The simple word alone captures everything that Vincent means to Catherine.
The blare of horns from the street eighteen floors below, filtered through the open balcony windows signalling the start of another work-day for Catherine. She stirred, a smile on her lips as she continued to dream moments before the shrill sound of the alarm clock cut through her sleep pattern. And as one slender arm reached from the bed to snuff out the sound, the other wearily pulled back the duvet, while her eyes tried to focus on the sunlight that streamed into the room.
Groaning as she pulled her body from the softness of the bed, Catherine flicked through her diary on the bedside table to see what was scheduled for the day. In less than an hour she was due in court, and then if all went according to plan, the afternoon was booked with new assignments, which had been waiting for her to get on to them all week.
That was the difficulty of living two lives. Not that she minded really, but whereas most people who had partners living away could go by car or public transport, Catherine had to make the long journey to and from the secret place beneath the city streets, where Vincent lived, on foot. And these days she was growing weary with the continued trek every Friday night and late Sunday back again. She wished she could assure Vincent that the world would continue just like clockwork without her in it, but he would not listen, insisting that she had a life to lead, and just because their paths had crossed it wasn’t good enough reason to turn her back on it.
What he failed to recognise was that had they not met, she would likely be by now Tom’s wife, or some one else’s wife, and would be at home looking after babies, and would have left the work scene anyway. When she thought about it, that was the whole problem, the fact lacking in her life, it was time to move on. To step out from the rat race and secure a new future for herself, and she only had one person in mind with which she desperately wanted to secure it, Vincent.
The issue was how to convince him.
Trudging along to the courtroom within the hour, Catherine felt no more enthusiastic than she had before she set out. Calling in at the bank she checked her finances, and nodded happily when the statement dropped out of the hole in the wall, and confirmed her suspicions. With the interest incurred, she was very wealthy, had enough money to live on for many years and without the added commodities of apartment and car, she could make it stretch even further.
Her mind made up, she managed to get through the day, then just before five o’clock she handed Joe her resignation. He tried to talk her out of it, but she stuck to her decision, and nothing he could say would alter her mind. One month from today she would drop out of the cogwheel and never look back. A great feeling of relief washed over her. For once she had done something positive about her complex situation.
Vincent wasn’t quite so happy, when they met later that night at the threshold, “But why Catherine? Surely you know that while living Above you live for us, for our dream. Your work is important and you are good at it, you must not give it up.”
“I must Vincent. I never expected to spend my entire life as a working woman. Can’t you see that? Did you intend that I should? Our dream can just as well be lived if I am here Below with you, even more so, than if I stay living Above?”
Vincent shook his great head sadly, “It is all I have ever dreamed to have you live in my world, but to have you so close, to see you every day, what will that do for us. What if it should destroy us?”
“It won’t Vincent. I love you so much, I want to be with you. We are something that has never been, you said so yourself, surely it makes sense to be together as often or as much as possible. People such as yourself don’t crop up more than once in a lifetime, it is unthinkable that I should be forced to live a day without you, when what I have is so precious.”
Vincent smiled, “I’ve never quite seen myself in such a glorious light Catherine.”
“Then you should do. Vincent you are so beautiful. I want to be able to spend the rest of my life with you, can’t you see that?”
“Yes I can see that. And you think that by dropping out of the working world, I will have no grounds to prevent you from doing so. You’re right Catherine, but I still think you are wrong to do so. You are good at your job, many people have been grateful for your help in the past, many more will be in the future, it is unthinkable that you should deny them your compassion, like this.”
“And what of you Vincent? Are you any less important that you should not partake of my compassion either. Vincent compared to you, those people mean little to me. And all I am to them is a good lawyer, is that only what I am to you?”
“Of course not. I love you more than life.”
“Then let me share that life Vincent. I want to be with you. I need you.”
Vincent groaned, “To have you so close, to share my life, do you know what you are asking Catherine? I cannot be what I would wish to be, and yet to have you so near would be torture. The time we spend apart, I can regain control over my members, until we see one another again.”
“I don’t mean to bring you pain Vincent, I want only to love you.”
“Vincent, can’t you see what you continue to do? On the one hand you wish to be a man, and on the other you push away from yourself the right to be a man, by denying yourself the most basic of human needs. Vincent to be a man, you must accept the responsibilities that go along with it.”
“And I suppose you are going to tell me what that is?”
