By Thomas Mc
Chapter 5: And Baby Makes Family
It had been a bit over three months since Oscar and Heather first came below and they had become comfortably settled in. Oscar was now William's full time assistant though he spent almost as much time as lead cook as he did as assistant. Heather loved making candles with Rebecca and she seemed to have blossomed in the tunnel's nurturing environment. She still tended to let Oscar do the talking for both of them but she was beginning to make friends and no longer experienced anxiety whenever she was away from him. Oscar was also doing his best to encourage her developing independence.
Oscar and Heather were sitting on their bed perusing a book of children's names. Doctor Peter Alcott had done an ultrasound and informed them that their baby's position made it impossible to get a clear enough image so its sex was still indeterminate. Heather grinned. "What about Henry? That sounds like a strong name."
Oscar nodded. "I kinda like it. We'll add it to the possible boy's name list." He wrote the name down on the list they were making of possible names for their child.
They were interrupted by the voice of Assistant District Attorney Catherine Chandler(-Wells) coming from the outer tunnel. "Hello, Oscar, Heather, am I disturbing you . . . may I come in?"
Oscar placed the list in the book as he called out. "Just a moment." Then he and Heather slid out of their bed and rushed into the outer chamber. Oscar pulled aside the tapestry and hooked it back. "Please, come in, Ms Chandler."
Catherine smiled at them both. "Please, call me Cathy or Catherine. Down here we all go by our first names and besides that I like to think of you as friends." She reached into her brief case and, breaking into a huge grin, pulled out two official looking documents. "I thought I should bring these to you straight away as soon as they were finalized." She held the two documents out to the two young people. "It is your court decree of emancipation."
Oscar and Heather took the two documents and gazed at them in a slightly stunned state. Catherine had told them that she was going to do this for them but it was still a bit overwhelming to have the documents in their hands.
Oscar was the first to speak as he turned his gaze onto Heather. "Does this mean that we can now get married?"
Catherine's grin softened in to a gentle smile. "It means that you can do almost anything that any other person of legal age can do." She cocked her head. "Including getting married . . . if that is what you want."
Oscar reached out and took Heather's hand as she leaned into him and responded. "Oh, we do . . . We want it very much." Oscar raised Heather's hand and kissed it then looked at Catherine. "We were thrown together and became expecting parents under the worst possible circumstances but we are very much in love now and we want to be a real family."
"If that's what you really want, then it is merely a matter of deciding when you want to do it." Catherine replied.
He turned his head and gazed into Heather's eyes, his eyes shining with his love for her. As she looked up at him, her eyes shining just as intensely, he placed his other hand gently over her swelling belly and directed his next words to her. "What do you say Heather, do you want to do it before or after the baby arrives?"
Her voice was barely above a whisper as she continued to gaze into his eyes, her own eyes shimmering with emotion. "I want to make you mine as soon as possible." She blushed brightly at her own temerity and looked down.
"I already am yours, my love." He responded softly. Then he looked up at Catherine. "You have your answer. How soon can it be done?"
Catherine smiled back at him. "From what Vincent and Jacob have told me, I half expected that answer. I have already made certain arrangements." She pulled out another document from her briefcase. "This is an application for a marriage license. If you finish filling it out and sign it I can have your license by tomorrow evening. I talked to Father Kilbourne and he said that he will be available this weekend if anybody wants to get married."
Catherine was again grinning as she watched the faces of both young lovers light up with surprised joy. Then she spoke. "Well, fill out the form and by a week from today you will officially be husband and wife."
Catherine fought the urge to laugh as Oscar and Heather scrambled hurriedly to the desk and started filling in the form. It didn't take them long because they found that Catherine had already filled in most of the information for them.
~ x x x x x x ~
Catherine looked across the massive, very expensive, new desk . "Well Chris, what's the good word?"
Chris Gains leaned back in his expensive executive chair and grinned back at Catherine with a mischievous glint in his eye. "Well it looks to me like Linda and Jacob are slowly but surely edging their way from best friends to boyfriend girlfriend status."
