There's a horrible smell in Father's chamber
Sitting around the chamber for no other reason than to share one another’s company and a splendid brew of herbal tea Mary was the first to raise her head and sniff disapprovingly. What was that smell?
“Have you started a cold my dear?” Father asked concerned before something started to irritate his own nose and he wiped it with the knuckle of his index finger.
“No, not a cold. There is a smell in here.” She sniffed again twice, “I can’t seem to place it, but it’s not nice. Its mucky.”
Vincent’s cup rattled in his saucer but he said nothing, just looked at the two people hoping they would not notice his sudden discomfort.
“Yes it is.” Father replied beginning to sniff the air before lifting each arm in turn and placing his nose against his armpits. “It’s not coming from me.” He told his companions with a sigh of relief.
Mary did likewise discreetly so, and announced similarly, “Me neither.” Suddenly two pairs of accusing eyes looked Vincent’s way. He coloured immediately.
“Vincent?” Father queried.
All innocence and light Vincent’s gaze locked with those of his parent as he replied, “Yes Father?”
Not one to beat about the bush Father went on, “Is it you?”
“Is what me?”
“The smell.” Pulling teeth might be easier Father thought fleetingly, when he knew that Vincent was hiding something. He could see Vincent judging the situation and wondering how best to answer before he did finally reply, “I don’t know.”
“Hmm! Well let me see.”
Watching his parent rise from his chair with the obvious intention of coming over to sniff around him, Vincent hurriedly went on, “Well it might be me.”
“Arh” Father said sitting back down again and waiting eagerly for his son to continue.
Taking courage from the twinkle in his father’s blue eyes, Vincent stated rather awkwardly, “It’s probably the Advantage.”
“Advantage? And that would be what? Some new aftershave perhaps, not that you need it. You don’t even shave.”
“Er no, not aftershave.” Did Father imagine it, or was Vincent decidedly uncomfortable about something?
“Then what? Hmm, come on I don’t bite.” Father chuckled. Mary hid a grin.
With a hand to his mouth, Vincent replied. “It’s **** lotion.” And then took great delight in examining his feet.
“What lotion? I’m sorry I didn’t quite hear that.”
“**** lotion.” Vincent reiterated softly.
“Say again. Did you say Sea lotion? What’s that? Some kind of sun block?” Father guffawed loudly, “You need that even less than shaving.”
“No, not sea lotion Father.” Then rising to his feet Vincent went on, “I think I will go and get ready to meet Catherine now if you don’t mind.”
“I do actually. Before you go, just put an old man out of his misery (‘gladly’ Vincent thought) and tell me the name of this damn lotion will you, for purely medical reasons you know?”
“Medical reasons, Father?”
“Yes, you must know that with a make up like yours there are certain lotions that would not suit you and might even have an adverse affect on you. Really, you should consult me before applying anything and if you need proof I think today should have provided you with that. Whatever that stuff is Vincent, it stinks, and will hardly endear Catherine to you, let alone any of the rest of us. Want a tip? I think you should seriously consider taking a bath before you go above.”
Vincent found his feet interesting again as he replied, “Its thanks to the bath I took earlier that has caused this metallic scent, it is repugnant I agree.” Vincent wriggled his nose disdainfully, “If you think its bad from over there, you should try having it on, its awful.”
“Surely soap would get rid of it. You couldn’t have used enough.”
“I didn’t want to get rid of it.” Vincent looked at his parent apologetically for the last thing he had meant to do was create such a terrible smell.
Father drew his brows together, “Forgive me for asking Vincent, but if you didn’t bathe to get rid of it, why did you bathe at all?”
“Because I was mucky. After the work party and I returned we needed to bathe badly.”
Mary’s lips twitched with humour, “Pardon me for saying so Vincent, but I rather think I prefer the smell of dust and grime to the one you are wearing right now.”
“So do I.” Father exclaimed loudly. “Even sweat would be preferable. Vincent you really must go and wash again. Its repugnant and we can’t put up with this. You will have to go into isolation otherwise.”
“Yes, I hear Rhode Island is nice at this time of year.” Mary giggled.
Vincent shot her daggers with his steely blue eyes. And she apologised adding that she never meant it, but still something had to be done.
Amazingly, Vincent agreed, “yes but what? Catherine told me not to get it wet. I forgot. Well that’s not strictly true, I thought if I washed around the area she had applied it to that would be all right, but it seems that some of the rinsing water from my hair splashed on to it and soaked it through. Hence the smell.”
“Yes, hence the smell. So this sea lotion you applied, oh sorry, Catherine applied, what exactly was it for, that is why did she deem it necessary to apply any in the first place, and why in God’s name did you let her?” Father exasperated as he felt he was going around in circles.
