Devin & Catherine search for and find Vincent's roots and discover a family he never knew existed.
Catherine stepped out of the taxi, and while she waited for her bags she looked up at the hotel. It looked impressive, and she knew she had made the right choice in heading here. It would be expensive, but she didn’t intend staying many days, just long enough to finalise her plans.*** *** ***
Many years ago, her father had taken her to Austria and Italy and Catherine had fallen in love with the Dolomite Mountains, and had promised herself that some day she would return and explore them thoroughly, and she decided this is where she would head. The remembrance of the mountain air thrilled her and she felt certain there she would clear her head while walking across the awesome mountain ranges. The fresh air would exhilarate her and give her a sense of belonging, a sense of freedom, as well as bring back some happy memories.
Checking in at the hotel, she asked also at the desk if they could book her a flight to Paris, where from there, she explained, she intended to drive down to Austria. While she waited for confirmation, she thought for a moment that she saw someone she recognised. Drawing her brows together, she watched him for a few moments as he walked towards the doors to go outside. She could not see his face, but the set of his body and the way he walked stirred something within her, but once he had disappeared from view she forgot all about him, and didn’t see him anymore during her stay at the airport hotel.
Picking up her luggage, keys and the piece of paper with her flight details on, she made her way towards her room.
It was a spacious room, furnished in mint green and white, with a marble effect bathroom. The huge floor to ceiling windows overlooked the runway, and she could see planes coming and going all the time, and sat down to watch, wondering about the destinations the passengers were off to. Then her mind began to wander towards Joanna, and Catherine grimaced. She seemed to be leaving an awful lot of notes in her wake just lately, rather than face people with her decisions. For though she had implied that she would not be leaving Joanna’s apartment, she had lain awake until the early dawn, until she had convinced herself that she would be better off leaving. Then she had crept from the bed, packed her belongings, and laughed when she’d had to rescue Jasper from her suitcase just before closing it. “Why you stowaway.” She picked up the furry tomcat, and rubbed her cheek against his fur, “Still I will miss you Jasper, but I can’t take you with me, however much I am tempted to do.” The cat purred loudly in her ear, and Catherine kissed his head, “Look after Joanna for me will you, be a good cat, catch all the mice, Joanna hates mice.” ”and then she put him down, slipped on her jacket, propped up her note against a pot plant upon the breakfast table, and crept out of the apartment, closing the door quietly behind her.
Once outside, she hesitated. It seemed her life was full of uncertainties. Suddenly she remembered where she had seen that man before, she was certain he had been approaching Joanna’s, when she had left, and had hailed a separate taxi after she had got into one. Funny that, thought Cathy, how we should both be coming to the same hotel from out of the same street, then she thought no more of it.
Instead she picked up the telephone to make a long overdue call to Joe Maxwell.
“Cathy!” he exclaimed when he heard her voice, “Where have you been, I’ve had half of America searching for you?”
“I’m sorry Joe, I had to clear my head, and getting away seemed the right thing to do at the time.”
“Yes I know the feeling Cathy, I feel like that every day, but Cathy, its not many weeks since you took several months off is it? Look whatever is bothering you, perhaps you should stay and challenge it, rather than keep running. You have been through such a lot, with the attack and everything, its probably delayed shock coming out.”
“Very delayed.” she laughed, “No, Joe its not that. I got over the attack years ago.”
“Wow Cathy, you really are something you know that. I don’t know many women who after such an experience can bear to go out again at all, but you, well look at you, I’ve even seen you taking late night strolls through Central Park, and if that isn’t a dangerous place at night, I’d like to know what is.”
Catherine didn’t quite know what to say, so she just said, “Well Joe, what I am ringing for is to say its not a holiday I am taking this time. I know I ought to have come to see you first, but I left without really thinking things through, and I’m here now, in London, and I don’t intend coming back.”
“You’re in London! Are you staying with Joanna?”
“I was, but tomorrow I am going to Paris, and then driving through Europe via the mountains. I intend to retrace the steps my father and I took many years ago.”
“So where are you now?”
“I’m staying at the Gatwick Park Hotel, Joanna and I had a misunderstanding, so I left and came here.”
“What kind of misunderstanding. You two are the closest people I know. How is the old girl?”
Catherine smiled, Joe always referred to Joanna this way. It was the exact opposite of Joanna. Old and slow she was not, young and vivacious she certainly was. She had left Joe standing when she had stayed in America a few years ago. And he had been dazzled by Joanna’s good looks and personality and had taken her out several times, though Joanna had found Joe’s lifestyle too boring and was always way ahead of him, he just could not keep pace with her. Catherine could hear Joanna’s words now as she said, “Come on Joe there will be time for relaxing when we are old and grey, lets live life to the full, then we will really have something to tell our grandchildren.” And Joe’s answer, “Grandchildren Joanna! Haven’t you missed a generation? At the speed you fly through life, you are never still enough to make any children, let alone grandchildren.”
Joanna had left Joe a nervous wreck, a whirlwind he’d called her. Catherine smiled at the memory.
“Well she hasn’t had a heart attack yet Joe.” she replied.
“Give her time, Kiddo, give her time.”
“Mmm” said Catherine thoughtfully, “She does drink a bit too much actually. I think that will be her only downfall if she doesn’t ease up on it.”
“That always was her problem Cathy. Yet she will survive, her sort always do, it’s you that worries me now. When you say the mountains, which ones will that be?”
“Well, the ones that are the most important to me are the Dolomites on the Austrian/Italian border, I simply have to see them, and from there, well who knows. I will hire a car for a few weeks and just drive about. And Joe call off that search, I will be fine, I promise, I’ll send you a postcard.”
“No Cathy, no postcards, you call me you hear. Postcards are so impersonal, all that ‘weather is here, wish you were lovely’ garbage. I want to hear your voice to judge for myself that you really are okay. Better still I want you back here where I can see you.”
“Okay Joe, I’ll call, but I’ll send a postcard anyway. You’re a good friend Joe, but I will be all right, I’m a big girl now.”
“That I do know. And we could be more than friends Cathy, you know how I feel about you don’t you?”
“Yes Joe, but lets not spoil a beautiful friendship.”
“So you’ll call me?”
“Yes just as soon as I can.”
“And you’ll come home soon?”
“I’m not making any promises Joe.”
“Then be well Cathy, I hope everything turns out for you the way you intend it.”
“Thanks Joe, Bye.”
“Bye Cathy. And Cathy?”
“There’s always a job for you here if you need one.”
“Thanks Joe. I’ll remember that.”
“See you Kiddo.”
Catherine replaced the receiver, feeling so much happier. It had been good to hear Joe’s voice, and in a funny kind of way, good to know her own voice was back in America. If only she could telephone Vincent like that.
Joe was a good friend. Somewhere she had heard that friends make the best marriage mates. Lovers usually drift apart. Friends were forever.
She remembered an old film she had once seen. A young boy wanted to marry his girlfriend and went to ask her father for permission. The girl’s father asked the boy if he liked his daughter.
The boy replied, “Sir I love your daughter.”
“That is not what I asked, do you like her.”
“Sure I like her.” the boy replied mystified. It seemed a daft question.
“That’s good then” replied her father, “Because if you didn’t like her, as soon as the bloom of love had passed, you would drift apart. You have to like one another to make it last. You have to be friends before you become lovers.”
Catherine thought long and hard about that. Joe was her friend, he cared deeply for her. He would make a good husband. they shared the same sense of humour, the same career, shared many interest except for music, and they cared for one another deeply. But Joe was not the type to marry for mere friendship, he would expect a deep and meaningful relationship, one full of love and passion, and Catherine knew she could not give him that, her heart was bound to someone else.
Catherine wondered why she was having such thoughts. Analysing her feelings she allowed herself the delight of thinking about Vincent.
Vincent was her friend too. Much more than Joe. And if it wasn’t for who he was, their match would be perfect. He had everything she needed in a man and the qualities to make the relationship last a lifetime. And it wasn’t that she was ashamed of the way he looked, far from it, she adored him, found his looks thrilled her, but she could not introduce him to any of her friends Above, or share with him the very things that were important to her.
She craved a relationship that they could share together in every aspect of life. To be able to share even the little things that meant so much. Sharing a sandwich in the park during lunch break from the office. A walk along the embankment arm in arm in the setting of the sun. Just to be able to share the everyday things that was important to her, but she could not share them with Vincent and that grieved her, for that was the kind of husband she wanted. It disturbed her that she felt so strongly about it. Realising that she had used the word husband she began to clarify things in her mind. The very thing she craved was missing from her life. She had done things in the wrong order.
She had a child but no husband, and she doubted that she would ever be able to marry Vincent. Even if she could encourage him to think about it, he would likely find some reason why it could never be.
And as the thoughts became clear in her mind, Catherine realised that was the root to the whole problem. In trying to forget her mistakes, she had walked out on her old life, in an attempt to find a new one for herself and make everything right, in the correct order of things. To forget Jacob and Vincent and start her life over with someone new. Looking at it logically, she found her own selfishness abhorrent. How could she have allowed something so trivial to have taken her away from the man that she loved, after all that they had shared, all that they had been to one another. If she could step back in time, there would be many things she would alter, yet she had never tried to run away from those things, so why had she been so compelled to run away from this latest problem? She suddenly felt very silly, yet it did not alter the fact that she believed that marriage to Vincent would be out of the question. And if she could marry him, it would mean a radical change of lifestyle that she wasn’t prepared for, it would mean leaving her life Above to go and live in his world, and she didn’t know if she was ready for that, or if ever she would be. Though she loved him, was it enough. It seemed strange to hear herself ask these questions, for once, she would have given anything to live in his world. Perhaps the knowledge that he would not allow it, had made the craving deeper. Now that she could live there, she found she didn’t want to do. Whichever way she looked at it, she still had a lot of thinking to do. She had no doubt hurt him badly, but now she had made the break, it would be no use her going back until she had all the answers. For if she should return and then leave again, it would, she was certain, send him crazy, and she could not do anything so callous, not to Vincent. If she was certain of nothing else, the one thing she was certain of, was how deeply she loved him, yet their life together was not to be, hadn’t he told her so himself?
Spending the rest of the day at the hotel, Catherine wandered around. Her room was massive, and the marble bathroom housed a Jacuzzi that she made good use of, revelling in the exquisite feel of the bubbling water around her. The bed was king-size, so big that Catherine felt lost in it. Yet she was so tired, she slept soundly, until her early morning call signalled it was time for her to get up and make her way down to breakfast, if she was to catch the flight that had been booked for her.
It took only minutes to reach Paris from London, and soon Catherine had disembarked and was making her way along little tree lined avenues, spilling over with people sat drinking coffee at little tables and chairs positioned along the pavements. Her face lit up as she remembered how her father had stopped at almost every cafe to breathe deeply of the scent of freshly ground coffee. She wished she could step back in time, they had enjoyed such a lovely holiday.
Using the map, she finally made her way to the car hire firm the hotel had fixed her up with back in London, and as she walked into the parking area, she heard a voice that sounded familiar to her. Turning her head, she was stunned, and as she recognised this man, his name broke from her lips, “Devin!”
They cried in unison, looking with disbelief at one another.
Devin seemed to recover first, “Cathy what on earth are you doing here?”
“I might ask you the same question. I’m just passing through. Devin you look so well a bit frayed around the edges though. What have you been up to, and where is Charles?”
“Woah, Cathy one question at a time. Its great to see you”, he embraced her, “I’m feeling all alone in a strange land, I can’t speak the lingo and I want to hire a car to Austria, but I just can’t make out what they are trying to tell me.”
“That is amazing Devin, I too am going to Austria. I can’t believe it, of all the people to meet here, you would not believe how good it is to see you.”
The last time she had seen him he had been heading for the Appalachian Mountains with Charles the dragon man, whom he had rescued from a circus where his brother made money out of him in a freak show. Charles’ body was covered in disfiguring growths, and Devin had rescued him to be free, to live in the mountains and feel the sunshine upon his skin.
“Charles is well, I have left him with some friends, who have taken Charles under their wing, he’s happy with them, and will be fine until I can return.”
“Then how about you and I sharing a car to Austria Devin, we can take it in turns to drive.”
“That would be great Cathy, and it is great to have you here. Believe me this must be fate, for you’re the very person I need right now.”
