Life Before Life Below - Catherine's Story

Chapters 4 to 6


 
The tale of Catherine's life before she meets Vincent. Or is it after she meets Vincent? Sorting through her father's belongings Catherine's memories reveal that she may have met Vincent years earlier when both of them were children.

 

Chapter Four

After the unfortunate incident with the so called college friends, Catherine hardened her heart, especially when one of them had asked her where she had got to that evening as they’d hoped that she would buy the first round of drinks.
‘Yes and no doubt the second and the third too’ Catherine had thought to herself bitterly. It was not a good feeling to know that she had been used by them just because she was wealthy, not a good feeling at all. And Catherine vowed to keep herself to herself whatever they might think of her, until the day that Nancy Tucker came into her life.

It hadn’t made any difference to Catherine to be by herself, she was after all used to the solitude and was so absorbed in her studies that she didn’t seem to notice the snide remarks made by the other students about her being a snob and a daddy’s girl. Had she of heard them she would have concluded that they had been struck with jealousy anyway, and she would have paid them scant attention. However, when several weeks later after the nightclub incident, a young woman approached as Catherine sat at her desk and asked, “Does anyone sit here?” Catherine had looked up and been warmed by the gentle smile the other student had given her and she had shaken her head.
“Pulling back the chair the young woman asked, “May I sit beside you?” Catherine smiled at her, Yes of course.”
“Thank you. My name is Nancy and I am new here, well new to this class anyway.”
“Catherine Chandler”, she replied shaking the hand that Nancy offered, surprised when Nancy told her, “Yes I know. I’m afraid that your reputation proceeds you.”
An enigmatic look passed over Catherine’s features and Nancy laughed, “I’ll tell you later.” She told her as the lecturer came into the room and made his way to the front of the class.

During a free period, Nancy and Catherine made their way to the common room intent on getting to know one another better. “My intention is to become a great photographer.” Nancy told her, swilling back the remainder of a can of coke, she laughed “Whether or not I’ll be that good remains to be seen. And I understand that your intention is to study law.”
“My”, Catherine laughed, “It seems I have been a subject for discussion around here and been unaware of it.”
“You don’t know the half of it.” Nancy grinned, liking Catherine more and more.
“Then may I ask you why you are so different? Why should you want to bother with me where thousands wouldn’t?” Catherine asked somewhat sadly.
“Let’s just say that you and I stepped out of the same mould Catherine. Even before we spoke I knew I would feel closer to you than the rest of this lot. Don’t get me wrong, many of them have ambitions and are hard working students, but Catherine in this life there are the givers and the takers and somewhere in-between there are those that have a leaning toward both. But it is a quality to be dug for because more often than not the world has corroded the qualities so that it isn’t always visible from the outside. It’s just fair enough to say that we know it exists within us, and with it we can conquer the world.”
Catherine nodded. Nancy’s words made sense to her. “Sometimes” she told her, “I feel so different from the other people here. It’s not something that depresses me though; it’s almost as if an inner strength guides me to succeed. I don’t mean that they will fail but often I feel elevated above them with a feeling of pride.”
“I know that feeling Catherine. I suppose it’s a case of how we were brought up. My parents made sure I had everything I ever needed and made me mix with the right kind of people. I’m afraid that for my parents, my being here is a frightening period in their lives, because the people I am forced to mix with on a daily basis could so easily undo all their good work if I let it. Yet we all need to make friendships Catherine, and personally I think you and I will have a strong friendship. We are very much alike and are reaching in the same direction.”
“Yes.” Catherine nodded, “I fear my father feels this way. And rightly so, for when I was trying to fit in here I rebelled against the discipline I was brought up with, and it was only thanks to my heeding my father’s wisdom that made me see where I so easily could have headed.”
“Sounds like your parents and mine would get along great guns. Perhaps we should introduce them some day?”
Catherine’s face fell and Nancy was quick to notice, “I’m sorry what did I say?”
“My mother died when I was ten.” Catherine brushed away a tear.
“Oh I’m so sorry, had I of known…”
“That’s okay.”
“Still miss her huh?”
“Yes always.”
Nancy felt her own eyes filling up. Her new friend seemed tragically sad and without thinking she put her arm around Catherine’s shoulders, drawing her close. No one save her father and Marilyn had ever done that to her and it was all she could do not to bury her face into Nancy’s pullover and cry her heart out.
“I don’t think I will ever get over it.” Catherine told her, “She was a wonderful mother, and she died so suddenly. There is so much I would liked to have told her, so much I would like to have shared with her. My father is adorable, bless him, and has tried so hard to fill my mother’s shoes, but still I miss her so much and the pain is as deep now as it ever was. Sometimes I just ache for her to hold me again and it’s the awful truth of knowing that she never will again that hurts the most.”
Nancy nodded, “I’ve never known such grief. Though my grandmother died when I was young, somehow it could never be the same as how you have suffered, because I didn’t see that much of her anyway. Still from what I remember of the pain I do sympathise with you.”
Wrapped in her own sadness and almost as if she hadn’t heard her, Catherine went on, “The hollowness it leaves can never be filled. It’s as if even with daddy’s love the void can never be filled with him. Sometimes I wonder if there is anyone out there who will ever come close to filling it. I feel as though I have this great yearning for something, for someone to love me unconditionally the way that my mother did and even more so, before I can even begin to heal. For now something is always missing from my life. It feels tragic and sad. The irony of it all is that the one wish my mother had for me throughout her life was for me to have a happy life. Yet since she died, sheer happiness seems to be the one thing that remains elusive to me.”
Nancy nodded sympathetically. From what she had been told about Catherine Chandler and from what she was hearing now was almost like hearing about two entirely separate people, and Nancy wondered if Catherine had ever opened her heart to anyone like this before. That she had to her, only served to emphasise the strength of the friendship that would develop between them. Nancy felt something stir within her, to be entrusted with Catherine Chandler’s secret heart gave her a good feeling inside.
“I have other friends Cathy, good friends. I would like to introduce them to you sometime. They don’t go to Radcliffe and they mix in the same social circle as I do. I think you will like them. I know that friendships cannot replace your mother but having people that care will erase some of the hurt that you are feeling now.”
Catherine searched Nancy’s eyes. She saw honesty there, compassion and friendship.
“Thank you” she told Nancy sincerely, with all her heart.

True to her word Nancy introduced Catherine to her friends and instantly they accepted her into their circle of friendship. There was Jenny, Rachel, Rebecca and her brother Buddy. Buddy fell in love with Catherine on sight but was too shy to tell her. And from that day forth the five girls were inseparable. They met whenever they could, going to one another’s homes or out at weekends to socialise, filling one another with plans and dreams, ambitions and hopes until each became an extension of the other and nothing the world threw at them ever seemed to touch them. Between them they build a protective wall and would not let the world in, so that no one ever used or abused their good nature and fine standing ever again, and they needed no one but each other.

After passing her exams at Radcliffe and getting the results that she needed, Catherine applied for and got a place at Columbia Law School. Not that she ever doubted that she would, her father’s wealth was all the backing she needed to get a place there, but Catherine still found pride to know that her years of study at Radcliffe had paid off. Thus securing her own place in the Law School.
Now the study really began. It was strenuous and exhausting and didn’t leave much time for socialising but Catherine knew that if she was to make it through life then a few years of constant study was a small price to pay.
Nonetheless she found that she had little enthusiasm for following in her father’s footsteps and joining his company. Having proven to herself thus far that she didn’t need to remain beneath the security of his wings for all time.
Nonetheless when the time came for her to leave Law School and start the life she had trained for, her father’s wealth at least afforded her the opportunity to see the world. And still to know that when she had finished travelling there would be a place for her with his company when she chose at last to settle down to some serious work, no matter what he said.
Catherine could remember clearly the argument she and her father had had over this the day that she had graduated from Columbia Law School.
“Your mother would be so proud of you Catherine.” Her father had told her, “Come to that I’m proud of you. I can hardly believe that from tomorrow I will be driving you to the office and settling you into the room alongside my own. I think you’ll find there is everything that you will need and I have some small cases lined up for you. I am certain you will find them easy to tackle once you get started on them.”
When Catherine didn’t reply, her father looked at her keenly, “What is it?” He asked.
“I wasn’t thinking of coming to work just yet daddy. I had made plans to have a holiday first.”
Her father’s face fell, “Oh.”
“I’m sorry dad.” Her father’s disappointment was clearly visible. “I never realised you would be expecting me to work so soon.”
“After all these years of waiting Catherine, I don’t want to wait any longer to show you off to my employees. There are a lot of people eager to meet you among my colleagues too. I had a busy week planned.”
Catherine screwed up her mouth at one corner, “Tell you what then, I’ll come in with you until my holiday plans are definite. Will that be okay?”
“That depends. How long do you plan to be away for?”
“A month, maybe two.”
“TWO MONTHS! Catherine!”
“What’s the problem?”
Charles felt his temper rising swiftly, something he rarely felt against his daughter. “Once you start on a case Catherine, you simply can’t take time off from it, you know that. You have to see it through to its conclusion. Remember people are relying on you to help them. It’s just not possible to leave off for that long a period. A week maybe two, but certainly no longer.”
“Then I won’t start work daddy. I promised Jenny and Nancy that I would go with them. We want to travel. See some of the world.”
“Nonsense Catherine. What you haven’t already seen of the world with me isn’t worth seeing. We have already been everywhere.”
“Not everywhere dad. Not to Mauritius or the Seychelles, that’s where we plan to go first, then maybe off to Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand.”
“And then I suppose off to Singapore!”
“Yes, maybe, if there’s time.”
“And who may I ask is footing the bill for all of this?”
Catherine’s jaw dropped.
“So I can see by that look, that you expect that I am. Well let me tell you young lady, as much as I love you and would give you anything, there comes a time in life when one has to learn to stand on one’s own two feet, and start to earn a living by oneself. And if you are honest Catherine you will agree with me. You know that it makes sense.”
Catherine let out a deep, long sigh. Yes she did agree with him but she wouldn’t let him know it. “But daddy, after all that studying, surely even you can see that I deserve a reward?”
“A reward yes, but not what you have in mind. Tell you what we’ll compromise. You come to work for me from tomorrow and I’ll give you light cases, ones which should be wound up in a very short space of time. Then when they are, and before you take on any others, you can go on your holiday, but only for a month. And then when you get back to work you knuckle down and take some of the heavier cases. How does that sound to you?”
Catherine blew upward tousling her hair; “I suppose so. I just hope Jenny and Nancy understand and can wait for me.”

