This is an original story, inspired by the U.S. cult T.V. series BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and was written in 1998 and first published in a fanzine in the UK.
Copyright refers to the author of this original material, and is not meant to supersede any copyrights held by Ron Koslow, Witt-Thomas Productions, Republic Pictures, CBS,
A soft tap at her French windows brought Catherine Chandler's head up sharply from the book that she had been deeply engrossed in, and a frown briefly pulled at her brow beneath her short, honey gold fringe.
A quick glance at the delicate gold watch on her narrow wrist told her that it was 11.30 pm, not so late for him to come calling, but later than was his norm.
Her heart suddenly lurched in her chest.
Was something wrong?
She unfolded herself from the small two seater couch where she had curled up after her shower, with the latest best seller by Danielle Steel, and, synching her robe more tightly around her waist, trotted across the room and up the steps to the French windows.
She hurriedly pulled back the drapes and flung open the windows, stepping out onto the balcony, her senses immediately assaulted by the sounds of night traffic from the street below, engine noises, horns honking impatiently, the sound of a distant siren, the pungent aroma of car exhaust fumes mingled with the scent of wet grass and vegetation wafting in from the Park, and her own frail rose bush at the other end of the balcony.
A soft breeze tugged at her hair as she looked around for her unusual caller, and, spotted him lurking in the shadows between two tall bushes and the trellis work nailed to the wall, to encourage the trailing ivy.
That was unusual in its self.
It had been quite some time since he had felt the need to cling to the shadows, quite some time indeed.
Indeed, lately, he had been much bolder than in the early days of their friendship.
"Vincent." She greeted him with a warm smile, as he stepped out from the shadows.
"Forgive me ... for disturbing you, Catherine ..." He said, lowering his eyes slowly.
"Did I forget a date, Vincent?" She frowned.
"No, oh no. I came, merely to leave a note," he explained softly in those rich, deep, velvet tones that she loved, indicating to a scrap of paper fluttering beneath the tub that was home to her rose bush. "But when I saw you ..." His voice trailed away, and he lowered his gaze shyly.
"You don't have to run away quite so swiftly, Vincent," she grinned. "I wasn't doing anything important."
"You were relaxing," he pointed out softly, knowing that because of her heavy work schedule, and her nocturnal perambulations with him, she did not get much free time to herself. It was a precious commodity that he cherished too.
"Vincent, I'm always glad to see you, you know that," she smiled serenely, letting her love for him fill her, knowing that he could feel it emanating from her. "Now, come over here and say hello properly," she invited, holding her arms open to him.
He needed no second invitation and on three large strides, he covered the distance between them quickly, and folded her against his solid, broad chest.
"Hello, Catherine ..." He sighed deeply as she nuzzled closer to him, wrapping surprisingly strong arms around his middle and squeezing him tightly.
"Hello, Vincent ..." She breathed in deeply, taking in the scent of him, clothes steeped in the familiar smells of Below, candle smoke, candle wax, soap, soft leather, the damp wool of his cloak and the heady musk that was unique to Vincent himself. "I've missed you ..."
"I have missed you too ..."
"Due to her current heavy work load, it had been over a week since they had managed to snatch a brief few minutes, here on the balcony.
"This is a very pleasant surprise. To what do I owe the honor?" She asked, drawing away from him a little, to look up into his beloved face.
Vincent frowned, forgetting, just for a moment, lost in the wonder that was her beauty and her love, the purpose for his visit.
"You said something about a note?" Catherine reminded him casually, her beautiful big grey eyes dancing now with amusement at his unaccustomed absentmindedness.
"Yes ..." Vincent pulled himself together then. "An invitation really."
"An invitation? To what?" She quizzed.
Not so long ago, the children Below had insisted that she attend a special musical recital that they had organized all by themselves.
"Are the children putting on another 'let's put the adults back in their places' recital?" She grinned wickedly.
"Er ... no ..." Vincent sighed softly, his breath fanning her delicate fringe. "This invitation is not from the children, but from Father."
"Father?" She looked genuinely surprised.
