Down The River
By Thomas Mc


Chapter 7 : Changes Become Continuity

It was an hour before lunch time on Saturday. Justin and Adam stood before the now familiar brownstone door. This time they had Adam's parents, Lance and Sabrina with them. The door was opened by Catherine Chandler. "Adam, Justin. And this must be your parents. Welcome to our home. Come in, come in."

As they entered the parlor Sabrina and Lance both immediately spotted Vincent approaching from beside a large sofa group. Sabrina immediately stepped up to him and gave him a big hug. "Vincent, it's so good to see you again." She released him and backed up. "You look just as good as I remember."

Lance stepped forward and they shook hands. "Vincent, it's been so long. I can't believe how much has changed since we left New York." He chuckled. "And now it looks like we are about to become in-laws."

"Oh my!" Sabrina remarked and her jaw dropped as Jacob and Charles approached. Jacob was accompanied by his wife, Linda who was carrying their infant son. Charles was accompanied by his fiancée, Elizabeth and her parents, Joe and Samantha Maxwell. The appearance of Vincent's two sons and baby Devin had driven home the reality of Vincent's family far more effectively than anything else could have. Jacob's twin sister Jennifer came up on the other side of Jacob.

Sabrina and Lance were introduced to Joe and Sammy. Sabrina recognized Sammy from when she was a little girl. She remembered that sad Winterfest when Sammy had suffered a nearly fatal asthma attack and been banned from the tunnels. Now she was married to District Attorney Joe Maxwell and their daughter was apparently engaged to one of Vincent's sons. They were surprised and pleased to hear that, thanks to a new medicine, Sammy was now able to attend Winterfest again.

Everyone gathered up in the rooftop garden where they met Linda's parents, Chris and Sharon Gains. Chris was tending to the outdoor grill where lunch was currently being cooked. Linda's older brother, Lawrence, arrived on the roof top about a minute after everyone else.

Soon the four families were enjoying their lunch and getting to know each other. Lance and Sabrina were both fascinated by all the changes that had occurred since they had last lived in New York. A lot of the conversation centered around the story of how Joe and Sammy had met and how Joe finally figured out who Vincent was.

As soon as lunch was over, Joe and Sammy had to leave. They were heading up to Albany for a one day meeting of the state's district attorneys. They would be there to receive and discuss the latest developments in new procedures for dealing with large well organized illegal groups such as gangs and terrorists. Joe said that they would be back in plenty of time for Winterfest tomorrow night.

Chris and Sharon stuck around for a while and told the story about how they had become part of the Chandler-Wells family as a result of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center towers. The story about the rescue of Chris, his children and the rest of the people that had been trapped under the rubble with him had even those familiar with it riveted.

A little before dinner time Chris and Sharon left for a previous dinner engagement. Adam, Justin, Brigit and Nancy took off for the movies and a late dinner out.

Dinner for those still around was fairly simple and the main topic was the three engaged couples and the current status of the various wedding plans.

After dinner Jacob, Linda, Charles and Jennifer headed below. They had work to do getting the great hall ready for Winterfest. Afterward they planned to spend the night below. Vincent and Catherine had offered to watch over Devin for the night.

Catherine had a little bit of last minute detail work to do at work so she had to run down to the DA office for a couple of hours. Elizabeth went along to help. Elizabeth was planning to go to work for the District Attorneys office once she got her law degree. She hoped to one day follow in her father's footsteps. Catherine was determined to help her achieve her goal.

Lance, Sabrina and Vincent spent the rest of the evening hashing over old times and making silly faces at little Devin.

Catherine and Elizabeth got back just over two hours later. Elizabeth headed below to be with Charles. Catherine made sure that all three guest rooms were ready for her guests then joined them in the parlor.

A short time later Adam, Brigit, Justin and Nancy got back from their date. When they were all starting to wind down, Catherine showed them to the guest rooms on the second floor. She left it up to them to determine the sleeping arrangements. Lance and Sabrina retired to one of the guest rooms; the two young couples retired to the other two guest rooms.