But they couldn’t. Jenny had her own plans. A long holiday and then work, and Nancy much the same.
Having already secured their future and made their plans they could not undo them and much to Catherine’s disappointment told her they would still be going to Mauritius as planned, but she could meet them in Australia later.
At that time Catherine had only spent three days working for her father. The cases he had given her were easy, too easy, and already Catherine was bored. The fact that her friends would now be going off on holiday with or without her was of some concern and she didn’t like having to see her father about it again.
Yet Charles was adamant when at last she confronted him. “You made a promise Catherine. Work first and then play. And you have those cases to complete now.”
“I know dad, but Jenny and Nancy can’t alter their plans, whereas I could.”
“How is that?”
“You could find someone else to finish off those cases, and I have some savings, if you won’t pay for the holiday then I will have to use my own money.”
“So you intend to go with or without my blessing?”
Catherine hadn’t decided that she would until then. “Yes I’m going daddy.”
Charles stared at her for long moments, and Catherine thought he was going to explode. She didn’t think she had ever seen him so angry at least not with her. Then his face seemed to soften and he relented, “Very well Catherine, I’ll agree, providing I have your solemn assurance that when you get back you do get down to some serious casework.”
Catherine’s face lit up, she had known he would relent eventually. She had always been able to win him around to her way of thinking. “I promise dad. Thank you.” She told him, throwing her arms around him, “We’re leaving on Friday.”
“So soon, why that’s only four days!”
“The sooner we leave dad the sooner we’ll be back.”
Charles laughed, “well you do have a point there, and don’t forget I want a postcard from you every single day. And Catherine?”
“Yes daddy?”
“Don’t touch your savings sweetheart, I’ll pay for everything you need.”
Catherine hugged him tightly, she hadn’t for one moment doubted that he wouldn’t.

*** *** ***


All through college and law school, Catherine had denied herself the chance of a relationship with a member of the opposite sex. This was no easy task, but the amount of work she had been given doubled with the desire to succeed had protected her in its own way. With her sights set firmly on the future Catherine had managed to divert her attention from men to studies.
There had been many opportunities to go with someone, but Catherine would let nothing get in the way of her ambition, and had seen it happen all too often with her fellow students. Relationship had caused people to change their ideas, and some of the girls had become pregnant, thus other directions had been forced upon them.
Catherine wanted none of that, and had steered herself clear of a relationship. Even when her father had taken her to various functions and had introduced her to eligible bachelors, Catherine had only paid them a customary glance.
Yet now everything was safely behind her Catherine thought it was high time she allowed herself to live a little.
The holiday in Mauritius proved to be everything she had dreamed of. Nancy and Jenny were wonderful companions but Catherine had promised herself something more than sight seeing and getting a good suntan. And when her eyes caught his over the rim of the cocktail she had been sipping one day, she fell in love at first sight.
He was everything she had ever dreamed of. Tall, dark, good-looking sophisticated, wealthy and as far as Nancy was concerned he was also an absolute bore, but Catherine thought he was wonderful. And when he asked if she might like to accompany him on board his yacht one afternoon, Catherine accepted without hesitation.
Nancy was appalled, “Are you sure?” she asked as Catherine pondered over what to wear for the thousandth time.
“Sure?” Catherine queried raising an eyebrow, “Sure about what?”
“I mean you have only known him five minutes. I spoke to him for less than that and had summed him up in half the time. He’s no good for you Cathy.”
Catherine shook her head, as a dreamy look came over her face. “He’s gorgeous, I’m sure when I have spent longer than five minutes with him, he’ll be all I have ever dreamed of.”
Nancy shook her head, “Looks aren’t everything Cathy. I’m not so sure about him. I’d be wary if I were you.”
“Thanks for your concern, but don’t worry Nanc. I’ll be okay.”
“But what if he is only after you for one thing. You are very beautiful you know that?”
“Perhaps I am only after one thing too.”
“Oh come on Cath, I can’t believe that. You have struggled too long and too hard to throw it all away with the first guy that steps into your line of vision. Look I know I’m not going to talk you out of it, but Cathy for goodness sakes be careful.”
“You are sounding just like my father, do you know that?” Catherine grinned.
Nancy laughed somewhat shakily, “Yes I suppose I am, but it’s only because I care about you. Being hurt is the last thing you need, especially...”
Catherine eyed her friend suspiciously, “Especially what?”
For long moments Nancy looked away, before turning back to Catherine and replying, “Especially as you have seem to have grown away from all that hurt you harboured when we first met, all those years ago.”
Catherine had to stop and think for a moment. When she realised what Nancy meant she replied, “You mean over my mother?” Nancy nodded, her eyes showing anxiety at bringing it up.
“Don’t worry Nancy, I don’t intent to let anything or anyone hurt me that much ever again. But for the record I still miss my mother as much now as I ever did. The pain never subsides. It’s always there at the back of my mind, but even my mother expected me to have a happy life.”
“Yes, but she would have expected you to have shown wisdom too, and I think on this occasion she would be agreeing with me. Look Cath, I don’t intend to be a wet blanket, but promise me the moment he shows you where the bedroom is, that you will make your excuses and leave.” Catherine shook her head, “You don’t get it do you? Maybe this is what I want.”
Nancy shook her head, “I can’t believe that Cathy. It would just be sex nothing more, and believe me unless you are in love it means nothing.”
“And you would know of course?” Catherine teased, zipping up the green dress that she had finally chosen to wear. It matched her eyes perfectly.
“Actually yes.” Nancy replied softly startling Catherine into turning round and staring at her friend.
The two women stared at one another for long moments, before Nancy was the first to look away. This was something Catherine knew nothing of, and she had assumed there to be no secrets between the two of them. “I didn’t know you had...well you know... I always assumed you were waiting for Mr. Right.” Catherine asked gently.
“Yes I know. That’s what I like people to think. My past is not something I like to talk about, especially that part of it. And I’m not going to start now. Just take it from me Cath that unless there is love in a relationship then any sexual encounter is nothing more than that. Only with love is it beautiful.” Tears filled Nancy’s eyes and Catherine crossed the few feet that separated them to draw her friend into a warm embrace, “What happened Nancy? She asked softly. Nancy shook her head, speaking through tears, “I don’t want to talk about it Cathy. Forget I ever brought it up.”
For long moments the two stood in silence, clinging to one another. Catherine felt immensely sad, and could tell that Nancy was softly crying.
They broke apart when they heard a key turn in the lock and had regained some composure as Jenny opened the door, “Hey” she called at their obvious silence, “What gives?”
“It’s nothing.” Nancy stood up, brushing away the tears with the backs of her hands, “Did you have a nice time beside the pool.”
“I was in it more than around it. It’s so hot out there. Hey Cathy you look nice, you going out somewhere?”
“Yes.”
“That guy we spoke to yesterday, has asked Cathy out this afternoon.”
Jenny wrinkled her nose, “Sooner you than me. Are you sure you know what you are doing?”
“We’ve already been through that Jen. Cathy doesn’t want to hear anything said against him.”
“Perhaps the guy isn’t so bad Nancy. Cathy isn’t stupid, are you Cath?”
“I should hope not,” Catherine laughed, “Besides I want to go with him. If nothing else, he is loaded, and it’ll be nice to have someone spend some money on me.”
“Who are you kidding. Who paid for this holiday?” Jenny teased.
“You know what I mean. I’ve never actually dated anyone. I’m looking forward to it.”
“Well half your luck Cath, I must say you will present a stunning couple.” Jenny flopped herself onto the sofa fanning her face with a newspaper.
“I wish Nancy would see it that way, she’s trying to put me off of going out with him.”
“Maybe she’s jealous.”
“I am not!” Nancy snatched the newspaper from Jenny and hit her with it.
Jenny ducked and giggled, “So what’s your problem Nance? Cathy is a big girl now, she’ll be all right.”
Nancy grinned, “Okay you two I’ll back off. I know when I‘m out numbered.” She attempted a bright smile, and Catherine wondered again about her friend’s mystery love. Perhaps one-day Nancy would tell her. Obviously the hurt went deep and it had caused Nancy a great deal of pain. Perhaps that was why Nancy never seemed to be interested in men.
“Well how do I look?” Catherine asked brightly to break the sudden silence.
“Just great Cath. Do you have your swim-wear underneath?” Jenny remarked, winking at her.
“No I never thought of that. Do you think I’ll need it?”
“What going out on a boat with no swim-wear, that would have been my first thought.”
“Oh Cathy isn’t interested in swimming with him.” Nancy remarked dryly.
“What!” Jenny’s eyes widened in surprise, “You’re not?”
“Hey what is this? Gang up on Cathy day or something? Look I know what I am doing, don’t worry about me okay?” she laughed gaily as she headed for the door. “I’ll see you both later,” she pulled the door open and stepping into the corridor outside. “Or maybe tomorrow,” she couldn’t resist adding, laughing at their shocked expressions before she pulled the door closed behind her. Laughing her head off, Catherine walked towards the elevator with lightness of step as she thought about meeting Mike down in the lobby.

