Oblivion 2

Chapters 31, 32 & 33

The concluding chapters of part 2 of the Oblivion Trilogy


Chapter Thirty-One

"There exist companions disposed
to break one another to pieces..."
(Proverbs 18 v 24)

“Care to talk about it, Jamie?” Catherine ventured softly, holding the sobbing girl against her firmly. Jamie shook her head.
“Where’s Mouse?” Gerry asked. And was rewarded with Jamie crying harder still. Gerry and Catherine exchanged glances; there were no prizes for guessing the reason behind Jamie’s tears.
“Did he hurt you?” Gerry asked her gently, suddenly afraid that he may have.
Jamie shook her head, “No, Yes.” She mumbled, wiping away her tears with the back of her hand. Gerry tried to keep a straight face, “What kind of answer is that, either he did or he didn’t.”
“He hurt me with words.” Jamie told them both, “I never expected he could be like that.”
“That doesn’t sound like Mouse. Did you anger him?”
Jamie shrugged her shoulders. “Everything happened so fast, I don’t know.”
“Everything?” Catherine queried, “What do you mean by everything?”
“Not what you’re thinking.” Jamie told her, with a slight smile, “Do you think I’d be crying if it were that?”
Catherine bit her lip this was serious. “Jamie, come and sit down with us, will you let us talk with you?”
“Is this another pep talk. Cullen has given me one already?”
“It depends whether you are in the listening and reasoning mood or not. We, all of us, want to help you, not gang up on you Jamie, and clearly you do need our help, whether its to attach yourself to Mouse or not.”
“Then you don’t think I am stupid to want him?”
“I didn’t say that, neither do I think you are stupid Jamie, just a little lost that’s all. A frank talk might help. Come, sit down, tell us how you feel, can you do that?”
Jamie looked at Gerry and Catherine’s concerned faces, and nodded, but then glancing back at the dense undergrowth replied, “But not here.”
They led her over to the water’s edge, away from Cullen, away from anywhere where someone may overhear, and sat her down on the sand. “In your own time, Jamie, there’s no hurry.” Gerry coaxed her.
“I love him. It’s as simple as that.” Jamie told them, “But Mouse, well Mouse doesn’t understand that sort of love, at least I keep being led to believe so, but back then when he kissed me...”
“He kissed you?” Catherine exclaimed, Mouse actually took the initiative? She could hardly believe it!
“I kissed him first.”
“Arh,” now Catherine understood. Hadn’t the same happened between she and Vincent?
“But it wasn’t intentional.” Jamie answered in her own defence, “Well not to start with.” Gerry’s lips twitched, and Jamie laughed.
“Mouse found something. Something excellent,” then she stopped, torn between her threat to tell and Mouse’s insistence to keep the secret, “I was so pleased with his find, I just hugged him, and kissed him, and then he kissed me, and wouldn’t let me go.”
“Did he frighten you?”
“Frighten me? No” She shook her head, “It was wonderful, surprising yes, but wonderful.”
“So why the headlong flight and tears?” Gerry asked confused.
“It was after the kiss, he let me go, and yelled at me to leave him. He sounded almost like Vincent when he gets annoyed, and yes I guess it did frighten me, a little, though I suppose it was the surprise and shock of it all, that sent me running. Should I go back do you think?” She looked back at the shrubbery with longing. Among all that greenery Mouse was in there somewhere, and her heart was still with him. She had left it behind.
“I don’t think its Jamie that needs advice here Catherine,” Gerry told Catherine over Jamie’s head, “Its Mouse. Perhaps we are wrong. Perhaps something could develop between these two, but Mouse obviously doesn’t know how to handle it.” Then patting Jamie’s hand she told her, “How would you feel if Vincent and Devin had a go at talking to Mouse, in your favour?”
“Do you think they would?” Jamie’s face lit up.
Gerry and Catherine nodded, “You know they will, they’ll do anything to help another.”