“Yes I am working on an assignment, and we have a mutual friend’s interest in it.”
“We do?” Catherine was curious.
“Yes, look you go and hire a car, and I’ll tell you all about it on the journey.”
As they drove along through the city they did not speak much. The roads were unfamiliar to Devin who had opted to drive first. At least he mused they were back on the correct side of the road again, not like London, he could never get the hang of that. Catherine laughed when he mentioned this to her, and she told him about Joanna. “Driving with her was a real experience Devin, I wish you could have seen how she tackles London traffic.”
“She sounds like my kind of girl, Cathy.”
“Oh believe me Devin, it would be a rare fellow who could keep pace with her, she leaves most men panting.”
“Better and better.” he told her with a gleam in his eye.
Catherine burst out laughing. “I can see I am going to have to watch you”, she told him affectionately.
They drove along happily in one another’s company, there was a bond between them. Not like the Bond that Catherine had shared with Vincent, but it was there because of him nonetheless. They both loved Vincent very much and it felt good to be in the company with someone that knew him so well.
“So why are you heading for Austria Devin?” Catherine enquired as they left the busy city behind.
“It began with something Charles said. You remember how he spent his life in that circus before I found him?”
“Well from time to time he has told me little things about his past, and one day he came out with the most amazing thing I ever heard. His brother toured America with various other people and their own shows, and one day they were confronted by a chap that was interested in freak shows. And I mean interested. Apparently he asked Eddie lots of questions, and Charles listened to this conversation he had with his brother.
The chap told Eddie, that he was searching for a special kind of freak. One that had been lost many years previous. He told Eddie that he worked for a scientist who had pursued a certain experiment for decades and one such result of these experiments had been stolen from him. Apparently a similar experiment had been undertaken in Switzerland and the two scientist were swapping results. I didn’t think much of it, until Charles happened to mention that the collection point was to be beneath a bush in the grounds of St. Vincent’s hospital in new York, then I really pricked up my ears, do you get my drift Cathy?”
Catherine’s mouth dropped open, and she heard herself whisper, “It was Vincent, wasn’t it? He came from Switzerland?”
“that’s what I aim to find out Cathy. It could just be a coincidence, the grounds of St. Vincent’s could be a frequent drop off point, for all kinds of experiments, but I simply have to check it out Cathy, just think there might be more of Vincent’s kind somewhere.”
“But why? What was the scientist trying to achieve, do you know Devin?”
“Yes apparently his original plan was to produce an animal with the intelligence and vocal cords of a human. The idea was to give humans a greater insight into the welfare of animals, by developing an animal that could talk. However, all they got was a man with the facial features of an animal, apparently he refused to say which animal.”
“He had done in the past, but he couldn’t find any clues. He realised he would have to be more specific, offer a reward and see if that turned up any clues or even the whereabouts of the creature itself. Now remember Cath, this all took place many years ago, I worked it out that Vincent would have been about seven at the time.”
“You said his original plan was to produce an animal that could speak, did he alter his ideas then?”
“Yes apparently Charles overheard him tell Eddie that the experiment had turned out a male, and he only wanted females. Hence the reason for swapping it with Lord knows what, but as time wore on he came no nearer reaching his goal and he found another reason for producing these creatures. Unfortunately, they moved out of Charles earshot at this time, and he didn’t hear anymore, could only hear the two men laughing.”
“He offered Eddie $200,000 for any information leading to the whereabouts of the creature. That’s an awful lot of dough Cathy, and he felt convinced that the creature would show up in a freak circus someplace. Either that or living somewhere out of the ordinary.”
“It does sound like Vincent doesn’t it, it would be too incredible not to be.”
“Exactly, now do you see the importance of my making this trip?”
“Yes, but which country, Switzerland or Austria?”
“Originally It was Switzerland, and I needed a cover to get there, so I checked with some medical journals, and found a vacancy at the Institute of climatology on Sonn Alp in Austria. You know me, I sent them a phoney CV, and they sent me an interview.”
“I still don’t understand Devin, where’s the connection.?”
“Well at first I thought it would be good just to be near enough to ask some questions about the place in Switzerland, of which I had not been able to locate in the journals. So I couldn’t believe my luck when the letter from the Institute of Climatology came back on an old letterhead, which had been crossed out with the new address. Believe it or not, the old place was in Switzerland, on the very mountain that Charles heard the chap speak of. Its too big a coincidence Cathy, it just has to be the same place, and I for one, cannot let a chance like that go by, I’d never forgive myself if I tried to do. Its all very intriguing don’t you think?”
Catherine nodded. “Yes,” then asked Devin sombrely, “Can I do anything to help?”
“I thought you would never ask.” he told her grinning happily.
It was sheer bliss being driven along with nothing to worry about. The sun shone brightly and Catherine closed her eyes to rest them. She was aware of dappled sunlight through her eyelids as they passed by tall trees, and could remember having the same experience when her father had driven her this way many years before.
She liked to feel the breeze through the open window ruffling her hair and to smell the scent of pine and wild flowers as they drove along. As the car climbed the mountain passes, she breathed deeply of the fresh mountain air. There was nothing quite like it.
Devin stopped the car to get out and stretch his legs. He thought she was sleeping so did not disturb her. Catherine listened to his footsteps as they crunched on the gravel of the mountainside, and she listened intently for sounds beyond.
She had loved to do this as a child. Her father had explained to her that one could visualise the world about oneself so much better than sight allowed for, and then in years to come, it would be a scent or a sound that would bring the whole experience flooding back.
Catherine could hear the lazy sound of a brook trickling over stones somewhere to her left and the croaking of frogs. If she listened very intently she could hear the occasional plop as a frog hopped into the water.
The air was filled with the chirruping of birds. She tried to pick out each kind of bird by its superlative song. The throaty song of the blackbird, the chirrup of many sparrows, and there was something else, not a bird, but a rustling in the treetops that signified animal life. Squirrels! Oh how she loved those furry little creatures. Smiling to herself she visualised their colours and antics as the jumped gracefully from treetop to treetop.
England was filled with the grey squirrel, Hyde Park and St. James’ Park had been full of them, come to that so was Central Park. The red squirrel, the original native of England had become a rarity, and was being re-introduced into wildlife parks. And then in Austria she would see the shy mahogany coloured squirrel, much larger than the grey or the red, if she remained very quiet and waited for them to emerge. The first time she had seen one, she had wondered what it was. It was so beautiful.
As Catherine heard Devin walking slowly back towards the car, she drew in a deep breath. No doubt he would appreciate a rest from the driving and she should take over. Opening her eyes, she found everything to be just as she had imagined, although the sky stunned her. Awesome fluffy white clouds strolled across the intense backdrop of a blue summer sky.
Opening her door, Catherine twisted her legs around so as to stretch them before standing up, and Devin held the door back for her so she could alight.
“That brook over there Cathy, its a great place to splash your face. Not at all cold, yet very refreshing”, he dried his own hands and face on some paper towels located in the glove compartment, “Here take some of these with you, it will save water dripping down yourself when you have finished.”
Catherine thanked him, and taking the towels she headed straight for the brook. The water was so clean and clear it took her breath away, and tiny little fish could be seen darting beneath the stones as she placed her cupped hands into the cool water. It felt so good on her skin as she splashed it up against her face and around the back of her neck, and Catherine began to marvel at how far the water had travelled down from the mountain peaks to feed into the little brook. She thought it would be interesting to follow the trickle of water back to its source, giving life and flourish to everything that it touched on its way down. Looking up at the mountain Catherine could see tiny little flowers bobbing their dainty heads in the breeze, carpeting the mountainside between lush green grass wherever the brook had overflowed its banks. And from experience she knew that the very rocks themselves would be home to little lizards sunbathing themselves, while keeping a watchful eye out for hawks. And snakes would be hiding from the hot sun in cracks and crevices, until the sun went down, when they would slither through the lush grass in the hope of finding frogs. Inside the mountains themselves there would be caves and tunnels filled with deposits of calcium carbonate, standing like pillars known as stalagmites, or those that hung from the ceiling called stalactites. The easy way to remember which was which, was that stalagmites, might grow very tall, while stalactites had to hold on tight to the roof. Catherine thought this was a marvellous way to remember. Vincent had taught her this.
Patting herself dry with the paper towel she headed back to the car. Devin was slouched up against it, looking up at the mountains.
“I love the mountains Cathy. One day you must come and stay with Charles and I, and you know if we planned it very carefully, we could perhaps smuggle Vincent there too. Out there one can travel for kilometres without encountering a single person. Charles really came to life there, and do you know the only people we did meet, were so understanding that they took Charles beneath their wing immediately.”
“Vincent would love that Devin, but you would have a hard time convincing your father that it was a soundproof idea.”
Devin grimaced, and Catherine laughed out loud. Her laughter echoed all around them and the birds fluttered in the treetops in surprise.
“Well I guess we had better press on Cathy, do you want to find a motel or something, or should we just keep on driving?”
“Let’s see how we feel shall we? Its my turn to drive now while you rest anyway. If we see anywhere we fancy staying we can stop, though to be honest one of the loveliest experiences for me is driving through the mountains beneath a starry sky, and as it promises to be a full moon tonight, the show should be spectacular.”
“Sounds good to me Cathy, in fact perhaps we should drive all night and rest up during the heat of the day, there are some really quaint villages and family run hotels that we can choose from with delicious food, mmm, I can just taste that apple strudel and spaghetti now.”
“Not in that order I hope.” Catherine teased him, laughing.
Devin chuckled, as he settled down in his seat and closed his eyes.
*** *** ***
When Peter arrived back in New York he was downhearted. He had thought about it so much during the journey home and still not found a way in which he felt happy about breaking the news to Vincent that Catherine had disappeared again. Neither had he been able to locate Devin who he knew to be in London, for he was one of the people he had called, after speaking to Joanna. Even Devin had flown the nest, but he would not mention this to Vincent or Father, since Devin’s whereabouts were of a confidential matter, he only knew of his being in London because he had to provide Devin’s medical notes to a doctor that had requested them over there.
After speaking with Joanna that morning, Peter had taken the first available flight to London, after setting things up at the surgery with a relief doctor, and when he had arrived in London, he had taken a taxi straight to Joanna’s apartment. One look at her face as she opened the door, told him to expect bad news.
“Peter I’m so sorry you’ve had a wasted journey”, he could see that she was very upset, “Catherine has gone, I don’t know where she is, she just left this note.”
“Did she know I was coming?”
“No. When you called, I assumed that Cathy was still sleeping, and I went back to bed, and when I got up later I thought it was strange that she wasn’t up, then I found the note and all her things had gone. A neighbour tells me she saw a young woman hailing a cab outside early this morning. I rang your receptionist and she tried to catch you at the airport, but you had already boarded and there was no way of reaching you. Look at least come inside and freshen up, you can stay here if you want, while you decide what to do.”
Peter stepped gratefully into the luxurious apartment and his feet were immediately enveloped by a thick pile of carpeting in a beautiful peach colour, and he was struck by how welcoming the room was. Warm apricot walls with pretty flower borders a matching sofa and chairs, and the walls were studded with lights with apricot shades. Peter could imagine the softness their glow would add to the room when the main light was off at night.
Most of the furniture was pine, and there were a lot of glass and mirrors making the rooms appear larger than they were. Huge leafy plants flourished in every room, and on top of shelves trailed ivy and kangaroo vine.
In the dining area there were huge floor to ceiling windows that overlooked a courtyard filled with rhododendrons in blazes of stunning colour, red, mauve, pink and even a creamy yellow. In each corner of the courtyard were shrubs covered in dainty blue flowers, and Peter thought they were beautiful.
“What are those Joanna, do you know?” he asked pointing towards the shrubs.
Joanne came to see where he was pointing, “What the blue ones, pretty aren’t they? Let me see now, its something to do with the sea I think. They are sea, sea, oh I’ve got it, and its nothing at all to do with the sea, its just that’s what the name makes me think of, they are called Ceonothus Bushes, and they take really easy from a cutting. I’ll get some for you if you like, though isn’t there a law or something that prevents one from transporting plants from one country to another?”
“Yes, its mainly to do with the occupants living in the soil or their eggs beneath the leaves, one can never tell what else is being transported from place to place.”