“Well you see I was scratching.” Vincent mumbled.
“What? Speak up Vincent, you know I can’t hear so well these days.”
“Only when you want to do.” Vincent murmured under his breath, before adding more loudly, “I was itching. Catherine thought the lotion would help.”
“Oh for God’s sake Vincent, stop beating about the bush, and tell me exactly what has happened.”
“It was thanks to one, that I needed it actually,” Vincent grinned remembering.
“Thanks to what?” Father was truly puzzled.
“The bushes. Catherine and I…” He got no further as with eyes wide and incredulous Father exploded, “You were in the bushes with Catherine! Why, Vincent why? You know how I feel against such a thing!”
This time Mary did not smother her giggles. She laughed loudly ending with “Oh Vincent.”
“I wasn’t in the bushes…with Catherine… I was in the bushes for Catherine.”
“Well if you think that sounds any better then you are very much mistaken my boy.” Father tried not to let Vincent detect how annoyed he was. They had had a similar discussion only a few days ago. Catherine had wanted Father to allow Vincent an extended stay above and he had been dead against it. Anything might happen between them yet now it seemed that regardless, it already had.
“It’s a long story.” Remembering his childhood with Devin and the escapades they got into Vincent suddenly felt very childish and foolish because he was a grown man now.
Remembering those self same occasions Father replied, “They usually are. But you have the time - its not quite dark above yet. So why don’t you just stay here and humour me, huh?”
Vincent relented. This was not going to go away, and there really was the bad odour to consider. It made him feel mucky. And if he went above too soon Catherine would hate it. It seemed to fill every space, nook and cranny within twenty yards or more. Not to mention the fact that he left the scent behind wherever he went, the tunnels between his own chamber and his father’s reeked of it.
Drawing a deep breath and exhaling it slowly, Vincent appealed for help with his beautiful blue eyes, and Father and Mary’s hearts softened. Truly, he had a problem and truly they would help him if they could.
“Let’s start at the beginning shall we?” Father asked his son. “You say you were itching?”
“It starts before then Father.”
“Oh yes the bush, how silly of me to forget.” Father told him dryly.
“Its not what you’re thinking.”
“Oh what a shame.” Father told his son sarcastically disbelieving him at once.
Vincent blushed. He knew well what his father was getting at, but if he and Catherine ever…well you know…they would chose a more suitable place than in the bushes.
“Catherine’s friend went on holiday.”
“I thought it started in the bushes.”
“It did, but this bit comes first.”
“Oh. Okay then. Catherine’s friend went on holiday. Left you her house did she? Surely that was better than any old bush, hmm?” Father could hardly contain his enjoyment at seeing Vincent so flustered for somehow it made up for all the stress he had been made to endure recently, over not allowing Vincent and Catherine’s relationship to move forward. Not that they needed his permission, but since they had confided in him and asked his opinion he had let them know in no uncertain terms just what he did have against such an idea.
“Father!” Vincent exclaimed, “Its not like that.” Still he couldn’t help grinning. Imagine if he and Catherine really were in the bushes…mmm…”Sorry did you say something Father?”
“Yes I said take that dreamy look off of your face and get on with it will you!”
A derisive snort issued from Vincent, very unlike him. Father could only surmise at what he had been dreaming of, as Vincent took up the narrative once more.
“Catherine’s friend went on holiday and asked her to look after her chickens.”
“I went with her one night. She was late. The hens had already gone to roost so I helped her find them. They were in the bushes.”
“I went in to get them out, some were quite high up, and when I made a grab at them they fell down on top of me and got tangled in my hair.”
“Yes?” Father could well imagine this.
“Catherine helped free them, we got them shut in the garden shed and I went to meet Catherine back at her apartment later.”
“Well that’s it really.” Vincent told Father. “Well almost.”
“I’m almost disappointed. Vincent! What has that got to do with the sea lotion?”
“I’m coming to that!” Vincent flared.
“It didn’t sound like it to me. I thought he had finished didn’t you Mary?” Father looked toward the woman the children of the tunnels thought of as Mother as much as they thought of him as Father.
“Well it did seem so, but then it isn’t really is it? He hasn’t related how he came to smell so…so…well for want of a better word mucky will definitely do.”
“But its not sea lotion…” Vincent stood his ground defiantly, “Advantage is a brand of F.L.E.A lotion.”
“Flea lotion? Flea as in circus?” Father paled imagining a flea epidemic in the tunnels.
“Yes Father, the one and the same. I was itching when I got to Catherine’s apartment, I mean really itching and she remembered her friend saying that the chickens had fleas. Well we got to thinking that I might have caught some, and as Catherine had some lotion left over from when her other friend’s cat came to stay last year, she thought I could use it.” On a roll now, Vincent went on quickly before Father could butt in. “She dabbed it all over me then by reading the instruction leaflet more thoroughly found that the lotion mustn’t get wet for forty eight hours. If it did it would emit a repugnant smell.”
