
'She knows. I needed her to get the license. I'm sorry Dad for keeping this from you.'
'I'm not. This is the fulfillment of my dreams.'
Senator Joe Maxwell stood up and made his way to the arbour. He was going to officiate. As a Justice of the Peace, he could perform marriages.
Jacob stood with his father at the arbour. Cathy stood in front of Catherine at the other end of the hall. Sue, who said she was not going to come originally, appeared beside her, offering her arm to her patient. Catherine made it clear that if she was getting married, then either Sue or Terry, who had delivered her out of the valley of her semi-death into rebirth, would give her away. Sue relented and now faced Vincent ready to bring his bride to his side.
Music started from another corner of the hall. Cathy made her way slowly down to where Vincent and her childhood friend stood and waited.
Catherine removed her coat to reveal a beautiful white flowing gown fit for a bride. Father and Mary sat together at the front a smile on their faces. Catherine and Sue stopped for a moment offering an almost imperceptible acknowledgement of their importance to the community.
They reached their destination. Sue took Catherine's hand and placed it in Vincent's hand. Both turned to face Joe.
The Senator read the wedding service with incredible sensitivity. He often fought tears himself as did everyone else in the community.
Finally the moment came to say vows. Vincent was not prepared, but the words flowed from his heart where he had rehearsed them over and over from the day he met Catherine.
You filled my emptiness and changed my life forever.
Many new feelings continue to emerge and all that is good in you calls to me.
My dreams, though nearly lost were found again.
Through blended souls, I follow your heart, I follow you
Our trust though tested remains intact.
Your eyes see who I am and never feared, but loved me
Without effort you understand me for who I am
Each other's missing piece in life's puzzle.
At the mercy of fate or destiny
Life without you is unacceptable and so today,
I take you as my wife to love only you as long as we both live and beyond.
'Catherine, will you now say your vows'. Joe intoned solemnly.
You sensed my emotions, and as my protector I felt safe in your arms
Beyond all measure, you are the man I truly love.
Your inner beauty, has intrinsic worth and is valued above anyone else
You are, My Guardian Angel, defender of all that is good
Our worlds are so different, yet we combined the best of both
We have a child of our making. He is the heir of unique talents from us and gives us joyous pride.
It would have been impossible to face adversities I've had, without your love.
Your courage inspires my own and so today, I take you as my husband, to love only you alone until the day I draw my last breath and beyond.
The exchange of rings was beautiful. Jacob as best man held the rings neither of his parents had seen. It was made of the finest gold. They were beautiful. It was Jacob's gift to his parents made by his own hands.
'By the power invested in my by the state of New York, it is with great honour and delight that I declare you henceforth to be husband and wife. You may kiss your bride.'
Amid the cheers of all, Vincent and Catherine sealed their vows. Vincent picked up Catherine and held her high. Once she was back on her feet, they drew Jacob into their circle and Cathy. There was nothing more to be said. The happy tableau said it all.
The phone rang insistently in the late winter morning. 'Can you get that Catherine? It isn't for me.'
'How do you know? Married life is making you lazy my husband.' Catherine rolled over on her side and lifted the receiver.
'Aunt Catherine, Uncle Vincent….I just wanted to let you know I am here finally. I was born this morning at 3:47 and my Mom and Dad are doing fine.' Catherine laughed into the phone recognizing Jason's voice.
'And tell me, are you a boy or a girl?'
'I am a boy, Rodriquez Valdimir Romanow.'
My deepest thanks to all of you for reading this story from my heart and sharing your comments. I appreciate Ron Koslow and all the writers and directors of the show, Beauty and the Beast, and especially Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton who gave life to the characters.
I thank Medita for the wedding vows and to HB for being the muse who opened my eyes and heart to the words.