~ x x x x x ~

Immediately after breakfast the next morning, Vincent headed below to handle last minute preparations for Winterfest.

Later that afternoon as the two families were getting to know each other they were interrupted by the doorbell. Jennifer answered the door and came back with some very surprising guests. Lance and Sabrina both recognized wealthy builder Elliot Burch and his supermodel wife Victoria Burch. The young man with them turned out to be their son and a good friend of Vincent's children. A short time later Joe and Sammy showed up followed by Chris and Sharon. Over the next couple of hours several more surprising guests showed up at the brownstone.

Adam and Justin noticed that each of the guests was carrying a very colorful candle. Adam was about to ask Brigit about the Candles when she and Nancy drew him and Justin upstairs to the library.

"What is this about?" Justin asked as they entered the library.

"We have something special for you." Nancy responded.

Each girl picked up one of the two similar colorful candles from a small reading table and presented them to the boys. Brigit started to explain. "These are Winterfest candles." Nancy continued. "They serve as your invitation as well as being an important part of the opening ceremony." Brigit finished. "When we get below, just follow our lead and everything will be fine."

Brigit took Adam's hand and smiled at him. "I'm so glad that I'm going to be able to share Winterfest with you." Brigit kissed Adam and Nancy kissed Justin. The kisses got pretty passionate for a while then the girls finally pulled back. Brigit sighed gustily. "It's just about time to head below."

Then Nancy remarked. "We had better get back to the parlor or we might get left behind." She grinned up at Justin. "Not that I would mind staying behind with you, but it would be a shame to miss the painted tunnels and the opening ceremony."

Together they headed back downstairs to the parlor. Adam noticed that his parents were now holding candles, looking at each other and sporting huge grins.

A few minutes later Catherine announced that it was time to head below. Catherine approached the wall closest to the sofa group. Adam and Justin were very surprised when a four foot wide section of the wall swung outward exposing a hidden stairway behind the wall.

As they descended into the deep tunnels beneath the park, Adam and Justin continued to gaze around in total amazement. Who could have guessed that all this, lay hidden and unknown deep beneath the city. Adam noticed that, though his parents were as surprised about the hidden door in the brownstone as he was, they took the tunnels they were now passing through completely in stride.

Soon they found themselves in a large underground chamber that in many ways resembled a school dining hall. The place was crowded to capacity. Vincent and his sons were there making sure that everyone had their Winterfest candles.

A few minutes later they all started off from the dining chamber in no particular order as a rather irregular procession. After a short distance they entered a series of long very smooth tunnels with all types of scenes painted on the wall. The procession slowed down a bit as people gazed at the murals that covered the smooth walls. As the boys looked in wonder at the seemingly endless parade of scenes, Brigit and Nancy would tell them a tiny bit of the history behind each of them.

After what seemed like a long fascinating stroll through tunnel history, they exited the painted tunnels and were soon descending a long endless staircase along one face of a great windy chasm. Finally they came to an opening into the chasm wall that was blocked by twelve foot high double doors. The doors were held closed by a huge beam of wood that looked like it must weigh several hundred pounds. Vincent stepped up to the doors and lifted that great bar away by himself. Then he pushed the great doors open and everyone filed into the dark chamber.

~ o ~

Justin and Adam looked around in undisguised amazement at the great underground chamber called the great hall. Nancy and Brigit looked on in tolerant amusement at the boys' reactions. The short trip down into the tunnels had been a revelation. The procession from the dining chamber, through the painted tunnels, down to the great hall had left them gawking like tourists trying to see everything at once. Then they had entered the great Winterfest hall and been totally blown away; first by the very moving opening ceremony; then by the hall itself once all the candles had been lit. The walls practically glitter as the minerals in the walls reflected the constantly flickering light from all the candles.

