Chagrin in the Hills / Part Two / Haphazard

This is the continuation of the WFOL 2013 / Chagrin in the HillsA SND story

This story was originally published in the Conzine for the Cleveland Convention

Beauty and the Beast Convention 2013 - I Bid My Heart to Follow

Fiona has awoken to know she is Catherine Chandler. Devin Wells has a new incarnation. Vincent takes life by the wheels.

The board room had the odor of burnt coffee and hard cassata cake mixing with early morning fresh cologne and after shaves of the anxious staff waiting for the head honcho to step to the podium. Suddenly 'Fiona' remembered how many people she worked with compared with "Catherine Chandler", thinking of the faces she missed Don's first words, her mind wandering in on his speech as he said, "Friday evening we'll be sponsoring the party on the lake for HAPHAZARD …."

The kid from accounting hid his face in his hands, sighing sourly, "Potato-Crusted Walleye until we all feel like we're swimming in oil."

Don rambled on, "It's the biggest fish fry Cleveland has seen in a long time! And what goes better with fried fish than a frosty mug of" the manager waited for the room to reply, "Burning River Ale" At that point even 'Fiona' grimaced, surely they wouldn't need legal counsel there, would they?"

"We're hosting the band, they'll arrive officially Wednesday – Fiona, see me after the meeting!" Don would refer to his clipboard and make enthusiastic remarks for a few more minutes. The less traveled employees reveled at the chance for a party on the company dime. "Fiona" shivered at the thought of business entertaining, something about business 'after hours' sent an icy trill down her spine. Then the slam of a file cabinet behind her caused her to lurch, the metallic grind prompted her to blanch, why?

Don wrapped up the meeting by passing out committee charts and nodded toward his office; she followed and found her usual place in the leather chair across from his desk, "OK, Don, what's up for me in this shindig?"

"Fiona, the family likes your polish; you're a class act whenever you're out in front so I'd like you to be our face." Don had taken his usual place on the corner of his desk, his arms folded over his beer-belly. He nodded at her as if this was the greatest compliment he could give her, "That means you're going to be the face of our company this weekend. Heck, you must remember this band, aren't they your era?" He hinted around her age with a cautious grin.

Her belly tightened as she vacillated between leaving for NYC 'doing her job', what if she got back to NY and couldn't find her way around? Her head spun at how to find her way to this mysterious 'Vincent'.

As the motor-home rolled into the first gas station in the suburbs, instinctively Vincent headed back into the closet, Devin quipped, "Can I get you a bottle of ice tea? A bag of cornuts?" Vincent leered at Devin before he slid the closet door closed. Devin thought about his 'stunt' as he joined the band inside the mini-mart. If only Chandler were alive, all he'd have to do was dial her up and she'd drop everything to retrieve Vincent on the road. Devin casually joined his band mates outside the motor-home as Chili slugged Devin playfully, "Ready for the next million miles?"

Devin looked askance, "It's 465 miles to Cleveland."

The band fell into step as the other members spoke up, "Yeah, but the next couple of years we'll be circling the states, heading east to Budokan and all the way on to Royal Albert Hall."

The lanky drummer piped in, "The sky's the limit!" Somehow for Devin he felt the sky lowering over him, was this what he wanted, following four other people's dreams?

Feeling betrayed by her sense of 'duty' Fiona/Catherine returned to her office and unlike any other day she turned her swivel chair to gaze at nothing in particular in the distance until a soft tap at the door broke her concentration. Jumping at even the gentlest sound she turned to see Monica, her contact in the Federal program that hid her in Ohio. "Fiona, did you have a minute?"

Mutely, she nodded and Monica closed the office door behind her and took a seat across the desk, "I've been . . . . thinking about your choices on the horizon. What are you intending to do?"

"Do I have that jump and run 'look'?" Fiona/Catherine melted back into her chair, hands wringing in her lap.

"Not to your co-workers, but I recognize the 'get me out of here' fever"

"Then you understand."

"Not being in your situation, I can't say that I do. How many people would travel across the nation to land a peach of a job at a family owned brewery? You have an elegant home, isn't it time to put down roots? Haven't you met someone special to make all this worthwhile?"

"My issue is that I'm just beginning to remember the man who made everything worthwhile in New York. I want to go back-"

"After years away?"

"Especially after years away, I believe he's waiting for me. If only I could remember his face." Fiona/Catherine's head fell back on her chair, despairingly.

