A twist of fate untwists
Classic Story - Arabesque is not in this universe
Rusty / RedNightBird
The night within his memory had become dry and brittle. Once all the emotion had drained away with time, only the sad misunderstandings remained. A young couple had explored too far, a child had been conceived and within hours of its birth their child had died.
"This is a lesson, as sure as if it were written. Your dalliances, the two of you have cost that young woman her health both physical and mental." Father stood over the couple as they shrunk from each other. Clearly Father had declared their sin plain to them and the silence in the chamber thundered with their broken hearts.
Within weeks she had been swept away, the excuse being a Helper's family had need of an au pair for their relocation across country. It was nice enough to offer her a live in position but the idea of living in the Pacific Northwest thrilled the teenager who had spent the past few weeks crying at the drop of a hat. The boy simply slunk back into the shadows where he found anonymity.
The lesson was served in heated discussion to any young couple to lollygagged and dawdled in private places. The Tunnel world wasn't a Victorian milieu; they simply had reinforced some values for the good of all involved.
Did the young man pine for his partner in their crime of passion? Most thought he did by his quiet nature.
-'- -'- -'- many years later -'- -'- -'- -'-
"Vincent, are we the only ones to haunt these hallways looking for a place to hold hands?" Catherine had come below tonight, a Friday night half begging to stay Below for the weekend.
"It's always been an unspoken rule to keep the teenagers so busy that they nearly drop into bed exhausted every night" Vincent's expression accorded just a bit of humor, "We don't have very many that inquisitive age right now, in five or six years I am afraid the hormones will be flowing thickly" Vincent reinforced his own restraint by folding his hands behind him as he walked alongside Catherine. They had walked side by side platonically for over three years.
"I see" She conspired to bump alongside him, her hand at her side hoping for him to catch it in his. Some nights he made it hard for her to even catch his elbow!
"Benny said Father was waiting for this letter from Portland, so I brought it directly. Peter will be on vacation for another week." Catherine watched Vincent's cheerful expression drain as he continued his path to Father's chamber. Urgent letters from Above rarely arrived and they rarely boded well. Tonight Father waited in his chamber congenially and welcomed them as the tea kettle whistled.
"Oh, Catherine, I have to thank you for being the mail lady" He accepted the heavy vellum envelope and blinked at the return address, "Are you two running off tonight or perhaps you'd like to let me win a game of chess?" Father stood with the important letter in hand curiously trying to keep the two of them with him this evening.
"I had other plans for us, yet if Catherine would like to give you a run on the board I could watch and observe for perhaps some new strategy" Vincent seemed humorously resigned that their evening would be spent with two of the three hovering over a chessboard.
Father slid the envelope into his vest and sat to shift the board between them, "Vincent, what about those butterscotch chewies, didn't you have them hidden for tonight?" Father peered over his glasses and humorously pursed his lips, "Sometimes Catherine it is important to remember like Father like Son, Vincent loves to squirrel away the baked goods" With a conspiratorial wink Father dispatched Vincent for the crockery on the shelf in Vincent's chamber.
Catherine refrained from taking the chair, "Aren't you going to open the letter, I can give you some privacy" If the letter was that important, why hadn't he opened it?
"Awhile later" Father judiciously dismissed that thought while he poured cups for each of them. It struck Catherine odd at the moment; she made a note to ask Vincent later.
And it was later within a game strung out by chatter that Catherine hopped to sit straight in her chair, "Checkmate". Father was resigned, which only brought a lilt of a smile to Vincent's face. "Father, perhaps you would enjoy a book on Chess Strategy?"
The pervading sense in the room was that Catherine wanted to walk with Vincent about as much as Vincent wanted to stay safely in the company of others. By this point in their "friendship" Vincent fought the powers that grasped at his visceral control. Beating within his chest his heart cried for the sweet release to love her as any man would love his woman. His mind stayed firmly conflicted regardless of the assurances Catherine offered.
"I've consumed most of your time, why don't you both take the long way home to Catherine's?" Father slouched back in his chair, unaware of Catherine's unspoken desires to stay Below tonight. Now Vincent swallowed hard and arched a brow in consent and adopted that neutral body posture. Once Catherine had hugged Father "Goodnight" they were moseying down the hallway. As their footfalls disappeared Father drew the heavy vellum envelope out of his vest and slit it with the ever present letter opener from the side drawer.
Dear Father and family-
It's been years since I've felt this alone. The Bennetts' children are grown and sadly Rhonda and Frank have passed away. The course of true love never does run smooth, once Frank had his heart attack, Rhonda passed away in her sleep within days.
They were more that generous while I worked for them. You'll be proud to know I have a Masters in Early Childhood Education – children must be in my blood!
The reason for my letter today? I am visiting NYC with a group from Church, we're taking in Phantom of the Opera one evening then most of them are taking the downtown tours. I've seen all that, so I wondered if I could come for a visit. If you could write me before the 25th that would be grand.
Father snorted at the notion. He had always felt a sense of satisfaction for those who had gone above and made a life. In some instances he hoped it wasn't necessary for them to return, Sybil was one of them. Sybil hadn't mentioned a husband or children of her own; Father only hoped she hadn't become homesick and making an appeal to return Below.
"Vincent, I had hoped you might ask me to stay tonight. The moon is full and I would love to steal a few moments with you before we nestled down for some cocoa and a book" She kept her distance, pressed against the opposite wall with her most non-seductive expression.
"You know me well, Catherine. You manage to formulate the most engaging evenings" Vincent shook his head as if in surrender, and this time extended his elbow for her hand. Catherine's feet skimmed the ground as she strode alongside him. "When we return, remind me to check the guest chamber next to Mary's"
Catherine's mind seized in frustration, she simply didn't have the words. She silently clung to his arm as they made chit-chat about what William would prepare for breakfast. The steel door slid aside as she prepared herself for the sight of the full moon dancing over the tops of the trees. Vincent cautiously stepped out to the end of the drain pipe, his hood drawn forward.
Catherine tiptoed alongside him and took a breath of verdant night air. Reflexively her arms dug under his cape allowing it to flow over her, wrapping her arms around Vincent's slim waist she waited to feel him return the gesture. She felt him hesitate then after a few tentative steps toward the end of the culvert he turned to her. With her face in his hands his eyes implored some semblance of forgiveness. "Catherine, do you know what you do to me?"
"I know what you do to me, Vincent. I get flushed, my heart races, my - - -" Her voice was muffled as she had nuzzled her face into his vest, but Vincent knew exactly what he did to her, he fought it with every ounce of his being.
