Eight years after Vincent and Catherine have gone their separate ways, Vincent meets a child with whom he shares a bond.
Climbing On Rainbows
“Wake up, boy!” The angry faced tutor rapped a ruler down hard upon the desk stunning the young lad into wakefulness. He blinked rapidly, “Sorry, Sir.” The boy apologised, watching as the tutor glared down at him, before marching back to the front of the class, to begin teaching again.*** *** ***
“Too many late nights, huh Chad?” the boy alongside whispered knowingly.
Chad grinned, nodded just once but remained silent, the tutor ever watchful in his direction, and began to listen as carefully as possible, though his eyelids drooped, and all he wanted to do was sleep.
His companion at the next desk was right in that respect. Chad had been going to bed late too often just recently.
In fact he couldn’t foresee that changing for some time.
Since his mother had been working late for the best part of the month, and he had been under the care of her housekeeper well into the late evening, Chad knew that an early night was definitely out of the question.
They had this understanding you see.
Picking up his pen, Chad began to copy from the words chalked upon the blackboard. His homework for the evening. Oh no, not another Shakespeare sonnet. Chad groaned loud enough to have the tutor analyse him with distaste. “Got a problem with Shakespeare have we lad?”
Chad shook his head, “No Sir.” He lied. The reply was what the tutor expected to hear.
“Good. So I expect you to have learned this sonnet off by heart before the week is out, and you can have the grand privilege of being the first to stand up here to recite it.”
Chad groaned again, this time inwardly. Only his companion alongside him could tell by his demeanour how Chad really felt about that, and smiled knowingly at him without the tutor being aware.
“And as for the rest of you.” The tutor went on addressing the class, “I expect you all to know it word perfect by Friday. I shall randomly pick various students to come up here after Chad and recite it. So be warned.”
A loud groan echoing Chad’s filled the room, as the bell sounded and the students collected their pens and books together to exit the classroom.
Thankfully it was the last lesson for the day. Chad collected his stuff together carefully, checking he had all of his things, putting everything away neatly into his bag, as the tutor eyed him with interest. Chad was taking an awfully long time, almost lingering behind, as if he didn’t want to leave.
Looking through the window Chad watched the crowd of children accumulating outside, making their way to their various destinations. Some by car, some by bus, some on cycles, others on foot, and his eyes followed their movements, almost as if he was scanning the crowd for something or someone.
“Is something wrong?” the tutor asked, eager to lock up and get off to his own home. It had been a long and harrowing day, as they all were with teaching seven classes of thirty odd children Monday to Friday.
Chad looked around sharply, “Sorry Sir. No, nothing is wrong.” He picked up his bag; flung one strap over his shoulder to take its weight, and picking up his jacket headed for the door.
“Shakespeare sonnet 29, don’t forget Chad.”
“I won’t”, Chad replied lifelessly, stepping into the corridor. It was quiet; there wasn’t a soul to be seen. But that didn’t mean…
Chad made his way down the corridor, aware that the tutor walked some yards behind him, knowing also that at some juncture the tutor would veer left to the staff room, leaving Chad alone to walk the last forty yards or so to the exit.
Chad began to tremble.
As he heard the tutor’s footsteps receding away to his left, Chad’s own feet slowed. His eyes became wary, his breathing accelerated, and he found it difficult to swallow. It took great effort to place one foot in front of the other, so Chad set little milestones for himself. Between where he stood and the exit were three corridors. Two on the right and one on the left. At this time of day the lights would be out. Most of the school would now be empty. Chad stepped forward slowly, holding his breath as he came to the first corridor, plucking up all his courage before jumping forward and looking down its length half expecting to see someone there waiting for him. Chad gave a sigh of relief to find it empty.
And so to the next corridor.
Finally the third.
Chad’s heart hammered painfully. From the last corridor to the exit it was only some five yards. If he ran, he could get past and through the doors before they grabbed him.
Starting forward, Chad neither looked nor dared to look as he sped past the final corridor and through the great swing doors, running without letup until he reached the school gates, his bag bumping upon his back, before daring to glance behind him. The playground was stark and void of life. Chad let out an enormous sigh.
There was no one waiting for him tonight. Relief rushed over and through him like the waves of the sea. He felt almost weak with the relief, and started at once lighter of step towards home.
Deep in thought Chad arrived at his home, some five minutes later.
The front of the house was as usual, in darkness. Letting himself in with his own key, Chad opened and closed the door quietly behind him. The scent of curry filled the hallway, growing stronger as he walked towards the kitchen, pushing open the door, blinded momentarily by the brightness of the lights therein.
At the sink a woman turned, “Chad. Sit down. It’s almost ready. I hope you are hungry?”
Chad smiled, “I just need to wash my hands first Mrs. Leigh, I’ll be right back.”
He exited the room again, going back up the hallway, and bounding up the stairs two at a time to his room, situated next to that of his mother’s.
Pulling off his school uniform, Chad changed into his favourite sports sweatshirt and jeans and slipping a strip of mint chewing gum into his mouth he went along to the bathroom to wash his face and hands. In the mirror his face grimaced back at him. Blue eyes scrutinised that face. He looked okay. The grime from a day at school was washed clean away. There would be nothing for Mrs. Leigh to fret over while they ate together.
His hair could do with a brush though.
Picking up the hairbrush from off a shelf in the bathroom, Chad pulled the bristles savagely through his tawny locks. His hair had to be his worst feature. His mother made him keep it short, but Chad longed to cut it all off. It would never lay one way or another, seeming only to want to stick out in every direction conceivable. It was the one feature for which he endured endless taunts at school.
Fairly satisfied at last that his hair lay in a reasonably passable way, Chad put down the brush, and hurried from the bathroom, down the stairs and back to the kitchen. Mrs. Leigh had already carried the food through to the dining area, and Chad met her there.
“Find somewhere for that chewing gum Chad, and come and eat.” Mrs. Leigh told him, bringing a jug of water and glasses to the table.
Taking up his seat before the steamy plate of curry and rice, Chad listened while Mrs. Leigh gave thanks for the food, before wolfing it down with relish.
“You missed lunch again?” Mrs. Leigh asked.
Chad nodded, “Too busy.” He told her, lying for the second time that day.
“Chad you must eat. You can’t keep missing meals. You’re mother would throw a fit if she knew.”
Blue eyes looked up sharply.
“It’s all right Chad I won’t tell her. Though promise me Chad that you’ll eat lunch tomorrow, huh?”
“I’ll try.” Chad replied, at least that was the truth.
“Are you going out tonight?”
Chad nodded, it wasn’t an option.
“Try to get home earlier Chad will you. You only just squeezed in before your mother last night. You'll get me shot. Or worse, sacked. And I like this job.”
I bet you do. Chad thought to himself. Apart from being a good cook Mrs. Leigh wasn’t fit for much else. Why she let him come and go as he pleased. She was absolutely no good at discipline.
His mother worked late expecting the housekeeper to sit with her son all evening, ensuring he did his homework, and went to bed before eight o’clock. Chad let out a snort of humour ‘that would be the day’.
Mrs. Leigh looked up sharply, “I know its only temporary Chad. Your mother explained when I took the job, that she only expected to work late for the best part of this month, but hell Chad, this is the best job I have had in a long time. If I continue to let you go out every night, and you get in before your mother comes home at eleven, maybe when the month is up, you’ll put in a good word for me and she’ll keep me on. I know she already appreciates having a hot meal to come home to, rather than having to set to and make one for herself.”
Chad grinned, “Mom was never any good at cooking. You may have a point there.”
“So you’ll get in earlier?”
Mrs. Leigh sighed; at least the boy wasn’t getting into mischief. Going over to his friend’s house every evening to do their homework together was in fact nothing to worry about. And sometimes the other boy came there. But these past couple of nights, Chad had arrived home just minutes before his mother, and Mrs. Leigh had been having kittens that he wouldn’t be home in time before her.
A time or two Chad had come home dishevelled and breathless, but she had accepted his reason of rushing to get home before his mother. At least he knew how important that fact was then.
Finishing his meal, Chad scraped back his chair, and made to stand. “I have to go out earlier tonight Mrs. Leigh. There is something I must do before I go over to Tom’s.”
The housekeeper raised one eyebrow in query, “Don’t worry Mrs. Leigh, it’s nothing illegal.”
The housekeeper laughed, “I should hope not. A boy of your age whatever next? I just worry about you. Where will you be?”
Chad hated to lie. He was used to giving little half-truths, or twisting the truth, it felt somewhat better, but outright lies…well they were something else, and he hoped Mrs. Leigh couldn’t see the blush staining his cheeks. If she did perhaps she’d conclude it were from the hot curry.
“I have to see another kid from school first. I lent him my homework book to copy up yesterday’s work, and I need it tonight to work with Tom.” Once he’d started, the lie rolled off his tongue so easily. None of it was true. But Mrs. Leigh accepted the lie. “Well just make certain you telephone me as soon as you arrive at Tom’s okay?”
“I will. I promise.” Chad took his plate to the sink, settling his knife and fork upon it and leaving it there to be cleaned. Mrs. Leigh would rinse it later before putting it into the dishwasher.
Drinking half a tumbler of water, Chad settled the glass down to follow the plate, before making his way to the door. “See you later. Don’t worry I won’t be late.” Before he exited the room and made his way to the closet for his jacket and bag, slipping outside into the street some minutes later.
The early evening air met him with icy coolness, and Chad shivered, pulling up the collar of his jacket closer to keep his neck warm. Shoving his bag beneath the usual bush out of sight from the house, he slowly made his way towards Central Park for his usual rendezvous with the people he despised.
He didn’t know when it had started. Or how it had began really.
He was just an ordinary seven-year-old kid, living in an ordinary one-parent family. There were hundreds, no thousands like him throughout America. But for some reason the bullies had singled him out, threatened and ridiculed him, until he had promised to do anything they asked.
As he made his usual way to Central Park, Chad stopped just long enough to ring home from a kiosk, and pretended that he had arrived at Tom’s safely lest Mrs. Leigh rang there to check herself. A time or two she had done so and found from Tom’s parents that Chad hadn’t even been expected. It was easier this way, ringing to say he was there. It stopped her from worrying, and from telling his mother.
If his mother ever knew she would put a stop to it, and then his life wouldn’t be worth living.
Approaching the usual place near the old carousel, Chad shuddered. It had grown dark, and he didn’t like the park at that time of night.
Suddenly a ring of loud laughter had him turning on the spot towards the sound, and he made out the shape of three youths advancing towards him.
“Why if it’s not the bastard.” One shouted out, followed by laughter from the others.