"Do you remember where he lives? Just call him, drive by his home."

Fiona/Catherine's heart shuddered, would the ways be changed? Was the threshold below her condo bricked up? "If only it were that easy." Her voice drifted off before she rallied, "I was ready to walk in and give my notice to head back to New York, then I walked into the meeting this morning and suddenly I'm the face of the brewery."

"What's five more days?" Monica rose unceremoniously and clasped the low back of the chair, "I came here this morning to see where your head was, I didn't expect such a turn around."


"You'd leave the safety of your anonymity here?"

"I feel I have to follow my heart back home." Fiona/Catherine grasped for something at her throat, as if she were missing a necklace.

As Monica straightened up to leave she paused, her hand on the door knob, "That's what delivered you into our hands, you followed your heart down to your destruction." And Monica was gone, leaving the door exactly ajar as she had found it.

Whispering to no one in particular Fiona/Catherine said, "But what we have is everything. Everything."

Mary watched Jacob Wells putter around their bedchamber while she sat unbraiding her hair, brushing the steel grey plaits into shining waves, "Have you seen Vincent this evening? He missed a wonderful pot roast dinner."

Jacob snuffed out the candles on the far side and carried to small cups of chamomile tea to sit beside her. "He took flight, just as Devin as said he would. No doubt he'll return within the week. He deserves the solemnity."

"Indeed he does," she nodded as she placed the silver hair brush on her nightstand and accepted her teacup. Catherine had given her the brush as a birthday gift and she cherished the rich feel of the natural bristles. "I wonder how things will go in Cleveland for Devin."

Jacob's eyes twinkled in a bit of pride, "You mean Dervish? What character he is." He shook his head as he thought about removing his glasses, one hand on a small book, "Will you be staying up my dear?"

Mary smiled over her teacup, "I was hoping to turn in. . . . early."

Then Jacob recognized her floral kimono covered satin and not her usual homespun gown, "Well, then, uhum. I believe I'm going to turn in also." Jacob followed his wife toward their quilt covered bed and as he sat to remove his slippers he asked, "Mary. . . . . tell me about your tie-dye days, won't you?"

Mary blushed as she slid out of her robe, yet her reply meant to diffuse his question, "You want to talk about coloring textiles?"

Jacob slid between the wear-softened sheets and propped his head up on his forearm, "Not quite…"

The motor-home rambled down the road without great speed; Devin had left the bedroom to join his band mates, to catch up on lost time. They chatted families, travels and travails. Each time one of the band saw an interesting sign the driver pulled over for the foreign members to explore the small town restaurants. They returned to the vehicle with bags of pretzels, moon pies and anything sold locally. The only room not covered with regional treats was the bedroom where Vincent stretched out on the floor absorbing the rhythmic vibrations of the motor as it labored over the hills.

Placing her desires aside and responding to the company's need for her, Fiona/Catherine plotted her festival timeline. Would she take leave this time next week or would she take a leave of absence in case her life in NY had evaporated with her memories? Within the week she recognized the symbolic aspects of her Ohio home, what the rock wall meant and how she had gathered with others over simple bountiful meals.

Each night she heard 'his' voice reading to her, his face elusive to her. She lit candles at night, seeking revelations; she pawed the copy of GREAT EXPECTATIONS. She smiled at Joe the kind and generous blacksmith and realized she had regained Joe Maxwell's friendship. She pondered her earthly wealth versus the community who had accepted and how people above might perceive them as living in poverty.

If 'he' did indeed love her as deeply as she had loved him why hadn't they been together? The book reinforced her faith in the eventual triumph of good over evil.

At an hour that usually found Vincent strolling through Central Park the motor-home rolled into the Brewery parking lot.

As the band caught up their duffels, Mick, the lead guitarist saw Devin dawdling, "Are you coming, Devin?"

"Where's the hotel?" Devin asked, seeking time alone with his brother.

"The Holiday Inn in Independence." Mick thoughtfully put the address on a slip of paper and pressed it into Devin's hand, "You aren't getting cold feet. Are you bro?"

"You know me, the lone wolf. I'll be by, you all go on." Devin regarded the address and nodded Mick out the door.

Once he was alone he made his way back to the bedroom. The parking lot lights set an odd noir flavor to the interior, Devin gathered up food from the fridge and went to the door, "Vincent, we're alone."