"Catherine, If I were like other men nothing would thrill me more than giving you the world" Vincent broke from her touch, his control teetered on a razor's edge as he felt his flesh stir he retreated from her.
"Vincent, how long have we rehashed this conversation? Months, yes, months, well over a year" Catherine took a new approach; she too stepped back from him. She wasn't chasing Vincent one more night! "OK, Vincent, if you can keep your jaw from hitting this culvert perhaps you can follow me back inside to walk me home."
That indeed was about the length of Vincent's effort that evening. There was no sweet, brotherly hug in the bluish light of her threshold, if anything there was a slightly green glare in her eyes as she tapped him on the shoulder and wished him a sincere, "Be well" before she ascended to her world.
-'- -'- -'- -'- -'- -'- -'-
Catherine let the subject drop. She figured if Vincent made her mad enough she'd be able to walk away from him to pursue the things he said she would eventually pursue. Then in the crevices of her mind she knew she could never be mad enough to leave him.
Love and Hate were different sides of the same coin; Catherine realized she could never be apathetic or indifferent to Vincent. Tuesday at her desk she wanted to pull her hair out, "Joe, if I pull my hair out would you send an alternate to the Corsey deposition?" She called out over the general office din as Joe passed her desk.
"No, Radcliffe, I'd send out to that street merchant down the street for a beret" he winked, "You could start a trend, French style for American justice" He nonchalantly passed her to dump a stack of files on the desk to her right. Today the sound of Joe's gabardine trousers annoyed Cathy Chandler. She had never entertained smoking, but today would have been a good day. The friction of needing Vincent, the empty and aching feeling she felt when she lay in bed at night tormented her.
-'- -'- -'- -'- -'- -'- -'-
Wednesday Vincent carried a heavy heart to her balcony and this gave them cause to broach a grave subject. Catherine had showered and taken her book out to the balcony wondering when Vincent would find his night free.
"But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she." 1
His rough voice especially wooed her with those words and Catherine laid down her book.
"I'm so entertained by your voice, perhaps you'd like to stay and read to me" The sight of him, the breeze in his full hair, and the twinkle in his dark blue eyes made her weak, nearly dismissing the fact that she was curious as hell about author of the letter.
"Read? When I've come to discuss an invitation?" Vincent's hands extended outward, offering a sterile hug.
"Let's have a seat inside and chat about that invitation" Catherine matter of factly extended a hand to Vincent's to draw him inside. It was highly unlikely he'd go without a fight, but she figured, why not try? Tonight he surprised her and followed, dropping his cloak over the chair at her dining table. He waited until she sat on one of the love seats and chose the opposing side, occupying the very center leaving her no room to join him. "So, Vincent, what's up?" She folded her arms across her breasts and cocked her head at him.
"We're having a dinner party for a former resident, I would like to invite you as my guest" Catherine remained stone still, and then Vincent continued, "The party is Sunday at noon, are you free?"
"Is that all?" she ruminated privately and buried that thought, "I'd love to come Below, what can I bring?" Catherine extended the offer, opening the door for more conversation, could she bait him into telling her the story?
"Your generosity is legend, it's only going to be ten of us and William assures us he has it under control" Now Vincent's palms slid down his thighs until his clawed fingers curled over his knees, "He's doing a pork loin with apples and such. I expect he'll make a rice pudding for dessert" his words spread as if he were feeling a fit of babbling coming on.
"How about I bring a nice dessert wine, who is this beloved person?" she fought the inclination to come out and ask. Tamping down her curiosity since carrying the letter Below had been hell.
"Sybil Harvey, she left as a teenager, we don't yet know her intentions." Vincent's customary vibrant voice went flat, as if his soul had left his body.
"Intentions, as if to stay or -?" Catherine's enthusiasm chased his deflation.
"Her life Above has seemed to evaporate and she's returned simply asking for a visit without any indication to her future plans. Father seems to believe she is planning a return" Now Vincent's face went pale and Catherine couldn't help but rush to his side, even if it meant forcing him to slide aside to grant her the space. In silence they stared for a beat and Catherine's curiosity broke out.
"Does the thought of Sybil's return bother you?" Catherine wanted to steer this conversation a bit deeper into Vincent's disquiet.
Working around his reservations, Vincent's chin dropped, his long waves of auburn hair effectively obliquing his bearing. Catherine sat back at the arm of the sofa and waited, rewarded shortly with the rhythm of his heavy gasps.
"I'm not all prepared to see her, what was cast aside should have been left. Those who can leave should continue onward" His furred hand left his knee to illustrate the direction and Catherine recognized it shook a bit.
"Did she hurt you, Vincent?" Catherine thought for a fact that she had, she needed to hear his words.
The painful story unfolded quite logically, his describing their teenage relationship as walks and books and shared desserts. It all sounded painfully familiar. Had there been more than Vincent alluded to?
After a beat of silence, "We were inquisitive" Vincent admitted, unable to seek Catherine's eyes, "She pushed my boundaries and I found my limitations" Still focused on some pattern in her ceiling his hands folded tightly.
"It is part of being a teenager; don't you think we all have our curiosities?" Catherine slid her elbow to the sofa back and sat against the arm, her head resting on her hand.
"Even now, Vincent I have my curiosities" Catherine waited to see if that statement would bring his eyes to hers.
Lately her curiosities have bled thru the Bond, "No doubt you do" He drew a deep breath and finally met her gaze as he straightened up to slide further from her.
"Don't you?" Catherine's desire had been sublimated far too long; this visitor's arrival could be the cudgel to break open this discussion.
"I dallied in ways I shouldn't have. We went too far"
Catherine could feel his terror at revisiting his teen years. "Vincent, you've put me on a pedestal but I assure you that I've been caught up in a back seat or a party doing things I wouldn't want my Daddy to know." Catherine broadened her emotions flowing to Vincent, could she incite his honest reaction?
"Your society more or less allows that, Catherine. Yet afterwards did you feel taken advantage of?" Vincent posed the question she wanted to ask him.
"When I was involved with Stephen Bass and Tom I did!" Catherine yearned to embrace Vincent and draw all his guilt and pain away, "You did so much for me, Vincent, to shine a light on my value" Catherine extended her hand to his across the sofa cushion. She could feel the cogs in Vincent's mind grinding. "Did she accuse you of something you didn't do?"
Vincent shook his head vigorously, "We were embroiled in what Father called heavy petting" at the term Vincent seemed to have a humorous recollection and a smile emerged for a second, "We'd found a place behind the falls, we'd steal away with cookies and cocoa" His voice softened at the memory of it.