“Like the Colorado Beetle, you mean?”
“Yes, and more recently the New Zealand worm. It eats the earth worm you see, and without the earth worm we would be in great deal of trouble.”
“You must be a keen gardener then Peter?”
“When I have the time for it, yes. I do like to have a beautiful garden to enjoy, and I should be grateful for some of those cuttings, I’ll smuggle them into America somehow.”
Joanna made Peter some coffee, while he continued to look around. He picked up a photograph of Joanna and Catherine together with a cheeky faced Joe towering behind them. Joanna followed his gaze. “That’s the two of us in New York,” she told him, with laughter in her voice, “Wherever we went Joe always seemed to pop up, we didn’t realise until the film was developed that he had been following us. I have a whole roll with some part of Joe on every photograph, they are really funny. He must have got a real kick out of playing that trick.”
“Joe is a good man, and a loyal friend to Cathy, but even he doesn’t know where she has gone.”
“Maybe not the last time you spoke with him, but Cathy was intending to call him the first chance she got. She had forgot to mention to him that she was going away.”
“How did you find her while she was here?”
“She wasn’t the Cathy I know and love, she was very touchy. I tried to fix her up with a date and we fell out over it among other things, I thought having someone new in her life would make her forget Mr. Mystery.”
“Mr. Mystery?” Peter enquired, lifting one eyebrow.
“Yes, perhaps you know something about this guy. Cathy told me that she was in love with someone, but could not see him anymore. She was so secretive about him. Once she would have told me everything but not this time. She assured me that she was trying to forget him, but every time I caught her unawares she would be staring off into space, like someone tormented, so I don’t think she was making a very good job of it.”
“She could never forget him Joanna, and I don’t really believe that she wants to do. Catherine is very mixed up right now, believe me, if she wasn’t suffering from this depression she would never have acted so out of character.”
“So you know this guy that she is in love with then, what’s he like?”
“Yes I do know him. I’ve known him since the day he was born, the same as I know Catherine, but I’m afraid any information about him is not mine to give.”
“What’s with the big secret then, it bugs me, it really does. I want to know?”
Peter smiled, and sipped his coffee, “Sorry Joanna, you should know better than to ask a doctor to break a confidence, I can’t tell you anything.”
“How about telling me about their baby then?”
“Cathy told you?”
“Yes, though I have to admit she didn’t mean to do, it kinda slipped out about the post natal depression, and I was quick to notice.”
“I can imagine.” Peter grinned.
“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?”
Peter laughed, “I’m sorry Joanna I can’t tell you about Jacob either.”
Joanna fastened her teeth to her bottom lip and giggled, “You just did. I never knew his name. That’s better than nothing I suppose. So how about telling me his father’s name now?”
“My lips are sealed, and I am going to change the subject. Do you mind if I ignore you for a while, and rest, I feel very tired.”
“No of course not, I’m sorry, I’m forgetting my manners, you must be tired, here put your feet up on the sofa and get some rest.”
When the room was silent, the sound of the clock ticking had a hypnotic effect, and Peter found his eyelids drooping. It had been a long, tiring and disappointing day. He had really hoped to see Catherine, she was like a daughter to him, and because he also knew Vincent so well, he had been one of the few people she had felt comfortable with in confining problems she encountered with their very complex relationship.
“I think I ought to go and check in at a hotel Joanna, or I am going to fall asleep right here on your couch.”
“Hey that’s okay Peter, you go right ahead. You can have the spare room, I have to go out anyway this evening, and there are plenty of restaurants around here where you can eat, or have something delivered. Make yourself at home, and don’t wait up for me, I’m not usually home before daybreak.”
Peter was too tired to argue the point, he was grateful for her hospitality. Tomorrow they would see if they could work out where Catherine may have gone, and he would begin searching for her all over again.
And search for her he did.
Borrowing that photograph, he went along to all the local hotels, and when he drew no leads there, he got the telephone directory and called almost every hotel in the phone book.
Finally when his fingers ached from pressing buttons, and his throat rasped from asking, he found her, or at least found where she had stayed. And he was so relieved when the clerk said, “Miss. Chandler, yes she stayed here for one night a week ago, before boarding a plane to Paris, other than that she left no forwarding address.” Peter was so relieved, but as that was as far as he could trace her, and he felt so despondent when he had to go back to New York, without the news that Vincent had been expecting.
*** *** ***
As the moon rose over Central Park, Father made his way through the tunnels. He had become increasingly worried over Vincent, for every night his adoptive son had left his own child to go and stand at the entrance of the tunnel into the park, listening to the night sounds around him.
Father found him gazing at the stars. In silhouette of the moon he stood there and though Father had approached quietly, and Vincent had not turned around, Vincent had sensed his father’s presence.
“Look Father, Orion, see how beautiful it is, Catherine showed me how it would remind her of a little dog, I couldn’t see it then, but I find I can now.” he pointed up at the constellation.
“Vincent try not to torment yourself. Peter did his very best, but it would appear that Catherine does not want to be found just yet. You know she is courageous and strong, she will look after herself.”
“There have been many times Father when I have saved Catherine’s life. The Bond that we shared told me when she was fearful and when she was happy. I no longer sense this, and cannot tell if she is in danger anymore. It grieves my heart in not knowing. She has been gone less than two weeks yet it feels a lifetime. Jacob needs his mother. I see the sadness in his eyes, I feel it in his body when I hold him. Catherine should be here with us Father. With me.”
“I think Vincent, that Jacob mirrors your own loss. When he is with you, he senses your feelings and reacts to them. I find no such sadness in him when he is in my arms. You must try not to show your feelings when you are with him, he relies on your strength and love. If your heart is with Catherine, Jacob will know it is not with him.”
“Perhaps you are right Father, yet I find it so difficult when I look at him. I see Catherine’s face in his, her eyes, her hair. Holding Jacob close, I feel a longing for Catherine that is new to me.”
“When Catherine first came into your life Vincent, it was an anxious time for me. I watched you change. For once in your life you revelled at having a beautiful woman love you. I never expected that Catherine would stay as long as she has. She is a very special person Vincent, and I have grown very fond of her, yet what she is doing to you now grieves me, but I have accepted it, because I always believed that this day would come.”
“But why Father? Catherine knows how deeply I love her, she must know the pain she is causing me.?”
“Catherine is from the world Above. Even I did not suspect that your love would go so far as to produce a child, and I feel that Catherine has found that aspect of your relationship difficult to handle. I would listen to her telling Jacob about the wonderful sights of her world, and would see the wistful look in her eyes at the knowledge that she would never share these things with him. I think that was the start of it Vincent, of her depression, and the only way she could cope with it was to separate herself.”
Vincent sighed, “Do you still believe that she will return Father.”
“Yes I still believe so, Once she has had time to analyse her feelings she will come back, after all this is where she belongs now and she will never find happiness anywhere else, especially without you.”
“I wish I had your faith Father, her words sounded so final. I have re-read them over and over, they were cool and distant, I could not even read between the lines.”
“Don’t try to make more of her letter than was actually written Vincent. Try to remember that her depressed state clouded her thinking. I believe that had she of endeavoured to write sentiment she would never have found the courage to carry out her plans. No, Vincent, the Catherine we know would never have treated you so badly, and she will return I am sure of it.”
Vincent nodded, “Thank you Father. Please return now, it is growing chilly. Do not worry about me, I shall be a while yet, I have some thinking that I need to do.”
“How can I not worry, try not to be too long huh?” Father patted Vincent’s shoulder, turned and walked back down the familiar tunnels, knowing Vincent would follow when he had straightened out his thoughts.
Listening to his father’s footsteps receding into the depths of the earth, Vincent remained gazing up at the stars. He had always loved them. To think from their vantage point they could see all the peoples of the earth in a single moment. How he wished he could be up there amongst them, then he would see clearly where to find Catherine. If only she had remained in America he would have found her, but Paris! he shook his head, that was impossible for him, but then, that was what she had intended. Father had been right in the things that he had told him, but Vincent found it hard to believe that Catherine had actually left him in the first place. Turning he walked back into the security of his underground world, there was a place he felt compelled to go.
As far as their relationship was concerned Catherine knew far more than he did. When she had told him she was pregnant, he hadn’t known what to think, it would put it mildly to say he was stunned, for he could not remember a single thing about the child’s conception. At that time he had been under great stress following Paracelsus’ lies and but for Catherine’s courage, he would have died.
He needed to retrace the steps of that fateful day, to return to the cavern where the fevers had racked his body, in the hope that being there would restore his memory.
It was a long walk and the tunnels were eerie and unlit, save for the odd lantern burning from time to time. It was not an area where people were encouraged to go, hence the darkness acted as a deterrent. Bad things happened to people down there, it was where the demons resided. Though Vincent’s eyesight was such that the darkness did not hinder him, he kept his gaze fixed firmly on each pinprick of light in front, as he strode purposefully ahead.
Reaching the cave he hesitated before entering. He could hear echoes in his mind of his roars that day from the fury that had been ripping him apart.
Wildly he had crouched against the far wall, and when Catherine had stepped through into the cave he had seen her as an angel and had tried to attack her. It was only when she had screamed his name in anguish that he had stopped and crumpled as dead at her feet. And that was where his memory failed him, yet he knew for a certainty that something beautiful had taken place thereafter.
Carefully, he lay down to the sandy floor, lying back in his place, and closed his eyes trying to visualise the moment.
He could remember thinking that he had died. He felt himself go, to be taken off into that peaceful place where pain and hurt vanished forever. A new experience had engulfed him, he could sense another being close by, hear the angel’s voice from afar calling his name, and could feel her warm breath upon his face.
Then a wonderful rapturous sensation filled his very being, the feel of her lips on his, and his senses reeled as her kiss deepened and a tingling started in his toes that rapidly swept through his entire body chased by a fiery passion that gave him back his life. He remembered how the thud of his own heartbeat had engulfed him, and could hear the groans burst forth from his mouth by their own submission.
From deep within himself all the feelings he had been trying so hard to deny rose to the surface and bubbled forth as her kisses deepened.
Opening his eyes, he had seen not an angel but Catherine, his beloved Catherine, her mouth fastened against his. In her love for him, she had crossed over the boundaries of their relationship and given her consent to step beyond.
As he saw the sorrow in her eyes, his arms had encircled her, pulling her eagerly against him to return her kisses, watching as the sorrow became joy as she realised he had survived and she had hugged him closer towards her.
Now as Vincent visualised the moment, he could see it all and felt the rising of his desire just as it had occurred that momentous day. And momentarily felt shamed by the passion of his arousal that day which had grown by its own accord beneath the weight of her body.
New feelings surging through his body at that time brought the sudden realisation of how desperately he wanted to make love to her, and now he groaned at the thought. He had wanted her so much, but had to be certain that Catherine wanted it too. Time and place ceased to exist and all Vincent needed to know was that they were in complete agreement over this. Cupping her face in his hands he had searched her eyes, finding within them raw passion and a pleading that was hard to deny. There was no going back now, her eyes told him all he needed to know, and as wave after wave of exquisite desire broke through his body he was aware of only one thing, the shuffle of clothing and her arms pulling him over to lie on top of her. Her legs tightly clamped around his.
He knew nothing else as his mind had become filled with Catherine, the scent of her enflamed him, her softness engulfed him, and as his body had finally claimed hers, every thought, every feeling shattered into a million explosive pieces.
Now as he lay remembering every detail he smiled. How could he have forgotten it! It had been the most sensational experience of his entire life. He could remember that Catherine had cradled him in her arms, kissing his face and stroking his hair, as semi-conscious he had lain afterwards feeling both physically and mentally drained. Then after Catherine and Father had helped him back to his own chamber, he had slept deep and dreamless for days, while Catherine had never left his side.
Getting up now, he felt refreshed. Leaning against the wall of the cave he remained thinking, wherever Catherine was at that moment, she took that memory of their shared love with her, how could she not come back? As if in response to that question something twinkled at him from the sandy floor, and bending he found within the folds of sand the crystal pendant, that she had lost that day, and he hung it high to watch the facets sparkle before his eyes. Filled with a deep sense of fresh hope, Vincent fastened the crystal around his own neck, then made his way back to his chamber and to the child he and Catherine had created that wonderful day in the fulfilment of their love.