“We’ve noticed.” Father managed to put it before his son continued; “I don’t know how to get rid of it. And I really wanted to see Catherine this evening.”
“Yes I’d noticed how fidgety you’ve been these past two days since you last saw her, unusually so if I might add. Vincent is there something I should know?”
“Know Father?” Vincent blushed noticeably.
“Yes.” Father scrutinised his son, “Yes, know Vincent? Did you both disobey me?” He sounded stern, annoyed.
“No.” Well that was innocently said, too innocently. Father looked at his son shrewdly. “Ah huh, wait a minute!” Did Vincent just pale before his eyes? Continuing to watch his son closely Father went on, “This lotion that Catherine dabbed on you, did she actually dab it all over you?”
Ah huh! Yes, he’d hit the nail on the head there. Vincent really was uncomfortable Father could see that.
“Yes Father.” Vincent mumbled, then raising his head he courageously looked directly at Father, “She did dab it all over me.” His eyes challenged those of his parent defiantly as he remembered his irritation these past few days over his father’s feelings toward him staying above with Catherine. If only he could find a way to make that happen without annoying Father further. He didn’t deliberately want to anger Father over this, better that he and Catherine had his blessing but how would that occur unless they were downright devious? Suddenly Vincent had a bright idea as Father asked him another question on the matter with obvious dismay.
“Yes Father. All over.”
There was silence for a time as Father allowed that and all it implied to sink in and he eventually whispered hoarsely, “Are you telling me that…” He found it impossible to say the words, but noticed Vincent nodding nonetheless and found he had mixed feelings. Somewhere deep inside he felt relieved, and then bitterness took over, bitterness and anger that Vincent and Catherine had defied him. What was the purpose of asking for his opinion if they were only going to ignore his counsel?
Vincent felt decidedly guilty as he watched the range of expressions chasing across his father’s face. Obviously, Father thought that he and Catherine were lovers and though Vincent had led Father to believe that that was so, it wasn’t. They might have become more intimate than they had ever done before over the past couple of days, but they hadn’t slept together. Having said that though it wasn’t for want of trying, it was more to the point that Vincent did not want to rush things and had hoped that he might stay above with Catherine for a few days before and after the event, hence asking for Father’s opinion and being courteous enough to consult him first.
Even so, Father hadn’t really given them the light of day. He had flared up the moment they had broached the subject with all kinds of reasons why they should not and never once seeing why they should.
For three years they had courted. Yes, there was no other word for it they had courted. The fact that Vincent had saved Catherine’s life and she his was just another part of their relationship. They loved one another and wanted to be together come what may. And after three years now was the time to push ahead and be to one another what all people in love wanted to be to one another, despite their differences.
Everyone had differences they had reasoned. Some people might be of mixed race, mixed religion, many people faced dilemmas in their relationship and they found a way round it. More often than not it was a third party that had doubts or tried to put obstacles before them, and more often than not those obstacles were faced, challenged and smoothed away. Vincent and Catherine had reasoned that if others had done it so could they, and as long as they were careful and knew what they were up against, no one should try to deter them. But Father had. Every which way they tried he had stood between them.
Many of his objections seemed unreasonable and many was the time that Vincent despaired with his father’s thoughts and feelings on the matter, but because he loved him he allowed his father’s feelings to reign. Well no more. Father had to be made to see that Catherine was his soul mate for life and nothing or nobody was going to alter that fact or try to come between them.
And so without actually lying about the state of his relationship with Catherine Vincent allowed Father to presume, thus bending the truth. This made it more acceptable to the noble man that Vincent was, even though his conscience was pricked him mercilessly over it.
“So, there is little I can say on the matter then?” Father never expected an answer and as Vincent offered none he went on, “there is still the matter of this dreadful smell. What are we going to do about it?”
“There’s nothing you can do Father. Washing will only make it worse.”
“Then we will just have to wait until it wears off.”
“That will take four weeks.”
“I’m afraid so, that’s when Catherine said she should renew the application.”
“You mean she’s going to put on more? No leave it Vincent, I will consult Peter, there must be something less smelly that you can use. Do you know for certain that you have fleas? You’ve never had them before.”
“Well no, since Catherine applied the lotion the itching has stopped, and it lasts for four weeks. Hopefully we won’t need a second application especially if I stay away from animals that have fleas. Shouldn’t be a problem, Mouse uses Advantage on Arthur, and there are no other animals I come into contact with.”