Catherine sat silently absorbing the beginning, hoping Vincent wouldn't stop until she heard it all from his lips.
"To everyone we were a couple, as most of the teenagers had paired off"
"It's hard to think of you as a teenager, Vincent, I can just imagine Pascal with hair!" that comment got a chuckle out of him before he continued down an uncertain trail. Catherine's understanding of their Bond had guided her to steer clear of not only provocative clothing or suggestive postures but any preening gestures toward his wardrobe. His garb usually had fringe or textured fabrics that called out for her touch. Catherine knew standing within his personal space or holding a gaze longer than would be expected earned her that "look" and his arm's length retreat.
"Sybil was fascinated with my chest hair, I had more than the other boys and I had already begun swimming with a long-sleeved tee-shirt" Catherine shot him a supportive look as she thought about the havoc differences played on teenage boys. "When we'd settle down to read she would find a way to entrance me. Innocent kisses would turn heated, I would become aroused and we would….." Just the recollections caused Vincent to hover his hands over lap.
"Touch each other? Vincent, that's normal" Catherine's voice softened to a whisper, wishing they would kiss until they were swept away. Catherine didn't need contact to rev her engine, when she thought of Vincent foreplay could commence with any number of behaviors. Vincent didn't need to strip off the layers of clothing he routinely wore. The drape of his vest over his broad chest or his cloak moving over his graceful stride elevated anything he wore to sexually suggestive clothing. Catherine cherished their quiet nights lounging at opposite ends of his bed, just reading created many a romantic moment! In a heartbeat many an intimate spark within her could have flared into a sexual adventure. Just his hand brushing hers felt like a gesture of foreplay.
"One afternoon, she begged to touch me, and I was so. . . . . enchanted that she found me desirable that I let her. We thought it was innocent enough. Her hands were softer than any touch I had ever experienced. In my delirium I lay back, my erection exposed and she lay with me. My eyes were closed, I was overwhelmed and it wasn't until I climaxed that I realized we were skin to skin." From the description Vincent painted tension outweighed titillation till this day.
Catherine's heart broke for Vincent, she was aware from interviewing Sexual assault victims that multiple triggers could invoke flashbacks, "Vincent, did you feel violated?" Catherine carefully kept her distance and her voice gently modulated.
Between words Vincent's chest heaved to spare his words, "When I climaxed she was spellbound that our kissing and touching could bring about my response. She captured what she could in her hands then I felt her on me and all I could dread was her becoming pregnant – Father had instilled a hearty fear of my impregnating a girl" Now Vincent's eyes sought hers. "Before she could go further I pushed her away and dressed to run. I ran deeper into the catacombs than I had ever run and stayed away for more than two weeks. When Winslow and Pascal brought me back Sybil apologized, that she didn't realize that I would have hang-ups" By the tilt of his head and his expression Catherine could tell he had lucid memories of the entire painful experience. "She called them hang-ups" There was nothing else for Catherine to do but to draw him into her arms and stroke the damp hair from his fevered brow.
"Dear, dear, Vincent" she repeated over and over until his breathing settled. The moon had risen high and it cast a brilliant column of absolving light over them.
"Catherine, there was more. The situation spiraled out of my hands when she wanted to go back to the falls, she wanted me to make love to her - I refused"
"You did the right thing, you stood your ground" Catherine opened her heart to him, broadening the bond with confidence.
"There were rumors that she pursued other young men and months later, I found her, in labor when she had never even looked pregnant. She told me she had read books where women went off in silence to give birth. She was going to take the baby Above to a convent" Within Catherine's arms the wretched conclusion to the tale flowed out, "It was the perfect storm of catastrophes. Without pre-natal care the child was small and born early. He was breech and the chord had wrapped around his neck. When I found her she was trying to revive him and I had to rush the two of them back to Father."
"You did what you always do, you did what you could" Catherine rocked him, the only thing she knew to do "And then?" Catherine's eyes softened, her heart pleading for him to continue.
"Father wrapped the child for burial, and Sybil behaved as it had never happened. Her conversations would end in compliments, delicate remarks with double entendres especially around the others. She'd attempt to strike up intimate tête-à-têtes" His eyes focused on the back of his furred hands again as he nodded as if to agree with his memories "Shortly after that she left with a Helper family and I never heard from her again - until the other day" An excruciating embroidery had been layered by years of Vincent reinforcing his inhumanity through years of tortured celibacy.
"Vincent, I had no idea you had lost a child when you were barely out of your teens, I'm so sorry"
"It was a powerful edict to all of us, that coitus outside of marriage held specific perils" Now Vincent's honeyed voice had run husky and dry, "it became my code, it reinforced by my differences" He painfully clenched and unclenched his hands before her.
They rocked in silence while Catherine's heart poured all her love to him thru their Bond. His soul was renewed by the sweetness of her emotions. By midnight they dozed, Vincent in Catherine's embrace. In that peace, they slumbered together until the purple sky streaked with yellow.
In the full glow of sunrise Catherine woke alone. As she stretched she reran the painful scenario over and over. Of course every society imposed parables as lessons, but he didn't even "do it" Catherine wanted to rave around her living room to release her gathering rant. How could he swallow the sin when he never committed it? None of this would matter if they hadn't met as Catherine realized he would have sequestered himself from the Tunnel women. Now Catherine understood the reason Vincent took every opportunity to push her into another man's arms.
Catherine wanted to box Father's ears; Vincent's social development had been stunted because of youthful recklessness that would have been handled differently Above. How many teen pregnancies had ever been twisted like this to drive a man to celibacy? Her morbid curiosity drove her to wonder if Vincent had reconciled the child's death, had he held his son. Did the babe look like him?
She dressed and headed to work, sure she would be tamping down her side of the Bond all day. After a couple of hours of reading one brief over and over she capped her pen and ran her hands thru her hair. Hell, she couldn't tempt him in their 30's and this girl seduced him? Without any fanfare the sandwich hawker pushed a trolley by her desk, "You look like a woman who needs a Ding Dong" he chirped as he tossed the prepackaged confection on the file she was reading.
Without looking up she chafed at the term "ding dong" and prepared to launch into a tirade about what she needed as a woman, then she had the gentle realization it was a Helper, "Oh, hey, look who's haunting my desk." When she rolled over the package she saw the folded note tucked between the napkin and the cellophane. Reflexively she pulled a dollar bill from her blazer pocket and pressed it into his hand, eyes earnestly meeting she smiled, "for your trouble, thanks"
"You'll want an apple juice in a while?" he nodded his head toward the note, evidently needing an answer.