Finding the light quite sufficient Vincent tilted the blinds closed, throwing Devin into darkness, "Hey, give me a chance to not trip!" and Devin felt Vincent's hand on his forearm as he guided him back to sit on the bed. Accepting the sandwich, fruit and brownies Vincent waited for Devin's plan.

"Ok, the motor-home will be here all week, locked up. They'll be by in the morning to hang banners advertising the concert. They've hooked up the water and power so we can flop between our interviews, etc." Devin regarded Vincent's careful eating. He had taken his little brother far away from NY and far outside his comfort zone, "I have the keys, so I'll be back first, but you'll hear us first I'm sure. I'm sorry about this Vincent."

Devin's hand found Vincent's shoulder to be clasped by Vincent's own furred hand, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions, Devin. Who will you call at dawn?"

"I'll look up Mr. Li, admit what I did. See what we can cook up to get you home." This was a far further adventure than a defective raft in the underground rivers.

Vincent's voice registered his myriad emotions, "Till then, Devin, you know where to find me." They embraced for silent moments and then Vincent was alone within the motor-home in a Cleveland parking lot. Strangely, for his odd location Vincent felt a peace pass over him. He felt a wave of acceptance of fate tinged with hope. He fell asleep thinking of a serene and hopeful Catherine.

"I have a confession to get to Father." Devin's voice broke as Mr. Li took the early morning phone call.

"You of all people? Of course your father will understand your need to confess!" Mr. tried to soften the blow, realizing he would be the one to deliver the message.

Devin fessed up, "Not really, Mr. Li - - - I have Vincent with me in Cleveland."

Mr. Li sat down sudden enough to bring his daughter to his side; she took the phone from her father and asked, "What?"

Rolling over to the sound of her alarm clock belting out, "This is 98.5 'NCX and we're talking about the groundbreaking for the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame" she dialed down the sound and compared her agenda to the advertisement. Fiona/Catherine eschewed her usual power suit for a more casual trouser ensemble as she moved around her bedroom. As she drank her morning coffee and nibbled on a muffin she leafed through the promotional 8x10 black and white glossies of the band. She found the extremely silhouetted 'Dervish' with his violin especially humorous, as it hyped his reclusive nature. She wondered if his personality was as guarded as his appearance. It was Thursday, the calm before the storm.

Joe Maxwell checked into the Holiday Inn as he played with Fiona/Catherine's business card. All week he had promised himself he'd keep his distance; he wouldn't intrude on her home he only wanted to see her operating within her new persona. He had promised himself he wasn't even going to call her home phone number although she had written that with her Moreland Hills address on the back. He'd lay low, enjoying the festivities.

Confined within the motor-home Vincent found himself fascinated by the gadgets and 'gizmos' as Mouse might call them. Working his way forward through the cabin he found cabinets and drawers had latches he surmised would keep them from flying open on a turn. Cushions and table tops lifted to make sleep areas. The call of the driver's area was too strong to ignore. Never having the opportunity to 'drive' he had sublimated those teen urges while the other Tunnel teens debated a life above. The cockpit area was totally foreign to him as he approached the two bucket seats; primarily he sat in the passenger seat imagining a ride with Catherine to her Connecticut cabin.

The window screens had been pulled down; darkening the interior yet Vincent's fertile imagination sent him through wooded roads canopied by pine trees, Catherine chauffeuring them to a winsome weekend. Instead of the terrible pain he usually felt when his mind drifted back to Catherine as he felt transported over those roads, feeling the engine's hum as well as the scent of the verdant woods. The noise of a freight train in the distance snapped Vincent back to reality, Catherine was gone and he was captive in a motor-home in Cleveland.

Father fumed as Mr. Li left his chamber after delivering the news, "I don't know who the bigger fool is! Vincent for going with him, Devin for taking him or me for trusting Devin."

Mary made attempts to sooth Jacob's heart, taking him in her arms she spoke softly, holding his hands in hers, "Jacob, you have to trust Vincent's instincts will keep him safe, that and Devin understands the importance."

Jacob buried his tendency to snap back, with Mary's tenderness he was able to console himself, "Devin said they'd be returning Monday morning, one can only hope they can keep Vincent under wraps until then."

Mary wondered aloud, "Jamie is watering Peter's plants; perhaps we could go above and watch the news, if anything happened it would be the best way to know." Jacob considered her comment as he fumed, "Jacob, dear, troubles are a lot like people - they grow bigger if you nurse them." And with that comment he surrendered to silence within her embrace thinking about the quarrel they'd have on Devin and Vincent's return.