“What you got for us bastard.” They joined his side, pushing and shoving. Chad felt nausea rise up like bile in his throat. He was really frightened of these boys.
“Hey you need a haircut.” Said one pulling at Chad’s unruly hair savagely.
“Yeah, we could give ya one.” Laughed another withdrawing a penknife from his pocket.
Chad shivered uncontrollably, as much as he hated his hair, he knew they would not cut it off gently.
“I have a few dollars for you.” He stuffed his hand into the pocket of his jeans, extracting it again to reveal a ten-dollar bill.
“That all bastard? You need to do better than that.”
“Tell him your idea.” Said another.
“Oh yeah. We bin thinking. A few dollars here and a few dollars there, well that’s hardly any good between the three of us. So we reckon you could work for us.”
“Work for you?” Chad whispered nervously.
“Yeah, get a few things for us.”
“Like what?” Chad trembled.
“This and that. Whatever makes money really. Nothing to it really, but the cops know us see. But with a new face and all that we could make a living again.”
Chad shook his head, “Stealing! No way!”
“Mr. Righteousness himself.” One sneered, his face pressed close to Chad’s ear, “You’ll do as we say.”
“Or what?” Nervously Chad asked the question wishing he hadn’t, sounding braver than he felt.
“Or that hair cut won’t stop at your head. Get my drift.” The youth made the cut-throat sign.
Chad shook his head, “I’m not stealing for you or anyone.” He stated flatly.
Looking from one to the other the three youths nodded in agreement, as one started to speak, “Looks like the bastard needs reminding of who we are. Are you getting forgetful bastard? Who was it that stopped you being bullied at school today.”
“You did that!” Chad was stunned.
“Maybe. Just like that other time. Remember?”
Chad did. He’d often been bullied at school before. Until these older lads had stopped all that. At the time Chad had believed they’d done it out of kindness, but how wrong he’d been. Get them some money they’d said. He’d done so at first willingly out of gratitude. Stealing even from his mother’s purse. How that would hurt her if she knew. He’d even taken it from Mrs. Leigh. Now he was ‘in it’ up to his eyeballs. If he didn’t continue to steal for these boys they’d tell his mother and get the bullies to start on him again. These boys had even picked up on the name that the bullies had ridiculed him with. And Chad hated it. It wasn’t his fault he was illegitimate.
But he did know that stealing from home was quite one thing, while stealing from those who would call the police was quite another, and he couldn’t do it. Shaking his head, he found courage he never knew he had. “No.” he told them firmly, “do what you like. I’m not nicking stuff for you and that’s final.”
The three boys glared at him, advancing on him, fists clenched. Chad anticipated the feel of those hands even before they touched him. The blows sent him reeling, falling to the earth, his face throbbing, his nose was bleeding.
What were they doing to him? He was only a little kid. Didn’t they care? Chad felt the tears sting his eyes.
He curled away into a tight ball, as the fists became boots, boots that kicked him when he was down.
Chad screamed for them to stop, sobbing with all his heart. They wouldn’t listen. He heard their shouts of triumph, listened to their hated words as a darkness stole over him, and blotted out their sudden cries of fear, the penetrating animal like sounds that split the night, until only the silence remained.
“How many times must you be told. When will you ever be mindful of my words.” Father clutched his bag at his side, hurrying alongside his son towards the hospital chamber.
“It’s only a little boy Father. What would you expect me to do? Leave him out there. Let those boys beat him to death.”
“No Vincent.” Father passed a hand over his weary brow, “You know I wouldn’t expect that. But to bring another stranger here, when will you ever learn? Vincent you should have left him outside the hospital, that would have been far better.”
“He’s hurt Father, there was no time. Those other boys were so vicious.”
“Did they see you?”
“Yes Father. But don’t worry, they ran far enough away not to follow me down here. Our world is safe.”
Father reached the chamber, brushing past Mary as she busied herself washing the caked blood from the child’s face.
Father was horrified. “I see what you mean Vincent. Has he regained consciousness Mary?”
“A time or two yes. But he keeps slipping away. He was sick though.”
“Definite concussion then. He should be in a hospital. His parents must be told. They will be frantic. It’s almost nine o’clock. He should have been home hours ago.”
“That’s if he has any parents, Father.” Vincent mused.
“He looks well kept. Look at his clothing. Could be stolen of course, but he doesn’t appear like a street child. If nothing else he smells clean.” Father grew anxious, despite his remark. “We must find someone to take him Above Vincent. The longer he is here, the more dangerous it becomes for our world. Better for us if he stays unconscious, and sees nothing.”
“Supposing he remembers all he has seen?” Mary asked. “He woke long enough to be sick and ask where was he. I told him nothing though.”
“Then perhaps he will conclude he had a dream.” Father told her, checking the boy’s injuries for broken bones. “Nothing appears broken, and his colour is returning. I think he just needs overnight observation at a hospital. Mary can you find someone to take him?”
“I’ll go Father.”
“Yes. I’ll take him to a to Peter Allcot who can ferry him to the hospital.”
“All right then Vincent. But please be careful. Keep your hood up. You never know if the child might wake up before you get back Above.”
Walking through the tunnels some moments later, Vincent carried the child carefully. Chad’s head was resting against Vincent’s shoulder, his body spread over Vincent’s strong arms, snug and safe.
From afar Chad became aware of the motion, the strength of a firm embrace, and the mingled scents of something strange, and also something familiar.
As the mists uncurled from his mind, Chad recognised the scent. Candles! Yes that was it candles.
His mother adored them. She would use them rather than switch on the lights. They gave off a hazy, rosy glow that made him feel safe, cosy and loved. “Mom?” he whispered, feeling the sudden stiffness of the body that held him.
No answer came but the pace quickened, and Chad struggled to free his mind of the fog that surrounded him.
His mouth murmured words that he could give no voice to, and Chad tried to struggle, feeling a mixture of fear and apprehension as the strong arms held him tighter. Chad winced. His bruises apparent now and the memory raced through his mind. The attack! For a moment Chad froze, then with fists that felt like lead he began bashing at the body that held him, demanding release.
“Don’t be afraid.” A voice, warm, with feeling quietened him.
“Who are you?” Chad asked nervously.
“I won’t hurt you.”
“Who are you?” Chad asked again.
“Where are you taking me?”
“To another friend who will help you.”
“I want to go home.” Chad told him.
“Where do you live?”
“Near the park.” Chad was careful never to give a stranger his address. His answer wasn’t strictly true. He didn’t live near the park, not any more, but his mother still rented their old home.
Vincent nodded. “I can take you there, but you have had a bad experience, and you should be in a hospital.”
“I’ll live.” Chad said bravely.
Vincent chuckled. The boy’s courage was amazing.
“Don’t you hurt at all?” Vincent asked.
“My head aches. My back hurts. My arms and legs feel sore. My nose feels broken!” Chad struggled in Vincent’s arms.
“It isn’t. Don’t worry, my father is a doctor, he says nothing is broken, but you should be in a hospital.”
“He’s seen me?”
“While you were unconscious.”
“Does he live in that rocky room with the sound of trains going overhead?”
“Yes.” Vincent stiffened, what else did the boy remember?
“That woman was nice. Is she your mother?”
“In a way yes.”
“You don’t say much do you?” Chad asked, trying to see Vincent’s face.
Vincent chuckled, “There’s nothing to say. Tell me your name?”
“Chad. That’s an unusual name.”
“Its short for something.”
“But you won’t say what?”
“No. I don’t like it. What’s yours?”
“What’s your name?”
Vincent inhaled a deep breath, “After tonight you may never see me again. You won’t need to know my name.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Why isn’t it?”
“You asked for mine.”
Within the shadows of his hood Vincent smiled, his blue eyes lighting up.
“So I did. It was rude of me. I shouldn’t have asked, not when I had no intention of returning the honour.”
“So are you going to tell me then?”
Vincent warmed to the child, “My name is Vincent.” he told him.
“That’s my middle name.” Chad replied, then was quiet for a few minutes, before continuing, “You don’t have to take me to your friend. I can just go home. I’ll be all right. I feel a bit better now.”
“Are you sure? You took quite a beating. If nothing else the police should be informed.”
“Did you know those boys?” Vincent asked gently, stopping, and settling the boy to the ground. He wanted to test the child’s ability to stand.
Chad nodded, “Sure I know them, they’re mates of mine.”
Vincent was silent. ‘He doesn’t believe me’, Chad thought. “Okay, so they’re not mates, but if I don’t treat them as my friends they’ll let other people hurt me.”
“Such as?” Vincent was relieved to see that the boy was indeed quite capable of standing up on his own. He was stronger than he looked.
“Good friends love you without conditions. You don’t need people like those they will only get you into trouble.”
Chad nodded, “Yeah I know. But what can I do? “
“You should tell your parents if you are being bullied.”
“Mom is out a lot, and I haven’t got a dad.”
“Oh I’m sorry.”
There was an awkward silence for a few minutes, until Vincent asked, “Does your mother go out to work?”
“Yes. She works late, sometimes until midnight.”
“And you are left alone?” Vincent was concerned.
“No, not alone. There’s Mrs. Leigh.”
“Who is that?”
“She’s the housekeeper. She looks after me.”
“Not well enough then. Does your mother know that you are out until this hour, in unfavourable places? You aren’t all that old are you?”
“I’m almost nine.” Chad sounded indignant.
“Is that seven going on nine or eight going on nine?” Vincent asked with humour in his voice.
Chad lowered his eyes, mumbling, “seven…but I’m nearly eight!”
Vincent chuckled. How Father would have loved to have been a party to this conversation.
“Come I’ll take you to my friend and he will take you home.”
“Can’t you take me?”
“No, I have other’s that I must see. People I need to visit to take medicine from my father. You will be safe with my friend, and if ever you need a real friend he has grandchildren about your age. Children whom you can trust.” Vincent told the boy sincerely.
“Will I ever see you again?”
“I don’t know.”
Chad looked up at this person half hidden from him by the shadows, half hidden by his long cloak and hood, “Have you got something wrong with your face?” Chad asked suddenly.
Vincent stiffened, “No, but I am not like other people. Sometimes people become frightened by my appearance.”
Another silence lapsed for a few minutes, until Chad asked, “Show me what you look like. I promise I won’t scream or nothing.”
“Not today. Look we have arrived at my friend’s house. Come follow me, this side alley leads to his clinic.”
Together they exited the underground tunnels beneath the streets through an old disused pancake house. Chad recognised the place at once, and made a note of it mentally. So, that was the way back was it? And what was it Vincent had said, his friend had a clinic? Chad froze. Suddenly everything was slotting into place. He knew the area, had been to it before, and he knew exactly where Vincent was taking him.
