A Brazilian Adventure for Devin, Catherine and Elliot.
When the buzz of his homecoming had settled down Vincent took Catherine aside to their special place beneath the bandstand. Words were not needed for just being together was enough but as the finished above Vincent turned to Catherine, his voice trembling,” I never thanked you Catherine for bringing me home.”*** *** ***
“Vincent you have no need to thank me!” Her eyes grew wide, “You needed me, what was happening to you was barbaric…” her words trailed away as Vincent brought one finger to her lips to silence her. “I’d rather not talk about that right now Catherine if you don’t mind.” The sadness in his eyes broke Catherine and the tears started to fall, she could feel his heartache and his disappointment. Catherine reached for his hands. “Vincent, all is not lost, if you still want to undertake that surgery, Peter and I have discussed this and we are prepared to pay for you.” Vincent was shaking his head, “I couldn’t let you. Jason told me that to do so would mean that you would have to work for the rest of your life to repay the loan.”
“Maybe you could get a job to help out.” Catherine smiled mischievously and Vincent smiled too, “Maybe I could.”
There was silence for a few moments as each contemplated that possibility, then Vincent spoke of what was really on his mind, “There is something you could do for me that would mean so much more right now.”
Vincent told Catherine about his brother’s relationship with Susan ending with “Catherine do you think you could find her?”
“And bring her here you mean, to Jason?”
“Yes if she will come and if she is free to do so. It was a long time ago. Maybe seven or eight years.”
“Anything is possible Vincent. If it was me I would never want another but you.”
Vincent smiled shyly.
“Does she have a surname that you know? It might take some time to find her without it. There must be an awful lot of Susan’s. Come to that if her surname is a common one like Smith that might take some time too.”
“Christmas.” Vincent told her grinning from ear to ear.
What on earth was he on with now? Catherine stared at him blankly, “Christmas. What do you mean Christmas?”
“That’s her surname. Isn’t it wonderful? There can’t be too many of them about.”
Catherine’s face lit up “It certainly is Vincent. Did she live near Jason?”
“I presume so.”
“Can’t we ask him?”
“No Catherine, I had rather hoped that we could keep this from him, let it be our secret until we find her. Not only that but it would it prevent his hopes being dashed if she should refuse to come, and it will be wonderful to see his face if she does.”
“All right Vincent. I have a few days leave next week, I was hoping to spend them with you, but if you can do without me I’ll follow this up instead. Unless of course I can turn up something without actually going back to Carolina at all.”
“I could never do without you Catherine.” The words were spoken so softly Catherine had to strain her ears to hear them. Her heart raced, “Nor I you Vincent, nor I you.”
“I also owe you an apology.”
“Me!” Catherine was amazed, “Vincent whatever for?”
“For the way we parted that day. Over and over again in my letters I asked for your forgiveness, but we know now those letters never reached you.” Vincent’s eyes flashed at this. Catherine could imagine that kind of fury. To think that someone had intercepted the letters they had written to each other and might have read them didn’t bear thinking about. She had said some pretty personal stuff in hers to him too.
“That’s okay Vincent. I wasn’t exactly unselfish as it happens. I just didn’t want you to alter. I love you as you are.”
“Yet you are prepared to pay if I still want to do it?”
“Yes I’ve had time to think about that now. Having you with me is all I want in life. I happen to love the way you look, but if you want to be different that choice is yours, just providing you stay with me is all that matters.”
Looking at her for long moments Vincent knew she had meant every word. And he wanted to stay the person that she loved he really did, but to have the chance of being different was also a chance he needed to take. “You’d really be loaned the money?”
“Yes. I’ve already gone into it. We can raise a million.”
“It could be more than that before its finished.”
“Then we’d cross that bridge when we came to it. You could always sell your story Vincent. Well some of it, not mentioning the tunnels of course. A national newspaper would pay a fortune for the exclusive.”
Vincent nodded, “Yes Jason mentioned this when we were talking of it one evening. His parents kept the reporters from the doors, but they were always there trying to catch a glimpse of him. They knew nothing of me of course.”
“Just as well, or I may never have got you back.” Catherine meant it lightly but the seriousness of her statement rang true and both she and Vincent shuddered.
Catherine changed the subject “I should be leaving now Vincent. Guess you’ll want a few days with Jason too, so I’ll see you on Friday is that all right? Maybe I’ll have some news about Susan by then. Though if anything exciting comes up I’ll contact you sooner.”
Vincent scrambled to his feet, pulling Catherine up with him. He had missed her and though he had just told her so, he felt the overwhelming urge to show her now what she really meant to him as some of what Jason had told him settled in his mind.
While he gathered the cushions Catherine had walked a little way ahead when she heard him whisper her name and she stopped to turn back to see why. The look in his eyes melted her heart and she stepped breathlessly back towards him, “What is it Vincent?” He looked so vulnerable, almost innocent, childlike. Catherine walked back to him and slid her arms around his waist drawing her head down upon his chest to listen to the beat of his heart that was growing more erratic by the second. He’d said nothing more, but Catherine lifted her gaze to his uncertain as to his emotions. So much had happened to him, not least of all the way he had been treated, and by people who had caused his birth no less, that kind of pain could rock a person. Catherine was well aware what that might do to Vincent once he allowed his mind to feed upon it.
“Try not to think about it Vincent, you’re home now. Let the love of those people that have always been your family surround you and they will heal you.”
“I know Catherine. But that isn’t what bothers me right now.”
Catherine looked up into his eyes, they were unreadable and darker than usual. If Catherine wasn’t mistaken they were filled with desire, but that was impossible. Vincent had never let his guard down where she was concerned…he just would not allow it.
His next words stunned her to the core. “I love you so much Catherine.”
Catherine stared up at him unable to speak. In fact the ability to do so had been robbed from her. Her eyes shone with happiness, but before she was able to put that happiness into words Vincent was kissing her!
Vincent was actually kissing her!
Not only that but he was holding her so tightly against him that she soon became aware of other things. His arousal for one and for a moment the knowledge of that wiped away every other feeling he evoked.
“Vincent!” When she was able to utter a word, it was the only one she could find.
“Catherine…would you…would you…” he whispered into her ear as his lips left hers to trail soft kisses along her throat.
Would she what? Her mind was spinning.
Vincent was still remembering many of the things Jason had told him about his relationship with Susan, and he needed to know just how much Catherine loved him, now more than ever.
“What?” she asked when he seemed incapable of continuing. Vincent stopped kissing her. He drew a deep breath and took a step back from her, he needed to see into her eyes when he asked this question.
“Catherine would you….” He whispered softly, his cheeks puffing in and out at his incredibility that he could actually ask this of her.
Catherine tilted her head smiling at him with some humour, “Would I what? There’s an awful lot of ideas racing through my head right now Vincent, would you like me to outline some of them?”
Vincent stared at her blankly, sensing her humour, that in itself stilled the nervousness he was feeling.
“I mean it could be that you are asking if I would stay a little longer tonight, then I’d answer yes or if you were asking would I see you before Friday again the answer would be yes. Let’s see now perhaps you want to ask if I would I not go to Carolina, or would I go to Carolina and bring back those letters even, well yes to either of them. That is I wouldn’t go if you didn’t want me to go. Now what else did we speak about?” She was rambling now and she knew it, but she was still in a daze. Vincent had kissed her and no chaste kiss either. It had stirred her blood. She was at boiling point and needed a cold shower fast!