Behind the curtain the band members warmed up their instruments, each of them in their own creative world. Devin's mind was focused on Vincent and the radio he had dialed into 98.5, the station carrying the groundbreaking concert. Devin had left the schedule with Vincent when he brought him a couple of fried fish dinners and a few bottles of Burning River Ale. Desolate, Vincent opened a bottle of the beer and one of the meals to the dinette where he stretched out his long legs across the back bench seat.

The D.J. burst on the radio at 6pm, "We're broadcasting tonight from the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. In just a few minutes we'll have the opening remarks from this evening's sponsor Great Lakes Brewing Company. Remember for a great pour with good head, it's Great Lakes Brewing."

Vincent picked at the fish dinner as an unfamiliar woman's voice sang, "Bittersweet memories that is all I'm taking with me. So, goodbye, Please, don't cry. We both know I'm not what you, you need. And I will always love you. I will always love you…." Those lyrics tore at his heart as he remembered speaking them to over and over to Catherine, finishing his meal he only things had been different. Seeking sleep he unscrewed the cap off the bottle of beer and raised it to his unique lips. He thought of icy root beers in Peter Alcott's basement and jolted at the hoppy spiciness on the finish of his first mouthful.

He slumped in the dinette, the beer bottle dwarfed by his large hand as the sponsor took the stage to applause. "Good evening, Rock and Roll fans. Welcome the ground breaking concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame." Vincent bolted upright at her voice, was he drunk? Why did this woman sound like Catherine? "I'm Fiona Charles for Great Lakes Brewery, welcoming you to an evening of Walleye and music and Burning River Ale!" The crowd went wild, fueled by countless beer trucks encircling the temporary arena. "Before we welcome HAPHAZARD to the stage we want to say just two words" The thousands in the crowd bellowed along with Fiona/Catherine, "Cleveland ROCKS!"

Vincent settled back, sure in the knowledge that he was just tipsy enough to imagine it was Catherine on the radio, he rose to claim an unheard of second beer and returned to his recumbent position.

Fiona/Catherine had stepped back to join the Brewery's family at the far side of the stage. As she headed down the stairs Joe caught her eye. "Hey, Radcliffe, have you got an escort for this shindig?" she grinned and waved him over the guard rail.

"Joe, get over here. Of course you know I don't. Join me and the family won't try to marry me off to young Mr. Conway."

Joe fell into step next to her to ask, "What is he 22?" She smirked and pointed toward a 60'sh man with a balding head and a bit of beer belly, "That's young Mr. Conway?"

"Yup, his dad is in his mid 80's if he's a day, but he'd married. Young Mr. Conway is single." She chuckled as they entered the private party tent to be happily received by the company's hierarchy. She introduced Joe as the new proprietor of a B&B on Put In Bay and they made their rounds of the buffet and found seats to eat and half watch the concert.

In between conversations they'd watch the laser lights flashing to the music, then as a woman across the table from Fiona/Catherine bent her ear, Joe focused on the band. As 'Dervish' played a short solo he flipped his hair back. Joe hadn't thought anything of it until 'Dervish' turned his left cheek to the audience. In the groove of the song Joe kept swallowing the cold beer, and then the familiarity hit him.

Joe nearly spat out his beer, "Jeff Radler, that's Jeff Radler!" Joe tugged on Fiona/Catherine's shoulder as he pointed his beer bottle toward the stage, "Radcliffe, that's Jeff Radler – remember him?" She tore herself from talking about bathing suits to pay attention to Joe's near fit.

The name held nothing for her and she stared at Joe, "No, Joe, which one is he?"

"The guy with the fiddle, see those scars?" Joe motioned on his own cheek, now he was standing and pointing that the brewery group took notice.

"Do you know him, Joe?"

Joe emphasized the scars again, "You don't remember how peeved you were when I gave him that case?" Sadly she shook her head then she focused on the musician. If this was someone from their past she wanted to know more.

She whispered closely, "Was he dangerous? Was he involved in my kidnapping?" she strained to get a good look at him as he danced about his hair covering his face.