Mike’s yacht was brilliant. Catherine had never been on anything so grand, and she had been on plenty of yachts belonging to her father’s colleagues in the past to know the difference.
Mike had pre-arranged everything too so that the two of them could be in total seclusion without the problem of staff overlooking their every need. He had laid out fine wine and a delicious salad with fresh lobster, ice cream and a fresh fruit salad, “I hope you are hungry Catherine.” He asked her as they stepped off the pier onto the deck, “I hate good food going to waste.”
“Well actually I’m far too excited to eat at the moment Mike. Will we be going out on the yacht straight away?”
Catherine was surprised to see Mike frown, “We can if you want to do. Though I hadn’t planned on doing so.”
Disappointed Catherine replied, “You mean we are staying by the pier all day?”
“That was the general idea. What’s the use of wasting fuel when we can get to know one another just as well sitting here?”
There was logic in that somewhere Catherine decided, but still she felt a bit put out.
“So tell me about yourself?” they both asked at the same time and burst out laughing, “Great minds think alike.” Catherine teased and saw him frown, “Oh I hardly think you and I would have the same things in mind.” He told her dryly, “I mean we probably come from vastly different backgrounds.”
What a snob! Catherine thought. Not so much for what he said, but for the undercurrent with the way he had said it. He made her feel like something beneath his shoe.
“So what do you do for a living?” He asked her.
Catherine was just on the verge of telling him the truth, when she stopped herself. Nancy’s impressions of the guy came back to her. True love wasn’t built on what a person has or doesn’t have she told herself, let’s see what he makes of this; “I’m a shop assistant.” She told him, and could have laughed out loud at the expression that appeared on his face.
“A shop assistant!” his voice rose, “I would never have taken you for working behind a till all day.”
“It’s not so bad.” Catherine told him, grinning behind her hand, “It does make my legs ache a bit with standing all day, but it pays well.”
“It must do!” He exclaimed sarcastically.
“Why do you say that?”
“To be able to afford to come here, all the way from America for one thing.”
“Oh that. Yes I have been saving for decades to come to Mauritius.”
“Look perhaps as you aren’t hungry yet we could go for a walk.” His pallor had certainly changed. Catherine thought he looked almost ill all of the sudden, and had to stifle a giggle.
“Aren’t you going to show me around your boat?”
“No it would be a complete waste of time.”
“Yet time is free, how can we waste it?” Catherine had decided to act like the dumb blonde.
Mike glared at her, “I get the distinct impression that you are making fun of me. True, time is free, unless you happen to be a busy person like myself. Every minute of every day is making me money, and whatever I choose or choose not to do each day, either makes me money or loses me money. I haven’t the time to waste on lost causes.”
“And that is how you see me?”
He refused to reply.
Catherine went on, “If you had known I was just a shop assistant beforehand would you still have asked me out?”
“Absolutely not. You are way beneath my league.”
“And you are such a snob.”
“I’m sorry you think so. I have been watching you for some days. I would not have taken you for a shop assistant. You and I seemed very well suited. I thought you were wealthy from a wealthy background. You certainly dress well. Your choice of dress speaks of wealth. The things that you order for lunch and dinner speak of class. I thought I knew enough about you to ask you out. I am not usually such a bad judge of character. It would seem on this occasion I allowed a beautiful face and a gorgeous figure to cloud my judgement.”
Catherine gasped. She didn’t know whether to laugh or shout at him. “Do you know? My friend Nancy warned me about you. I wouldn’t listen. I think she is the perfect judge of character. You should take a lesson from her. I would never have believed you to be so shallow, so chauvinistic. I believe it is I who have had a lucky escape. However, just for the record I was testing you. Something you said made me wary and actually I am not a shop assistant and your judgement was correct. I am wealthy and do come from a wealthy background. I also believe in true love something money can't buy. And I hope you find what you are searching for Mike, I really do, but I can tell you now you won’t find it with me.”
With that she turned and left him staring after her. His first though was to chase after her then reason came through. She was too clever for him. Beautiful yes, but not worth the risk.
Mike shrugged his shoulders, and went below deck to put the food into the cooler. It would be a shame to waste it, and besides there was that pretty girl he’d had his eyes on yesterday. He would go and see if he could find her.

Catherine mooched around the town for the remainder of the afternoon, unable to face Nancy’s “I told you so” look in her eyes.
Imagine if she had slept with him! She could see that Nancy was right. To have slept with him and then found out what he was like...well she could not believe the lucky escape that she had had. She would have regretted it for the rest of her days.
As Catherine walked along deep in thought and trying to keep beneath the shade of the trees as much as possible she failed to see a cyclist coming and she stepped out right in front of him.
He braked sharply and cursed, trying to avoid her but his handlebar caught her side and spun her around, so that she fell headlong into the cobbled street. A crash at her side signalled that the cyclist had also fallen. Rubbing her side Catherine turned to see if he were all right, and her stammering apology trailed away to nothing as she found herself looking into the friendliest brown eyes she had ever seen. He smiled at her, “Are you all right?”
“Yes I think so. Are you?”
“Just knocked the stuffing out of me that’s all. I’ll live.”
“I’m terribly sorry.” Catherine told him, “I was daydreaming and didn’t even see you.”
He smiled and Catherine felt her heart somersault. A lump formed in her throat that would not budge rendering her speech to silence.
“Are you on holiday here?” he asked her, “Can I escort you to your hotel to tidy up?”
Catherine looked down at herself, noticing her torn dress for the first time “Yes.” Was all she could manage.
“Was that a yes to the holiday, or a yes to the escort?” He grinned at her as he brushed the dust from his hands, before offering her one of them to help her to her feet.
Finding her voice Catherine replied, “Actually it’s a yes to both. And the least I can do is pay for the damage to your cycle. My purse is back at the hotel.”
He looked down at the cycle, “oh don’t worry about that old thing. It had a buckled wheel anyway. Probably been knocked into shape now. Which way is your hotel, I’ll see you back there if you don’t mind?”
Catherine shook her head, “No of course I don’t mind. It’s that way.” She pointed and he took her arm holding onto the cycle with the other hand. It wobbled profusely and Catherine could not help but laugh. “Looks like your hopes are dashed to pieces, you won’t possibly ride that thing ever again now.”
“Oh I am a master of wobbly cycles.” He told her, “Watch this.” And to demonstrate he got on and proceeded to ride the cycle, which would not go in the direction for which he aimed it. Catherine doubled with laughter as the young man finally admitted defeat and got off it to lean it up against a wall. “Must have lost my touch.” He told her offering his arm again, “Never mind there’s plenty more where that came from.” He laughed at her expression, “I’m Greg Walters.” He told her, “I work over there see? That little blue building. I work for my dad. We hire out cycles to tourists.”
“Catherine grinned, “Nice to meet you Greg. My name is Catherine Chandler, and I am one of the tourists.”
“I’m very pleased to have run into you.” He laughed, “Pity you haven’t been to hire a cycle we might have run into one another sooner and found it much less painful.” He laughed, and Catherine found the joke so silly that she joined in.
“How long are you here for?” Greg asked her.
“A month, and we have been here a week already.”
“We?” he stopped walking, “Say I’m not going to get my nose bashed in for holding your arm by some boyfriend or something am I?” as he asked he picked up her left hand to search for an engagement or wedding ring.
Catherine reassured him, “No I am unattached and here with two friends of the female variety.”
“Phew, that’s a relief.”
They walked along talking about general things, mainly about the area and his father’s cycle shop until all too soon they reached the hotel. “Is this where you are staying?” Greg frowned, “Only the very rich stay here.”
Catherine ignored the remark, asking instead, “Won’t you come in for a drink? It’s so hot out here.” She hoped he would agree, but he looked at his watch, “I wish I could but dad was expecting me back half an hour ago, he’ll worry if I delay. I guess I should have gone to see him before escorting you back, but I didn’t think about it. I have to go back Catherine. It was nice meeting you.”
He turned to leave and Catherine felt immediately alone, “Greg don’t go. I mean can you come back later? Perhaps we can spend some time together.”
“You want to spend time with me!” Greg sounded incredulous, “Catherine just being at this hotel speaks volumes, I could never hope to compete with this. Why I doubt they’d even let me in wearing these old jeans and trainers.”
“Then lets meet somewhere else, at the cycle shop perhaps?”
Greg shook his head, “We’re poles apart Catherine, best not to start something we might regret.”
He was so honest it broke her heart. “We don’t have to start anything Greg, just to be friends would be nice.”
Greg reached for her hand, her fingers tingled, “Catherine can’t you feel it?”
Ignoring the feeling, she asked “Feel what?”
“I can’t believe you can’t feel anything. Less than half an hour I have known you, and when you smile my heart somersaults, and when your eyes light up my heart melts, and when I touch your hand Catherine, I feel a bolt of electricity run through my veins. I know that there is something between us. An attraction I am powerless to resist, and I really think it would be best if we didn’t start something that will only end up hurting one or both of us.”
Catherine nodded swallowing hard as he went on, “In another life perhaps Catherine, but not in this one. We have got to face the facts, we are worlds apart.” He shook his head sadly turning away and hurrying through the crowds. He brushed away the silent tears as they fell, glad that she had not seen them forming in his eyes. It was always the same with these tourists. So many beautiful women, always out of his reach, leaving behind nothing but his broken heart. Best not to get involved anymore he told himself. Still who was he trying to fool? He wouldn’t forget Catherine in a hurry. For the first time in his life he knew what real love was.

Catherine walked into the lobby out of the sunshine knowing that the sun had gone out of her life the moment she and Greg had waved goodbye. Not for the first time she cursed her fate, and for once she really wished that she could have been a shop assistant.
Letting herself into her hotel room she was happy to find it empty and flopped herself wearily onto the same sofa that Jenny had lain on earlier. It was closest to the balcony and a delicious breeze wafted through into the room over her hot skin. “What a day!” Catherine spoke aloud. She had met two very different men in the space of a few hours and neither, rich or poor had wanted her. Catherine felt totally depressed.
What was it with her? Would life forever be the same? Would she ever find the happiness her mother had wished for her to find?
Okay so she hadn’t been interested in men before, but two rejections in one day just when she had decided to start really was too much. And it didn’t give her much confidence for her future that was for certain.
Catherine felt like crying.