As the food was being passed out Vincent stood up and signaled for attention. Once everyone had quieted down he reached down and drew Catherine to his side then began. "First off Catherine and I would like to announce that last week our two youngest daughters became engaged. Stand up Adam and Justin." He gestured to the two boys and they stood up. "These two fine young men are soon to become members of our family."

There was general cheering then Vincent continued. "Also I wish to welcome back two friends that have come to visit after a long absence." He indicated Lance and Sabrina as they also stood. "We welcome back Adam's parents. Sabrina who grew up in these tunnels and Lance who was a helper before he stole Sabrina away from us."

"I hope you will all make these people welcome." He looked around a moment. "Enjoy the festivities." They sat down and everyone dug into the feast before them.

Some of the older tunnel residents and helpers remembered Lance and Sabrina and, after the tables had been cleared away, they renewed their acquaintance. Adam and Justin also got plenty of attention from everyone as newcomers to the Chandler-Wells family and the tunnels.

The center of the chamber was quickly cleared and the hall was soon filled with music as couples began to dance in the cleared area. For a while Adam, Justin, Brigit and Nancy wandered around the edges of the party looking at all the other forms of entertainment available besides dancing. They watched a young man doing magic tricks for the children. He was apparently still learning under the guidance of a white-haired older gentleman named Sebastian. They also lingered over several people playing various board and card games. They took part in a fast paced game of Uno that was made up of constantly changing players.

Out on the dance floor Sabrina was temporarily partnered with Vincent, Catherine with Elliot, and Lance with Victoria. Brigit and Nancy took the hands of their future husbands and drew them out onto the dance floor. It turned out that Adam had taken many lessons on various types of dancing and was a very good dancer. Justin had not had lessons like Adam but he was still pretty good at the most popular types of dance, particularly the country western styles.

Later Nancy and Brigit took the boys on a guided tour of the great hall pointing out the various tapestries and the back kitchen area at the top of the back stairway where a bit of making out was accomplished. Then they sat out for a while on the back stairway and watched the revelry that was going on around them. There was a fair share of snuggling going on while they were resting on those stairs.

Adam and Justin managed to stay all the way through to the closing ceremony at midnight, where they were both welcomed into the circle of all those that had stuck it out to the end. Lance and Sabrina had already called it a night about an hour and a half earlier.

After the great doors had been closed and barred, the two young couples made their way to two guest chambers that had been set aside for them. For Adam and Justin, the fascination of spending the night in the tunnel's guest chambers quickly gave way to the romance of spending it with their fiancés.

~ x x x x x ~

March 21 2015

Adam looked out over the brownstone's rooftop garden as he and Justin reached their assigned positions beside the minister. He nudged Justin and nodded towards some of the more distinguished guest attending their wedding. Mixed in among the several people from the tunnels, he had recognized Elliot Burch, the wealthy builder, and his Supermodel wife, Victoria Burch. He had heard that they had also been married in this very same rooftop garden. Next to them sat Joe and Samantha Maxwell. Next to Joe and 'Sammy', as she was called, sat Adam's own parents and finally Catherine Chandler next to the center aisle. Behind Catherine sat Linda's family and beside them was Catherine's best friend Jenny and her FBI agent husband James McClendon. Adam was still amazed that the head of the New York office of the FBI was actually in on the whole secret. Brigit and Nancy's family may harbor a very dangerous secret but they also had some powerful people helping to protect that secret. Adam and Justin were in very good company today.

There was a momentary drop in the light level and both boys glanced up at the sun that kept ducking in and out among the scattered rain clouds. There had been occasional light sprinkles all morning but so far the weather was holding and the cloudiness combined with the gentle breeze had kept it from getting too hot. Hopefully the mild weather would hold for just a little longer, at least until the wedding was over.

The music started. Adam and Justin looked toward the back of the garden and saw the two brides emerge from the roof access doorway. As the two brides, escorted by Vincent, slowly advanced towards the boys, Adam and Justin gazed lovingly at them and drank in their beauty. The girls were wearing identical wedding dresses. That had been the girls' idea and it had taken a lot of looking before they had found a style that they both really liked. Even the brides' bouquets were identical.