“If I wanted to humiliate you yes, but I don’t. You know what it is Vincent, you only have to accept your destiny, and stop pushing me away. With love Vincent we can be anything to each other that we want, as long as we have trust, and honesty and the desire to be together.”
Vincent sighed, “I do want to be with you Catherine. But dare we take that risk? How far are you prepared to take our relationship?” he whispered the last few words.
Catherine grabbed his chin, and turned his eyes to look into her own, “I want us to be lovers.” she whispered hoarsely.
Vincent sucked in a sharp breath, his penetrating blue eyes never leaving her own a ripple of apprehension and desire running through his body. “Lovers”, he repeated softly, “And you are sure this would be right for us?” He trembled.
“Vincent, we can be anything to each other, with love, and being lovers has to be our next step. Do you think I could stand being with you more often and not feel the desire to make love with you also? Vincent I am not afraid of you, or the beast in you.”
“Then you should be afraid. He could savage you to death.”
“That part of you would never hurt me, for he loves me too.”
“I wish I had your faith.”
“Vincent what does it take for me to convince you. I don’t want a life Above anymore. I don’t even wish to be in the city, now is the time for me to move on. If not for you Vincent I would probably have gone to live in the country, or abroad, I’ve had enough of city life.”
“You really mean that don’t you? I can feel in you this certainty.”
“Yes. And I meant the other things too. I want us to share a life together. Vincent I am offering you the chance of happiness that you so much deserve, take it Vincent. Don’t be afraid to do so. What you and I have is enchanted. Some people dream of what we have Vincent and never find it, it is unthinkable that we should waste the time we could spend together. Unthinkable.”
Nodding Vincent brought his head to lean upon the top of hers, “Then there is something we must do first.”
“In your world being lovers is commonplace, in mine it is not, to make such a public declaration without being married would be frowned upon.” Catherine held her breath, as Vincent paused before continuing, finding it hard to say the words lest she rejected them.
Via the Bond Catherine felt his uncertainty, “If you want me to marry you Vincent, you only have to ask.” she told him, her voice steady, her face radiant. Vincent smiled, “Would you marry me Catherine?”
A moment of silence settled over them, as they looked at one another, when Catherine smiled, “I feel very much like the saying ‘sweet sixteen and never been kissed’. Don’t you think we have missed something along the way Vincent?” she teased him.
His eyes twinkled, as a smile lit his face, “It is something I have never dared to attempt, I knew where it would lead us. It was difficult enough having you close without actually touching you. I would have been lost Catherine. But now...”
“But now?” she repeated, “Vincent don’t stop there, we have never spoken of our feelings so deeply before, do you want encouragement Vincent. I’ll give that to you. From the moment I first heard your voice I fell in love with you. When I first saw you, I was stunned, but more for you than for me. In that one instant I foresaw your past, present and future, the hollowness, the emptiness, the aloneness of your very existence, and that saddened me, I vowed then that I would fill your life, just as you gave life back to me, by your strength and your virtue. Everything that is good in this world Vincent you are. I laud you Vincent because so many people are grateful for what you are, who you are, and you deserve the very best and I believe I am it.” She laughed, at the look on his face.
“Oh how I love you.” he whispered, drawing her towards him, “You make me feel happy to be alive, you even have me believing in myself. All this praise Catherine, no-one has ever brought me such joy, such self worth as you.”
“Lionise.” Catherine told him.
“What?” he tilted his head trying to discern her use of the word.
“Lionise Vincent, to praise, to laud, to extol. And doesn’t the word fit beautifully. It sums up all that you are in one fell swoop. Your eyes are like sapphires that sparkle beneath a summer sky, enhanced by its richness. Your beautiful face like a glorious lion secure in the knowledge that he is king of all beasts. Your personality, your compassion the mark of a man. I love everything about you Vincent, and I wouldn’t change any of you even if I could. You are beautiful to me and to all that know you, and...”
“Stop it, stop it...” Vincent was laughing, “Its enough, you will have my head so big I shan’t get through the tunnels this night, all this praise is too much.”
“Then kiss me Vincent, it is the only way to silence my mouth.”
Vincent smiled deeply at her, he could that see she meant it. Already her impish grin told him her mind was being refilled with more praise and so as her mouth opened to utter another word, he brought his lips down to hers to silence the sound, thus sealing their start of a happy life together until the moon is no more.
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