The following few days didn’t improve her way of thinking any, either. Torn between going along to the cycle shop and hiring a cycle just to see Greg crossed her mind more than once, but she decided against it. Somewhere out in this big wide world was someone who would love her unconditionally, for herself, not for whether she was within their league or not, and all she wanted to do was wait until she found him however long it took.
In the meantime she’d just have fun and forget about finding herself a deep and meaningful relationship until she was certain that she had met someone she could trust to spend her life with.
That Nancy and Jenny were relieved that the Mike thing had never got off the ground was plain to see and the three made a pact for the remainder of their holiday. They would do things together, not getting involved with anyone or hoping to get involved in a holiday romance. They would build memories to treasure and have no regrets to return home with.
And so as the second month came to its end and the three happy travellers said goodbye to their final holiday destination, they returned to America and to whatever lay in wait for them there.

*** *** ***

Chapter Five

The holiday to Mauritius, The Seychelles, Australia and New Zealand faded into the past, though was never forgotten, and Catherine became caught up with the many and varied cases that her father passed her way.
For several months she found much satisfaction in the work until the novelty wore off and Catherine came to realise that because of the Chandler name her father was able to pick and choose the cases he was asked to deal with.
And the smaller cases that helped the lowly people rarely landed on his desk for her father’s company much preferred cases belonging to the rich and famous. These were very often petty and could have been sorted out face to face, whereas those people that really needed an attorney were very often put to one side or allowed to go elsewhere. And so Catherine grew dissatisfied and began to feel that she could do so much more, yet was reluctant to tell her father so. She owed him so much and he held high hopes for her, she just couldn’t dash his dreams to pieces by confessing that she wanted to do things differently. Nonetheless the gloss of working for him soon wore off and in an attempt to lead a more meaningful life Catherine began to seek her own interests, often turning up late for work or not at all, after partying all night long.
Her colleagues tolerated her because she was the boss’s daughter and she became labelled with the tag ‘rich bitch.’
Catherine considered this totally uncalled for and sparked by jealousy, because deep down her personality was far removed from such a label, yet she had to admit reluctantly that this was the image she had set for herself.
Thus the happy life that her mother had wished for her remained as elusive as ever and Catherine despaired of ever being able to find it.

One evening at a party held by someone she knew only slightly, someone she had met in fact from a previous party, Catherine noticed a man she had never seen before watching her with interest. Subtly, every time she looked in his direction he seemed to be otherwise occupied, yet when she turned her eyes from him, his own seemed to bore right through her back. Finally unable to stand it no longer Catherine marched boldly straight up to him and introduced herself, “Hi I’m Catherine Chandler.”
Taken aback he smiled slowly, “Daniel Hunter.” He told her taking her offered hand, “I’ve been watching you all evening.”
“Yes I know. I felt your eyes upon me. I’ve not seen you before. Do you live around here?”
“No, I’m passing through, someone mentioned there was to be a party here tonight, and well, here I am. I thought I may as well try it out, I’ve nothing else to do before my flight tomorrow.”
“Where are you going?”
“Back to my family.”
“Your family?” Catherine enquired, sipping her drink thoughtfully.
“My wife and children.”
“Oh.”
“That doesn’t mean that I have to spend my last night here alone though. My wife and I have this understanding.”
Catherine laughed, “You are very forthright, and I suppose you expect that I will spend the night with you?”
“But of course, isn’t that why you took the initiative instead of waiting for me to pluck up the courage and come to you?”
Catherine laughed, “No I was just curious, and I’m not into breaking up marriages.”
“You wouldn’t be doing. My marriage was over long ago, but then I’m not looking for a permanent relationship. Just a one-night stand will suffice. How do you feel about that? I’m told that I am a good lover and you could give me your verdict in the morning?” He grinned.
Catherine gasped ‘well really!’ She couldn’t believe she was hearing him right. When she’d recovered she laughed somewhat shakily, and told him, “I’d have no one to compare you with I’m afraid.” She felt her knees weaken. The whole thing was absurd. Here she was talking to a complete stranger about going to bed with him, when she had never slept with anyone before in her life. Was she that desperate?
“You’re a virgin?” He sounded surprised.
“Is it so terrible?”
“Not at all. More like a rarity. I wouldn’t have expected someone as beautiful as you to be short of admirers. I’d be honoured to be your first lover and show you the ropes.”
“I’m sure you would but for once you have to be satisfied with thinking of me as the one that got away. I’m sorry, as attractive as you are, I really want to wait a little longer for someone special if you don’t mind?”
“That’s okay and I hope that you find him, but let me give you some advice if you don’t mind?”
Catherine nodded wondering what he might say.
“If you don’t want to get burned quit mixing with people at parties like these. Such parties are too wild for you. Mix with your own sort Catherine or you might find yourself caught in at the deep end one day with no way of getting out. Don’t do that to yourself Catherine, believe me, I know what I am talking about.”
Catherine nodded. It was like speaking with Nancy all over again, and Catherine had to admit she still hadn’t found what it was she was looking for and wondered if she would recognise it even if she did. No matter where she went and with whom, she just never seemed to fit in.

Quitting the parties Catherine started going out to concerts. The soothing music was like balm to her shattered nerves especially when the darkness fell. Sometimes shadows caught her eye, almost as if she were being watched yet when she turned her eyes to the feeling she saw nothing but pitch darkness.
Her father was concerned about her. She never seemed to have a boyfriend and he thought that strange. She had told him that she was afraid of making the wrong choice, but he wondered if perhaps she was being overly picky, and so he decided to show fatherly wisdom and help her make a choice.
“Catherine?” he called to her one day after she had put in an appearance at the office.
“Hello daddy, sorry I’m late.”
He brushed her apology aside, “I’m holding a dinner party at the house on Friday. I’d very much like it if you could attend, there is someone I’d like to introduce you to.”
Catherine nodded. She had attended her father’s parties many times and they were usually as exciting as a day at the office, but she had nothing better lined up in her diary that she did know, and besides her father liked showing her off. If nothing else it was the chance to wear one of her stunning gowns and to spend some time with people that she knew would be there and hadn’t seen in a while.