“I mean you might even be asking would I marry you – now there’s a question if ever there was one. And one that would receive a most definite yes.” She stopped her rambling and stared into his eyes, “Could that be a possibility Vincent?” she whispered huskily.
Vincent gulped, it hadn’t been the question at all but it was a marvellous prospect right now. “You’d marry me?” Vincent was in a flat spin. He stared at her his heart thumping so loudly Catherine would hear it through the Bond if she tuned in to him. He couldn’t believe he’d heard her right. “No one in their right mind would marry me.” He spoke softly his eyes never leaving her face.
“So I’m insane.” Catherine retorted a slight edge of laughter to her tone.
Vincent stared at her some more, unable to prevent himself from probing along the Bond to assess the situation. What he found there stunned him. Catherine’s heart was filled with hopeful anticipation.
“You’d marry me?” He whispered incredulously.
This time Catherine left the humour at home. “Yes.” She spoke without hesitation.
He could not believe this!
Catherine would marry him!
“Oh Catherine.” He drew her to him, holding her close against his trembling body.
“I take it that wasn’t the original question though?” Catherine spoke softly with a little humour tingeing her voice.
He drew back again and smiled, “No my love it wasn’t, but believe me you answered the other question without it ever being asked."
“So how about asking that other one then? Or do you need time to get your head around this one?” She smiled up at him, tracing a lock of his honey gold hair away from his face to gaze into the blue of his eyes.
“I just can’t believe you would say yes.”
“Try me Vincent.”
A smile lit his eyes, he still couldn’t believe this. He thought he was brave before but now!
“Catherine I love you more than life, but marry me…how could you, I mean why would you want to spend the rest of your life with me?”
“Because I love you Vincent.”
“Yes but would you really… spend your life with me… as my wife.”
Beautifully said Vincent. They were the thoughts winging through Catherine’s mind. Her arms reached up to caress his face, “I love you so much Vincent, I would be honoured to be your wife.”
“You’d marry me!” Again Vincent exclaimed the words.
“Yes Vincent, no doubt about it. Now how about you telling me the original question before it drives me crazy?”
“You’ll marry me?” Vincent was repeating making Catherine look at him fondly.
“You got cotton wool in your head mister?” She teased him playfully, tapping his forehead with one finger.
He smiled at her indulgently. It was a soppy smile as if someone had bonked him over the head or something, or spiked his herbal tea and Catherine couldn’t help but laugh at him.
“Oh Vincent, what am I going to do with you?”
Vincent remained speechless, though his lips still formed the words ‘you’d marry me?’ His eyes were swimming with disbelief still.
Catherine had a sudden thought, maybe she had rushed him into this perhaps that had been a long way from whatever it was he had meant to ask her. She took pity on him at once. “Come let’s sit down for a while.” She gestured to the cushions, but Vincent suddenly sprang into life. Suddenly everything sank in. Catherine said would marry him!
Picking her up her twirled her around and around, around and around until they collapsed dizzy onto the cushions below, “Oh my love, Catherine, you’d really marry me?”
“Yes Vincent.” Catherine laughed and cried at once showering his face in kisses. She loved him so much and she had to admit this was all rather sudden and she could hardly believe it herself.
“I must be dreaming. If I am may I never wake up.” Vincent murmured.
“My dreams don’t come this good Vincent. Believe me my love this is no dream.” Her happiness soared as the possibilities rose to mind at what marriage to her beloved would entail.
Vincent caught her thoughts and his eyes widened with surprise. “That was my original question Catherine.” He spoke softly lowering his head with a sudden rush of embarrassment, it seemed wrong now somehow to have expected her compliance to that question without the security of marriage.
It was Catherine’s turn to stare wide-eyed at him. “You wanted to make love with me?”
Sheepishly Vincent nodded.
“Oh Vincent! Whatever they taught you back there wasn’t all-bad. I can’t believe it, you would never have suggested it before.”
“Jason told me many things Catherine, it set my mind thinking about us. A lot of my fears vanished while I was away, I knew what I wanted and more importantly who I wanted it with, and I came to realise that I had always wanted you my love, I just chose in the past to ignore that fact.”
“Oh Vincent, oh yes, I’ll make love with you.” She smiled somewhat sheepishly beneath the curtain of her hair, “Would that be before or after the wedding?”
Taking a deep breath Vincent exhaled it on a mighty burst of laughter, a little nervously Catherine noted and he was unable to answer her question. She answered for him, “Tell you what my love, let me find Susan and bring her to Jason, and then the four of us can have a double wedding and then…” she let her fingers trail along his thigh suggestively. Vincent sucked in a breath. “Are you agreeable my love?” she asked him huskily.
Vincent nodded, his eyes diverted to her fingers. He was speechless. In fact he wondered if she continued to stroke his thigh that way if he might ever find his voice again!
“Good. Now kiss me again, I need to be reminded that it was no dream.”
Wordlessly Vincent compiled, and Catherine came to know that even she could never dream up kisses as beautiful as his.
“Are you really a doctor?” Jason hovered in the entranceway to Father’s chamber, making the older man jump. He had not known anyone was there.
“Come in my boy, yes I am, why do you ask? Have you a problem?”
“Something and nothing, just things.” Jason loped to Father’s side, his long easy stride reminiscent of his brother. Father caught his breath at the sight. These two really were alike even with Jason’s features altered. From the back in fact they were as two peas in a pod. He’d seen quite a few people doing a double take since Vincent had returned with Jason. Quite a few people indeed.
“What kind of things?” Father drew up a chair, “Take a seat Jason.”
“Thank you. Forgive me for asking but are you a qualified doctor or is it self taught?”
“I’m qualified.” Father noted Jason’s sigh of relief.
“What is it?” Father prompted, “You can tell me and I can keep a confidence I promise you.”
“It’s not that. That is I don’t mind if you tell anyone. Only I have these pains.”
Pains? Where exactly?”
“That’s it they’re not really anywhere.”
Father frowned, the boy wasn’t making any sense.
“Explain to me if you can.”
“It sounds stupid, but where my other face used to be, well it hurts. My teeth ache, teeth that are no longer there, my jaw hurts, my cheekbones, everything hurts, yet when I go to rub where the pain is, it is unreachable, because those bones have been altered, they hurt but they are no longer there.”
Father understood at once, “Ghost pains.” He told Jason, “That’s what you are experiencing. I’m sorry to tell you Jason but there’s not a lot I can do for that. No one can. How long have you had them?”
“A few weeks. It has been growing steadily worse. Please would you explain ghost pains?”
“Yes of course.” Father sat opposite Jason his face quite serious, he was very concerned about this. Ghost pains could be very painful and nothing would cure them.
“It is different in your case, but imagine you have had a limb removed.”
“A limb like an arm or a leg?”
“Yes like that. Well as far as nerve endings are concerned, nerve endings that trigger a response to the brain that the arm or leg is still in situ. And as far as the brain is concerned that particular limb has not been exercised in some time, and it feels cramps. Some people are plagued so desperately, that they have even gone to massage the pain away, before they have remembered the limb is gone. This can be very disconcerting, and as the pain increases very traumatic too. The problem is, that no amount of pain killers will help because simply that limb does not exist anymore.”
“Surely painkillers would stun the nerve endings?”