Until recently, she had felt nothing but disapproval from Jacob Wells, about her friendship with Vincent.
However, lately, he had seemed less cool in his attitude toward her, whenever they met Below, especially since Catherine had risked her own life to nurse the sick, when the community Below had been exposed to pneumonic Plague, and he had witnessed first hand her genuine grief over the death of Ellie Peterson, and then, later, at Winterfest, when she had helped to expose Paracelsus ...
Even Vincent had remarked that he seemed to be mellowing, warming to her, just a little ...
"Yes. He insisted," Vincent added thoughtfully.
"Insisted?" She echoed, a hint of suspicion in her voice now.
"I know that tone, Catherine, 'beware of Greeks bearing gifts'," he smiled softly, the gentle gesture that barely lifted his features, and brought a sparkle to those intense sky blue eyes.
"Something like that," Catherine chuckled softly. "I think you had better explain what exactly I am invited to?"
"A musical evening ..."
"Given by one of our helpers from the world Above," he went on. "They are rare and very special events in our world, given by a young woman called Kate Nichols, and her brother, Kevin. Kate is a beautiful singer, could probably make a good living at it, but instead, she prefers to concentrate on her nursing, and has, on occasion, been allowed to assist Father."
"A great honor ..."
"Indeed, and her brother, Kevin is a genius on the keyboard, and is currently studying law."
"Fine profession," Catherine grinned.
"You would say that. Shakespeare said: 'kill all the lawyers' ..."
"Thank you. I think we can dispense with Old Will for now!" She rolled her eyes heavenward then.
"I digress," Vincent paused while she tried to pull herself together. "Father insisted that I ask you to join us."
"When? When is this musical extravaganza?"
"Next Friday evening."
"Okay. I think I'm available."
"Good," he sighed softly. "Oh, Kate usually sings a certain number of songs that she has chosen herself, but the highlight of the evening is when she takes requests from the audience. We generally write down our requests and pass them on a few days before the concert, so that Kate has time to find the pieces and rehearse them," he explained in husky tones.
"Father asked me to ask you if there is any particular song that you would care to hear, but …." he stilled her by raising his hand between them gently, when she opened her mouth to speak. "You must keep it to yourself. We never divulge our requests until Kate sings them. If you would write your selection down, I will convey it to Father."
"Mm ... let me think ..."
Catherine caught her bottom lip between her teeth, thinking carefully. She could think of any number of very pertinent love songs that, had she been a singer of any talent herself, she would have dedicated to Vincent and serenaded him with from the rooftops herself ...
A smile suddenly tugged at the corners of her lips.
"You have thought of something?"
"Yes. I won't be a moment ..."
Catherine pulled away from him then, and dashed back into the living room, where she scribbled a song title down on a piece of rose covered pink writing paper, then folded it several times, before trotting back out to the balcony.
"No peeking," she chided lightly, pushing the scrap of paper into Vincent's open extended hand.
"As if!" He rumbled indignantly. "My name is not Mouse," he smiled then, and she smiled back.
"Yes Catherine?" He arched an eyebrow quizzically, sensing her sudden reticence.
"Tell me," she began then faltered, regarding him shyly from beneath her fringe.
"What should I tell you?" He sighed softly.
"Do you? Sing?" She asked shyly. "You already know that I can't carry a tune in a bucket." She grinned mischievously. "But, I was wondering …. I know how much you appreciate all kinds of music. S-o-o-o-o, Vincent do you sing?"
"That is for me to know and for you to find out ..."
"Spoil sport," she chuckled softly. There was no way that this unique man was going to let her rush him into revealing everything about himself, too soon.
And that was part of the joy of knowing him, this wonderful voyage of discovery that they were on.
Vincent stepped away from her then, and half turned away.
"You don't have to go ... so soon?"
"Yes I do. Go back to your book, Catherine," he said softly. "I will see you next Friday, at the basement threshold. I will be there at 7.00 pm prompt."
"Seven, prompt, Friday week. I'll be there," she grinned.
"Goodnight, Vincent. I love you ..."