*** *** ***
Catherine stood looking out from the balcony of the little hotel on the edge of the Dolomite Mountains, on the border of Austria and Italy. This was what she had yearned to see again, the jagged ranges stretching as far as the eye could see. Beautiful hues of grey and orange rock. It had been this orange rock that she had remembered the most. Strange how some things imprint on the mind like that, yet orange mountains were especially impressive against the blue of the sky. During the time there with her father she had visited some of the grottoes in the side of one of the Dolomite Mountains. One had been excavated by archaeologists from the British Museum two miles into the mountain where they had unearthed remains of cave dwellers from thousands of years ago.
What had impressed her the most however, were the huge stalagmites and stalactites, and the way the British Museum had installed coloured lighting to enhance their beauty, giving her a longing to come back and see them again.
The entrance to the grotto was high up on the mountainside, and Catherine had found it awesome to find that as visitors entered the grotto they could be seen walking above the clouds.
As she and her father had queued to go in, Catherine had marvelled at the thought of walking through the fluffy white clouds to reach the grotto, yet when she at last reached this height she had been so disappointed as it was nothing more than fog. The illusion had been better than the reality.
Inside the grotto she had gasped at the sheer beauty as the floodlights picked out the huge wet pillars, and the walls were sharp and rugged as if someone had sliced bits off them for the making of tools and weapons. The first guided tour took one into the mountain half a mile, and the deeper one went the colder it became. The dampness alone brought a chill to the bones that exceeded the chill brought about by the sight of the mummified remains of a large bear. And deeper still the skeletons of a mother and child lying side by side amid a scattering of pots and what one assumed to be cooking utensils. It had been hard to say what had killed them, though the archaeologists had assumed they had died one bitter winter and that the bear had used the same cave centuries later, and had died during hibernation. The second guided tour took one even deeper into the mountains, the whole two miles and it was said to be spectacular but Catherine had not taken that tour so far down.
Now as Catherine stepped back into the warmth of the room, she let out a deep sigh. The mountain air was exhilarating, fresh and crisp, really there was no place on earth for her that appealed as much as these mountains. She planned to do all the things she had done while there with her father, mainly because she had promised herself, that some day she would return, but now that her father had died the memory of that holiday was poignant and she craved to feel his presence. She missed him terribly especially since she had Jacob, and going back to the places they had travelled together reconciled him to her in a way nothing else could.
A loud knocking at her door interrupted her thoughts, and opening it she found Devin standing there, holding out his arm for her to take, “Would Madam care to join me downstairs for dinner,” he asked politely bowing.
Catherine laughed at him, he really was such a nice person, just like his father in many ways, and she told him, “Yes, thank you Sir, I would love to do.”
Devin got his spaghetti at last. Piles of it. There was nothing quite like eating spaghetti on its home ground. A huge plate was set before each of them, of pale cream spaghetti topped with a meaty sauce. The waiter handed them each a fork, and hovered behind them while they grappled with the yards of spaghetti.
Twisting it around her fork, Catherine found it a lot harder than she had remembered, for every time she captured a forkful, it slid off on the way to her mouth and plopped back into the sauce. It was very messy.
“You mustn’t let gravity get the better of you Cathy, look watch the expert.”
Devin twisted a fork around and around on the plate in the bulk of spaghetti, then with great speed transferred the whole into his mouth. Strands of spaghetti hung down his chin, and he un-politely sucked them in. They lashed from side to side, splattering sauce all over his face.
Catherine burst into laughter, “Yes that’s good Devin, but let me show you the easy way.”
Taking the side of her fork, she proceeded to cut the spaghetti into small pieces. Unfortunately, this was the reason why the waiter hovered behind them, anticipating this move, and as soon as he saw her cut it, he whisked the plate away, and set another steaming plateful before her, winking at her as he said, “We don’t allow cheating here Madam.”
It was Devin’s turn to laugh, “They always do that. And they will stand behind you until you master every last forkful, believe me.”
Catherine opened her eyes wide in disbelief, “I will never eat all that Devin, I’d burst.”
“Don’t over estimate yourself Cathy, you have got to actually get it to your mouth, yet!”
Fumbling with the yards of pasta was so difficult. Catherine watched the other diners, who seemed to have mastered it with ease.
Devin packed his fork full and with gusto transferred it to his mouth, while other people took the messier way of putting an end of spaghetti into their mouth and sucked it in, others shovelled the pasta on to the fork and ate it that way.
Catherine chose the latter, it did after all seem the more ladylike of the three, yet it soon became apparent that the pasta was very filling, and she could not eat it all. Pushing aside her plate, the waiter was reaching across to retrieve it, “If it has turned cold madam, I can bring you another hot plateful,” he told her, with a twinkle in his eye.
Catherine stared at him in horror, “No, please no, I could not eat another mouthful.”
“Then perhaps madam, would like to dance now, no?”
Oh the thought of it, after all that spaghetti, Catherine shook her head, not trusting herself to speak, and the waiter laughed at the look on her face. He shook his head, thinking, these Americans they think they have the monopoly on life, yet they don’t know how to live!
Laying on her bed later, Catherine was too uncomfortable to sleep, so she set up a chair on the balcony to sit and watch the sun setting behind the mountains. It was a spectacular night.
One of the things that used to interest her as a child was not knowing whether the sky was actually light blue as in the daytime, or dark blue as at night. During the day when one looked up at the sky, it seemed to have a canopy, yet at night the sky was infinite. She had never lost the feeling of awe for the galaxies, the stars and the planets as far as the eye could see and beyond. Then she had been thrilled to learn, from Vincent of all people, Vincent who had never walked out in the sunshine, that the sun wasn’t actually golden, but was all the colours of the rainbow. And as the sun rose in the sky every day, the shorter red rays were dominant and spread out across the horizon mingled with varying hues of pinks and orange, and as the sun rose higher then the longer blue rays became dominant and turned the whole sky to blue.
Sometimes on very rare occasions one was able to witness a momentary green sunset, as the very short green rays spread out across the horizon at the setting of the sun. All of this took effect as the sun’s coloured rays bounced off the earth’s own protective layer, the ozone.
As a cloak of darkness gathered up its wings and spread from the west to ooze across the night sky, Catherine sighed, this had always seemed ominous to her and she could never still the shiver that it brought running up her spine. Yet in an awe-inspiring way it held its own beauty, enveloping the land in its wake making the distinction between day and night. And one by one the stars popped into view, the brightest of them all, known as the evening star, was not a star at all, but instead the planet Venus. Usually invisible by the light from the sun, Venus was the most striking with its flashing colours of green, blue, red and gold, and strands of silver light pulsating from it.
Catherine could stand and look at the night, all night, if only her eyes could stay open long enough, to be able to savour every moment, and as the whole sky became darkened Catherine could see Orion. She had told Vincent how its shape reminded her of a little dog. He could never see it. However, for him, Orion held its own magic. It was one of the few constellations of stars that had its own nebula visible to the naked eye, and with strong binoculars one could see the fuzzy star burst. While with a telescope one could see the nursery of new stars being formed. And the intense vibration of colours of varying hues of pink and cerise could be seen with the aid of a camera fixed to a satellite, one that sent back pictures of this amazing nebula, and Catherine marvelled at all that was taking place right before her eyes. These things too, Vincent had taught her.
Becoming suddenly very tired, Catherine went across to lie upon her bed. The night was warm and crickets could be heard out in the grounds, while fireflies darted here and there, like tiny torches probing the darkness.
The scent of the night wafted across to her, and she closed her eyes and slept.
Far across the Atlantic Ocean, Vincent watched the sunrise. He didn’t often stay out so long, but the night had been so beautiful and he could not tear himself away. Summer was ending and there was a cool breeze in the air, though wrapped in his cloak to shield his face he did not feel it. Since remembering that day in the cavern with Catherine, the special Bond he had shared with her had returned to him. Father had said that it had only disappeared while part of his memory had gone. A gap in his life had dislodged the connection, and when that gap closed, the Bond had resumed its place.
So Vincent had sat beneath the stars all night being thrilled by Catherine’s emotions.
He felt wonderful, whatever her emotions, he was at least happy to feel the connection, and to be a part of her again. It erased the aloneness he had felt of late, though with her mixed emotions of happiness and sorrow, he found it hard to contemplate exactly what was on her mind.
One moment she seemed ecstatically happy, as if someone known to her had just stepped into the room, and the next she appeared wretched and forlorn. It grieved him that he could not be there to comfort her when she needed it the most. And he found it a great burden that at times she seemed to be enjoying herself without him. She had said that he should try to forget her.
Had she been able to forget him? Had she found someone new to take his place in her heart?
He shook his great head sadly. He loved her so much. His arms ached to hold her, and his lips longed to kiss hers. He wanted to be able to tell her that he had remembered, and since then had renewed it over and over in his mind. His desire for her had mounted with each passing thought and he didn’t quite know what to do about it.
Feeling the connection to her only intensified his desire, it was new to him, and he felt humiliated by its force.
Unable to concentrate on anything else, his mind seemed to have taken control, as he re-lived that day in the cavern. How good it had felt when first she had kissed him, the sweetness of her lips on his. Her courage at stepping over the boundary that had always held them back before.
The way his body had come to life beneath her lips, the desire that had spread from his toes and swept through his body like a fire engulfing him until he had been overcome with passion and love for her. Had she of drawn away from him at that moment, he could not contemplate, he did not want to think about that, for he would have found their relationship too painful under those circumstances to continue, and it would have been exceedingly embarrassing every time they saw one another.
He was grateful to her for setting him free to be what he had always desired to be; a man. For allowing him to love her as a man. It was a dream he had always denied himself. To risk having a mounting passion for her, in fear of where it would lead him, he had never wanted to frighten or hurt her as he had hurt Lisa. Yet Lisa had taunted him, and Catherine did not, she was always respectful of his feelings and never created a situation that could get out of control. He’d sensed that she longed for him to kiss her, but ever mindful of their situation had patiently waited for him to feel comfortable with this revelation until the day in the cavern, when she believed him to be dying.
Prior to that occasion she had never known of the times he had bid her goodnight, with the longing to pull her into his arms and kiss her sweet lips, yet he had always found the strength to resist, although she had waited there in expectation. Had she not, they would have both been lost, for he would never have been able to hold back, if she had made it known of her own desires.
Vincent found though that it emotionally drained him to be around her while fighting within himself to do the right thing, for he could not trust himself that a kiss would be enough. With the re-birth of his memory and their Bond Vincent was overcome by the power of his desire for her. He was having to learn self-control, and it was not easy. In many respects he was grateful for Catherine’s absence, allowing him the time to conquer his passion, and learn to control it. Yet he often thought about Catherine’s return and how he would welcome her. At that moment he felt that he would sweep her up into his arms and carry her off to his chamber to make love to her, yet that very thought shamed him. And when he really thought about it, he hoped he would never allow an event like that to take place between them, for he could not allow her to see the intensity of his feelings.
Yet he longed for her so. His heart seemed to be dying. He did not know for how much longer he could bear to be apart from her, and wondered if she could feel his pain. In a way he hoped so, perhaps then, it would bring her back to him.
*** *** ***
Catherine awoke feeling refreshed. She hadn’t felt so good in a long time, and for the first time in many weeks she had a deep longing for her baby and welcomed the feeling.*** *** ***
Previously she had been dismayed that she had hardly felt anything from leaving Jacob behind. Though it had been her intention to walk out of his life and not regret it, she had been annoyed with herself that it had all been so easy to do. She had reasoned that any other mother who could do that was a bad parent, and not fit to be a mother any way. Yet missing Jacob did not alter the situation any, did not change the fact that he was every bit Vincent’s son, and as such she could not evaporate the sadness that he was not like other children and he could not share his life with her. If she were to bring him up and he went with her to see the snow capped mountains, the sun dappled water, beautiful pine forests with leafy green ferns, rainbows and rainstorms, crashing foaming oceans. All the things that delighted her senses the most. It would only add to his heartache, that the burden he carried would mean that someday all those things would be snatched away from him, and he would be forced to live beneath the city streets. And that would be like allowing a blind man to see for a short while, and then have his sight snatched away again. And Catherine could not do that to her son, she loved him too much, better to have never known, than to have known and have it taken away.