Catherine rolled her eyes asking the universe for patience. "I mean the account."
"Ohhh, the account." He reached out and grabbed up a folder. "Your accounts are in excellent shape. I am recommending a major shift in investment strategies though. I think we should start pulling you out of the standard mutual funds and start looking for something else. I think the current housing boom is going to turn into a bust in the next two to four years. I want to get you as far away from that as I can."
Catherine nodded. "That's fine Chris, I trust your judgment, but what about that other account I asked you about?"
"Ohhh, that account." Chris relented as he picked up another folder. "I got confirmation of the account transfer to our firm yesterday and I've been going over it very carefully." He shook his head in disgust. "That fund was not very well managed at all and has shown virtually no growth since it was first established." He glanced at the pages in his hand. "The funds were invested in poorly performing instruments and the handling fees are exceptionally high." He noticed the look in Catherine's eyes. "Nothing they did on paper was actually illegal but it was not particularly ethical either." He shook his head. "They did what is known as churning. They were constantly moving the money from one fund to another then charged the maximum that the law allows in broker fees. Like I said, not strictly illegal, but the fees ate up any gains that the fund might have made and then some. The initial value of the fund was thirty-five-thousand. It is currently worth twenty eight thousand. The investment firm appears to have made nineteen thousand off it in fees."
He set the folder back on the desk. "It is a very good thing that you got control of the trust fund and had me transfer it out of that investment firm. By the time Oscar was old enough to receive it, he would be lucky if there was twenty thousand left. If the market collapses like I'm expecting, those investments would tank and he might be left with nothing. I'm shifting the strategy to maximize returns while protecting the principal. Same as I'm doing with your accounts. I expect those accounts to do very well over the next five years. The way I'm setting up your investment's, if all those sub prime mortgages out there start defaulting it could actually give your accounts a big boost."
~ o ~
It was near the tail end of dinner time when Catherine entered the main dining chamber, glanced around, then sat down across from Oscar and Heather. She was sporting a very large smile. "I have good news." She set a large envelope before the young couple. "This is your official marriage license."
Oscar and Heather picked it up and were soon smiling as they looked over the suddenly very meaningful document. Heather had to wipe a tear away as she gazed at the document. Catherine surreptitiously wiped away a tear at the same time
Catherine cleared her suddenly tight throat then added. "I have some more news for you Oscar. When I was doing my research on your behalf I found a small trust fund with about thirty-thousand in it that had been set up by your great grandmother. I got the account transferred to Chris Gains of Gains and Byrd Investments. Both of the partners in that company are helpers. Chris is Linda's father and he will take good care of your money for you. He is the same person that handles all my investments that are not tied up in the Wells-Chandler Foundation. The trust fund is supposed to be turned over to you on your twenty-first birthday. Chris said that he thinks he can make it grow to at least forty-thousand by the time you are twenty-one and he turns it over to you. Chris also wanted me to tell you that if you need any cash from your trust fund before you reach twenty-one just contact him and he will be able to help you out without disturbing your investments."
Oscar stared at Catherine in stunned silence.
Catherine continued. "This trust fund will help you get off to a good start if you decide to leave the tunnels and make a life for yourselves above . . . Speaking of starting a life, I assume the wedding is still scheduled for noon, day after tomorrow."
Heather beamed as Oscar shook off his dazed state and responded with a grin. "At high noon we get hitched."
~ x x x x x ~
It was less than two hours until noon and Heather was rummaging through her collection of clothes trying to select something halfway appropriate for her wedding and getting frustrated. It really didn't matter what she wore for this wedding. As far as she was concerned, she and Oscar had been married since they first came below three-and-a-half months ago but she still wanted to look her best for him today and nothing that she had seemed good enough. The fact that she was seven months pregnant didn't do much for her appearance as it was. With a grunt of frustration she threw the latest attempt on the bed then plopped herself down with an exaggerated sigh. She looked down, placing her hand on her belly and shook her head.