"Be well ..." Was his reply, as he disappeared, melting into the shadows at the end of the terrace.
Catherine let out a soft sigh, and ambled back into the living room, clicking the French windows shut behind her.
She saw her book lying open on the couch were she had dropped it, and grinned.
No point picking that up again now.
Her concentration was shot.
What was Jacob Wells up to?
She had to admit that she was intrigued.
It wasn't thoughts of Father that would keep her from the arms of Morphius this night.
But his unique and utterly adorable adopted son.
"Careful, Vincent! You almost broke my foot!" Pascal exclaimed, glaring across the top of the scratched and pockmarked upright piano, which the two men had, between them, been conveying to Father's chamber in readiness for Kate and Kevin Nichol's musical recital in two days time.
"My apologies, Pascal," Vincent regarded his old friend regretfully. "My mind was ... elsewhere ..." He explained.
"But your muscles are on the other end of this lethal weapon, and you almost ran it over my foot!" Pascal complained, then, despite his previous irritation at his friend the day dreamer, he smiled softly at the gentle giant, knowing exactly where his mind had been. "You were thinking of Catherine?" The small, balding man asked softly.
"No ... yes ..." Vincent faltered, lowering his embarrassed gaze. "I was trying to think of a song to request from Kate, Something romantic. Something special for Catherine ..." He explained with a pained expression.
"Oh boy, well, there are only about ten million or so love songs to choose from!" Pascal chuckled softly. "Maybe when they start setting Shakespeare to music ..." He quipped.
"The Bard is out of favor with Catherine at the moment," Vincent's voice trailed away as he looked up and noted his friend's quizzical, but amused expression. "It is a long story, to do with the Bard's opinion on lawyers," Vincent sighed softly. "And, if we do not hurry, Amos will not be able to tune the piano today."
"And we mustn't upset Amos," Pascal sighed deeply as he grasped the piano once more, and waited for Vincent to settle himself and give the word to move.
"Have you chosen a song yet, Pascal?" Vincent enquired casually, leaning one elbow on the top of the piano, regarding his friend thoughtfully.
"No. Not me. I'll be in the Pipe Chamber as normal."
"Oh," Vincent said in disappointed tones. "Pascal ..."
"Yes Vincent?" Pascal sighed in exasperation.
"What song would you suggest that I chose?" Vincent asked then, regarding his old friend with solemn, big blue eyes.
"How should I know?" Pascal sighed again. "It depends on how you feel about Catherine ... what you want the song to say to her. I don't know, Vincent, something like that would have to be intensely personal," Pascal paused then, turning to regard his friend thoughtfully. "Whatever you decide, Vincent, just remember everyone will be there," he reminded softly.
"If you're planning to make some kind of romantic statement with this song, Vincent, just remember, it won't only be Catherine that you will be telling!"
"Mmm. Yes ..." Vincent's eyes suddenly widened in comprehension. He had not thought of that.
"C'mon, Vincent, if we don't get this piano to Father's chamber, there wont be any concert." Pascal reminded again. "So, tell me Vincent, just how did I get the honor of helping you move this ton of rotting wood?"
"I volunteered you." Vincent replied absently, leaning his big, muscular shoulder into the top of the piano, ready to move again.
"Thanks friend!" Pascal rolled his eyes. "What did I do to upset you? What did I do to merit such a punishment?"
"Shut up and push!"
"That's grand, gentlemen!" Father declared as Vincent and Pascal positioned the battered old piano just inside the vestibule in his chamber, and Mary added a sparkling, newly polished silver candelabrum complete with fresh candles, to the top as a finishing touch.
Amos Zebrowski had spent the best part of the morning tutting and sighing as he tuned the piano, trying to coax the perfect sound from slack piano wires and chipped keys.
"We're ready!" Father declared. "All we need now are the performers and the audience," he grinned, slinging his arm jovially around Vincent's considerable shoulders, causing the younger man to frown at his exuberance and obvious excitement.
Father didn't usually get so worked up about these musical evenings, although, like everyone else, he did enjoy participating in the inevitable sing along at the end of the evening.