“Yes but this is different, and there is Father to consider.”
“You leave Father to us, even if we can’t alter his feelings, Mary is always a force to be reckoned with.” Gerry told her simply. “And besides I have a little tactic I can call upon if he doesn’t want to listen to Mary, don’t you worry.”
Jamie laughed. “Okay then. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome” They told her together and laughed.

When Mouse heard Vincent and Devin calling him, he at first hid himself from them. But then the discovery of the treasure came to mind, and he stepped out almost at the side of them, making them jump, as he exclaimed excitedly, “Come See Vincent, something good, better than good, better than better.”
Vincent exchanged looks with Devin, the unasked question firmly in their minds, ‘did Mouse really kiss Jamie of his own accord?’ Somehow they could not picture this. The boy was tugging at their hands, just like an excited child.
“It makes you feel old, doesn’t it?” Devin whispered to Vincent, “I mean being experienced enough to give others advice on relationships of the sexual kind.”
Vincent nodded. When Catherine and Gerry had returned with Jamie to the boat and suggested this, he was in two minds about it until Devin convinced him it might be fun. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and it was rare that Catherine misjudged a situation. Besides it made him feel good to actually have enough experienced in sexual matters to help someone else like this, something that once he would never have believed possible for him.
Mouse was on his knees, not noticing the pain in them at all, as with eyes bright with excitement; he hurtled sand out behind him, scooping it from beneath the tree with his hands. “See, treasure!” he told them brightly. Vincent was his best friend, and he trusted him with his life, Vincent wouldn’t tell anyone of his find.
Devin whistled, “Gold sovereigns.” He picked one up, “Seventeenth Century I’d say, this lot is worth a fortune.”
“Looks like your story of the Cocos Island has come back with a vengeance.” Vincent told him, his eyes widening at the discovery. Then turning towards Mouse told the boy gently, “But Mouse, we can’t keep this money, the island doesn’t belong to us, so the treasure can’t either.”
“Vincent is right Mouse, the treasure belongs to my friend Greg Masters. The island is his.”
“Its like the time we found treasure Below, do you remember the trouble that caused Mouse, do you remember how friendships that had lasted a lifetime were almost severed when greed reared its ugly head? Even Cullen was unaffected, and he is usually so level headed.” Vincent reminded him.
Mouse nodded, “I know, that’s why it’s a secret.”
“No Mouse, we must collect it all up, and as soon as we get home, I shall have to contact Greg and tell him of its discovery.”
Mouse stood guard over the treasure, “No. Mouse found it.” He told him determinedly.
“Perhaps it would be better if you contacted Greg from the boat, made a person to person call via the coast-guard, and called him at home, he might want to come out here and see for himself.” Vincent told Devin reluctantly. The last thing he wanted was a stranger coming out to the island while they were there.
Devin disagreed, much to his relief, “No, we’ll do the best of both things. Leave the treasure where it is, make a note of where it is, and tell Greg when we get back home. Its been here for hundreds of years, another five days will hardly matter, and no-one else comes this way.”
Mouse smiled, he was happy with the idea, and the wealth of treasure really meant little to him, he just liked the way it sparkled. Then he remembered Jamie. “Showed Jamie, she wants to buy a house with it.”
“Oh yes, Jamie.” Devin spoke slowly, “I had almost forgotten about that. Mouse, come with us will you, there is something we need to ask you.”
Mouse hesitated, he didn’t think he liked Devin’s tone, and looked up at Vincent for reassurance. “Its all right Mouse, you aren’t in trouble, we would just like to speak to you about Jamie that’s all.”
Mouse smiled happily, then frowned, “Mouse made Jamie cry.”
“Yes we know, come let’s talk about that shall we?”
Sitting down alongside the treasure, Devin and Vincent were unsure about how to start when Mouse told them, “Mouse love Jamie.” and felt their mouths dropping open in surprise.
“Is that true Mouse, or has Jamie made you say that?”
