Castle of Sand

As the grains of love fell into place,
And the sands of time stood still,
Castles in the air were built
And dreams were dreamed until...


Castle Of Sand

Chapter One

It had been one of those lovely evenings just laid listening to the music beneath the concert, and Vincent had wrapped Catherine and himself snugly inside his voluminous cloak to keep them both warm, draping one arm protectively around the back of her neck, holding her close against him.
Catherine had looked forward to this moment all week. And what a tiring week it had been, with Stella from the other office, on compassionate leave, it meant that she’d had added responsibility until a suitable candidate had been given a temporary position to cover Stella’s absence.
Joe had been apologetic, and had tried his best to relieve some of the mounting files upon Catherine’s desk, but there never seemed to be an end to them, no matter how fast or how hard either of them had worked.
And so this evening spent with Vincent was truly bliss, and Catherine was loving every moment of it.
Her eyes gently closed, Catherine murmured sleepily as the final chords of harmony drifted down from Above, losing her in a most exquisite dream where the soft strains of music provided the perfect backdrop to her hearts desire. Those of never having to leave this wonderful man that she loved so much. A dream in which, she never had to go back to the office again, to plough through endless files, and deal with irate clients, who wanted everything done, ‘like yesterday’.
What a relief it had been when a few minutes before five on this Thursday afternoon, Joe had brought across Stella’s replacement for the next two months, and introduced him to her.
“Cathy, this is Daniel he’s going to take some of the strain off of you and I until Stella returns. He’s starting first thing tomorrow morning.”
Catherine had been absorbed in her writing, and lay aside her pen to welcome her new colleague, totally unprepared for the attraction that had flared between them. It had only been a fleeting desire, but one look at those gorgeous puppy dog eyes, and that infectious smile, had sent her pulses racing. It was one of those times that she cursed the connection she shared with Vincent, for however slight her feelings had been towards Daniel, it had occurred too fast for her to clamp down on the Bond, and she knew that Vincent would have known of it without a doubt. The feeling had disturbed her too, for not since Elliot had she found such magnetism with anyone other than Vincent, and if Vincent should ask about it, how could she explain it when it made no sense even to herself? The problem stayed on her mind all the way home from the office, even while she prepared to meet Vincent, and it had begun to spoil the evening she had so looked forward to all week. For Catherine was certain that the moment Vincent helped her down from the steps leading off from the basement, he would feel inclined to mention it.
So it had been a most pleasant surprise to find that when they did meet he had given nothing away to suggest that he had sensed anything at all, and Catherine found herself beginning to hope that for once, maybe, just maybe, he had been too busy at some other task to have noticed.
Huh, some hope!
For now as the music drew to its conclusion, Vincent shifted uneasily, in such a way that Catherine knew for a certainty that he had something on his mind, and she held her breath, ‘here it comes’ she thought.
“Tell me about your day?” Vincent asked matter of factly, too cool, too cautious.
Catherine wasn’t sure how to answer, and tugged nervously at the skin on her lower lip with her teeth.
They had been down this road before, and she really was tired of it. It was so difficult knowing how to handle it, for Vincent had such an inferiority complex about their relationship, and Catherine wondered if he would ever be any different, and she wondered how best to answer him.
Tilting his head to look at her, Vincent waited patiently, knowing how unsettled she felt, until eventually Catherine replied, “There wasn’t anything unusual today Vincent, just the file’s I have been ploughing through these last few days. The main case that I was working on last week, is just about wrapped up, and now that the new guy has arrived, he’ll take off my work load, so I’ll be able to get home earlier in the evenings.”
Vincent listened without comment and hesitated before asking softly, “What’s he like...this new guy?” he thought it was strange of Catherine to say that there was nothing unusual, not when she would be getting home earlier each evening, that in itself was cause for celebration. So what, if anything, was she hiding?
Catherine tensed, she hadn’t expected Vincent to pick up on that quite so quickly. She thought he would have asked her about her work, the case that was almost finalised, but no, this new guy was at the top of his list, because he knew that she had felt something for him.
“He’s nice actually”, Catherine replied still trying to sound normal, dismayed when her voice wavered, and she found herself having to lower her eyes from Vincent’s as a slight blush stained her cheeks.
Vincent shuffled uncomfortably, and gathered himself for standing. Above them all was quiet now, the concert had finished, and the audience had melted away into the darkness.
Holding out his hand, Vincent helped Catherine to her feet, and they began the long walk back towards the threshold. There was only one thing for it, she would have to tackle it head on.
Mustering all the courage she could find, Catherine spoke boldly, “You felt it didn’t you?”
Vincent stopped walking, and turned to look at her, “What?” he asked her innocently.
“Oh, Vincent, let’s stop playing games, I can’t bear the tension.” Catherine ran a hand over her weary brow, “ We’ve had a lovely evening and I know that before I go up those steps tonight, you are going to say something that will hang in the air until we meet again and spoil the time we’ve just shared. So we may as well tackle it now.” she told him exasperated, then taking another deep breath she told him, “ the new guy at work, Daniel, he’s nice, as I said.....” she stopped, what more could she say?
“And?” Vincent’s tone was low, anticipating...what?
“And what more can I say Vincent. For one moment, one fleeting moment I was attracted to him. And I don’t know why. It has nothing to do with the way I feel about you. I love you.” her voice rose an octave.
Vincent was looking at her steadily, “I do not know that this feeling lasted only a moment, you closed down on our connection. The feeling you had for this man may have lasted longer.”
“Vincent I would never lie to you!” Catherine was stunned that he could think it.
“Maybe not in so many words, yet your heart tells me otherwise.”
“I closed the Bond to spare your feelings.” she told him.
“Not soon enough then.” he continued to look at her steadily, and Catherine felt her temper rising, “I didn’t know it was going to happen!” her voice filled with despair, “Joe just introduced him, and there it was, what can I say, what do you want me to say, Vincent? I love you.”
“And I love you...but if our paths had not crossed...”
“Oh Vincent! Please don’t say that again. I have no regrets about loving you, none about having come to know you. You are all that I need Vincent, you are everything to me, you know that.”
“That’s as maybe...for now.”
“What do you mean.” Catherine felt a rush of sadness sweep over her. How could she ever make him believe she loved him more than life?
“You can’t deny that you will be seeing this man every day at work, something between the two of you will grow.” Vincent shook his head sadly.
“No Vincent”, Catherine shook her head, “I promise you it won’t.”
“I have no right to your promises Catherine. What you and I share is just a dream. It will lead us nowhere, and you have other needs that I...cannot...fulfil.” he hung his head then, shamefully, hiding his face within the curtain of his hair.
Catherine turned with him, bending slightly to see into his eyes as he tried desperately to hide his shame, “No Vincent I don’t believe that, and if it were true Vincent, then I accept this fate gladly.”
“But at what price Catherine? Before we met you had a life, you were destined for greater things, and maybe this new man would have been the one for you to share it with.”
They were walking slowly now, through the tunnels towards the threshold and their inevitable parting. Yet Catherine could not let them part until this problem had been resolved. Desperately she wanted to stall him, to hold back time until they had covered every aspect, and she had made him see what he meant to her.
Perhaps if she could delay their parting, she might be able to reassure him?
Taking a deep breath she asked, “Can we go to your chamber Vincent?”
For a few moments Vincent wondered why she had suggested such a thing. The threshold was close, while his chamber was a long walk in the opposite direction, and he knew she was already tired, “No its late, and you have work tomorrow.”
Something inside Catherine snapped, her eyes flashing she told him, “Why are you always so concerned about what’s best for me!” she didn’t mean to have sounded so ungrateful, after all, he’d only had her welfare at heart, “I’m sorry Vincent, I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”
Vincent searched her eyes. He knew, despite everything she was telling him that she was perturbed about her attraction to the new man at work, and a great sadness engulfed him as he told her. “Perhaps now is the time to end our dream Catherine.” His voice was soft, and unable to meet her gaze he continued, “The time has come for you to move on and forget about me.”
Catherine felt a wave of nausea strike her as she told him unhappily, “I could never forget about you Vincent. You are too much a part of me!”
“But in time you will forget,” he told her, trying to keep his voice steady. While inside he was dying.
Catherine sighed deeply, “Vincent why do you do this? Why do you continue to cause this heartache, for me, for yourself, don’t you think if I didn’t want anymore to do with you I would say so?”
“No Catherine. I believe you like the fantasy of our relationship. But Catherine, what we have is a dream. You would be only too happy to follow that dream for all of your life and never complain, but Catherine I know you. You have a life to live, Above. There are children waiting to be born Above. A man to love you Above. I have no rights to keep these things from you.”
Throughout his answer Catherine was shaking her head, and now he had finished speaking, tears gathered in her eyes and fell as she told him, “I don’t want any of these things Vincent, not without you. Can’t you see that? I love you so much.”
“Out of the abundance of the heart so the mouth speaks Catherine. And even you cannot deny that you are attracted to this man.”
Catherine sighed deeply, telling him sadly, “Vincent we are going around in circles.”
“And this will always be the case Catherine until you admit that I am right.” Vincent told her, his blue eyes blazing with unshed tears.
“Yet even your own heart is breaking, Vincent.” she whispered.
“Then how can you bear it. I don’t want to do as you ask Vincent, not even to show how wrong you are, but this is always going to come between us isn’t it?” defeated now, Catherine hadn’t the heart to pursue it any further, and sighed deeply.
Standing before her, Vincent raised her chin, forcing her to look into his eyes, as he told her seriously, “You have a life Catherine, you have to lead it. What we have here is make believe, and being here with me is preventing you from achieving all you have to achieve. You can do it Catherine, I know you and I will always be here for you, but only as a friend.”
“I can’t believe that”, Catherine shook her head, “You love me, the way that I love you.”
“No Catherine, it is different.” Vincent shook his head, “You have desires and needs from the world Above. I have no such desires.”
“Then that, Vincent is the first lie you have ever spoken to me.” Catherine held on to his steady gaze. Vincent was rocked to the core, yet he stood his ground, for it appeared to him that they were going forward at last, were actually getting somewhere. Before when they had spoken of this, Catherine had put up such barriers, but this time she seemed to be weakening. Yes, he would miss her, true, but she had a future that didn’t include him.
Could never include him.
And he had to make her see that.
Catherine was watching him closely as he fought for control, fought against denying the lie and could not.
Reaching out, Catherine placed the palms of her hands upon Vincent’s chest, feeling him shudder, knowing how the contact enflamed him and Catherine felt jubilant.
“No!” the roar had escaped before Vincent could stop it, echoing along the tunnels, leaving Vincent ashamed as the echoes grew fainter and fainter, yet he could only stand and stare down at her. Catherine knew what her touch did to him, yet she refused to take her hands away.
For long moments they faced one another, both breathing heavily.
Vincent’s mind was in a whirl, he had come so close, had almost succeeded in showing her where her true destiny lay, but oh! the touch of her hands upon him was sheer bliss and torture, and he didn’t know how to continue.
“Please Vincent” Catherine begged now, “Don’t deny your own feelings. You have as much of a right to a future as anyone else, and Vincent, it can be with me, I promise you.”
Summoning all the strength he could muster, Vincent flung her hands away from him, “No!” He told her again, “It can never be! Catherine our dream must end. It has to do, for your own sake, and one day Catherine you will realise this when the pain and the heartache have subsided. Then you will thank me for finding the strength to make you leave me like this. Go live your life Catherine the way it was meant to be lived!”
Turning on his heal Vincent strode away in the opposite direction to the threshold, he could no longer see her home, one more look in those compelling green eyes and he would be lost, but Catherine had other ideas.
Running after him she caught him up, reached out and grabbed his sleeve, halting his headlong flight.
If they were going to do this thing then it had to be on her terms, yet when she saw the pain in his eyes she almost changed her mind. She knew he loved her, why did he have to do this to them?
Vincent deserved more of a life than anyone else, he was everything good that there was in a person, and he loved and desired her however much he convinced himself otherwise.
As Catherine attempted to turn him around, Vincent roared, “No!” Trying to shake her off, but Catherine stood her ground, holding on to him tighter, as a strange calm settled upon her. She knew that this problem had to be resolved, or it would always stand between them, and Vincent had to be shown that his beliefs were entirely groundless.
Expecting that Catherine was intent on changing his mind, Vincent was stunned when she told him, “All right Vincent, you win. I’ll try it your way. I’ll go out of your life and I’ll seek that for which you say is awaiting me. My only hope is that you don’t live to regret losing your own chance of happiness.”
Vincent stared down at her, unable to believe that she had at last accepted what he had tried to tell her for three years.
And that was what he had wanted wasn’t it?
So why did he feel that some tragedy had just befallen him?
For long moments, Vincent stared down at her. At the rise and fall of her breast, her laboured breathing. And he felt an overwhelming need to comfort her, but knew he could not. Not now, not when she had at last seen things his way.
“We can still be friends Catherine.” he told her softly, “I will always be here for you as a friend.”
Catherine shook her head, the tears beginning to fall, “No Vincent, the break must be clean. Final. And you must suppress the desire to come to me whenever you feel I am in danger. I’ll take my chances with the rest, and besides, Isaac’s training will come into its own now. I’ll get to see what I am capable of.”
Vincent was shaking his head, “No Catherine, whenever I feel your fear I will come to you.” Fresh tears began to gather in his blue eyes. But Catherine was adamant, “No Vincent, no. If this is going to work you will have to keep away, and you will have to close down on the Bond, for your own sanity as much as for anything else, or sense of me will tear you apart, and I love you Vincent. I couldn’t bear to be a party to that.”
“As I could not bear to be a party to have the power to rescue you and not do so.” he whispered low, his eyes searching hers.
“Then I will alter my work load, only take cases that don’t bring me into known danger. Joe and Daniel can go out in the field.”
Vincent winced, the mention of the other man’s name, unbearable to him.
Would his Catherine be seeing this man?
The thought uppermost in his mind cried out to be spoken, “Will you see him?” he whispered low.
“Who?” Catherine drew her brows together, in confusion.
Vincent could not even utter his name, “This new man?”
Catherine knew what he meant, but refused to let him know that. He’d brought this on himself, he could jolly well explain what he meant. She told him, “I don’t understand Vincent. We’ll be working together. I’ll see him everyday.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Then what did you mean?”
“Are you so intent on raking me over the coals Catherine.”
“You started it Vincent”, her voice low, her eyes flashing, Vincent was left in little doubt of her annoyance.
He shuffled uneasily, his arms ached to hold her, smooth away the pain, tell her it already hurt too much to continue with.
How could he ever let her go, and to another man, no less?
Catherine’s own heart ached. She wanted so much to ease his heartache, but Vincent had to realise just what it was he was pushing her into.
After this night they may never see one another again if she were to seek the life for which he believed she had been born for.
And it was not something she could foresee ever finding. Because she had already found her destiny.
Yet Vincent believed it was still out there awaiting her, and she would be living it now, if their paths had not crossed.
Vincent was shaking his head, his heart weighed heavy, he could not believe that she had at last agreed to do as he’d asked, and he looked into her eyes filled with defiance. So that was it! She was playing him at his own game.
But it wasn’t a game.
It was very real.
And he had to make her see that.
Taking a deep breath he asked her, “Will you spend time with this new man, see him after work?”
For long moments Catherine did not know how to answer. It wasn’t something she had ever considered.
Truly, there were no answers, and she wanted to scream, “Of course not...I love you...why would I want to see someone else?” But Vincent didn’t want to hear her say those things. He wanted to know that he had at last convinced her that her future lay Above with some other man, and not Below with him.
For a few moments Catherine allowed herself to think about Daniel. He was nice, and then there was the attraction. Those compelling brown eyes, that delightful smile. And she could not help her own mouth form into a smile at the thought of him. How he had made her laugh that day. A man very much like Joe in every way, but with the added power of magnetism. Catherine had never felt drawn to Joe as she had felt drawn to Daniel.
With a jolt it dawned on her....what if Vincent was right?
If Vincent never altered his mind about their relationship, if there really were nothing but dreams for the two of them, then perhaps her future did lie Above after all.
Vincent watched as the many expressions chased themselves across her face. He dared not search through their connection, afraid of what he might find, but as her silence persisted, he was unable to prevent himself, and was dismayed to find that she had closed down on their Bond, so that he could find no sense of her emotions.
Why had she done that?
Only moments before, she was giving him an insight into all that she felt.
And that’s what had made the pain doubly unbearable.
Vincent waited for her answer, the silence standing between them, heavy and strained, and only the gentle tapping on the pipes comforted him. It was a reliable sound, solid and safe, and Vincent wished he could be borne along on a message, never to have to be a part of the words that Catherine was summoning herself to utter, as finally she spoke.
Just one word.
One word that destroyed him.
“Maybe” she whispered.
Vincent’s eyes flew wide open with shock, his heart hammered painfully.
Yet what had he expected?
He had forced this upon her, so he only had himself to blame. Yet somehow, when he had been convinced that Catherine should pursue the life she were born for, and that he should make her see this, her acceptance in his dreams, had never been as painful as it was in reality. The thoughts ran riot through his mind, had he been wrong? Could he so easily give her up as he had thought? While he was thinking these things, Catherine was speaking again, and her words delivered the final blow, “If he asks me, then yes, maybe, I’ll date him.” And Vincent felt his whole world shatter. There were so many questions coming in on him, and he could not utter them. His head was reeling.
Catherine searched his eyes, and an overwhelming desire to hold him close rushed fiercely over her, and she felt compelled to re-opened the Bond. Their connection was such a sure and steady thing. It told Vincent all her heart felt when words otherwise failed.
Stunned, Vincent re-coiled beneath the weight of her emotions, and he didn’t know whether to rejoice or weep!
He loved her, and she loved him, of that there was no doubt. But she had a life, and it didn’t include him.
And if love was pure it sought not one’s own interests, but that of another.
Vincent groaned, he had no choice, he had to let her go.
Back to her world, Above.
Without him. A low moan that travelled up and through him escaped Vincent, “I don’t want you to go Catherine....” he fell to his knees, beneath a weight too colossal to endure.
Catherine was overjoyed, dropping to the floor also, reaching out to take him in her arms, telling him, “Then I won’t Vincent...I love you so much.” the words were choked from her, sobs caught in her throat, tears of joy and happiness.
“No,” Vincent flung her arms away from around him, whispering brokenly, “You don’t understand. What I want or don’t want is unimportant. I have no rights Catherine, and I shall miss you, but you have to leave me....” He rose to his feet, summoning all his strength, “Its for the best”, the last words died on his lips.
Resigning herself now to thein evitable Catherine told him, “I’ll miss you Vincent.” but unable to stop the tears from falling swiftly down her cheeks. Catherine stood up and moved away from him.
What more was there to say?
The only thing she could do was to try things his way after all.
Suddenly a cold hard reason embedded itself within her heart.
Perhaps he was right.
Perhaps it was just a dream, and she was destined for better things after all.
She’d had enough.
Enough of the rejections, the self-denials, the waiting, the yearning, the hoping. Catherine had come as far as she could, begged as hard as she could, and still he had turned her away. But she couldn’t just never see him again. Of that she was certain.
Maybe when it no longer hurt?
Swallowing with difficulty, Catherine turned back to face him. He was leaning against the wall watching her warily.
Managing a weak smile Catherine told him softly, “You taught me a lot of things Vincent. Made me believe in myself, and that was a treasure beyond price. You gave me courage when I had none. Now you must believe in all those same things. And when...when you are strong enough to cope, when the pain of our parting no longer tears you to shreds, then come to me Vincent, for I couldn’t bear to live a life without you in it. I need you.” the words caught in her throat, and Catherine turned, her footsteps quickening as she hurried away from him, unable to look back, unable to see him one last time.
Breaking into a run Catherine rounded a corner out of Vincent’s sight, before stopping to lean against a wall, calming her racing heart, when suddenly it almost leapt out of her breast as the sound of Vincent’s anguished roar filled the tunnels, and sobbing, Catherine started to run again, faster and faster towards the threshold, blinded by her tears.