"Let me go wash my hands, I'll be right back" This didn't sound good the Cathy as she secretly grabbed a pen and headed to the ladies' room.
"No prob, I'll make my rounds and be back in 15" and he slid off to make a few bucks.
Cathy found the last stall in the lavatory and tossed the unwrapped cake in the toilet, she couldn't imagine what this was about.
I hadn't seen you visit within the past few days. With Vincent and the crew out tomorrow I thought I would inquire as to how you are. I thought perhaps a note would be the best way to invite you down for a game of chess. I haven't been beaten in more than a week and by now you realize this is a thinly veiled invitation to have an overdue conversation.
Would you visit this evening? Around 6:30?
She turned the note card over and hurriedly scribbled:
I'd be happy to drub you at chess. Don't worry I'll be gentle. See you between 6:30 and 6:45
Then with ambling steps toward her desk she passed the hawker and dropped the note in his tip basket, sharing a wink he made steps out of the office a few bucks to the better.
-'- -'- -'- -'- -'- -'- -'-
"A thinly veiled invitation to have an overdue conversation" Those words pinballed through her mind the entire ride home. Whatever words he'd toss at her she had hoped to be confident to answer. Sometimes being in his presence she felt naughty and 13, caught for rolling her prep school uniform skirt too short. This could be a million things or it could be simply Vincent and nothing was simply "Vincent".
Swapping out her suit for jeans and sweater she locked her apartment clipping the single key inside a zipped pocket and slipped down. Her nerves were twitching like criminal's finger on a gun so she parsed her breaths out trying to recapture her run away heart. The pipe code she could understand, "Visitor for Father", no mention of her name and she tamped down her emotions to shield Vincent anticipating her visit. Funny, she hadn't thought of her emotions before she found she was being anonymously announced.
Instead of his usual seat at his desk, Father stood in the hall outside his chamber arch, one hand on the wall one hand waving her to enter. That hand landed on her shoulder as she walked with him. Why had she expected a meeker hand? The arm was firmly muscled, as so many men with weaker legs relied on their upper body strength – he caught her and stopped their steps.
"Did I frighten you with my note?" He stood just a bit shorter than her father, still bright eyed. Father's gruffness had to be in the determined lips couched by salt and pepper moustache and whiskers. For some strange reason the thought of Mary and him whisked thru her mind and she stifled a giggle.
"Just a bit" she choked out, examining his face so close to her. When he blinked she realized he was awash in a lifetime of antiseptic and Bay Rum, scents from Cathy's past, she bristled at being this close to him so she urged them toward that desk where the tea tray had been waiting.
"So, what's this…..overdue conversation?" she sunk into the chair, hands in her lap. It felt like an indiscretion to talk about Vincent to Father.
Father bluntly asked, "Catherine, I realize the tremendous pressure on your position, pulling you in all directions. Did you step out of your comfort zone when you assumed your current position?"
That smile she had worn to arrive here tonight was fading fast. This was why he asked her down? "Is my career tonight's conversation? She was ready to launch a tirade about a cold heart and a numb soul.
He anticipated it, clenching and unclenching of his jaw and with a dawning look he shook his head, "I've begin this conversation poorly, Catherine. Let me rephrase that"
Father adjusted his position in his chair; he had that strangled look of a man with his privates in a vice. "It's not too late for this old man to admit he's cold or unthinking when it comes to Vincent's life style. That's what they call it these days, a lifestyle?"
She shook her head and leaned forward, her fingertips on the blotter, straining to hear more, "Lifestyle?'
Father continued, "Your lifestyle with Vincent, your relationship, uhum, intimacy" that simple word silenced the words on Catherine's lips, they caught in her throat, and "I hope you can understand I am forcing myself with all my possible control to speak about my son with the most possible detachment."
"It must be difficult to be the physician to all of your family here" her voice was sure in that statement, she didn't know how much longer that her calm would prevail.
"Often times I have to stop and think perhaps I don't like who I've become, but I've made decisions based on the good of the majority" Father fought to keep his focus on her eyes even while he poured steaming tea into mismatched cups on vintage saucers. "Suddenly the community is faced with the return of a former resident and her return causes me to warn you"
The breath going thru her chilled, who could he warn her about? "Warn me?"
"Catherine, you've had three years with Vincent, he's evidently enchanted with you – the entire community notices the glow you cause him. They also recognize his glower when the two of you have . . . . ah, differences" the only sound was his spoon circling the tea cup excessively.
Catherine's posture tightened, "I know I want to take one thing at a time, but you have piqued my curiosity, who is returning and why a warning?" Her brows knit as she worried her lip; she picked up the cup to give her hands something to do.
"Sybil lived with us as a child, she left at about the age of 19 or so" He held the tea in his mouth, choosing his next words, "She's been gone a while and she hasn't said whether her return is a visit or to live with us"
Father's talk of Vincent's lifestyle, their relationship, this woman, ugly pieces of last night's conversation were falling into place to cause great disarray in her heart. She was breathless and shaken. "I need you to be more clear, what do I have to do with Sybil?" She had to hear it from Father's lips if Sybil expected to reclaim Vincent.
"I'm afraid at the time they were teenagers I handled it poorly. I launched into Vincent as though he were responsible; the entire entreaty was meant as a precaution against premarital relations." He drew in a deeper breath while Catherine tried to sort out Vincent and premarital relations.
"Sybil was enamored with Vincent and they were delightful together. He was the image of chivalry and she was saucy" Father's eyes brightened then darkened, seeking permission to continue. With Catherine's serious nod he went on, "When she pursued necking as they called it, Vincent became disturbed by his body's reaction. He was tall and strong and I'm sure the chivalry came about to sublimate the arousal he felt for her."
Catherine's spine fluttered at the mention of Vincent's arousals, they were profound and stirring to her even in conversation. She knew his shame at any loss of control, it was horribly self-imposed. "Please tell me your story ends well" Because she knew for a fact Vincent's side had not.
"It ended with some experimentation; she became pregnant and hid the fact until the child was born. Sadly the child died within an hour" His chin tucked, he could only look at Catherine from under his eyelashes over his glasses.
Catherine launched up, nearly crossing the table top, "whose child was it?"
"She claimed it was Vincent's and being the man that he was he did not call her on it. It was Vincent who found her in the lower tunnels near the falls, squatting in labor. He wanted to bring her home, have her cared for but the baby came very quickly and died in her arms."
"Well I have finally heard you describe him as "the man he was", what happened when they returned?" Certain old angers rose within her as she bit out the words.