The night of the party arrived and Catherine found herself mingling with guests all evening, laughing at her father’s obvious intentions. “Daddy”, she took him aside to whisper in his ear, “Why have you invited so many single men?” She grinned.
Her father actually had the grace to blush and Catherine laughed, “You are so transparent you know that? And you make me feel like some prize that you are giving away. Just look at them. Everywhere I go I can hear them talking about me” She teased him lightly, though inside she felt so embarrassed.
Charles didn’t know how to answer. He had thought he was doing the right thing and hadn’t thought about how it would look. Catherine he noticed kept her distance from the many men there preferring to speak to Marilyn or his good friend Kay and never gave any of the male guests a second glance. They were, in turn, polite to her but in the main the reason for being invited became blatantly obvious and they liked it little more than Catherine.
And so as the dinner party drew to its conclusion Catherine couldn’t help giving a sigh of relief. When suddenly the doorbell rang. “Who can it be at this late hour?” Marilyn asked her, “Perhaps it is someone who has forgotten his coat.”
Catherine was nearest to the door and reached out to open it a ready smile upon her lips that froze the moment she pulled open the door. “Hi,” the deep and masculine voice greeted her, “Am I too late? I’m afraid I got the directions wrong.”
Catherine continued to stare at him. He had the most expressive grey eyes she had ever seen and a smile that transformed his whole face and lit up his eyes when he spoke.
“Can I come in?” He asked a little bemused.
“What? Oh yes of course.” ‘Where were her manners?’ Catherine heard herself mumble an apology and then offered to take his coat.
”Is Charles in there?” he asked pointing to the sitting room door. Catherine could only nod, watching as he stepped into the room leaving her alone with Marilyn.
“Who was that!” Catherine heard herself asking. Marilyn shook her head, “I’ve never seen him before, but I’d give anything to be twenty years younger and challenge you for him.”
Catherine laughed somewhat nervously. What had happened to her? Her whole body was at war with her mind. “Look at me,” she held out her hand for Marilyn’s scrutiny, “I’m shaking. No one has ever affected me like that in my life. I’m going in there, I must find out who he is.”
Pushing open the door Catherine found it gave easily as it was opened from the inside by her father, “Catherine there you are. I’d like you to meet my guest of honour. Brad Weston meet my beautiful daughter.” Then turning to Marilyn he added, “Marilyn could you show Brad the way to the kitchen, it appears Brad got lost on his way over here, and I’m sure he must be hungry. There is plenty more food on the table.”
“No, that’s all right no food for me, I’m not hungry Charles. Could do with a drink though.”
“I’ll fetch you one” Catherine heard herself saying as she walked passed him into the room where just a few of the guests remained talking low in small groups. Aware he had followed her she asked, “What will it be?”
“Do you have any wine?”
“Well yes. Red, rose’, white, sweet, dry or wet.” She couldn’t resist the last and literally melted when he laughed with her.
“Whatever there is I don’t mind. Just surprise me.” He told her his eyes never leaving her face.
Catherine poured him a glass of sweet red wine and when she handed it to him their fingers touched just briefly and Catherine felt a jolt of desire run straight through her. She gasped, and he watched her over the rim of his glass and noticed the rising colour of a blush creep up her throat to infuse her cheeks as he sipped the red wine. “So you’re Catherine.” The way he said it made her skin tingle and she could only nod. Words just would not form and she chided herself for acting so foolishly. “I’m sorry.” She found herself saying and forcing herself to act normally, “Have you been driving around all night?”
“More or less. Actually I did get into one party, the wrong one of course. I saw all these people going in and thought I had found the place at last and just followed them in. No one said anything. I had drinks and chatted and when it came time for everyone to go into dinner, guess who never had a place reserved for them?”
Catherine laughed out loud, all her nervousness leaving her, “Oh that must have been so embarrassing?”
“It was. Everyone was sat there just looking at me and at that point I realised I must be at the wrong place or had got the wrong day or something. I looked around for your father and asked someone where he was. It was then that they told me he lived two blocks away. It was one of those occasions that you wish the ground would open up and swallow you. I made a hasty exit I can tell you.”
Catherine laughed out loud, catching her father’s eye as she did so. His obvious pleasure was plain to see.
Brad followed her glance, “Father’s huh? He’s an open book isn’t he?”
“What do you mean?”
“Mine’s just the same. Always match making. Always trying to tie up the family fortune to someone else’s. I usually find these kind of parties a strain and avoid them like the plague.”
“So what was different about this one?”
“I’d heard that Charles had a beautiful daughter.”
Catherine blushed.
“But I’d heard wrong.” He whispered and Catherine found herself staring open mouthed at him.
“She’s more than beautiful.” He told her softly, “she’s absolutely gorgeous in fact.”
“Thank you.” Catherine replied smiling happily.
“Now it’s your turn.”
Catherine smiled at him, “My turn?”
“Yes don’t I deserve a compliment.” The way he’d said it was in no way chauvinistic, a hint of humour in his voice told her that he was making light of the situation. Catherine told him truthfully, “I had no idea you were coming. To tell the truth I didn’t know who was coming. The party was my father’s idea and I wasn’t really in the mood, but I had nothing else planned...”
“I can’t believe that. A beautiful woman like you, why you must have a packed diary.”
Catherine shook her head, “No, just lately I can’t seem to find anything that actually interests me.”
“Yes I know what you mean. The expression been there done that wears a bit thin doesn’t it when you are wealthy. And when you have been brought up geared to finding the right partner parties like this can become quite a drag. As I grew up, I for one, seldom felt that I led my own life. It was always governed by what my parents thought I needed. Did you ever find that?”
“I still do. Oh daddy isn’t so bad, He loves me and since my mother died I guess it hasn’t been easy taking on the role of both parents. He’s had to miss out on a lot just to bring me up and I know that he only wants what’s best for me. Sometimes though I do feel like you say and wish I could do things my own way. Though I must admit I have often rebelled against his guidelines.”
Brad finished his wine and grinned, “What sort of things are you interested in, other than law, which by the way is what I do.”
“Really?”
Brad nodded. “Real husband material eh?”
Catherine chose to ignore the remark, saying instead, “I like travelling, meeting people going to the concert. I’ve tried the wild party bit and night clubbing, but they are not for me. I have a handful of good friends but basically I am a loner. I like my own company with a good book.”
Brad nodded, “Same here. You know Catherine perhaps for once we could make the olds happy and pal up together. What do you say? Would you be agreeable to giving me a trial run?”
Catherine laughed out loud. Oh she loved his humour. It was like a breath of fresh air, after the stuffiness of some of the men she had spoken to that night. “Yes I think I would like that. We seem to have some things in common and at least it would stop daddy throwing embarrassing parties like this one in my honour. I feel like the top prize in a competition.”
It was Brad’s turn to laugh, “Tell you what then, I’ll pick you up at seven from here tomorrow evening, take you out to dinner and we can get to know one another better. How does that sound?”
Catherine nodded, “It sounds great, only I don’t live here. I’ll give you my address, have you a pen and paper?”
He produced some, and Catherine jotted down her address handing it back to him, “That’s not too far from where I work.” he told her.
Catherine grinned “I shall look forward to seeing you quite often then.”

Brad was very good company. Only a few years older than Catherine but he had done so many things, and had tried his hand at a variety of different sports, and Catherine found him great to be with.
A fact for which her father was deliriously happy, “I can’t believe it Catherine, you and Brad Weston. He’s a top lawyer and his family is very wealthy. You would make a wonderful couple and produce fine children.” He told her after she had dated Brad several times.
Catherine couldn’t help telling Brad about her father’s words when she saw him again the following evening.
“See?” He told her “What did I tell you? It’s the match maker thing again. Why do they do it?” for the first time Catherine detected that he was serious, and waited for him to continue, sure he was leading up to something. “Generally,” he told her at last, “When the olds start to meddle in my life like that, whomever I am seeing at the time, I drop like a hot brick. But this time it’s different with you. For once I believe in my parents. They like you, your father approves of me and I more than like you Cathy. In fact I think I am falling in love with you, but hey I’m not the settling down type. So I’m not going to offer you a future with me, not yet anyway, besides we haven’t known one another long enough, but how would you feel about deepening this relationship of ours?”
Catherine couldn’t find her voice, she swallowed with difficulty, “Brad I...”
“Look you don’t have to say anything right now. Just give it some thought okay? But Cathy, I would really like to make love with you.” Reaching forward he held her close and kissed her passionately. Catherine felt her head swim and her heart pounded. His kiss was glorious and she moaned softly, and felt all reason fly out of her mind. As Brad’s hands started to caress her Catherine leaned weakly against him, surprised to hear herself utter his name, with longing. “Give me an answer Cathy. Do you want me as I want you?” His kisses continued along the line of her jaw and nibble the lobe of her ear, as his hands continued their slow exploration of her most intimate parts, and Catherine found herself unable to deny him anything.
“Yes.” She whispered, her eyes glazed. She loved him, “Brad yes.”
“Let’s get the car, I know just the place.” He told her breathlessly, continuing to touch her intimately even as they walked from the park where the concert had finished almost half an hour earlier. Most of the people had drifted away long ago but Catherine and Brad had stayed to sit and talk, until the lights were switched off one by one. Catherine felt as though she were floating. His kisses soothed her and took away any nervousness she might have felt, and she could think of nothing else but of his making love to her.
“Where shall we go?” she asked as they drove away from the city.
“I have a place I like to use.” He told her.
“You like to use?” She drew her brows together, some warning pricked at the back of her mind, “What do you mean by that?”
Something in her voice told Brad to tread carefully. He had almost frightened her off and he wanted her desperately. Hadn’t he done so from the moment they had met? All those weeks of entertaining her had caused him great agony and now he had her exactly where he wanted her. “It’s a place I go to when I want to be by myself to unwind.” He lied and Catherine accepted that.
“Is it your own place?”
“Yes one of them. I own several houses. This one is particularly beautiful. Do you like horse riding? There are stables we could go for a ride in the morning if you like?”
“That would be wonderful, but I shall have to call daddy or he will worry. He always calls me just after eleven. I’ve never stayed out all night before.”
“Never?” He raised an enquiring eyebrow.
“No.”
“But what about other relationships? I mean... sorry perhaps I shouldn’t have asked.”
“No it’s okay, I don’t mind. Actually there never has been another relationship. You are the first.”
Brad slammed his foot down hard on the brake, and the car screeched to a halt lurching them both forwards. He turned and stared at her for some moments before asking, “Are you telling me that you are a virgin?”
Catherine laughed out loud, “What is it with that word? Every person I tell takes it as some sort of hands off sign. Are you going to tell me that you don’t want me now because of it?”
“Not at all. I’m just surprised to find someone in their twenties as beautiful as you is still a virgin that’s all.
” “Don’t you like the idea?” Catherine felt hurt but Brad was quick to console her, “It’s not that way at all honey. I feel honoured and somewhat ashamed. Cathy to tell the truth I have wanted to make love with you from the first moment that we met and I have enjoyed your company throughout these weeks, but I never believed that I had found such a gem, a pure gem, and I don’t know what to say. Are you certain you want your first time to be with me?”
“I love you Brad. I’ve never been in love before and I’m not looking for marriage or anything like that, either. Mainly because you are the first person I have been involved with. But you have to admit that we are good together, and perhaps if we had a deeper relationship it might lead somewhere. What do you say?”
“I’ll go along with that, if you are sure. You are right we are good together and maybe we could make it work. I guess every guy is searching for the untouched virgin and knowing I have found one and hearing I am to be your first lover well that makes me feel proud somehow. Makes me want to take care of you, look after you, see that you come to no harm. You are special Catherine Chandler, but on top of all that I feel somehow that having waited this long, you should continue to wait until you are wed. I’m not proposing or anything, but I just don’t want to be the one to give you any regrets. Do you know what I am saying?”
Catherine had listened to him and had understood, “Yes, but Brad I’m not a little girl anymore. Simply I have had chances to get involved but declined the offers. Once I dated this guy called Stephen. He told me the same things as you just have, and those things sounded lovely. At that time I really felt as though I needed someone other than my father to take care of me, but I couldn’t sleep with him. The chemistry just wasn’t there. With you though something clicked, and personally I think we will make good lovers. You will have to teach me, but nothing has changed Brad. I want you to make love to me.”
Brad nodded and started up the engine, taking her hand in his as he changed gear and pulled forward, “Then I would be happy to show you the ropes.” He told her happily, “And don’t worry about a thing Cathy, I’ll be responsible too.”