Hadn’t Father himself told her that it was the colours he missed the most. She couldn’t allow Jacob to have such pain. If she could be sure that he would never grow to resemble Vincent, it would be different, but they could not be sure, and could not take any risks.
Showered and dressed, Catherine made her way down to breakfast. Devin was already there munching on toast and apricot jam, and waved her over when he caught sight of her. “Hi, Cathy, did you have a good night?”
“Yes, when finally all that spaghetti went down, I slept well. I left the window open and the fresh mountain air was delicious. Have you noticed how all the different countries have their own familiar scent Devin?”
“Mmm, like the scent of croissants in France, the scent of Strudel in Austria and the tantalising scent of spaghetti in Italy, you mean, although having said that it is just as good in Austria, unless its because we are on the border of the two.?”
Catherine caught the emphasis on spaghetti, “You will never let me forget that will you?”
“Never.” he replied, with a mischievous grin.
Catherine sat down and poured herself Some coffee. “When do you have to be at your interview Devin?”
“Two days time. Plenty of time to sight see first, what are your plans for today?”
“I wanted to visit the grotto I went to see with my father, we never got time to explore the two mile route, and I should like to do that.”
“You have something about being beneath the earth don’t you?”
“Its funny, but yes, I have always found it delightful.”
“You know Cathy, tell me if its none of my business, but are you and Vincent having problems?”
Catherine looked at him a long time before answering, “Why do you ask that Devin?”
“Well when I first bumped into you in Paris, I automatically assumed you were there on D. A. business, but I don’t know, call it intuition if you like, but I now get the feeling that’s not the reason you are here at all.”
Catherine fumbled with her napkin.
“You don’t have to tell me Cathy, its not important.”
“Yes it is. It is important, and you are right I am having problems, but Vincent isn’t the problem, I am.”
“Care to talk about it Cathy?”
“Yes, I do need to talk to someone, and I know at least you will understand. Joanna tried to prise it out of me, but of course I couldn’t confide in her, she doesn’t know Vincent, and I couldn’t tell her anything.”
“I thought you said Vincent wasn’t the problem?”
“He isn’t...well not directly. Look Devin did you ever get any of our messages about Jacob?”
“No, not your father Jacob, I mean my baby Jacob.”
“You have a child?”
“Yes, we did send many messages to you, but if you were travelling you wouldn’t have got any I suppose.”
“This baby... Cathy, whose is it?” Devin was almost afraid to ask.
“Devin, what do you take me for. I love Vincent...how can it be anyone’s but his?”
“Its Vincent’s child?” Devin asked incredulously.
“Is that all you can say?”
“For the moment, yes.”
Catherine shrugged, “Then I will continue with this later, and give you time to get your head around it.” She pushed back the chair and made to leave but Devin chased after her, “Cathy, wait!” he caught her up as she was stepping through the hotel doors out into the sunshine, “Cathy please wait, its not what you think. Look I don’t know what it is I meant, but I didn’t mean to offend you. Look let’s walk along together and you can tell me all about it.”
Catherine smiled, “Only if you can clarify what you mean by ‘it’.” she teased him.
Devin laughed out loud, “That’s better Cathy. I couldn’t believe that your and Vincent’s relationship had gone that far. You see Vincent told me about the time with Lisa, and I knew he was afraid never to take a chance like that again.”
“Vincent was young then Devin, and he didn’t love Lisa, not really. Infatuation maybe but not love. And Lisa taunted him, he knows that now.”
“Still to know that you and he actually...well you know... I find it hard to believe.”
“There you go again. Why so hard. Vincent is a man like no other, with a man’s desires like any other.”
“And you are a beautiful woman unlike no other, and could have the pick of the eligible men in New York, so why did it have to be Vincent?”
“I fell in love with him. Vincent is everything to me, more than a man, and when I look at Vincent I see only the man, never the beast. He is beautiful in my eyes.”
“Then you are more remarkable that I gave you credit for Cathy. I really believed that friendship would be all you would offer him, I’d like to hug you for giving him so much.
Vincent is very special to me and I too see the man and not the beast. In my eyes we are brothers.”
Walking along in silence they came across a small trap pulled by a Palomino coloured pony, with its golden fur and creamy mane and tail. “Devin, let’s take a ride shall we, do you know what these ponies are?”
“They’re animals aren’t they?” Catherine smacked his arm playfully, “No, silly, I mean did you know that they are the native pony of Austria. They are called Haflinga ponies, and are very sturdy and strong. Come on get in, we can travel up the mountainside.”
Devin enjoyed it far more than he had expected to do. Horses had never really appealed to him, but being in the open topped trap, pulled by the clip clopping pony, beneath the pine trees along with the avid interest of the interchange of conversation, he found that he enjoyed himself immensely.
He still found it incredible that Vincent had actually come to know the pleasure of men, and he longed to speak with him about it. Catherine wasn’t to know, but he and Vincent had spoken long into the night on more than one occasion about quite intimate subjects from time to time, as they had grown up together.
“So tell me about your son Cathy, does he look anything like Vincent?”
“Yes and no. He is very beautiful. He has Vincent’s blue eyes and golden hair, which I am sure will be as unruly as Vincent’s eventually, and though Vincent tells me that Jacob looks like me, I cannot see a single bit of me in him.
“That’s usually the way. We can never see ourselves mirrored in anyone or anything else. Take me for instance, when I look in the mirror I can never believe that handsome man is me.”
Catherine laughed out loud.
“I bet my father got a shock when he found you were pregnant?”
“Not just your father, Vincent got a shock too.”
It was Catherine’s turn to look mischievous. “Vincent can’t remember a single thing about the event. You remember that terrible time when Paraselcus lied to him, and he had that nervous breakdown?”
“Well it was then at that time that he and I... well you know...and he never remembered any of it. Many parts of his past were lost at that time. The Bond we shared was one of them.”
“So he has no recollection? Poor Vincent.”
“Why do you say it like that Devin?”
“Well just think Cathy, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that you have produced a baby, and not remembering how it came to be, must be so frustrating. You imagine, yourself, waking up and finding you are pregnant and not knowing how it came to be. Wouldn’t it send you nuts wondering about it?”
“Yes, I suppose it would, put like that. Do you know I have never given it much thought in that way. And it is something Vincent and I have never spoken about.”
“There you go again.”
“I don’t know what else to say Cathy. Yes I do, why then are you here, surely the memory loss is Vincent’s problem, why are you the one to run away from it?”
“Its not like that Devin. Apparently I have, or had, post natal depression, I do feel better now, but while it raged I found myself not knowing what it was I wanted from life. All I knew was that I craved a normal life, one where I could share my world with Vincent and Jacob, and leaving them both seemed the right thing to do at the time.”
“And now I don’t think I should have left, but now that I have, I think it has afforded me the opportunity to stay out of their lives and make a new one for myself. Vincent and Jacob have each other, my world is an intrusion in theirs, it makes Vincent desire the things he cannot have, and that in turn makes me feel wretched.”
“I can understand how you feel, but you are wrong Cathy. Take me for instance, I lived in that world, was born into it. Vincent never saw me as any different until the day came that I could leave and he could not. Still he never wished to deny me that chance, and has lived for the stories that I bring him, on my return trips. I am what I am, and he is what he is, neither one of us expect to take anything from the other. In many respects I envy him for the way he fearlessly walks the night, spending whole nights out beneath the stars in very lonely places. I couldn’t do that, I’d be too afraid of getting mugged or knifed, but with Vincent’s acute sense of hearing he knows ahead of time when danger exists, and can flee from it, or fight it. He does a lot of good in clearing New York of criminals, even if in its wake his way is a bit messy. I know that Vincent longs to be able to walk out in the sunlight, Cathy, but me well, I would love to walk fearlessly beneath the moonlight, wouldn’t you?”
Catherine nodded slowly, as a bright smile lit up her face, and Devin felt as though his heart had somersaulted. She really was beautiful, Vincent was a lucky guy.
“Yes.” she told him finally, “I have never looked at it that way before.”
“You see Cathy, its because of what Vincent is that makes him so special. That and the way my father brought him up. Vincent is unique, maybe we will discover there are others like him, but for now he is the only one, and you can’t do better than that. Vincent has come to terms with not being able to live in your world, and it is yourself that must come to accept that.”
“Supposing I can. How could I leave behind my world to be with him, and know that I can never introduce him to my friends?”
“Are your friends really so important Cathy? Who are your real friends? Vincent’s world has people in it who have become your friends too, could you take a man from your world and introduce him to them?”
“No, I promised I would never betray their secret.”
“Then what difference does it make that you cannot take Vincent Above and introduce him to the people there?”
Catherine accepted this logic, she wondered why something so simple had been so hard to grasp.
“Cathy if one of your friends were offered the opportunity of real happiness forever, do you think they would refuse it for the sake of your friendship? Think about the future Cathy, can you visualise yourself growing old and grey with the satisfaction of knowing that you have never forsaken your friends, while denying yourself the chance of love? Of what use is that? So that someone can say, ‘Good old Cathy, she sat on the shelf so that she would always be there just in case I ever needed her.’ Or would you prefer to grow old with the one you loved, storing up precious memories to treasure in your old age. Which path of life would make you most happiest, which path would make you most bitter. You have to make a choice Cathy, friends or Vincent. I know if I had found a love like the one the two of you share, I know for a certainty which one I would chose.”
“Still the long face Cathy, what else is there?”
“I know what you are saying Devin, and believe me you have put a lot of things into perspective...”
“But it doesn’t alter the way I feel, the fact that I want a normal life.”
“How do you define normal Cathy?”
“Basically I want what every girl wants, a husband, a family, security.”
“So you have two out of three Cathy, you said you saw the man and not the beast, why then do you believe marriage with Vincent would be impossible?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Devin, I want Vincent as a lover, but I have never thought of him as a husband, yet deep down inside my morals are such that marriage comes before children, and now that I have it in the wrong order, my conscience bothers me.”
Devin took a deep breath and let it out slowly, “So you decided that you would be better off making a fresh life for yourself with someone new, and do it in the right order, but its too late for that Cathy.”
“Because you are being unnaturally selfish. You are thinking in terms of only what it is you want. And in so doing you are forgetting that others have a say in things now.”
“I believe Vincent and Jacob are better off without me.”
“Does your heart or your head tell you that?”
Catherine looked at him. It was an unusual question, but she answered with, “My heart tells me this is right for all of us.”
“The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?”
“Is that a quote from somewhere Devin?”
“Yes, from the Bible, Jeremiah I think.”
“I wouldn’t have taken you for a Bible Scholar Devin?”
“Just another re-bound from my past Cathy, you know me. However, you are evading the subject at hand.”
“I hoped you wouldn’t notice, for I don’t know what else to say.”
“How about drawing out the real reason from your head rather than you heart. What exactly is it that you do want?”
Catherine thought long and hard. Her heart kept pricking her with seeds of doubt. Her heart told her that Vincent and Jacob were better off without her. Her heart told her that it was too painful to continue with the relationship as it was. Her head asked her, “for whom?”
Watching as the many expressions chased across her face, Devin remained silent, allowing her time to analyse her feelings, praying within himself that her head would lead her to the right conclusion. To him the answer was all so obvious, yet she had to see it for herself.
Slowly she found the strength to shut out the cries of her heart and listen to what logic was telling her. She had tried to forget Vincent, to blot out thoughts of him and Jacob from her mind, her heart had told her it was the right thing to do. She had been uneasy with this battle going on inside her for so long that she had grown too weary to think, to feel anymore. Some days her misery had engulfed her and she had wished for the oblivion of everlasting sleep, but deep inside she had reasoned that this would be taking the easy way out. She longed so much to be free of the pain, the longing, the hunger, ‘for what? for what?’
As reprieve from her thinking the pony and trap came to a halt and the driver waited for them to alight. They had reached a small taverna high in the mountain, and while Devin paid the driver, Catherine walked on ahead.
“Would you like something to drink Cathy?”
She nodded, “Yes please, I’ll have a long cool glass of Apfelsaft, and I am sure you would enjoy one too. Its delicious.”
Devin nodded, “Yes I have tried it before and I agree.”