"I could do nothing for the child, so cleaned and swaddled him. Saw to it that she held her son. She was given medical treatment and we sat down for a heart to heart talk about all of it" Father ran his tongue over his teeth and drank deeply from his tea cup, causing him to pour more for each of them.
"Who did the infant resemble?" She needed to know.
"The boy had light brown hair" Father registered that Catherine's breathing hitched.
"And Vincent was gallant about it?" Catherine prodded on, "Do you enjoy my pain?" Catherine nearly barked at him in hushed tones. Her emotions had been in a free-fall since Jacob Wells had opened his mouth. She expected Vincent to tear around the corner at any moment.
"No, Catherine I do not enjoy seeing you tortured" Father rose and stood behind her, with gentle hands that had healed so many he patted her softly, "It took many weeks of heart to hearts with Vincent before he admitted they hadn't had full intercourse. Sybil confessed Mitch had been a dalliance when Vincent wouldn't "go all the way"; Mitch was gone the week she delivered. It was a long time ago."
"I don't know what to say, Father," Catherine examined her hands as she balanced her emotions, "Vincent and I had a long conversation about this last night and you've confused me even more." Catherine's shoulders fell, her stomach rumbled and she reached for a biscuit on the tray, "Vincent described what she did when he climaxed and he perceived that she had effectively exposed herself to his fresh semen"
Father's expression tightened as she pressed, "Did you have an in depth discussion about her actions?" Catherine Chandler the prosecutor was emerging.
"I had believed that I had made it clear" Father's voice caught as he measured his words.
"Father, to this day Vincent believes that baby was his!" Now even her anger surprised Catherine as she tamped down her emotions for Vincent's sake.
"NO!" Father rebutted abruptly then began to mumble, "We held a meeting with the teenagers I talked about abstinence and sexually transmitted diseases-" his voice trailed off.
"Vincent told me he brought them home, that it was too late for the baby" Catherine leaned across the desk, spying right and left for witnesses. Father's chamber was unusually quiet today.
"Yes, the boy was seriously pre-term and Sybil rejected holding him after I had cleaned and swaddled him. I encouraged her to name the child for burial and she refused" Now Father's eyes reflected the pain of that day.
"Did Vincent see the baby, really see the child?" She dared ask all the questions she had held last night.
"The child was swaddled" Father felt the weight of her cross examination.
"Did Sybil identify the father?" Her clipped pronunciation confirmed her need for the answer.
"Not that day. That evening they were decidedly speechless, I'm afraid I had bombarded them with a puritanical lecture. Vincent took it within himself and became solitary. I saw the need for Sybil to have psychological help and we had a family step up to take her in as a ward" Father managed a few deep breaths and prepared another pot of tea. Catherine bet he would have reached for a bottle of brandy if she hadn't been there.
"So he was used as an example for the others, you crucified Vincent for a values lesson" Now she had to rise and pace the trail Vincent had worn on the carpet, "To this day he restrains himself over something he had no real part in" She came to stand right over Father, somewhat of a daunting posture and seethed, "Who was the father?"
"The child's lips and ear lobes were quite like Mitch's, although he had been gone a few months by that time" Father's dry tense words were a slap.
"Vincent told me his perspective of this incident, he felt the child was his and he declared the whole sordid event as the basis for his celibacy today. Father, do I have to tell you how damaging this has been to him?" Catherine halted her words to see if she was getting through, "Didn't you see the longing in his eyes when his friends partnered and started families? Don't you understand how this drove his differences to insurmountable heights?"
Stunned, Father's rebuttal rang hollow. "I never intended - - -"
"You simply let too much water run under that bridge, Mouse wouldn't happen to have a time machine hidden down here would he?" Her sarcasm was lost on the Tunnel patriarch.
"I don't appreciate your sense of humor" Now Father was up on his feet, leaning into her face.
"You call me down here to have an overdue conversation; you bring up Vincent and my intimacies when in that meddling heart of yours you knew he'd never get into bed with me." She prodded herself to keep breathing, to stay calm. Even with Vincent miles away he'd be curious about her flagrant loss of temper. She crossed her fingers that he would think it was traffic or Joe with more overtime, "The man is a monk. We've had lofty conversations about our dream, we've argued vehemently about the direction of "our" relationship and lastly, Vincent has pushed me to find a man who can give me the world" Catherine's face glowed red and she had to stop speaking to catch her breath.
"And yet the world you want is the world only he can give you" Father's posture softened, his elbows on the arms of his threadbare chair, his chin balanced on his steepled fingers.
"Everyone accepts that but Vincent" She returned to the chair to fight back fat tears, Catherine brushed her hair off her florid face and held her composure, "With Mitch gone, do you think she's coming back for Vincent?"
"That I don't know. I did want to prepare you for any manner of disquiet from Vincent as this unfolds. I can't fathom how their friendship will be on her return. Knowing your love for my son, I had hoped to prepare you"
"Prepare me to defend my position as his best friend? You've got to be pulling my leg" All Catherine could do was wrap her arms and bawl, so she shook her head and let the tears roll off her eyelashes onto her cheeks.
"I was aware that he invited you to Sunday's dinner. I've had the guest chamber closest to his prepared for you and made the guest chamber next to Mary available for Sybil. I'm asking you to come down Saturday afternoon if you don't want to throttle me now" Even angry at him Catherine had to credit Father for his organizing, perhaps that was part of it.
"What - are - you - telling - Vincent?" Her sobs broke up her words as she accepted a worn handkerchief from Father's hand.
"You enjoy being here, we enjoy your company, what other reason do I need?" Father nodded sympathetically, "I wanted to spend some time with Vincent before this dervish of a woman arrives, if there's some way for me to revise my council to him, perhaps all of us can move forward"
She didn't know what to "imagine" as she walked back toward Above.
-'- -'- -'- -'- -'- -'- -'-
Friday night Catherine's balcony was dark. She prowled her apartment fussing over junk mail and the contents of her refrigerator. She was restless and she knew it. She played soothing music in the hopes that her calmer "vibrations" would flow toward the man she loved.
Right before she calmed the light in the living room she felt Vincent arrive, yes, she felt it in her heart as she had never felt it before.
"Catherine?" his husky whisper followed his tapping on the window pane.
"Vincent, I'm so glad to see you" she held out her arms, hoping he would make the steps into her arms. His frame filled the doorway, his face in shadow for just a beat before he took a step into her arms. When his arms enfolded her to his chest she exhaled a sigh as if to make herself fit closer into his embrace. Usually Vincent's welcoming hugs lasted only a platonic instant as he stepped back from his release. Tonight he held her close, breathing along with her rhythm as his hands skated over her to cup her shoulder and tuck her head under his chin.