If Vincent took him up those steps, if Vincent knocked on that door, he would see someone who knew him, and more importantly someone who knew his mother. Chad grew afraid. He couldn’t allow that. He could pass off the bruises as a fight between friends that had gone too far, or say he’d fallen, run into something, anything, but then as his mother rarely saw him until the weekend, most of those bruises would have faded by then anyway. There would be no need for her to find out. But if he went with Vincent up those steps, to that door, she would know. She would find out, and Chad couldn’t let that happen.
“It’s okay Vincent. I feel better now. Thanks a lot. See ya” He shouted as he started to run. Vincent ran a few paces behind him, gradually letting the boy go. He sighed, there wasn’t anymore he could do if the child didn’t want further help. Listening until Chad’s footsteps grew faint, Vincent turned and made his way back through the alley. He felt strange though, almost as if he’d just lost a part of himself.
The last person Vincent expected to see the following evening back in the park was the same young boy again.
Exasperated, Vincent watched from a safe distance, as Chad ground his heel into the earth seeming to be waiting for someone.
Vincent approached slowly, ever watchful. It had been dark for some hours. And Vincent grew wrathful that the child’s mother cared so little that she was unaware that her son was frequenting such places after dark. Staying close to the shadows, Vincent passed by the boy as close as he dared, waiting to see what might happen, when the sound of running feet had Chad swinging around on the spot, his countenance so obviously one of fearful expectation.
“Well what-do-you-know?” a voice leered out of the darkness. “The bastard’s here. They actually told us the truth.”
Vincent peered into the darkness. He couldn’t exactly see, but the size of these boys showed that they were not those of the previous evening. Suddenly Vincent had the uncanny feeling pass through him. A feeling he had not known for several years. He clutched at his heart as a frantic hammering began there. A feeling he knew wasn’t coming from him. Vincent stared all around him, his mind reeling, “Catherine”, he thought, wondering from where the fear came. She was close he could feel her. After so long too. Vincent could hardly believe it.
There before his eyes, a scene was unfolding, Catherine was nowhere to be seen but somewhere close he could feel a connection to the heartbeat of another. And he had only ever felt that connection with Catherine. Wherever she was, she was about to walk right into this little lot, and Vincent didn’t want that.
His chest began to fill with an ominous growl.
“You hear that?” one of the boys shaking Chad whispered hoarsely.
When had he started to shake Chad? Vincent hadn’t even noticed.
“What is it? Sounds like an angry dog or something.”
The other boys froze.
They’d heard from the older lads that something awful in the park had scared the life out of them the night before. They’d never believed it of course. ‘Yeah, yeah what you on’, they’d laughed. Now those words were coming back to haunt them tenfold.
“I ain’t stopping to find out.” The boy holding Chad let go, “let’s get out of here.” He started to run. His friends had hesitated momentarily, then began chasing after him leaving Chad standing his ground, undecided. He didn’t want to go with them, yet he too had been afraid of that sound, although for some reason it sounded strangely familiar and suddenly all his fear left him.
Back in the shadows, Vincent was disorientated. That quickly beating heart was stilling now, calming. Fascination warring with disbelief filled Vincent’s mind. Those feelings, that feeling of fear wasn’t from Catherine after all. It came from the boy!
Astounded Vincent could only stand still and stare at Chad.
He’d never, save for Catherine, felt such a connection with anyone else in all his life. He couldn’t believe it. But it was there, and as Chad turned to seek out the shadows, his very words confirmed it. “Vincent is that you?”
Vincent drew in a long ragged breath, exhaling his answer along with it, “Yes.”
Chad’s face lit up; “I thought so. That’s a neat sound. Can you teach it to me?”
It was dark, too dark for each to see the other clearly. Vincent was grateful. How would the boy feel to know that the sound effects came with a being not quite human?
“I shouldn’t think so Chad. But I will be here for you if ever you need help.”
Vincent smiled. If Chad had been able to see the smile; he would have seen it light up Vincent’s eyes. He really liked this child. There was something special about him, and it wasn’t just that he had a connection to him. Although he had to admit that helped. He could tell that the boy had a good heart.
“You shouldn’t be out here alone Chad. I would have thought that last night’s experience would have been enough for you.” Vincent told him softly. “Come let me show you home.”
Vincent felt Chad’s refusal. “No, its okay. How about you show me to your home instead. Or did I imagine that it was somewhere beneath the ground?”
Vincent gasped, and Chad heard, “I knew it!” he exclaimed, “It is beneath the ground isn’t it?” he cried.
“Shh,” Vincent told him, “it is a secret place. Many people depend on other’s not knowing. I can take you there, but you must promise to tell no one. Not even your mother.”
“I promise.” Chad told him readily. He’d never tell his mother anyway. Permission or not.
“Follow me.” Vincent told him, his heart in his mouth. Whatever would Father say this time?
Vincent needn’t have worried. Father took to Chad and Chad took to Vincent like a duck to water. Somehow there was a natural affinity between the three, Chad literally taking Vincent’s appearance in his stride.
His eyes bright with joy; he leaned forward to touch Vincent’s face with his fingertips, sending jolts of pleasure through Vincent at his calm acceptance.
“Gee you are great.” Chad told him. “I wish I looked like you.”
Vincent was lost for words.
Father’s face lit up. His smile lit his eyes, “I think Chad, that you have rendered my son speechless. That is a rare commodity. You have a gift.” Father chuckled.
“Mom says I have a gift for many things.” Chad replied his face askew. Vincent laughed out loud, revealing his fangs, something he rarely did, and Chad was clearly impressed. His eyes opened wide, “I bet you have no trouble biting candy.” He told him, making Vincent laugh all the more.
“So tell me,” Father began wiping away tears of mirth, “What gifts does your mother say you have?”
“I can play chess!” Chad told them proudly.
Father was delighted. “Really! Then we must share a game.”
“You play too?” Chad was equally delighted. “Mom taught me, but she rarely has time to play these days.” His face mellowed, “come to that she rarely has time for anything.” Vincent detected the note of sadness, and the connection told him how deeply that hurt went. He felt immensely sad.
“What does your mother do?” Father asked, trying to lighten the problem.
“She’s an attorney.”
Vincent’s heart leapt, causing Chad to look up sharply. Vincent was stunned, ‘was it possible the boy felt a connection to him too, but hadn’t established what it was yet? This was very strange. Something he needed to think about at leisure.’
Finding his voice, Father cleared his throat, his eyes never leaving his son, whose pallor had grown decidedly paler. “Attorney’s don’t usually frequent such long hours.” He told Chad gently.
“Mom is working on some assignment. She’s had to be out most evenings until almost midnight for a whole month. She won’t tell me anything about it.”
“She wouldn’t be allowed to do.” Vincent whispered absentmindedly. His thoughts were elsewhere.
“How do you know?” Chad asked.
“Vincent knew someone once who was an attorney.” Father intervened.
Silence lapsed for some moments. Chad didn’t know why it was, but he sensed that Vincent needed the interlude.
Eventually, Father prompted, “What else are you good at?” but before he had a chance to answer, Vincent stood up and excused himself. “Chad, there is something I must do. Will you be all right with Father for a while? Maybe you could teach him how to play chess?”
Chad’s face lit up, “Yes, can we? I haven’t played in ages. I’ll be all right Vincent. I’ll see you later.”
Father’s face beamed, he was looking forward to this. It had been a long time since he’d played with someone new, and he rather hoped that he could beat Chad. It had been a long time since he’d beaten anyone.
Inside his chamber, Vincent sunk to the bed. His eyes staring ahead at the blank space upon the wall, where once an oil painting had hung, until Vincent could no longer bear to wake to the sight every morning.
That picture painted with the spirit of love depicting he and Catherine and had hung there for years. Until one morning Vincent had woken from a very distressing dream to see it there mocking him, and he had risen and taken it down, turning it around to face the wall.
His heart heavy Vincent wondered where it was now. Probably Father had had it removed to the storeroom to keep it safe. Vincent wondered why he had only just noticed that it had gone.
Funny, he thought to himself, how one word could turn his world upside down again. That word attorney. Until he heard it said, Vincent had believed he had healed. Oh it had taken a long, long time to do so, but as the years had rolled by, and the pain had lessened, the connection that he had shared with Catherine had grown weaker all the time. Until now, it was only as a tiny thread that hummed softly in the far recesses of his heart.
Yet that day they had parted was as clear as day in his mind now as it ever was.
Rolling over into the foetal position, Vincent allowed himself to remember everything.
Oh, it had been a lovely day.
Catherine had spent the weekend Below, and together they had gone hand in hand, walking through the very many tunnels of his underground world, just happy to be together.
It was rare that they had been able to spend so much time together without being disturbed.
Reaching the Chamber of the Falls, one of their favourite places, they had sat side by side, listening to the fall of water. Mesmerised by the great canopy of water that rolled over the rocks, and fell to a dazzling display of foam into the river, they had wondered at such beauty not for the first time.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” Catherine had told him, looking out over the expanse of rock and water, “Vincent, I have seen so many things in my world, but nothing compares to this. Even Niagara Falls. Why even that does not have the peace that prevails alongside this waterfall. I can think of nowhere on earth I would rather be, than here, beside these falls, with you.”
“Once,” Vincent began, “I believed these falls to be the most beautiful thing on earth.”
Catherine looked up expectantly waiting for him to continue. The look in his eyes caught her breath away.
“And now?” she whispered breathlessly.
Vincent looked down at her, his heart swelled with love, “Since meeting you, I know now that I was wrong.” He hesitated, wondering if he should continue, but Catherine’s eyes urged him on, “Now I know that your beauty surpasses everything on this earth.”
For long moments they had sat gazing at one another, until by mute consent each reached forward and their lips had met.
For long dizzying moments, neither moved. Their lips fastened, their eyes held, each waited, until Catherine’s mouth began to manoeuvre for the best contact, and she pressed her lips closer, tighter, needing this from him so much.
Vincent groaned his whole body swamped with love and desire. Oh the feel of her! The taste of her! So long he had dreamed of this moment!
His arms came up of their own accord, hugging her body closer to him, moulding her length to his, until she lay across his lap tight against his chest, and their kiss deepened, eyes closed and each became lost in the moment.
It was no gentle first kiss.
