As Soft Wings Unfold

Chapters 4 to 6

The beautiful story of the special love between Vincent and Catherine and an abused child who enters their life.

With poetry by Katrina Relf


Chapter Four

Chapter Four

Coming down the steps to his chamber Father paused. He’d more than expected to find Vincent there. He hadn’t seen anything of his son all day and had already looked inside Vincent’s chamber, then through to the bathing pool that they both shared, through to the kitchen area and back to his own chamber, and Father was concerned.
Catherine had been away before, many times for long periods of time, but Vincent wasn’t handling this parting terribly well. In fact Father had never known him to be so…distant. Yes that was the word. Oftentimes Vincent would be together with Catherine in the Bond, but Father knew those looks, those expressions his son wore when he was dwelling deep inside himself.
The way he had seen Vincent lately drew no comparison to those other times. This was different and with Catherine away for at least another two weeks Father worried how Vincent might continue to cope.
There was another thing too. Unless someone else had passed one on, Father knew that he had not passed any letters to Vincent from Catherine during this latest absence of hers and that too was most unusual. That Catherine had not written to his son troubled him very much.

As Vincent so obviously didn’t want to be found, and as Father was determined to find him, he made his way to the chamber of the falls assuming here he would find Vincent. He was right. Vincent sat his back propped against a wall staring out at the immense fall of water, while idly caressing the china rose that Catherine had given to him. He did not hear Father’s approach and looked up startled when the older man spoke.
“Vincent, is something troubling you?”
On his feet in an instance, Vincent helped Father into the chamber and encouraged him to sit down by his own place, then he sat back down again.
“I’ve been looking everywhere for you.” Father told him well aware that his son had not yet spoken.
“And now you have found me.” Vincent half smiled, “Was it important?”
“No. I just hadn’t seen you all day. I wondered if something might be troubling you?”
“Nothing more than ever there is.” Vincent replied softly.
“Yes Catherine. I miss her Father.”
“I had noticed. It’s been a long separation Vincent, especially as she hadn’t been back long before going away again. Perhaps you should concentrate on the two weeks holiday Joe has promised her off when she returns this time."
Suddenly Vincent heard something and raised a hand while tilting his head, “Listen Father!” Vincent could hear a message on the pipes, “Someone is looking for you now, it seems you are needed in the hospital chamber.”
“Oh Lord yes, I need to give Peter a hand with the supplies, I’d forgotten he was coming. Will you be coming back with me?”
“No Father I will stay awhile yet, I have more thinking to do.”
“Whatever it is Vincent, whatever the problem remember that Catherine loves you, we all do.”
“Yes Father I know. Thank you.”
Vincent helped his father to his feet, brushed the dust from off his clothes and handed him his stick, “Go with care Father.” They embraced and kissed before Vincent settled himself down again and listened while Father’s footsteps receded away.
When he was alone again, Vincent resumed his thinking.
Earlier he had almost convinced himself that it was time to stop being selfish and think of Catherine’s future. The words she had spoken to him about having his children kept clamouring to be heard but he did not want to hear them. He knew only that Catherine had needs and desires and that he could not fulfil them. He had to let her go, had to make her see that the way ahead would hurt them both but the break had to be made and for their own sanity neither should see the other again.
With tears gathering in his eyes, Vincent made himself agree to this decision, for really there was nothing else to be done and believing he had at last found his way, Vincent stood up, and walked with a heavy heart back towards his chamber.

Climbing into bed some time later Vincent felt he knew the way ahead, and allowed a little of what he was feeling to wing its way to Catherine’s heart in the belief that he could prepare her for all he had to say.
However Catherine’s whispering heart surprised him with its answer.

The sadness I feel (from you) is all encompassing,

It holds my very being in its icy hand

I feel an emptiness,

A fear of this sadness that consumes me.

A despair tells me the dream has died

The bond is broken.

In my aloneness I reach for you

. The keeper of my dreams

You hold out your hand

Touching my fingers

I speak your name and I feel your answer

Invisible arms encircle me

Your breath softly brushes my cheek

Warmth and strength flow through me

Dispelling the sadness and the fear.

Through your gentleness posses me

Take my heart and hold it next to yours,

Lest I fear this world may break it

Let your love fill my heart and mind,

Through a bond that will last a lifetime

And a dream that will never die.

When Vincent awoke in the morning he was surprised to feel a kind of peace wash over him. Catherine may not have written him a letter, but last night she had responded so strongly to his earlier convictions that she had entered his heart while he slept and had filled his mind with words that even now he could remember clearly. They were words that he may have used to her on another occasion and he identified with them clearly.
Try as he might he wasn’t alone in this.
Not only that but the expression of those words touched a chord in his heart. For some reason Catherine needed him, his love and affection. She was hurting. He could feel it so strongly, and he wondered as to the reason.
He could feel no love in her this day for a third person, only sadness. And yesterday he had felt a sudden fear radiate from her that had distressed him greatly. Now part of him glorified in believing that the love directed toward another these past few days had altered and that her heart had returned to him.
The other part of him wanted to reach out to her and encircle her in his arms, to comfort her in his firm embrace.
He felt almost sickened by the distance that prevented them this, and wished he could contact her.
Suddenly, he didn’t know why, but once the idea sprang to mind he wondered why he had never thought of it before. He could write to her! He knew the hotel where she was staying, and he could write to her there.
Joyous he hurried from his bed to his writing bureau longing to put all he felt onto paper.

Dearest Catherine,
What can I say to you?

Vincent expelled a breath of humour. Those words were the very ones Catherine had spoken long ago when he had returned her to the threshold at the foot of her apartment building. He went on;

My mind has been full of the things that you said to me the last time we were together...

Vincent paused. How could he continue with this?
His chaotic emotions could not be placed into words upon paper. It was impossible. He picked up the sheet of paper, and screwed it into a tight ball. No, whatever he had to say to Catherine he would do so to her face. There were still things he had to sort out in his mind. They were still a long way from working things out between them. For all his resolve, he still held onto his fears. And until he had something to tell her, it was best he tell her nothing at all.
Replacing the pen to its place, Vincent dressed quickly, donning his boots and cloak. He needed to get away, far beneath the home chambers into the darkened tunnels of the subterranean world, for only there could he find the truth, and only there could he face the dream.

Nearer the home chambers most of the tunnels had been cleared of sharp rocks that stuck out from the tunnel walls, but lower down and in the dark Vincent had to take care. Large outcrops of rock threatened to knock him out if he didn’t duck at the required moment. Thus his pace in the darkness was slow, affording him more time for thinking.
As he walked along the all-consuming darkness reminded him of walking through the park on a very dark night and he began to let his mind drift to how it felt whenever he went Above.

I love the night

The deep black velvet of the night

The beauty of the park –

The grass changing colour in the shadows of moon and cloud.

The city is brighter than day

But the city I know is dark

There cloud-filled heavens hide the stars

The mists rise above the streets

So like the mists winging gently through the tunnels.

I am part of the night

I am one with the night

One with the darkness that envelops me,

Enfolding me in invisible arms, protecting me.

The daylight will never be mine

But I am content to live through the night

For out of the night I found you

And only at night can I hold you

And no day could hold a happiness more complete.

But, thought Vincent, what if the night alone was not needed to hold his love. What if the possibility was placed before him that he could hold his love during the daylight hours, but not in her world, no never that. But here, down in his world among the rocks and the waterfalls and the whispering gallery. What then if that was possible? Could he really grasp hold of the promise that Catherine held for him in her eyes?
Walking onwards, Vincent continued to let his mind drift with expression;


Let me know that your heart believes

All that I see in your eyes.

Should I dare to dream that you could really love me?

And all that I am?

Not wholly a man –

Yet with a man’s heart, a man’s need

To hold you.

To touch your beauty, your softness

To give myself completely to you.

For all my life and beyond

Catherine, I long for your touch.

And yet I fear its power

As I fear myself, my longings,

Only the night has wings

And only in dreams can we truly be together

With nought but love between us

But if dreams were reality

Would you be afraid?

If I were to speak the thoughts I feel

Would you be ashamed that one such as I

Could wish to be loved –

To be touched by your beauty,

To be held by your softness?

Would you turn from me?

From the darkness within that gives life to these thoughts?

That is something that I dare not imagine.

The reason my dreams cannot be reality,

The reason I must live with this silent pain –

This helpless yearning –

That can only exist within the depths of my dreams,

Within the softness of the night,

Whilst I, Catherine, my love,

Will dream of a dream that cannot come true,

And lose myself forever in the promise of your eyes.

For some reason Vincent felt like weeping.
The sadness galloped over him, and he ached for the comfort of Catherine’s arms.
It came to him suddenly that Catherine was right, they were on the threshold of a new world.
Before it had been his world and her world, now something had changed. It was becoming their world, a world of their own making. A world that they could share together.
With his back to a wall Vincent allowed his body to slide to his haunches to lean against a smooth part of the rock and dwelt deep inside himself.
The Bond as ever tingled deep within and he could feel the steady beat of Catherine’s heart alongside his.
She was peaceful now, possibly sleeping. The anguish and the sorrow of the past few hours had left her. What he would give to be laying down beside her now and holding her tenderly in his arms. On occasions he had experienced this wonderful joy. When she had been ill or grieving for her father after his sudden death, when she had needed the comfort of his strong arms around her.
If he allowed himself to believe, he could be anything. He could be the man that she saw in him. With the darkness surrounding him he could not see his hands, but he could feel the fur and he could feel his fangs with the length of his tongue, even the darkness would not lie to him.
Yet Catherine had accepted all those things, and still she wanted him. If only he could see everything through her eyes.
Slowly in that dark place he brought everything to mind, everything that they had ever shared. He had to change his feelings toward her. It was what she wanted, and he could not live without her. If they stood on a threshold now to another world he had to find the courage to step through it with her willingly.
Catherine was every bit a part of this destiny as he himself was. When he thought about that hard enough he realised that Catherine had accepted long ago her part in all of this, and gladly too.
Realisation of that made him feel so strange.
If he could not deny their destiny, or if he could not run from it, then he must face it, for there were endless possibilities for him if only he could accept them.
For the first time in all of his life Vincent began to climb down the other side of the mountain. It seemed that it had taken everything he had to get up the one side to reach the pinnacle, but now he had, and from where he stood the way was clear. Why hadn’t he seen it before?
He couldn’t believe how clear it had become.
True he still had his fears, but together they would get past them. Catherine was not afraid and neither should he be.
His heart joyous Vincent believed.
He was free.
Free to love, free to realise his dreams, and if he thought he ached for Catherine’s return before it was nothing to how he felt now.
Though he still did not imagine that he could ever make love to her, because of the savagery of the ever-present dark one the way ahead was brighter. And in an instant he unleashed his restraint upon the Bond and sent all his emotions winging their way through to his love. Then closing his mind off to his turbulent thoughts for the last time he allowed the Bond to enfold and guide him to a place where dreams can only come true.

*** *** ***

Back at her hotel Catherine mulled over the day’s activities.
It had been a long and trying day, and any application she made to take Rachel out in future, she could well see would be refused.
After the police had escorted her back to the home, and had satisfied themselves that Catherine was in charge of the child they had left her to face the music. And all Catherine could do was stand and accept the ticking off that Dr Johnson gave her, well aware that Molly Cook was gloating in the background.
Why the woman despised her so, Catherine did not know, but after today she would gladly never to have looked at the woman again, but for Rachel and the promise she had made her.
Whether Rachel went Above or Below was the least of the problem. The main cause of her distress was knowing that she would now need to put in an application to foster Rachel in order to be able to take her away at all, and that in itself brought about it’s own responsibilities.
To provide for a child such as Rachel Catherine would need to prove that she had a home and an income coming into that home to keep a child. But if she were to spend time with the child she couldn’t be at work, and if she didn’t work she wouldn’t be bringing in an income. The circle was vicious.
Now if she had a husband or a partner that supported her things would be easier, and as wonderful as it would be to have Vincent marry her, she knew that still was not the answer.
Catherine worried well into the night about the problem eventually feeling so tired that her head and heart ached and she lay herself down for some much needed sleep hoping that things would seem much brighter in the morning.

In her dreams she could see Vincent. Somewhere at the back of her mind, she felt guilty that she had paid him so little attention these past few weeks. The week away before she had met Rachel he had been on her mind constantly, but now Rachel’s needs overrode her own.
This night though thoughts of him were strong, stirring her awake in a dreamy kind of way, the Bond thrummed vibrantly with life telling her that Vincent was thinking about her deeply.
Catherine smiled in her sleep, she had rather left him with an ultimatum, and wouldn’t normally have done so, but things were changing between them, yet it seemed that only she moved forwards out of the ever spinning circle that had previously wrapped its soft wings around them.
Catherine longed now for the moment when those wings would unfold and soar into the sky taking her and Vincent into the unknown with courage and trust.
She loved him so much, and nothing about him held any fear for her.
In her dreams she could see the perfect life that they would lead if only he would allow it.
She would make him allow it!
Deep down inside Catherine allowed her subconscious to reach out to him. She had to make him see that with love anything was possible.