"Chosen a song yet, my boy?" Father enquired innocently, immediately raising Vincent's suspicions.
"No, not yet, Father. In fact, I may not even bother this time," Vincent replied, watching as Pascal took his leave, via the vestibule, with a relieved smile to his friend.
"Oh come now, you can't let the side down!" Jacob Wells grinned. "After all, Catherine has made a selection ..."
"Only after you had me put her on the spot ..." Vincent reminded.
"Nonsense my boy!" Jacob exclaimed in mock outrage, the bright twinkle in his deep, sapphire blue eyes clear evidence to Vincent that something devious was going on in that steel trap of a mind of his.
"You are ... up to something ..." Vincent observed wryly.
"Yes, you, and I am on to you," Vincent warned softly.
"Vincent, if you do not select a song for yourself, I may be forced to choose one for you. Now," Jacob Wells grew thoughtful. "What was your favorite song when you were a boy ..."
He paused for a moment, as though trying to remember, and Vincent closed his eyes and swallowed, hard.
How was it that Father could still find new and wondrous ways of embarrassing him? Even after all these years?
"Ah yes," Jacob regarded his beloved adopted son with a glint of triumph in his eyes now. "I remember …." And he began to sing in a low, rough voice. "There is a happy land, far far away, where little piggies run, three times a day ..."
"Father!" Vincent hissed through his teeth, but he knew that it was useless. Father was off and running, and only a life threatening, community wide disaster would stop him.
"Oh you should see them run, when they see the butcher come ..." Jacob continued, regardless of his embarrassed son's warning.
"Father! Please ..." Vincent implored, tilting his head on one side, regarding Father with big, forlorn lapis lazuli eyes.
"Three slices off their bums, three times a day!" Father concluded with a wide grin. "Well my boy?"
"Father ... you wouldn't ..." Vincent regarded the older man in horror. Jacob continued to grin, and Vincent had his answer. "You would too ..." He sighed deeply. "I will submit a song of my own choosing, thank you Father."
"Well met, Horatio!" Father chuckled, watching as his very embarrassed son stalked out of his chamber. "Oh my," he chuckled again, softly, knuckling away an errant tear from the corner of his eye. "Oh my ..."
After several hours of pacing back and forth across his chamber, then sitting with his head in his hands, scratching his head and wracking his brain, then pacing back and forth again, Vincent finally remembered a song that he had once heard a very long time ago, sung for him by another child of the tunnels, his close friend, Alexandra, gone now, but was certainly not forgotten, who had loved to venture above to listen to the music coming from the top sider's radios, as they ate lunch, or had family picnics in the park, and then return to her tunnel home to bring them to Vincent and Devin.
He wrote the song title down hastily on a scrap of paper, before he could change his mind, and then he took the scrap of paper to young Dustin, who was on messenger duty that afternoon, instructing the boy to deliver it directly to either Kate or Kevin Nichols, and no-one else, then returned to his chamber, to contemplate on the wisdom of his choice .
Oh well, it was too late now.
And Catherine would understand the gesture, the sentiment, and so would the rest of the community.
Still, his choice of song had to be better than Father's choice. Didn't it?
So why did he suddenly have a bad feeling about this whole thing?
"Hello Vincent," Catherine greeted him with a wide smile, as she stepped through that eerie beam of blue/white downcast light that marked the boundary between her world and his, and the first thing that she noted, was the wary expression on his beloved face. "Vincent?"
"Good evening, Catherine," he greeted her cordially enough, but there was something in his manner, the stiff way that he was standing, and his refusal to meet her gaze.
"Vincent? What's wrong? Tell me …." She came to him, taking his strong, furry hands in her own smaller ones, squeezing them reassuringly.
The first thing that Vincent noticed was that she looked very beautiful tonight, her hair swept up at the back and secured with a shiny silver barrette, covered in pale blue crystals, depicting shooting stars, that matched the earrings which dangled from her delicate lobes.