It went on and on, almost as if each craved the very life force of the other through that kiss. Catherine moaned softly, her hands delving beneath the many layers that Vincent wore to keep out the underground’s icy chill. As her fingers finally reached their goal, she gasped the feel of his silky skin unbelievable to her touch. For a moment Vincent pulled away, breaking the kiss, his eyes filled with trepidation and fear, until Catherine’s whimper of protest forced his return to her lips. And with joy singing through his veins Vincent marvelled at her calm acceptance of his body, relieved that she had not pulled away in disgust.
“I love you Vincent.” Catherine had murmured beneath the heat of his mouth. A sob rose as she spoke the words again, “I love you so much.”
Vincent’s head reeled. The words, the kisses, and Catherine’s fingers lovingly caressing his body beneath the layers of clothing sent a spark that ignited into flame and coursed through his limbs. The fire of his passion flew as an arrow straight to the region that all too often had caused him shame. And Vincent shuddered, his longing apparent. Laid across his lap Catherine felt his arousal surging against her lower back, and moaned softly, her own body answering his need in like manner, “I want you Vincent.” She murmured, “Please Vincent, I need you so.”
His mind spinning out of control, Vincent disregarded the warring his head held against his heart, and he groaned with longing, allowing his body’s responses to mould against Catherine’s, ignoring the belief he had always maintained, wanting only to love her as she wanted him to love her.
He copied the movements of her hands with his own, exploring her body as gently as he could, lest the long claws hurt her. Her body cried out to him to touch her intimately, and he followed willingly captive to her every need.
There on that rocky outcrop against the waterfall they explored one another. Both were delighting in the body of the other, each finding the other beautiful.
“Are you sure Catherine? “ Vincent paused just for a second. He needed to know. There would be no going back, neither did he think it were possible to go back. They had come too far.
Catherine’s hand wound around the steely throbbing length of him, and her fingers were playing a rhapsody that he was finding hard to endure. Already his seed leaked out and he needed her soon, or he would explode right here and now.
“I’m positive.” Catherine had replied, “Take me Vincent, for I am yours.” This moment seemed to have taken forever to reach yet through a haze Catherine felt that it was as though only minutes had passed since first they had met. This felt so right, whether new to each other or old acquaintances, this act of love between them was meant to be. It was their destiny to share this between them.
Feeling Vincent’s weight upon her was a welcome pleasure, one Catherine would never forget from this day forth. So long she had imagined the feel of him there. Her legs opened willingly to him, their clothing long discarded, and Catherine gasped as she felt the head of his desire probing her warm depths. “Now Vincent”, her body arched towards him, mindless of the biting rocks beneath her, and cried with pleasure and joy as she felt him penetrate her body, pinning her to the ground.
That first deep penetration, so many years since she had last made love with anyone hurt her. Catherine cried out, wiggling away, trying to locate a better spot, but it was too late. Enough!
Vincent froze, he had hurt her, just as surely as he had known he would, and he pulled sharply away, his chest heaving.
“No Vincent come back!” Catherine reached for him.
“I hurt you.” He was mortified.
“Yes I did, I felt your pain.” Tears gathered in his eyes.
“It’ll subside. Vincent it’s been a long time for me, you’ll see, in time it will hurt no more.”
“I cannot take that risk. Catherine look at me!”
Catherine did. She smiled. “I like what I see Vincent.” She teased him, but Vincent refused to be baited.
“Okay so you are larger than most, but Vincent don’t worry we’ll manage. You’ll see.”
“I don’t think so Catherine. You are so small. I could really injure you.”
“No. Vincent please, I want you so much.”
Tears falling Vincent gathered his clothing, his body shamed him. Hot and hard, still pulsing, needing fulfilment. Vincent ignored it as well as the pleading in Catherine’s eyes. “This is what you have always wanted from me Catherine. But it is impossible. The risk is too great. I’m sorry, I can’t give you want you need.”
“You need this too.”
“It’s wrong. Get dressed. We should go.”
“Vincent no, look at you. Please believe me, we’ll manage.”
Vincent stared down at her. His eyes filled with sorrow, longing for something that would never be, and shame.
Slowly he started dressing, turning his back on her.
Catherine felt the hot sting of tears prick her eyelids. A lump rose in her throat, and she stood, flinging her arms around him burying her face against his back begging him, “Please Vincent. Make love to me. It’ll be all right. It always hurts the first time.”
“It isn’t the first time. For you.” He added.
“It’s as good as. It’s been so long.”
For a moment Vincent hesitated, but as her cries played out in his mind again, he continued dressing. “You’ll get cold Catherine. Get dressed.” He told her listlessly, refusing to turn around.
Sighing Catherine let her arms fall from his waist, bending to pick up her clothing, and dressed quickly. But it was her pain more than the cold that was making her teeth chatter.
Moments later, and in silence they made their way from the Chamber of the Falls towards the hub, their fingers just briefly touching, and throughout the whole journey to the threshold, they were silent. A great chasm of sorrow filled their connection, and neither was able to bridge it.
At the threshold, Catherine made to climb the steps back to her world, but Vincent caught her arm, turning her around to meet his gaze. Her heart hammered at what she read there in his eyes. All hope had gone. They were lifeless eyes, void of compassion. Catherine’s heart bled.
“The dream has died Catherine. Our actions killed it. There is no more. We can never retrace this step; neither can things ever be the same between us. Go live your life Catherine.” He swallowed with difficulty, the last words almost the death of him, “We must never see one another again.”
Catherine stared at him. Her heart was broken, the tears fell swiftly, and for long moments Vincent ached to brush them away. But his hands remained resolutely at his sides, and he turned from her unable to bear her pain. His own was enough.
“Be Well Vincent”, he heard her say, “I shall always love you.” And then he felt her go. Up to her world, taking his heart with her.
Tears wet upon his pillow, Vincent pulled his body tighter into that foetal position as if seeking the freedom of the unborn. Knowing nothing of sorrow, nothing of pain.
After that day he hadn’t seen Catherine again.
For a long time their separation caused him the greatest grief. More so when the connection they shared throbbed with life.
He felt her sorrow. It echoed his own but his shame was too great, and he could not go to her. Neither did she attempt to come Below.
A year passed, slipping into two, then three. Vincent’s journals were filled with her. Three years in from the day he had found her had culminated in the greatest test of their relationship, and they’d failed. And it was three years out from that day, before Vincent began to feel free again. Almost to the day in fact, almost as if Catherine controlled his heart, like a puppet on a string, and had seen that after three years she had pulled on those strings long enough.
He never read the papers, and no one spoke of her. And as the bond he and Catherine had shared ceased to threaten his sanity Vincent began to heal. Much to the happiness of those Below, who had watched and waited and agonised with him for those first three years, not knowing what had caused the break up with Catherine.
As the three years had doubled to six and now to over eight Vincent could not believe that he had survived that length of time without ever seeing Catherine. They moved in the same circles, but the ever-present connection however weak, seemed to prevent each of them from being in the same place at the same time. Catherine had also taken on safer cases at work so that she never exposed Vincent to danger in having the need to rescue her.
The sadness still prevailed, and he would never love another, but Vincent was constantly filled with an underlying sorrow that things had gone the way they had. His only wish was that Catherine did not suffer the same.
Above with her freedom, surely she would have married by now. Had the family she yearned for by now. Vincent didn’t know. He asked no questions, and anything anyone might have known was never mentioned to him.
Inhaling a deep breath Vincent let it out again slowly, as he began to stretch. He’d lain on his bed reminiscing for at least two hours; Chad would probably have played his game by now. On cue with his thoughts, he heard the light tap of Father’s walking stick approaching his chamber, and moments later his father’s dear face peered into the gloom, “Vincent are you awake?” the old man asked softly.
“Yes Father. Come in. Where is Chad?”
“He was hungry.” Father chuckled, coming to sit alongside Vincent on the edge of the bed, “I sent him to William.”
“Did he beat you?” Vincent asked, struggling to sit up, and pulling himself back against the pillows.
Father eyed him keenly. “Yes, he did. Someone taught him well. Do you know, he even knows some of your tricks I found that quite amazing. You have never played with him have you?”
“No Father, until today I’ve not known much about him at all.”
Father was quiet for a moment, phrasing his next question carefully in his mind, before asking gently; "It was that word attorney wasn’t it? That’s why you had to leave us?”
“Yes Father. It stirred up memories.”
“I thought so. How do you feel now Vincent?”
“Better. Though it brought everything back. Things I had not allowed myself to remember till now.”
“Can you talk of it?” Father was well aware that no one, not even himself knew why Catherine and his son had parted.
“I don’t think so. Forget it Father it was a long time ago.”
“Yet just as yesterday. Vincent please talk to me, you keep this bottled up. It’s not good for you. However well you believe you are coping.”
Vincent shook his head; “No Father some things are better off buried forever. And I try not to think about it.”
“Do you mind if I talk about Catherine then?”
“You can talk about anyone you like.”
“That’s not what I meant and you know it. In the past I’ve refrained from mentioning her name. Almost to the point of biting my own tongue off as her name rose to my lips for I knew hearing it mentioned would cause you pain. But sometimes there were things I wanted to speak about, and felt I shouldn’t.”
“Go on. What is it you wish to ask?”
“Not so much ask, as to tell. You have never wanted to know anything of Catherine since you parted, are you aware of how she is?”
Guarded Vincent looked at his father warily, “No.”
“Don’t you want to know?”
“No. It is better that I don’t.”
“You still love her then?”
Father felt tears prick at his eyes, “Oh Vincent, I had hoped for better things for you. When Catherine came into your life, I was so against the relationship, but as the years went by, I began to hope that the pair of you would have your happy life together. It was such a shock when you told me you had parted and would never see one another again. Knowing what that did to you Vincent. It pained all of us that love you.”
“I know Father but believe me it was necessary. What Catherine and I shared was just a dream. It had to end, as all dreams must.”
Sadly Father analysed his son. He couldn’t accept the things he had told him, neither could he accept that all hope was lost, even this late on. They still loved one another he was sure of it. Vincent had just confirmed it, and the little he did know of Catherine, that she had remained unmarried also added to the belief. But Vincent didn’t know this. Would it do him any good to know?
“So,” Vincent pulled himself up to his full height feigning indifference, “What do you think to Chad Father?”
Father’s face lit up; “He’s wonderful Vincent. I can understand your attachment for the boy, but can we trust him?”
“I believe so. Oh I know I have known him for only a day, but Father there is something that you don’t know.”
Vincent lit some more candles, and helped his father over to the large winged chair, taking up his own seat alongside before speaking.
“You remember the connection I shared with…” for long moments Vincent was unable to say the name. It stirred his emotions. Though he had uttered her name earlier, that time had drawn them apart, while mention now of their connection, drew them together again. Vincent found it hard to voice.