Vincent, do not be afraid of yourself –

Of your feelings.

You could never hurt me –

You must know that.

Please trust yourself.

Love is not always gentle.

There are other feelings too –

Strong, violent feelings,

Feelings that can make you cry with their power.
Don’t you know how many times

I have wanted so much more

Than to be held in your arms?

Than to only imagine the feeling of you

Do not ask to be forgiven –

There is nothing to forgive.

To desire,

To be overwhelmed by desire,

Is much a part of love

As the peace I find with you’

I love everything about you –

Your gentleness, your strength

Even the power of your darkness

Accept your wants, your needs

As part of the man that you are

The man I love

And one day, perhaps sooner than we know

We will pass through the fear

Through the darkness –

Into the light.

Deep inside herself Catherine spoke the words, and felt them being absorbed by him. A great joy filled her that he was not blocking her off from him as once he may have done, afraid to hear her inner heart whisper. The delight was such that it seared through Catherine starting her awake, and she lay for some moments, a tranquil smile upon her face, her heart bursting with love and happiness.
Vincent was letting her in! He was absorbing her deep into his heart, and that to Catherine could only mean one thing, that he was at last dwelling on her words and allowing their connection to bind them together in a way he had never before allowed. The Bond wrapped its gentle tendrils around the two of them and Catherine felt it so strongly that she wanted to weep with gladness.
The final two weeks that she had to be away stretched ahead into infinity, and Catherine groaned, for the desire to rush home to Vincent’s arms had never been so strong. She felt so happy!
Yes things were definitely changing she could feel it deep inside.
Was it possible that those soft wings were at last unfolding?

*** *** ***

Every bit in tune with Catherine Vincent delighted in her sudden response to his delving deep inside the Bond. Almost on another plane the two of them flew in perfect precision, and yet even so far away, he felt her close. The feeling warmed him, though the ache was unbearable in the knowledge that they were as yet two long weeks apart.
Still something this night had bound them as nothing else ever had. Their destiny had linked them, but the Bond had wrapped around them like swaddling bands, holding them tightly together, and Vincent could feel that from now on nothing he said to Catherine against a union would have any impact.
This night, the Bond had united them, and all the fight against it had drained him.
It was a wonderful feeling that swept over him now. He was free. Free from the chains that had bound him to a life of aloneness. And now he was no longer alone.
Peace washed over and through him like the gentle lapping waves of the sea, and for the first time in his life Vincent was complete.
The way ahead was wonderfully, wonderfully bright. And for the first time in his life Vincent felt as though some great wings within his heart were unfolding and freeing him from his fears, ready to soar into endless flight and into a wondrous dream come true with his Catherine. He wanted to shout out that wondrous feeling from the rooftops, so happy was he and he contemplated the way ahead with no more doubts and no more fears, just glorious endless happiness with the woman that he loved.
Deep inside his heart was full of expression, words that just had to be said to describe the way that he felt, not knowing that similar words had entered Catherine’s mind just hours earlier;

Soft wings unfold –

And I see beyond the mists, feel beyond the pain

I see love reaching out to me

And I can no longer deny it

No longer resist it

For that love is my life, my reason for being.

Soft wings unfold –

Recalling memories of a life without love –

The life that I was born to inherit –

Until that wondrous night…until you.

You have brought me a dream beyond imagining –

A dream that only now I dare take in my hands and enclose

. Soft wings unfold –

Caressing words not yet spoken, lips not yet touched.

Once words were all we had – all we could deserve

We saw the sunrise in the mirror pool

And asked for no more – until now –

Until the emptiness of our words echoed in our hearts.

Soft wings unfolding –

Closing around us.

Tightening – enveloping

Hearts and bodies.

Now there is naught but love between us –

And we are one.

*** *** ***

He didn’t know why it was, and he wasn’t about to rock the boat in asking, but Father could only rejoice in the changes that had come back with Vincent during his time below. For the first time since he had known his son, he felt that there was something complete about him, and watching him was a real pleasure. He seemed to give off an aura that spelt happiness with a capital H.
That he still missed Catherine was obvious in the very many occasions that Vincent spent by himself in deep thought, but when Vincent came away from those thoughts now, it was not with the sadness that once settled about him. It seemed that Vincent now gained strength from the moments he spent dwelling inside the Bond, and Father could only marvel at that.

As always Father followed the papers, and he was quite unprepared to find a column which spoke of the case that Catherine was working on out of state. It told him that the case had been a traumatic one, and that the reporters would be out in full force for the final day, which Father noted was the following day. He read also that a television crew would be at the court to bring the case into the homes of the millions of people who had been following it through their local newspapers.
Father showed the report to Vincent, “I think we should find a helper Vincent and watch it on their television tomorrow night. You might see Catherine on television, and I think that would be good for you.”
“It’s been almost five weeks Father if the case is wrapping up maybe Catherine will be home earlier than expected.”
“Perhaps Vincent, but in a case as delicate as this one, she may have to stay behind with the child for a while. I shouldn’t pin your hopes too much on the five week deadline.”
“Then yes, I should like the chance of seeing her beforehand.” Vincent told his parent, “If nothing else than to see that she is well.”

Over the last few days, those feelings of love Vincent had felt coming from Catherine for a third party had dissipated, but not so the sadness. There was also a feeling of anger, frustration and hurt, that he could not begin to understand, but on a lower level she was sending him her love and responding to his emotions via their connection. And he hoped that she would know that he had reached a decision about their relationship now.

The following evening Father had it all arranged, and together he and Vincent went to the home of a helper living close to the tunnels who secured the shutters on his shop front for extra security, and brought Vincent and Father inside to watch the news on his television set.
The case had been finalised earlier in the day, and the cameras had not been allowed inside the courtroom, but both Father and Vincent were thrilled to find that a microphone inside the court had transmitted to the outside world everything that had been taking place therein.

As they listened, Vincent pictured Catherine inside the courtroom.
There was a hustle and bustle of shoes and coats as people stood while the judge entered the room, and then a hushed silence settled over the people.

A brief summary of the case was then issued before the attorney acting on behalf of the defendants came forward to present his information.

“Members of the jury, you see before you today two people, Malcolm Thorn and his partner Gillian Truman both loving parents, who have been incorrectly accused of abusing their only child Rachel.
Over the past four weeks you have heard how neighbours have lied and told the court that Rachel has been a victim of mental, physical and sexual abuse, but there is no record of any of these things happening to the child.
You have also been told how the parents moved into the area they now live at in June of last year, and because they were wealthy people moving into a lowly area after meeting with hard times, the neighbours shunned them and called them names. You also know of the lies that were issued by these neighbours when Malcolm Thorn and Gillian Truman refused to become involved in an act of violence in a racist matter as a type of inauguration to be accepted in the neighbourhood.
Members of the jury, I tell you that Malcolm Thorn and Gillian Truman are innocent of the crime set before them, that they did not and would not abuse Rachel, and that they should be allowed to have their daughter returned to them.”

There was a few seconds silence, before Vincent’s heart jumped in his chest as the sound of Catherine’s voice filled the courtroom.

“Members of the jury, over the past five weeks you have seen both Malcolm Thorn and Gillian Truman hold their hand upon the Bible and pledge the truth. However, what you have not seen is the tiny hand of Rachel Thorn place her hand upon a Bible and also speak the truth.
Unfortunately the authorities continue to fight to bring children into the courtroom so that they might be allowed to tell their side of things but the law continues to fight against this request. So people like Malcolm Thorn and Gillian Truman continue to get away with such crimes, and children like Rachel continue to be abused. However, members of the jury I say to you, that I have spent the past five weeks in the company of Rachel Thorn, and if I may be permitted to do so, I should like to place my hand upon that same Bible and speak Rachel’s truth.”
“Objection.” The defendant’s attorney called out; “This is highly irregular so late in the day.”
“Your honour if I may be permitted to speak?” Catherine’s voice asked.
“You may speak Miss Chandler.”
“My reasons for this are thus. I have tried to handle Rachel’s case to the best of my ability, but even I can see that the way things look are not good for the child. If I were a member of the jury I think that all things considered I would be only too happy to believe that the parents have been wrongly accused. And that is why cases like these are so frustrating, because the main person, the one that has suffered is considered too young to give evidence. Well I have spent the best part of five weeks coming to know Rachel and it has taken all of that time for her to trust me enough to speak of her past and I should like on her behalf to address the jury now.”

For a few moments a hushed silence drifted over the courtroom as everyone waited for the judge to speak, finally he found it inside himself to allow this, “Go ahead Miss Chandler you have our full attention.”
Catherine thanked him, her heart full, and walked over to address the jury.

“I have here some drawings by Rachel. Remember she is only three years old, so they aren’t that good, but she told me what they refer to and as you will see I have written this down at the foot of the page.
The first drawing baffled me. I thought it was of a street lamp at first. You will notice the long white pole with the glowing amber top. You will also notice that Rachel has scribbled over the drawing. When I asked her why, she told me, ‘because it’s a horrid cigarette’.
This second picture shows a house. Four walls, windows, a door, the typical house drawn by a three-year old, but notice the curtains. While three of the four rooms have the curtains open during the day, this one does not. Again notice if you will that Rachel has scribbled over that window. I asked her why and she told me it was her room. Nothing peculiar about that except for the fact that outside the sun is shining and that Rachel hates the dark.
This final drawing shows a plate of food. See how brightly the vegetables are coloured. The orange of the carrots, the green of the cabbage, even the potatoes look creamy as if large spoonfuls of butter were added.
I asked Rachel why she had drawn such a picture. She told me that it was her wish to eat something as wonderful as this.
All right so none of these drawings on their own mean anything but in light of the information we have heard this last month, they make perfect sense.
First the reason for this plate of food. How many three-year olds do you know that crave the taste of cabbage?
Second why would Rachel draw a picture of her darkened bedroom if she hated the dark?
And third why would she scribble over a drawing of a cigarette? And why draw the cigarette to start with?
In Rachel’s own words I would like to tell you why. I have here a tape recorder with those answers of Rachel’s upon, however I know that I am not permitted to play them in court, so I have written her answers down word for word, and in Rachel’s own words this is what she told me.”
Catherine drew in a deep breath, choking back the tears, though her voice wavered as she spoke;

“I hate cigarettes. Daddy presses them against me to make them go out. They hurt and make me cry, and then daddy takes me up to my bedroom, and throws me onto the floor and closes the curtains and locks the door, and I have to stay in there for days, and I get so hungry.”
Wiping the fallen tears away Catherine went on, “ I asked Rachel what her mother does while all this is happening, Rachel told me; “she bangs on the door and tells me to shut up crying or she will put out her cigarette on me too.’

We have heard that there was evidence of burn marks upon Rachel, without them the neighbours would never have grown suspicious. And we have heard how Malcolm Thorn and Gillian Truman both insist that Rachel had brushed past them, and caused the lighted end of their cigarettes to burn her face, and those reasons have been accepted. But I ask this, if that were true why does Rachel hold such fear for this occasion. If it were only an accident then surely those parents would have hugged and kissed their child better and made certain that she forgot all about it to an extent that she was careful around them when they had a lighted cigarette in future. But not to the extent that Rachel fears that her parents may stub out a cigarette on her on another occasion.
These are only small things I know, seen in the eyes of a three-year old, and as such could be taken as an over active imagination, but there are other things.
A week ago, I unfortunately found myself being arrested when two officers saw Rachel biting and kicking me after I had tried to pick her up to help her onto a swing. Perhaps this will highlight the terror felt by Rachel at so innocent a gesture. And those police officers stand by outside this courtroom to testify to that occasion.
Members of the jury, I ask you why would a child that age be in terror of being picked up? Why would she misconstrue my attempt to help her? What did she believe I was intending to do to her? And who has hurt her so badly in the past that Rachel will not even allow the simplest of things as the holding of hands?
I have come to know and love Rachel very much, but I cannot extend that love to her for fear she will believe I have an ulterior motive in mind that will lead to pain for her.
Rachel craves love and affection but she mistrusts any move to direct it to her. It makes me want to weep.” Catherine choked back more tears, “how can we place her back into the hands of those who through their cruelty have robbed her of her innocence and of that trust. A trust that is the only means with which to grow and develop a good heart in this evil world we live in. Those are my words but the experience is Rachel’s. May you allow Rachel to speak to your heart with the only thing that Rachel does believe in and know exists - the truth. Thank you.”