She had on a familiar grey raincoat, unbuttoned, to reveal a deep, midnight blue velvet dress, with nipped in waist and a wide band of delicate silver embroidery around the waist and neckline.
She had obviously gone to a lot of trouble with her appearance, and the last thing that he wanted was to disappoint her.
"Vincent, you're frightening me ..." She told him succinctly, after a lengthy silence. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. Your beauty left me ... bereft of speech ..."
Catherine let out a soft sigh.
Of course, it was flannel.
But he did it so beautifully!.
Bereft of speech indeed!
"Spill the beans," she demanded in a low voice, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.
"Catherine," her name from his lips was a tortured sound that tore at her heart.
"What is it, Vincent!" She demanded impatiently, her heart lurching in her chest at his forlorn expression.
"What about tonight?" Now she could clearly see embarrassment in his beloved blue eyes. "Has Father ... changed his mind?"
"Then tell me what is wrong!" She exclaimed in exasperation now.
"This concert ... I do not think that it is ... such a good idea," he began hurriedly. "Something ... is ... afoot ..." He grimaced. "There is ... something ... going on ... something that I am not privy too ... some nuance ... undercurrent ... that I can sense from everyone ... but no-one is prepared to talk to me about it when I broach the subject ... they are all so ... secretive ... and have been ... for some days now ..." He tried to explain his qualms.
"What are you talking about, Vincent."
Catherine sighed softly to herself.
"It is just an innocent little concert ..."
"Not so innocent, I fear, if Father has had anything to do with it," Vincent sighed expressively.
"Vincent, I have been looking forward to this all week long ..."
And to the expression on his dear face, when Kate Nichols sang her request.
"I'm sure it's nothing. An innocent bit of fun. Whatever it is," she reasoned.
"Then you are determined to go?" He queried solemnly.
"Yes." Catherine replied softly. "I want to go, Vincent, as we planned. I want to be with you," she smiled demurely. "But, I also don't want to cross Father, by letting him down."
She reached out and took both of his hands in her own then, regarding him with a steady grey gaze.
"This is the first proper invitation to come Below to come directly from him .and I don't want to do anything that might spoil things between he and I do you understand, Vincent? He's just starting to accept me ... us ..."
"Yes," he let out a deep, expressive sigh.
"Shall we go then?"
"Very well ..." He acquiesced softly.
Catherine let go of his hands then, and Vincent removed himself from the opening in the brickwork, to allow her to pass into the tunnel beyond.
"Just do not say that I did not warn you ..." He mumbled as she drew up beside him.
"That sounds ominous ..."
"Ominous. Yes ..."
Vincent took Catherine's hand very gently in his own, then, and began to lead the way without further comment, forcing Catherine to keep her amusement at his obvious uneasiness to herself, as they traversed the labyrinth to Father's chamber.
As the pair approached Father's chamber, they could hear the strains of a piano, as deft fingers ran up and down the keys, producing perfect scales and arpeggios as the pianist warmed up for his performance.
Catherine smiled softly to herself. Now she understood what people meant when they said that someone 'could make a piano talk'.
The pianist had a wonderful touch, Vincent thought to himself, as he and Catherine entered Father's chamber. He had always thought that Kevin Nichols was very talented.
Father limped quickly over to greet the pair, pressing soft lips to Catherine's lightly powdered cheek, smiling broadly as he drew away, a bright twinkle in his deep sapphire blue eyes.
"Welcome Catherine, welcome and thrice welcome ..."
"Hello, Father," Catherine smiled, her cheeks coloring becomingly at the surprising warmth of his greeting.
"Vincent," Jacob acknowledged his son nonchalantly. "You're just in time. Kate is about to begin. I saved you both a place," he pointed to the two empty seats front and centre of the first row, the expectant eyes of the remainder of the large audience on them, as Vincent and Catherine exchanged knowing glances, before taking up their appointed places.
Catherine was beginning to think that Vincent was right ...
There was something fishy going on here ...
Kate Nichols, an attractive red head in her late twenties moved to stand beside the piano, dressed modestly in a long black velvet gown, with a neat row of pearls around her throat, and her vivid red hair wound in a neat chignon at the nape of her neck.
