A Day In The Sun
By Thomas Mc

Chapter 1: Surprise Road Trip

May 2005

For the last four days, Catherine's emotions had been flirting along the edge of giddy anticipation. It had begun on Monday afternoon, when Vincent had sensed curiosity then surprise then contemplation and finally a strong flash of something he suspected was inspiration leading to a gleeful giddiness, which was quickly joined by anticipation. Something had given her an idea and she was about to run with it. The rest of the week, he knew she was up to something but she steadfastly refused to give him as much as a hint. He did not have a clue what was on her mind and his curiosity was driving him to distraction.

Vincent entered their Central Park West brownstone Friday afternoon and was surprised to realize that all of their children were already home. It was such a rare thing to have them all home at the same time much less this early in the day. When asked, they told him that, per their mother's insistence, they were waiting for her to get home. The only exception was Naomi, who was inWashingtonD. take her entrance exam for the F.B.I. training academy. The only hint Catherine had given the children was that it was part of a big surprise for their father. Vincent was still completely in the dark.

Less than an hour after Vincent got in, Catherine arrived home from work and suggested that everyone quickly pack-up for a weekend at the family's Connecticut lake house. She told them that they had an hour to pack. There was a cheer from the children, they loved going out to the lake house, and suddenly it was a mad scramble of packing for the unexpected road trip.

Vincent was immensely surprised. Though they had been to the Chandler family lake house many times since their wedding fourteen years ago, it usually took a couple of days, at least, to plan the logistics for the trip. He figured that must be part of what Catherine had been doing the last four days. The continued sense of secrecy and giddiness in her emotional state told him that there was still more going on than just a family trip to the lake this time. She had something else planned besides just a weekend at the lake house.

Vincent smiled bemusedly as Catherine was rushing the children through their packing. It turned out that she had already packed their own bags for whatever adventure she had planed for them.

The children had dragged their packed bags into the parlor when Jacob suddenly looked up in surprise and his face lit up with a big smile. "Linda is here." One advantage of the bond that had formed between Linda and Jacob was that they always knew when the other one was near. Jacob ran to the back door, opened it an inch, and peered out. Then he announced what he saw. "Joe, Sammy and Elizabeth are also here." This brought Charles to the back door in short order. He was always happy to seeElizabeth. They had been very close almost since birth.

Catherine herded the rest of them out the back door. Three rented vans were waiting in the alleyway behind the brownstone. Sharon Gains got out of the middle van and climbed into the third van with the rest of her family. The Gains family had been close to Vincent's family ever since the 9/11 terrorist attack.

Vincent's family quickly loaded their bags into the back of the middle van. Then Jacob made a beeline straight for the third van and settled himself down next to Linda Gains who greeted him with a hug and a quick kiss. In the four years since they had met beneath the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, Linda and Jacob had become very close edging over into the realm of young romance. Though still in the puppy love stage, there was little doubt in anyone's mind where that relationship was eventually going to end up. At the same time, Charles headed straight to the first van to be with his best friend Elizabeth. They had been born two days apart, and they had practically grown up together.

Vincent, Catherine and the rest of their children piled into the middle van. In minutes, the three vans pulled out and headed north towardConnecticut. The two-hour drive went without incident and, right around dinnertime, they pulled up next to the Chandler family lake house. There was already another van parked out front of the house and Catherine's friends, Nancy Tucker and Jenny Aronson came out to greet them.

As they entered the lake house, they were met by Paul Tucker, Nancy's husband, and the smell of fresh hot pizza. They all dumped their bags, unceremoniously in the parlor and everyone quickly grabbed up a pizza slice and then gathered on the large front porch of the lake house to eat and talk. The predominant emotion seemed to be a combination of amusement, barely suppressed excitement, and anticipation. It was obvious to Vincent that everyone except him and the children knew what was going on but those in the know refused to divulge their plans. After several subtle gambits to find out what was going on failed to elicit an explanation, Vincent gave in and decided to just relax and enjoy the ride.

The pizza was soon consumed and they all went out to the fire pit on the beach. They spent the next few hours around the fire enjoying each other's company. Finally, as it got dark, Nancy, Paul and Jenny got intoNancy's van and headed out to Nancy and Paul's home. A little while later Joe's family and Chris's family each took one of the two guest cabins that were all that was left of the resort that had once existed here before Catherine's grandfather bought the property during the Great Depression and built theChandlerlake house. Vincent and Catherine's family retired to the main lake house.

Jacob and Linda remained by the fire for a little bit longer, holding hands and talking. A large part of their conversation revolved around attempting to figure out what the big surprise might be.

~ x x x x x ~

Early Saturday morning, immediately after a quick breakfast, Catherine urged Vincent to put on his best clothes including the ruffled white shirt that she liked so much. He discovered that she had also packed his best medium gray hooded cape, his best knee high boots and a brand new pair of dark blue leather pants with matching leather vest. All of which she insisted that he wear. She also insisted that the children all wear their best tunnel style clothing. Once Vincent was dressed, she shooed him out of the bedroom so that she could get dressed.