“Possibly, but it can also send those same nerve endings into spasm. While searching for the root of the pain they come to a sudden stop, like walking the plank and falling, the pain relief can go no further, and the brain is sent into turmoil. I’m sorry Jason but until your brain catches up with the fact that your face has now altered these pains will persist and might continue to grow worse.”
Jason sighed deeply “I thought I was past all that. The pain.”
“It took a long time I understand?”
“Yes in all ten years. I’ve never regretted it, I told Jacob, I mean I told Vincent that, but it was painful excruciatingly so.”
“Still Vincent’s intent is to have it done.”
“I know. How do you feel about that?”
“I love my son as he is, but if he wishes for this to be done I would not stand in his way. Now I have had the time to dwell on it, I know what it would be for him to have a normal face. He has been prevented from having so much.”
“This I know. But nothing can make up for the love of a family and good friends. Vincent may not have had the sunshine but in comparison, I would have traded having the sunshine for everything he has been brought up with any day.”
“Vincent told me that you were lonely?”
“Yes. And my father wanted me to be something I wasn’t.”
“And that’s why he changed you?”
“Yes. That’s why he changed me.” Father detected the minimum of bitterness.
“Did you have a say in this?”
Jason shook his head, “Not really. I guess I was manipulated to believe it was for the best, and I believed that until I met Susan.” His voice trailed sadly away.
“Yes we were in love. She didn’t mind how I looked, but when dad found out about her he stopped her from coming. It is eight years since I have seen her.”
“Vincent mentioned that there were other changes you underwent. He was led to believe that those changes occurred with the alteration of bone structure, but later when your father…” for a moment Father was unable to speak, the thought of his son being whipped incensed him.
“When dad whipped him.” Jason ventured.
“Yes that. Well Vincent wondered if it may have been that which led to those changes in you.”
“Dad wanted to tame the beast, it was the only way he knew how.” Jason’s words were a mere whisper now.
“And did he succeed?”
“To a degree, yes.”
Father wondered about that for long moments before continuing, “And you, how do you feel about that?”
“Like half of myself has died.” Jason had never voiced that thought to anyone, and he was amazed that he’d done so now. He stared at Father wishing he could take the words back.
Father knew not what to say, he decided to change the subject, “You are very welcome to spend your life here Jason. I know Vincent would love to have you with us.”
“Yes I know and thank you, but having undergone all this pain, I may as well make the most of seeing the world, now that I have the opportunity.”
“With your parents?”
“I suppose so,” Jason laughed, “You see by myself I am penniless.”
“Otherwise wild horses wouldn’t drag you back huh?”
“Something like that. Does that sound ungrateful? They are my parents, they paid for all this to be done, but somehow I feel as though they were my jailers and I’ve been set free. I’ve done my time, and I feel that going back would only ensure that they insist on more changes, perhaps even begging me to tell them where Vincent is.” Jason saw the fear in Father’s eyes and hastened to reassure him, “I would never tell, don’t worry, your secret is safe with me, but they would never let up on it, and I don’t know if I could stand that.”
Father understood. “Well Jason just stay a few months at least, long enough to allow you and Vincent to spend some time. Whatever you decide to do, a few months spent with a brother who you believed to be dead and have found again will be worth everything even if you do have to spend that time beneath the city streets.”
Jason agreed, “Yes I know, and I am envious of everything that my brother has. I may just see the world and return here eventually anyway. If that’s all right with you that is?”
“Of course, you’d be very welcome. In the meantime Jason let me know about those pains. We do have a good friend who is also a doctor, and he visits frequently, we can always ask his opinion. I don’t profess to know everything, and maybe with modern technology what it is today there would be a way to relieve the pain you have these days.”
Jason nodded, and made to stand, but Father stayed his arm, “Jason before you go, may I ask you if you play chess?”
Jason smiled, Vincent had told him of his father’s passion for chess, “Actually yes.”
Father’s eyes lit up, “Fancy a game?” the eagerness in his voice was unmistakable.
Jason nodded and sat down again, “I’d like that, but I warn you I’m a very good player.”
Father’s heart dropped, “Then you’d be a good opponent for Vincent, he too is a very good player.”
“Let me practice with you first, it is some time since I played actually.”
Father gloated, now this he liked to hear. Setting up the board he prepared for what he hoped would be a very good battle.
*** *** ***
Armed with the telephone directory for Carolina Catherine set about looking for Susan from the moment she arrived at the office the next day. It was a much easier task than even she had supposed. Not that she had ever contemplated much of a problem with the surname of Christmas, but when she found only three people listed by that name, she was even more optimistic.
Taking them in order of appearance she dialled the first number.
“Hello.” She spoke as soon as the telephone was answered.
“Hello who is this?” asked a curious man’s voice.
“My name is Catherine Chandler, I’m calling with connection to a woman by the name of Susan Christmas, tell me does she reside at this number?”
“Susan? No not here, but I can give you her number?”
“That would be lovely. Thank you.”
“Just a minute I’ll get it for you.” Catherine heard the receiver placed upon something, a table perhaps, and footsteps receding then the muffled sound of voices. Eventually another voice, sounded on the line.
“Hello.” Catherine replied.
“Pardon me for asking, but who did you say you were?”
“Are you a friend of Susan’s?”
Catherine had been afraid of this, she thought it was going too well. “Not exactly. I am a friend of a friend, but I do need to speak with her, only…”
“Only I need to establish that we are talking about the same Susan, and yet there is so little I can tell you, really the questions I have are for Susan alone.”
“What is this in connection with?”
“I’m sorry, I’m not at liberty to say.” Catherine hadn’t wanted to mention her position as it wasn’t DA business but she knew right now she might need to do.
“Then I’m sorry Miss Chandler, but we aren’t at liberty to tell you anything either.”
Catherine had the feeling the woman was about to hang up, “Wait!”
“Perhaps I should explain that I’m with the District Attorney’s office in New York.”
“You’re a lawyer?”
“Then forgive me, you should have said. However I still feel that Susan should be the one to call you, it would only be fair. You see her number is not listed, and she keeps very much to herself. Please give me your number.”
Catherine did, then asked “Will you have her call me today it is important that I make sure I am speaking to the correct Susan Christmas?”
“Yes of course. Hang up now and I will get onto her at once.”
“Thank you. Goodbye.”
That was the worst of it. Waiting. Catherine had no idea how long she might wait for that call. Could be this Susan would be suspicious and call at once. Could be she may be nervous and would delay in calling. As Catherine contemplated the ‘could be’s, the shrill of the telephone at her elbow made her jump.
Recovering she snatched up the receiver, “Catherine Chandler.”
“You wanted to speak to me?” A soft feminine voice came down the line.
“Yes. How can I help you?”
For a moment Catherine paused, this was the difficult bit. She just prayed she had the right woman. Susan spoke again, “there aren’t that many of us. If you are wondering if I am the person you are seeking, then I probably am. As far as I know I am the only Susan Christmas listed in The Carolinas.”
“Forgive me, yes I was wondering how to begin with that problem in mind. Susan please, call me Catherine. I’m really ringing you on the behalf of a friend.”
“You aren’t a lawyer?”
“Yes I am, and I am in my office now, but calling you wasn’t part of my job. This is strictly personal.”
“Tell me what it is you want to know?”
“Susan, did you once know a young man named Jason Bradley?”
A gasp came down the line and then long silence.
“Forgive me. Yes I knew him. Do you know him well?” There was a hint of suspicion in the voice.