Mouse shook his head, “No.”
“No to what?”
Mouse sat staring straight ahead, and Devin drew a deep breath. “We are going to have to take the initiative here Vincent,” he told his brother, and then back at Mouse directed the words, “Mouse, when you say you love Jamie, how does it make you feel?”
“Good, better than good.” Vincent and Devin laughed out loud, by the unexpected cheeky look that crossed Mouse’s face.
“He’s no fool Vincent.” Devin said, so Mouse could hear, and Mouse grinned.
“You do realise what is going on then, with Jamie I mean, you do know what she has planned for you?” Vincent asked the boy.
Mouse grinned, “Jamie wants babies.”
“Whoa ho!” Devin exclaimed doubled with laughter, “We are facing a losing battle here Vincent,” as Vincent laughed out loud too.
“And how do you propose to give babies to Jamie?” Vincent couldn’t help asking, and laughed harder at the expression that passed Mouse’s face, “Well really Vincent.” Devin chided him, “You of all people should know the answer to that,” and saw Mouse double over with laughter. Vincent grinned.
“Okay.” Devin calmed down, “We have established I think that you Mouse, aren’t the innocent boy you have us believe, so where do we go from here?”
Mouse looked perplexed, and Vincent asked him gently, “Where would you like the relationship to go Mouse?”
“Mouse marry Jamie.”
Vincent blinked hard, he hadn’t expected that.
“And live in the tunnels?” Devin asked.
“Yes, with Arthur.”
“Its a good job Jamie gets on with that racoon as well as you do then, is all I can say.” Serious again, Devin went on; “Do you want our help Mouse?”
Mouse shook his head. “Yesterday Jamie scared Mouse, make Mouse feel funny. Nice feelings though, good feelings, better than good, better than better. Mouse love Jamie now.”
Devin and Vincent laughed. “I don’t think we have to worry about you Mouse, you seem capable of handling the situation well enough yourself, and things will come naturally when love is involved, as well as Jamie showing you the way. Look why don’t we cover up this treasure and head back to the beach?” Devin asked.
“Is Jamie on the beach?”
“No she went back to the boat, would you like her to come to the beach, we’ll fetch her for you if you like?”
Mouse nodded, “Okay good, okay fine.” And then they watched with amazement as a smile they didn’t think they had ever seen on Mouse before lit up his entire face.

Watching from the boat, as Jamie swam through the sea toward Mouse waiting on the sand, everyone waited in anticipation. Only Father seemed mildly annoyed, but was being calmed by the minute by Mary’s reasoning. “Jacob, don’t worry so, Vincent and Devin have assessed the situation, and if it is as they say that Mouse and Jamie know what they are doing who are we to argue?”
“Let me have those binoculars Devin.” Father told his son, “I have to see for myself if what you say is so, your eyes are younger than mine.”
Devin handed the binoculars to his father, keeping his own gaze fixed on Jamie as she made it to the beach, and hung back a little unsure of Mouse’s reaction. But Mouse would have none of it, he ran to her, swept her up into his arms, and her shout of delight could be heard ringing out around them. Father placed the binoculars to his eyes, just in time to see Mouse place a resounding kiss on Jamie’s lips, and heard the sound of applause and shouts of joy erupt around him.
He found his own lips could not stifle a grin, and putting down the binoculars he told everyone, “Well fancy that. Mouse and Jamie. Who would have believed it? Tell me please, did my eyes just deceive me?”
Gerry and Mary took his arm on either side, “No,” they told him happily, watching Mouse and Jamie disappear into the undergrowth, “And by the looks of that,” Mary told him, “Mouse has taken her off to his nest, and you know what that means don’t you Jacob?”
Father looked sheepish, “What me?” Gerry nudged him, “You do know don’t you Father?” She whispered suggestively, reminding him of what she had overheard taking place that day in the shrubbery with himself and Mary. To which he coloured up profusely, and coughing told her, “Why Gerry, whatever do you mean?” Adding under his breath only loud enough for Gerry to hear, “You little minx,” and finding himself delighted by Gerry’s burst of gleeful laughter.