Upon entering the parlor, Vincent noticed that Jacob and Charles were both dressed in outfits very similar to his own. The three girls were dressed in what Catherine often referred to as tunnel chic. It gave them an almost medieval appearance.

A half hour later, Catherine came out of the bedroom. She was dressed in the same forest sprite costume that she had worn to the Halloween party at the top of theEmpireStateBuilding, sixteen years ago. Over a light green body stocking, she wore a long diaphanous dress that looked as though it were made from spider web silk and it shimmered iridescently when she moved. She wore glittering forest green shoes and in her reddish brown hair was a silver tiara bejeweled with sparkling emeralds. At her waist she wore a belt made of silver leaves chained together on which hung a small pouch that appeared to be made of large green leaves and looked as though it might just contain fairy dust. The overall effect was totally enchanting.

The jaws of Vincent and all five of the children dropped when Catherine stepped into the parlor. She and Vincent stood for a long time, face to face, while each drank in the sight of the other.

At that point, everyone heard the sounds of other vehicles coming up the gravel drive in front of the house and Jacob announced that the others had arrived.

They all went outside to be confronted by Joe's family and Chris's family. Vincent looked around at everyone realizing that they all appeared to be dressed like something out of a medieval fairytale. Some were a little more far fetched. Sammy was wrapped from head to foot in a brown hooded cape. She was grinning like a Cheshire cat and Vincent could sense a great deal of amusement coming from her. Joe was radiating curiosity then surprise as he caught sight of Catherine.

Vincent shook is head as his curiosity surged. "So what exactly is going on here? It's certainly the wrong time of the year for Halloween."

Catherine smiled enigmatically at him as she responded. "We are all going to a very unique event."

Vincent looked at her in surprise. "Going?" He glanced up at the bright sunlit morning sky. "In broad daylight?"

Catherine laughed. "Don't worry dear. We will all be watching out for you and the boys. Being on the road today is a lot less dangerous than you might think."

"How can that be?" He questioned her.

"That's part of the surprise." She responded with a huge grin. "You will see soon enough."

Vincent glanced at the others.

Joe spoke up. "Don't look at me. We've all been sworn to secrecy. Cathy can be very persuasive."

They all piled into the vans and ten minutes later, in the bright morning sun, they pulled out from in front of the lake house. Only Vincent's total faith in Catherine kept him from cringing as they turned onto the highway in broad daylight, though he did pull his hood up over his head. He could also sense tinges of nervousness coming from both his sons in the other two vans. Then he sensed a definite surge of amusement from Catherine in response to his actions.

After about a dozen miles, they turned off the main highway onto a two-lane farm and market road. Within about a mile, they had ended up in the middle of a slow moving line of cars. Vincent glanced nervously around, aware that they were effectively hemmed in. "Maybe I had better climb into back so I will be out of sight."

Catherine smiled over at him, radiating confidence, and amusement as she patted his knee. "Don't worry about it, you're just fine where you are, my love. Trust me, even if someone sees you it won't matter."

Seconds later, they inched past a police officer who was apparently directing traffic. The police officer's gaze swept past their van momentarily making eye contact with Vincent. He did a classic double take then he was staring straight at Vincent. Vincent sensed surprise and interest coming from the officer but no alarm.

Vincent was now acutely aware that his hood was totally inadequate cover in the bright daylight and suddenly felt very nervous, though he could sense no worry from Catherine. In fact, she seemed not only totally unconcerned, she was actually a bit amused. The Officer stared at Vincent for about a half second, shrugged, shook his head and, with an apparent chuckle, returned his attention to the rest of the line of cars. A moment later, Vincent observed the officer displaying a similar reaction to the van behind them. That van contained the Gains family and Jacob. The officer then stared again at Vincent for a moment before turning his attention back to directing traffic.

Vincent looked over at Catherine. "What exactly is going on here?" He was still a bit stunned by the reactions of the police officer.

Catherine grinned at him. "Like I said, it's a surprise." Then she returned her attention to the traffic and her driving.

Fifteen minutes later, they approached a second officer that was directing the majority of the line of traffic off the road and into a large open field. Joe, in the van in front of them, turned off into the field. This officer reacted almost exactly like the first one had when they pulled even to him. Catherine followed Joe into the field. The field was already nearly a quarter full of cars. A short time later, Joe, Catherine and Chris all parked next to each other.

As Catherine put the van into park, she called out merrily. "We're here."

Vincent glanced around nervously at all the people getting out of the cars that surrounded them while more cars quickly filled in behind them. All around them were soon dozens of people. Over a third of the people moving through the field were dressed in some type of medieval costume. Nearly half of those in costume carried some type of medieval weapon.

Catherine turned to Chris as they got out of their vans. "You did remember to get them?"

"Of course I remembered." Chris responded with a grin as he stepped to the back of his van. "We wouldn't want Vincent and the boys to look out of place." He chuckled at his own joke.

Continued in Part 2

'Beauty and the Beast' and its characters are owned by Witt-Thomas Productions and Republic Pictures. No infringement on copyrights is intended. This story is presented merely for the enjoyment of fans. Original concepts and story elements may be used by other authors as long as appropriate credit is given.