“I’ve not known him long. Susan, I need to ask you some personal stuff do you mind?”
“Actually yes. What Jason and I had was over long ago, his father saw to that.”
“Yes so I understand. But Jason never forgot you.”
“Has he asked you to call me?”
“No, he is unaware of this contact with you. His brother hoped that I would…”
“Hold on a minute, his brother you say? Jason didn’t have a brother, he was an only child.”
“No you’re wrong. He had a brother that was kidnapped as a babe, but has since been reunited with his family. That brother and I are very good friends, more than friends, and Jason’s brother hoped that reuniting you with Jason would be a wonderful surprise for him.”
Susan suddenly remembered Jason telling her about his missing brother.
There was silence again. Catherine wished for the umpteenth time that she wasn’t conducting this conversation over a telephone.
“You’re in New York, does that mean Jason is in New York too?”
“Yes. He’s staying with his brother.”
“And does his brother look like him, or rather as he once looked, I understand Jason has altered now?”
“Yes his brother looks as Jason once did.”
“And you don’t mind?”
“I actually prefer it.”
“So did I.” Her words were soft with a tinge of regret
“Would you come?”
“Let me think about it? There is much you don’t know. Much that Jason doesn’t know either. I read the article in the medical journal, some of the facts were wrong. Can I call you tomorrow?”
“Yes of course I’ll be here all day.”
“Then I’ll call you in the morning. Bye Miss Chandler.”
*** *** ***
Vincent met Catherine at her apartment that evening. And from the moment she set eyes upon him Catherine knew something was wrong.
Concerned she threaded her arms around his waist unsure when he pulled slightly away, and began his usual relentless pacing of her terrace.
Wide-eyed Catherine asked what was wrong. His behaviour was a real let down to the high she had been on all day after the previous evening’s amazing experience.
“Catherine…I’ve been thinking…”
Oh no thought Catherine. Whenever Vincent had been thinking it was usually in a negative vein. Especially if it had anything to do with the two of them.
“I can’t let you do it Catherine.” He looked at her begging her to understand, but she wasn’t with him at all. “What do you mean Vincent?”
“Catherine, it would be wrong…to tie you to me…to a life without sunshine…it would be wrong.”
Now she got it. He was backing down on marriage to her. He’d changed his mind. Something inside Catherine snapped at that moment. Like the rug had been pulled from under her feet and she spun on him. “Then the deal’s off!” she flared.
It was Vincent’s turn to stare wide-eyed. He noted her flashing eyes, her temper. He had seen her angry before but rarely with him. It flustered him.
“Your original question right…?”
Now he understood.
Catherine started pacing the apartment floor proceeding the balcony.
Vincent almost laughed. This was ridiculous.
“So you think its funny do you? Well let me tell you something Vincent, things perhaps that you don’t know. I never enter into any relationship unless there is the promise of permanence. So if you want more sex…” Vincent winced. “ then you had better offer me some security first.”
He couldn’t believe they were having this conversation, if you could call it that. More to the point he couldn’t believe that he was a part of such a conversation.
Catherine stopped her relentless pacing to glare at him. Tentatively Vincent searched the Bond. What he found there stunned him. Oh she was mad, real mad. And disappointed, unhappy, and determined to make him know how she felt.
“Its just not possible Catherine…I’m sorry.” He flayed his arms out on either side of him in a helpless gesture. “In time you would come to regret giving up your life Above… And you told me so yourself that the medical journal said that Jason was infertile, so likely I am too. Catherine I would never be able to give children to you, and you have so much to give. It would be wrong for us to marry and expect that you would give up so much. I just can’t do that to you.”
“And what about me!”
“What do you mean?” he spoke softly trembling slightly as her temper continued to flare.
“I don’t have a say is that it? I don’t know my own mind…oh to hell with you Vincent. Go, just go.”
Vincent couldn’t believe it. He stared after her retreating figure as she ran from him, slamming the balcony doors in her wake.
“Catherine!” he called but she refused to hear him.
Vincent watched as she threw herself onto the bed, and he could tell by the way her body shuddered that she had burst into tears, even if the Bond had not told him that same simple truth.
For long moments Vincent was undecided. Half of him wanted to laugh out loud every time he thought of her choice of words…if he wanted anymore sex…the simple word send shudders through him. Until a few weeks ago he would never have contemplated such a thing. And then he thought on her terms, she wanted security. She wouldn’t give one without being offered the other. Vincent didn’t believe this. As he remembered Catherine had always wanted him, desired him, marriage had never ever come into it before.
But her disappointment was very real, maybe that was it, he hadn’t handled the rejection terribly well that was true, and his timing was lousy, considering he had made love to her only hours before, but he was unprepared for her disappointment. Half of him had believed that in the cold light of day the rash decision to marry would have been regretted by her. He was giving her a way out if she wanted. The thing was he hadn’t expected her not to want it. Now it looked as if he had used her for his own gain and was now backing out of further commitment.
If Catherine really wanted to marry him had she really thought over what that would mean? Vincent couldn’t believe that in all seriousness she had. She couldn’t possibly want to give up the life she led for the one he led. Could she?
Watching her body shudder with sobs, Vincent felt the desperate need to comfort her. She couldn’t have meant what she had said to him. She couldn’t seriously want him to go could she?
Tapping on the doors a little timidly, he was stunned when she called out, “Go away!”
Vincent hesitated. He could do one of two things now. He could do as she asked, and in a few days an embarrassing situation would arise when they met again, when the sudden thought winged its way through his mind, if they met again. Vincent gasped, he needed her, come what may he needed her, a life without her was unthinkable.
So that other thing he could do was linked to that. He could ignore her and waltz straight into the room, take her in his arms and kiss her pain away. In fact he held within his hands the power to make everything right. He just had to believe in that.
To spend his life with Catherine, how would that be? For him nothing would ever match it. Never to be alone again, to have someone to love him always, and that person want to share his life forever. But for Catherine, could she really forsake all she had ever known to be with him? Vincent needed to know. He desperately needed to know.
Opening the door he stepped into the room, “Catherine?” he breathed.
Catherine stilled to listen. “What?” Vincent flinched at the uncaring tone. What now? What could he say to make it all come right again?
“I love you Catherine.”
“I love you too.” Catherine murmured into her pillow refusing to look up. Vincent still detected the pain in her tone and he didn’t know why, because it had not been his intention, but suddenly he knew that nothing he could ask or say would suffice but for this. Everything was riding on this. “Catherine… will you marry me?” He held his breath and waited his heart pounding, amazed that he’d actually asked. Last night they had both assumed it would come to this, but he knew that he had never actually asked. Well, he’d asked now, and he waited anxiously for her reply.
Slowly Catherine lifted her head, smoothing back her tousled hair she smiled weakly at him. “I hope that’s not just a ploy to let you into my bed?” she asked with humour in her tone.
Vincent blushed, he could barely speak. “No.” he whispered hoarsely.
From the bed Catherine rose, smoothing down her dress and walked to where he stood in the doorway. She smiled up at him shyly. “Do you mean it?”
“And its not just because its what I want?”
“Well totally then.” He smiled just a little. “Catherine you must believe me, I cannot understand how or why you would want to give up your whole life to live with me, tied to me…but if it is what you want…” his words trailed away. Catherine’s eyes were dancing with joy and happiness, and his heart was beginning to hammer in his chest at the way she was looking at him right now.