A heavy stillness surrounded those in the courtroom and Catherine through a blur of tears was happy to note that the members of the jury were dabbing at their own eyes. And for the first time in the whole of the case, Catherine took heart that justice would be done.

It seemed to take only minutes after the jury had left the courtroom before they were back again, their verdict done.
As it was read out Catherine let the threatened tears fall with relief – guilty. Rachel’s parents were found guilty and the courtroom burst into applause.

Vincent listening in at the home of the helper wiped away his own tears and could feel those tears of Catherine’s He had felt them earlier in the day when the case had been brought to fruition and had wondered at their source. He had felt her tears mingled with gladness, and an overriding satisfaction that should have told him the verdict but did not. After the many conflicting emotions coming through from Catherine over the past month, he wasn’t sure what to believe anymore. But he knew who those feelings of love were directed at now, it was Rachel because even now several hours after the verdict was done he could still feel Catherine’s radiating love for a third person and knew that all things considered they could only be for the child.
But that led to a great sorrow. Whether Catherine had reached the conclusion yet he did not know, but soon Catherine would be leaving, and the child would have to be left behind. Father’s thoughts it seemed ran along the same lines.
“When Catherine comes home Vincent, she will be changed. This case has affected her like no other I think. We shall have to be very sympathetic and offer her our love. I only wish she could bring the child to us.”
Vincent nodded, “This too I wish. We have everything Rachel needs with us, but Catherine knows of this. Don’t worry Father, if she can find a way, Catherine will work it out.” To his father his words were positive to himself they were not. He grieved with Catherine for the predicament she found herself in. He could only continue to open the Bond fully and send her all of his love in the hope that in doing so he would help her find the strength she needed to see her through the next few days.

*** *** ***

Catherine had a great deal of thinking to do. Now that Rachel’s parents had been jailed for fifteen years, the sentence such so that Rachel would be an adult before their release, Catherine found herself in an unusual predicament.
She had fought and won many cases since leaving her father’s firm, but none had affected her quite like this one had had done. This was one that she just could not walk away from.
A week before she had made Rachel a promise, and Catherine knew full well how a promise broken to one so young could rock the foundations of an already unstable future. Besides this, Catherine wasn’t entirely sure that she wanted to break the promise to the child. Though her circumstances were such that she wasn’t in a correct position to foster a child, Catherine eventually decided that no amount of worrying about it would make things any different. So one morning three days after the case had finished, Catherine found herself arriving early for an appointment with Child Care Services to put in her application to take Rachel home with her.

Ushered into an office some moments later, Catherine was impressed with the décor. It was as far removed from the dismal children’s home as it could be, and she wondered why money had been spent on the place when the children’s home needed it so much more.
She was offered a seat by a young woman who asked her to wait a few moments and someone would be with her shortly, giving Catherine time to look around the room.
It was spacious and light. Painted a soft blue with light green hues, the desks and filing cabinets were in varnished white pine, and against the light grey blinds of the floor to ceiling windows were three large tubs of leafy plants. Upon the walls were paintings of flowers in soft pastel colours and one large clock in white with gold hands and Roman numerals.
As Catherine finished surveying the room, the door behind her opened, and Catherine swivelled the chair around to see a tall man with a sheaf of papers tucked under his arm ushering in a woman equally as tall, and looking very much like him. Catherine guessed that they were twins.
Both extended a hand to her as they passed by, introducing themselves as Stephen and Naomi Barnet and gesturing that she should remain seated, before taking up their places behind the desk in front of her.
“Miss Chandler, your reputation precedes you, and your affinity with Rachel Thorn is very well documented. We have read thoroughly your application to foster the child, and in the normal circumstances such a request would be instantly denied. However, we have talked the matter over with Dr Johnson and now feel that it would be in Rachel’s best interests to continue to have you as part of her life.
Had the circumstances been different and you had of been living in this state, you could have continued to visit Rachel at the home, and by going through the normal procedures your application to foster would have taken many months to finalise. However, we do realise that Rachel needs you, and that with you she has responded to such a degree that Dr Johnson feels that to separate the two of you now would only lead to Rachel’s demise. Therefore we are granting your application to foster Rachel for six months, at the end of which time the situation will be reviewed and acted upon accordingly. And if you pass with flying colours Miss Chandler there will be the opportunity for you to adopt Rachel if you would consider it.”
Catherine let out the breath she was holding, and the two people smiled. “I’m sorry it has to be so harrowing Miss Chandler, but it is over now. All that remains to be done is for you to sign the papers and then collect them later this afternoon and then we will bring Rachel to your home the week after next.”
“That long. I was hoping I could take Rachel home with me the day after tomorrow. Perhaps I could come back to collect her, I shouldn’t think she has ever been on a plane before.” The Barnet twins looked from one to the other, then back at her, “We do need to see your home Miss Chandler, and for that Rachel will only be told that she is visiting you until we decide if your home meets our standards, but we also understand your concern. Perhaps you could come back here at the weekend and then one of us will accompany you back home, just to satisfy ourselves for the sake of the records, though Dr. Allcot has painted a very high opinion of you and your home in his reference.”
Catherine nodded, ‘good old Peter’ she thought to herself. “Yes I will explain to Rachel that I will be unable to visit for two days but will return at the weekend. There is no need for her to know that I am going home. That might panic her.”
Stephen and Naomi passed a glance again, smiling with surprise, “Miss Chandler for one who has never had children of their own, plus the fact that you were an only child you have a marvellous aptitude with children. With everything you have said you put Rachel’s needs ahead of your own. I find that truly commendable.”
“Thank you.” Catherine warmed to the man, and rose from her seat. They made the final arrangements and then she left, walking back out into the winter sunshine and feeling lighter of spirit than she had for many a day.
Afterwards Catherine couldn’t believe she had done it. It was almost laughable. There she was just a few hours later holding in her hands the fostering papers, signed sealed and delivered with the promise that if she passed the test then one day she could adopt Rachel as her own. She laughed when she thought of how Father would love to hear how she had managed to bring the child home with her after all. And then she frowned when she wondered what Vincent would make of a ready made family, and her heart ached that perhaps now this had given him the way out from making that final commitment to finalise their dream.
With a child to love and provide for now, he would surely have sound reason to insist that she needed none of her own, and certainly if that meant any of his.
Yet did that really matter in view of all Rachel would gain? She would take Rachel Below, and the child would be happy, and Catherine would see her come to life and forget the past just as she had seen countless children come to life down there over the past three years.
Catherine could hardly contain her joy. At least part of her dreams had come true, to take a neglected child from off of the streets to live Below. And it made her feel so good inside that she hugged herself with delight.

At last Catherine was heading for home, the last six weeks behind her, and with her future stretching ahead of her.
Had Vincent given any thought to the questions she had left him with?
That he had allowed her a sense of him through the Bond had signified a change in that direction for which she was grateful, but how much had he accepted the ultimatum she had left him with?
Leaving the airport Catherine was filled with delight to see the snow falling and imagined Vincent’s delight when he saw it later as he made his way to her apartment.
“There must be something significant in snow girl’ she told herself with a grin, ‘the last time you saw Vincent it was snowing then.’ And she remembered the happy evening sat upon her balcony wrapped in thick blankets with hot waters bottles and delicious food.
Tonight though she had other plans.
Tonight she would not bring out the blankets and hope to spend the evening solely on her balcony in his arms.
Tonight she hoped that they would become closer, and after six weeks apart she doubted that she would be able to keep her hands resolutely at her sides.
A soft moan escaped her as she visualised her hands buried deep in Vincent’s hair, his lips pressed close to her own.

Reaching her apartment Catherine surveyed her home and pictured it in the eyes of the Child Care people, and of Rachel, wondering what the child would make to living there until she could take her Below.
Then her thoughts returned to Vincent as a flare of excitement ran through her that she knew to be coming from him. He knew she was home!
Quickly she showered and dressed in a robe she knew that he favoured, then despite the chill of the night Catherine went with her heart bursting with happiness to stand upon her balcony to await the arrival of her love.

*** *** ***

Chapter Five

(Back to that moment of passion)