Later that day as they walked along the beach hand in hand with Jacob, Vincent and Catherine glorified in having their young son enjoy the time spent with them on the island, and realised that now they had responsibilities as parents, never again could they go anywhere without their children. And now that she had been sterilised, Catherine had no worries about having more children, and looked forward to enjoying the ones she had. And yet, if she had been able to do, she would gladly have spent her whole life having Vincent’s babies. He was such a wonderful person, and she wanted nothing more than to fill the whole world with his offspring.
“I still can’t believe that Mouse and Jamie are in love.” Vincent told Catherine as he spied the pair up ahead of them splashing about along the water’s edge like children. “When he told Devin and I that he wanted to marry Jamie, you could have knocked us down with a feather.”
Catherine laughed out loud, “I know when Jamie told us that Mouse had kissed her, Gerry and I reacted much the same way. But you know Vincent; it makes the heart rejoice doesn’t it? It couldn’t have happened to a nicer couple, present company aside of course.”
“Of course.” Catherine felt her heart somersault at the smile that lit up her husband’s eyes, and unable to help herself she told him, “Oh Vincent I love you.”
Approaching their favourite spot beneath the palm trees, they sat down, with Jacob sitting on Vincent’s knee, to survey the island, “I love being here, Catherine.” Vincent told her breathlessly, “I love this island, the ocean and I love you. But for you Catherine, I may never have had the rest.”
“I know what you mean. Loath as I am to think it, the day I was attacked proved to be a blessing in disguise for me, and ultimately for you. Without that abhorrent incident in my life, none of this would be. Well not in the same way. For a certainty it would not be me sat here beside you now. Someone else perhaps, for Devin’s plans would have still gone ahead.”
“But would he have had the money to finance them? Without your father’s money Catherine, we would not be sat here now, and I doubt very much that I would have found someone else to love. I know there was Lisa, and then Lena loved me, but neither of them possessed our connection. No Catherine, whichever way you look at it, you and I were destined to be together, even if it did take me a long time to accept that.”
“I’m glad you have been drawn to that conclusion, sometimes Vincent, I think it is only a question of time, before the next crisis has you insisting I should have married Elliot Burch and I used to hate it when you do that.”
“I’m sorry Catherine, for a long time I couldn’t believe that you could love me the way you do, even though through our Bond, your heart told me no lies. I really believed you would be better off with someone else. What did I have to offer you? Even now, I still find it hard to comprehend, that someone as beautiful as you are could want me. That’s what makes everyday as the first, a new revelation each day from dawn to dusk, of actually believing you love only me.”
“You had better believe it Vincent. You are the beautiful one, to think out of all the people in the world you chose me, it is I who feels privileged to be here with you now, to have given you children, and you don’t know what a pleasure that is to me.”
“Thankfully I do. Your emotions ripple through our Bond, it is a unique gift Catherine, what I would do without it I do not know.” He groaned then remembering, “Oh yes I do.”
She laughed, “Yes, been there, done that. Let’s not remind ourselves of those horrors shall we Vincent? Instead let’s enjoy what we have in this beautiful place.”
“And enjoy what others have being here too. Look at Devin and Gerry, Jamie and Mouse, Father and Mary even Cullen and Charles. Do you know, even with his hands bandaged, Cullen is showing Charles how to carve wood, and make something beautiful, it’s the effects of being here. Someone somewhere cast a magic wand over the place, and everyone that steps onto it finds exquisite happiness.”
“I agree.” Catherine lay back on the sand closing her eyes, “It’s simply bliss being here.”
Vincent dug in the sand with his large hands while Catherine dozed, showing Jacob how to make a channel from the sea’s edge to the land for the water to collect into, and then took his hand to find some shells, to place around it. Catherine listened as she heard the child’s cheerful chatter going away from her with his father’s melodious voice at his side, and smiled, she had so much to be thankful for and nodded. Yes she had found her happy life without a doubt.

