"Found you!" the toddler below squealed with delight.
From the passage high above the falls, Father had been watching Catherine sitting beside the shores of the lake. Her careworn face had been upturned, watching the waterfall, but she had never seen Father. Now, she spun in her spot on the sand, a nervous lurch in her body at being startled, but it relaxed immediately. Vincent walked slowly toward her, his cloak drawn around him with only two tiny hands peeking out of the folds.
"I found you!" Catherine called back over the sounds of the falls, a smile in her voice.
"Nuh-uh!" the little boy called back from behind the cloak. "I hidin'! You can't see me! Papa too. You hidin', Papa?" he called up to his father.
"Yes, Jacob," Vincent lied with a grin to Catherine. "Mama can't even see who I am." The child giggled hysterically, the cloak swaying and pulling in his excitement.
Father watched Vincent move closer, and then pull the cloak open, revealing the three-year-old, standing on his father's feet, his little fists balled in the cloak, hanging on so that he didn't fall. His wild, curly blonde hair stuck out in every direction, and his smile shone bright even from where Father watched.
"Jacob Charles," Catherine sighed and laughed simultaneously, "what in the world is all over your face?"
"Booberies!" he proclaimed, jumping off of his father's feet and dashing into his mother's arms.
"Blueberries, huh?" she pronounced precisely for her child as he pounced in her lap, wrapping his arms and legs around her. "And where did you get those blueberries?"
"William!" he nodded and pronounced the name meticulously.
Vincent took off his cloak and dropped onto the beach beside them, watching Catherine wrap Jacob fiercely close, and kiss his head. "Did you say 'thank you', Jacob?"
"Mm-hm!" the toddler nodded, explaining mostly to his mother in all his excitement. "I said real loud, like this; 'THANK YOU!'" he demonstrated, making his parents wince at his shrill baby-voice.
"That's great," Catherine praised, blinking away the ringing in her ears. "Why don't you go wash your face off in the water, okay?"
Jacob nodded, rolling off of her lap with all of his energy and enthusiasm, and bounding happily toward the little lake. Vincent moved in, kissing Catherine tenderly, and then setting his forehead against hers. Father watched them carefully, studying them. This year had been strangely hard on her. She seemed to see ghosts in every shadow. She hardly let Jacob leave her sight, and when he did, she preferred for him to be within Vincent's sight at least. He had broached the subject, gently, with Vincent, and all his son had given him was the vague explanation of haunting dreams and old fears from her captivity. Father worried, watching his little grandson taking on some of that fear from the mother he adored. The child was often found hiding in wardrobes and under blankets. He feared nothing more than strangers; any new helpers or dwellers were welcomed, not with the beautiful child of Vincent and Catherine but, with the imitation of a frightened monkey, climbing up and clawing at his mother to get away from any newcomers. Catherine didn't seem to worry or disapprove of her child's behavior, either. Instead, she rewarded, almost encouraged it. For some reason, Father always suspected, Catherine didn't truly believe that their ordeal was over.
The investigation into the men who had kidnapped her was inconclusive at best. Only a select few of Catherine's friends had been contacted and told that she had survived the mysterious attack on the building; Joe Maxwell being one of them. He agreed that she should be kept as hidden as possible until they were absolutely sure that the crime ring connected to her disappearance had been thoroughly investigated and put behind bars. He refused any knowledge of her whereabouts, so as to keep her safe, and told each messenger not to reveal her to anyone else until the danger had passed. That was three years prior, and Catherine's paranoia had only grown in the time that she kept herself buried in the earth of New York City.
"Don't wander too far in, Pip!" Catherine called to the little boy as he kicked and splashed in the shallow area of the lake.
"Jacob, did you hear your mother?" Vincent reprimanded when the child gave no acknowledgement.
"Yes, Mama!" Jacob yelled back, laughing all the while. The boy stopped suddenly, his smile dropping quickly. Cautiously, he began backing out of the lake, watching a far-away entrance.