The by now familiar voice of Catherine interrupted her. "Heather, it's Catherine, may I come in?"
Heather jumped up from the bed and called out. "Sure, you can come in."
Just as Heather reached the opening between the inner and outer chambers, she met Catherine who was carrying a large box. Catherine took one glance at the bed strewn with the outfits that she had been trying on and nodded as she eased her way into the inner bedroom chamber.
Catherine approached the bed. "I brought you something that I thought you might find useful." She placed the large box on the bed and opened it. With a flourish she pulled out a long white dress that appeared to be made of raw silk. It was the most beautiful dress that Heather had ever seen. Catherine held the dress up next to Heather, tilted her head then nodded. "Let's try this on and see how you look." Catherine quickly and efficiently got Heather into the beautiful dress. Heather had been so stunned that she was barely able to help in the operation. "Now let's take a look, shall we." Catherine guided Heather over to the floor length mirror that had been a gift from her two months ago.
Heather gazed at her image in amazement. The dress was a perfect fit. A white panel with a white rose embroidered on it had been added to the dress so that it could accommodate her growing belly. She barely recognized herself. Then she turned and entered Catherine's welcoming embrace. "It's beautiful. Thank-you."
"It's the dress I wore when Vincent and I were married. I got Sara to alter it for your wedding. I'm hoping it will bring the both of you luck." There was a momentary pause as they hugged then Catherine held Heather out at arm's length. It's almost time and Jennifer will be here any minute. Let's finish getting you ready."
~ o ~
Oscar was in Vincent's old chamber pacing nervously. This morning William had chased him out of the kitchen when he had shown up to help fix breakfast. "Today is your wedding day, boy . . . get out of here and enjoy yourself."
Shortly after that Jacob had snagged Oscar and dragged him up to his room in the brownstone where he had picked out a nice set of clothes so that he would look sharp for Heather at the wedding. Now it was almost time and he was full of nervous energy. He wanted this to be just right. This wedding was being pulled off on the spur of the moment and Heather had made it quite clear that it was perfectly fine with her. But he still wanted their wedding to be something special for Heather; a memory that she could treasure for the rest of her life.
"Relax, Oscar, everything will be fine. Mom and Dad have taken care of everything." He placed his clawed hand on Oscar's shoulder. "You remember how to get to the honeymoon suite, don't you?" Oscar nodded his response. Jacob glanced at his wrist watch, a birthday gift from Linda. "Good cause it's time for us to go."
The two of them headed for the library chamber.
~ o ~
Jennifer and Catherine were just putting the finishing touches on Heather when Vincent called from outside the chamber. "Heather, It's about time. Are you ready?"
Catherine took one more look at Heather and nodded her approval. "We're ready, Vincent, you may come in."
They all entered the outer chamber simultaneously. Vincent looked her up and down. "Heather you look beautiful."
Jennifer chimed in with a huge grin. "Oh, yea! Oscar is gonna totally lose it when he sees you . . . but then he tends to get all goo goo eyed every time he sees you anyway." She giggled.
"I'll be heading for my seat now." Catherine left the chamber to find her place in the library.
Vincent bowed slightly and held out his elbow to Heather. "Shall we?"
With a hint of a blush Heather took his arm. Vincent had offered his services as substitute father of the bride. Heather had never known her father, she doubted her mother even knew who he was, and Vincent's offer had filled her with a warm special feeling. Now she felt so special as she took his offered arm. Jennifer, as her maid of honor, handed Heather a small bouquet of flowers then held the tapestry aside for them.
~ o ~
Jacob had nudged him and informed him that Heather was on her way. Since that moment Oscar's gaze had been locked onto the top of the spiral stairs as he waited anxiously for his first sight of Heather. The tunnel musicians began playing as Jennifer descended the stairs smiling at Oscar and Jacob.