Brad was a tender and gentle lover, and Catherine knew that she had made the right choice. As the weeks turned into months he taught her so much. Some nights wild and passionate, others tender and slow, and they continued to get along well, but though Catherine knew that she loved him there was still that niggling something that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Brad seemed only too happy to let things continue as they were without making any commitment, and her father commented on it one afternoon as Catherine came in late for work yet again.
Looking at his watch he made it plainly obvious that he was annoyed with her, “Cathy it’s almost two o’clock, where on earth have you been?”
“Sorry daddy. Brad and I went out riding the horses, we just lost track of the time.”
“Cathy you don’t need me to remind you how irresponsible this relationship with Brad is. What time did you start off riding?”
“About ten o’clock”
“Ten o’clock! But Cathy you were supposed to have been here at nine.”
“Don’t fuss daddy. Brad’s a nice guy you said so yourself.”
“I know he is Cathy, but where’s it all going? Almost a year already and no plans I see. Cathy I don’t want to have to say this but it would appear I have underestimated Bradley Weston.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’ve been doing some checking up on him. It’s true, his parents do want to see him settle down and marry some nice rich girl, just as much as I would like to see you marry a wealthy man, but it seems that Brad has rebelled against his parents all his life. He’s not the settling down type Cathy and I hear he has rather played the field. I’m only telling you this because I care about you Cathy.”
“Daddy don’t fret so. I know where I stand with Brad. We both want the same things, and besides I’m not ready to settle down just yet.”
Charles sighed, “when will you be? You aren’t getting any younger Cathy. If you leave it too late you’ll be too old to have any children.
” Catherine laughed, putting her arms affectionately around her father’s shoulders, “Oh daddy, I know you want grandchildren but really there is plenty of time.”
“For you may be, unfortunately I want to be able to enjoy my grandchildren before I am too decrepit to do so.”
Catherine laughed out loud, “You’ll never be decrepit daddy, remember the skin horse.”
“What! I have to wait until my hair and eyes fall out first do I?” He smiled at her. What was he going to do with her? She could wind him around her little finger. “Promise me something Cathy, at least think about what I have told you. If you think Brad is the one be prepared to know that he may not be. Be aware of that Cathy and then you won’t get hurt.”
“Daddy, don’t worry so, I know what I am doing.”

Despite her assurances Catherine found her father’s kindly advice returning to torment her over the following weeks. Brad was planning his future, travelling here, travelling there and none of his plans included her. He had started she’d noticed, to say I’m and I, rather than we’re and we. Catherine didn’t know whether it was intentional or whether it was something he had often done, but she did notice that she begun to see less of him.
In a funny way though she didn’t mind that. Her father had introduced her to more of his colleagues since and she found her attention drawn to a man her father had spoken of often. He was an architect and a good one at that.
Long before she and Brad started drifting apart Catherine made up her mind that the next time she saw Tom Gunther she would make certain that she sought him out and get to know him better.
Her chance came a few weeks later when she literally bumped into him at a concert in the park.
“Hello Catherine Chandler isn’t it?” she heard the voice and recognised it at once, turning with a ready smile on her lips, “Tom! How nice to see you, are you here alone?” She looked around, there didn’t appear to be anyone with him.
He nodded, “I was stood up I’m afraid. And you, are you here alone?”
Catherine shook her head, “No my boyfriend is mingling with the crowds, he saw someone that he knows.”
“And left you all alone! I would never do that.”
Catherine blushed and stammered, “I didn’t realise that you enjoyed going to the concert.”
“Oh absolutely I was weaned on them.”
Catherine laughed, “Me too. My parents took me to my first concert right here when was five. My birthday treat as a matter of fact.”
“I was even younger than that. Would you believe two months old? Apparently I screamed along with the orchestra and my parents were asked very politely if they would leave.” He laughed heartily, “they did, but they left me here.”
Catherine’s mouth dropped open wide, “they left you?”
“Father was a bit of a comic. After all only he and my mother were asked to leave. Nothing was said about me. Don’t worry they didn’t move far away and kept a firm eye on me. Besides it wasn’t long before someone picked up my carry cot and charged after them.”
Catherine laughed heartily, “I would loved to have seen that. Is you father still alive?”
“Sadly no. I miss him greatly. He was a wonderful character.”
“I can imagine. I bet he would have got on well with my father.”
“Your father has a sense of humour!” Tom asked with disbelief making Catherine laugh again, “Yes actually he does.” She told him, “obviously you don’t know him that well?”
“I’d like the opportunity to do so. I know him of course, who doesn’t, but seriously I also admire him. He brought you up single-handed didn’t he? And made a perfect job of it if you don’t mind me saying so.”
“Why thank you he will be thrilled to hear it.”
“Is this your long-lost boyfriend coming toward us?” Tom asked as Brad reached Catherine’s side and surveyed Tom from beneath hooded eyes.
"Who’s your friend Cathy?” he asked dryly.
“Brad Weston meet Tom Gunther, a friend of my father’s.”
Tom offered his hand, which Brad declined, “A friend of your father’s you say, nice to meet you Mr. Gunther. Well if you are ready Cathy, we had best be getting off home.”
“But we haven’t heard the second half yet Brad. Surely you are staying for that?”
“No I’ve a busy day tomorrow. I need an early night.”
Flustered Catherine could only stare at Brad’s lack of manners and turning to Tom told him, “It was nice to speak to you Tom, perhaps we’ll meet again soon.”
“I’d like that. Thanks for the chat Cathy.”
Brad tugged her away, mimicking Tom sarcastically, “thanks for the chat Cathy, yeah and the rest.”
Catherine was so furious she tugged her arm away and rounded on Brad, “How could you be so rude? Why, you didn’t even shake his hand.”
“Did you see the way he was looking at you?” Brad tugged her harder, “He almost undressed you with his eyes.”
Catherine laughed, “that’s rubbish, we were just having a conversation. He doesn’t think of me in that way. Stop being so ridiculous.” She laughed out loud but Brad eyes when he stopped to look down at her told her that he was being deadly serious. “I tell you Cathy, he fancies you. Men know about these things and I don’t want you speaking to him again.”
Catherine bit her lower lip tugging at the soft flesh with her teeth. She had never seen Brad so possessive before, and it scared her, so she attempted to change the subject.
“What are you doing tomorrow then?”
“Tomorrow?” He was evasive.
“Yes you told me back there that you have a busy day planned tomorrow.”
“What? Oh yes that. I do. That chap I was speaking to. He asked if I would like to go over to his house that he’s had built. Seems he’s a bit down on his luck and wants to sell it at a loss for a quick sale. I thought I’d take a look, it could be a good investment.”
“Where is the house?”
“Westport.”
“Really, then I could visit Nancy she is living there now.”
“You?”
“Yes me. I take it I was included in these plans of yours?”
“Whatever for? No I was going alone. I’ll see you tomorrow evening though.”
Catherine stood her ground, “No Brad. Look let’s face facts shall we? You and I well we’re going nowhere. You suit yourself and that’s fine, I don’t mind really but when it comes to taking me away from something that I was enjoying just to make a point, well that’s something else entirely. And as you have plans tomorrow that don’t include me, even though you know I have a friend out that way, I think that’s kind of selfish. Besides which I was enjoying the concert and you have pulled me away, just because you are going somewhere early tomorrow.”
“Hey if it means that much to you, you can come. I just didn’t think you’d be interested.”
“That’s right Brad I’m not. Not anymore, I think you and I have gone as far as we can take it. We have had some good times Brad and I will never forget you but we both know it’s a dead end. We both know what you want from life but it isn’t what I want anymore.”
“What are you saying Cathy. We’re good together. Don’t walk out on me Cathy.”
“I’m sorry Brad.”
“So that’s it then, we’re finished?”
Catherine nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
“Okay.” He turned and walked away. Catherine stared after him. She couldn’t believe it. How often had he pledged his undying love even though he expressed no permanence in their relationship? His sudden acceptance of her wishes was like a slap in the face. Catherine stood there watching as he made his way to his car without so much as a backward glance.
And for some moments after his car pulled away, she felt lost. The second half of the concert several yards away had started, and she suddenly felt vulnerable on her own. A movement in the shadows caught her eye. She froze, and then a familiar voice lifted her spirits. “Oh dear, I hope I wasn’t the cause of that?” Catherine turned to see Tom alongside her, and the shadowy figure moved out of range.
“Cathy?”
“What? Oh sorry Tom?” He followed her gaze.
“What is it?”
“I don’t know. Just someone I guess.”
“I’ve noticed him before Cathy don’t worry, he’s harmless. I think he has something wrong with his face. He keeps it covered. Now back to your boyfriend, did I cause an argument between you both or something?”
Catherine watched the cloaked figure merge into the shadows until she could see him no more, and dragged her gaze away.
“No.” She uttered quietly. She felt very strange all of the sudden like she had just lost the best half of herself or something. Shaking herself she told Tom, “No Brad just wants an early night, and I didn’t. I wanted to hear the rest of the concert.”
“And I couldn’t concentrate on it alone, so how about you and I enjoying it together?” He held out his arm, and Catherine took it gratefully, “Yes I’d like that Tom thank you.” She walked back with him to her vacated seat quite happily.
Still though she kept glancing back towards the shadows in the direction the cloaked figure had taken and for the life of her she couldn't understand why.