Still in awe of one another Jamie and Mouse, trampled down the dense undergrowth that led into the centre of the island, without really thinking about where it might lead. To them everything about the island was paradise. Hand in hand, and shyly looking at one another they found the perfect spot to sit and touch one another in slow exploration. Jamie thrilled when Mouse’s hands travelled down the back of her neck, touching her shoulders, and lingering just a little longer than necessary upon her back, “You have soft skin.” he told her, blushing a little, “It feels nice.”
“It feels nice to me too Mouse, when you touch me like that.”
“It does?” He seemed surprised.
“Yes let me show you how it feels.” Reaching out Jamie caressed his back, watching as Mouse closed his eyes and shuddered. “Funny feeling again.” he told her, as her hand stole round to his chest as it had the day before. “Nice feeling though.” Jamie laughed, and her eyes opened wide as she saw how she was affecting him, down below. Suddenly a little wary of the situation, she stopped. Really she was way out of her depth here, and the thought suddenly filled her mind that they were just children playing at adult games. Was she really ready for this? Mouse was no usual man, and he did not know about self-control. Everything in Mouse’s life was spontaneous. He seldom stopped to think about the rights or wrongs of any given thing, and she could hear his voice echo in her head now, ‘not stealing, taking, just taking.’
Was this how it was for him now? Would he take her, just like that. Oh yes he’d be moved by the experience, who wouldn’t be, but that didn’t make it right, and it didn’t mean that the infatuation they felt for one another was made to last. Catherine and Vincent had waited three years before embarking upon that side of their relationship, and they were happy, Father and Mary had waited over twenty years and they too were happy. It was this friendship thing all over again, friends did make the perfect lovers then, but did it apply to all friends?
Mouse’s fingers trailing up and down her thighs did nothing to lessen her desire, and Jamie felt herself grow ready for him, but what of the consequences, was she really ready to have children of her own? Panic consumed her, and she shuffled away just slightly, “Perhaps we should go back to the others now on the beach Mouse.” She told him a little nervously.
“Why? Mouse likes being with Jamie.” Suddenly, Jamie wondered what on earth she was doing. The man couldn’t even speak properly; he didn’t even have a proper name. “What is your real name Mouse?” Mouse stared at her, not understanding, “Its Mouse.” he told her. He had been called it for so long he had forgotten the name his mother had given him.
Jamie laughed out loud, if they were married she would become Mrs. Mouse, and Mouse thought she was laughing at him. He snatched his hand away as if he had been burned. “Mouse is a good name.” He told her unhappily.
Sorrowful, Jamie hugged him, “Oh Mouse yes of course it is, forgive me, I was laughing about something else.” Nonetheless, the reason for her laughter stayed on her mind, and she became uncomfortable in his presence.” ”Mouse” she told him softly, “This isn’t right, you and me, it doesn’t feel right. We should have stayed just friends. I’m sorry.”
The look in his eyes saddened her, and she tried to ignore them, asking brightly, too brightly, “Are you coming back to the beach?” She stood up, looking down at him, trying to ignore the hurt in his eyes.
“No. Mouse stay here, want to explore.”
“Okay, see you later.” And she left him sitting there, her long strides gaining pace as she walked towards the beach, relieved she had come to her senses before it was too late.

Coming out onto the beach Jamie saw Catherine lying in the shade of the palm trees, and flopped herself down wearily beside her with a huge sigh. Catherine’s eyes flew open, “Jamie! What ever’s wrong?”
“Should there be anything wrong?”
“Well no, it was just the way you slumped yourself down.”
“How do you learn that Catherine. I mean how do you know by a look, or a word or an action that something means something.”
“Whoa you are losing me Jamie.” Catherine struggled to sit up, trailing her fingers through her hair to shake the sand out of it, “Is this leading somewhere?”