"I regret not saying good-bye the other night. You were sleeping so peacefully when I left" Now his clawed fingers moved carefully through her hair to tenderly hold her face as it captured the moonlight, "When I left I felt we had a pivotal dialogue, I can't tell you how much better I slept" His eyes had a sweet softness to them as she stood mesmerized. Their Bond shimmered with trust and relief.
"I recognize we had serious matters to discuss, was it some comfort talking about it?" Catherine's palms rested flat on the suede of his vest, feeling the rise and fall of his torso she swallowed her desire for him, holding back the emotions before he caught them.
When Vincent lowered his head his hair fell out to curtain their joined faces "It was more comfort knowing that I have your love, that you're here when I need solid council and comfort" Now his hands slipped to her shoulders as he admired her emerging smile. When he had arrived he felt her wavering of her restless emotions.
"What are friends for, Vincent?" A silent knife pierced her heart at what she knew she had to say to keep him within her arms. The Vincent she was acquainted with wouldn't invite romantic overtures.
"I apologize for keeping you up so long the other night, yet I felt I needed to come back tonight" His words carried a lighter heart than their last tête-à-tête, "The first time I saw your face I cried that anyone would hurt you. Since that time I have felt your soul and heart pulse right alongside mine yet I have denied you so much of my spirit"
These words riveted Catherine, and she hung on for more. Could she walk them to the sofa? Should she stand stock still and let him get these words out? The air around them tingled.
Vincent spoke with soft authority, "Would you have a few moments?" Just the tilt of his head would have convinced her to stay up all night.
She fairly bounced, then caught herself, "Would you prefer to sit down? I could light a fire and we could sit on the rug". The Bond had conveyed her joy as he released her from his arms to follow her. Within a few moments the gas logs were glowing warmly and they were silently debating who would speak first.
Their relationship, if you could call it that, had been vexed by aspects from each of their "worlds". Catherine's heart trembled at the words that could follow such an embrace. Vincent felt the peace that passed over her and his stiff back softened. Vincent drew a knee up and rested his arm there, looking younger than his thirty some years.
When she had settled close but not too close she gave him her silent attention. "Tell me, Vincent, what's on your mind?"
"It's more within my heart, Catherine" Vincent reached out for her hand and she felt light headed at the gesture, "When you've expressed your affection for me or we've defined what we are to each other I've hidden from you" His posture relaxed as he grew used to the flickering fire light, "It was a restraint I had self-imposed because of misinterpretations. It could even be described as my misconception of facts" she watched his breathing rise and fall considerably at that confession.
"Sybil's visit tore open a wound that had long festered over, a wound that had stunted my emotional growth" His furred hand held hers gently as he explored whether to look her directly in the eyes or at her delicate skin and gracefully shaped nails. Catherine's other hand captured his in both of hers and she gave him a reassuring shake.
"Your questions shed a light on what I had buried" Vincent drew her hands into his and matter of factly placed a light kiss on her right palm and then gently held that hand in his. Catherine didn't want to appear to strain to get closer, yet she was buzzing inside to know where he was headed. Years without a kiss and tonight her had held her closely AND kissed her palm. This was warming up, finally!
"I sat down with Father and I voiced my concern over Sybil's return. I was afraid I would earn a rehash of his old lecture. His approach had altered astonishingly and he assured me that I hadn't fathered Sybil's child. Father was honest with me that she had admitted sexual activity with Mitch and that he suspected the child was his" There was a silence of sorts, as if suitably releasing decades of guilt, "Of course we had some harsh words because we hadn't cleared the air in years."
"Your heart must feel far lighter to come out from under such a weight" She could feel his emergent joy rising between them.
"True, Catherine. I was obviously sheltered by my nature and my decisions surrounding that incident did nothing to enhance the quality of my life" His pensive examination of his hands continued, as he ran a clawed finger against the grain of his fur then his face brightened and let his hands rest, "Until I made your acquaintance it didn't matter. The dark and endless nights of my life were illuminated with your smile and the light in your eyes, Catherine"
Vincent caused her to blush at his words, eloquence wasn't one of Tom Gunther's strong suites, "Oh, Vincent", she trembled at his admission.
"You showered me with love" Vincent proclaimed the words with an uncommonly broad smile, head thrown back, shaking his mane of golden auburn locks, "You can only imagine the control I needed to exercise merely walking beside you" Catherine blushed at his words and fought the impulse to launch into his lap., "You see, Catherine, to let my affection remain unspoken has caused me to walk a torturous road with a heavy heart"
"Oh, Vincent, these words, especially tonight are the sweetest words I could hear" Catherine eyed his newly relaxed body language and secretly pinched herself to see if she were dreaming.
"If you can bear with me, as I come out of my shell I want to live our dream, Catherine" His voice was near murmur, that husky rumble of a whisper that curled her toes.
Catherine knew what she wanted to share, "Oh, love, we've got to be willing to shed the life we knew, so we can begin the life that's waiting for us" her head nodded as she held out her arms.
Vincent hesitated as he weighed his surroundings, "My old mentality must be shed before the new one can form; may I count on you to help me shape this new attitude?" His eyes reflected a certain newfound gusto at the adventure before them as he caught Catherine into his arms and enjoyed the sensation of her hands around his neck.
"Where you do suppose we shed this old mentality? Catherine whispered through the mass of wavy hair into his ear, she could get used to being in his lap. They settled for just that amount of time feel each other's warmth and enjoy each other's cachet.
Their faces were nose to nose when Vincent asked, "Will you come below with me?" Before he could finish she was nodding and rising out of his arms, "Father mentioned he invited you down for Saturday evening. Would you consider bringing your things with you tonight?" Was he blushing? Catherine almost could not release her hand from his. Would he follow her to grab her bag? She resisted leaving his side until her rose to follow her.
Rapidly folding another outfit into her duffle bag she felt Vincent's loving eyes as she moved between her bedroom and bathroom. Her mind blurred as she approached him, bag in hand. Vincent pressed a kiss to her forehead, "I'll meet you Below in 10 minutes".
Catherine's feet barely touched the ground until Vincent's strong hands caught her waist as she climbed down the rebar staples. Within the blue-white light she felt his side of the Bond burst open as his hands caught her off the bottom rung. "What's on your mind?" Catherine giggled girlishly as she turned to face Vincent. Did he smile and shake his head at her as he caught up her duffle bag? Yes he did.
"I want you to get settled in your chamber then we'll walk awhile" Vincent's step was a bit lighter and he actually held her hand as they walked toward the cozy chamber near his.