“With Catherine?” Father prompted.
Relieved Vincent nodded, “Yes.”
“What about it?” Father asked.
“I truly believed I would only ever experience a connection like that with her. And over the years, though it has weakened, it is still apparent. It is still there, though as if many miles away.
Nonetheless comforting, at other times frightening. I wonder if it will ever be severed, and what I will feel if it were. However that is not want I want to tell you.” Vincent hesitated, choosing his words carefully. His father had believed in the bond with a calm acceptance, neither believing or disbelieving, until he had witnessed the many times of it in action.
He waited patiently as Vincent sought the right words. They came at last. “This bond has manifested itself between myself and Chad. I don’t know why, I am filled with a sense of wonder by it, but it is there, and cannot be denied. Father!” Vincent made to stand, but sat down again searching his father’s face; “I do not understand it. Why with Chad?”
Father shook his head. He had no answers. Until thinking things through he clutched at some.
“Maybe it has something to do with rescuing people from the park. Catherine had been beaten, so was Chad. Perhaps this connection has nothing at all to do with destiny after all, but rather with having an affinity towards afflicted ones.” Father felt immensely sad by that thought. No destiny with Catherine after all? Oh please no. He went on, “Perhaps your guardian angel like approach stays with these ones until they are strong enough to move on without you, as painful as that is to you.”
“Do you really think so?” For the first time in a long time Vincent felt the first stirrings of peace. If he and Catherine’s destinies were not linked after all, then he had done no wrong in severing their relationship.
Father saw his son’s eyes brighten, saw the hope there, but did not understand the reason behind it. Instead his own heart gladdened by whatever Vincent had thought of.
“I cannot think of any other reason Vincent, only comparisons. Why else should you feel connected to the boy?"
Vincent shook his head; “I don’t know Father. Last evening when I first felt him, the bond was so strong. I believed suddenly that Catherine was close. It left me feeling disorientated, but then I realised the feeling was coming from the boy. I can’t tell you how that made me feel Father.”
“I can imagine Vincent. And I can also see why you felt compelled to bring him here. We’ll go and find him shall we? It’s getting late he should be home by now. His mother will worry; she might even call the police. Do you know where he lives?”
“No, he wouldn’t say exactly. Just a place near the park.”
Father froze for a moment. Another connection then, Catherine too had lived near the park.
They found Chad sat in the kitchen with a large group of children making his acquaintance. He seemed happy and relaxed. Vincent acknowledged, almost at home even.
“Are you ready to leave Chad?” Father asked him gently, “It’s very late your mother will worry.”
“Can I come back?” Chad asked at once, looking eagerly from face to face of those around him.
“It’s up to Father.” they chorused.
Father nodded, “Yes Chad you are very welcome. Though you don’t need me to remind you that you must tell no one of this place. If you did, a lot of people would have their lives ruined, not least of all Vincent. What do you think people from Above would do to him?” Thus enforcing the point home, Chad crossed his heart with his fingers, “I swear I will tell no one.” He promised solemnly.
“Come then. Tomorrow is another day. Vincent will see you home.”
Chad nodded, “Okay. See you guys. Bye.” He stood waving to his new-found friends as he exited with Vincent, “you are lucky,” he told him as he took up Vincent’s hand in the tunnel outside, “I wish I lived here.”
*** *** ***
For many months a pattern developed and Chad’s face become a familiar sight to those Below.
In turn his status at school developed for the better. After Vincent had taught him to put feeling into the poetry he had to recite, to imagine each line as the poet had written it down, he excelled in his grades in English.
The bullying continued though, more so as his aptitude for Shakespeare increased.
“Why fore it is not the bastard.” The bullies would leer at him as he came out of school, yet those days when they would follow and beat him were quickly lessening, as word spread of the ‘thing’ Chad was friends with that always protected him.
Chad would laugh at them as they chided him. He felt good about himself these days. His friendship with Vincent was at the root of that. His knowledge of the safe and secret place beneath the city streets was at the strength of it. He always had a place to go. Somewhere to hide where the bullies would never find him. And that felt great to Chad.
And his mother’s late night assignment had finished, she was home more these days, spending time with him, and Chad had the best of both worlds. A friend in Vincent, a father figure in Father, his dear mother paying more attention to him and Mrs. Leigh to provide nourishing meals Above, when he wasn’t partaking of the same from William’s fare Below.
And the friendships he had made!
Such joy abounded for Chad. The children Below were real friends, just as Vincent had promised. Even the adults made time for him, teaching him things. From William how to bake bread. From Pascal how to send messages. From Cullen how to lovingly turn an old piece of wood into something beautiful.
And from Mouse he learned how to be silly, how to run rings around everyone, how to invent things that were useful to all Below.
Life was great. Perfect and Chad hoped it would never end. He visualised himself spending all his life there. For really there was nowhere else he’d rather be. Every spare moment he headed for his new home beneath the city streets, with joy singing through his veins.
Vincent in turn was drawn to that joy. His heart was uplifted as the connection drowned out that other lesser one, until one day thought’s of Catherine were but a distant memory. And even that he looked on with happiness now. Remembering only the good times, never the sad.
Father was happy. The child had certainly brought a breath of fresh air into their lives, and he could only live and hope that nothing would ever alter that fact.
*** *** ***
“Hey have you ever tried
really reaching out for the other side,
I might be climbing on rainbows,
but baby here goes,”
Catherine polished her home with relish, taking a particular long time with the dining room table, at some sticky stuff stuck to its underside when the song filtered through her mind from the radio in Chad’s room reminding her of years past. She stilled in her actions to listen, picking up on the words as they came and went,
“dreams are for those who sleep,
life is for us to keep,
and if I chose the one I’d like to help me through,
I’d like to make it with you.
I really think that we could make it good.”
Catherine found that her eyes were wet with tears, and she brushed them away hurriedly as Chad exited his room searching for her, “Hey Mom, isn’t this the song you used to sing all the time when I was little?”
“Does it still make you cry?” he’d noticed her wet cheeks, even if the evidence of tears had been brushed away.
Catherine’s smile trembled as she nodded again, not trusting herself to speak.
“I remember the line about rainbows the most.” He told her fondly. “You used to sing it to me, and I tried to picture myself climbing them. That’s what I thought the song was about.”
Catherine smiled deeply, holding out her arms to her son, who went into them willingly, and together they continued along with the song,
“No you don’t know me well,
but every little thing only time will tell,
if you believe the things that I do,
then we’ll see it through,
life can be short or long,
love can be right or wrong,
and if you’re wondering what this song is leading to,
I’d like to make it with you,
I really think that we could make it good.”
By the time they’d finished both were crying. Chad perked up quicker telling his mother, “When I found out that there is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, that’s what I thought the song was about.”
Catherine looked at her son, waiting for him to continue. Chad laughed, “You know what Mom?”
“No tell me?” she hugged him tighter against her side as they sat on the sofa together.
“I used to think that the song was saying the only way to reach that pot of gold was to climb the rainbow on one side, and slide down the other to reach it.”
Catherine laughed out loud, stilling when she saw the serious expression on her son’s face.
“What is it Chad?”
“It’s not about rainbows is it, it’s about love?”
Catherine nodded looking sad.
“Someone you were in love with?”
“You young man are too perceptive for your age.” She tickled him mercilessly.
Chad giggled, wriggling around and eventually falling off the sofa, to sit at her feet looking at her for long moments. Enigmatically Catherine smiled, “What is it? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Did you used to sing it and think of my dad?” he asked her softly, wondering if he should.
Catherine thought hard for long moments. There was much she could have said, much she wanted to say to dissuade him further, but she reasoned that now was as good a time as any to open up and tell him a few things. Perhaps now, even though he was still very young, he might understand a little.
“Yes.” She answered truthfully. Then, “Why do you ask?”
“Apart from his surname I know nothing about him. Can you tell me anything?”
Catherine felt a lump rising to her throat, she shook her head, the tears gathering in her eyes, “Only that I still love him.” She said simply.
Chad scrambled back onto the sofa and hugged her fiercely. He didn’t know what else to say, but he was sorry that she looked so sad, and wished with all his heart that he could do something about it.
He knew his mother had brought him up single handed from the day he was born. Mrs. Leigh was a new addition to the family, brought in only when his mother had been assigned a difficult case. Generally his mother was always there for him. And though once having wealth left to her from her father’s will, that had quickly dwindled in buying a home for the two of them, and keeping up the rent of the apartment in town. Chad could never understand the reason for that. They seldom used the place, and it was an expense he felt they could do without. But his mother would never rent it out, and from time to time she would refer to it as her window to the world, and go there with him to stand upon the balcony looking out over the park at night.
At eight years old Chad had the wealth of knowledge that surpassed his years. Catherine had always been well aware of that, and she knew that one day he would have to be told the truth, but for now he was her child, her little boy and she loved him fiercely.
Yet for all her strengths Chad thought of his mother as vulnerable. Many times he had caught her quietly crying, especially after those visits to the apartment.
He wanted to protect her, despite his tender years, one of the reasons really why he never told her of the bullying.
Knowing this Chad admitted to himself that if she knew about the bullying she would take him for the child he was, and not for the son that he wanted to be, her stronghold in times of sorrow and despair.
Besides since Vincent had entered his life he had been able to cope with the bullying. Vincent had seen to that.
No one would touch him with that kind of guardian angel forever appearing at his side, whenever he was threatened.
As Chad sat beside his mother he thought about a conversation he’d had with Father one day.
“Why do these boys pick on you Chad?” Father had asked concerned, his kindly eyes twinkling.” Surely not because you have no father, a good deal of children are from one parent families these days.”
“No it isn’t that, not really.” Chad had replied honestly. “I don’t really know what it is. They don’t know me that well.”
“There must be something. Are you smaller than most of the children at your school?”
“Possibly. I don’t know.”
Father could see very well that Chad did know, but he was reluctant to say.
At that moment Vincent had entered the chamber coming to sit beside Chad at the table, ruffling the boy’s hair affectionately in passing.
Father saw Chad grimace, smoothing down his hair almost at once.
“You have very unusual hair Chad.” Father remarked, watching the boy closely. Sure enough Chad blushed, but could find no answer.
“You know” went on Father, sitting back in his chair to observe the child, “It reminds me very much of Vincent’s hair when he was your age. His used to stick out all over the place like that too. As I remember it would never lay flat in any one way.” Father’s kindly eyes twinkled, as Chad looked at Vincent’s luscious mane of hair now.
Vincent listening to the conversation looked at Chad sharply, almost seeing his hair for the first time.