Vincent shuddered. And it had nothing to do with the depth of the snow all around them.
For split seconds he wondered who was the strongest here. For Catherine’s hands merely touching him reduced him to a quivering jellied mass of longing, yet during those six weeks apart hadn’t he decided that they should indeed go forward?
Even more so since his talk with Father just an hour earlier.
In fact since that talk with his father the last little brick had slipped into place, and the final fear had fled away, almost as if it had never been.
The fact that he could love Catherine as she desired him to love her. Father was right. He needn’t fear the dark one. For the dark one loved Catherine too. No harm would come to her, for wasn’t it as Father said, that it was the dark one that had always protected Catherine?
So why should now be any different?
It took a while for the fact to sink in, but as Catherine stood watching him as he fought the final barrier, he knew suddenly that the fight was no longer needed.
This was what they both wanted. This was what they both needed, and the six weeks apart had fuelled that need.
Pushing the final fear resolutely aside Vincent lifted his gaze to Catherine. The pleading in her eyes filling him with love.
He smiled at her unable to help himself. Why she was almost seducing him! But as much as he knew that they would go forward this night it was neither the time nor the place.
“Catherine.” Vincent’s voice tinged with humour stopped Catherine in her tracks. Her hands fell away from his chest and she stood staring up at him, mesmerised by the teasing lines upon his face.
She smiled somewhat shakily, a little embarrassed now by her earlier wanton display.
“It’s not that I don’t want you Catherine.” He told her huskily.
Catherine gasped. She hadn’t expected him to admit to his needs!
“Neither is it because I don’t love you, because I do, but this is neither the time nor the place.” He chuckled, “If nothing else the snow would freeze my butt off.”
Catherine’s mouth dropped open with stunned surprise. This was not something she would have expected to come from Vincent. His way with words were usually so dignified. She continued to stare open mouthed up at him, hearing a soft rumble start in his chest and erupt from his mouth seconds later in laughter, “What’s this, a lawyer struck for words?” He drew her against him holding her firm, and whispered seductively into her ear, “Your place or mine?”
It was Catherine’s turn to feel her bodily parts malfunction. Suddenly her arms felt like lead weights, while her legs lost the capacity to hold her body upright. She slumped against him, feeling his arms hold her tighter still, the lean hardness of him solid and reliable. Still she could find no words to answer him with.
Vincent continued to chuckle, he had never seen her like this, if mere words could reduce her to such weakness what would…? He shuddered as thoughts of the night ahead filled his mind, and he turned her with one fluid movement of his arm about her waist, “Come my love, I know this wonderful little place.”
Catherine, struck dumb and immobile could not for the life of her put one foot in front of the other, and whimpered loudly when Vincent swept her up into his arms, drinking in the scent of her as she buried her face into his neck. Her closeness was driving him insane; he wanted her so much.
“Do say something.” He fought to say as desire clung to every nerve ending.
Catherine smiled, “I’m shell-shocked.” She replied, causing another chuckle to come from Vincent. He strode purposefully on into the drainage culvert. And Catherine heard the clang of the metal door sliding open, and she shivered as she felt Vincent stepping through the entrance, listened while the door slid back, and then reluctantly withdrew her arms from around his neck as he settled her down to her feet.
His eyes when he looked at her made her speechless all over again.
This was a Vincent she had only ever caught glimpses of before. The way he was looking at her caused her limbs to disintegrate and her desire for him screamed out through every nerve ending.
The confidence he displayed alarmed her as he stood drinking in her beauty with open admiration and desire. His whispered words when they came stunned her afresh, “I take it you do still want me to make love to you my Catherine?” he slid one clawed finger down her cheek very tenderly.
Luscious desire travelled through Catherine’s body to burst through flared nostrils in a rush of liquid heat that blazed through her eyes into his. She licked her dry lips with the tip of her tongue, the sight drawing Vincent as he had never been drawn before. Bowing his head he brought his lips within inches of her own, his hot breath fanning her cheeks. Catherine closed her eyes anticipating his next move, and her world swam into dizzying spirals as she felt the softness of his lips brush her own.
“Yes.” It was all she could say. It covered a multitude of asked and unasked questions.
His lips came back to their place stronger now. The taste of her mouth beneath his was electrifying. Vincent shuddered with longing, scooping her back up into his arms sensing her own weakness as longing swept through her limbs.
With his mouth still on hers, he stumbled several yards ahead only releasing her mouth when his mind told him that walking that way was hindering his pace. His strides lengthened and Catherine squirmed as another shudder coursed through her veins.
“Are you sure about this?” Vincent whispered, “We cannot retrace this step my love.” His strides slowed, they were reaching the place he intended to take her.
“I want you.” Catherine whispered, “I want you so much.”
It was all he needed to hear, he tightened his grip and increased his pace again, and with her face pressed close to his chest Catherine could hear the rapid beat of his heart. There would be no stopping him now, not that she wanted to do, but somewhere deep inside a tiny voice echoed, ‘no precautions.’
Try as she might she was not able to shake away that whispering voice and groaned with dismay when Vincent heard the tiny doubt via their connection.
He put her down in front of him, his breathing laboured from exertion and desire, “there is something wrong?” the disappointment in his voice could clearly be detected.
Catherine looked down at her feet, chiding herself for allowing him to know, “Its nothing.” She whispered not very convincingly.
Lifting her chin with one clawed finger, Vincent searched her eyes, “Tell me?”
Catherine shrugged, “It’s nothing Vincent. Can we go on?”
Shaking his head, Vincent looked at her long and hard, “Not until you tell me what’s on your mind.”
“I want you, isn’t that enough?” she tried to evade the question.
“As I remember my Catherine you have always wanted me. And now that desire is accepted and returned you are plagued with doubts. Why?”
“Not plagued Vincent.”
“Nonetheless there is still something bothering you?”
“Then tell me.”
Catherine shook her head. This seemed so unreal. For three years she had known this man, and for most of that time had wanted him to love her in the way a man loves a woman, and now on the very brink of it happening she had had to think of something so insane as precautions! What did it matter anyway, hadn't she told herself often enough that she would love to have his child? So then why did she have to spoil it all by thinking of precautions? The answer of course was that as Vincent had not thought of it, and so obviously did not want a child that might favour himself, then it was something she had a right to mention, for his sake.
But how to say it? That was the issue. How do you suddenly say to the man that you have wanted for so long, ‘hey will you be using a condom’?
She wondered if Vincent would even know what one was, yet alone know how to use one. In spite of it all, Catherine couldn’t help the corners of her mouth twitching with humour, or her eyes lighting up with mischief.
Vincent responded to that humour. “Give?” He told her.
Pursing her lips together, Catherine’s eyes filled with laughter, “I can’t.” she told him honestly, “I just cant.” She laughed out loud at the mere thought of telling him.
“We are not taking another step further until you tell me what’s on your mind Catherine.” Vincent’s voice was stern now. He wanted to know. If it wasn’t so bad, why the reluctance to tell him?
Catherine sobered. She could see he was serious, but she felt somewhat embarrassed, it wasn’t a topic they had ever discussed.
Fighting for a way to tell him, Catherine decided on something entirely different.
“I do want you Vincent. Nothing has changed. But perhaps there are things we should discuss first. Can we go to your chamber?”
“We can speak here.”
Catherine shook her head. As much as she wanted to make love with him this night, she knew now it would be impossible. They had to go into it with their eyes wide open. Everything they had done thus far in their lives had been done with careful consideration. This one act could ruin everything they had built up between them if she should fall pregnant against Vincent’s wishes.
“No Vincent. I’m really happy that you have decided to allow this between us, but it would be wrong to make love without talking about the consequences first.”
For a moment Vincent shared some of Catherine’s earlier embarrassment. Acting upon it was easy; talking about it was not, and what consequences?
Mulling it over in his mind, Vincent did a quick calculation of what would be entailed in love making, before during and after. Slowly the answer dawned on him, and it was his turn to gasp and let his mouth drop open – children! Of course children.
“You’ve clicked?” Catherine asked gently her eyes dancing with humour.
Vincent nodded, lost for words.
“You do understand then why we must talk first?”
“I cannot…” Vincent shook his head, “give you my child Catherine. To bring someone like me into the world…” his words trailed away as a great misery engulfed him.
“I thought not.” Catherine spoke softly, “Please understand Vincent these doubts for that reason were only for your sake, and how it would make you feel. I for one would love to have your child.”
Open-mouthed Vincent stared at her. She couldn’t be serious!
Catherine was nodding, “I would Vincent. I love you, and to have a half dozen children like you around me, well that would make me very happy, but I know it would not be so for you.”
“No.” Vincent lowered his head, so that his mane of hair fell over his face, concealing the sorrow from his eyes.
Catherine had to strain her ears to hear him whisper, “You though crave a child. I feel that within you.”
“Yes. Though that need is somewhat lessened now.”
Vincent looked up trying to understand.
. “I still want your child Vincent, to carry a child of my own, but…” her voice trailed away. A great sorrow engulfing her, maybe she would never know that joy. His own child growing beneath her heart, Catherine gave a little whimper of regret cutting Vincent to the core. His eyes filled with tears “I’m sorry Catherine I could never allow it.” He whispered. Both slipped down to sit upon the floor of the tunnel and their fingers entwined seeking comfort from one another, “All is not lost Vincent.”
Catherine stated brightly, perhaps a little too brightly, but a brightness that filled him with hope nonetheless. “You remember I said there was something I had to tell you?”
Vincent nodded; unsure of what she was intending to say. The bond was a mixture of emotions now, excitement, anxiety hope and love, yes an underlying feeling of love. A fierce love too. Vincent’s blue eyes sparkled as he waited for her to continue.
“It’s funny isn’t it, how before I went away you and Father told me to bring the child from the case to live Below do you remember?”
He nodded. How could he not? The case was a tragic one, it had filled him with despair all the while she had been away working on it.
“Well, to cut a long story short…” Catherine drew in a deep breath, her voice filled with happiness when she expelled it along with the words, “I am now a mother.”
Vincent’s eyes widened with surprise.
“She’s adorable Vincent. I have never been affected by a case like Rachel’s in my life. And she had no one.” Her words came out in a rush now that she had begun. “She trusts me, and I, I…” her words trailed away as she begged him through the bond to understand, “I love her Vincent. So much so that I have fostered her and she’s coming to live with me Vincent.”
Catherine waited long moments, not knowing what to expect, and unable to bear the silence went on quickly, “so the desire for a child is lessened, I have Rachel now and she needs me.”
Vincent’s silence stretched endlessly, “Say something Vincent?”
He found his voice at last, “ I don’t know what to say. Where to begin. Catherine…!” His eyes were bright with mixed emotions, and Catherine saw therein, amazement, pride, joy a little anxiety but overall his eyes spoke of positive things.
“I always knew you had courage Catherine…but this!” he gasped, “To give your love to the child of another in such a way…Catherine its commendable.”
Catherine leaned forward and hugged him hard; “I couldn’t resist her Vincent. Her life was so tragic, and I desperately, desperately wanted to bring her here, I could think of no other way to make that possible. Do you think Father will let her stay?”
Regaining himself, Vincent replied, “Father has already said he would Catherine you know that, but the circumstances are different somewhat…”
“I know. As her legal guardian, I should be wherever Rachel is. I know that. The authorities made that more than plain. I can use the apartment as her official address, but Rachel needs to be with other children, other people eventually. Not yet of course, because her trust has been shattered, but when she learns to accept and not be afraid of others, a family will be good for her.” ‘As would a father’ she added under her breath.
“I thought that she was only three years old.”
“She is.”
“Then what will you do with her while you are at work, if she trusts no one but you right now?”
“Hmm well you see there is more that you need to know.” Catherine laughed, causing Vincent’s lips to twitch as he stood up and pulled her to her feet, “I can see the attraction of going to my chamber now Catherine. These tunnels are chilly, and if this is going to take time to explain, perhaps the warmth of my chamber after all?”
Catherine nodded, slipping her arm around his waist, and they fell into step alongside one another, not speaking again until they had at last reached the central hub of the underground world and saw Father coming out of a chamber just ahead of them. He turned as he heard a sound behind him, “Catherine!” his face lit up, “Welcome back my dear.” He hurried to embrace her, placing a light kiss on her cheek. “Will you be staying for supper?”
“Actually Father I should like to stay for longer than that if I could?”
Father’s blue eyes twinkled merrily, “Of course you have the two weeks off promised to you. If you can honestly say you can put up with us for all that long you are welcome to spend the time with us Catherine. I know one person who would benefit greatly from such a long spell with you.” Father winked at Vincent, who had a feeling that Catherine was about to say something that would surprise them both.
He wasn’t mistaken, “actually Father it wasn’t two weeks I had in mind. How does two years sound to you?” Catherine could have laughed by the look on Father’s face. Truly it was a night for everyone being speechless for some reason or another. Even Vincent had gasped loudly.
Taking pity on them both, Catherine linked her arm through Father’s, her other tucked around Vincent’s waist, “Come let me fill you in.” she told them both continuing to step forward towards Vincent’s chamber.
Once inside, the two men waited again for her to continue, and briefly Catherine told Father the same news as she had told Vincent earlier about fostering Rachel. “The thing is,” Catherine went on, “Rachel is only three years old. She trusts no one but me, and there is no way I can leave her with a child-minder while I go out to work. It would be unthinkable to do that. And so I have signed papers that I will be there for her every single day until she starts primary school, and only then will I return to work.
The only way I could convince the authorities that this was possible was to tell them of my savings. That proved to them that I could quite easily afford to take two years leave and not be in dire straits during that time for either Rachel or myself. However I know that spending two years with nothing to do but care for a child will probably take more endurance than I have. I hoped therefore that you might allow me to live down here with you, and a week or so after she arrives to bring Rachel to this place. Perhaps we can live somewhere more isolated from the rest of you until Rachel feels inclined to trust other people, and only go to my apartment from time to time, and then mainly for the purpose of the authorities.” Catherine paused long enough for a response, but received none. Both men were still having difficulty taking it in. “Just say you’ll think about it?” Catherine laughed at the two of them. They hadn’t said a word.
Father sat down into the nearest chair, a smile lighting his face; “Did you have to take such drastic measures as these to live with my son?” Father couldn’t help asking with a chuckle.
Catherine blushed, “I didn’t..” she stammered, and Father waved her answer aside, “It’s all right Catherine I was just teasing you. Of course you and the child can stay, longer than two years if you want. The council must be informed, but I see no reason that they would turn you away. This is very commendable of you Catherine. To give up your career like this for a child.”
“When you see her Father you will understand why I did it. And really it isn’t much. Not when you consider how I would have felt had I not of done this. And how Rachel would have fared if I’d left her behind. I never expected to love her, but now that I do, I am stunned at how possessive that love for her is.”
Father nodded, he knew that kind of love, and yet he marvelled that Catherine could feel it too, when she had never even had a child of her own. There was no doubts in his mind how the council would view her request. Everyone loved Catherine and this would make them love her all the more.
Father drew Catherine into his arms, “Welcome my dear. We’ll sort out a chamber for you in the next couple of days. When will you be bringing the child?”
“I have to go back and collect her at the weekend. At first someone from the authorities will be coming to view my apartment. I’ll let Rachel settle there for several days and then I’ll bring her here.”
Father nodded, stood up and patted her shoulder; “It’s a fine thing you have done Catherine.” For the first time noticing Vincent’s silence, he looked from one to the other of them suddenly a thought dashing through his mind, “How do you feel about this Vincent?”
“I haven’t had time to think about it.” Vincent answered and even to Father his voice sounded strained.
“You have discussed this?” Father looked from one to the other, “Catherine you did tell Vincent of your plans before speaking to me?”
“Not completely.” Catherine answered.
Father felt immediately uncomfortable. Having just said Catherine could live with them, he realised what having her there would do for his son, and if Vincent was not prepared for that…
Sensing his unrest Vincent intervened, “Don’t worry Father. Catherine might not have told me of her plan to reside with us, but I think I could get used to the idea.” His eyes twinkled and Father let out a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding.
“Well as long as you are sure?” Father asked Vincent anxiously.
Vincent drew his arm around Father’s shoulders, leading him towards the exit, “I’m sure Father, but if you’d excuse us, there is something Catherine and I need to discuss.” Father nodded, only half understanding the situation.
“We’ll speak with the others after breakfast tomorrow. I’ll say goodnight for now.” As an afterthought he turned to Catherine, “Will you be staying tonight Catherine?”
“If she does Father I shall escort her to the guest chamber.” Vincent told him, trying not to sound too eager to have his father leave them.
Father nodded, “Then I’ll see you both tomorrow. Goodnight.” He left them then, and Vincent exhaled a sigh of relief.
“His company isn’t that bad.” Catherine giggled as Vincent turned back to her.
“There was a time when you thought otherwise.” He reminded her.
“That was a long time ago. I love him now.” Catherine replied sincerely. “He’s become a father to me.”
“I know. I think he has great affection for you too.” Vincent’s voice trailed away to a mere whisper as he added, “As have I.” For long moments they gazed at one another, the ever- present feelings put aside for the past hour rushing forth to remind them of their existence.
“Catherine… with you living here, Father’s speculation was right. It could be uncomfortable for me…unless?”
“We’ve come full circle Catherine. Your having a child of your own was only part of the problem. The risk of your having my child is the main problem.” He husked.
Catherine felt her limbs weaken all over again, and she reached back to slide into a chair for support.
“If you are going to live here, and be in my exclusive company, and feeling as we do for each other Catherine, it is only going to be a question of time before we…make love Catherine.” He whispered the last, almost unable to say it.
“I know. But Vincent…” Catherine licked her lips again, why did they keep going dry? She shook her head this was getting ridiculous. She pulled herself together, “Vincent you don’t want children of your own do you?”
“Then we must do something to prevent that.” She blushed scarlet as those earlier thoughts filled her mind.
This time Vincent understood fully and blushed too.
“I know you are well aware of how things go Vincent from your study of Father’s medical books. There is something I could take that prevents conception, alas I have tried that type of contraception before and it does not agree with me." In full swing now, she went on before the whole thing got the better of her. “Some of the stronger doses made me sick, others give me headaches, still another gave me leg cramps, and another caused water retention to such a degree that I began to look as if I wore rubber rings all over my body.” Despite himself Vincent chuckled, “That must have been some sight?” his eyes twinkled.
“It was awful. And then even if any of them didn’t affect me so badly, I would still have to be on them for three months before they were considered safe.” Her voice trailed away, having said all she could say.
“So that leads us to what?” Vincent had his arms folded. Catherine felt it was some kind of defence attitude.
“Not to what Vincent, but to whom…you.”
It was Catherine’s turn for humour, “Yes I’m afraid so my love.”
“You think I need a trip to the vets?” Vincent spoke dryly and despite his words both of them burst into laughter.
“Not so drastic Vincent.” Catherine chuckled.
“What then?”
“There are things that you could use…er…wear.” Her lips twitched with humour.
Now he got it. He might be naive but he wasn’t entirely stupid. However, he decided to play around a little, “Something to wear? What like a hat you mean?”
Catherine’s humour got the better of her and she burst into laughter. Even more so as his answer reminded her of something. Soon she was doubled over.
“It wasn’t that funny.” His arms still folded in front of him; Vincent looked coyly at her.
“Its not that…you reminded me of something that’s all.” Tears coursed down Catherine’s cheeks, and her sides ached from laughing.
“Care to share the joke?” Vincent asked somewhat dryly.
“Someone told me something once about contraception and you just reminded me of it.” Catherine calmed somewhat, and tried to withhold more laughter as she told him, “A man went to a drug store for some form of contraception…” her voice trailed away. What was she doing talking to Vincent of things like this?
He waited his lips twitching which encouraged her to continue. “The pharmacist told the man to try the cap.” Here Catherine doubled with laughter again thinking of Vincent’s reference to a hat. With laughter in her voice Catherine went on, “the guy took the cap, but came back the next day saying that wearing it had given his wife a headache, as it was too tight. And that he failed to see how wearing it would prevent conception anyway.”
Vincent’s chest heaved with suppressed laughter. His eyes bright he waited for her to continue, sensing more was to come.
“So the pharmacist asked him to try the male pill, saying it was designed to make him…” Catherine blushed scarlet, again the awfulness of telling this to Vincent astounded her.
“To make him what?” Vincent asked, trying not to let her hear his laughter.
“Limp.” Another gush of laughter erupted from Catherine, and she drew herself to her full height, took a deep breath and with her lips twitching with mirth she went on. “The chap came back the following day and said his foot was sore from walking on the pills placed inside his shoe, and he failed to see how that prevented conception either.”
Vincent lips twitched with amusement. Encouraged Catherine continued; “The pharmacist then told him about the coil. Explaining to him that it was similar to the spring inside a pen, and the chap took it home. He returned the next day, saying he couldn’t find a pen big enough to take it, and still he couldn’t understand that even if he had how it would prevent conception.
“Finally the pharmacist showed the man a condom, and demonstrated its use by placing it over his thumb. The man took a packet and did not return the following day. Nine months passed until one day the pharmacist was confronted by the same man pushing a pram into his drug store. The man was furious and told the pharmacist that out of all the contraception devices he’d been shown, the wearing of the condom over his thumb was the easiest and most comfortable, and so he had stuck with it. Nonetheless it had proven as useless a method as all the others had and his wife had become pregnant again.
“The pharmacist was very sorry and introduced the man to the rhythm method, and so far the guy has not returned. So I guess he’s still dancing.” Catherine collapsed into a heap of giggles slowing to a stop when Vincent did not join in with her. She stole a glance at him, and found his chest heaving but his face expressionless. Catherine realised he was toying with her at her expense, “So shall we dance Vincent?” she asked huskily, drawing herself up to stand alongside him and playfully caress his thigh. Vincent drew in a sharp breath, expelling it immediately grabbing her by the wrists to prevent her actions further. His eyes darkened with passion, and he drew her around into his arms, bending his head and took her lips almost savagely. A whimper of longing escaped her and Vincent let her go, his mouth creasing into laughter and unable to contain himself or play the part any longer, he burst into laughter too.
When finally both had recovered enough to talk, silence befell them, and Vincent was the first to ask, “So out of them all I take it I am to wear the one over the thumb but in the correct place?”
Catherine sucked in a breath, a shudder filling her and expelling it in a long deep sigh, “Yes, unless you can think of anything else.” She asked softly.
“I might have to do.” There was something only he and Father knew, which at that moment he could not share with her, “Don’t worry Catherine I will talk it over with Father, but until I do…” he spread his arms out to his side in defeat.
“I know.” Catherine agreed, with a sign of resignation and placing her forehead against his chest she continued, “we are back to square one.”