“If you want to marry me, I will marry you. Nothing more and nothing less.” They stared at one another. Catherine’s heart beat faster and faster as she awaited his reply.
“You’re positive you won’t regret it?”
“I’m positive Vincent.”
“You know you will remain childless?”
“There are plenty of children Below that I can love.”
Vincent nodded this he understood. “You won’t regret giving up the sunshine? Oh I know nothing will stop you from going above when you want to do, but things will not be the same.”
“Having you to walk with me beneath the moon Vincent sounds very romantic. No my love I won’t miss the sunshine.” She smiled tremulously up at him.
Encouraged Vincent asked, “You won’t mind playing chess with Father until you want to scream?”
Catherine laughed. “No Vincent I won’t mind even that.” As she spoke she drew her arms around him, edging closer. Vincent’s breathing accelerated.
“Yes Vincent?” Catherine’s eyes shone with happiness and expectation. Her face very close to his.
He could hardly utter the words, they came out softly, barely audible, “Will you marry me Catherine?”
“Yes Vincent.” Catherine leaned in to meet his kiss. And no more words were said between them for quite a long, long time.
*** *** ***
Back home in the tunnels some hours later Vincent couldn’t imagine what had come over him. He had gone to see Catherine with the intention of making her see that a life tied to him was not the life he’d envisaged for her, least of all the life her parents had hoped for her to find. Instead he had come away from there as much engaged to be married to her as he had before he had left. Vincent smiled wryly. Jason had a lot to answer for. Had he not have spoken so frankly about his life with his Susan, Vincent would never have dared to have made some of those moves with Catherine. But it seemed to him that once he knew that the beast, the dark one would not hurt her, then all that he had longed for came within his grasp.
His cheeks grew hot when he thought back to the night before and his even daring to ask if he might make love to her. His body trembled with the mere suggestion of it. And to have Catherine agree! As he remembered the way they had loved shudder after shudder swept through his body, and slowly he allowed the truth of all that had transpired to thaw the old negative thoughts from his mind and allow positive thinking to enter.
He and Catherine would be married!
And he and Catherine would make love again and again! Oooh that thought alone made his body tremble with desire and passion. Vincent’s breath caught and held and he had to grasp a hand to his heart. It was all too incredible to be true, and he didn’t think he was capable of putting another foot in front of the other and making the rest of the way home. In fact with every step he took it seemed as if his legs might melt and never carry his weight again. He felt shaky, his body molten hot as if he might disintegrate on the spot and he wished for someone to carry him.
He and Catherine were to marry!
Vincent didn’t think he would ever quite get used to believing that.
*** *** ***
Back at her office the following morning, Joe was holding out the phone for Catherine as she came in the door. ‘Call for you’ he mouthed ‘personal stuff’.
Catherine nodded, and throwing down her bag, she took the receiver from him. “Hello.”
“Yes. Is that Susan?”
“Yes. Sorry to call so early, but if I am to be in New York today I need to make my flight.”
“You’re coming?” Catherine asked breathlessly.
“Yes. Can you meet me?”
“What’s the arrival time?”
“I’ll be there.”
“We’ll talk all we want over dinner is that all right with you?”
“Yes.” Catherine replied as Susan told her what airport and Catherine jotted all the information down. “I’ll see you at four then. Take care Susan, and thank you so much.”
Catherine was just about to replace the receiver when Susan called, “Wait!”
“Don’t tell Jason I’m coming, all right?”
“That’s okay I wouldn’t see him until tonight anyway.”
Susan’s sigh of relief was obvious. “Good. See you later then, Bye Catherine.”
*** *** ***
Flicking over the pages of a newspaper absentmindedly, Ruth Bradley’s concentration was anywhere but the printed page in front of her. Heavy-hearted, the tears were still wet upon her cheeks and Ruth’s loss was unbearable.
Having lost one son as a babe, only to find him again as a grown man, and have him take her youngest child away with him had broken Ruth Bradley.
Slowly she set aside the paper, carefully folding it in half and placing it inside the rack, then standing and going across to the window to press her flushed cheeks against the cool glass.
Memories flooded her mind.
A warm savannah, golden grasses, the scent of animals and a sky the colour of his eyes…
Memories of Jason as a child playing outside with his toys, her heartache even back then that he played alone. His sweet kitten face loved so much by her, and reminding her so of the one she had lost. And the hours she had spent looking up at the stars and the moon on endless nights wondering if her other child lived somewhere beneath those heavenly glories. Somewhere beneath that Carolina Moon. Wondering whether he was alive? And if so was he well? Or would she ever see him again? Twofold those wishes were wished, for there was another that held her heart…
A sound startled her out of her reverie, and she did not need to turn her head to know her husband had come into the room. He walked to her side. “It had to be done Ruth.” He told her blandly.
Ruth shook her head, “It didn’t. With Jason it was different, but with Jacob it was wrong. You frightened him away.”
“Me! Frighten him! Ruth what are you saying? You never saw him, he was a savage beast. He had to be disciplined Ruth.”
“Maybe, but not like that. Still it’s done now. We won’t ever see him again will we?”
“I’ve got that woman’s contact number, she’s a lawyer she is at liberty to tell us where he is.”
“She won’t though will she? Her and Jacob have a thing going, and she will protect him with her last breath. I saw the way things were between them, they love one another. Catherine will be very loyal to that fact.” Ruth’s voice was expressionless, disheartened. If only she had had that kind of strength.
“Jason will return though?” It was a question, spoken without conviction. Robert was anxious now.
“I don’t know. There’s no reason why he should.”
“There’s every reason. We made him what he is.”
“You made him what he is. I made him what he was.” Ruth balked, hoping her husband would not notice what she had said, and quickly she spoke again “In all honesty I preferred that other way.”
“Ruth! I cannot believe I heard you say that.”
“But he was happy in a quiet sort of way. And at least it kept him with us.”
“He’ll be back. Jacob came didn’t he? He wanted to change so he came. And Professor Jordan will tell us if any other party approaches him about changing Jacob.”
“But what if he’s changed his mind? I’m scared Robert. I have this foreboding feeling that both our sons are lost to us now.”
“If you feel so strongly why don’t you contact Catherine Chandler? She might not tell us where they are but she would surely tell if they were well?”
Ruth’s face brightened just a little. A slither of hope entered her heart. Yes there was that of course. She nodded, her eyes brightening, she felt a little better. “Yes I’ll do that Robert.”
“Make her tell them to come back.” Robert told her sternly, “Tell her they must.”
Ruth nodded to placate him, but she had no intention of saying that. Her husband had chased her sons away by his brutality and she would not risk losing them again. No if she found out where they were, their secret would be safe with her. She was adept at keeping secrets. Robert might come around eventually, but if he didn’t it would be his loss, but Ruth wanted her children back with her even if that meant it being on their terms, and she intended that nothing would stop her. She loved them unconditionally as they were and she needed them desperately.
She just prayed that Catherine Chandler would be agreeable to that. She would ring her tomorrow.
*** *** ***
It was hard not to notice the sudden changes in his son, and Father marvelled at whatever had taken place between Vincent and Catherine must have had a profound effect on him, because he seemed to move about on Cloud Nine these past few days.
With a twinkle in his eye, Father waited to be told, but his curiosity soon got the better of him. He wasn’t one to pry but this day he took exception to the rule.
“Vincent you look radiant how about letting some of that joy rub off on an old despondent man?”