She smiled softly at the young man clad in a dark suit and white bow tie, appearing to be a few years younger than his sister, seated at the piano, before turning to address the audience.
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen, friends ..." She began in a smooth voice, smiling softly, her unusual green eyes dancing with merriment. "Kevin and I would like to welcome you to this little concert, and we hope that you all enjoy it, as we have something a little different for you this evening."
At this point, Kate moved to the centre of the piano, which was directly in line with where Vincent and Catherine were seated.
Vincent was sitting very low in his chair, trying to make himself as small and inconspicuous as possible, no mean feat, Catherine thought to herself, trying to smother a smile, as she began to smell a rat.
"Good evening Vincent, and this must be your lovely Catherine? Good evening, Catherine." The young singer smiled innocently. "Welcome to this evening's special performance, in your honor. Your friends here Below have put their heads together, and have come up with a program of songs and stories, which, they hope, capture the love that you feel for each other ..."
Vincent let out a soft groan of embarrassment, drawing Catherine's amused gaze as she nudged him gently in the ribs.
"Vincent ... behave ..." She warned in a low voice, out of the corner of her mouth. "Keep your temper ... act naturally ..." She advised. "They are only trying to be nice ..."
The young woman on the stage watched with interest at Vincent and Catherine's reaction to her announcement, smiling softly, her green eyes dancing with amusement.
"The story of your romance, in words and music," Kate concluded, noting Vincent's obvious embarrassment as he tried to sink even lower in his seat, his shoulders practically up to his ears and the beautiful young woman seated beside him, trying to smother a grin, and failing miserably.
"So-o-o-o ... lets begin. Vincent, this first song is for you, from Father. He thinks it very apt, because it is your restless nature that causes you to go Above, and of course, that is how you met Catherine ..."
And so, Kate began to sing.
"Just give me land, lots of land, and the starry skies above ... Don't fence me in ..."
And it was this song that set the whole tone for the evening.
Vincent rolled his eyes in exasperation, and from beside him, heard Catherine's soft splutter, as she tried to hold in a giggle.
He closed his eyes and let out a deep sigh.
He had suspected that something like this would happen.
And Catherine, this remarkable woman that he loved so very much, was taking it all in good part.
If she could see the funny side, then so could he.
But, he glanced across the room to where Father sat, grinning like the proverbial Cheshire Cat, and gave him a scathing look that promised revenge, most likely over the chessboard, later.
"Catherine ..." Kate Nichols had finished the first song, and was now smiling jovially at the other guest of honor, the applause having died down. "This one is also for you, from Father, and he tells me that you have made this most interesting, for him ..." She grinned, noting the delicate blush on Catherine's cheeks as her brother played a flamboyant introduction.
"Getting to know you, getting to know all about you. Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me ..."
Kate sang in a beautiful soprano voice, the tempo of the song so infectious that the grinning audience began to sway in their seats.
And so it continued.
The evening was going with a swing, a good mix of humor and music that the good people of the world Below felt appropriate to celebrate Catherine and Vincent's miraculous romance, and as the evening drew to a close, even Vincent had to admit that it had been a very thoughtful and unique gift from his family and friends, a touching way of showing their acceptance of Catherine in his life, their acceptance of the love that he and Catherine had for each other, and their acceptance of Catherine into their world Below.
Kate's beautiful soprano voice filled Father's cavernous chamber with such timeless classics as: Strangers In The Night, Tonight, The Very Thought Of You, Some Enchanted Evening, Strangers In Paradise ...all punctuated neatly by little anecdotes provided by Vincent's numerous friends.
It was getting late now, and although she had never laughed so much, and felt high on the love and warmth of affection that filled Father's chamber, Catherine was also beginning to feel a little apprehensive about her choice of song, and if Kate would get around to singing it.
Almost as though on cue, Kate began to address the audience again, having waited for them to settle down once more after a particularly funny story provided by William.