“Perhaps mine would look better long like Vincent’s.” Chad replied, then whispered, “But mom likes me to keep it short.”
“And” went on Father, now in full swing, “You have the most penetrating blue eyes I have ever seen, save for Vincent of course. You know the two of you, “ he paused before continuing slowly, “well, I think that anyone that doesn’t know you aren’t related, couldn’t be blamed for believing that you were.”
“I wish we were.” Chad remarked truthfully, looking straight at Vincent, “That would be real neat. Especially if I could growl like you.”
Vincent and Father laughed heartily. Father’s laughter underlined by thoughtfulness, ‘Yes’ he nodded silently, ‘those two could be taken for brothers.’
And he decided there and then to find out as much as he could about Chad. Believing the knowledge just might lead him to Vincent’s past.
Chad knew none of this. He’d been embarrassed when Father had spoken about his hair. Had Father guessed that was why he was being bullied?
Chad had always hated his hair until that day in Father’s chamber. Now the connection to Vincent thrilled him.
Being like his hero was something he was proud of, even if it was only because of his hair and his eyes.
“Mom?” he suddenly had an idea.
“Yes.” The song had long finished but Catherine still found herself in a melancholy mood, drifting somewhere between worlds, Above and Below, and had replied absentmindedly.
“Can I grow my hair long?”
That got Catherine’s attention. She gasped. Her first thought to ask, “Why?”
“I think it will look better, and some of the kids at school wear their hair long these days. You said I had to have it short because the headmaster said so, but that was the old headmaster, this new one don’t care about things like that. So can I?”
Catherine ruffled her son’s hair, a lump catching in her throat as she watched her fingers sliding through it, “Perhaps a little longer,” she told him, “So that it won’t stick up so much, but not too long, huh?”
Chad laughed, pleasantly surprised, “that’s great mom. How long do you think it’ll take to grow?”
“Three, four inches? About six months, maybe less, it depends.”
“Eating the right kind of food, less hamburgers, less sweets, less chewing gum. Hey that reminds me…. I’ve a bone to pick with you.”
Taking his arm she propelled him towards the table she had been polishing just before that wretched song had begun that had turned her world upside down again, “What do you call this?” she asked pointing to a hard mound of gum beneath the table.
Chad coloured up, and grinned sheepishly. “Sorry mum guess I goofed huh?”
“I guess you did.” Catherine hugged him, and the two fell into a heap of giggles on to the floor, tickling one another all over.
*** *** ***
Peter Alcott sifted through his medicine supply carefully, marking off items that were getting low. He ticked off from a list held before him anything that he had need of that day, and carefully stowed the required medicine and pills into a box that he used for carrying medicines Below.*** *** ***
It had been some time since he had sent medication in person, and he was looking forward to the visit greatly.
Soon he had everything he needed and made his way through the usual route to visit his friends.
Walking through the chilly tunnels some thirty minutes later, his mind as ever went to the days when he had stepped this way lighter of spirit, anticipating that at any moment he would see Catherine and Vincent spending time together, warming the hearts of those Below. Together they were an impressive sight, true, but his love for them both went far deeper than that. He’d known them both since birth and Catherine was like a daughter to him.
Since she had Vincent had parted, Peter found it a constant strain to come Below and not utter her name. It was alien to him not to do so. One of the reasons he came less often.
Yet now walking through the ever-familiar tunnels, he realised how silly he had been to allow that to have stopped him. He had missed the place. The faces of those that now greeted him with happiness, they were pleased to see him looking so fit and well after so long an absence.
Pausing momentarily outside Father’s chamber, Peter anticipated his entrance, the delight on their faces, and stepped forth happily.
Both Father and Vincent had their backs to him, while talking to a child sat before them in another chair. Down the steps Peter came, seeing first not the surprised expressions of Vincent and Father as expected, but instead, surprise registered with horror upon the face of the child before them, making both Vincent and Father glance behind.
“Peter!” both Father and Vincent rose with one accord, hands outstretched to welcome their friend, while all Peter could do was stand and stare at the child before him, his name bursting from his lips, “Chandler what on earth are you doing here? Is your mother with you?”
Chad froze neither knowing whether to run or stay, as Father and Vincent’s gaze rested back upon him once more, “You two know each other?” Father queried, his eyes running from Peter to Chad in turn.
“Yes.” Peter told him, “Of course I know him.”
At that Chad ran like a scared rabbit, brushing past Father in his haste to escape and almost sending the older man reeling.
All three stared out after him.
“What did you call him?” Father queried regaining his composure.
“Chandler. Why what do you call him?” Peter asked, “And what’s he doing here?” his face showing definite signs of confusion.
Bewildered Father replied, “His name is Chad.”
“Yes Father, but it is short for something. Chad himself told me when first we met.” Vincent told them.
“It’s short for Chandler.” Peter informed them.
Vincent felt his skin pale, and nausea rise in the pit of his stomach. Something was definitely amiss here.
Father too, felt the same.
“Is Cathy here?” Peter asked looking around him for any sign of her belongings.
Vincent froze. What a strange thing to say? “Catherine? No why, should she be?”
“I just thought… well the child…you know?” Peter looked quickly from one to the other of them. Suddenly realising that they didn't know anything.
For long moments Father stared at the exit the way Chad had gone, his mind piecing things together. Things he had noticed before. Chad’s blues eyes, so often intense, and remarkably like Vincent’s. And that hair, unruly, burnished copper, again just like Vincent’s had been at that age. And the bond, it in itself gave rise to further consideration. Father swallowed hard, looking at his son anew.
“How do you know Chad?” Vincent was asking Peter.
“He’s a patient of mine.” Peter told them. Now aware how little they knew about the boy and he wasn’t about to trade secrets.
“But why Catherine? That’s what I’d like to know Peter. Why did you assume because Chad is here that Catherine would be too?”
“Must be the name.” Peter tried to shrug it off, “I got mixed up, that’s all.”
“No Peter its more than that, won’t you tell us?” Vincent asked softly his heart pounding for he knew not what.
“I can’t Vincent. Chad’s background is not mine to tell. If he hasn’t told you, then I’m sorry I can’t either.”
“What’s to tell?” Father asked. “I don’t understand. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s almost as if you are guarding some great secret for god’s sake, and why mention Catherine?”
“I told you, I got mixed up, I can never quite believe I won’t ever find her down here when I visit. I was thinking of her on the way down. Then seeing Chandler, I got confused that’s all.”
“No.” Father insisted, “I’m sorry Peter but don’t believe you. You know something you aren’t telling us.”
Peter nodded, “Yes I do. But Jacob I can’t tell you. The knowledge is not mine to divulge. I’m sorry. Look let’s forget it can we? I’ve brought all the items you needed, shall we go through them together?”
“No. I’m sorry Peter I’m not giving up on this. You can sit there and say nothing or you can help out but one way or another I am going to get to the bottom of this.”
“Leave it Jacob.” Peter spoke sternly, unusual for him, “Now let’s get this stuff itemised, I haven’t got all day.”
Father glared at Peter then nodded absentmindedly; it was the last thing he wanted to do. His mind was very much elsewhere.
Peter stayed for as long as it took to unpack the items and visit the patients, clearly knowing Father’s distress, clearly seeing that the older man wanted a word with Vincent. The child did not return all the time he was there, and Peter felt loath to bring up the subject again. He didn’t know how Chad had found his way Below, or how he had come to know Vincent, and regretted the words he had said.
Later Father found Vincent and Chad inside his own chamber awaiting his return.
“Has the doctor gone?” Chad asked fearfully, on the verge of flight should Father say not.
“Not exactly. He’s gone to visit some of the sick here Below.”
“But nowhere near here?”
Chad relaxed, “Good.”
“Don’t you like him?” Father asked gently.
“Then why did you run away from him?”
“I thought he might take me home. Stop me from coming here. I didn’t know you knew him.”
“We know a lot of people Chad. And Peter is a doctor.”
“You’re a doctor too!”
“Yes, I am, but Peter has access to things from the world Above, medicines, pills, vaccinations, things we need but cannot get down here. Peter acts as a helper in the medical field.”
Chad nodded, “I get it. So he didn’t come to take me home?”
“No. Is that what you thought?”
“Well he didn’t come for you. He didn’t even know you knew us. It was a shock to him I think.” Father chuckled. Still though something grieved him. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but in the past that had happened often. Peter would come Below, and recognise someone, but he never acted so shifty about it. And then there was that mention of Catherine. Why Catherine?
Again Father looked from Chad to Vincent, as he had many times over the past few weeks, more so since Chad had started to grow his hair longer.
Yes there were definite similarities between them. For the thousandth time Father wondered about that. “Chad how about you going along to William and fetching Vincent and I a nice hot cup of tea and a plate of his delicious cookies.” Father asked the boy, who jumped up at once delighted to help.
When he had gone, Vincent could tell by Father’s demeanour that he had something delicate that he wanted to say, “What is it Father? What worries you so?”
“Vincent, pardon me for asking but I have to know.” he paused, unable to go on. Vincent’s intense blue eyes watched him warily, “What is it you have to know Father?” he asked softly.
Father drew in a deep breath, “When you and Catherine were together.” Vincent stiffened, as Father continued, “Were the two of you ever intimate?”
Father’s blue eyes searched out those of his son’s watching for any sign, any reconnection that would give him his answer even should Vincent refuse to reply.
After a long uncomfortable silence Vincent replied softly, “Once.” His heart was hammering painfully as his mind tried to shut it out, “Just before we parted in fact.” He added.
A ton weight shifted from Father’s shoulders. It was true then. That was it. It all made perfect sense now.
Chad’s likeness to Vincent, their connection, Peter’s words especially Peter’s words.
“Why Father?” Vincent was asking.
“I might be wrong Vincent”, he was saying though certain he was not, “but I think there is more than a possibility that Chad is…” he paused fighting for words, finally whispering, “your child.”
“My child!” Vincent rose to his feet. Impossible! It was impossible. How could Father think such a thing?
“Look Vincent sit down. Do you think I would say such a thing thoughtlessly? Look at it logically. Look at his hair, it’s so like your own.”
“That’s coincidental.” Vincent remarked still shocked at Father’s suggestion.
“And his eyes?”
“All right the emphatic connection then.”
“So you’ve got one out of three. What else?” Vincent’s shrugged his shoulders his voice bordering on sarcasm.
“His name is Chandler.”
“His surname is Wells.” Both looked up as from the doorway Peter’s voice came forth. He entered, “Your patients are well Jacob, I just thought I’d come to say goodbye.”
The two were still staring at him open mouthed.