*** *** ***

Chapter Two

The shrill of the alarm pierced Catherine’s nightmare. And she was only too relieved as time provided the welcome escape that she needed.
She had been on an island, surrounded on either side by crashing foaming waves, and her island was being swept away with nothing to cling to, and no one to help her. Far across the ocean, a tiny speck of green signified another island, a safe island, but there was no way of getting over to it. Death was imminent, and there was no one to save her anymore, never again could she be sure of being rescued, because the only person that could ever have done so was way over on that other island, safe yet alone.
Within the grip of the nightmare, Catherine had heard herself screaming Vincent’s name hoping that the wind would carry it to him, let him know she was in danger, let him find a way to rescue her, knowing it was all in vain. Only the slim hope that maybe he could do something, kept her screaming his name into the wind, hoping he would hear her.
As Catherine snuffed out the sound from the alarm clock, she didn’t think she had ever been so happy to hear it go off, and struggled to stay awake, lest she slipped back down into that terrible dream.
For several moments she wondered what had sparked it off, and then as thoughts returned of the previous evening, Catherine groaned. Vincent!
How would she ever get through her life without him?
What had they done?
Possibly severed the only chance either of them would have of finding happiness.
The last thing Catherine could face that day was work, if she could ever again. Her heart cried out for Vincent, and she longed just to see him one more time.
Crawling from the bed, Catherine slid down to the bedroom floor, leaning against the bed before getting to her feet, something she hadn’t done since she were a child. She didn’t really know why she had done it then, simply the thought of standing seemed too much for her limbs, which were feeling weaker by the minute, even now as she managed to stand and walk out into the lounge
They had made a ghastly mistake, and in the cold light of day, Catherine knew that now. All the things she had told Vincent filled her mind, and Catherine swayed as she moaned softly, closing her eyes. How would she ever get used to not having him near her?
Tears squeezed beneath her lids, forcing her eyes open, and Catherine crossed to the balcony window, to stare out at the park below.
The desire to go to him was overwhelming, to have his arms around her, to strengthen her, just one last time. If they were going to do this, they would need to see one another from time to time, just to fortify one another to remain firm, to remain strong, to keep the over-riding problem in perspective, until it became a problem no more.
For Catherine could not believe that there would ever be anyone for her but Vincent, and she had to make him see this, had to show him that even being back in the social world again, free to date other men, she still belonged only to him. Would always do, and nothing anyone might do or say would change that.
Catherine knew without a doubt that she had to make Vincent believe that her happy life lay with him and him alone.
Donning her clothing, and drinking a glass of fresh juice in a hurry, Catherine left her apartment, and headed towards the park.
She needed him, there was no two ways about it, she had to see him, feel his arms around her, try to make him see that last night was a mistake, all the words spoken were wrong, untrue, and they should not be hurting one another like this.
The wind whipped itself around Catherine’s feet and bit into her face and hands as she hurried to be out of its bite, towards the drainage tunnel, grateful when at last she reached it, and walked into the dimness beyond.
Expecting to find Vincent waiting there, the smile of welcome died on her lips to find the tunnel empty, and for a few minutes undecided Catherine wondered what to do.
She circled the floor several times, her boots kicking up the dust, swirling in little folds at her feet, until mind made up, she pulled the lever mechanism that opened the door, and gasped to find Vincent on its other side.
For long moments they stared at one another, expressions fathom-less, hearts pounding and Vincent was the first to speak.
“Why have you come here Catherine?”
‘Was that Vincent? His voice so cold and unfeeling?’
Catherine re-coiled by the tone of his voice, and could not find an answer. Tears formed in her eyes, and she turned to brush them away. Her lips trembled as she told him, “I had to see you Vincent?”
“Why? We have said all there has to be said last night, don’t you remember?”
Catherine felt as if he had lashed her.
“Vincent!” the name caught in her throat along with a sob, “I need you, please just hold me Vincent.”
For long moments Vincent stared at her, his blue eyes penetrating right down into her soul, until she heard him whisper, “Its finished Catherine. Go live your life.”
“No!” she whimpered, “Please Vincent, we can resolve this. I love you.”
Vincent touched the lever alongside the door, and Catherine watched in horror as it slid back to its place, closing him off from her, separating everything they had shared.
Her body shook with sobs, tremendous heart rending sobs, that filled the air, and echoed within the tunnel.
And she wanted to just curl up and die.