"Well friends, you know that I usually take requests about now, well, this has been an evening of requests ..." She smiled softly. "So, I guess the only ones left, are from the guests of honor. Here goes. Catherine, I don't have to tell you who this is from ..."
Vincent sat very still, rigid almost, in his seat, unable to even look at Catherine, as he wondered how she would react to the song that he had chosen for Kate to sing, especially for her.
"Time after time, I tell myself that I'm, so lucky, to be loving you. Lucky to be, the one you run to see, in the evening, when the day is through. I only know, what I know, the passing years will show, You kept my love so young, so new, and time after time, you'll hear me say that I'm, so lucky to be loving you ...
Catherine turned slightly in her seat, tears brimming in her astonished, wide grey eyes, as she regarded the man that she loved, his big blue eyes full of love, lowering slowly in shyness and sudden awkwardness.
"Thank you," Catherine whispered in a very low, very intense voice, as the song came to its end and a wave of warm applause flooded the chamber.
When the audience had once again settled and Kate had taken a small sip of water from a tumbler on the end of the piano, the young woman, face wreathed in smiles, again moved to stand directly in front of Vincent, and addressed the audience once again.
"Vincent, not only does your Catherine have good taste in men ..." She grinned wickedly again. "But she also has very good taste in music. She has chosen one of my own favorite songs, and it is both an honor and a pleasure to sing it, from her, to you ..."
Catherine sat up a little straighter in her chair as the introduction began, wondering what Vincent, and the rest of this community Below would make of her choice of song.
Her heart began to beat a little faster, in anticipation.
After all, it wasn't as if they had tried to keep their love for each other a secret, this evening's performance proved that, but it was one thing to hold hands and smile lovingly into each other's eyes.
It was an entirely different thing to shout it from the rooftops.
Kate began to sing in that now familiar, clear soprano voice, her gaze drifting to rest squarely on Vincent's innocent, curious face.
My love is ever you, my love, now and forever you, my love, You walked into my lonely world, what peace of mind your smile unfurled. Yes, and because of you, my love, my wishful dreams came true, my love. In my uncertain heart, I am only certain of, how much I love you, my love ...
Vincent turned to regard Catherine, his heart pounding in his ears, his cheeks suffused with heat and color, knowing that he had never loved her more than he did at that moment.
After the applause had died down at the end of the song, Vincent still gazing with love and awe at Catherine, as she too beamed happily back at him, Kate Nichols again called for order from the audience.
"There's time for one last song, friends, and this time, I'll do the choosing, something that sums up the way that Vincent and Catherine so obviously feel about each other, and, you all know it too, so join in with me ..." She invited, nodding to her brother Kevin to begin the introduction, which he did, with a huge grin on his handsome young face, running his fingers deftly up and down the keyboard.
"Love, is a many splendour'd thing ..."
Vincent and Catherine continued to gaze loving at each other as the whole community, gathered in Father's chamber to pass on their good wishes and their blessings to the two sweethearts, whose love for each other had warmed their hearts, raised their voices in song, Father himself singing the loudest, in a rich baritone voice, a broad, smug grin on his bewhiskered face, revelling in the success of the evening's entertainment, and the reaction of guests of honor.
"Oh Vincent ..." Catherine smiled happily through tears of joy, reaching for his hand and drawing it to her lips to press a soft, sweet kiss to his sensitive palm.
"True love's ... a many splendour'd thing ..."
Kate Nichols finished with a wave of her hand, and walked from the ledge that had been her small stage, making her exit from the vestibule.
After much cheering and whistling from the audience, the young red head returned to the stage to take her bows, and then, finally left the stage for good, taking the four metal steps down to the lower level of Father's chamber and walking directly to where Vincent and Catherine sat, totally overcome.
"That was wonderful," Catherine pulled herself together enough to pass on her praises to the talented young woman, reaching out for her hands and squeezing them gently. "Thank you, so much ..."
"I'm so glad that you liked it. I had my reservations when Father first approached me, but, he assured me that you would take it all in good part."
"Father ... yes ..." Vincent rumbled, but there was warmth and love in his deep lapis lazuli eyes now.