Peter smiled; it was a rare sight to have both Vincent and Father lost for words.
“Its true.” He told them, “the child’s name is Chandler Wells. But that is all I am saying. I’ve already said too much. I promise you’ll not get another word out of me. You know Jacob doctor confidentiality and all that.”
Father coughed, looking directly at Vincent who was looking decidedly uncomfortable, “Is that coincidental too Vincent?” Father asked gently.
“No.” Vincent murmured, and neither is this, “his middle name is Vincent.”
Father’s eyes lit up; “I knew it! I knew it. Vincent the child is yours. He just has to be.”
Vincent wanted to laugh. It was so impossible. But then was it?
He and Catherine may not have made love in the fullest sense of the word, but enough had transpired between them for him to make her pregnant. But why had she never told him!
Surely she would never have kept something so important from him? Surely not!
As Vincent struggled with the thoughts in his mind, Chad returned carrying a tray of steaming tea and freshly baked cookies, their aroma proceeding his arrival. He looked at Father and Vincent, his ready smile quickly fading, when he saw Peter and as Vincent stared back at him, Chad felt it was almost as if Vincent was seeing him for the first time.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” Chad asked, settling the tray upon the table and coming to kneel at Vincent’s feet. He looked up into those compelling blue eyes. “Tell me?” he asked softly.
“Vincent’s had a bit of a shock Chad. Don’t worry he’ll be fine in a minute or two. Perhaps you and I could talk until then.”
Reluctantly Chad tore his gaze from Vincent, even as he offered him his hand. Vincent took it, held the young child’s hand tightly, for the first time examining it carefully, making Chad feel anxious and a little bemused.
Vincent looked at the hand he held, really looked. If Chad’s eyes and hair bore similarities to him, then his hands did not. They showed no likeness to the clawed fingers of his own. Vincent thought he was going mad. What was he doing? What was he allowing Father and Peter to tell him? His mind screamed these things, and he was just about to dismiss them as folly when he heard Father ask, “So Chad, tell me why don’t you like the name of Chandler? It has a nice ring to it?”
“It’s pathetic.” Chad laughed reaching for a cookie.
Father laughed heartily. “Why is that?”
“Because it’s a surname. Mom named me after her.”
“Your mother’s surname is Chandler?” Father asked breathlessly.
Chad didn’t seem to notice. The cookies were delicious. “Yes.”
Vincent felt his skin pale.
Father decided not to let on that he already knew the boy’s full name, “So if your mother’s surname is Chandler, and she gave you that for a Christian name, surely you’re full name isn’t Chandler Chandler?”
Chad gave a whoop of delight; “You are funny! Now that would be pathetic. No, Mom’s not that dumb.”
Father eyed Vincent carefully, and seeing his son’s grave complexion, wondered if he should continue.
Instead Vincent found his voice and asked, “What surname do you use then?”
Chad’s face fell. “That’s the only bit I know of my dad.” He told them sadly, “Until recently mom would never speak of him. I don’t know why. When I asked her anything she just started crying.” He paused remembering.
“So what is your surname?” Vincent prompted, his heart in his mouth, perhaps Peter was wrong. He tried to avoid Peter’s eyes. He thought they’d be mocking him.
“It’s Wells.” Chad replied.
Oh God, the room swam around him, and Vincent had to clutch at the arms of the chair for support. He didn’t think his head would ever stop spinning. His breath seemed to have been cut off, and feeling Father’s steadying hand upon him was a welcome relief.
“Vincent, Vincent, it’s all right.” His father hugged him tightly, “it’s all right, everything is going to be all right now.”
Chad stared wide eyed at the two of them, “What is it?” he asked, “What’s the matter with Vincent?” he’d heard things from the other children, and he was afraid. Was Vincent about to go mad?
Slowly Vincent fought for control, seeing the child before him anew. His son? Pride warred with fear and conquered. His eyes filled with tears, and he reached for the child, pulling him onto his lap, making Chad feel a little silly and strange.
“You have the same name as me.” Vincent told him, knowing how the child felt.
“For real? You are called Wells too?”
“Then that makes us brothers!” Chad told him delightedly.
Father took in the compelling picture of the two sat together. No, he thought to himself, that makes you father and son. Father rose, “Will you be all right Vincent, there is something I must do?” He eyed Peter distastefully, making the other man cringe. “I’m sorry Jacob, as I said, it’s confidential. My hands are tied. Any digging you do has to be without my further help.”
Vincent looked from one to the other of them, “Father?”
“Its all right Vincent, I’m not meddling, but we need confirmation do we not, and there is only one person who can do that?” his penetrating look told Vincent all he needed to know.
“No.” Vincent whispered. “Father leave it. I’ll go and see her in my own time.”
Despite everything all the facts, despite all the logic, still Vincent was uncertain. Perhaps he wanted it that way, he didn’t know. What he did know was that if Chad was Catherine’s child, a question he was yet to ask the boy, then Catherine had done a remarkably good job of bringing up the child single handed.
Oh there was the time she had left him with the housekeeper that spoke of neglect, but Vincent knew that Chad’s mother was unaware of his late nights, trusting in Mrs. Leigh’s capabilities totally. And Vincent couldn’t blame her for that.
What bugged him the most was if Chad really was his child, when did Catherine plan on telling the child about his father? For she would need to tell him eventually especially if Chad should marry and want children of his own. Chad may not resemble the beast, but the likelihood of a descendent doing so was more than a possibility. How would Catherine explain that?
Well aware of Vincent’s misconceptions Father continued to help him grasp the logic every which way he could.
To Father this was the beginning of the happy ever after ending. The child would bring Catherine and Vincent back together. They would live Below and everyone would be happy.
Father could see it all in his mind’s eye as clear as day. All it needed was for his stubborn son to be pushed a little in order to begin to make it happen.
One day as the three sat around his chamber absorbed in reading, Father watched Chad closely. His hair now quite long resembled Vincent’s so much. In fact some of the tunnel dwellers had remarked upon it, how the child had tried to look like his hero.
“Do you like being here Chad?” Father asked suddenly, causing Vincent to look up sharply and issue a warning look in his father’s direction. When was he ever going to drop the matter?
“I love it here.” Chad told him sincerely.
“Tell me about your home?” Father asked gently.
“What about it?”
“Is it a large house?”
“Quite large. The garden is big.” At the mention of the garden Father felt his heart drop. Vincent’s on the other hand had soared. Not that he didn’t wish for Chad to be his son. Just that if it were proved false a whole lot of problems needn’t be faced.
“Have you been there long?” Father prompted, he tried not to sound too interested. Flicking through the pages of a book absentmindedly at the same time.
Chad too was absorbed in his reading, and replied in like manner. “A few years.” He replied, “Before that we lived in an apartment.”
Vincent tensed, as Father’s eyes brightened. Bingo he thought to himself.
“Where was that, out of town?”
“No. We still rent it actually. Mom takes me there from time to time.” Then seeing something he needed explaining on the printed page, turned the book to Vincent, “Can you tell me what this means Vincent”, he asked.
Father waited as patiently as he dared while the two before him ran over the contents of the book, until he felt it was fit to intervene again. Vincent on the other hand took his time, grateful for the interval in Father's purusal of bothersome questions.
“Why do you need two homes?” Father asked eventually ignoring Vincent glaring at him. That glare said will you drop this Father, and he would not.
Father shook his head. No. He had come too far now, and he wanted to get to the bottom of this.
“We don’t, but mom likes the apartment. She calls it her window to the world. She likes to go there some nights and stand on the balcony overlooking the park. I like that too. The lights are so pretty from way up high.”
Vincent stiffened. Really the facts did keep climbing higher and higher. He drew in a controlled breath, letting it out slowly and his voice trembled as he asked, “What is your mother’s name Chad?”
Vincent felt his world shatter. Everything he had known solid and safe collapsed around him. Father stood up and came alongside his son, thankfully Chad was oblivious to the turmoil his answer had just caused, and didn’t notice when Father draped an arm around Vincent’s shoulders to stem the shaking in his son.
Still Vincent tried to deny it.
It had to be coincidental. It had to be!
In disbelief he shook his head. Until Catherine, his Catherine stood there and confessed that Chad was his son then he would still doubt it. He had to do. His whole sanity depended on that.
“You know it’s the truth, why fight it?” Father spoke to Vincent when Chad had long left for home. “Chad is your son.”
“No. I don’t believe it.” Vincent growled, his anger rising at the very suggestion. “Catherine would have told me.”
Father’s kindly eyes held those of his son’s, “She may not have wanted to.”
“Why? Why would Catherine keep something like that from me?” Vincent paced the chamber, back and forth, back and forth. He had to keep moving, he couldn't be still.
Sitting in his chair watching his son pace Father replied, “Didn’t you tell me so yourself that you had sent her away? Perhaps she decided that if you knew she was having your child you would consider that she had forced herself on to you, forced herself into your life when you were not prepared for that. And not prepared to have her give up her life Above.”
“And I’m still not. Catherine’s life is Above Father don’t you see that? Catherine has channelled out for herself a good life Above. I still could not expect her to give all that up for me, despite the fact that Chad likes being here.”
“Arh, so you do accept that Chad is Catherine’s child?”
“I didn’t say that.” He searched his father’s eyes warily, “But it is more than a possibility.”
“And where pray does Catherine conceive a child that looks like you, if it is not with you? Vincent face the facts, the child is yours, I’d stake my life on it.”
Vincent shuddered. He didn’t want to admit that Father was right, but he could no longer deny the possibility.
“If Chad is my son, I want to hear it from Catherine herself. But it changes nothing Father; Catherine’s life is Above. And nothing will alter how I feel on that.”
Father nodded, “I’ll send Catherine a message, ask her to visit. How do you feel about that?”
Vincent shrugged unable to voice an opinion.
“Yes” Father rose to walk towards his writing bureau, “I’ll waste no more time. I’ll send word to her at once.”
As Father’s message winged its way Above in the hand of a helper, Chad paid them an unexpected visit well into the night.
Bounding down the stairs leading into Father’s chamber he was happy to see that the two of them were still up, even though they were almost ready for bed.
“Vincent!” Chad ran to his hero, flinging himself into his arms, “We’re leaving.” He cried.
“Leaving?” Father and Vincent spoke at once.
“Mom has to go away on another assignment, a long way away. She is taking me with her. Vincent I don’t want to go, I want to stay with you.”
A sigh of relief escaped Vincent. Not for the fact of Chad’s going or his distress but for the seemingly good escape he had been given. If Catherine was preparing to leave she would have no time to come Below and he could put off the inevitable a while longer.