"Naw, just some guy that worked with us for a week or so, Hell, I wondered where he slid off to. I guess he didn't need to practice law with a career like this." Joe crossed his arms over his chest and nodded in time with the tune as Fiona/Catherine watched closer. In time working up a sweat Devin's shoulder length hair swung back from his face. The trio of scars caught her eye.

Her hand went to her mouth as if to keep words inside her, she hadn't heard his voice – was this the long haired man in her dreams? Switching into a more professional gear she asked, "Joe, I need run back stage for a bit. Will you wait for me here?"

"Sure, kiddo, I'll pop another beer and put a hurting on a couple of cream puffs," he nodded toward the ample dessert table.

Weaving through the crowd she felt a closeness erupt she hadn't felt since re-awakening. Working her way behind the stage curtain she was within feet of 'Dervish'. As the set went on he concentrated on his part until he swung his hair out of his eyes and he caught her face in the shadows. Once their eyes met they did not break away. The set ended, taking their bows while Dervish watched the specter of someone he used to know in the sidelines.

The curtain dropped and Devin sprinted to stand before the ghost of Catherine Chandler. The moment he opened his mouth her heart sunk. This was not her own heart; this was not her 'Vincent'.

"Chandler," he grabbed up her hands and drew her within a whisper's length.

Stunned, she replied, wide eyed, "How do you know me? Who are you?"

"You. . . .don't. . . .remember me?" Devin dropped her hands to wrap one arm around her shoulders and guide her to a quieter, darker corner.

"I'm trying, Joe said something about you being Jeff Radler?" she was squeamish as she answered.

"Joe, Joe Maxwell? You're here with him?" Devin was not amused. This was looking worse and worse that Cathy Chandler was alive and living in Cleveland keeping time with Joe Maxwell when his poor brother thought she had died, he grabbed at shoulders and shook her, "Damn you, Chandler, you ran out on my brother to come to Cleveland with Maxwell?"

Her hands flew to her head, hiding her face, "I don't know what you're talking about! Who ARE YOU?"

Devin dragged his fingers through his sweat dampened hair and pulled it back into a ponytail, "You don't really know do you?" She was pitifully sad, tears streaming down her flushed cheeks.

"If you aren't Vincent, who are you?" She wiped her eyes with the heels of her palms as Devin pulled her further back toward a craft table with napkins and water bottles. Popping a top on a water bottle he shook his head.

"He's my brother, I'm Devin and yes, I worked with you all of about a week, then you found out I was Vincent's brother and I left." Devin's expression toward his band mates said 'back-off' as they moved past him. "All he knew was you were kidnapped then killed, he thought you died in his arms."

"But I didn't and they put me into a protection program and moved me here. My memories are drifting in and out; I can't remember his face, Devin. Why can't I remember his face?" Her composure was dissolving in tears.

He was a phony at times yet he detested making a woman cry, "But you know who you are, right?" she actively nodded. "Then, I can get you to Vincent. Have you got a car?" Devin checked his watch, aware of their 10pm TV interview.

Wary of this re-emerging Catherine Chandler, Joe hadn't scarfed down more beer and cream puffs, he had followed from a safe distance, watching their emotional re-connection. Seeing them leave toward the parking lot, he dug for his car keys and fell into pursuit.

Devin continued as she followed his request to return to the Brewery parking lot, "So I was in the Keys leading fishing charters when I heard about the band getting back together and I took Vincent up to see the motor home, poor guy got stuck in the back bedroom and I couldn't get him out. Vincent is in the motor home parked outside your office, has been for 2 days." If Devin had hoped this news to calm her it hadn't. She shook at the thought of not remembering him and how it might affect her past love. She couldn't bear to break his heart a second time.

Nervously she turned her car into the parking lot alongside the motor home with the crazy paint job. "Do you want me to go in first, to let him know you're alive?"

"No, Devin, take me in with you – it's best he hears it from me." She dabbed at the runny mascara and smoothed her hair. Pocketing the car keys she followed Devin to the door.

"Hey, Vincent, you decent?" Devin stuck the key in the lock and opened the door, to find Vincent bleary eyed three empty beer bottles in front of him.

Vincent's chin balanced in the palm of his hand, his elbow on the table, his eyelids fluttering at Devin's words. "One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being." [1]

Not understanding exactly what Vincent meant Devin stepped into the motor home. "I brought someone by to see you; she's missed you for a while." Devin watched Catherine outside the motor-home as he speculated how this reunion would go. He watched her reactions to Vincent's voice.