He had known the majority of these people for most of his life, but he had never been so touched by the outpouring of their love and acceptance, as he felt at that moment.
"There's one more thing," Kate lowered her eyes coyly then, before continuing. "It would be an honor to sing at your wedding. I'm just dying to know what this lot would come up with for that occasion!" Kate chuckled wickedly, then quickly moved away, softly singing the Anniversary song.
"Oh, how we danced, on the night we were wed, we danced, and we danced, for the room had no bed ..." Leaving the pole axed looking pair, with a big grin on her face, as they could only continue stare at each other mutely, whilst all around them continued to sing merrily as they began at last, to drift away from Father's chamber.
"Vincent," Catherine sighed happily as she clung to him, her face buried in the broad expanse of his chest, the steady thudding of his heart a comforting sound in her ear. "Tonight ... everyone ... I'm ... I'm ... lost for words ..."
"I too ..." He confessed on a sigh, in a voice made rough, and deep by emotion. "Although, I suspected that Father had cooked something up ..."
"And you tried to warn me," she pulled away slightly, grinning up at him like a silly schoolgirl. "I am so glad that I didn't listen to you, this time ..."
"Me too ..." He sighed softly. "Who would have thought that Father was such an old romantic ..."
"You live and learn, Vincent ... You live and learn ..." She continued to grin. "What he did for us, tonight, was ... wonderful ... I will never forget it ... never ... It was just so perfect ... and done with such obvious love ..."
"Yes," he agreed.
"Thank you for your song, Vincent ... I loved it," she reached up and pressed soft lips to his cheek then. "I love you, Vincent ..."
"I know it, Catherine, and after tonight, so does all of my world ..." He sighed contentedly. "Catherine, do not doubt the sincerity of the sentiment behind my song. I thought very long and very hard before I decided ..."
"How could I doubt it, Vincent? You found a very public place to tell me that you love me, for the first time, too, do you realize?"
"Yes," he smiled softly. "Alas, Catherine," he let out another deep sigh now. "Time marches on, and you have work tomorrow," he reminded now, loathed to be the one to break the spell, end the magic of their evening together.
It was unusual for her to have to work on a Saturday, but she had promised Joe Maxwell, her boss, that in return for leaving early this evening, she would work for a couple of hours in the morning, on the backlog of paperwork on her desk.
"Don't remind me," she sighed, drawing away from him, reluctantly, as Vincent captured her hand and steadied her as she stepped through the opening in the brickwork at her basement threshold, both stopping just short of that eerie beam of blue/white downcast light.
Catherine turned back to face Vincent then, reaching up with one hand to cup his beloved face with a small, warm hand, a big grin on her face, her eyes dancing with amusement.
Amusement that Vincent could feel, through their unique empathic link, as well as her deep love and contentment.
"I feel another song coming on," she chuckled softly. "Although I promise not to sing it ..."
"A very wise decision, for which my ears thank you," Vincent rumbled, his version of a laugh, and Catherine punched him playfully in the shoulder. "Ow!" He complained.
"That will teach you to have a little respect!" She chuckled again.
"The song, Catherine?" He enquired softly.
"Goodnight Sweetheart ..."
She quickly reached up and pressed a brief, sweet kiss to his mis-shaped lips, and then she was gone, through that stark beam of blue/white light, leaving him stunned and breathless for a moment, loving her more than any song could ever say.
He felt moved to put his feelings into words.
"Goodnight, sweetheart ..."
Vincent began to sing, in a deep, rich baritone voice, as hauntingly sexy as his beautiful speaking voice, making Catherine weak at the knees as she clung to the ladder, half way back up to her basement, and listened to his serenade, with a soft, dreamy smile on her lips.
"All my prayers are for you. Goodnight sweetheart, I'll be watching o'er you. Tears and parting, may make us forlorn, but with the dawn, a new day is born. So I'll say, goodnight sweetheart, sleep will banish sorrow, goodnight sweetheart, till we meet tomorrow, dreams enfold you, in each one I'll hold you …. Goodnight sweetheart ... Goodnight ...