Vincent’s lips twitched, “That Father is the closest you have come to admitting you are nosy. In the nicest possible way of course.”
“Of course.” Father’s eyes shone with mischief.
Taking up the chair alongside his parent Vincent took his father’s hands within his own. “I’ve not deliberately kept this from you. It’s just so incredible that I am finding it hard to believe myself. Father Catherine has agreed to marry me.”
The jaw of Jacob Well’s dropped to a grand level causing Vincent to chuckle. “I understand your surprise Father, I’ve been there.”
“You asked her?” When he’d found he was able to work his jaw again they were the only words he could think of.
Vincent outlined the original discussion with Catherine on this topic leaving out the love making part. “I can see how surprised you must have been Vincent. But how do you feel now you have had time to absorb this revelation?”
“Glorious Father. To believe that Catherine wants me in that way, to spend her life with me down here. I feel glorious Father, there is no other word.”
Father nodded, “I’m delighted for you Vincent. Catherine is a remarkable woman. There are other things within marriage though. I expect you have given thought to these, it was probably at the top of the list, but are you happy with that aspect?”
Vincent nodded, “Yes Father, those things are not a problem Catherine knew the ropes.” He chuckled as did his father understanding at once. “Man to man now huh? I’m so pleased for you Vincent?” Jacob Wells knew he would enjoy sitting and thinking about that later. He wished he knew the details, but knew that even as his son’s doctor he had no right to ask.
“So have you set a date?”
“Not yet Father. We have our reasons. There’s nothing wrong, we are just working on something for Jason first. If that unfolds as we hope, well it suffices to say we will wait until then before we set a date.”
Vincent had lost him, but Father detected that Catherine and Vincent were working on a surprise for Jason.
“So mum’s the word.” Father said, noting that Vincent’s eyes clouded suddenly. Father understood at once. “You are worried about her aren’t you? Your mother?”
“Yes. I think of her often. Yet the man that caused my birth I can only think on with distaste. In many respects I cannot believe he is my real father. He is nothing like Jason or I as far as personality or appearance goes. I feel nothing for him and though I would like to keep contact with my mother, I don’t know what to do because of him.”
“It is difficult. Maybe Catherine can help?”
“Yes I have thought of that. Ruth is a nice woman Father you would like her. It’s a pity you and she weren’t married then I would have the best of both worlds, a wonderful father and a caring mother.”
“Oh you!” Father playfully slapped Vincent’s arm, but he was as pleased as punch. Nonetheless the other part of the problem worried him. It did seem unfair that he had suddenly in his possession both the sons of a woman whose heart had ached for thirty years at the loss of one of them.
“I’ll see what I can think of Vincent. Surely we can come up with some way to reunite you, that will cause little distress to anyone. I don’t like not involving your father though. Perhaps there is a way to change his attitude.”
“I doubt it.” Vincent’s eyes were steady and deep blue. Father detected the anger brewing there. But it wasn’t anger really it was sorrow. Father had to find a way of involving both Jason and Vincent’s parents in their life it was only fair after all. But for the moment he could only wonder. How on earth would he bring them all back together, keep the secret of the tunnels intact and still not lose his precious son?
He didn’t know how, but there had to be a way, there had to be an answer to the problem, somewhere.
*** *** ***
Stepping from the plane, and into the airport lounge, Susan’s eyes scanned the area searching for a board with her name written upon it, and spotted it almost at once. Behind it beamed the face of one very beautiful woman, Susan walked toward her with a hand outstretched, “Catherine Chandler?”
“Yes, you must be Susan, Welcome to New York, have you much luggage?”
“No, only what I have here. Can you meet me beyond customs control?”
The two women headed in different directions, meeting up again, as Susan Christmas had been through all the check points.
“We can take a taxi to my apartment, I’ll fill you in on the way.” Catherine told her lightly, well aware that Susan probably had a whole lot more to tell herself.
By the time they had reached the apartment, Catherine knew that to be an understatement.
Throwing her bag down and kicking off her shoes, Catherine bade Susan to sit down, as she went through to the kitchen to make coffee, “Are you hungry? I can make us some sandwiches?”
“That would be lovely, anything will do, I’m not fussy. Have you lived here long?”
“A little over three years.”
“You live here alone?”
Catherine had switched on the kettle, and stepped out of the kitchen, “Yes.”
“It’s a long way off the ground, how does Vincent visit you?” Catherine had re-entered the kitchen to make the sandwiches, but now left the area again to come to stand at Susan’s side. “See there?” Catherine pointed over towards the park, Susan nodded, “When Vincent comes to me, he comes via the park, and he rides the roof of the elevator to the top floor of my apartment building, then swings himself down to this balcony.”
“That’s some feat.”
“It’s a dangerous one. One I hope he won’t have to do for much longer.”
“Oh yes, you mentioned his world. Where is that?”
“I’m sorry Susan for the moment I’m not at liberty to say, just trust me huh?”
Susan nodded, she might not have known Catherine Chandler long, but one thing she did know was that she could trust her. She had always been good at things like that. It was a gift she knew, but she had always known when someone could be trusted that was one of the things that had drawn her to Jason in the first place.
“So when will we see them?”
“Vincent and Jason.”
“Forgive me, you never said, I mean are you sure this is what you want, in the taxi you seemed unsure.”
“I know, but I’ve had time to think about it now. Yes I want to see Jason, there is much I should tell him.”
Catherine nodded, she didn’t know why, but she knew that in all the information Susan had supplied her with on the drive from the airport, Susan had withheld something important. It didn’t surprise her in the least that whatever it was Jason would be the first to hear it.
“When it’s dark they will come.” Catherine told her, as she brought out a tray of sandwiches and coffee, “Now come and have some refreshment, it will be dark soon enough.”
*** *** ***
“You’ve been to Africa a couple of times haven’t you?” *** *** ***
Ruth Bradley looked up startled. She stared at her husband, whose gaze hadn’t lifted from the newspaper he’d been reading. “Do you think Jacob and Jason would like that?”
“What?” Ruth was clearly flustered.
“Going to Africa. There’s a trip scheduled here, to Kenya, I thought we could all go. You’ve been before what sort of place is it?”
He looked up then, surprised to see tears well in her eyes. “What is it? Didn’t you like it there?”
“I loved it.”
“Then what’s the problem, would you like to go again?”
“As a family?”
Robert detected the tremor to her voice, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” She lied. “Can’t we go somewhere else, I hear Fiji is nice at this time of year.”
“I know, but Africa, don’t you get it? Taking the boys to Africa might be good for them.”
“It might also bring out a personality trait we have tried to keep hidden.”
“Then why would you want to take them?”
“Just an idea. I always believed I had extracted the beast from Jason, but he portrayed the beast’s existence to defend his brother. I would like to see how they might react to Africa. See what would develop so to speak. You know the call of the wild and all that.”
“And what if they did, would you leave them there?”
“Ruth!” Robert spoke sharply to her, surprised to hear her say such a thing. But then when he thought about it, perhaps that would be for the best. “Maybe they belong there. Maybe we have done wrong trying to mould something that can’t be moulded, maybe their existence had nothing to do with my ancestors, maybe you caught something while you were out there.”
They’d been through this before. Not for a long time true but they had touched on it once long ago. Ruth shuddered, hoping her husband wouldn’t remember, but when he next spoke, it was more as if he had never forgotten.
“Have you never thought it strange?”