"All days are nights to see till I see thee, and night's bright days when dreams do show thee to me." [2]

"OK, Vincent." Momentarily frustrated Devin raised a palm to stop her for a moment then he stepped up to gather up the beer bottles and fish dinner wrappers from the dinette. Scurrying to straighten up his brother he caught Vincent's broad shoulders to give him a good shake, "Are you up to receiving a guest, bro?" Vincent put one furred hand over the other as he straightened up and exaggeratedly ran his tongue over his parched lips. Devin quickly caught the hoppy scent of his beer breath and uncapped a bottle of water, "Drink this!"

Vincent accepted the bottle only to rattle off "Drink to me only with thine eyes, and I will pledge with mine."[3]

Once the bottle was drained, Devin discarded it and returned to half open door, "Are you ready for this, Catherine?" She cautiously nodded as she stepped up into the motor home, her heart singing. Devin stepped behind her as Vincent stood to receive his 'guest'. His stature dwarfed the motor home ceiling and he stood with that darling tilt to his head. Time apart evaporated as every moment of their life together returned to Catherine. She bolted toward his arms, throwing her arms around his waist.

As soon as his hands touched the warm flesh of her forearms he knew she was no apparition. This was indeed his Catherine. They embraced immediately both crying at their elation. Devin felt like an intruder as he watched his brother embrace 'his' Catherine and tenderly kiss the top of her head. He silently made his way out, locking the door behind him to sit in the car.

"I felt you die in my arms" Vincent repeatedly kissed her forehead as he accepted her kisses on his bared throat.

"It was the drugs, when they went to do the autopsy they found my heartbeat." They drew back to see each other a few years older yet no worse for wear. Shocked back to sobriety he gathered her back to where they could sit together, they sat back against the bed's headboard as they began to impart their separate stories.

Devin watched headlights scan the parking lot. He cautiously looked at the dim light leaking from behind the blinds and drapes of the motor home. He heard a car door open and Joe Maxwell closing in on Catherine's car. Devin was stuck; even lowering the seat there was nowhere to hide. Opening the door would only alert Joe to his location. Better that than to have Joe storm the motorhome. Devin left the car to meet Joe.

Joe's acerbic wit kicked in, "So is it DERVISH or Jeff Radler?" Devin walked further from Catherine's car and the motorhome.

The smart ass Devin replied, "Sort of neither, Joe. I mean I could be Dervish if the money's right. However I was born Devin Wells, been Devin Wells for a few years now." He tried his best innocent look as he approached Joe.

"Whoever you are, where did you take Catherine?" Joe stood, fists at his waist, feet spread for a fight.

"I took her to see a friend; my brother thought she was dead, so I'd appreciate if you'd give them a chance to reconnect." Devin immediately questioned what he had just said to Joe in his uber-protective mode.

Joe immediately challenged Devin, "Your brother? Is he the elusive Vincent?" At Devin's nod Joe went to step around Devin, who threw an arm up, blocking Joe from moving closer to the motor-home.

"Let's give them a chance to talk, OK? She's fine, he's fine, let's you and me be cool about this, OK?" Joe reconsidered what it meant and he halted mid-step.

Looking for reassurance Joe queried, "You swear she's OK?"

Devin nodded "Totally, the safest she's been in years", then threw an amiable arm around Joe's shoulder and asked, "Have you ever partied with a rock band?" They headed back to Joe's car and the lakeside arena leaving Vincent and Catherine alone.

Face to face in the darkness, Catherine scrambled to let the moon shine on the planes and curves of his noble face. Her hands framed his jaw as her thumbs verified the fine golden hairs that she remembered so fondly. Wanting to draw closer to him she crawled in his lap, a knee on either side of his hips.

"Catherine, you'll be my undoing." He drew her back from his hips in the guise wanting to see her face, her breasts heaving under her silk shirt and her trim waist caught in a butter soft belt.

"Take me home, Vincent, where we can be each other's undoing." Her soft, desirable lips' kisses found the tip of his nose and her tongue sought that delicate pink flesh in the split of his upper lip.

"Perhaps we can talk Devin to drive us home to New York?" Vincent welcomed her weight over him as he reclined back, "Let me simply hold you for a while, let me adore you within my arms"

Catherine sat up, straddling his waist and rested her palms on his chest. "Before we leave, I wish you could see my home. I need to gather a few things, I have a small woods behind the home I want you to see it." Catherine regarded their surroundings, "How many days have you been cooped up here?"