On the other side of the door, Vincent felt her pain, heard her cries, and knew that what he had just done had broken her in two. It had been the hardest thing he had ever had to do in his life. But he had to make her see, that the dream had ended, and her coming back so soon, would only start it all over again.
They had made the break, and it was for the best, right now she could not see that, but one day, when she had met someone, then she would, then she would thank him for having the strength to see it through.
Nonetheless as he walked slowly back towards the home chambers, he left his heart behind with Catherine, feeling it wrenched away from him with every step he took, and he knew without a doubt that it would never belong to him again.

Via their connection Catherine cried out to him, unable to believe he had shut her out like he had, determined she could bring him back by infusing all her love into him. But try as she might, she knew that he had closed down very firmly on their Bond, and she could not get through to him.
She knew why he was doing it of course.
Being cruel to be kind.
And it must be hurting him dreadfully.
In a curious kind of way that thought relieved her, to know how disturbed he must feel to have turned his back on her. It would not be something he would forget quickly, it would probably grieve him for a long time. This saddened Catherine even more than her own heartache moments earlier, Vincent had already suffered enough grief in his life without adding more to it.
‘All right Vincent’ Catherine spoke aloud, ‘If that’s the way it has to be, then so be it’. Only she couldn’t bear him to suffer and knew that he would.
Reaching for the door mechanism again, Catherine pulled back the iron grating when the door had slid back, and stepping beyond, closed the door behind her. Once inside she found a convenient pipe, and finding a stone, she tapped out a message.
Bond or no Bond, she would make him hear her.

Striding away blinded by the tears that filled his eyes, Vincent stopped when he heard his name rattling upon the sound system of the underground world. At first he felt a surge of anger that Catherine had persisted, until he listened with intent and sighed “I still don’t approve, but I do understand. Thank you Vincent. Be Well. Catherine.’
A half smile twitched at his lips, as a flood of relief swept through his limbs, and Vincent closed his eyes. Happy now that Catherine had understood how hard that had been for him, made him love her all the more, and though he knew that her message was intended to bring him relief, it started to add to his pain, as he realised just what he had lost. Catherine was a remarkable woman, with much love to give, she had courage, and warmth and an inner strength that bound him to her. And yet for all that he had sent her away, convinced she would be better off following her destiny, the life for which she had been born, knowing that this life did not include him.
And Vincent had never felt such pain in all of his life.

*** *** ***

Back at her apartment, Catherine paced up and down, unsure of the way ahead, only knowing that she felt entirely alone, and could not begin to visualise life without Vincent in it. To think that never more would he come to her on her balcony, but she didn’t doubt that he would stand in the park night after night looking up at her window. Never more would they walk hand in hand through dusty tunnels, talking and laughing, loving being beside one another, looking forward to the few snatched hours to spend together, though she didn’t doubt that when Vincent walked there alone now, he would not think of those times.
Everything each would do from now on, would remind them of the other, there would never be any peace for either of them, until Vincent could be made to see that his belief was ungrounded. For despite what Vincent had told her, they belonged together, like two halves of a whole and apart, they would always feel incomplete.
It was a terrible sadness that washed over Catherine, a sorrow so deep she didn’t think she would ever get out of it.
Leaning her forehead against the cold glass of the window, Catherine continued to look out over the park, ‘ why couldn’t he see, that beneath the emerald blades, was her home too?’ The apartment was just a building, just a place to eat and sleep, to shelter from the wind, while Below was home to her, and countless others who in one way or another had been healed there. Catherine felt a sob rising and catching in her throat, ‘Oh Vincent’ she moaned softly, ‘why are things never simple? Why can you not see that I need you so? I love you Vincent, so much, you are everything to me. Everything, and I will never love any other but you?’ And as she heard herself say them, Catherine thought about those words. Really gave consideration to them.
Last night she had firmly believed that if she could do as Vincent asked and show him how wrong he was, he would let her back into his life, and things would move forward between them, because his argument against such a move would be groundless.
Catherine sighed, resigning herself to the inevitable, ‘All right Vincent Wells’ she spoke out loud, ‘let’s play the game your way. I’ll show you that we are meant to be together, you’ll see, and when you do, you will let me back into your life and nothing will ever part us again.’ Resolved in her heart, Catherine felt better. She looked at her watch, it was gone eleven. Whatever would Joe think of her!
Picking up the telephone Catherine dialled the familiar number, speaking as it was answered, “Joe, Hi, its Cathy, sorry Joe I overslept I’ll be in as soon as possible.”
“We wondered what had happened to you. Are you sure you are all right Cathy, take the rest of the day if you like.”
“Thanks Joe, but I’ll be in, can’t set a bad impression for Daniel can I?”
Joe laughed, “I doubt very much you could do that if you tried. Hell Cathy I don’t know if I should have taken him on, now I have another rival for your affections. He’s done nothing but talk about you all morning.”
Catherine was quiet for some moments. If there was something Vincent was convinced of, it was the fact that she would have been better off with either Elliot or Joe, and Catherine made a snap decision. The faster she taught Vincent he was wrong the better, and she heard herself say, “Then perhaps you had better jump in ahead of him Joe.”
There was utter silence at the end of the line, and Catherine heard herself laugh, “Joe are you still there?”
After a time, he replied, “I’m here, Cathy. Just recovering from shock. Do you mean what I think you mean?”
It was hard for Catherine to acknowledge the question, still uncertain of what she was doing. Playing games with other people’s affections in order to achieve her goal was a bad move, perhaps she would be better to explain herself a little.
“I don’t want to give you the wrong impression Joe, but right now I could do with a friend, and I’ve appointed you.”
Still unsure, Joe could only manage, “Look Cathy, don’t come to the office I’ll come over to you. Are you sure you are all right, not bumped your head or anything?”
Catherine’s gay laughter drifted down the connection, “Joe, I’m fine, honestly. Tell you what I’ll get ready for work and you pick me up at lunch time, I’ll come into work for the afternoon.”
“All right Cathy.” Joe’s voice sounded strange, filled with uncertainty, as they said their goodbyes, and Catherine put down the receiver.
With Joe, beginning over would be easy, he was a friend, and he had wanted to date her for ages, it was only fair that she gave him a chance, besides he was a really nice guy, and at least it would show Vincent she was trying things his way.
Nonetheless, Catherine found herself pressing her flushed face against the cool glass of the balcony door again, looking out over the park with wistful eyes trying to convince herself as she whispered. ‘Right then, Chandler, so begins your future, may it turn out as you wish.’ before brushing away the silent tears that fell swiftly down her cheeks.