*** *** ***


It was actually some years later before Catherine started dating Tom regularly. After that night at the concert, he made no further approach to her, and Catherine knuckled down to working with her father as while going from one relationship to another she continually searched for her happy life.
Even Stephen came back on the scene at some stage, and seemed to Catherine for a time that he would make her happy. They made plans, and dreamed dreams, but in time that too led nowhere and Catherine despaired that she would ever meet someone to be with forever.
Analysing her life one day she thought back on all her relationships. First there was Stephen, an attraction back in her school days and though she had dreams at first the relationship did not go beyond friendship.
Then there was Mike, the one day thing, well not even a day, and only about an hour really. Nonetheless that experience, short as it was, was enough to build from. And shortly after that the meeting with Greg only emphasised the difference between herself and people who frequented different walks of life. That and her father’s persistence that she had to marry someone within her own league, made it doubly hard for Catherine to fall in love with the ‘right’ kind of man. Those she was attracted too, were very often below her, as her father would say.
There was the conversation with Daniel Hunter, he too in his own way had seen through her and pointed out the folly of mixing with the wrong people, and then there was Brad who had taught her many things, not least the art of loving. Her turbulent relationship with Brad had taught her that some men are plain selfish, but at least she had known that from the start as far as he was concerned. Brad fitted into his own mould, he wanted as much out of life as he possibly could with the attitude, ‘there are plenty more fish in the sea’ and it wasn’t long after their split that she saw him with a pretty brunette attached to his arm. Catherine didn’t really mind, she and Brad had had fun, he had been a good companion and a beautiful lover and she was happy for him when she found out he was stepping forth onto life’s highway onto grander things.
And so after that night Catherine drifted merrily along until Stephen came back into her life, and as that relationship fizzled out she went from one relationship to another quite happily but none of them permanent.
Only Tom was different.
The brief time they had shared at the concert told her that what Brad lacked Tom had in abundance, and he was certainly the settling down type. Unfortunately he had ambitions that he wanted to achieve first, and it was many years later before she actually met him once again at one of her father’s match making parties.
By this time Tom had gone up in the world and had made a good name for himself. He was well liked and sought after in his line of business, so that when he met Catherine again, he felt that he had something to offer her.
He wanted her with him constantly and he set guidelines for punctuality and a good day’s work, never keeping her out late.
Everything he did he took seriously, and in many respects after the people she had dated, Catherine found this attitude solid and reliable and leaned on Tom heavily.
He even found Catherine another apartment, one nearer her office so that she had no excuses for being late into work. Charles approved of Tom wholeheartedly. Tom was just what his wayward daughter needed, a firm but loving hand. That Brad, who had been the last long term relationship his daughter had been involved in, had been too irresponsible, too ready to play rather than work despite the fact that as a lawyer he ought to have known better.
Charles hoped that he had taught Catherine far better manners than that, a lawyer needed to be dependable. Other people’s lives rested on the outcome of good tactics within the boundaries of the law. Unlike Brad, and many others she had known since, when Tom spoke of the future he always included Catherine in his plans and for a while Catherine found this a pleasant change, until the time came when he seemed to take her for granted. His assumption that she would do what he suggested began to grate on her nerves. Yet even her own feelings did not please her, “What is it with you Chandler?” She asked herself more than once, “A man who doesn’t include you gets on your nerves and a man who does also gets on your nerves. Just what is it that you are searching for girl?” She could find no answer to that. Was there an answer?
Somewhere at the back of her mind she knew that there had to be for hadn’t her mother wished for her to have a happy life?
Yet if having a happy life meant that one had no qualms whatsoever about a certain relationship then she was yet to find it. But if having a happy life meant that one could learn to live around the little niggles at the back of the mind, then she could have been happy with Brad, Stephen or even Mike come to that.
Somehow Catherine knew that wasn’t right, for from what she could remember of her mother, a happy life was total, not settling for anything less, having no reservations whatsoever, and above all being loved for oneself, and not for that which one represented. Yet did perfection like that actually exist outside of dreams and fairy tales?

Over a period of weeks Catherine did a lot of soul searching. Clearly Tom was a good man, he worked hard and he loved her. He included her in all his plans and her father adored him, so when Tom suggested that they marry Catherine did not hesitate, for as far as being happy was concerned, she could be happy with Tom. Well as happy as she could be, for it seemed to her that maybe what she was holding out for, was actually an impossibility and that she would never be able to find it.
Tom would make a fine husband of that she was certain and together they presented an impressive couple.
Her father was overjoyed when they announced their plans, “I‘d begun to think that this day would never come Catherine.” He told her happily hugging her tight, “I had begun to despair that you would ever settle down. Tom is a good fellow and he loves you, I know that you will both be happy. What? Something in his daughter’s expression worried him.
“Its nothing dad. I know that Tom loves me and we will have a good life...”
“But?” Her father worried even more at her hesitation to finish what she was saying.
“Cathy you do love Tom don’t you?”
“Yes dad. Of course I do, but can I ask you something?”
“Of course.”
Catherine took a deep breath, “Mummy wanted me to have a happy life and I have taken my time choosing the right person in the hope of achieving her wish, but dad, I don’t know if I am reaching too high. Somehow no one has come up to my expectations to fulfil mummy’s wish, not even Tom. Can you understand that?”
“Yes and I know what the problem might be. Catherine happiness like your mother and I shared didn’t happen overnight. We fell in love and we married but we each had our reservations. But with love Catherine anything is possible and over the years we grew together. Grew more in love with each other in fact and that’s what made us happy.
Happiness has to be built up Catherine it just doesn’t come overnight. Providing the foundation is solid, that is that you have love between you, then happiness can be built from that.”
“You know dad I have never thought of that before. Thank you. I should have spoken to you about this sooner. It looks as though I have wasted too long searching for something that isn’t always apparent at the start, and I have let doubts cloud my thinking more often than I should have.”
“I don’t know Catherine, there is a right time for everything, had you of known this sooner you may still be with Brad Weston or Stephen Bach and really Tom is a much more solid fellow. You will be happy with Tom, I know it.”
Catherine hugged her father. For the first time in a long time she felt positive about her future. Maybe she and Tom could make it together after all and the relief that knowledge gave her was tremendous. From now on there would be nothing more to worry about. She would marry Tom, and they would have their happy life. What more could she ask of life than that?

*** *** ***

Chapter Six

Back to the Present Day



No sooner had Catherine let herself into her apartment later that evening after sorting through her father’s belongings all day, then did she hear a soft tapping at her balcony window.
Crossing the room putting down her bag, keys and a large box in passing, she flung open the doors wide to allow Vincent entry and ran straight into his arms.
“Vincent” she cried breathlessly, “I’m so glad that you are here, I needed you.”
“I know you did. I have felt such sadness from you all day. I needed to come to be with you.”
“Come inside Vincent. Can you stay awhile?”
Vincent hesitated. The memory of his last visit at her apartment was still fresh in his mind. “I don’t think...” He begun, but her persistent “Please” and the begging in her eyes made him change his mind.
“I need someone to talk to.” She told him truthfully. “Going through my father’s most treasured things all day, I kept finding things that brought back so many memories. I kept finding myself wanting to shout and say, ‘Daddy do you remember this? Or Daddy I didn’t know you had kept this’, but of course I couldn’t and that was the saddest part of it all. Vincent please, if you can stay I would really like to go through the whole box again and share my past with you. Please will you stay?”
Vincent sighed, “How can I not? Of course I will stay. But you must be tired, perhaps another night would be better?”
“No there are too many things fresh in my mind. I need to share them tonight, I will never sleep until I do.”
“Then I will stay. Have you eaten?”
“Not yet, I’ll make myself some soup and toast, would you care for some?”
“No but a cup of tea would be nice.”
“Then make yourself comfortable, I won’t be long.”