As Vincent escorted Heather through the top opening into the library, she was thunder-struck by how many of the tunnel people had showed up to witness her wedding. Then as they reached the top of the spiral metal stairs her gaze locked on to Oscar at the other side of the chamber and that was all that she saw.
Then Oscar's breath caught in his throat as Heather appeared at the top of the stairs, escorted by Vincent. Jacob gave Oscar a little nudge as he spoke softly. "Hey she really looks terrific." Oscar barely heard him as his vision seemed to narrow down until all he could see was Heather as she descended the spiral staircase.
Oscar gazed lovingly into Heather's eyes as she and Vincent approached. Then Vincent placed Heather's hand in his saying something about giving the bride away. The clearing of the priest's throat finally brought Oscar's attention back to the rest of the world. Oscar tried to concentrate on the ceremony because he wanted it to be perfect for Heather. Then they began to recite their vows and Oscar was quickly lost again in her sparkling hazel eyes. Oscar and Heather both felt an instant of uncertainty when the priest mentioned rings, they had not even thought about rings since time had been so short and they had no money for such things. The uncertainty quickly passed when Jacob and Jennifer each produced two simple matching wedding bands. They both were looking down at their clasped hands with their brand new rings and tried to take it all in.
Almost before they could realize it was really happening, the priest pronounced them husband and wife. They glanced up into each other stunned eyes as it finally sunk in. Then the priest said, "You may kiss the bride." and they were in each other's arms for their first official kiss as legal husband and wife.
There were a few titters among the witnesses as the kiss went on a little longer than normal. Catherine and Vincent were holding hands and remembering their own wedding several years ago in this very same chamber. Jacob's gaze had sought out and locked in on Linda, standing with her parents. At that moment there was a subtle shift in the bond that he shared with her and suddenly he knew exactly what he wanted their future to be. Jennifer glanced past the bride and groom at her brother as she sensed the shift in his link with Linda. She understood what it meant and was happy for them. Chris and Sharon both noticed the look that passed between Jacob and their daughter. As he squeezed his wife's hand he whispered to her. "And so it begins."
Finally Oscar and Heather broke apart and everyone cheered. Then, with the bride and groom leading, they all headed to the combination reception and lunch that was to be held in the dining chamber..
~ o ~
After the meal was finished the tables were moved aside and the tunnel musicians began to play. Heather glanced around in wonder at all the people that were here to celebrate her wedding. When Catherine had asked her what she wanted for her wedding, she had admitted that she really had no idea. The only thing that had really mattered was that she would soon be Oscar's wife. Catherine had told her that she would take care of everything. Now as she gazed about her and thought about the simple ceremony, she realized that her wedding had been far more beautiful than anything she could have imagined. Then she looked down at the simple wedding ring that meant more to her than all the gold in the world. Then she looked up at Oscar and was again lost in his adoring gaze.
Oscar held out his hand to her as the tunnel musicians began to play a waltz. "Would you care to dance, my wife?"
Up until a week ago neither of them had really known how to dance but Jacob, Jennifer and Linda had spent the last week teaching them the basic steps and moves for the types of music most commonly played in this subterranean world.
Heather smiled shyly. "I would love to, my husband."
Together they stepped into the open space in the middle of the transformed chamber and moved easily into a waltz. Alone they glided to the music while everyone watched. After about a minute Jacob and Linda stepped onto the dance floor. A second later Vincent and Catherine joined them followed immediately by Chris and Sharon. Soon others joined and the floor was soon filled with dancing couples.
Over among the musicians on the stage Jennifer played her electric organ and smiled knowingly to herself. She had felt Jacob and Linda's emotions quietly slide from intense friendship over to the first inklings of true love. Even their father despite his empathic ability was not yet aware of the transition, though Chris and Sharon had noticed. She knew that there was no turning back now. Their course was set and the destination was inevitable. She reveled in the wonder of these new emotions for a moment then as she observed them, out on the dance floor, moving in for loves first kiss, she closed off her link with her twin brother.