Catherine saw something new in the room, as she had spent a few nights pining for Vincent memorizing every aspect of the stone walls. Beside the full bed on the side table was a small wooden box, delicately carved with Celtic designs. Vincent stood in the doorway as she sat down and put the duffle beside her. After he nodded she curiously picked up the olivewood box. Slowly lifting the lid there was a small roll of parchment that she unrolled and tipped toward the gentle lamp light.
"When this you see, think of me" Vincent's graceful penmanship continued,
"Catherine, my love,
If ever there were two people destined to be together we are those people. If ever there have been two different people in a relationship they would be us. You have found my soul and I am yours forever.
Then with a silent step toward her Vincent dropped to one knee and held out a well-worn Gold Claddagh ring. The glint of the old gold sparkled in the lamplight against his golden fur for that split second when neither of them moved. Catherine's hands flew to her face to muffle a squeal and Vincent modestly tucked his chin for a second to regain his composure.
"I understand that young men often give a promise ring at this point in a relationship. While we walk toward our happy life together I would hope you would wear this while you hold me in your heart" Their eyes fused in a warm gaze and Catherine held out her right hand for Vincent to slide the ring onto her finger with the point of the heart towards her wrist.
Once Catherine held her hand to see the eloquent design Vincent stood and extended his hand for their walk. Yes, she was aware she had "broadcast" her wish to pull him into the bed to celebrate their baby steps so he did return the thought with a bit a quirky grin as he led her into the hall. "Are you proud of me that I didn't run at the thought of us that bed?" his tone was honestly optimistic as he pulled her closer to his hip, wrapping her hand over his forearm where he laid his other hand over hers. This was a new closeness for them, each of them unsure of how fast they would drift to finally collide in love's full embrace.
As they stared at the constellations in the Mirror Pool they rested in each other's arms their lips silent yet the Bond glistened with realizations unspoken. Realizations that he had seduced her mind and she would wait for him to take her body, that once in a while in the middle of mundane lives, Love had given them a fairy tale. When Vincent had shaken her awake with a bit of a snore Catherine nuzzled him awake with a kiss on the back of his hand. She smiled at the sight of his ring on her hand as they picked themselves up and drowsily made steps toward their beds.
Vincent held her in the doorway, "Your patience on this long walk together is all the hope I need, Catherine. Thank you for accepting my love"
"Oh, how can I not accept your love when I have so much of that to give to you?" Her eyes worshiped Vincent.
"No one expects you here until tomorrow -"
"You mean later this morning?" Catherine groggily replied trying to stand free of his powerfully large frame.
"So, sleep as long as you'd like. Good night, my love" Then Vincent placed his very nervous lips on hers for a slow, soft kiss goodnight.
"Mmmmmnn, that was delicious, Goodnight, my love" Catherine squeezed his shoulders affectionately and then left Vincent and dug underneath the covers to fall into an enchanted sleep.
-'- -'- -'- -'- -'- -'- -'-
The morning came too soon. Out of the blue a three year old child barreled over Catherine's body, "Poppy said to wake you up" Once the child had succeeded he sat back on his heels to pat at her sluggish form.
"Poppy? Wake up?" Catherine rubbed the dust from her eyes and shook her head; she was in a tunnel style gown in Vincent's bed. His "side" was cool, but the indent of his head and a stray hair or two was all the evidence she needed that he had been there. But…..who was "Poppy"?
"Catherine, I see Charlie's done his job, will you be joining us at breakfast or did may we serve you Mother's Day in bed?" It was Vincent's voice and it was his face but the situation was way out of her reality. He didn't even blink when she sat up and shook her head for clarity. Catherine's eyes wide open revealed Vincent dressing in worn black jeans and an insulated Henley shirt, his vest still over the end of the bed footboard. Catherine lavished long looks at her love, his chest magnificently covered with the waffle knit shirt, the sleeves rolled back to reveal his muscled forearms. She caught the sight of a matching gold Claddagh on his left hand as he stuffed his shirttail into his opened trousers. She enjoyed the view as he buttoned the jeans and drew up the zipper a bit too quickly for her purposes.
"I'll be happy to join everyone, let me throw on my clothes" Her voice was convincing him that all was well as she tossed aside the bedcovers and padded to the wardrobe. It wasn't where she remembered it and her change in direction earned her an odd look from Vincent and Charlie. Turning around she saw another cove where extra wardrobe had been placed next to Vincent's. Her head buried into the clothing she muttered, "Freaky Friday, insane Saturday, what's going on?" She regarded her hands and saw the gold Claddagh ring was on her left hand, the crown closer to her fingernails, she was MARRIED to Vincent and most excitingly – she was Charlie's Mom!
When she joined Vincent and Charlie in a differently configured parlor they were whispering – perhaps sharing a secret about her morning? As she fell into step with the man she loved and the child she wanted to know her heart soared.
The dining hall had been decorated with children's drawings celebrating all the things their elementary school minds thought about Mothers. Nosegays of ribbon roses sat next to the plates of the Tunnel Mothers.
"Ah, now that all our mothers are here, let's begin to thank them for all their love and work" Father stood and raised his glass of orange juice as the men and children joined in.
Catherine's eager eyes searched the room for familiar faces. There was Livy and Kanin with their brood, Mary blushing adorably next to Father and Rebecca with a man Catherine didn't recognize. How could Catherine gauge what year it was? How long would it be before Vincent would pop the question?
"Mummy, muffin?" Charlie's chubby hand held out a cranberry muffin in a cotton napkin, "I picked thith one for you!"
Then as she grasped the muffin from the tiny hand her world spun to change. She was in the guest chamber and Vincent's smiling face hung right over the plate with three very inviting muffins waiting for her choice.
"Oh, wow….how did you sleep last night, Vincent?" Catherine chose the cranberry muffin and began peeling the paper wrapper to hear about Vincent's night.
"It was peaceful, I had a serious of serene dreams" Vincent pulled a bench over to sit by the bed and choose a muffin.
"Serene, huh?" her lips pursed curiously between bites, "I had the wildest dream!"
"Did you eat something disturbing before I visited?" Vincent's genuine concern was so sweet to her.
"Nope, I guess it was our news" Catherine wiggled her right hand at Vincent and they both blushed.
"Should I ask about those dreams?" Vincent hadn't intercepted anything bizarre from his love and his curiosity rose.
Then Catherine blushed, "No, it's not what you think! I mean it wasn't rated X" With that confession Vincent reared back in laughter, his life was getting more and more "normal". He was beginning to understand the background chatter of the men on the work crews when they had bantered about their wives.