*** *** ***

Chapter Three

Father watched his son warily. Something had been genuinely wrong with Vincent these past few days. He had carried it off well, but Father knew when his son was hiding something, and knew when he became a little tattered around the edges. Father had seen it before, and he knew the signs. Vincent was having one of his guilt trips and these such trips usually involved Catherine.
As he watched Vincent idly flicking through a book, obviously not concentrating on what the words before him were saying, Father tested the atmosphere, with a gentle question, “I’ve not seen Catherine for a day or two Vincent, is she well?”
Vincent looked up, pinning Father with his piercing blue eyes, before replying softly, “I’ve not seen her either, Father.”
It was an answer set to throw him off the scent, but Father persisted, “Will you be seeing her tonight?”
“No.” the short curt reply, had Father cautioned. Nonetheless, he had seen his son like this before, usually a few direct hit questions solved the problem, helped Vincent get everything back into perspective, and ready to move ahead once more.
“Then when will you be seeing her?”
Vincent’s intense blue eyes misted over, his lips mouthed words that Father was unable to decipher, until a low moan escaped the younger man’s mouth, and tears started to fall.
Father rose from his chair, and hobbled over to his son’s side, placing a hand upon his shoulder, “What is it Vincent?” he asked concerned, “Please tell me, I’d like to help if I can.”
Vincent shuddered, “Nothing you can say will help Father. Catherine and I are.... finished. The dream has ended.” a ragged sigh escaped Vincent, as he turned to rub his cheek against Father’s hand upon his shoulder.
“By whose admission Vincent. Your own or Catherine’s.” Father felt anger rising within him, he had always known it would come to this, but he had begun to hope that Catherine would prove him wrong.
“Its not what you think.” Vincent turned tear filled eyes to his father, “Catherine begged me to let her stay, but Father, she has a life, Above,” his voice rose, only to fall again to a mere whisper, “with me she has no such life.”
Father’s heart went out to his son, “What did you say to her Vincent?”
Another ragged sigh left Vincent’s lips, as he began, “I finally convinced her that there was no future for us Father.”
“And she believed you!” Father was stunned.
“Eventually.” Vincent spoke softly, his heart breaking. “It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, making her believe me.” he told Father.
“I can’t believe she accepted them Vincent. Catherine loves you.” Father was stunned to say the least.
“And I love Catherine. But Father what we have is just a dream, it could never work, Catherine has a life to lead, and she is wasting her time with me.”
“Shouldn’t you let Catherine be the judge of that Vincent.” Father told him softly.
“Catherine sees things through a haze of love Father. Once she has had time to stand back and view the situation as it stands, she will see that I am right.”
“And do you believe you are right Vincent?”
“No”, the word came out on a hiss, “but I cannot allow her to spend her time down here with me, when Above she has so much to live for.”
“Without you Vincent, Catherine would have had no life at all.”
“This I do know, and I believe, I rescued her for a purpose. This great love was never meant to develop between us Father. Catherine was to recover and move on, forget about me, and she would have, but for our connection.”
“Arh yes, the connection, that wonderful Bond that ties your destinies together.” Father sighed, “Vincent when are you ever going to learn that such a gift is not meant to be severed, can never be severed. Vincent you and Catherine were made for each other.”
Vincent stared wide eyed at his father, “Yet I cannot believe that.” he whispered.
“Then you are a fool!” it was the first time, Father had been so outspoken, and Vincent was stunned, his intense blue eyes holding Father’s own, trying to understand from where such a declaration had come.
Father was immediately remorseful, “Vincent I’m sorry, forgive me.”
“You spoke from the heart Father.”
“Yes, but it was cruelly said , I could have put it a lot more tactful than I did.”
“Whichever way its said the meaning is the same. Are you telling me I was wrong to send Catherine away, Father?”
“I don’t believe you could ever send Catherine away, I think she will find her way back here sooner or later, dismissing your reasons entirely. She will if she has any sense.”
“She’s already done so Father.”
Jacob Wells was stunned, “And you sent her away again?”
“Oh Vincent how could you?”
“Father, Catherine has a life to live and it could never be with me. I know I am unhappy without her, but I rejoice that she is now seeking the life for which she was born. In time all of you will see it was for the best.”
Father sighed. “”I don’t know Vincent. In one way I’m proud of your strength to set her free holding the belief that you have, but Vincent at what cost will it be to you, to the both of you?”
“It hurts Father, but in time this will lessen.”
“I don’t think so Vincent. If nothing else your emphatic connection will hinder the healing process. I fear for you, really I do.”
“It is a problem Father, but I have closed off the Bond. Catherine is suffering too, and I find I can only just bear my own pain.”
Father nodded, reaching now for Vincent’s hands, and he turned to stand in front of him.
“Sit down Father, standing like that will make your back ache. Here, I’ll draw my chair closer to your own.”
Father was touched by his son’s thoughtfulness, and stepped back to take up his own seat gratefully, watching as Vincent stood up to bring his own chair closer. Father took up his son’s hands once again within his own, “I still can’t believe that Catherine has accepted it is over between you, she really loves you Vincent, and this love that you have has warmed all of us, I had begun to hope....well let’s just say I had hoped that you and Catherine would be happy together. Yet while you maintain this belief...”
Vincent scrutinised his father, trying to read between the lines, just what exactly had Jacob Wells hoped for between himself and Catherine, asking eventually, “This belief Father?”
“Yes the one that you maintain that Catherine would be better off back in her own world, while this stands between you Vincent, your relationship would forever be held back.”
“This I know Father.”
“And Catherine, does she know of it?”
“In the past, whenever I brought it up, she has never seen it, she believed that she could alter my mind, make me see things her way. This time it was different.”
“How different?” Father’s kindly eyes searched those of his son’s, watching as they filled with sorrow, and Vincent hung his head, his curtain of hair hiding his features, so that Father could not see the fresh flow of tears, that were evident in his speech as he whispered. “A new man started work at the D.A’s office, Catherine was attracted to him.”
“And so you thought she should pursue her heart’s desire and have a relationship with him did you?”
Vincent felt slapped, exclaiming, “Father!” his eyes rose to hold the older man’s gaze once again.
“Well did you?” Father asked again.
“Not in so many words.” Vincent murmured quietly.
“Okay, maybe you didn’t expect her to start seeing this new man, but you did expect that she should be free to pursue whatever is open to her, and that you were only getting in the way, am I right?”
Vincent stared open mouthed at his father, as words failed him.
Father went on, “And I suppose you used the old cliché...’if our paths had not crossed’, eh?”
Vincent nodded, mortified.
Father continued gently, “Vincent, if Margaret’s path had not crossed mine that sunny day, look what happiness I would have missed.”
“And what bitterness Father.”
Father nodded, “True, but Vincent, the happiness, no matter how brief, far outweighed the bitterness. And I don’t regret a moment of it. And if my path had not crossed Grace’s that night, Devin would never have been born, this world as we know it, may never have come to be, and you dear Vincent could have ended up in the hands of John Pater.”
Vincent winced, as Father continued, “When someone crosses another’s path Vincent, it is almost certainly for the good.”
“But other men are always crossing Catherine’s path, Father. I am only in the way.”
“No Vincent, you are wrong, Catherine is a very beautiful and wealthy young woman, and there will always be men aware of that fact. But Vincent, it is your path that she crossed, long before she came to know all those who hold a candle for her now, and it is you that she wants to be with Vincent. You, not them.”
“What are you saying Father?” Vincent asked the same question as before, wording it differently, “Have I made a mistake in forcing Catherine out of my life?”
“I’m not saying anything Vincent, you are the one that seems to have all the answers.”
Vincent growled, and jumped to his feet to begin his usual relentless pacing, as he always did when he was seeking answers, “How can you say that, I thought you were trying to help me.”
Father watched him warily, wishing his son would sit back down, “I would love to help you Vincent but in the end you are the only one that can make the right decision.”
“I thought I had made it.” Vincent told him sharply.
“And now?”
Vincent sighed, flopping his body back down again and leaning his weary head against the wing of the chair, before speaking, “Nothing has changed Father. I could still never offer Catherine what she needs, and try as I might to deny it, she is entitled to that kind of love, wherever she may find it.”
“But at what cost Vincent. Will she be any happier with a man who can love her intimately, than with a man who believed he couldn’t?”
Vincent winced, before whispering, “I believe that she can”, he hated to say it, to even to think it, but this was all it was about after all wasn’t it?
For long moments Father stared at Vincent, finally resigning himself to the fact, “Its going to be hard on you Vincent. It won’t be a passing thing, like the chaff blown by the wind, gone in an instance. No, what the two of you shared was very special and it might take years before the pain subsides. Are you prepared for that Vincent?”
Vincent shook his head, “I think I will always feel this way, there will never be another chance for me, and if there were, I would want no one but Catherine. Every day that we have been together has been a bonus, I took each day as it came, not asking for any other, revelling in the glory of having Catherine close. But time is slipping by Father, and if Catherine continues to stay with me, I am depriving her of all that could be attainable for her.”
Father shook his head sadly, prompting Vincent to ask, “What?”
“I think you have made a wrong move, Vincent, no, let me finish,” he held up a hand as Vincent attempted to interrupt, “ I know what you are saying, truly I do, and I’ve seen you fight this for so long, so believe me I do understand how you feel.
Yes, Vincent, Catherine does have a life Above that doesn’t include you. But Vincent we can all push others out of our lives believing that they would be better off without us, we can all put ourselves down when it comes to convincing ourselves that we have prevented another from pursuing the life they were destined for. Yet Vincent we have to stop and think and ask ourselves whether that person cares about those things any longer.
Look, take that friend of Catherine’s, Nancy, she aspired to be a great photographer, had the chance to go to Paris to further her dream, but instead she met a man, fell in love, and raised his children instead. She never became that photographer Vincent, but yet, she is happy.”
“Yet Catherine told me that from time to time Nancy hankers over what she let slip by, she has regrets Father, if she hadn’t of met her husband she would have fulfilled her ambitions.”
“Fair point Vincent, but you know love is a very strange trap. Once it grabs us it alters our opinions about a lot of things.
In many respects it makes one wonder if freedom of choice is just an illusion.
One starts out with great ambitions, maybe having a talent that can make one a fortune, a flair for something that if used correctly can bring much happiness to others, and then along comes love, and bang! Every belief, every hope, every ambition, bites the dust. And it doesn’t matter anymore, because one changes direction, sees life anew, wants different things. And to let go of that love, and pursue all the old dreams, would never be the same Vincent, because it has lost its gloss, because it was attained at a price. The price of love.” Father patted his son’s hand, “Vincent many’s the time a love like that doesn’t cross one’s path again, one finds only secondary love, and the happiness we have is not as great, or as all consuming or as fulfilling as the love that we lost, and we will never find it again Vincent, not even if we searched the whole world over.”
Vincent was nodding, “For me, that is the truth. I will never find another who will replace Catherine in my heart, but I still cannot believe that being with me, Catherine will never regret what she gave up. She has to try Father, don’t you see that, please understand, if she doesn’t try she will always have regrets.”
“And what Vincent, if she should try, and finds already that the gloss has gone. Maybe, it is already too late Vincent. In many respects it was too late from the moment you carried her down here in the beginning. Catherine is in love with you Vincent, as you are with her.”
“No Father, the love I have for Catherine is different to the love she feels for me.”
“I don’t think so Vincent.”
“It is.”
Father’s sapphire blue eyes penetrated Vincent’s of china blue, almost as if he could see into his soul, Vincent looked away as Father told him gently, “If you believe that Vincent, then you are lying to yourself. You forget Vincent, I know you, and I was there when you desired Lisa.”
Vincent groaned, trying to shut out Father’s further words with hands held over his ears, “Shutting it out won’t be of any use, Vincent.” Father continued reaching for his son’s hands, “Whether you hear me out or not, because deep down inside you know yourself that you do have the ability to desire a woman, only you chose to keep this knowledge from yourself, and sadly from Catherine.”
“I hurt Lisa” Vincent mumbled softly.
“Yes Vincent, and throughout life we all get hurt, we hurt right up until the time, someone comes along and erases that hurt, and then the pain of the past subsides.”
“Yet even with loving Catherine, I have never forgotten that I hurt Lisa.”
“Because you let the fear over-ride, and sully the love you could have with Catherine. You have to put it behind you Vincent. Even Lisa forgave you, can you do no less for yourself, even at the cost to your own happiness?”
“If I was not as I am, I would want nothing more than to expect to be happy, and have a life with Catherine.”
“If you were not as you are Vincent, I doubt you would ever have the chance, with Catherine I mean. Catherine has offered you her love simply because she loves everything about you, you are unique and she loves those things. I firmly believe that bringing happiness to you, makes her happy, It is a twofold cord and she is willing to sacrifice all she has ever yearned, just to gain the ultimate prize.”
Suddenly, Vincent didn’t know what to think. There had been a lot of logic in Father’s words, but he still firmly believed that Catherine’s life was Above, without him.
“You still aren’t convinced are you Vincent?” Father asked him thoughtfully, “How long will you continue to punish yourself?”
“For as long as it takes for Catherine to make a life for herself, Father. This twofold cord acts my way too. I could never foresee Catherine giving up everything Above for me. And if she should find happiness without me, with some other man, if she brings into the world the children that were destined to be born, then I too shall be happy Father. For then, and only then will I know for a certainty that Catherine is leading the life she was born for.”
Father could only shake his head sadly, Vincent was wrong, he knew it, but making Vincent see it was something else. Perhaps, in time the younger man would think on their conversation, his words of counsel, and see the truth as it lay before him. The Bond was a very definite indication that Vincent and Catherine’s destinies were linked, and Vincent only had to believe it.
“I’ll be here for you Vincent, if ever you need to talk.” Father told him softly, “And you will want to do believe me, it’s a long and difficult journey you have set yourself upon Vincent, and my heart goes out to you, and to Catherine. I can only say that I hope it turns out well for the both of you, whatever you both desire.”
“Thank you Father.” Vincent stood, and placed a warm kiss upon the older man’s whiskered cheek, as Father gazed at him with concern
“Will you be going out this evening Vincent?”
Vincent shook his head, “No, I don’t think so, I couldn’t bear to go Above just yet.”
Father nodded, “Then if you are at a loose end, come sit with me, eh, we don’t have to talk or play chess, just being in one another’s company would be nice, reading perhaps.”
Vincent nodded, “I’ll think about it Father, though I am tired, I thought an early night might do me good.”
Father nodded, watching as his son walked from the chamber, no doubt an early night would indeed, do Vincent good, but it would be a long time before sleep would claim him, this Father did know.
In fact it would be a long time before Vincent were his old self again, and then that would only come about if he let Catherine back onto his life.
Father brushed away a fallen tear, love was never a smooth ride, why was that?
Why did the one thing that brought such happiness, always have pain galloping behind it?
Father shook his head, none of it had ever made any sense to him.