Catherine found a small table on the terrace overlooking the sheer drop over the mountain to the valley below. It was breathtaking. Momentarily she allowed herself the freedom of clearing her head while she drank in the fresh mountain air, there really was nothing quite like it.
Devin came back presently with two glasses of golden liquid. Catherine took hers gratefully, and sipped, savouring the first delights of this fresh tangy apple juice, so sweet, so sharp.
“Mmm”, she uttered, eyes closed, licking the drips from her lips, “I have looked forward to this so much.”
Devin eyed her humorously. He sat down at a seat by the table looking out across the view, “Its like we are nowhere else on earth isn’t it.”
“Its perfect Devin. I have longed to come back here for so many years. Sometimes in the first waking moments back home, I have visualised myself stood here, leaning on this railing, overlooking this valley, with a glass of cool Apfelsaft in my hand, and sometimes the longing to return has been physically painful.
“If I had known that memory it would be the same for me. Perhaps from now on, I will hold it as dear to me, as you do. But I think a lot of it will be to do with the company. Who would have thought it, eh, that me, as Vincent’s brother would be in another country with the woman he loves, its kinda funny when you think of it.”
Catherine chose to ignore some of the remark, speaking instead of his home, “And yet you live in the mountains, surely you have greater memories?”
“My mountains are a special place Cathy, but there is a lot of dust and barrenness from time to time, being here is different, besides in my mountains one doesn’t come across a beautiful spot like this offering such delightful refreshment. The mountain air gives me an appetite, are you hungry, would you like to eat?”
Catherine shook her head, “Not yet, there is some place I have to go. Devin would you mind waiting for me, I really need to go there by myself.”
“That’s okay, and if you really don’t mind, I will fetch myself a meal while I wait for you.”
“I don’t know how long I’ll be.”
“Take all the time you need Cathy, it’s so beautiful up here, I could stay here until I fossilise.”
Catherine laughed, and leaving the remainder of her drink for later, she set off, past the rows of tables, down some steps and out onto the short nibbled grass of the mountain itself. Passing some goats, she made her way up the familiar path until she found the place she sought.
Nothing had changed. It was still as unspoilt as it ever was. She lay on the sweet grass, tenderly covered with wild flowers and rolled over to look around her. The taverna was obscured by the height and the density of the fir trees, giving her total seclusion. And the sky above was the deepest of blues, interspersed with tiny white cobwebby clouds and she wondered if time stood still in this perfect place, for it was exactly as she had remembered.
She wished she had brought a notepad and pen, for suddenly she had an overwhelming desire to write down everything as she saw it, and send the letter to Vincent, telling him of all this awareness, around her. She knew he would be transported there by her words and he would love every moment of it. Returning to her earlier thoughts she allowed her mind to drift over the last few weeks. It was true that she had seriously believed that leaving Vincent was the right thing to do, yet hadn’t her head told her that she had been wrong about that?
She allowed her head the right to rule without the intervention of her heart and logic found its way to the truth. Instantly she knew, what she had already known, but had refused to see it, that Vincent was her life, her whole life. Her love and the love of her life, and being there on the mountain, while precious to her, was incomparable to being thirty feet below the earth with him. Things that Devin had said came back to haunt her. She had been selfish in believing that making a fresh start and getting things in the right order was the right thing to do, had only successfully brought pain and misery to other people. And to continue with that plan, she would only be leaving behind an blazing trail of hurt wherever she went, and whosoever lives she touched by her compelling desire to do what was right, she would hurt others, just so her conscience would not be troubled. And that was wrong.
Slowly her mind allowed for the beauty of acceptance, to believe and accept that with love all things are possible. ‘ Love is long suffering and kind, love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests...’
That’s what she was doing of course, looking for her own interests, Catherine was surprised that the scripture had been recalled to mind like that, almost as if someone else were reading it to her, as it continued inside her head, ‘love does not look for its own interests.’ Wasn’t that what she had been doing? ‘Love does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury, it does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things...Love never fails.’ (1st Corinthians Ch. 13).
Letting out a deep sigh, Catherine applied the latter of the verse to Vincent. No matter what she had put him through in her selfishness, she knew without a shadow of a doubt that he would not keep account of the injury, and that with his life as it was, he believed all things, hoped all things, endured all things. Their love had given him fresh hope and he had come to accept it for real. ‘What had she done to him, by snatching the foundation from under his feet?’ For the first time Catherine began to see her actions the way he would have seen them.
Her note however well meaning, would have cut through him as surely as if it had been a two edged sword. Catherine moaned in anguish, she had not intended to cause him such pain. Getting to her feet, she brushed the dirt from her clothing and made her way quickly back to where Devin waited patiently for her. One look at her radiance told him all that he needed to know. He hugged her in greeting and lifted her gaze to meet his, “You have reached a conclusion?, he asked her.
“Yes Devin, I’m going home.” Then as she realised the enormity of her words, she quickly added, “But I promise I will be back to help you. What you are doing here is of up-most importance to me too, and I desperately want to find out about Vincent’s background, and will help you in any way I can, but for now there are those that need me, and I have kept them waiting far too long.”
Devin hugged her tightly, her body against his sending a flicker of something he didn’t want to dwell on, so he pulled away to pick up her half finished drink and offered it to her. Catherine drank it gratefully, unaware of the mixed emotions Devin was trying to disguise, as she drank it quickly as no longer relinquishing its flavour seemed important to her.
“How will we get down, I fear the pony and trap have long since left, how are you at riding the chair lift Cathy?”
“Oh adore it, but we cannot ride together, the seats are too small, do you mind?”
Devin shook his head, it was just as well, her presence made him heady, and that unnerved him, he didn’t want anything to emphasise how his body reacted around her, of its own accord. “Not at all,” he found himself telling her, “come on let’s get started, the sooner you are back home the sooner you will return. And Cathy?”
“I am so glad that you reached this conclusion. You know the answer was before you all along. There is absolutely no reason why Vincent should not, could not be your husband, but promise me you won’t go getting married before I can be there to see it?”
“I promise, Devin. It wouldn’t be the same without you, I owe you such a lot.”
Devin smiled, he was happy that Vincent was getting her back, still he couldn’t help feeling sad that she was leaving. And hoped that she would be back as she had promised, and soon.
Getting into the chair lift had always been a wondrous experience for Catherine. As each chair lift came through the kiosk, each passenger had to stand, back turned to its approach and literally jump backwards onto the seat, buckling the harness as they went along. For the chairs never stopped running, and passengers had to embark and disembark in split seconds, or miss their chance entirely.
The ride down the mountains was every bit as breathtaking as Catherine had remembered. The small seat of the chair lift didn’t allow for much movement. It would swing slightly, and the fear of falling was ever present. As the chair left the security of the mountainside, Catherine swung her legs out in front of her, thrilling in the feel of being suspended so high above the ground. It was a slow way to travel, but afforded its own delights. The view was fantastic. Allowing herself to turn slightly so as not to tip the seat too much, Catherine looked all around her. Her heart was lifted, she was going home, home to Vincent, back to his home, to her home. For she knew now, without a shadow of a doubt, that she could live in his world, and no longer did leaving behind all she had ever known matter to her anymore. She would acclimatise to living Below, and find something to occupy her time, when she wasn’t either loving Vincent or bringing up his children. Involuntary she passed the palm of one hand over the flatness of her stomach, the thought of more babies delighted her. Vincent’s babies. She wiggled in her seat and was rewarded by the gentle tilt of the chair swinging her to and fro.
And as the chair made its ascent to the first anchorage point to the ground, it rattled and swung precariously, causing her to hold her breath. These points always unnerved her, and after so long since riding in one, her trust had waned, she really felt that at any moment, having come so fully to her senses, she would now plummet to her death, and Vincent would never know that she had been returning to him. The thought brought tears rushing to her eyes, and a fresh wave of longing, to know that she had come so close and yet was so far, and it was unbearable. Then as the chair lift tracked its way expertly through the links, up and over, and travelled on its way along the wires to the next anchorage point, Catherine regained her trust, and gingerly turned in her seat to view Devin coming up behind. He was about twenty feet away and she could see by his expressions that he was loving every minute of it, swinging out his legs to and fro, making the chair creak and groan, as if he was on a park swing. Catherine laughed and called out loudly, “Hey Devin stop that, you’ll bring us both down if the wire snaps.”
Serious he stopped at once, “I never thought of that Cathy,” he called back.
The rest of the journey they continued in silence, each to his own thoughts, delighting in the wonder of the ride, so far above the ground, with the fresh mountain air sneaking into every part of their being.
As the chair made its descent, Catherine un-harnessed herself in readiness to disembark. This, along with getting on to start with, were the funniest parts, one literally had to leap off, or the chair would be inside the kiosk in seconds and start its ascent once more. Waiting for Devin, Catherine watched his expressions as he approached. He didn’t disappoint her. Un-harnessing himself well before time, he leapt off the seat five feet above the ground, landing squarely and safely, but just as his look of triumph surfaced, too late he saw the empty chair from behind approaching, and it caught him on the back of his head, hard. He fell forward, and Catherine ran to help him up, “You idiot Devin. Are you okay?”
Stunned, he affirmed that he was, but Catherine was not convinced. Taking his arm, she led him away from the danger zone, and made him sit down, while she felt the bump on his head, growing beneath her fingers rapidly.
“I’m okay Cathy, my pride is hurt more than my head, honestly.”
“And so it should be, your father’s fears for you are well grounded, you do seem to do the most impetuous things at times.”
“What?”, the look on her face concerned him.
“I was wondering Devin, if it is safe for me to leave you alone. Perhaps I should stay just long enough for you to get that job and be out of danger. What more will you get up to without me here to rescue you, I wonder?”
“Its okay Cathy, I won’t do any more foolhardy things, I promise.” his heart hammered at her suggestion to stay, “ but you know if that offer of staying really does exist, I would appreciate it. My interview is in two days time, it would be great if you could just stay long enough to see the outcome of that. If I don’t get the job, I shall need another plan.”
Reluctantly Catherine nodded, wishing she hadn’t offered, still two days wasn’t long, not considering the length of time she had already been away, and it would afford her the time to do the rest of the things she had planned to do after all.
Devin of course was being entirely selfish, as he did from time to time. Despite his little speech and the fact that Catherine only had eyes for Vincent, and he did not intend to move in on her in that way, he could not deny the fact that he enjoyed her company, and there was some attraction on his part towards her. He told himself it was because she connected him to his home, a home that he missed if he was honest with himself, and she also gave him a connection to his brother, who he missed the most. And having Catherine there to talk to about Vincent helped to ease his longing to see him again. That’s what he told himself, for he could not trust himself to analyse the real reason as to why he wanted her around him a few days more.
However, Devin did not want Vincent to have to worry any longer about the whereabouts of Catherine, and so without consulting her, he sent a telegram to his father and Vincent via one of the helpers, and posted it that evening on his way down to dinner.
The grotto was by far much better than Catherine had remembered. The stalactites and stalagmites were huge. They made her feel as though she was walking through some giant monster’s rib cage. Leaning against some as she moved between them, she found their chalky smoothness a pleasure to touch. It had never surprised her to learn that they were thousands of years old, yet it seemed to her that in her absence of twenty-two years, they had grown much larger.
*** *** ***
The entrance to the grotto was very high, and narrowed as one descended into the mountain. Catherine was pleased to find that the two mile route was still in operation and that the tunnel had been widened and strengthened by the British Museum. Further excavations had revealed more bones of humans had been found, and she was delighted to hear, a crystal cavern with underground lakes, which reflected the dazzling crystals. The lakes had held the remains of humans and animals alike, and much was being discovered into how they had lived so far beneath the earth.
Asking a guide if she would be allowed to walk down to the crystal cavern, he smiled as he replied, “Well you can walk if you like, though it would take you all day. Personally, I would take the train.”
“You’re British!” Catherine exclaimed, “Do you work for the museum?”
“Yes I am part of the team. We realised people would want to see what we have unearthed, and to my mind the inside of the mountain is more spectacular than the outside. Its only a personal opinion mind. I think that the inside takes your breath away, like the outside never can, and though the trip doesn’t come cheap, I can assure you it is worth every penny and more. We have to charge so much for the running of the train, well its a glorified buggy really, but its much better than walking. Are you still interested?”