"This would be my third night." He reluctantly lifted her blessed weight off of him to find a paper and pencil. "Let me leave Devin a note." Looking out at her sedan he suggested, "I can ride in your trunk."

Catherine swatted at him, "You will not! The whole city is here at this concert, practically. If you want to lie in the back seat I'd understand, but not the trunk!" She wrote out her phone number and address and stuck it in the frame of the mirror. "I'll start the car and turn off the overhead lights, OK?" She could barely let go of his warm hands, yet she wanted to leave the cramped motor-home and take him with her.

Vincent's adventure persisted as she drove into the suburb of Moreland Hills. Driving the car into the garage she lowered the garage door and killed the motor. Vincent followed her into the home, marveling at the warmly decorated home so different from her park side apartment. Parts of it reminded him of chambers Below and it soothed his heart that her style had mellowed in her new life.

"Catherine, how can you leave all this? Is that a swimming pool out back?" Vincent stood at the doors enjoying the moonlight dancing over the water's ripples and the natural landscaping surrounding the patio.

"Yes, and I have a bathtub nearly that large upstairs – which I will allow you all the privacy you need. After three days in these clothes wouldn't you feel fine to work out the kinks from that bed?" That did sound tempting to him yet could he bear to be apart from her? Catherine approached the rear staircase and held out her hand to him. How could he not follow her?

Catherine dialed the dimmers to near candlelight as Vincent padded curiously from room to room. She retrieved a few fluffy towels and a small laundry basket. She smiled softly as he arrived in her bedroom suite. "Put your clothes into the basket and slide it outside the bathroom door and I'll get them washed while you soak, OK?"

Vincent stood nearly desolate, "I can scarcely bear to be apart from you, Catherine." His voice was smoky and deep, exactly the way she recollected him. Her spine tingled that perhaps Vincent would invite her to share the tub, yet she wouldn't push him.

"We have forever, Vincent – go and relax."

Once she held the basket of his clothes Catherine held each piece affectionately, it was all rushing back to her, their walks in the park, their walks in his world. They were everything to each other, hadn't she told him one night 'What we have is everything'? She remembered their kiss in the golden light of the park's culvert. Dusting off his suede vest and shaking out his black cloak she dropped each piece of washable clothing into the machine and dialed it to start as the phone rang.

"Radcliffe, you OK?" Joe yelled over the concert's noise.

"I'm super, Joe, it's all good."

"When are you coming back to the B&B?"

"Joe, it might be a long, long time." Her voice registered sadly with him.

Surrendering Joe offered, "OK, Radcliffe, you know where to find me. I won't forget you." And after an audible hitch in his voice he ended his conversation, "This isn't good-bye, right?"

"Right, Joe, this isn't good-bye. I know where you live, give your Mom my best, alright?" They both hushed for a moment before Joe's line clicked off. Catherine lowered the receiver to the cradle knowing she indeed had been loved all her life by so many wonderful people.

While Vincent bathed in solitude Catherine opened the phone book to a rental agency and left a message about leasing a windowless cargo van one way to New York City. She'd driven longer before, besides, Vincent could rest on a piece of furniture between a few cartons. Catherine Chandler was going home; all of this could be sold. Fiona Charles would be a scant memory within weeks.

Reaching into the Pool Bath closet she pulled out an extra-large sweat suit and returned upstairs, "Vincent, I'm leaving some clean clothes right outside the door. I'll be downstairs fixing us a snack, OK?" Catherine heard the tub jets wind down and his "Alright, Catherine."

In the candlelight she set the kettle on and prepared two mugs for tea. She carved some sharp cheese and salami slices and set the bowl of fruit onto the ample dinner table. Who would have imagined her guest would be her forever love, Vincent?

As the kettle began to sing she heard his bare feet padding down the wooden back steps. Pouring the water into cups she watched him gracefully approach her. They silently embraced and together they shared the thought of no shadow of another parting from each other. [4]

My muse went into overtime...this is not the end. I did not have this finished by the Con in July...but hope to post before Winterfest Online in 2014. Really...

[1] May Sarton

[2] William Shakespeare, "Sonnet XLIII"

[3] Ben Jonson's 1616 poem "Song. To Celia."

[4] "I saw no shadow of another parting from her." for the 1863 edition of the novel Great Expectations.