*** *** ***

“So what gives, Radcliffe?” Joe took hold of Catherine’s arm, the moment she slid into the front passenger seat, as he waited for her outside her apartment building.
Catherine attempted a smile, one which didn’t quite reach her eyes something Joe was quick to notice, and trying to sound braver than she felt Catherine told him, “Like I said, I could do with a friend right now.”
Joe looked at her, really looked, almost as if he would see inside her head, he told her, “This isn’t like you Cathy. Okay, the friendship bit, you know you have that, have always had that, but its what you are implying that has me baffled. I’m I reading this right?”
“You tell me Joe.” Catherine didn’t like this conversation anymore than he did.
Joe drew in a deep breath, “Care to start from the beginning.” he asked her, looking in his rear-view mirror, as he made to pull away from the curb, indicating, not towards the office, but straight across to the bays alongside the Central Park.
“Where are you going?” Catherine asked, “There’s work to do.”
“There sure is, Radcliffe,” Joe replied, “On you.” he turned off the ignition, “Now how abouts you and I taking a walk through the park, and you filling me in here?”
“Not the park Joe, anywhere but that.” it was too close to Vincent, and Catherine could not bear it.
Exasperated, Joe sighed, “What’s wrong with it. You told me so yourself, that it holds no horrors for you, that you are over all that. Its a great place to walk and talk.”
Catherine shook her head, “I can tell you all you need to know without ever leaving the car, so fire away Joe.” Catherine attempted a half smile.
“You’re not gonna go all weepy on me are you Radcliffe? Hey, I don’t mind offering a shoulder, anytime, but hey, I’d rather it be some place less conspicuous than in my car by the sidewalk.”
At the thought of going weepy, Catherine couldn’t help a tear slide down her cheek, she brushed it away, hurriedly, and was dismayed to find it was followed by another, then another, until they cascaded down her cheeks relentlessly. Despite all Joe had told her, he put his arms around her, at once, giving her his shoulder, patting her back gently, letting her cry. He felt so helpless, he wanted to say something, but didn’t know where to start, not knowing the problem, the cause of her distress. He’d seen Cathy go through some awful times, but few of them had rendered her to tears, save for the time her father had died, but even then, he’d seen her stand strong, ready for work within days of his death. So whatever had reduced her to tears this time had to be something more important than that, and what could be more important than the death of a parent? Joe could only think of one thing, love. Being in love, having that love thrown back in your face, now that would instigate this kind of a response.
Joe knew that Cathy had had a relationship with some mystery guy for the past three years. Though she said little about him, Joe could tell that she was in love with the guy, her very demeanour had spoken volumes. Perhaps it was over now? And if so, could there be a chance now for him? Was that what she had implied? Joe felt his heart race, filled with hope.
As Catherine quietened, and made to pull out of his arms, Joe let her go steadily, his face wreathed in concern, “If you’d like to talk about it Cathy, you know I’d like to help if I can?” his brown eyes showed signs of sympathy.
Catherine nodded, “The relationship...I was in.” She hesitated, how to go on, that was the problem.
Joe’s heart lifted by that one word, ‘was’ and waited for her to continue, his eyes brighter than before, as hope continued to grow in him.
“There were always problems,” Catherine told him hesitantly, “We were very different, different backgrounds, but I was determined not to let that rule over us, I knew we could make it work....” her voice trailed away, why was she telling Joe all this anyway?
Joe nodded, for the first time offering assistance, “But he thought differently, right?”
“Yes.” Catherine drew in a deep breath, choking back a fresh wave of tears.
“So what happens from here?” Joe asked her gently.
“I learn to live without him, either that or....” she finished lamely, clutching at straws.
“Or, I find a way to make him see that we belong together.”
Joe felt his heart constrict he didn’t really want to hear anymore, but felt compelled to ask, “And how do you think I can help?”
Catherine turned in her seat to face him, “It’s complicated, Joe.”
Joe attempted humour, and laughed softly, “Now why doesn’t that surprise me?”
Smiling, Catherine, told him, “I need your friendship, Joe, you know that” Joe nodded as she continued “but for...” She hesitated, she had never disclosed her beloved’s name to anyone before, and it was hard to do, she wondered if she should fabricate a name, Vincent’s identity needed to remain a secret at all costs, even if Joe wouldn’t know where to locate him. Catherine nodded, deciding on a name, one she’d remember, “Jacob will only believe that we are right for one another, if he is certain I have explored all the other avenues first. You see, Jacob lives in a sort of commune, and if I should become a part of his life permanently, I too, would go to live in that commune, shutting myself away from all that I have ever known. I am happy to do this....” She hiccupped, “but Jacob won’t hear of it.”
Joe nodded, though he didn’t really understand. Cathy living in a commune! Shutting herself off from all she had ever known, what kind of guy was this, and how on earth had she met him? Weren’t those kind of places reserved for the country?
“I get the picture there’s more to this than meets the eye Cathy, and I’m sorry, but this commune thing doesn’t ring true at all, I hope to think that I know you better than that,” he had a sudden thought, “it wouldn’t be witness protection stuff would it? Now that would make more sense”
Catherine’s heart lifted, why hadn’t she thought of that? She nodded, it was perfect, it offered all the secrets that she required, “Yes Joe,” she hated lying to him, but then hadn’t she already? And what else could she do?
Joe nodded thoughtfully, “Then I get the picture, Cathy. Sure, if you are gonna be with this guy, Jacob, you will have to lose your identity to keep up his protection. This Jacob must be some guy though, to offer you freedom, rather than tie you to the vanishing life. So what is it you want to do from here?”
Catherine felt so much better already, more in control. “I need to make Jacob accept that I have explored all the pathways open to me, both with my career and the people that I know. In short, Jacob feels that he would be robbing me of the life I were born for, would prevent me from having the things most people take for granted.”
Joe whistled, “Gee Cathy, this guy must really have gone underground, what did he do? No don’t answer that, its not my place to know, sorry, please continue.”
Catherine smiled, the reference to underground making it so, Joe didn’t know how close to the truth he was there.
“Jacob wishes me to have a normal life. He set me free to pursue that normal life, to meet a man who can give me all the things I am used to, who can partner me in my heart’s desire.”
“Except he’s your heart’s desire, and he can’t see it, right?” Joe asked.
Catherine nodded, “I love him Joe.” the tears be-dimming her eyes once again, and her lips trembling as she went on, “I want to spend my life with him. I have to make him see that I have explored all the avenues, and prove that none make me happy the way that he makes me happy.”
Joe shuffled in his seat, things beginning to drop into a place, that he didn’t much care for, “So let me get this right. Those things you implied back in your apartment, when I rang this morning and spoke about Daniel, if I’m correct, that makes me a scapegoat, right?”
“I know I’m asking a lot, Joe, but Jacob knows about you, about Elliot, and Daniel. He feels I might have a future with any one of you, or someone else, I have to prove to him that’s not so.”
“Cathy!”, Joe warned her off, holding up his hands and backing away a little, “I can’t believe you would trifle with other people’s affections like that, if I hadn’t of heard you with my own ears. Let me get this straight. You want to date me, and Daniel, and Elliot, and anyone else that might come along, just so you can go to this guy and say, ‘I told you so’?”
Catherine nodded, it sounded awful, so she attempted a cheeky smile to lighten the situation. “That’s heavy Radcliffe. And what if, either Dan, Elliot, or myself should get hurt along the way, have you thought about that?”
Catherine nodded, “I have, its what makes the whole thing so much harder to achieve, but Joe, don’t you see, we are all taking a gamble here, what if Jacob is right, what if I am destined to be with someone else?” Catherine shook her head, she couldn’t believe she’s said that. Never could she accept that Vincent might be right, but for Joe it was enough, his eyes lit up, “Hey Radcliffe, maybe he does have a point, and hey, if it gives me and you a chance. Who am I to complain?” He grinned somewhat wickedly. He only meant it good-naturally, Catherine knew that, but it gave her the shivers. To be anything to any other man was abhorrent to her. It was Vincent she wanted. Vincent she hoped to convince. Nonetheless, she found herself agreeing, “So you’ll help?”
“Is that what you meant by getting there ahead of Daniel?”
Catherine nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
“Then that’s great Cathy. You’d really come out with me?”
Again, Catherine nodded, trying to put some feeling into it, though Joe didn’t seem to notice. She had never seen him look so happy, and as he reached forwards and drew her back into his arms to hug her tightly, another tear slipped unwilling down her cheek.

*** *** ***

Chapter Four

Vincent stared off into space, pen in hand, journal open before him. For the past few weeks, the pages had bore hardly any references to his days’ activities, and this day was no exception. Simply, life had lost its meaning, and everything that Vincent did, or attempted to do, brought about the same disinterest.

Father despaired, watching his son avidly, he worried that lack of sleep, not enough vitamins, and poor neglect of hygiene would eventually lead to something serious for his son. Something deadly.
In his own chamber, Father was poised in much the same position as Vincent. Leaning over his journal, Father found his eyes cast to the entries of days’ previous and read them through.

Monday 9th

Vincent informs me that he and Catherine are finished. I cannot comprehend how things will turn out now. Though, I tried to reason with him, he stands by his firm conviction that Catherine is better off back in her own world, pursuing the things of her own world.
I feel empty. If I should feel this way, then how will Vincent feel? How will he bear this loss? For so long, I believed that Catherine would return to her own world and leave Vincent behind. Then as the years passed, I had begun to hope, yes yearn, that any day they would go forth into a future together. If nothing else, the emphatic connection they shared should have told them that they belong together. I accepted that long ago. Though I fought it, tried to dissuade the relationship, even I, had to conclude that I was attempting to hold back the tide.
These two belong together, and apart, neither will be happy. I fear for Vincent, while he maintains this belief, it can bring nothing but heartache and pain for him. I envisage that he will never get over the loss of Catherine in his life, and I am so worried as to where this loss will lead him. Catherine was the only one who could rescue him before, if he is to shut her out, who would reach him another time? God forbid another time. I shall have to be more vigilant where Vincent is concerned, and tactfully apply illustrations so that he might have a change of heart. Vincent can be so stubborn sometimes, he cannot see what’s plain to see.
He and Catherine belong together. He will never be happy until he has accepted this fact.