Catherine earnestly asked "You want to know the truth?" and he nodded slowly, "I woke up in your bed and our child, Charlie was the one doing the honors. It was Mother's Day and we had breakfast in the dining hall"
"Charlie, I see. Interesting" Vincent tilted his head in thought and proceeded to finish his cranberry muffin, "is that a boy or a girl?" The fact he was taking it so calmly was almost as curious as the dream itself Catherine bemused.
"Little boy, cute little guy with hair like yours" Catherine gestured the loose curls and style with her hands as he listened intently, "I know you want to know who he looked like" Now Vincent's expression stilled, "He was the best of both of us, your blue eyes and hair and my jaw and complexion" This left Vincent nodding until Catherine added, "He was pushy like me though, we'll have to do something about that"
Their humorous understanding left them finishing their tea and muffins in relative silence.
-'- -'- -'- -'- -'- -'- -'-
The raucousness of preparing for a visitor Below was only exceeded by the tension that visitor instilled in a few of the residents. Father had decided that Cullen would escort Sybil from the threshold at Henry and Lin's restaurant when she arrived around 5 in the afternoon. Catherine checked her watch as Vincent paced a circle in Father's chamber, it was 4:45 and Vincent's tension was spiraling upward.
"We can go above, Vincent, you don't have to endure this" Catherine approached Vincent gently, speaking before she realized her words she watched for Father's response.
"We could do this without you Vincent, yet you've come this far in facing the past wouldn't you feel cheated that you didn't face Sybil?" Father's words weren't mean, simply the truth. Vincent held Catherine to his heart and they stood listening for a pipe announcement that never came.
By the time the 9:00pm signal pinged it was evident their visitor hadn't made it to the restaurant threshold. Father's chin stubbornly set every 30 minutes when their guest hadn't arrived. "I could go above and see if she left a message, I have Peter's house keys" Catherine volunteered, meekly eyeing each of the men.
"I'll walk with Catherine to the threshold, Father" Vincent caught his father in a sincere hug and then slipped into his cloak. Extending his hand to her the two of them wound their way to Peter Alcott's basement door. It was an anxiously silent trip.
Impatiently pushing to the foyer of Peter's brownstone Catherine dreaded the envelope on the top of the mountain of mail that had been pushed through the mail slot. It bore no postage and no return address. In fact she could have sworn it was still warm from being carried within her jacket. Vincent stood, head down expectant for the letter's contents.
"Do we read it here or take it back to Father?" Catherine asked solemnly.
"Who is it addressed to?" Vincent held out his hand to see it for himself. Accepting the vellum envelope he shook his head at the word "Father" printed in black ink.
After Catherine locked up the basement door she turned to Vincent and rose on her toes to kiss his cheek, "No matter what she says, you know you are a better man today for how far you've come from facing this"
Resignedly Vincent's head fell back as if he'd emit a silent scream, then with a blink and a nod her held her gently and kissed the top of her hair, "And you have been with me the entire way, my Catherine".
Placing the envelope on Father's outstretched hand Vincent stepped back, hooking his thumbs into his belt.
"You'll wait no doubt, won't you?" Father stated as if there was no options to his asking them to leave. With a nod of Vincent's head Father slid open the missive and sat down to read.
I regret I am unable to come Below. I need to be honest; it has nothing to do with my traveling with a group of people or the busy schedule we're keeping. It's simply that I cannot face you.
In the nights since I wrote my initial letter I have relived how I disrespected Vincent. I exercised that disrespect myself for years, until I sought more spiritual and emotional help. I had wanted to apologize face to face to you and to Vincent, yet all the therapy in the world can't push me down into the Tunnels to face the two of you.
I pray that Vincent's life is rich and full of the best things Below, perhaps he's made a life with a good woman. I hope so. I apologize for leaving you hanging when you expected me. Please don't think ill of me.
Vincent had the benefit of Catherine at his side; poor Father simply had his worn chair to hold him as he held the letter to the flame in the brazier. The three shared a moment of stony peace before Vincent and Catherine surrounded Father to form a voiceless circle.
With a cough Father cleared his throat to ask, "Vincent, will you get a message to Cullen that Ms. Harvey won't be joining us this weekend?" with a resolute pat on Father's shoulder Vincent nodded and made silent steps down the hall.
When Vincent's footfalls faded Father smiled weakly and offered Catherine a chair, "Dear, do I see a difference posture in Vincent's stance?"
"We've had the benefit of long discussions and come to some very important decisions" She extended her right hand to Father and he caught it gently to enjoy the sight of his Mother's Claddagh on her hand.
"From its location I see the two of you are going forward with love and care. You can be assured I will support the two of you in this", Father released her hand and rose to welcome her with a warm embrace, "As painful as this has been for Vincent may I presume weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning? (2)"
"Well we've agreed to move toward our happy life, I can't promise there won't be a few more weepy nights but we are both very hopeful" Now Catherine was the chipper young woman in love she wanted to be. The tension from Sybil's visit had dispersed form her heart and she simply wanted her life with Vincent to begin.
Within the half hour Vincent returned to find the two of them pouring over a sketch book with pencil sketches of Vincent through the years. "I leave for an errand and I return to find you boring Catherine with Elizabeth's sketches of me!"
"I was sharing some of your milestones we've recorded, considering the occasion I thought it was fitting for Catherine to see you weren't always the strapping young man you are" Father's mood had lightened considerably, "I was only entertaining Catherine until you returned. Now the night is still young for the two of you, why don't you steal away with the desserts we were going to serve and leave me to my new medical journal?"
They grinned at Father's suggestion and didn't need to be shooed away twice. As the young couple moved toward the chamber doorway Father held up his hand with a final thought. "Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live".
While Vincent and Catherine sat on opposite sides of the butcher block in the quiet kitchen divvying up brownies and lemon bars they thought about debating what Father meant, yet they simply opened up their Bond and shared the emotions evoked by the song quietly playing from cassette tape on William's work bench:
The first time ever I kissed your mouth I felt the earth move in my hands
Like the trembling heart of a captive bird That was then at my command, my love
The first time ever I lay with you I felt your heart so close to mine
And I knew our joy would fill the earth and last til the end of time, my love
The first time ever I saw your face, your face, your face, your face (3)
As the tape hissed to a stop Catherine gently queried, "Vincent, what's that wry smile for?"
"My appreciation and anticipation of first times"
Romeo And Juliet Act 2, scene 2, 2–6, Wm Shakespeare
Psalm 30:5, King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
First Time Ever I saw Your Face, 1957 Ewan MacColl