“Yes, I first came here with my father as a child, and I always promised myself I would return. How long is the journey?”
“About ninety minutes. There’s a lot to see on the way down too, and of course you have the added pleasure of listening to me ramble on all the way down there, about all the things we have found. Though unfortunately we have never unearthed the remains of a dinosaur.”
“Yes I have read about that. People seem to think that dinosaurs should have roamed this continent, but as yet no-one has uncovered any remains. Isn’t that odd?”
“Yes I think it is. Could be the height of course, though we ascertain that once the mountains were much lower, mere hills in parts. As the sea subsided, it opened up miles of land and huge mountain ranges. We believe that the sea will eventually reclaim its own, and the land as we know it now, will, one day be under water. Imagine in thousands of years’ time some team of archaeologists will come along and find our remains and wonder about our way of life. It is quite awesome to think about it. Yet even knowing all this we have found that even in the lowlands there still have been no dinosaur discoveries. Perhaps we aren’t looking in the right places.”
Catherine smiled at him, “I wonder what they will make of your buggy, thousands of years from now.” She had just spotted it in front of her, it wasn’t nearly as bad as he had implied. Several little carriages bolted together on a small track. Each carriage carried four people, each facing forwards two behind each other. The walls were lit with lanterns and candles, where floodlights could not penetrate, and the dancing flames brought eerie shadows that added to the atmosphere and the pleasure of the grotto.
“Well then, whose for the trip into the mountains?” asked the guide.
Several people stepped forward, and Catherine joined them to climb into the carriages, but Catherine found a hand on her elbow ushering her to the front carriage to sit alongside the guide. She had an unmistakable feeling that he wanted to get to know her better, and this unnerved her.
“My name is Scott,” he told the passengers, “And you are going to love every minute of this trip, I hope you can all understand English?”
Most of the passengers affirmed, but for a few who were French.
Scott was fluent in many languages, French being one of them, but he wasn’t about to let Catherine know that, “Oh dear, I don’t know French. Do you?”
Catherine nodded, “Let me guess you are going to ask me to translate for you, right?”
He nodded, “Am I so obvious.”
Catherine smiled, “Then I shall have to sit nearer those people, so they can hear me.”
“No bother,” he quickly jumped from his seat to go across to them, and brought them back to be nearer Catherine, “there that will do.”
“I hope you are going to give me a free trip for my services.” Catherine joked.
“Not only that, but I’d like to buy you dinner this evening too.” Scott winked at her, making Catherine laugh out loud, and she blushed when she saw the other passengers smiling. However, Catherine had no wish to get involved, and told him as gently but as firmly as she could, “Sorry a free trip will have to do, I’m not on holiday alone you know.”
“Then bring your father with you. He can enlighten me with stories of your childhood. Say does he have any snapshots of you in the bathtub?”
The mention of her father made Catherine sad. “My father passed away.” she told him softly, “I am here with a friend, he has gone sightseeing elsewhere today.”
She emphasised the he, on purpose. As much as she liked Scott, that was where it ended, he was attractive, yes, but she wasn’t looking for romance, and with the mention of her father the trip had somehow lost its gloss. How he would have enjoyed the trip into the mountain, and she regretted that they had never returned sooner to the mountains, and had allowed the pressure of work to prevent her spending more happy holidays with him.
Hearing Scott apologise, Catherine was silent as the carriages trundled away down the slope into the mountain, and she became unaware of his anxiety, as he took note of her expression. He wanted to kick himself, such pain showed on her beautiful face, great sadness etched lines there. How gorgeous she had been when he had said something that had made her face light up, her smile took his breath away, and Scott wished he could kiss away all her problems. He wondered who her companion was, and what he meant to her.
Slowly Catherine shook aside her misery, ‘this would not do’ she chided herself, the French family waited expectantly for her to translate, and she had to make the trip memorable for them, “Its okay Scott,” she smiled weakly, “Honestly just something I thought of. Please proceed.”
Seeing her smile again, he was cheered a little, though her smile did not touch her eyes, and he longed to see them dancing with life again, “Do you have a name?” he enquired.
“Catherine.” she told him, and the passionate way he repeated it made her sad again, as she thought of Vincent.
Between translating, Catherine thought about snatches of the conversation she’d had with Devin the day before, and how he had helped her regain her senses. And as they travelled deeper into the mountain, the tunnels made her want to weep. The longing for Vincent intensified with every passing yard, and Catherine began to wonder what she was doing there. Even the candlelight emphasised her longing, and great need for familiar surroundings, ones that took her to Vincent’s world.
Suddenly the desire to get out and leave the buggy was overwhelming. She glanced back, ‘how far had they come?’
Noticing her unrest, Scott touched her shoulder, “Are you all right?” he asked her quietly. The French family waited in expectation, and Catherine grew hot with embarrassment, for she had not heard a word Scott had been saying. When she didn’t answer, Scott stopped the buggy, and waited for her to speak. But Catherine’s mind was racing ahead. The all round trip was some five hours, in that time she could be half way to America. Though she had promised Devin she would stay, she simply had to get back to Vincent. The longing for him made her weak, and it was almost as if Vincent was calling her home through the rock. He needed her, she was certain of it, and she simply had to go to him.
“I’m sorry Scott.” she heard herself say, “I have to go, there is something I should be doing instead.”
“It was something I said wasn’t it?”
“Perhaps, but mainly it’s being here, in these tunnels, it reminds me of somewhere precious to me, where someone special waits for me, and I simply have to go. I’m sorry I can’t say more than that, please let me out, I will walk back.”
Scott gave a sigh of regret, “I should like to have got to know you better Catherine. If you are ever in the Dolomites again, look me up will you, or if you are in London, call in at the Museum, I may be there. I wish you well Catherine, and hope that you find whatever it is you are searching for.”
Catherine thanked him, then apologising to the other sightseers, and especially the French family, she climbed out of the buggy.
“Just keep to the path Catherine, “Scott called out to her, “Goodbye.”
“Goodbye”, she called back without turning around. Whatever must they think of her? Probably conclude that she had claustrophobia, still she didn’t care. How could she have fooled herself into believing that she could have made this trip and not be unaffected by the tunnels, the candlelight, the atmosphere, and not have thought of Vincent? She was wasting her time beneath the earth of the wrong country, and had wasted too much time already. Vincent needed her, she was sure of it. And try as she had to forget, she needed him too.
Her life these past few weeks had been like time travel through tunnel vision, yet now she had found the light at the end of the tunnel and suddenly her life was filled with brightness and hope.
Never before had she found her footsteps so slow. She wanted to run but could not on such slippery ground. When at last she saw daylight ahead of her she sighed with relief. Now at last she could begin her journey home, back to the loving arms of the man she loved.
“You will come back, won’t you Cathy? I really need your help on this one?” Catherine’s revelation of the sudden departure had worried Devin.
“I promise you Devin, I really want to help you on this, anything we find out about Vincent’s past will be a bonus.”
“You won’t tell him though will you? If I uncover anything I really want to be the one to tell him, it means a lot to me. And if Vincent knew of our intention he might think it too dangerous to have you return.”
“No, don’t worry, I won’t tell him. If you need me desperately, call me at the apartment, and I will be on the first flight back, but if I haven’t heard from you within ten days, I’ll come looking for you.”
Devin relaxed. She had thought of everything after all, and wouldn’t let him down. He hugged her, feeling the old familiar stirrings, and it grieved him. He knew what she meant to Vincent, it would be no good having feelings for her too. Still what his mind told him did little to prevent his body’s reactions to how it felt to hold her in his arms.
“Just remember Cathy, don’t get married until I am there.”
Catherine smiled at him, “You can count on it Devin, without you I would still be lost, you made my pathway straight again, thank you.” she kissed his cheek, making his heart beat faster, and he reluctantly let her go as they heard her flight being called. “See you soon,” he whispered, as she disappeared through the departure lounge, then he made his way back to his car, happy that he had helped her find her way, but sad that he felt so alone without her.
“Vincent?” Father enquired as he came through the entrance leading into Vincent’s chamber, “Are you in here?”
He stopped at the sight that met him. Vincent sat holding his tiny son in the crook of his arm, reading quietly to him, and it reminded him so much of the many times he had done likewise with Vincent as a baby, that it brought a lump to his throat.
Looking up from the book he was reading, Vincent tilted his head in acknowledgement to the old man, who stood leaning heavily on his walking cane, holding out a piece of paper towards his son, “A telegram has come for you, it is from Devin.”
“A telegram, for me, from Devin!” Vincent was surprised, “What does he say?”
Father fumbled with the piece of paper, “It was addressed to the both of us, but Devin has only written your name inside, it is a strange message, leaving a lot unsaid, and bringing forth many questions. See for yourself.” He hobbled over and handed Vincent the telegram, but Vincent told him, “My hands are full Father, could you read it to me please?”
Pushing his glasses more firmly up his nose, Father proceeded to read aloud;
‘Dear Vincent, I know you must be worrying about Catherine, but don’t. She is safe with me. We are in Karten, staying at the hotel 'Mittag Kogl'. It is on the Austrian/Italian border. Cathy is very mixed up right now and doesn’t know I am contacting you. Don't worry Vincent, I will take care of her. Devin.’
Vincent frowned and spoke aloud, “Catherine with Devin... But why, how?”
“That’s what I keep asking myself. I thought Devin was in the mountains with Charles. I can’t imagine what he is doing in Europe with Cathy. Did he meet up with her by chance do you suppose?”
“What are you saying Father, that they planned this?” Vincent’s voice was low and menacing, making Father look up sharply.
“I don’t know what I am saying Vincent, just thinking aloud really. I know Devin has a wandering spirit, but it is so hard to believe that he and Catherine met up just like that.”
“Do you think they planned it Father?” Vincent did not want to know the answer, his own heart was troubled.
“I cannot imagine that Devin would get up and leave Charles, unless he found something far more important. It just does not make sense.”
With every word he said, Father unknowingly, only made it worse.
Vincent felt a tide of anger rising within him. He began to remind himself of the way he had sensed Catherine the past few days, someone had lifted her from her sadness, made her laugh again. But the weight of Father’s suggestions terrified him, he could not comprehend that the two people he loved most in the world save for Father and Jacob, could have betrayed him, the thought was absurd. And then to write and tell him! Surely not! But wait, hadn’t Devin said, that Catherine was unaware of his writing?
Vaguely aware that Father was lifting Jacob from his arm, Vincent’s thoughts ran riot as he got up from his chair, letting the book slide to the floor to pace his chamber. Surely Catherine, his Catherine and his brother Devin were not together, not in that way. He could not believe they would do this to him, not those two, they loved him didn’t they? And as he paced up and down, the anger subsided, No, Catherine would never do that, not to him, not with his own brother. The last time he had seen her, she showed no signs of living a lie, and he did not seriously believe that she and Devin were having a relationship behind his back, did he? Picking up the note that Catherine had sent him earlier, he re-read it, trying to read between the lines in accordance with Devin’s telegram. No, there was nothing to connect the two, and even in contemplating her with Devin, still her words gave nothing away.
The only reason Devin had written was so he would not be worried about her, and Vincent was relieved in the knowledge that Devin was taking care of her. Yet she had told him to forget her, so had she forgotten him, did she have romantic notions towards his brother? Did Devin know this, was that why he had written without her knowledge, did he feel guilty?
Vincent slumped down into the great chair, to allow the sense of her to come through to him. He had felt her happiness earlier, a lightness of spirit that set his own soaring. And he had not felt that in her for a long time. Yet why did she feel this way, and for whom? Vincent groaned as he thought of her living with Devin, learning to forget about him and their son, and all the hope he had held within his heart suddenly shattered.
A couple of days later, Vincent willed himself to concentrate on a game of chess with Father after they had discussed the contents of Devin’s telegram until they both despaired with it. Neither could come to a logical conclusion as to how Devin and Catherine had met one another in Europe, and they knew it was useless trying to work it out. The coincidence of two people that knew one another being in the same place at the same time was about a million to one.
It had been Mary who had lightened that load, when she told them of incidents that she knew of, where people had literally bumped into relatives and neighbours somewhere across the world, whereas back home they rarely saw one another.