Wednesday 18th
Had another attempt at the chessboard with Vincent today. He carries it off well, but from time to time, his mind wanders. Though he tells me he has closed down the bond he shares with Catherine, sometimes I wonder about that. The look, I know so well, will lighten his features suddenly without warning. Perhaps, subconsciously, the bond is open and vibrant with life. Half of me hopes so, the other half is pained at this. For Vincent is torturing himself if he still maintains that a future with Catherine is impossible. Over these past ten days, no matter what I have said, still meets with the same solid wall of conviction, that Catherine is better off in her own world. Whatever can I do to prove him wrong?

Tuesday 24th

Vincent smiled today! It was so unexpected. It lit his entire features, the blue of his eyes. Like the sunshine coming through the clouds, after a very long thunder storm. But it passed quickly, and the clouds came back again. I don’t know what it was he ‘saw’ or he thought of, he would not speak of it, but just for once, for one small moment, my own heart was lifted, before my hopes were dashed to pieces again.

Saturday 4th

Mary came home from a day above. Bless her, she purposely sought out Catherine, after we had discussed possible ways to knock Vincent and Catherine’s heads together. Vincent’s no different, still maintains, he’s done the right thing, and at least he has started taking care of himself again, that’s one step in the right direction. I am grieved though, that he no longer attempts to dress in his finer clothes, anymore. They were obviously clothes reserved for his dates with Catherine. Who ever is he fooling? As Mary quite rightly expressed, if he and Catherine had been no more than mere friends, why had he ever made more of his appearance when seeing her? I think Vincent lived the dream to such an extent that he became a part of it so much that he could not escape it. It was safe there, this dream, it had boundarie. Limits, he could not step from out of, and within that dream he could be anything, and anyone he wanted to be. He could love Catherine there as he desired to love her, and there would be no consequences, because it was all a fabrication, regretfully. Yet Catherine lived passed the dream, crossed its boundaries, its limits and sought to enter into reality, something Vincent was not prepared for, and therefore, could not cope with. Still, I am certain he lives within that dream, maintaining that Catherine is a figment of his imaginings, almost as if he too is a figment of the imagination, and within those boundaries, he can dream, any dream that he wishes.
Mary and I have watched him, seen him drift off into some world of his own, a world cushioned by the blows otherwise inflicted upon it, and we fear for him. More and more he is slipping away from us, not to the dark one, that I am pleased to note, but to some ethereal being that can grant all his life’s wishes without him having to bear the consequences.
Today, Mary, bless her, went to see Catherine. Its Saturday, Mary felt sure Catherine would be home, especially at eight o’clock in the morning. Imagine her surprise then, when she found the door opened by some half dressed man, at that hour! Mary was left with only one conclusion, and did not stay to be introduced. I am angry that Catherine would do this. I did not expect it of her. Can she forget Vincent so easily? After all that they meant to one another? Up until today, Mary and I wanted nothing more than to drag Vincent away from the world he has sunk himself into, but for what?
If he is happy there, then it would bring him only untold pain to know that Catherine has betrayed him so readily. I cannot be the one to bear him this news, but he will hear of it eventually. It grieves me not knowing if I should tell him or not. Mary believes I should stay out of it. After all, Vincent did set Catherine free. I am just incensed that Catherine let go without too much of a fight. It’s not what I would have expected of her at all. I feel she has let me and Vincent down.

Back in his own chamber, Vincent was making his own entry into his journal, at last. For the past hour, no words would come. Now suddenly, a rush filled his mind, and avidly he began to write;

“I saw Catherine last night. For so long I have fought the desire to see her. Night after night, I have wandered the park alone, I could feel her so strongly. Though I have endeavoured to close down on our connection, still I feel her. I have wondered why this is so. It can only be that Catherine is able to feel me, as I can her, and this is incomprehensible to me. How, why, can she feel me now, why now? I was forced to acknowledge the possibility that Catherine’s love for me is deeper than even I could know, for this to happen. And so I went, reluctantly, up to her balcony, I peeped through the windows, wondering if I should knock. There was no sign of her, yet I could feel her presence, so strongly. My heart still belongs to Catherine. Will always belong to Catherine. With bitter, sweet longing I pressed my face to the window, eager for the slightest sight of her through the lace curtains,

(a tear fell at this point, onto the journal blotching the ink),

I could not believe it! There was a man! In there, inside Catherine’s apartment, with her! And suddenly, I wanted to rip out my heart and cast it adrift, for she was there, in his arms, and he was kissing her, I have dreamed of kissing her!

Vincent threw down the pen, the tears now streaming down his face. How he had got home, he did not know, but that sight had killed him.
He’d recognised the man to be Joe Maxwell and that in itself was bitterness to him. Suddenly, everything he had maintained, became as ashes in his mouth, for now the dream had died, and Vincent knew, suddenly with a shining clarity that he had lost the only thing held precious to him, and he did not know how he could ever get it back.

Father was busying himself, stirring a hot milky drink, he had just brought from the kitchen, to drink before bed, when Vincent swept into his chamber, flopping himself down into the large armchair reserved mainly for him. At once, Father left everything he was doing, and went to stand beside his son, “Vincent what is it?” his concern plainly evident in the lines upon his face.
Vincent looked up, his red-rimmed eyes, proof alone, that something distressed this gentle giant of a man, to such a degree that his whole body shook with it, and Father at once, knelt down to take Vincent’s large hands within his own, “Tell me, tell me what’s bothering you?”
“Catherine.” The name, deep filled with despair, frightened Father, no matter his own earlier belief.
“Is she injured?” he asked.
“No, not that. I saw her last night. Father what have I done!” Vincent buried his face into his hands, casting Father’s aside as he did so. Father stroked his son’s hair, trying to offer comfort from the action, “last night?” Father questioned, his mind racing. Could what Mary had witnessed in the early hours contribute to whatever Vincent had seen the evening before? Father asked softly, “When you saw Catherine was she alone Vincent?”
Immediately, Vincent looked up through a blaze of tears, “Alone? Why do you ask Father? Do you know something?”
“I only know that, this morning, Mary attempted to visit Catherine, but instead her knock was answered by a man. Mary had not expected this, and soon made her excuses and left.”
Vincent closed his eyes, his words when they came, torn from him, “Last night, this man was in her apartment, he must have spent the night there.”
“Yes, it would appear so Vincent. I’m so sorry.”
The tears fell swiftly once again, and Father hugged his son close, “Forgive me, Vincent, but if you have maintained that Catherine should pursue this other life, why does this trouble you so? Surely, you realised that in setting her free, Catherine would find herself a new relationship.”
Vincent shuddered, “Yes, but so soon? Father it hasn’t been a month yet!”
“I know Vincent. I too have been counting the days. That is why I too, am incensed, at Catherine for doing this. Its not what I would have expected at all. Perhaps, perhaps we are wrong, perhaps this man was just staying with her, platonic like.”
Vincent shook his head, his body trembling, “they were kissing Father.”
Father felt all his hopes dashed to pieces. That said it all then. So what was he going to do now. Vincent should never have seen this, not with him being so vulnerable as it were.
“You should never have gone up there Vincent, what were you hoping to achieve?”
Vincent swallowed with difficulty, “the Bond, Father, just lately I have felt Catherine calling to me through our connection. It is something new. I realised then that Catherine loved me far more than I had accounted for. I don’t know why, but I was led, mesmerised, to her last night. Yet if she were calling me, why was she also with another man?”
“I don’t know Vincent, I cannot believe that Catherine would attempt to put you through that kind of pain on purpose, that is what you are thinking isn’t it?”
Vincent nodded, his blue eyes filling with despair.
“No, Vincent, Catherine would never hurt you like that.”
“Then why, Father? Why does her heart call to me even now, when she has so obviously forgotten me already?”
“I don’t know Vincent. I can only advise that you make a superhuman effort to shut off the Bond totally, block out any feelings of Catherine that might attempt to come through. For your own peace of mind.”
“That would be the answer Father, yes, but there is something else.”
Father listened attentively, waiting for his son to continue.
“I love Catherine, Father.”
“I know that you do Vincent.” he answered wondering where this declaration might lead.
“A few weeks ago, you allowed me to believe that in sending Catherine away I had done wrong?”
Father nodded.
“I didn’t believe you then.....I do now.” he whispered the last, his voice breaking, “I want her back, Father. Its been less than a month, yet the longest period of my life, and I know now, that I cannot live my life without her. Catherine maintained that she could live Below with me, that she could give up all she has above to be with me. I sincerely believed that to allow this would be wrong, I pushed her away, and now, we both suffer those consequences, yet if Catherine is trying to achieve the life she were born for, would it be right for me to bring her back?”
Father shook his head, “You are asking the impossible Vincent. What you want for Catherine is the best of both worlds. That will never work. And I am left to wonder what exactly you are offering Catherine now, if any different than before.”
Vincent swallowed with difficulty. In his dreams he knew how to love Catherine unconditionally, yet could those dreams ever be made reality?
“Vincent, you know what we have here?” Father asked gently. Vincent shook his head, his eyes hollow.
“Like a castle of sand, Vincent, the love that you and Catherine shared. So fragile, yet so strong too. As it stood, united, bound together by the feelings you had for one another, it was indestructible, but then you left it open to the elements, Vincent, and slowly that castle of sand has been eroded away by the wind and the tide, until there is almost nothing left.”
“Its a fair illustration, Father, what are you aiming at?” For once, Vincent felt an inkling of hope take root.
“Sand castles can be built again Vincent, from that same sand. Those same grains that helped to build the original castle can be fused into place by the mortar of your love, only you must be prepared to face the possibility that some of the tide could have swept away some of those precious, all binding grains. Those may be irretrievable Vincent, because the temporary loss has been severe. You may find cracks have appeared in your castle, that will take a long, long, time to disappear, as well as time needed to strengthen and extended the walls of that castle, Vincent do you know what I am driving at?”
Vincent nodded, understanding dawning slowly, the love he had built up with Catherine over the years was precious, fragile, and just as surely as he had held a grain of sand in his hand, he had let it slip through his fingers, cast it away to the sea. But all was not lost. He well knew where that lost grain lay, but he also knew, that he would lose it again, if he did not bind it to something firmer than before, when he did. Vincent looked down shamefully, “If Catherine would have me, Father”, he mumbled as if to himself, before raising his eyes to his parent once again, “If Catherine would take me as I am, do you seriously think that we could have a future together? That I could offer her, her heart’s desire, Father?”
“Vincent, for some time, I felt that a relationship between the two of you would be wrong, but Catherine saw beyond my fears, beyond your fears. She accepted you for what you were, for who you are, and still, she loved you. She even envisaged a life with you, the same life that any woman would envisage with the man that she loves. I used to find this remarkable Vincent, that one so beautiful as Catherine could imagine...oh forgive me, I didn’t mean any offence Vincent, but you do understand don’t you?” Vincent nodded, his eyes begging his father to continue, for which, he complied willingly, “Vincent, I do believe that if you could accept the possibility of it, then Catherine would gladly move down here to be with you, and if you could go beyond that, she would marry you also.”
Vincent gasped! Marriage! With Catherine! He had never dared to hope for anything so grand, not even in his wildest dreams had he allowed the possibility of that.
Father was nodding, “Yes, Vincent, she would, I know this. Remember Catherine would at times come to see me, while you and Pascal were working in the lower levels, more so since her Father died, we became quite close, and she would confide in me her hopes and desires, and one of those desires, Vincent, was to be with you down here forever, to have you as her husband, and even, Vincent, even to bear you a child.!” Father rubbed his whiskered chin thoughtfully, what would Vincent make of that? He knew how shocked he himself had been, when Catherine had disclosed this to him, so he was in no way surprised, when Vincent’s mouth dropped open, and nothing came out. Father almost laughed, Vincent was rendered speechless.
Father’s merry eyes twinkled, “So if you could deal with that Vincent, “ he almost laughed out loud, Vincent hadn’t yet closed his mouth, “then that, would be the way forward.”
Recovering remarkably quickly, Vincent was composed enough to ask without a quaver in his voice, though somewhat absently, “So where do I go from here? We seem to have overlooked the fact that Catherine is now seeing Joe Maxwell.” he added, bitterly.
“Joe Maxwell? Was that who it was? Someone she has known a long time too, not that it makes any difference, Vincent, but at least she has been selective. Joe is a good man.”
“Yes, but Catherine always maintained it was one sided.”
“One sided?”
“Yes, Joe Maxwell has been in love with Catherine for a long time.”
“I wasn’t aware of this.”
“No, Catherine told no-one but me.”
“This might complicate things.” Father sighed raggedly, passing a hand across his brow and rubbing it there, “Its going to be more difficult than I thought Vincent, someone is going to get hurt whichever way it is dealt with here. With a third party involved, who also loves Catherine, that is. Oh Vincent, why ever did you let it go like this?”
“Don’t you think I have berated myself long enough over that Father? If only, I could turn back time, I would.” The tears began to fall again, and Father was quick to find something positive to say to halt their wending way, “Look Vincent, tell you what, I’ll send Catherine a message, asking her to come to see me. When she arrives, I’ll tell her I just wanted to see her, I have missed her too, you know, perhaps during the conversation I can glean what this Joe Maxwell means to her, test the water so to speak. And I think it would be an idea if you should interrupt us at some stage, unannounced, I would like the opportunity to catch her response before she has time to guard her feelings. If you think you could handle that?”
Vincent’s mind raced, to see Catherine? Here below? Knowing as he did, the conversations she had had in the past with Father, about marriage and children?
Vincent’s heart hammered painfully, he didn’t know if he could carry it off, nonetheless, he found himself nodding eagerly, his heart singing, he was going to see Catherine, Catherine, Catherine!