Brigit was on Vincent's left arm and Nancy was on his right arm. Then Adam realized that they were reversed. He glanced over to his right at Justin who had just noticed the same thing. When the girls reached the boys, there was a moment of humor as the girls switched sides just as the boys also started to switch sides. Several snickers were heard from the guests as the minor mix-up was finally corrected.

After a moment's pause the minister conquered his own amusement then began. "Dearly Beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God and these friends and family, to join these two couples in holy matrimony. A state which is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly - but reverently and solemnly. Into this holy estate these two couples have come to be joined. If any person can show just cause why they may not be joined together – let them speak now or forever hold their peace."

There was the usual pregnant pause broken by a cough from Jacob, which brought a glare from Brigit. Then the minister continued. "Marriage is the union of husband and wife in heart, body and mind. It is intended for their mutual joy and for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity"

There was another short pause. "Who gives these women in marriage to these men?"

"Their mother and I do." Vincent replied as he gave the two brides away then moved to his place beside Catherine.

The minister gave a short talk about the responsibilities and benefits of marriage. Then came the standard pledge. "Do you Adam and Justin take Brigit and Nancy to be your wife in the holy estate of matrimony? Will you love her, comfort her, honor her, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, from this day forward?"

Adam and Justin answered simultaneously. "I will."

"Do you Brigit and Nancy take Adam and Justin to be your Husband in the holy estate of matrimony? Will you love him, comfort him, honor him, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, from this day forward?"

Brigit and Nancy answered simultaneously. "I will."

The two couples faced each other before the minister. Adam and Brigit clasped hands while Justin and Nancy clasped hands. The wedding vows had been worked out by all four of them together and been carefully rehearsed.

Adam and Justin recited their vows simultaneously. "From the moment my cousin and I saw you and your sister on the river we have been drawn to your beauty and your uniqueness. You have taught us much about ourselves by giving us your love. You have opened our eyes to the wonder that lay unseen around us and changed our lives. You have offered us the world and a future of beauty and magic. Here and now, we pledge our love and our lives to you from this day forward." The boys both placed the rings on the fingers of their brides and continued together. "With this ring I seal my pledge to you of my heart, my soul and my future."

Then Brigit and Nancy recited their vows, also simultaneously. "From the moment you picked us up on that river my sister and I have been drawn to your steadfast acceptance of our uniqueness. You have taught us much about ourselves by giving us your love. You have opened our eyes to the type of acceptance that we did not know existed. You have offered us the world and a future of beauty and love. Here and now, we pledge our love and our lives to you from this day forward." The brides placed the rings on the finger of their husbands and continued together. "With this ring I seal my pledge to you of my heart, my soul and my future."

The minister smiled upon the couples. "In as much as these two couples have consented together in marriage before this company of friends and family and have pledged their faith are now joined. You have pronounced yourselves husband and wife but remember to always be each other's best friend." He turned his attention to the guests. "What God has joined together - let no man put asunder."

The minister returned his attention to the couples. "By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you, Adam and Brigit, husband and wife, and I pronounce you, Justin and Nancy, husband and wife. Husbands, you may kiss your brides."

Both couples kissed to the cheers of the wedding guests. Then they led the guests down to the brownstone's parlor for the reception. Just as the last of the guests passed inside, the skies opened up and the rain fell on the empty rooftop garden.

The reception offered a nice selection of light finger foods and some very fine wines. The music was controlled by a DJ located in the third floor library and was piped throughout the brownstone's high quality sound system.

As it got close to time for the couples to leave on their honeymoon, Vincent offered a toast. "Like today's rain, may all of life's problems arrive a minute too late, after you have already moved beyond their reach." He paused and Lance added his wish for the couples. "And may your lives together be filled with joy and love and just a little bit of magic."

A half an hour later the new couples had to leave to catch their honeymoon flight to Hawaii and the beginning of a new life.

THE END


'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.