*** *** ***

Chapter Six

Every raindrop that touches your face is blessed,

Would that my hands could be as soft –

Brushing your hair, touching your cheeks,

Glistening on your eyelids like unshed tears.

No dewdrop sleeping on an early morning rose

Could know such beauty as I see in you.

Truly I am blessed,

Raindrops and dewdrops can only reflect heaven

But I hold it in my arms each time I hold you.

Reading his written word upon his journal Vincent smiled. He had never felt so happy. Catherine lived Below now and though they still had many things to confront, he found that just being able to talk about them put his fears at rest.
With Catherine and Rachel living some distance from the home chambers he hadn’t yet ventured there. Not that he couldn’t but he thought it best to be invited first.
Rachel, he knew, was still accustoming herself to life Below and hadn’t as yet encountered any other living soul but Catherine. Yet just knowing that Catherine was safe and close made him unbelievably happy.

Father too had noticed the change. Standing in the entrance of his son’s chamber he scrutinised his son for long moments before entering and asking, “Would you care for a game of chess Vincent?”
Vincent rose, and walked over to his parent, to help him to the nearest chair. Father’s hip played up dreadfully during the long winter months.
“Perhaps a little later Father. There is something I should like to discuss with you first.”
“Is it a Catherine thing?” Father’s eyes twinkled. “I must say Vincent I am happy to find that you are so relaxed with her being so close. What then is the problem?”
Vincent sighed, he had been thinking ever since it had been brought up of ways to word it, but there wasn’t much he could think of. It was a delicate matter, but one he didn’t want to linger too long with, the sooner he got it out in the open and removed the better.
Knowing Catherine was so close had heightened his desire and he didn’t know for how much longer he could find the strength to resist making love to her.
Father waited patiently, knowing full well that with Vincent time would lapse before he was comfortable with whatever he needed to say.
Finally he spoke, “Father you well know that I would never want to reproduce a child that might look like me?” Vincent raised his eyes to his parent, though he longed to look away. Father held that gaze, his mind reeling, this was nowhere near what he had expected. He nodded, “Yes Vincent, though you have rarely spoken of it, and though we do not know if you could even be fertile, I do know how you are against such a thing.”
Now what to say? Vincent’s heart thudded painfully in his ears.
“Catherine and I…” he began, suddenly colouring up.
Fortunately Father understood at once, “You are ready to embark upon a deeper, more intimate relationship?”
“Yes Father.” Vincent sighed thankfully.
“And you are happy with this? It’s not one sided?”
“No Father I want this too, but I don’t want to give Catherine a child like me.”
“I can understand that Vincent.”
Vincent let out a long sigh of relief, “Catherine has explained that certain contraceptives have detrimental effects on her, and she is reluctant to pursue this method, which leaves me…” his voice trailed away, and this time he could not meet Father’s gaze.
“So you have discussed it?” Father could imagine how Vincent had felt about that at the time. Acutely embarrassed no doubt.
“Yes Father. Catherine has told me that there are things that I could wear…” he hesitated before looking up, a small smile gracing his mouth, “Father I never told Catherine this, but I would be surprised if those things were made large enough for me.”
Father chuckled, he couldn’t help himself, “Oh I wouldn’t be so sure about that Vincent. As I remember when I was at university my fellow students and I used to place one end of a condom over a tap and fill them with water until they were incredibly long.”
Vincent’s eyes opened wide, and Father chuckled, “We would tie a knot in one end, and use them as water bombs. If I remember rightly Vincent, they were tough too, it took several bounces before they burst.”
Vincent chuckled trying to picture the sight. “Surely balloons would have been better?”
“Perhaps, but not so much fun. You imagine Vincent the laughter we would derive from seeing those things stretch to a foot or more. Why as I remember one actually made it to fourteen inches before bursting in the sink.”
“You measured it?”
“Absolutely. Another student held a tape measure. We told ourselves it was a part of our studies.” Father chuckled at the memory, and wiped away a tear of mirth, “so I guess what I am trying to say Vincent, is that they would fit you admirably. You really have no worries on that score.”
Vincent sighed, “Can you get some for me?”
“Well yes, but surely Catherine…”
Vincent blushed.
“Oh I see. Yes I can understand Vincent. Asking your nearest and dearest to get some condoms in extra large size could be a trifle embarrassing.”
“Just a bit.” Vincent gulped.
Father chuckled, “How soon did you want them?”
Vincent shook his head, he wished for this conversation to be over.
“This week, next week?” Father teased his son mercilessly. “Yesterday?”
Vincent blushed scarlet.
“Vincent?” Father took pity on his son, “Why don’t you just marry the girl?” he spoke softly, gently, causing Vincent’s head to whip around and stare at him avidly.
Wide eyed Vincent exclaimed, “Marry Catherine!”
“That’s what I said. It’s obvious if you are thinking of loving her in that way, that it would be the next step. Why don’t you do it in the correct way, marry her first, and save this experience for your honeymoon?”
Slowly Vincent shook his head from side to side, not in denial but in disbelief, “I’ve never considered it…never thought of it.”
“Then you should. I think we can safely say that Catherine is here to stay can we not?”
Vincent swallowed with difficulty; “I would like to hope so.”
“Well then, marry her Vincent. Believe me it would make the pair of you feel so much better and contented. And give us the excuse for having the biggest party we have ever seen Below.” His eyes twinkled with merriment.
Slowly Vincent nodded, his eyes lighting up. Marry Catherine? It would be wonderful, but to have her beside him for the rest of his life? Would she accept that?
“Don’t have doubts Vincent. The pair of you have acted very responsible over the contraception so now do likewise over your future. Let these things go hand in hand in the correct manner of things. Believe me I know what I am talking about Vincent. To marry the woman you love and then experience these joys on your honeymoon, nothing even surpasses it. It will make the both of you so happy.”
“But Catherine does have a life Above Father, even if she is giving it all up for two years.”
“There are no buts Vincent. If she can give up two years of her working life for a child, she would give up more for you, I am sure of it, however if you would not allow this, then there is no reason why she cannot commute. Millions of people do from one place or another and still be married.”
His heart thumping wildly, Vincent felt a rush of happiness and hope sweeping through him.
“Might I suggest a candle-lit dinner for two, a romantic evening and a ring for you to present her with? I’m sure we could work on the ring thing quite discreetly without her ever being aware of it. Mary would love to help. Give it a month or so, let Rachel become accustomed to being with the rest of us, and you and Catherine take the night off somewhere…” Father could just picture it. Vincent could not.
“Father a candle-lit dinner would not present much of a surprise since it is the way we live down here.” Vincent reminded him dryly.
“So we do Vincent. Then might I suggest that you take Catherine to her apartment and do it there? You have a key do you not?”
“Yes I know where to find one.”
“Then let’s do it shall we? You go to the apartment one night, and let William in with one or two helpers. They will stay the night, prepare the place and the food, and you will come back the following night and wait for someone to usher Catherine there, blindfolded if you like?”
Vincent chuckled, “No I think we can dispense with the blindfold. Just asking Catherine to close her eyes would suffice.”
Father smiled, Vincent was getting caught up in it now. “And you would be inside waiting, not out on the balcony. Or the effect would be lost. When Catherine is ushered into her apartment, Mary and whomever is with her will discreetly leave, and the two of you will be left there alone together. The rest dear boy is up to you.”
Slowly as Vincent begun to picture it in his mind, the possibility excited him. “You think it will work Father?” a sudden flash of Catherine refusing him shot forth, he couldn’t bear it.
“Trust me, it’ll work, and Catherine will love it.”
Slowly Vincent nodded; he liked it, “all right.” He told his father, “I’ll do it.”
Father patted his hand, “I’m so happy for you Vincent. Catherine is a beautiful woman.”