*** *** ***

“Describe her to me can you?” Catherine wanted to know who had come knocking at her door at seven thirty in the morning, obviously someone who knew she would be in at that time.
“She was just your average run of the mill, old lady Cath, probably wanting to borrow a bowl of sugar or something. I didn’t take that much notice of her.”
“Well she obviously wasn’t expecting you, or she wouldn’t have run off like a scared rabbit. And its obviously someone who would have thought a man would be the last person to expect in my apartment at that time of day, especially one girded only with a towel, so that really leaves me wondering.”
“Any ideas who it might be then?”
“I hope not Joe. You’re state of undress could really have rocked the wrong impression.”
“That doesn’t answer the question, Radcliffe, and hey, how was I to know who comes a knocking at this hour.”
“You should have called me to answer it, and as to the question...” Catherine hesitated, “Just tell me again, anything you can think of, what was she wearing?”
Joe scratched his head, “Now you’ve got me, I remember now. I thought it kinda strange at the time. Its hot outside right? Even at this hour,” Catherine nodded, “Well this old dear was dressed for winter, as if she had no heating in her apartment or something. Real wrapped up like.”
Catherine’s heart sank, if it was who she had presumed, she really had some bridges to build and quickly too.
“And she didn’t say anything, anything at all?”
“Not a dicky bird, just saw me, looked me up and down, turned and fled. I’ve never seen anyone move so fast, well not someone of that age anyway.”
Catherine squatted, cross legged down upon her sofa, thoughtful.
“Hey, did I give someone the worng impression, Radcliffe.” he looked down at himself, the towel still firmly in place. Catherine eyed him, nodding absentmindedly, “You’d better go and get dressed Joe, I need a few minutes to think.”
Joe hesitated, “Before I do, about last night...I’m sorry Cathy, that was out of order. I know you aren’t over Jacob yet, I’m sorry.”
“That’s okay Joe, apology accepted, I never said it was going to be easy, thank you for being so understanding. If I didn’t still feel so much for Jacob, your kiss would have been welcome.”
Joe nodded, “Perhaps in the future though?” he asked timidly, watching her face for any sign of agreement.
“Perhaps, you never know. Whoever said, out of sight means out of mind, huh?” Catherine attempted a laugh, thinking as always, of Vincent.
“Probably the same philosopher, who said, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’” Joe’s words trailed away, his own heart hurting, as he made his way to the bathroom to finish dressing.

*** *** ***

Brushing his teeth, some moments later, Joe scrutinised his reflection in the mirror. He considered himself fairly good looking, and he was a decent enough fellow, yet despite the impression Catherine had given him three weeks ago, she was no nearer to dating him now than she was then. They were still no more than friends, that evident, by the way she had put him up at short notice, when he had left his bathtub running and flooded his apartment. He’d been quite happy to go to a hotel, but Catherine had insisted, and Joe, well being Joe, and Catherine’s insistence on moving ahead a few weeks ago, he had been led to believe that there might be more in this invitation than met the eye. But he had been wrong, her reaction to his kiss had told him that. Though at first, she had moulded herself to him, leaned into the kiss, it had been another name that had escaped her lips, a name borne upon a whisper. A name which at the time, he couldn’t decipher, until much later, but Joe knew only too well, that it hadn’t been Jacob. Cathy had lied to him, of that he was certain, maybe not about the witness protection, no, maybe not about that, but certainly the guy’s name. That she had blushed only served to verify his suspicions, and it had nothing to do with his kiss, yet Joe had pretended not to notice the slip, and Catherine had seemed relieved. That alone, convinced Joe that the guy she was really in love with was actually called Vincent, and for some reason this name blocked any chance he had with her. Jacob had substance Vincent did not. He was an unknown entity, and ot once, Joe felt he was fighting a losing battle against the guy.

Back in her sitting room, Catherine’s thoughts were much the same. She hadn’t set out to think about Joe’s kiss, until he had mentioned it, but she knew she had done wrong in inviting him to stay, had given off all the wrong impression. In fact, had done so, from the very first instance all those weeks ago. She’d been glad of his friendship, had even dated Daniel one or two times, and he was such a nice fellow, very quick-witted, making her laugh, in fact, she had a date set with him for that very evening, but Catherine felt suddenly tired of the pretence. It wasn’t any use, she loved Vincent. Hadn’t even, her subconscious told her that? Last night, when Joe had kissed her, it had been Vincent’s name that had slipped off her tongue, Vincent’s presence, her heart had cried out for. In fact, hadn’t she thought of no-one but Vincent, all of yesterday. Her heart literally ached for him.
Tears welled in her eyes as she thought of him. And this morning, who had it been who had come to see her? Was it Mary? For some reason and Catherine didn’t know why, she was sure now that it had been. Earlier she hadn’t been certain, now she was.
Perhaps Vincent had transmitted that knowledge to her via their connection.
Two halves of a whole. Why had she thought that? ‘Because that’s what you are’ she chided herself, ‘you and Vincent belong together’, Catherine buried her head in her hands, sobbing quietly, and only vaguely heard the door open and close gently, as Joe made a discreet exit, leaving her alone to her sorrow.

*** *** ***

It was late afternoon, before Catherine summoned enough strength to try to be positive about things. All day, ever since Joe had left, she had been in two minds about what to do with her day.
Getting ready for her date with Daniel was the last thing on her mind, her first and foremost thought being Vincent. She needed him. No matter what, she told herself, no matter how she tried to rearrange her life without him in it, and no matter that it had only been three weeks since she had last seen him, Catherine found that the three weeks may just have well been three years. She had missed him so much.
The desire that had over-ridden her every time she had felt him near, was now almost out of control. She laughed, somewhat cynically, remembering Joe’s words, about absence making the heart grow fonder, for it certainly had, yet neither the saying out of sight out of mind, rang true, because her mind had never dismissed Vincent, not even for one second of every day they had been apart.
“Perhaps you should just go down there, and just seduce the guy”, Catherine giggled, the first time she had in a long time, until the giggle bordered hysteria, and tears pricked at her eyelids.
Catherine thought about that long and hard, drawing her knees up, to rest her chin upon them, as she sat upon one of her dinky sofas. She could just picture the scene.
‘I’ll go down there, he’ll know I’m coming, he’ll meet me, and I’ll go straight up to him wind my arms around him, and kiss him, just briefly, no not briefly, but passionately...’ Catherine shivered, ‘yes that’s what I’ll do, he’ll be shocked of course, maybe try to run away, but I’ll be persistent, I’ll hold on to him. He thinks I haven’t noticed how he desires me. He tried to conceal his arousal.’ She smiled happily, ‘ I’ll hold on to him, I’ll kiss him again, and again, god, once I start I won’t be able to stop, perhaps he’s well to be concerned, but for his safety not mine’, again she smiled, and chuckled with the thought of it. ‘I’ll put my hand down between us, and touch him. Right there, huh, that’ll do it, he’ll not be able to resist me then.’ again Catherine shivered, the longing almost her undoing.
Getting up, she began to pace the room, plans formatting in her mind. Some she dismissed others she allowed, to fantasise hungrily. Her thoughts drawn inward, she suddenly, brazenly let fly all her desires, all her needs, through the connection, saying aloud, ‘there Vincent Wells, see if you can stand these emotions’, before crumpling back down to her sofa, and letting the threatened tears fall.