“How long will you be gone for?” Father asked.
Wide-eyed Chad looked at him; “I don’t want to go. Can I stay here please?”
“Chad how can you? Your mother knows nothing of this place.” Father felt very guilty about making that statement, but as far as Chad was concerned his mother didn’t know anything about the world Below.
“You could tell her. She’d understand. She’d trust you; she’d let me stay. Mom says this case might take three months. I can’t bear to be away so long. I love you guys.”
Father and Vincent fought back tears, unable to know what to say for the best.
Vincent hugged the child tight, feeling his pain, taking it deep within himself, and hoping he could draw it away from the child.
He loved Chad too. Fiercely. He hadn’t realised until now just how much. And suddenly he fought for his rights. “You can stay Chad.”
Chad’s eyes lit up, his face upturned towards his hero. “For real?”
Vincent’s eyes met Father’s, “There’s still time. I’ll go and see Catherine.”
Chad looked from one to the other, “Catherine? My mother?”
Vincent nodded, “Yes. Chad there is something that you don’t know. Come let me tell you.”
Quietly Chad allowed Vincent to guide him to a chair. Father listened with interest wondering what Vincent was about to say.
“Many years ago, before you were born, I rescued someone else from the park. A woman. She had been beaten and left for dead. I brought her here to heal, and she became a helper for those of us Below. I shared a Bond with her too like the one I share with you. Chad that woman was your mother. She knows about the tunnels, and about me, what she doesn’t know is that you know about this place too, about me and Father and all the others down here.” He paused as a sound from the entrance caught his attention.
“Till now.” The softly spoken voice told them. Vincent didn’t need to look up to know that Catherine stood there. Somehow he had known of her approach even as he had taken Chad aside. He’d resolutely ignored it, unwillingly to accept that she was accepting Father’s invitation to come Below when she had so much to do at home.
“Hello Chad” Catherine came down the steps slowly, making her way towards Father. “How are you Father?” She asked bending to kiss the older man’s brow, “Its good to see you again. You haven’t changed a bit.” Father’s eyes lit up, his smile broadened, and he stood to clasp Catherine’s hands in his, “Catherine, you came. Thank you.”
“Did you doubt it?” Her eyes left him, drawn to the presence of the one that held her child, their child with warm possession.
“Hello Vincent.” Her breath caught in her throat, “Are you well?”
“Catherine.” The softly spoken words were just as Catherine remembered and tears flooded her eyes.
He stood, placing a totally bemused Chad to one side, and came forward slowly. Standing before one another, each had to remind themselves just to breathe. Catherine’s heart hammered painfully, her eyes never leaving his. Vincent opened his arms and Catherine walked into them willingly, crying opening as those mighty arms enfolded her against him, tight in his embrace.
The words catapulted from Catherine, “I love you Vincent.” She sobbed against his shoulder, her throat tight with emotion.
Chad’s eyes opened wide, a grin spread across his face, he gasped looking first to Father then back to his mother held so tightly in Vincent’s arms.
“Mom?” he queried.
Catherine reached out a hand, drawing her son into that embrace, “Come” she told him, “You belong here too.”
The three hugged one another tightly, though Chad didn’t yet understand it all, but something was suddenly going to be all right of that he was certain.
His mother and Vincent knew each other! No it was more than that. He could see. He might be young but he could see his mother loved Vincent very much, and he could tell that Vincent felt the same way about her. He wanted to stand there and let out a whoop of joy.
Vincent knew how he felt. His blue eyes ablaze with love, he could hardly believe this was happening.
Catherine here! In his arms at last, it didn’t seem possible, he thought he must be dreaming.
Releasing her from his embrace, he led her around to his chair, propping himself against the table to stand gazing at her, almost afraid to look away, in case that when he did she would vanish.
Chad climbed onto his mother’s lap, waiting for her to speak. There was so much he wanted to say, but he could not decide what to say first.
Catherine ran her hand absentmindedly upon her son’s hair, allowing the silky strands to pass through her fingers. It had a soothing effect on her son, usually making him sleepy. Tonight Chad fought against that feeling. He needed to stay awake. Something exciting was about to happen he was certain of it.
“So Vincent how did you meet your son?” Catherine asked at last, after struggling with the words to find a way to say it.
Vincent gasped. Father’s eyes lit up, but Chad spoke first. “His son?” He wiggled to turn and look into Catherine’s eyes. She nodded, “Yes,” she told him happily, “Vincent is your father.”
That whoop of joy left Chad’s lips without restraint. It burst from him, and he scrambled from Catherine’s lap, to fling himself against Vincent’s legs hugging him tightly. Tears streamed down Catherine’s cheeks at the sight. “I see you have captivated my son, as you did me.” She spoke lightly, her eyes filled with happiness.
“I love him.” Vincent spoke from the heart. “Would you believe we have a connection?”
Catherine had heard Vincent tell Chad this earlier and she nodded, “It doesn’t surprise me. I can see that it did you though?”
“At first yes.”
Father spoke then, “I began to believe that Chad might have been a relative to Vincent in some way. The likeness is certainly there. I had no idea that Chad could be his son, until something Peter said one day, come let me tell you all about it.” Father told Catherine, “This might take some time, can you stay?”
“Nothing will prise me away.” Catherine told him sincerely, “Besides I really want to hear this. And I have things of my own to tell. Can we spend the night here Father?”
Father nodded, “ Of course my dear, you know you are welcome here.”
*** *** ***
“I love you Catherine. I’ve never stopped loving you. Is there anyone in your life?”
“There has never been anyone but you my darling.” Catherine felt as though she had come home after a long and arduous journey.
Wrapped in Vincent’s arms, the scent of him alone intoxicated her. “I loved you so much Vincent, I could never get you out of my mind. And then Chad was born. I’d see him, and I’d see you. He was a constant reminder that I loved to have yet despaired to have all in one go. Chad made me yearn for you so much. I don’t know how I got through the years without you.”
“You should have told me Catherine. I had a right to know.”
“Yes you did. But I told myself that I would not go to you. You severed the dream Vincent. If you had come to me I would have told you.”
A great sadness washed over Vincent. He had missed so much. Even so his earlier fears had not altered, he was still unsure about the future for the two of them.
“He’s beautiful Catherine. Weren’t you ever afraid?”
“I was petrified. Peter helped me through it all. I gave birth at his home, while his wife was away with friends. When I saw how Chad was, it was almost a relief. Not because I don’t find you beautiful Vincent, because I do, but because it meant I could continue living Above and you need never know, unless you came to see me.”
There were so many questions Vincent wanted to ask, so many he dared not. He was silent for some time, happy only to be able to hold Catherine close again after so long apart.
“Catherine this trip you have to undertake. Is it dangerous?”
“No Vincent, I gave up undertaking dangerous assignments when you and I parted. I decided it wouldn’t be fair on you to feel any threat to my life and be compelled to come to me. If I’d have wanted to do I could have done that. At times just to see you again would have made all that worthwhile, but I loved you Vincent, and I didn’t want to expose you to unnecessary dangers. I still don’t. No this case isn’t one I am personally handling, this time I am there as a witness and nothing more.”
Vincent nodded, “You’ll allow Chad to stay with me?”
“You’re sure?” Her eyes widened with surprise.
“I love him Catherine. And now he knows who I am, we have a lot of catching up to do. He’ll be safe here you know that.”
“Yes I know he will. Of course he must stay.”
“Thank you I know you will miss him Catherine.”
“Yes I will, but he’ll be better off with you. He can go to school as usual, someone from here can take him, and his life won’t have to be an upheaval just because of my job. It will be better for him to stay, and better for you to have him stay.”
“When you return Catherine….” Vincent was unable to go on. What could he offer her after all?
Catherine understood, “I’ll come back to visit more often Vincent, I promise. You can start coming back to the apartment too if you wish, I kept it with you in mind. Your window to the world.”
“Our window to the world. Catherine, I can promise to offer you no more than before, can you accept only friendship from me?”
“I love you Vincent, I love you as lovers love, I cannot pretend to be happy about your offer, you know I need more, that’s why we broke up before.”
“No Catherine we broke up because I caused you pain.”
Catherine felt laughter rising, her eyes danced, “And how so!”
“You thought making love to me caused me pain Vincent. Yet you left me with something more lethal. Chad’s birth was excruciating.”
“I’m sorry Catherine.” Vincent’s sorrow reached his eyes.
“No, no Vincent.” Catherine clasped his hands in hers, “Don’t be sorry, it wasn’t that bad, I coped, and look what I gained. Look what you gave me. Our son, I couldn’t have asked for more than that. But I did. Every night, every day, I did.”
Tilting his head birdlike in the way Catherine had missed and loved so much, he asked her softly, “Tell me?”
“I asked for you Vincent. I wanted you. I still want you. If I came Below and became a regular visitor again, Vincent can we try, can you try to accept my needs, your own desires. Vincent nothing has changed. Maybe time has increased the intensity, but other than that I want you Vincent as much as I ever did, and I know that you need this too. You deserve so much.”
“You have already given me enough Catherine. And I cannot expect you to leave all your life behind because of me.”
“Is that what this is all about? Really and truly, the fact that you don’t want to deprive me of my life Above?”
Vincent nodded, “You belong Above Catherine. It is your world. Your friends, your job are all Above, you can’t turn your back on your destiny Catherine, I won’t allow it.”
“Supposing I keep all that then, but still have you?”
They were talking alongside the mirror pool, watching the reflection of a blue sky and fluffy white clouds passing by overhead, and Vincent was well aware that in this place both their worlds combined.
He didn’t have answers to her questions; he didn’t like to presume too much.
His silence saddened her.
“Vincent Wells, you know what?”
“Being without you these eight, nearly nine years has been a death sentence for me. I lived, I breathed, and I worked purely as a matter of instinct. Chad was my happiness, my only happiness, my only link to you, since the bond was being withdrawn from me. I forsook everything I knew, to be alone to spend my evenings working when I had to do, with my son whenever I could do. The life that you knew me to frequent Vincent, died the day that you rescued me in the park. I want only you Vincent I always have and nothing else even comes close.”
Vincent drew her into his arms hugging her close. There was a lot to think about, perhaps it was as well that time apart was coming between them again, “I’ll miss you Catherine when you have gone, and I will think about the things that you have said, but I offer no promises.”
Just let me into your life Vincent that’s all I ask. Accept what I offer you. I love you so much. And we, Chad and I, both need you.”
Vincent nodded, “I’ll think about it.”
Catherine was well aware that knowing Vincent, he would certainly do just that.
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Four – please click on ‘Next’ below:
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