*** *** ***

Several days later, and standing alone inside the large chamber during a temporary absence of Catherine, Rachel surveyed all around her.
It was nothing like Rachel had ever seen or ever imagined and she had to pinch herself just to believe that it was real.
That never ending journey down those long tunnels when first she had been brought below had frightened her, and for the first time she had really relied on Catherine for the strength to put one foot in front of the other. Only Catherine’s warm smile and assurance that they were going somewhere wonderful kept her going forward.
Even now since her arrival she had been unable to summon the courage to go outside of the large chamber. The experience of being there and sleeping beneath all the rock terrified her, but to go back into those never ending tunnels again was something Rachel dared not do.
So in Catherine’s absence Rachel wandered around the large chamber looking at things but not daring to touch anything. Though Catherine had told her this was her home now, and everything inside the cavern could be hers too, Rachel could not help thinking it was all some kind of trap.
She loved Catherine, but there were other people living here, she knew that, though she was yet to meet any of them, and she felt that even though she was alone a thousand eyes watched her from high upon the ceiling from the many cracks and crevices there.
Though the flickering candles cheered her a little.
Their ever-present dance against the trailing wind that came from somewhere delighted her. She could picture them as ballerinas upon a large stage dancing to a tune in front of an audience.
One of the things most noticeable about the chamber was the amount of books that lined the shelves that were secured to the walls. Books spilled over and Rachel loved to sit beside Catherine and watch as Catherine flicked through their pages, and though Rachel could only read a little of the odd words that jumped out at her, she longed to know what the books were about.
Catherine had promised to read every single one of them to her. The thought delighted Rachel. There were hundreds of books, representing hundreds of days that she would live there. For despite the eerie tunnels and the lack of windows to an outside world, Rachel felt cherished and loved for the first time in her life and sensed that she was going to be happy.
Catherine returned just as Rachel was busy thinking these things, her smile as ever warm and friendly. “Rachel I’ve brought you some cookies, they are still warm from the oven, and also some milk, I hope you are hungry?”
Rachel eyed the plate of cookies with delight, glancing up at Catherine just to be sure they were all for her.
“Yes go on, take them, eat as many as you can. They are delicious, all the children love them.”
Rachel reached for the first cookie, and bit into it, her smile spreading as the delicious flavour of hazelnuts tantalised her tongue.
“Good eh?” Catherine smiled, “William knows just how to make treats for the children like these.”
Rachel swallowed before speaking, “Is William the cook?”
It was the first time in three days that Rachel had asked about anyone Below. Catherine smiled, “He sure is. And he is looking forward to meeting you.”
Rachel frowned, a cloud passing over her face.
“What is it honey?” Catherine knelt down to the child’s level, something Rachel had always appreciated from Catherine. Everyone else in her life had spoken down to her. When Rachel could not reply, Catherine went on, “In time sweetheart you will meet everyone that lives down here with us, and you will play with the other children, and learn to forget all the horrible things that have happened to you in the past. There are other children here that have suffered as you have, and they will become friends with you.”
Rachel’s eyes widened trying to take it all in, she could not imagine being friends with anyone. “I only want you.” She told Catherine.
“And I only want you.” Catherine told her sincerely, realising it was true. Though of course Vincent did not come into that equation, she wanted him more than any one, but suddenly it dawned on her that her love for Rachel had grown so deep, that she really didn’t mind any longer if she were never to have children of her own.
It was quite a revelation to her and not entirely unpleasant.
Rachel continued to wolf down the cookies, until the whole plate was empty, and then followed it with the glass of milk.
“Would you like to come with me to return these to the kitchen?” Catherine indicated the plate and cup. Wide-eyed Rachel shook her head.
“You can bring Vinny.” Catherine nodded towards the cuddly toy placed upon Rachel’s bed.
“Will your Vinny be there?”
Catherine smiled. “He might be. Would you like to meet him?”
Rachel looked at her cuddly toy, remembering the things that Catherine had told her about her protector.
He looked like a lion but he was a man. “Does your Vinny love you?” Rachel asked, surprising Catherine by the question.
Catherine nodded slowly, “Yes very much.”
A decision was made, Rachel ran to collect the cuddly toy and returned to Catherine’s side, “Then we want to come with you.” She clutched at Catherine’s free hand sending a bolt of pleasure through her. This was advancement, though Catherine was a little perturbed. It had to be a first that a new member of the tunnel community expressed a desire to meet Vincent before they had met any of the other tunnel dwellers. Catherine could only hope and pray that the meeting would go well for all of their sakes.

However the tunnels were unusually busy for a change, something to do with the aroma of William'’ cookies Catherine presumed, and Rachel gripped Catherine’s hand tightly, hiding behind her as best she could as they walked and met one person after another.
“Here comes Olivia.” Catherine told her as the first person they were to meet approached them. Olivia smiled as she reached their side, and stooping down to Rachel’s level spoke to her very kindly, “Hello you must be Rachel. I’m very pleased to meet you.”
Rachel said nothing, and Olivia knowing the story as they all did smiled, straightened and went on by.
Next Jamie and Mouse rounded the corner deep in conversation, “Hello Catherine” they greeted her in unison, then catching sight of the little girl Jamie called a greeting, “Hello Rachel it’s very nice to meet you”. Mouse stared at the newcomer making Rachel a little more afraid than usual, and then he smiled and directed his question at Catherine. “If Rachel wants she can come and see Arthur.”
“Thank you Mouse.” Catherine smiled warmly, “Maybe Rachel would like that.”
The pair smiled at her then said Cheerio and went on their way.
“Who’s Arthur?” Catherine stopped walking to bend down to Rachel, pleased that she had asked. “Arthur is Mouse’s pet racoon.”
Catherine laughed at the perplexed expression upon Rachel’s face.
“Yes that was that young man’s name. He’s a very nice person, and gets into a lot of mischief and makes people laugh.”
Rachel smiled, immediately warming to the fellow. It seemed fun that a grown up could get into mischief.
Next along the tunnel they met Father, his face creased into a warm welcome as he saw the child holding tightly on to Catherine’s hand.
“Hello young lady, you must be Rachel. Welcome my dear. “ His smile warmed Rachel, and she listened while Father directed his next question to Catherine, “Are you looking for Vincent?”
“No Father, we’re just returning the crockery to the kitchen. However Rachel has expressed a desire to meet Vincent.”
Father was surprised and obviously pleased to hear that and bent down as Olivia had done, so that he was able to speak to the child on her level. Rachel was impressed. She could see it pained the old man to stoop so low. “How are you liking it here Rachel?”
Rachel could not find a reply to that, but desperately wanted to say something for his trouble, “I like the cookies.” She replied with honesty.
Father laughed loudly, “You and me both my dear.” He straightened, grimacing as he did so as his joints complained. “I was just on my way back for a refill.”
“Father you’ll get fat.”
“What is life if I can’t indulge once in a while.” Catherine cocked her head to one side, making him chuckle, “well all right maybe I am gaining weight but what’s a few pounds between friends?”
“Maybe your bones wouldn’t creak if your legs had less weight upon them.” Catherine laughed, surprised when Rachel did too, hiding the giggle behind her hand. Just then Mary came along the tunnel, “there you are Jacob, I wondered what was taking you so long. Since you ate my share of cookies along with your own I am starving you know.” Then as she caught sight of Rachel, she too bent down level with the child, much to Rachel’s obvious delight, “And you must be Rachel. I do hope that you are settling in here. My name is Mary. If there is anything that you need and Catherine can’t get it, just come and see me okay? And maybe I can help you.”
Rachel smiled; warming to the kind lady immediately and using her fingers to count she bent back a fifth one. Other than Catherine, she now liked Olivia, Jamie, Mouse, Father and Mary and they all seemed to like her.
“We were heading for the kitchen Mary, would you like to join us?”
“Is that wise my dear? I understand there are a lot of people in there right now. William’s delicious cookies are going like hot cakes.” Mary laughed at the expression, and Father added his input.
“If you are looking for Vincent why don’t we take the crockery back to the kitchen for you, and you two go straight to his chamber?”
Mary frowned, glancing at Rachel, Catherine and Father in turn. “It’s all right Mary.” Catherine smiled, “Rachel would like to meet Vincent.”
Mary nodded and smiled warmly again. Rachel missed nothing; she sensed their concern. “I have my own lion.” She held up the toy for them to see, “Catherine bought him for me.”
Father looked at the features that resembled Vincent very much save for brown eyes over blue.
“His name is Vinny.” Rachel proudly told Father making the corners of his lips twitch even more.
“Rachel’s Vinny protects her even as Vincent protects me.” Catherine felt the need to explain, and Father nodded understanding at once. “Vincent protects all of us Rachel and he will protect you too. So you mustn’t be afraid of him when you see him.”
“I won’t be.” Rachel assured them brightly.
“I’ve explained.” Catherine added, as Father and Mary went towards the kitchen. Though deep down inside she hoped that Rachel would not be afraid.

She needn’t have worried.
The moment she and Rachel stepped into Vincent’s chamber with one look at him Rachel felt she had come home.
For a few moments she stared at him, and he stared back. Half of him a little perturbed at Catherine bringing the child to him like this without warning, the other half pleased and growing happier by the second by the child’s natural acceptance of him.
He bent down onto her level holding open his arms. And with only a moments hesitation Rachel let go of Catherine’s hand and walked into Vincent’s embrace as if she had known him all of her life. A deep sigh of pleasure escaped Vincent as his eyes met the misty eyes of Catherine’s over Rachel’s shoulder, and he told the child sincerely, “Welcome Rachel. Welcome to my world.”

*** *** ***

For many days afterwards Rachel could only put her calm acceptance of Vincent down to the fact that he reminded her of Vinny. That and the fact that she knew that Vincent protected Catherine, and Rachel loved Catherine very much. But for Catherine and Vincent the fact that Rachel had readily gone to him, was nothing short of a miracle.
That evening when Rachel had gone willingly into his arms, Vincent had met Catherine’s gaze over Rachel’s shoulder with a look of incredulous joy in those stunning blue eyes. There was also something else. Something that Vincent did know of that Catherine as yet didn’t. If he were to marry Catherine, then he would become father to Rachel as Catherine became mother to her. And that filled him with a great sense of belonging. It was a good feeling. And a new feeling, because while he had belonged in a sense to an extended family all of his life he still felt very much alone. Until with Catherine and now with Rachel he felt a commitment to two people that really needed him, and that felt right and complete somehow.
,br> In Vincent Rachel felt something solid that she had found nowhere else. Not only that he was different but he was also the image of Vinny and Vinny to her had become her very special friend while the friendship she now shared with Catherine had been developing. In Vincent she found an overlarge Vinny, and at once a protective spirit had settled around her heart the moment those firm arms had closed around her tiny body and Rachel had felt that nothing could ever hurt her ever again.

Her adoration for Vincent also made her transition to tunnel life that much easier. With the chamber she shared with Catherine being so far away from Vincent’s and with Rachel wanting to see Vincent as often as possible, as the days passed Rachel conquered her fear of moving through the tunnels in order to visit him. And that often entailed meeting other people along the way. In no time at all it seemed Rachel opened like a flower, or as Vincent preferred to call it, like a young bird unfolding its wings and soaring into carefree flight.

Catherine had told Vincent everything that she knew about Rachel. Much of it making Vincent very angry and dreadfully sad, and he vowed that if it took the rest of his life he would make certain that Rachel was forever happy and hoped that he and Catherine could help to erase the bad memories from Rachel’s mind.
He knew of the incident when Catherine had mentioned secrets to Rachel, but secrets were a very important part of life Below just as they were to children’s dealings with one another. Very often one child would confine a secret to another child hoping that secret could be kept.