"Jacob?" Catherine sat up nervously, glancing between her son and the archway that his eyes were glued to. Shadows began dancing just inside, bouncing off of the rock, coming closer. The child dashed back up the beach and promptly climbed into his mother's lap, tucking himself into her chest. She wrapped her arms tightly around the boy, even as Vincent tilted his head this way and that, calmly examining the oncoming shadows.
"It's all right, son," Vincent soothed, not just the boy, but Catherine as well. Her tension was palpable and the child in her arms was shaking. "It just looks like Lucy," he assured them, and when the young woman did indeed emerge into the chamber, he waived to her. "You remember Lucy, Jacob. You've met her three times now."
Catherine breathed, her nerves calming, and rubbing her child's back, assuring him now as well. "It's okay, Jacob. Look; it is Lucy. Look, sweetheart." But, Jacob shook his head, still buried in her chest.
The young woman bounded up to them, all smiles, a beach towel slung over her shoulder, and a bag in her hand. "Hi Vincent, Catherine," she greeted them in turn and they returned the greeting. Lucy tilted her head and stared at the tiny blonde toddler, resolutely tucked into his mother. "Hi, Jacob," she called softly, a hopeful tone apparent in her sweet voice.
The child didn't respond, and Catherine ran her fingers through his hair, sweeping it away from his face. "Jacob, can you say hello?" All three adults watched him, waiting until he shook his head again, taking handfuls of her shirt in his fists.
"I'm not all that scary, am I Jacob?" Lucy sunk low and searched for his eyes. Quickly, she reached in her bag and pulled out a piece of candy. "Look," she held it out to him. "Do you want a blow-pop? I've got an extra one."
Jacob's little head shifted, the promise of candy trying to override his fear. He gave a quick glance to the lollipop in her hand, and then his eyes swung up to his mother, questioning her with his perfect blue eyes.
Catherine kissed his forehead and smiled. "Go ahead if you want it, Pip."
The boy licked his lips and looked at the candy, nervously, never having the courage to look at Lucy. Carefully, he detached from Catherine and took the lollipop, making sure not to touch Lucy in the process. As soon as the prize was in his hand, he fell back into his mother's chest, and she hugged him close.
"Well," Lucy smiled, a little sad, and still studying the shy little boy, "it's better than him hiding under your cloak the whole time like the last time I saw him," she glanced at Vincent and then Catherine.
"Jacob, your manners," Vincent was already in the midst of a lesson. "What do you say?"
The boy squirmed, and Catherine rubbed his back quickly, vigorously for a moment. "You heard your father, Jacob. What do you say?"
The child mumbled something that sounded vaguely like 'thank you'. It certainly was not the 'thank you' he had demonstrated that he was capable of earlier, and his parents exchanged quick glances over him.
Father turned away as the little family began chatting with Lucy. He gathered himself and made his way back toward the hub. He prayed that one day Catherine would conquer her own fears so that she might be able to help her son do the same in turn. He prayed that Vincent would learn a balance between indulging her in her frailty, and showing her that the world was not plotting against her. No one who knew Catherine well denied her those times of frailty; she had earned it. She was a survivor, and had been so many times that everyone was more than willing to coddle her occasionally. But little Jacob; he had time yet to learn and become. The child did indeed have the makings of a very strong person, so like his parents, and Father prayed the child could rise above his circumstances as his father had never been allowed to.
Tuesday's child is full of grace.
Quotes are from:
Dylan Thomas- "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"
Dylan Thomas- "And Death Shall Have No Dominion"
F. Scott Fitzgerald- "The Great Gatsby"
William Shakespeare- "Much Ado About Nothing"
William Shakespeare- "Hamlet"
William Shakespeare- "Macbeth"
William Shakespeare- "Sonnet #11"
Rainer Maria Rilke- "Letters To A Young Poet"
Unknown- "Monday's Child"