“What?” Nervously Ruth licked her lips with the tip of her tongue an action Robert was quick to notice.
“That on the two occasions you return from Africa, you find yourself pregnant and gave birth to freaks.”
“Robert!” It was Ruth’s turn to exclaim. Then as she played for time she asked, “What exactly are you saying?”
Robert didn’t rightly know. What he did know of his wife was that she was too petite and too feminine to ever have any dealings with bestiality. But if she had not known of it?
“Did you ever go to any parties and wake up with a sore head, not remembering much of the night before?” he asked her now matter of factly, like he cared not either way.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure, what is this, don’t you believe me?” Ruth’s voice rose.
“I’m sorry Ruth.” Robert was immediately contrite, “That was unfair of me, I know the boys are mine.”
Hoping he would not notice her silence Ruth thought to herself, ‘Do you? When neither resemble you in any way, how can you believe them to be yours?’ Her inner thoughts questioned, and answered logically, ‘because he trusts you, and because you told him they were his.’
“I’d rather not go to Africa Robert.” Ruth told him now, adding beneath her breath, ‘not as a family, not with you.’
Robert nodded, “Okay, forget I asked. When the boys return we’ll go somewhere else, just as soon as Jacob is altered, the world will be our oyster.”
Ruth turned her head away, her mind echoing, her heart screaming…’the world will be our oyster…but I don’t want the world….I want Africa….I want Africa….and him… only him…’
“You have a child!” Catherine couldn’t believe the words Susan was telling her, amazed even that she would. “But Jason said he was infertile…that Vincent would be infertile too…” Her mind raced, as she slapped a hand to her mouth…”Oh!”
“What is it?” Susan jumped from her place on the sofa. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. It’s all right, don’t worry, its nothing…excuse me I have to go into the bathroom a moment.”
Catherine ran into the bathroom, closing the door firmly behind her and leaned against it, her body shaking.
What Susan had just told her, stunned her, frightened her, worried her, delighted her! As the possibility played out in her mind, Catherine’s heart raced. Suddenly she was faced with a wonderful prospect and all because Vincent and Jason were late.
When the two men had failed to arrive and a note had been sent delivered by Zach to say that Vincent had been detained in persuading his brother to come above to Catherine’s apartment, Susan had become so uptight that she had suddenly told Catherine everything.
How she and Jason had made love, how the magazine had said that Jason was infertile, but how that was untrue, and she should know because she had borne Jason a son. A son that looked exactly like his father, and a son who had never played out in the sunlight, or gone to school, or done all the things a normal seven year old boy would have done by that age.
A son that because of his features had left Susan no alternative but to live alone with her child out of the way of prying eyes, cutting herself off from her family, except for a few trusted relatives. A few people who hadn’t condemned her for keeping such a child with her, and not putting him into an institution.
Those words were blurted out as Susan had become more and more uptight waiting for Jason to arrive had shocked Catherine. Not because she was shocked to find that Susan had had a child by Jason, but shocked to know that there was a possibility now that she…she carried Vincent’s child.
Catherine closed her eyes tightly hoping against hope that it was so. A shudder coursed through her, following by a tingle and an overwhelming wave of peace that Catherine spun around, wrenched open the door and flew across the apartment to fling open the balcony doors. “Vincent!” she exclaimed throwing herself into his arms, “You’re here.”
“Something is wrong?” Vincent whispered huskily aware of the other woman standing not many feet behind Catherine with eyes open wide.
“No. Nothing is wrong, it’s just so good to see you.” Catherine stepped back, holding out a hand, “Come inside, there is someone you must meet.”
Automatically lifting his hood to shield his face, Vincent was surprised when a voice he did not recognise bade him, “No, please don’t cover yourself, I am not afraid.” And he stepped forward cautiously to face the woman.
“Is Jason not with you?” Susan looked over Vincent’s shoulder.
“No, not this way, he didn’t have the nerve.” Vincent chuckled, “I sent him up in the elevator, he should be outside the door, if he’s got out at the right floor that is.”
“Does he know I’m here?”
Vincent went silent, averting his eyes. “I’m sorry. He wouldn’t come. I had to say something. I didn’t tell him you were here, he just assumed.”
Susan nodded, “It would be the Bond, I thought I felt him probing it earlier, but I wasn’t sure. It’s been a long time. I shut him out before you see, wouldn’t let him through, in case he found out about our child.”
Catherine was still very quiet, Vincent discerned, even though she had marched over to the door, and opened it to find a sheepish Jason standing there. “Come in Jason, there is someone here to see you.”
“I know.” Jason entered the apartment, his eyes going straight to Susan as if he knew exactly where she would be stood.
The years melted away, and Vincent and Catherine’s eyes filled with tears as Jason and Susan ran to one another and embraced, holding on tight as if neither would ever let the other go.
“Catherine?” Vincent touched Catherine’s arm, and taking her hand, beckoned with a nod of his chin toward the balcony. Catherine understood and went with him willingly.
“What is it Catherine, something is wrong I feel it in you?”
“What can you feel Vincent?” Catherine’s eyes were bright and filled with love, adoration and a tiny bit of apprehension.
“Your heart is troubled, though I can feel much joy radiating from within you.”
Catherine nodded. “Susan has a child.” She allowed a few moments for that to sink in, then added, “It’s Jason’s child.”
“But that’s imposs…” Vincent caught Catherine’s train of thought…”We made love…”
“Then you could be…”
“Oh Catherine.” His arms came around her enclosing her tight, and that tiny bit of apprehension fled, as he kissed her lips softly…”I love you Catherine, all of you.”
And Catherine knew exactly what he meant and her heart rejoiced!
*** *** ***
There were to be two weddings, and more besides.
The entire community was overwhelmed, not just to be invited to the marriage of their favourite couple, but to welcome into their world another child, a child with the face of a lion and the heart of a man.
“This is Sam.” Susan introduced her son to his father, and then later to the rest of the tunnel community who had welcomed him with open arms. “Sam this will be your home from now on.” She then told her son.
The child had cried, everyone had cried, until the laughter took over and the young boy was whisked off by the tunnel children all eager to get to know this young ‘Vincent’ in their midst.
“You don’t have to fight over him,” a delighted Catherine had shouted as each member had wanted to show Sam this and show Sam that, “They’ll be another like him soon…”
“Well that was a good a way as any to announce it.” Vincent whispered into her ear as he grinned like the proverbial Cheshire cat behind her.
Everyone and everything stopped. All eyes, the children’s, Susan’s, Jason’s, Mary’s Father’s, especially Father’s stared at Catherine, causing a delightful giggle to erupt from her, “Its true.” She told them all, “Vincent and I are going to have a baby.”
For a moment there was silence, before an eruption of clapping, joy and laughter filled the room, and Vincent was forced to relinquish his hold on the little mother to be, as she was fairly swept from his embrace by a dozen arms wanting to hug her tightly.
“Oh this is a wonderful ending to a wonderful story.” Mary wept, then added laughing, “No wonder you insisted on a quick wedding.” Vincent blushed, “That’s not the reason…” He stammered, “We wanted to wait for Susan to get settled with Sam first.”
Mary patted his arm, “I believe you dear thousands wouldn’t.” She grinned causing Vincent to grin eventually, as Catherine gave way to a fit of the giggles.
“So who’s for champagne?” William’s voice boomed from the entranceway.
“Champagne?” Father questioned with surprise.