~ o ~
As the reception began to wind down, Oscar took Heather's hand and led her away from the dining chamber. They were soon passing tunnels that Heather had never been in before. Oscar however moved confidently on until they came to a very isolated tapestry covered opening. Heather hesitated because of the closed tapestry but Oscar stepped up and pulled the tapestry aside. "This chamber is ours for tonight." He drew her into the chamber.
She stood frozen just inside the doorway as she took in the scene. The crystallized minerals embedded in the rock walls sparkled with the reflected light from dozens of dancing candle flames. The ground and the bed were covered in a carpet of colorful flower petals and the air was filled with the sweet scent of several types of flowers mixed with the scent of warm candle wax. Oscar was even surprised by the appearance of the chamber. Linda had told him that she would see to it that the chamber would be ready for them but he had not expected anything like this.
Finally Oscar dropped the tapestry across the opening and drew Heather toward the bed of their honeymoon suite. Heather's seven month pregnant state made this a less energetic honeymoon but as she lay enfolded in his protective arms she thought that it was the most beautiful night she could remember ever having.
~ x x x x x ~
Heather winced and tried not to cry out as the painful contraction took hold. On one side of her Oscar gripped her hand and held on tightly. On her other side Catherine Chandler held her other hand and urged her to breathe. Over the last month, Catherine had spent a lot of time with her, helping her prepare for this day. After twenty hours of labor she was exhausted. About an hour ago her water had broken and the contractions had started getting closer and more intense. Rosa was watching proceedings from the business end of this endeavor and had just announced that the baby would be coming at any minute now.
The contraction eased and Heather relaxed. Her body was covered with the sheen of sweat as she took long shuddering breaths. Rosa reported from her position. "You're fully dilated now. Next time I want you to push."
Catherine spoke up. "Hang in there, Heather. You're baby is almost here."
Another contraction hit and Rosa called out. "Push, Heather, push." Heather groaned as she pushed for all she was worth. Finally the wave ended. Rosa announced. "I see the head. Next time should do it."
Oscar pulled his hand from her grip and shook it, trying to get back the blood flow. "Damn girl, you have some grip there." He grabbed her hand again. "Just one more time, Honey." On the other side, she heard a snicker come from Catherine.
The next wave came and she pushed with all her might as she cried out. Then the pressure was gone and a second later they all heard a brand new baby cry followed by Rosa's announcement. "Congratulations! You have a beautiful little baby girl." A few seconds later Rosa placed the wrapped baby into her mother's arms. Heather began to laugh as tears of joy streamed down her face. The ordeal of the last twenty hours disappeared from her consciousness as she gazed into the dark brown eyes of her baby girl. Finally she looked up at Oscar noticing the tear tracks on his grinning face. "She has your eyes."
~ x x x x x ~
Three days later Heather and Oscar stood before the tunnel inhabitants in the dining chamber. With a ringing voice Oscar proudly made the announcement. "We have named our daughter Amber because that was Heather's older sister's name. It was Linda who first suggested it and we both felt it was a good idea. And now our little family is complete."
Heather glanced around a bit shyly then spoke. "We want to take this opportunity to thank Jacob, Jennifer, Linda, Vincent and Catherine for all that they have done for us and for our daughter."
They were quickly surrounded by well wishers, all wanting to congratulate them and get a look at the new baby. Heather and Oscar beamed with pride as they showed off their daughter.
Oscar glanced over at Heather as she sat beside him holding Amber. He had already felt the weight of his responsibilities settling on his too young shoulders and it would be a couple of years before he was old enough to be able to get any kind of a real job in the world above. But he knew that they could make it here in the tunnels with the help of these wonderful people. Regardless of what lay ahead for them, he had his wife and he had his new daughter. He loved them both more than anything and nothing was ever going to pull them apart. He knew that they would make it as a family despite all the hardships they had been through.
But tonight was a night for celebration. He leaned over and kissed his wife and caressed their daughter.
'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.