One day when they were alone together and Rachel fingered items of interest around Vincent’s chamber, Vincent decided to ask her a question.
“Rachel?” Something in his tone made her look up at him sharply with a question in her eyes.
Kneeling down to her level, and then pulling his legs from under him to sit upon the floor, Vincent looked into her eyes. He knew his perception of the way Rachel viewed things was crucial. They were in the centre of the room, well away from the bed, and well away from any shadowed corners. Vincent had chosen to settle himself down where the candle light was at its brightest, and in a voice that was loud enough not to be worrying and low enough not to be overheard he asked her, “Rachel, please don’t be afraid, for I would never hurt you. Know that. I think you are a wonderful friend to have, and I would like to ask for your help.”
Her eyes wide, Rachel said nothing but nodded just a little. She wanted to trust Vincent. He had done nothing so far that had given her cause to fear him.
“I don’t ever want to remind you of your past Rachel, but on this one occasion I want you to know that if you should ever wish to speak of those things then Catherine and I will always be available for you to talk to us. And do you know why we will always be there for you?”
Rachel shook her head. Something in her was a little afraid, but still she trusted Vincent. All the children loved him and he harmed no one.
Taking a deep breath Vincent told her, “Rachel I have a secret.” He stopped upon seeing Rachel’s eyes fill with fear, sorrow, and disbelief, and Vincent swallowed hard hoping against all hope that she wouldn’t run away from him.
“In many respects this place where we live is a secret.” He hurried on; “It is the biggest secret any of us living here have to keep. If we were to tell anyone that didn’t understand, our world here could be destroyed by bad people from Above.”
Wide-eyed Rachel nodded. This she understood, for Catherine had already explained it to her. Gently Vincent continued, “But my secret is different. It is nothing bad and it will not hurt you, but I need your help to carry it through. Let me tell you about it before I ask if you will promise to keep it.”
With her eyes still wide with apprehension Rachel nodded a little reluctantly. Vincent felt distressed that Rachel’s parents had robbed their own child of believing in the magic of such an innocent thing as a secret and it filled him with anger.
Nonetheless he had her attention and that was already more than he’d hoped for so he continued, “You know that I love Catherine very much, don’t you?”
Rachel nodded, her eyes brightening.
Encouraged Vincent went on, “Well I am hoping that Catherine will marry me.”
Rachel gasped, her eyes dancing with delight and unable to keep in her joy she blurted out, “then you will be my father!”
Vincent nodded, “Yes Rachel, and I would like that very much, but you know you can never tell anyone from Above about me. And so that is one secret that you have to promise to keep forever.”
He watched her closely, as her eyes told him of her firm acceptance and she nodded just a little, feeling the seriousness of this.
“But I need to ask Catherine to marry me first. And to do that I need a ring to present to her when I ask.” He hesitated watching Rachel carefully, and continued gently, “Far below us is a cavern filled with stunning gemstones.” Rachel gasped, “Like the one Catherine wears around her neck?”
“Yes, like that one. I brought that stone back for her from that very place, and I would very much like to take a stone for her ring from there, but I want Catherine to choose it. There are so many gemstones in the cavern, and Catherine might choose a stone different from one I might choose for her. But I don’t want her knowing it is to make a ring with, because until I ask her to marry me that has to remain a secret.”
“Will you be taking me with you to find the gemstones?” Rachel asked breathlessly. A chamber of glittering gemstones would be wonderful to see.
Vincent nodded, “If you wish you may come with us. It is a long way and we will go very deep into the earth, but it is an adventure you will love, and besides if you get tired either Catherine or I can carry you.” Vincent watched her reaction as she absorbed this piece of information. She was still a little wary of anyone picking her up and taking her anywhere.
“Or you could stay with Mary and the children here and wait until Catherine and I return.”
“How long will you be gone?”
“About four days.”
Rachel thought about it hard. “Is it dark down there?” That was the worst of living below, because Rachel already hated the dark.
Vincent nodded, “Yes, but we will be carrying lanterns, and the crystal cavern gives off a natural light that is breathtaking.”
“I would like to see the gemstones Vincent…” her voice trailed away as she bit her lip nervously, tugging at the tender flesh there with her teeth.
Vincent searched her eyes drawing them into his own, willing her to know that he would never hurt her, that no one would hurt her ever again, not while he had breath in his body.
“No one will hurt you Rachel ever again. Know that. You are safe here. And you will be safe with Catherine and I on our journey, but the reason for our going there is a secret from Catherine, you mustn’t tell her or it will ruin the surprise.”
“What’s a surprise?”
Vincent searched Rachel’s eyes, he could not believe that Rachel did not know this and that no one had ever told or shown her. “It’s when you have wanted something for a very long time and then someone comes along and gets it for you, but waits until a very important occasion to give it to you. Then you are so delighted because you didn’t know it was coming and it surprises you into feeling happy. Do you understand?”
Rachel remembered the feeling she had had when Catherine had come to visit her for the first time, and had given her Vinny. Yes that feeling had felt so good and Rachel realised with joy that that feeling had a name. Surprise. Smiling happily Rachel nodded and Vincent returned the smile, “So you won’t tell? You’ll not tell Catherine anything, and this will be our secret?” he held his breath hoping that Rachel would not feel frightened by what he asked of her.
Rachel struggled with words her mind conjured up, flashes of memory that had caused her pain, secrets her father had told her to keep from her mother. Her young mind sorted through those memories while Vincent’s trusting blue eyes looked at her with such hope and love. Here then was the difference. Vincent would never hurt her. The word secret to Vincent meant something wonderful, not pain and soreness and fear. A smile twitched the corners of her mouth, and Vincent expelled a long deep sigh when he saw it, his eyes encouraging her further. Rachel was warmed by that smile, encouraged, and her own smile lit up her whole face. “Catherine is going to be so happy isn’t she Vincent?”
“I hope that she will.”
“Oh she will Vincent, Catherine loves you very much.” It surprised Vincent to hear the child say it with such conviction, being that she hadn’t known them long.
“Then you will keep the secret?” Vincent had to know. He didn’t know what he would do if she didn’t. When he had began to tell her, he knew he didn’t need to do, but he felt it would help the child greatly to be entrusted with something so important. Now as he waited he held his breath again.
Her eyes bright Rachel nodded, “Yes I promise. When are we going?”
Vincent exhaled a sigh of pure relief; “You want to come?”
“Oh yes.” She hesitated as if she meant to say more and dare not.
“What is it Rachel? Remember you can tell me anything” Vincent spoke softly.
An impish smile chased itself across Rachel’s face, followed by a tender chuckle that warmed Vincent through and through, “Will you find a gemstone for me to wear around my neck too?”
“Tell you what, you can take a small bag with you and fill it with as many gemstones as it will hold, then you can come back and take them to Mouse and he will make anything from them that you wish, how about that?”
Rachel gave a whoop of delight and threw herself at Vincent without hesitation, her eyes dancing with joy.
Catherine chose that moment to enter the chamber, and her eyes lit up when she took in the scene before her, “What’s this?” she asked happily, surprised when Rachel pursed her lips together, winked at Vincent and boldly replied, “I can’t tell you, it’s a secret.” Before throwing herself at Catherine’s legs and delighting her by giving Catherine one of the biggest hugs ever.

*** *** ***

The journey to the crystal cavern was an adventure every step of the way. Vincent had asked Rachel if she minded some of the other children accompanying them, and when Rachel shyly agreed to this, Vincent had chosen children who had asked to be taken to the crystal cavern on numerous occasions.
So it was quite a party that walked the twisting tunnels, and lay upon their bellies to shuffle through the crawl ways when the tunnels sloped to almost ground level.
Catherine it seemed was very quiet amid the joyous chatter of the half dozen children they had taken with them, but Vincent could not discern anything untoward with her and hoped she would tell him what was on her mind in time.
Catherine could not bring herself to tell him that the reason for her silence was the fact that she was having uncharacteristic thoughts about the whole adventure. It wasn’t like her to begrudge the children an adventure, least of all Rachel, but when Vincent had first mentioned this trip, she had for one moment assumed that it would be just the two of them going. And it still rankled that they were joined by so many.
Since their very frank discussion of the sexual matter, nothing more had been said about it. Catherine was reluctant to bring it up, but had hoped that this trip away might present a wonderful opportunity to put unsaid words into practice. But with Vincent leading the way and Catherine bringing up the rear, at no time did an occasion present itself when she could be close to him.
In her minds eye she conjured up all manner of ways to let him know in no uncertain terms how much she wanted him. Holding tight rein on the Bond Catherine sought through the delicious thoughts warming her to the core. But as the journey went on and Vincent seemed to be avoiding her for reasons known unto himself, Catherine thought she would let loose her thoughts which via the Bond Vincent would find no escape from.
Her lightening emotions hit him just as he was about to duck beneath a low tunnel, and rather than put another step forward, he grasped the rocky outcrop before him, holding on for dear life. Inside his heart was filled with the most delicious barrage of desire he had ever known, and the thoughts that accompanied it thrilled him to such an extent that his arousal was instant. “What’s the matter Vincent?” The children cried almost in unison.
“Yes what’s the matter Vincent?” Catherine mimicked them saucily.
“I need to rest.” Vincent told them, releasing his hold upon the rock before him to gather his cloak firmly around his body. He turned slowly, dropping his gaze unable to meet Catherine’s and dropped to his haunches before settling himself down upon the dusty floor.
The children were concerned. Vincent’s stamina sometimes amazed them. It was most unusual for him to need to rest.
”Are you sure you are all right?” Rebecca asked, coming forward to place her hand upon his brow just as she had seen Father do on numerous occasions when Vincent had been unwell. He did feel hot, but the child had no way of knowing if the temperature of Vincent’s body was normal or not.
“I’m fine Rebecca, don’t worry about me. Take advantage of the rest, we still have a long way to go.”
Catherine had never left off watching him closely, but now as he raised his eyes to look in her direction, she dropped her gaze, settling it instead to her hands tightly clenched upon her lap.
Vincent took that as an opportunity to watch her closely, and though Catherine felt his eyes upon her, she refused to look up, though a soft smile played around the corners of her mouth, as she resumed her thinking.
Having Vincent’s rapt attention, and feeling his wary probing along the Bond, Catherine let fly the imaginings of her mind, stunning him afresh with the things that she wanted to do to him, and have him do to her. His sharp intake of breath caused Catherine to smile triumphantly and coyly she stole a look in his direction. Unprepared for the look upon his face Catherine felt a thunderbolt strike her as she saw his eyes darken with passion, and barely heard him utter, “you would do all those things to me?” so softly that the words were almost inaudible.
Catherine blushed but nodded nonetheless, whispering, “all those things and more Vincent.”
Vincent found it difficult to breathe. His lungs felt suddenly starved of oxygen and he could do nothing but sit and stare at her with incredibility written all over his handsome face.
Catherine felt like laughing. Her adorable man was lost for words, and that was so unlike him.
They were several yards apart and the need to be close was so desperate that Catherine trembled. It was difficult to tell him anything with six children sat round about, three of which were sat between them. But Vincent and Catherine communicated with their eyes, and Vincent was left in little doubt that this trip to the crystal cavern to select a stone for Catherine’s ring was one of Father’s brighter ideas. Just at that moment Vincent closed down on the bond just to be sure that Catherine did not read his thoughts and uncover his secret and thus spoil his surprise. He needn’t have worried, for Catherine’s perception of the Bond his way was somewhat lesser especially in view of the flash flood of emotions that were riding high throughout her body just for the mere sight of him. It was taking all of her attention just to hold tight her emotions before she disgraced herself dreadfully in full view of everyone. Keeping a tight rein on the moan that threatened to erupt and trying to stop her limbs from exploding into a mass of quivering desire took all the strength that she possessed at that moment.
Suddenly with one accord just as if they had been told the three children sat between them moved. A big empty space just begging to be filled stood between Vincent and Catherine. They both looked at it longingly, each willing the other to sidle across and fill it. And though for long moments time seemed to stand still, suddenly in one fluid synchronised movement each made the decision to do just that.
Thus pressed close to one another Vincent was able to feel firsthand the trembling of Catherine’s limbs, intensified now out of control by the mere touch of his side pressed close to hers.
“I love you.” Catherine whispered, with her gaze firmly upon her hands again, looking up at him to add, “so much.”
Vincent swallowed. He knew full well their predicament and if not for the children then nothing would have stopped him making her his right at that very moment. He almost cried with the frustration and the relief of that fact, yet all the same surprised Catherine with words she never expected to hear him utter, “Catherine I want you desperately.” They erupted from deep within his soul, surprising even him and his eyes darkened and his passion swamped her until she drowned in them. Her lips parted while she panted for breath, and Vincent felt he had never seen anything so delicious in all of his life. He wanted at that precise moment to lose himself in her warmth. To be enfolded in her arms and to stay there until he fossilised.
Catherine was trembling; a fresh rush of desire travelling through her limbs as her heart and soul drank in his words. Gingerly Vincent placed his arm around her shoulders drawing her against him, and for long moments fought down the desire to take her somewhere while on this trip below and to hell with the consequences. If ever he had doubted her need to love him, he no longer doubted it now. Every fibre of her being screamed to him to make love to her, and though he was inexperienced in this, the Bond told no lies. Through their connection he knew her acceptance and knew she trusted him explicitly. That thought alone filled Vincent with joyous rapture.
“Are you coming now Vincent?” The words spoken so innocently by Rebecca shocked Vincent to the core given the state of his arousal and his thoughts at that moment. He blushed beet red giving Catherine an indication of all he had been thinking, and she laughed gaily if somewhat shakily.
The more she thought about it the more it made her laugh, until Vincent joined in with her thus easing the electrifying tension between them.
Still shaking both Vincent and Catherine stood using the wall behind their backs for support, and as Vincent found Catherine’s hand within his own he felt reluctant to release it. He needed the contact with her. Just telling his feet to step forward to take up his place at the foot of the queue was almost impossible. His body and his brain did not function with one accord. That much was obvious to Catherine as she too felt the same.
“Do you want to rest some more?” Geoffrey asked them watching them avidly, which to Vincent’s chagrin all the children now did.
Vincent wanted nothing more than to rest until he had brought his body in control with his mind, but he knew the children were excited and in all honesty so was he. The sooner Catherine unwittingly chose her gemstone the sooner they could return and the sooner he could put the rest of his plan into action.
The future, bright and rosy filled Vincent’s mind, and looking down at Catherine his eyes adored her remembering the vision they had shared at Lin and Henry’s wedding two years past.
Reluctantly he let go of Catherine’s hand, his eyes telling of his turmoil in doing so, and telling himself just to breathe he took up his place again at the head of the group, while summoning the strength to reply. Finally he spoke, “No Geoffrey I am all right for the moment, let’s go shall we?” and with one timid backward glance and a smile for Catherine, Vincent led the remainder of the way down to the secret world of dancing lights deep beneath the catacombs.