“Aye, another thing to thank the lassie here for.” William beckoned to Catherine, “Come what are you lot all waiting for, let’s celebrate!”
*** *** ***
Arm in arm, and just a little tipsy, Catherine and Vincent, Jason, Sam and Susan walked together through the park quietly talking, happily serene.
“How’s the ghost pains now Jason?” Catherine asked, “Father said they were getting better.”
“Yes, they aren’t so bad, seems I have too many other things to think about now to worry about them. They possibly still hurt as much, but I’m too tired to notice them.” He winked, and Catherine caught his drift at once.
Vincent blushed, just slightly, surprised at his brother and his fiancee talking about such things so easily and quickly changed the subject.
“I guess there is something you would all like to know.” He spoke softly, but caused everyone to still nonetheless. Only Sam ran around upon the grass, preferring to play rather than talk.
“I won’t be changing. That is I’m going to stay as I am.”
“Chicken!” Jason laughed.
“I am not.” Indignant Vincent exclaimed.
“Yeah, right.” His brother continued to laugh, but that laughter subsided as he realised his brother wasn’t laughing along with him. He was serious, and Jason soon quietened down enough to ask, “Why?”
Drawing a deep breath and letting it out in one long sigh, Vincent told them all, “Because I’m content, because I’m happy and because changing my features isn’t going to give me anymore than I have already, and also…”
He drew Catherine closer, and his eyes went from the softly rounded bump beneath her heart that only he could detect, to the child at play upon the grass. “Because of the children. Someone’s got to look like them, someone that understands what it is to look like this, someone they can identify with and don’t have to wonder why me?”
Jason understood at once, and for the first time ever he regretted that he too had had his features altered. And a lump formed in Jason’s throat. “You know something brother?” His tone belied the joy he was holding at bay, as with a voice thick with emotion he told Vincent, “I think I’m going to like living here.”
Susan and Catherine nodded in total agreement, “Me too.” They said together.
“Me too.” Echoed Sam as he ran toward them pointing up at the sky, “Mom did you ever see a moon so big!”
They all turned to look at it, and smiled, it was unusually large, hanging there suspended in the sky resting on nothing…”
“You know Sam, I remember the first time I ever saw the moon, and it was one just as big as that one is tonight.” Vincent began, but was stopped by Sam telling him, “That’s silly, there is only one moon, how can you have seen another as big as that one!”
“Actually Sam there isn’t just one moon, there are many of them, but they are circling other planets…”
Sam’s eyes grew large with interest, “Tell me?” He whispered taking hold of Vincent by the hand, “Tell me everything you know.”
Watching through misted eyes, Catherine felt her heart fill with love for the man that took Sam by the hand and explained the vastness of the universe to him. And her mind was filled with images of other children holding on to his hands, other children with kitten faces and large blue eyes and golden hair, and her hand strayed to the small bump beneath her heart and she caressed the spot lovingly.
His child…she carried his child…and her heart rejoiced.
*** *** ***
A lump in her throat, Ruth leaned her forehead against the window once again, a favourite of hers, leaning her flushed brow against the cold glass. How many nights had she stood thus, looking out a star lit sky and a lazy Carolina Moon just remembering?
Why did she do it to herself…she knew the alternative… Why did she stay when he was out there waiting? And she knew he would wait until he drew his last breath. He had promised he would.
Maybe it was the coward in her, it stopped her from doing the things she ought to do, or maybe it was because she couldn’t bear to give up the comforts she had grown to enjoy for the barren dusty land.
But it was beautiful. In its startling own way, there was no place on earth to match its splendour. And she would be safe, for he would keep her safe. Ruth knew that without a doubt.
Drawing away from the glass Ruth allowed reality to seep in. She didn’t love her husband, probably never had, but he was security for her, and they had been together a long time, and Ruth had not the courage to leave him…to leave him for a dream.
Some people grasped hold of dreams…she could not…she’d seen her dream and she had let it go…until it was no more than that…a dream.
Tears trickled down her cheeks as the moon came out of the clouds and into full focus, and her heart broke one more time for all she had lost and could never regain.
And as always she hummed the same old tune only this time adding the words to a song she had thought of that second time she had returned from Africa…
After that last time she had left him to return to her home beneath the Carolina Moon…
Carolina moon keep shining, shining
on the one who waits for me
Carolina moon I’m pining
pining for the place I long to be
Oh I’m hoping tonight you’ll go
go to the right window
scatter your light
say I’m all right, please do
tell him that I’m blue and lonely
dreamy Carolina moon
shine on, shine on
‘One day…maybe one day I will return… Ruth told the moon silently.
The moon seemed to mock her. It had heard it all before. But nonetheless it echoed the words that Ruth so badly needed to hear…Oh! How she needed to hear…
And he will be waiting… the moon silently replied…he will be waiting…
*** *** ***
He didn’t know for how long they watched one another, it may have been minutes, it might have been hours, but there was time enough for communication. In those green eyes, he saw everything.
He saw the story of his life unfold.
Maybe much of it was from details he had already known, or presumed to know, it didn’t really matter which anymore, the fact was that just gazing into those green eyes he knew… he knew everything.
Transfixed, unable to move, something subtle wove its way through his frame, filling his being with knowledge. He saw it all, just the way it had been, and though the details troubled him, the calming wave of peace that followed soon soothed his fears.
He had always wondered how he had come to be…and now he knew.
Laughter bubbled up from within, and he shook his head, sending spirals of long tawny mane about his head and his shoulders. The great beast before him did not move, but he seemed to smile. Was that possible? Did lions smile?
Something was at work within him now he could feel it. It was almost as if this beast, this king of the jungle had stepped right inside him, and was filling all the empty gaps with knowledge. Never would he have to wonder again, and with that knowledge his aloneness disappeared.
He had only one regret and spoke outright for the first time.
“Why didn’t you come to me sooner with this?”
His voice, cutting through the air, startled the beast, and as if a shutter had come between them, the man recognised the changes and felt the beast withdraw. At that same instance the lion rose to its feet and backed away, back into the golden grasses, soon out of sight.
The man beast did not move. He knew not to follow.
He had been given insight, insight to all that he was, and all that he could yet be.
But sadly he hung his head.
For it was too late.
It was all too late.
A lazy moon hung suspended on nothing, filling the sky, and the man beast choked back a sob.
Oh but to be that moon, hanging over the earth, able to see every where and every one at once.
Tears ran unchecked through the soft fur of his cheeks, and the man’s heart broke, as it had broken every night since she had left him. From that first time that she had come to that last time she had returned and left him again, he had never set eyes on her since. But he had never forgotten, no he had never forgotten and he would hold those memories dear to his heart until his dying day.
His love, his own first love.
To whom he had given of himself, but to whom he could not offer a life with him because then he did not know who he was…what he was.
Well now he knew.
But now it was too late.
And if only he could have the chance again, he would ask her, no he would beg her to stay with him forever.
His first love…
His only love…
His darling Ruth…
*** *** ***
The stories found within this website have been written by and for lovers of the American television series Beauty and the Beast and no infringement upon the rights held by Ron Koslow, CBS, Republic Entertainment, Witt-Thomas Productions or any other Copyright holder to Beauty and the Beast is intended.
Furthermore all the stories found on this website belong to Wendy Tunnard de-Veryard, are protected by copyright and none should be copied, added to or subtracted from or altered in any way, without the prior authorisation of the author.