Yet Father felt such concern as he watched his son day after day. He had seen the anger rise and fall within him, and then burn itself out. For Vincent knew in his heart that Catherine felt nothing in that way for Devin and he did not want to torture himself with imagining her in Devin’s arms, so instead he allowed himself that pleasure instead. Picturing her return he let his mind feed on the sensuous pleasure that he had come to think about with her of late. Since his memory had returned he had found a longing for her that had deepened daily, whereas once he had tried to suppress that feeling, now he let it run riot through his veins. Father recognised the signs and very delicately tried to subside Vincent’s mounting and painfully obvious passion. Every evening, he found a way to distract Vincent, to have him help with something. A riddle, a game of chess, to have him quote something from Shakespeare, or some poetry, anything to take Vincent’s mind from his reunion with Catherine.
Finally unable to tiptoe around it any longer Father spoke directly to Vincent about it.
“Vincent, these past few days I have grown increasingly concerned for you. I have seen your growing passion for Catherine. It frightens me. You have got to get a hold of yourself, for to be re-united with Catherine now with all these feelings burning inside you, will do more harm than good. If she should return and find your passion so strong, you could well frighten her away again.”
“Father I know you mean well,” Vincent whispered, slightly embarrassed, “and I would never ever do anything to hurt Catherine, but I cannot divert these feelings I have for her, they are too intense.”
“Yes but Vincent, surely you can see that feeding your mind on the memory of the one shared time you spent together will not make it easier for you. It will only add to the height of your emotions, You have to use self-control Vincent, or the longer Catherine is away, the more likely it will send you insane. These feelings, they are new to you, and you have to gain mastery over them, or they will lead you as a slave.”
Father watched Vincent, trying to read his thoughts, his eyes mirrored a fire within their depths, and he could see that his words had made little impact. Father felt he had waited too long to utter them and he had failed.
Vincent’s desire for Catherine was out of control, and Father feared for the both of them. Vincent’s tremendous roars of unleashed passion throughout each night had disturbed the tunnel dwellers for days, and there seemed to be no end to it. Suddenly Vincent raised his head, alert, listening and Father knew that look, though it had been a long time since he had seen it. Forcing back his chair, Vincent was on his feet, and with a voice cracked with desire, he cried, “Catherine!” Then in a hushed and husky whisper continued, “Father, its Catherine, she is returning to me.” And before he had uttered the final word, he had already left the chamber, as Father called out “Vincent wait!”, but Vincent had already gone.
*** *** ***
As Catherine sat in her seat, her excitement grew. She was going home. Home to his world, it would be her world from now on. She could imagine his joy at seeing her again. She’d go to the apartment shower and change then make her way to him. How good it would be to hold him again, to feel the security of his arms around her, to have the scent of him as her head rested on his firm shoulder, and to listen to the gentle rhythm of his heart.
It felt as though she had been away for years instead of three short weeks, she had never done so much thinking in all her life, but now her mind was made up, and she knew exactly what she wanted. Devin had told her the answer had been before her all along. She yearned for a husband and a family, and it had never dawned on her that Vincent could ever be her husband. The thought warmed and thrilled her. To know that she would belong to him gave her peace of mind. And the fact that he did not remember that first time, would make the first time after their marriage seem perfect. As her plane came in to land Catherine gave a great sigh of relief. Collecting her luggage later, she made her way first through customs, and then out into the cool New York night, hailing a taxi that would take her home.
Vincent paced the balcony to Catherine’s apartment, up and down, up and down. He could feel her closeness; his body yearned for hers. Fire coursed through his veins. Dismissing everything that Father had told him, he could only think of Catherine, the sight of her, the scent of her in his arms, to have his lips upon hers and to make love to her. He groaned, weakened by his desire.
Like a person demented he kept pacing. This moment for which he had longed was almost upon him, and he was hardly able to contain himself. ‘Where was she?’ he growled as the beast within took control.
Suddenly Catherine's apartment flooded with light, momentarily startling him, and then he stood mesmerised as she stepped through the doorway, kicked off her shoes, and started undressing as she made her way to the bathroom to turn on the shower.
Vincent watched, his hunger mounting as she walked from room to room taking off her clothing. It was a strain to turn away, and he could hear Father’s voice in his head telling him, “Self-control, Vincent, you have got to have self-control.” His knuckles turned white as he gripped the balcony wall, willing himself to look out over the New York city lights, rather than watch Catherine undress. He listened as she showered, his mind reeling at the thought of her nakedness. His hardness pained him stretching the fabric of his jeans and throbbing with desire for her. For once it did not shame him, he glorified in the feel of it, the ripples of sensation that coursed through his body, and he made no attempt at disguising his longing by covering his cloak over himself as once he would have done. He wanted her to see what her presence did to him, know that this night they would be as one.
Hearing the drawers opening and closing as she dressed, Vincent could feel her urgency, and it thrilled him that she anticipated their reunion as he did. Then he could feel her as she crossed over to open the balcony doors, and his breathing seemed to stop as he waited for her to see him. Her sudden in drawn breath made him turn slowly, “Vincent! You’re here!” The delight in her voice thrilled him.
And as his eyes met hers and held for an eternity, he was mustering all his self control and fleetingly his hardness subsided, as now the moment was here, he was unsure of her, unsure of himself.
And then she was in his arms, her hands around his waist, the scent of her heightening his emotions once again. Her touch was fire and ice that burnt him and the love in her eyes sent his arms crushing her against him never to let her go. “Catherine.” he groaned as his eyes filled with tears, “I love you so much.” She smiled up at him pleased and thrilled by his words, surprised when he brought his lips down to fasten on hers, and she melted away in the intensity of the passion that engulfed her. She had not expected this, and as his fingers traced a loving line up and down her back, she shuddered.
Vincent deepened his kiss, and when his tongue parted her lips to seek the sweetness of her month Catherine’s legs turned to jelly, and she clung to him for support, her mind reeling. He had never initiated a kiss with her before, and warning bells sounded in her head as she felt his hands gathering away her clothing. Though she delighted in his new-found passion, she had to try to slow him down, she wanted him desperately, but they had to do it right, they had to be married first. It was important to her.
Yet Vincent did not seem to notice her unsettled feelings, and though she tried to pull away, he held on to her tighter. Catherine felt his arousal against her thigh, it thrilled her and she longed to touch him there. The feeling was intense, so strong and Catherine moaned beneath his lips, as engulfed in a mist her mind could conjure up no wilful thoughts, as she found that her body translated what her mind would not, and she cleaved herself against him torn between the desire for right and wrong.
Catherine could not believe his transformation, he was she realised with anxiety, totally out of control, and knowing Vincent as she did she felt certain that in the cold light of day his actions would destroy him. Struggling to gain control she pushed at his chest with both her hands, and in a voice broken by sobs, she whimpered, “Vincent... Don’t. Please stop.”
Surprised at the pleading in her voice, Vincent let go of her abruptly, dropping his hands to his sides, he stared at her wildly, his breathing heavy and ragged.
Suddenly embarrassed and guilty at his so obvious aroused state, he felt ashamed, and the look in her eyes was difficult to read. He could see she was disturbed by his passion, knew that her body had responded to his, but her rejection confused him. There was conflict within her, and he did not understand why.
When Catherine saw what her rejection had done to him, she felt remorseful and slid her arms around him again to comfort him, “Oh Vincent...I’m so sorry.” she began and recoiled when he grabbed both her arms and tore them from his body snarling, “Dont...touch...me!”
He needed to hide, needed to put as much distance between them as he could in his shame, and made to leave, but Catherine ran to him, grabbing his sleeve. “Vincent don’t go please look at me, there is something I have got to tell you...”
The shrill of the telephone halted her words and as the answer machine picked up the call, they both heard Devin’s voice fill the room, “Hi Cathy, It’s me Devin. Have you got home yet? I’m just calling to say I’ve arrived. Have you seen Vincent? How did he react to your news? Cathy the scenery is beautiful here, but I really missed your company on the ride over, nothing looks the same without you to share it with me. Give my love to the old man will you? See you back here next week. Bye Cathy.”
As Devin ended his message Catherine felt Vincent slip away from her apartment, over the balcony wall, and in an instance he was gone. Bending over the wall she called to him, beseeching him to return, but he did not. Everything had gone horribly wrong, and she did not know how or why, only that everything had happened so quickly leaving her no time to think, and there seemed to be too many misunderstandings, too much left unsaid. Catherine simply had to speak to him, make him understand what it was she needed, nonetheless as she let her body slip to the floor, she had a feeling she had lost him forever.
Vincent’s heart ached. An ache that reached right into his soul, and he was incapable of feeling anything.
Standing alone in the park he could still see Catherine leaning over her balcony, calling to him, imploring him to return to her. Once he would have gone to her, for any misunderstanding would soon have been rectified. He would have been compelled to go to her to ease her sorrow, to wrap her in his arms and comfort her. Now he felt nothing. He closed off their Bond, he did not wish to feel her feelings, his own pained him too much.
Knowing too late that he should have listened to Father did not help him in any way. He was ashamed by his own behaviour, and now he had frightened her away, yet not only that, there had also been Devin’s untimely, or was it timely, call. What had that been all about? That Devin missed Catherine he had made obvious, and that they had already made arrangements to be back together was also obvious. So why then had Catherine returned?
Were Devin and Catherine having a relationship? It did not bear thinking about, but it was more than a possibility. Yet she had seemed so pleased to see him, had wound her arms around him just like old times, had hugged him to herself, and he had felt her love for him. Had she slept with Devin, was that it? Did she feel remorseful about it and regret it? The thought cut him deeply, and Vincent roared in anguish before walking dejectedly back into the tunnels, not knowing what to believe anymore.
Catherine heard his roar, it broke her, and she slumped into a heap and sobbed.
Reaching the tunnels, Vincent was grateful for the security of their walls as they enveloped him. He leaned against the tunnel wall, trying to shut out thoughts of Catherine making love with Devin, trying to make his breathing return to normal, for his thoughts to regain some credibility.
He had missed Catherine so much and had sensed her returning to him, yet she had already made plans to return to Devin too. Maybe Father had been right all along, and as much as he hated to accept that, perhaps Catherine and Devin had fallen in love and had secretly planned to leave him. Without the Bond, their plans would have been so much easier. Vincent laughed somewhat wickedly, ‘oh how surprised she must have been to know the Bond had returned.’ And with a kind of hypocritical glee Vincent allowed himself to open the Bond to get the sense of her, to know her emotions. What he had expected he didn’t know, relief perhaps, relief that she had made him see that she no longer wanted him? He was not prepared for the total loss that she felt, void of all feeling, and felt the shuddering as sobs tore through her body. For a moment his heart lifted, was he mistaken about everything? Surely she was happy now?
His earlier actions stifled him, he was ashamed at how he had let himself get out of control. It wasn’t like him, she would have been stunned. Suddenly he felt sickened by his actions, he had been wrong to have let the penetration of such thoughts to cloud his usually clean thinking.
No wonder she had reacted the way that she had. It had been her sudden rejection that had brought him to his senses. Vincent groaned inwardly with distress, and burying his face in his hands he slid to the dusty floor, as the tears streamed down his cheeks. He had assumed too much and now he had lost her. He would have to let her go. Go to Devin - they could live in the world Above, and Devin would make her happy, give to her all the things he could not, and perhaps because Devin knew about his own existence, Catherine would be given time to heal by having someone to confide in. Vincent knew he could never see Catherine again, nor his brother. Knowing that she loved Devin was too much, yet he felt certain that she would still try to come to him, to tell him about it, how it had happened, why it had happened, and he did not want to hear it. For hadn’t she told him; “Vincent there is something I have to tell you”? These words were left unfinished as Devin’s call had interrupted them. What was it that she had been going to tell him? That she had come home just to tie up some loose ends before returning to her new love. To Devin? His brother? How could they?
Rising to his feet, Vincent made the weary journey home, slowly, painful, his heart crushed and dying with every step he took away from her. He would collect Jacob and the pair of them would make a fresh start for themselves, somewhere deep in the earth, somewhere deep enough so that even Mouse could not find them. For without Catherine, Vincent did not want to live, had no compassion left to give to Father, or to his family of tunnel dwellers, for his dark side would assuredly take over now, and he was powerless to stop it.
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Eleven – click on ‘Next’ below:
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