“Well we simply cannot put up with this stench for four weeks Vincent, and especially if it gets any worse every time you bathe. Let me think about it, there must be some way we can avert the problem.”
“I do have a solution actually.” Vincent told his Father and fortunately only Mary noticed that mischievous glint in Vincent’s eye, or the cat might have been out of the bag.
“Oh do you…well you’d best run it by me then before my scent glands cease up.”
*** *** ***
Much later, a very happy Vincent deposited his weekend bag on Catherine’s living room carpet before opening his arms for her to his welcome embrace. Catherine went into his arms willingly, “Mmm you smell nice. Candles, leather old books and you.” She looked up smiling lovingly at him.
Vincent chuckled, “I do now.” He then related his earlier experience in the tunnels.
“Then how?” Catherine asked bewildered.
“Easy, I’m dry now.” Vincent chuckled eyeing his bag with humour.
“Vincent you did tell him there is only a bad smell when you’re wet didn’t you?” Catherine giggled.
“He never asked.”
“And you never thought to enlighten him?” Catherine prodded Vincent in the ribs, “You rascal.”
“I’d say devious rascal my love.” Vincent chuckled.
“So that’s how you came to get a few days leave.” Catherine hugged him tight with excitement. Two whole days of undivided time with Vincent. Perfect.
Smiling Vincent nodded, “Once I explained how long the smell would last and gave Father an option he told me to come here to you with his blessing. Do you know because of the smell he called me mucky?”
Catherine grinned,“ When he finds out what you’ve done he’ll be justified. A mucky trick he’ll call it!” She laughed happily, “Oh Vincent to think you can stay the whole weekend and he doesn’t even mind!”
Again Vincent grinned making Catherine surmise that he had something up his sleeve, she scrutinised him dubiously, “What is it?”
“Father is under the impression that because I got it wet within forty eight hours after the first application then the smell will last until the next application, which I might add, he begs you not to use.”
“The next application…but Vincent that’s in four weeks!”
“Yes it is. Do you think I’ve bought enough clothes?” Vincent asked eyeing his bag doubtfully.
“Enough…?” Catherine squeaked. “Vincent!” She hugged and kissed him then before turning to pick up his bag to test the weight of it.
“Oh I should think there’s more than enough here, after all its not like you are going to be needing to wear many.” She winked at him.
He chuckled “That’s what I was thinking, its much warmer here than in the tunnels.” He told her cheerfully before going on more seriously, “However there is a drawback, taking showers will make this lotion stink again. You might wish I went back home.” He told her hoping it wouldn’t come to that.
“No, I would never wish that and besides I have an antidote. I’ll go fetch it, hold on a moment.”
“You do!” Vincent’s heart raced and plummeted at the same time. For one thing, Catherine wouldn’t have to bare the brunt of such a repugnant smell. On the other hand, if Father knew of this antidote he would insist that Vincent use it so he didn’t have to stay above.
His heart sinking fast at such a thought Vincent waited until Catherine re-emerged from her bathroom some two minutes later…wearing a pink satin night gown that seemed to float around her as she crossed the room to his side…and of all things a clothes peg on her nose!
An eruption of laughter left Vincent’s lips, “Oh Catherine you’re priceless.”
“Well, its either this or you will have to abstain from showering.” Catherine murmured sounding very much as if she had a heavy cold.
Removing the peg Vincent kissed her soundly before replying, “I think you’re going to have to put up with the smell, my Catherine.”
“Oh and why is that?” She asked innocently.
“Because my dear if we do what I hope to do over the next four weeks I am going to need to shower quite often and so are you.”
“Yes really.” His eyes sought out the laughter in hers, laughter that soon changed to a raging desire as he continued to gaze at her with a passion rekindled. They had four weeks, four whole weeks and they weren’t about to waste a single second of it.
They kissed long and hard until breathless they finally broke apart with eyes filled with joy and desire as they anticipated the long month ahead.
“It’s going to be great Vincent, having you here, all to myself but what will I tell Joe, I shall have to feign an illness to get a month off of work.”
“Tell him you need passionate leave.” Vincent chuckled.
Catherine laughed gaily. Her eyes twinkled with merriment until her breath caught in her throat at the way he was looking at her. He wanted her there was no doubt about it. At last, they had time together, they would be undisturbed and they had Father’s blessing, so there would be no repercussions and they needn’t enlighten him that the lotion only issued a nasty smell when wet.
“You made a mistake Vincent. I think you meant compassionate leave.” Catherine whispered breathlessly as he lifted her up and carried her toward her bedroom. And with the blazing fire of passion in his eyes Vincent made Catherine shiver with anticipation as he told her huskily, “Oh no, my Catherine…I definitely meant passionate leave…”
*** *** ***
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