*** *** ***

“Everything is ready Vincent.” Mary bustled into Vincent’s chamber several weeks after their return from the crystal cavern.
It seemed to have taken an age for it all to come together and Vincent had despaired that it ever would. Catherine, he knew wondered why he was taking so long about making up his mind to love her. After their frank discussion about contraception, he knew she waited only for him to work something out before going back to her about it, and Catherine was more than a little perturbed at what was taking him so long.
After his confession that day on the journey to the crystal cavern about wanting her she had assumed that on their return things would speed up between them but now almost a month later nothing had been said, and the occasion was almost as if it had never happened.
So it was with great relief and surprise for her when Vincent suggested that they might walk above in the park that night for he had something that he wanted to ask her.
All that day Catherine had been in a state of suppressed excitement and did not seem to notice that people were unusually excited themselves. Had it not of been for Vincent’s invitation to go above to the park maybe Catherine would have noticed the way that people smiled knowingly as they passed her in the tunnels, or the hushed whispering that ceased the moment she came close to groups of people talking together. If her mind had been on normal everyday things and not upon the expectation of something that Vincent wanted to ask her she may have noticed the absence of a good deal of vital people from the world Below. For example William, who had never been known to leave the tunnels come hell or high water, but today was nowhere to be seen neither the fact that he had been absent throughout most of last evening’s meal, or that other people were serving dinner that day. And Mary who had left early that morning and had not returned until well into the evening, or the children that seemed to be glowing whenever they passed her by with secret smiles upon their faces. Catherine noticed none of this, but she did notice the change in Rachel.
Suddenly Rachel was blossoming all in the space of a day. Oh she had come on considerably since the day she had found Vincent and Rachel together bound in some secret that still hadn’t been told her. And then since the trip to the crystal cavern where Vincent had helped Rachel select the most stunning crystals to fill a cloth bag and take back with her. These things Catherine noticed with fondness and love, but today Rachel positively glowed.
Looking over her shoulder to where Rachel had spilled the contents of that same cloth bag upon her bed, Catherine watched not for the first time as Rachel lovingly explored the very many facets of her beloved treasure. “Where is the one I chose?” Catherine noticed its absence. It had outshone the rest even through their brilliance.
Rachel smiled a secret smile reminiscent of the ones adorning the faces of the other tunnel children this day. “It’s here somewhere.” She told Catherine, “Don’t worry, it’s not lost.”
Before Catherine had a chance to look closer Rachel gathered up the stones and had them replaced into the bag, and had very cleverly changed the subject. “Can I go to see Mouse?”
Catherine nodded, “Alone, or do you want me to come?” For the past three weeks now Rachel had been making tiny inroads in her exploration of the tunnels and a time or two had gone alone. The trip to Mouse’s chamber had been one of those trips, but being further than most it had taken all of Rachel’s courage to achieve it.
Rachel really wanted to say that she would go by herself. She sensed Catherine’s excitement at hearing her say so, but Rachel also knew that a great deal of people depended on Catherine’s absence away from the main hub this day. Hoping Catherine wouldn’t be too disappointed she told her, “Could you come with me please?”
Catherine, Rachel felt, did a marvellous job of hiding that disappointment, but Rachel felt regret nonetheless, so tampered that hurt with a request. “Mouse is making my necklace. Would you like to see it?”
A smile lit Catherine’s features and her earlier disappointment evaporated, knowing that Rachel’s previous visit to Mouse had been to take some gemstones to him to shape into a pendant like the one Vincent had given to her. “Of course.” Catherine smiled warmly, “Perhaps he has got it finished by now.”
Rachel smiled a secret smile. Mouse had finished the necklace days ago, but she wasn’t about to tell Catherine that, as hand in hand they left their chamber and walked down endless tunnels away from the main hub where all manner of activity was taking place.

*** *** ***

“We’ve a lot to do if we don’t want to be up all night.” Father told the happy revellers as he passed endless streams of ribbons to be pinned along the tunnels leading to the great hall to welcome Catherine and Vincent home the next day.
“Mary is bringing some more boxes of ribbons Father, and Rachel has taken Catherine off to see Mouse as we suggested. Providing someone encounters them on their return to divert them we can ensure that Catherine has no need to pass this way and discover the decorations before tomorrow.
Vincent folded his arms upon his chest, leaning against a wall, and sighed, “I only hope it doesn’t all backfire on you.” He told them.
“Ever the pessimist Vincent.” Father joked though somewhat seriously. “When are you going to get it into that thick scull of yours that Catherine can’t fail to say yes. She loves you my boy and to spend her life with you, married to you will bring forth all her dreams wrapped into one. Believe it Vincent.” He hesitated caught by his son’s sudden apprehension; “You aren’t having second thoughts are you?” Heaven forbid.
“No.” Vincent whispered, “It’s that I don’t share your enthusiasm of the possibility of Catherine’s acceptance.” He looked away sadly. He wanted to believe, oh how he wanted to believe.
Father passed a handful of pins to Jamie and Brook waiting at his side, and went over to where Vincent stood, putting his arm affectionately around his son's shoulders quite a feat for a father several inches shorter than his son.
“Do you want to talk about this Vincent? I admit you have been rathe
r bulldozed into the situation, perhaps we have misjudged the moment?” “No Father. If Catherine agrees to marry me, then I know that this engagement party has to be the biggest event any of us have ever seen Below, but I still find it incomprehensible that someone as beautiful as Catherine would agree to marry someone as ugly as me.”
“Vincent!” Father’s voice rose to one of incredibility, “You might be different Vincent, but never ugly. To anyone that knows you, you are simply beautiful.”
Vincent bowed his head. It had taken many years for him to believe her when Catherine had told him this.
“I’m sorry Father. It’s just that seeing this…” He spread his hands encompassing all the streamers and ribbons adorning the tunnels, knowing that within the great hall the walls were already bedecked with balloons and thousands of ribbons. They had been placed in strategic positions so as not to cause a danger to the candles that would be lit there the following morning.
“It is so hard to believe that’s all.” His voice trailed away.
“Believe it Vincent. Catherine loves you and we all love the both of you, this is what the two of you deserve.”
Vincent nodded, quietly accepting these things, but he remained silent, and Father was concerned. “Follow me to my chamber will you Vincent?” Father asked at length. Vincent fell into step alongside his parent, neither speaking, but Vincent’s mind raced with questions. There had been something in Father’s tone making it so.
Inside his chamber Father walked across to a drawer, one of the few he kept locked, and extracting a key from a secret place unlocked it, and lifted from it a small box.
“You remember several weeks ago Vincent, when all of this came up, you remember why you came to me?”
Vincent did and he blushed, his eyes never leaving the box Father held firmly in his hand, his mouth whispering, “You got me some?”
Father nodded. “I said you should wait, wait until Catherine became your wife, but I never took into consideration the finality of that…for you. I’m sorry I should have.”
“Father?” Vincent didn’t quite understand, or maybe he didn’t want to do.
“Vincent…tonight when you meet Catherine at the apartment… you must judge your future for yourself. If you feel making love to Catherine before you ask her to marry you would suit you better then so be it…don’t let my views persuade you differently.”
Vincent released a breath he’d been unaware of holding. How like his father to understand the situation. Father knew him too well.
“How did you know?” he felt compelled to ask.
“Your nervousness spoke volumes Vincent. You believe that if Catherine is not tied to you in marriage and she is repulsed by the way that you look she can get out of it, whereas being married to you first would make that impossible.”
Vincent nodded. It wasn’t his choice of words but the fact remained the same. Without first discovering if what they had between them was forever, how could he be certain that Catherine would marry him, or that he had a right to ask?
Father held the box of condoms out to him; “You may need these tonight Vincent.” And watched as Vincent reached out for the box with hands that trembled violently. Father clasped them within his
own, “Don’t be afraid Vincent, whatever comes, follow your instincts, and let Catherine guide you and allow her to love you. It is time.”
Vincent swallowed convulsively, his eyes still fixed upon his and Father’s clasped hands, the box crushed between them, reluctant to let go. Father gathered his hands to encompass Vincent’s arms and drew his son into a firm and loving embrace, “Tonight I send my son out as a boy and tomorrow a man will return to me. Be happy Vincent, be happy.”
Vincent returned his father’s embrace with so much warmth and gratification that his heart ached, the poignant words chosen to fill his son with hope and gloriously succeeding. “Thank you Father.” The use of more words were unnecessary, as both wiped away tears that signified the end of one chapter in their lives and opened another that both embraced with a little trepidation but with an overriding sense of release that cheered them both.

*** *** ***

Catherine had brought such light to his life, brightening every dismal corner of his soul and Vincent knew that he would be forever indebted to her for that.
Analysing his emotions as he lay on his bed some hours later, he sought through the many reasons for his being who he was and for the reason he should embark upon a future he had only ever dreamed of.
Long ago he had accepted his fate, as had his father when first he had forsaken the world and all its colours for a life amid various shades of grey beneath the city streets. If his father could turn his back upon a world filled with all the colours of the rainbow then who was he to desire such things?
No amount of colour could bring him the wealth of love bestowed upon him without it. Yet knowing this there had been times when Vincent had yearned for the merest touch of sunlight upon his shoulders, or to look up into the face of a summer sky and drown in its splendour. But nothing had prepared him for the light he would feel from within just by having a beautiful woman love him.
That light he carried from his core and with it his countenance shone for all to see and take delight in and it told the world that he loved, for the first time in his life, he truly loved and that love was returned in full measure.
Yes he had accepted his fate long ago and dear sweet Catherine gave him the warmth from the sun every time she looked into his eyes.
Reminiscing on these things brought a fulfilment Vincent never believed possible. He was ready to embark upon his future as he finally accepted the endless possibilities lying now just before him. With Catherine at his side forever more he would have no more need of dreams.
Turning over the pages of his journal he chuckled as a page jumped out at him with stunning clarity. It was something that he had written long ago, but also something he had once believed for most of his life. He read those words now, they still held meaning for him, but as he read he found that they were no longer applicable;

The daylight can never be mine

For me night is all there is.

Amongst those who would see me and fear?

This must be – and I accept it,

For what life would there be for me above?

Would a rainbow be as beautiful

Through prison bars?

But always there is beauty in the night,

In snow sparkling beneath the stars,

In street lamps and towers of light,

In the warm glow of sunrise

And the beautiful face of the moon.

The colours of day I shall never see,

So many sights, so many sounds

I can only imagine.

But still the night is mine,

And I am one with the darkness –

In the still of a summer’s breeze,

And the rage of a winter’s storm –

I have the night

And through the night I dream,

Of one who will show me the daylight

And walk with me in the sunshine.

Yes the night may have once been all that he had but Catherine had shown him that even the darkest of nights held their own brilliance because while he was with her Catherine did not fear the darkness for the way was lit by his love for her. And as Vincent finally accepted this, he freed himself of the eternal darkness that had once been his only fate and stepped forth into the glorious light that only Catherine could bring to him.

*** *** ***

To be continued in Chapter Seven – click on ‘Next’ below:



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