*** *** ***

Vincent was walking alone through the tunnels, when Catherine’s need hit him. He staggered forwards, clutching the wall hard, as his head swam and his heart hammered. Fortunately, he wasn’t too far from his chamber, and he stumbled there blindly, to flop into the nearest chair, gasping for breath.
His arousal had flared as those first feelings had hit him, and Vincent was shamed by them, trying desperately to avert his thoughts away from Catherine’s need, he buried his head into his hands. ‘Don’t do this Catherine’ he begged, while his mind raced, why was she doing this to him, why did her body call to his, when she had already fulfilled its needs with another man?
Was it some kind of retribution for severing their relationship, was she so determined to make him suffer?
Vincent stood up, pacing the chamber, much the same way as Catherine had in her apartment earlier, his thoughts racing. The pull was great, the need drawing him to go to her. Had she such control over his members that she could do this so easily?
It was still daylight above, just, but even that did not deter Vincent. Hypnotically, he began to get ready for a trip Above. Gathering clean clothing from his drawers, he made his way to the bathing chamber, undressing along the way, eventually sinking his hot and fevered body into the warm water, allow its cool caress over his skin. In his minds eye, Catherine’s emotions painted the picture before him. the coolness of the water became the coolness of the satin sheets upon her bed, the gentle lap of the water became her soothing hands stroking away his fears. Vincent closed his eyes and groaned, he was a drowning man, drowning in a sea of love, and powerless to resist. Did she know what she was doing to him? Was her need a conscious one, or did her need cry out from beneath that. Was she even aware of how much her body called to his?
Vincent shook his head, his arousal hardening as Catherine’s need intensified. He had never known anything like it before. Catherine had always kept her feelings hidden, knowing how they caused him pain. He found it almost impossible to comprehend that she could desire him so, yet wasn’t he somewhat relieved to find that she did. Hadn’t she always insisted that she loved everything about him, even his differences?
Vincent had conceded that Catherine had thought these things, but her heart had often shown her otherwise, that she did not, could not love him intimately as he had desired to love her intimately? As his dreams began to unfold within her desire, Vincent left the bathing area, towelling dry his hair, and completing his dressing, as he entered his chamber, noticed the clock there, and saw that it signalled the day was growing old. Pulling on his boots and taking up his cloak, Vincent flung it around his shoulders, and as one mesmerised, he started the long walk towards Catherine’s apartment, via the park entrance, to whatever lay in store for him there.

*** *** ***

Someone else was also on his way to Catherine’s apartment. Daniel. Joe had already pre-warned him by telephone ealier that day that Catherine mightn’t be up to a date that evening, but Daniel thought it could be purely a case of sour grapes. Joe hadn’t got anything from her, and he wasn’t about to let anyone else try, where he’d failed. Daniel wasn’t stupid, he knew the way it was with Joe, he'd be a fool not to notice the way Joe watched Catherine, hungered for her, why it was even the talk of the office, in hushed corners of course.
Besides Daniel knew how to make Catherine laugh. He was a well aware of her predicament, Joe had filled him in on that too, “She’s using us Dan.” He’d told him, around three weeks ago, when Catherine had come to the office, bleary eyed and snappy, “She’s hoping to make some other guy jealous enough to take her back, so be warned.”
It wasn’t that way at all, Catherine had filled him in too on their first date together. This guy, who ever he was, wasn’t about to become jealous, he had set Catherine free to pursue the life she was born for, rather than have her tied to the disappearing life. Daniel marvelled at that ‘guy’s’ courage, knowing he must love her so much to be able to put her first like this, and risk losing her himself. Daniel dwelt long and hard over this dilemma, he didn’t think he could do that, as much as he knew he was falling in love with Catherine, he could never set her free, and that worried Daniel. He could come to love her real bad, but was it the same kind of love that this other ‘guy’ loved her with? Could it ever be so intense? Daniel doubted it. To love enough to put another before yourself well that was beyond him. Almost a mother/baby love, a tender protective love, and Daniel knew that the love he felt for Catherine bordered mainly on the physical, attraction only. Really they were poles apart, he had other dreams, other ambitions. Law was only a stepping stone. Whereas Catherine was good at her job, loved it, saw nothing else ahead but law. No, Daniel reasoned, he and Catherine weren’t forever, but for now, they made one another laugh, she was good company, and with her beauty, she graced his arm, made him feel ten feet taller than he was, and he looked forward to spending time with her. Besides, maybe, if he played it right, there would be more in it for him. From what she had told him, and even from what she hadn’t, Daniel had concluded that the relationship she yearned for hadn’t been as fulfilling as she would have liked, and Daniel wondered about that. Catch her at the right moment, maybe when she was vulnerable, and perhaps she’d go to bed with him. Daniel really hoped so. He never let Joe know his thoughts however, Joe was a different kettle of fish, Joe would be appalled. Joe loved her. How deeply, Daniel couldn’t ascertain, but certainly over the last three years Joe had waited and hoped, and his love had grown. Perhaps Joe too, was made from the same kind of stuff as the other ‘guy’, there was just one drawback, for Joe that was Catherine was not attracted to him in that way. And Daniel knew without a doubt that was where he had the upper hand. For from the first moment they had laid eyes on one another, there was this magnetic attraction, some driving force that made each breathless. Yes, Daniel smiled, Catherine was attracted to him, he made her laugh, she made him laugh, they liked being together, and so what if she were only using him, wasn’t he only using her too? So what did it matter anyway?
Reaching her apartment at last, Daniel made his way through the large swing doors, nodding to the night watchman there sat behind his desk. The fellow had grown used to seeing this young man come and go with Catherine Chandler over the past few days, and had no qualms on letting him go straight up to her apartment.
Daniel took the stairs, all eighteen flights of them. He was still thinking, and the lift would bring his thoughts to an abrupt end, before he’d gathered things into his mind. Joe had told him something that kept returning to mind, “I kissed her Dan. For a moment I believed she enjoyed it, she moulded herself to me, returned the kiss, but it was another guy’s name that she whispered, she wasn’t thinking it were me at all, but this other guy.” Joe had looked uncomfortable. Nothing would have allowed him to disclose this, it was embarrassing, if it hadn’t of been for his care of Catherine. “Take it easy mate, she’s vulnerable right now. Don’t take advantage of that, okay, you get my drift. She has enough problems without adding guilt to them in the cold light of day. The best we can do is be there for her, it may take her a long time to get over this other guy.”
Yet Daniel disagreed. He wasn’t the type to settle down, he was the love ‘em and leave ‘em type, and Catherine Chandlers venerability was just what he wanted right now. A beautiful interlude with a beautiful woman. Yes, that’s exactly what he needed.
Reaching her door at last, Daniel paused only a few moments to catch his breath. Good job he was fit, his ham strings hurt a bit, but his lungs were okay, the eighteen flights hadn’t been that bad. He smiled wryly, wondering if he could persuade Catherine to run all the way back down to the bottom with him. Now that would be fun. A race, race down the stairs, in places he could take the banisters, they would laugh, he’d make her laugh, put her in a happy frame of mind, they’d reach the bottom, and share a breathless kiss, a kiss between friends, only, he would know differently. It would break the ice, give him a chance to move in on her, and she wouldn’t see it coming before it hit her.
Knocking gently at her door, it opened almost immediately. Catherine was ready and waiting. After Joe’s words, Daniel had been surprised at that.
“You’re late.” Catherine told him, her eyes dancing, though he detected a redness around the rims, “that’s most unlike you.”
“I used the stairs.” Daniel told her.
“What all eighteen flights?” Catherine’s eyes opened wider, she laughed, “Really?”
Daniel nodded, his smile lighting his face, “I needed the exercise, but hey it was fun, I thought perhaps you and I could race one another back down again.”
“You think I need the exercise.” Catherine twirled in front of him, and Daniel gasped. The long pleated skirt swirled around her legs, the colour the softest gold, shimmering, delightful to look upon, she looked like a goddess. “No,” Daniel swallowed hard, aware that his body was growing in certain places, and feeling a little awkward, “No I don’t think you need the exercise”, well not that sort anyway, he added under his breath, before finishing telling her, “you are perfect just as you are.”

Catherine laughed out loud, and picked up her coat and bag. “Well thank you kind sir. So tell me does my carriage await, or are we to walk this fine night once again?”
It was Daniel’s turn to laugh, “I haven’t much money, how did you guess. I thought perhaps we could get a pizza or something, then take a walk along the embankment, or would you like to go somewhere grander?” he eyed her appearance. The gold shimmering evening gown did not somehow speak of pizza parlours.
“I have a better idea. Do you like art?” Without awaiting his reply, Catherine went on, “It just so happens I have been invited with a guest to the grand opening of an art collection tonight. There will be drinks and food, all free of charge. Just how hungry are you?”
Daniel’s face lit up, “I’m starved.”
“Whenever aren’t you?”
“Yes I’d love to go, I’ve not been to anything posh for a long time.”
Catherine cast him a sidelong glance, “Well,” Daniel confessed, “Actually never.”
“Thought as much.” she laughed, “Come then, your education awaits.” She took his arm, and they left the apartment together, laughing out loud and headed for the elevators.

Yet going down in the lift some moments later, both were silent, each with his own thoughts. Catherine knew that the attraction with Daniel still persisted, but she had been given the impression that Joe had said something to warn him off. For during his first month there, he had been courteous and kind, witty and charming, but had never pressured her in any way.
Watching him now Catherine wondered about that. He was a nice enough guy, he made her laugh, and that was important. It helped her forget her predicament, took her mind off of Vincent for a few hours at least. Not that she wanted to take her mind off of Vincent, but knowing that in doing so, she was dragged out of the depression that so often threatened to engulf her.
Daniel noticed her sadness, a fleeting dullness that touched her eyes, taking away the sparkle he had put there, and was glad when they reached the ground floor. Taking her arm, he waltzed her out of the elevator, swinging her around, and stating, “If madam would like to lead the way then, what’s it to be, cab, horse drawn carriage, or the old footwear.”
Catherine laughed, grateful for his obvious concern, his wit and his charm, “Well, if you don’t mind me paying we could take a cab, it would be a long walk, by the time we arrived, it would be over.”
“A cab it is then, let me hail one for you, I’m a dab hand at it.”
They exited the building, and Catherine raised a hand to her mouth in horror. Daniel just stepped straight out into the road, arms raised, as a screech of brakes signalled he’d captured his cab. “You insane mate!” The cab driver shouted, rolling down his window, “No,” Daniel called back, “Just desperate. The lady here needs to get to her GP and fast, she’s pregnant, and is near her time, can you put your foot down.” Daniel opened the door, ushering a startled Catherine into the back seat.
“She don’t look pregnant to me.” the driver was not impressed.
“She carries it well.” Daniel told him, then turning to Catherine asked, “Where to honey?”
“Take no notice of him,” Catherine stifled a giggle behind her hand, he really was outrageous, and gave the driver the address, before apologising, “I’m not pregnant, nor am I going to see my GP, but if you are free we would like a ride.”
“The normal hailing would have sufficed, I would have stopped. That kind of behaviour will get you killed, don’t he know that?” the driver checked the rear view mirror before pulling away, “And I could do without a heart attack myself as it happens, and without my back end smashed in. Re-educate him lady, will you, the guy’s bonkers.”
Daniel creased into laughter on the back seat, Catherine slapping him hard, “Oooh stop it, I like it.” Daniel told her, making Catherine crease into laughter too. The driver watched them through the mirror, ‘arh, young love....’ he grinned in remembrance, ‘what I’d give to be young again’. he sighed, concentrating on his driving, looking straight ahead once again, seeing only the heavy traffic, not the people that walked by, nor those that loitered on street corners, and certainly not the one that kept to the shadows by the park entrance where he had waited when he felt Catherine’s approach. Vincent watched as the cab drew away, with both Catherine and a young man inside. He shook his head in dismay. Her heart cried out to him both now and last evening. And in the space of less than twenty-four hours, he’d seen her with two different men. Why? Why was that? Why when her heart cried out for him? Vincent didn’t understand it. He knew only that he would loiter in the park for as long as it took, and await her return, and then confront her with this question, as painful as her answer might be.

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To be continued in Chapter Five - click on 'Next' below:



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