Vincent took off his cloak trailing the length of it over the back of a chair and sat down on one of the sofas. The room was warm and welcoming, he had always thought so, but it had been a long time before he had felt comfortable enough to step inside her home. Now that he had he wondered why he had ever maintained it to be such a big step. Everything was so Catherine. So soft and light.
Catherine returned within minutes, a tray in hand filled with toast, a dish of soup, cups and pot of tea for two. Settling them down upon the table between the two sofas, Catherine poured the tea and began to tell Vincent about her day.
“I knew daddy kept this special box Vincent.” She told him reaching for the box “he used to call it his treasure trove. I’ll just go and wash my buttery hands before I open it.”
When she returned she lifted the lid and carefully extracted the items from inside that she had cried over earlier that day.
“This book Vincent was daddy’s favourite. I read it out at his funeral. He would read it to me when I was very young, but still the words are poignant to me. Here is a photograph of the day that I received the book, on my fifth birthday.”
Vincent studied the photograph, “What is in your hand Catherine?”
She took the photograph from him, “It’s a velveteen rabbit, it came with the book. I called him Bobby.”
“Do you still have him?”
“No I lost him not long after getting him in fact.”
“Do you know where you lost him?”
“Yes we had been picnicking in the park. We went every Saturday come rain or shine and Bobby fell out of the basket on the way back to the car. We went back later to look for him with the flashlight but he had gone.”
“I think I know where he is.” Catherine swivelled herself around to look at Vincent. His eyes shone with something she couldn’t quite fathom. “Where?” she whispered.
“In my chamber, inside a box. Devin found a toy identical to this in the park one night. It might not be the same one, but...”
“It could be?”
“Yes. Was there any distinguishing marks, anything you can remember?”
Catherine shook her head, “No wait! I tied a ribbon around his neck it was a green one I think. I remember because the one thing I didn’t like about him was the black ribbon he wore, and I changed it for a colour I did like.”
Vincent nodded, “Yes it is green.” He shook his head with disbelief, “How I used to wonder about whom had dropped the rabbit there. It is too incredible to know it was you.”
“And I used to hope that whomever had found him would love him as much as I did. I can hardly believe this Vincent.”
“To even think that you and your parents spent every Saturday in the park is something inconceivable to me. To think we were only ever feet away from each other, even at that time, on such a regular basis too.”
“Vincent when you were younger did you ever walk the shadows of the park and watch the audience in the concert as well as sitting below it?”
“Yes I did. I used to wonder about their lives. Why do you ask?”
“Sometimes when I sat in the audience I had a feeling that I was being watched. I believe now it was your eyes that were upon me, and if that is so then don’t you agree there has been something developing between us all these years?”
Vincent nodded slowly unable to speak, as Catherine gasped all of a sudden, “The night with Tom!” She clapped a hand to her mouth, “I saw you!” Vincent I saw you! Tom even said something about you. That he’d seen you before, that you were harmless and that you kept your face covered for some reason. Vincent you were just yards away from where I stood! For a few nights after that I couldn’t get you out of my mind.”
“Did I frighten you?”
Catherine shook her head. “No, it wasn’t that. There was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It was so strange. You’ll probably laugh but I felt as if I should know you.”
“I’m not laughing Catherine. Our destines were entwined long ago, maybe your heart recognised that fact even at that time.”
“Or perhaps we have met before, in another life. Perhaps we were even together in another life. I have never thought of that before. Perhaps we were just destined to find one another again.”
Vincent was silent, he wanted to believe, but as yet he couldn’t. To think that they should be together was something that he had never allowed himself to hope for, and he wasn’t about to do so just now. For long moments Catherine stared at him, the possibility was too incredible for words.
Reaching out a hand she absentmindedly delved into the box again, pulling out another photograph. “Here is another photograph of me, also taken when I was five, but at a school presentation. Apparently I had drawn an amazing picture that had won first prize. Daddy must have been so proud of me that day, see how he beams. Mummy must have taken the picture of the two of us together.”
“What did you draw?”
“I don’t remember now, and all this photograph says on the reverse is, “Prize giving for Special Friends Artwork, so I guess it must have been something along those lines. I searched right through the box for anything to tell me more, but could find nothing else.”
Vincent picked up the photograph, smiling at Catherine in her school uniform and put it down at his side.
From the box Catherine extracted yet another photograph. “This is Jenny, Nancy and I in Mauritius. We went there for a whole month, it was a beautiful island.”
“What is that?” Vincent asked as something in the box caught his eye. Catherine picked up the old rubber ball smiling affectionately. “You remember I told you about my father’s clowning with the red nose to make me laugh when I was crying?”
“Yes.”
“This was his very first red nose. Before he bought a plastic clowns nose to use thereafter. He wanted to throw this one away because he found the smell of rubber overpowering.” She laughed, “but I wouldn’t let him. I kept this old ball for years just for the memory until one day I put it in the litter bin. Until today I had no idea that daddy had salvaged it and put it in his treasure-trove. I guess he couldn’t bear to part with it either.”
Catherine placed the ball to one side and picked up a letter, before tears started to gather in her eyes again at the memory it brought forth. “This letter was from Nancy. I don’t know why daddy kept it, or how it came to be in his box. Perhaps I had thrown it away too and daddy kept it. When I read it over today I realised it was something I should never have parted with, perhaps daddy realised that. It’s a special letter from a special friend. Many years ago Nancy had been in love. She made mention to this fact when we were in Mauritius and she and the boyfriend had gone their separate ways. The pair lost touch for some years but a chance meeting brought them back together again and now they are married. This letter contains all her emotions throughout the period of her life when they were apart. I guess she had to tell someone, and it was easier on paper than face to face.
Just like a diary really. I always used to feel honoured that she chose me to share her innermost feelings with, and I am pleased that daddy kept it.”
Picking up another envelope Catherine fingered it, and making a sudden decision she put it to one side without opening it. Vincent noticed and felt her distress, “What is that?” He asked.
Catherine dropped her gaze, “An engagement announcement.” She told him quietly, “Mine and Tom’s.”
Vincent didn’t reply allowing her the time to tell it slowly. “Daddy was so thrilled when Tom and I announced our plans to marry.” She went on still refusing to look at him, “ He had been trying to marry me off for years. Tom was everything he wanted in a son-in-law and daddy said he was good for me. I thought so too at the time...” Her words trailed away. And Vincent waited in silence for her to continue.
Catherine looked up, “there was something that wasn’t right. Something at the back of my mind that told me it wouldn’t work. I ignored those feelings and then came that night when he told me to stop talking to Eve because she was a lush and I realised what it was. Tom liked to impress, whether it was with people or with material possessions, and anything that belonged to him had to have no dealings with anything else that he considered below him. I suddenly realised that to him I was just another possession with the wealthy tag of Chandler attached. He was a nice enough person but he had no time for people who could not help him on the ladder to success. I was really hurt that night when he said those things about Eve, so much so that I left to go home….and the rest you know.” Vincent remained silent, and for once that silence was important. Catherine put the card down into a different pile, “This invitation was part of daddy’s treasure-trove Vincent. He always hoped that I would get back with Tom and kept it for the sentimentality of that hope. But I don’t think I can keep it among these other things, for it means nothing to me.”
Again Vincent did not respond. Catherine had to make her own decisions.
They continued through the box together, sometimes Catherine laughed and sometimes she would cry and Vincent would comfort her with his arms around her. Finally the box was empty and Catherine was putting everything back again. Vincent helped by passing things to her and finally searching around the sofa for anything he might have missed and gasped when he found the photograph of Catherine in her school uniform, the frame crushed and bent beneath his thigh. “Oh Catherine, I’m sorry I have broken the frame.” He held it out to her feeling terrible when he noticed that something peeped out from beneath the photograph just as she did, “Vincent look, there is something behind the photo.” And she took it from him, extracting the piece of paper carefully, and unfolded it.
Turning it over the memories of her drawing the picture crashed in on her, and Catherine gasped, looking from the drawing to Vincent and back at the drawing again. Both could see the striking resemblance, a much younger version but certainly there was no mistake. “It’s you, it has to be?” Catherine cried excitedly.
“Yes I do believe it is, but how? Did you draw this?”
Catherine looked at the bottom of the drawing, and read aloud, “Catherine Chandler age 5, special friends competition 1960. I must have,” she told him drawing her brows together and trying to establish some sort of pattern to her muddled memories.
“What does it say beneath your thumb?” Vincent asked.
Catherine peered down at her own childhood scrawl, the handwriting of a five-year old, “It looks like it says Blue Eyes. It is you! It has to be, but...Oh!” Catherine’s eyes widened as she began to remember, saying with disbelief, “the night of the concert...of course...my birthday...the flashlight...Oh, Vincent I saw you!”
Vincent stared at her. What she was saying was impossible. Till now he had firmly believed that their paths had only crossed the once, but this evening a catalogue of events had unfolded that showed him otherwise.
“You were listening beneath the concert and I shone a flashlight down the storm grid, and I knew someone was there.” Catherine’s eyes were bright with excitement as she remembered. Breathlessly she went on, “I saw the cushions and the rugs, I called out and I heard you ask me to switch off the light. Vincent you spoke to me!”
For long moments they sat staring at one another trying to take this in, when Catherine went on, “I did turn out the light, but then I couldn’t see you, and I turned it back on again, and it was then that I saw your face.”
Vincent nodded slowly, “ I remember. I was always so afraid of being seen that whenever anything happened like that I would worry about it for weeks. I couldn’t see you of course because of the beam of light blinding me, but I heard you and I thought about your voice for a long time. In fact sometimes I was convinced that I heard it again up in the park on other days, but I couldn’t be sure.”
“Oh Vincent look, the title of that competition was special friends, isn’t that wonderful? To think that even back then that is how I looked upon you. Really this is too incredible to be true.”
“Its wonderful” Vincent told her wistfully, “All these things throughout our lives, it is as you said earlier, almost as if we were destined to meet.”
“And if we hadn’t of when we did, we still would have at some other time, assuming I’d lived that night that is.” They were silent for a few minutes remembering.
“The time I found your rabbit, the time you thought you saw me in the park.” Vincent mused as if speaking his thoughts out loud.
“I did see you Vincent. Tom saw you too. And to think even after that I found myself working alongside your own brother, how much closer than that could I have got if there had been none of these other instances?”
“My hearing your voice while you played in the park with your parents… Catherine I can hardly take all this in.” He shook his head with the wonder of it all.
“You considered me your special friend Catherine, I can’t tell you how good that makes me feel. When you first saw me after your attack you were frightened by what you saw, but as a child you loved what you saw.”
“Children are so much more receptive Vincent, you know that.”
“Yes but Catherine, children are also afraid of monsters, yet you showed no fear of me. Catherine….” He breathed deeply his eyes wide with the wonder of it all, “You know what this means don’t you?”
Catherine nodded her green eyes dancing with delight, “Oh yes Vincent, but I’d like to hear it from you.”
She waited holding her breath, as he continued to study her face and the drawing of him by her own childish hand in turn, “Until tonight I had convinced myself that what we share is just a special friendship like your drawing indicates. I was always uncertain as to a future for the two of us, believing that if our paths had not crossed you would be so much better off, happier even without me. Yet tonight, Catherine…” he spoke very quietly, his voice husked and Catherine literally tingled as she waited for him to continue. “Tonight Catherine all these reminders of our past have shown me clearly that what I believed is not so, and has in fact made me realise something that makes me very happy...”
“And what is that Vincent?” Catherine whispered breathlessly, her eyes never leaving his even as she took up his hand to her lips and kissed each tip tenderly.
“That we Catherine, you and I were meant to be together. We were made for each other and the fact that our pathway has been crossed by either one of us only emphasises that fact.” Vincent sighed, resting his forehead against hers to whisper softly, “I am complete now Catherine. I feel at peace within myself. I love you Catherine, and no more will I insist that you should live a life away from where you are so obviously destined to be...”
Catherine waited in expectation, while Vincent sought for the words she so desperately needed to hear, and held her breath as he continued, “If you are sure that you can give up your life Above then I would be happy to have you live Below...with me. There are still some fears that I shall need to overcome, but I know now that together we can conquer them.”
“Oh Vincent of course I will give up all I have Above gladly. From now on my life is where you are, it was obviously what I was born for, to compliment you.”
Gently Vincent drew back and tilted her face to his, tracing her cheek-bones with his fingertips, making her shudder with longing. Their eyes fixed and held, “I love you Vincent. I will always love you, and together we will have our happy life.”
Vincent leaned forwards and kissed her brow, his lips placing small kisses down the line of her cheek and finally to the corner of her mouth. Holding her breath Catherine stilled in his arms, waiting, hoping as she felt him brush the softest of kisses upon her lips. Catherine sighed, “This journey down memory lane today Vincent has been a delightful one,” she whispered beneath the continued caress of his mouth, “but it has led me to a place that only dreams are made of.”
“And where is that my Catherine?” he continued to kiss her applying more pressure as his confidence grew.
“Home Vincent. Home to your arms.”
Vincent could only agree with a long, deep and extremely passionate kiss that left Catherine’s head reeling, and as she returned his kiss she knew without a doubt that a happy life had begun for the two of them forever.

And they lived happily ever after...

*** *** ***

                   

 


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