Tears gathered in Jamie’s eyes. “I’ve made such an idiot of myself.”
“Oh dear, with Mouse I take it?”
“Yes. I was wrong, everyone was wrong, only Father was right.”
“The Wisdom of Solomon and all that?” Catherine smiled, as out of her eye corner she noticed that Vincent was returning with Jacob and went on, “Do you want to continue this later, or would you like to share your troubles with both Vincent and I?”
“Yes, Vincent is okay, he’s as wise as Father without the mean streak.” She laughed, “Well not exactly mean, but you understand don’t you? You were on the wrong side of Father for long enough weren’t you?”
Catherine smiled remembering, “Yes.”
As Vincent reached her side, Catherine held up her hand and smiled into his eyes, “Come sit down darling,” She told him, “Jamie and I were just talking, but she isn’t against sharing her thoughts with you.”
Before Vincent sat down, he emptied his pockets of shells, liking the sound as they tinkled together hitting the sand, and delighted in Jacob’s squeal of joy as he watched them fall.
“My what a lot of shells Jacob.” Jamie picked some up, and held them out to him, “Shall we build a sand-castle. Is this your canal?”
“Where’s Mouse?” Vincent asked looking all around him, “Isn’t he with you?”
Jamie shook her head, “No.”
“Sounds ominous, that no.” Vincent remarked glancing in Catherine’s direction who nodded.
“There you are!” exclaimed Jamie, “See what I mean, with just a look, you two have spoken to one another. That’s what I mean about it meaning something.”
“Would you care to elaborate Jamie.” Vincent told her his eyes dancing with mischief.
Jamie sighed, “Mouse isn’t the one for me.” She whispered sorrowfully, “I was wrong to believe he was, and now I’ve messed everything up.”
“Whatever changed your mind?” Vincent wanted to know. This was the shortest love affair on record.
“Just Mouse. Just me, I realised I was confusing a good friendship with romantic notions, it would never have worked between me and Mouse, he’s such, such, a...”
“Child?” Vincent ventured.
“Yes, he’s just a child, and I tried to force him into growing up fast, and now the fact that I have begun a journey he might never have gone on, I am worried about what I have started.”
“How far did you take him on this journey?” Vincent tried not to laugh, but relaxed when Jamie did.
“Far enough, but fortunately I stopped when...well let’s just say that when I saw how I was affecting his body, I was scared to bits, and couldn’t continue along that roadway.”
“Poor Mouse!” Vincent laughed, and Catherine slapped him playfully, “Trust you to think of Mouse.”
“Well, to get to that stage and have it snatched away is so frustrating.”
“And you would know of course? When ever did I deny you?” Vincent looked deeply into her eyes, “Once.” He told her and Catherine blushed, as she recalled the occasion in her apartment after she had left him the first time.
“I had my reasons.” She told him sadly, “And it all turned out right in the end.”
“Yes, but believe me it hurt, and I think that is how Mouse will be feeling now.”
“No I don’t think so.” Jamie told him, “Mouse isn’t like that. Why he has probably forgotten me already! As soon as he finds something to make another gizmo with, you’ll see, I’ll be yesterday’s dinner.”
“Is that what stopped you?” Catherine asked knowingly.
“Basically yes. I realised Mouse takes things all the time and I would just be something else for him to take. For a while he’d enjoy it, perhaps believe in it, but without my having dredged it up in the first place, Mouse could have lived till he was one hundred without it, and not known it existed. I’ve ruined him Vincent, how on earth can I undo what I started?”
Jacob continued to play at their feet, and Catherine watched him idly, Jamie did have a big problem, but she didn’t doubt it would get resolved, and at least Jamie had grown up a lot in the space of two days.
“Should I go and talk to him again?” Vincent asked her, gently.
“Would you, just to see how he is feeling if nothing else.” Jamie sighed with relief.
Vincent smiled, getting to his feet, and bending to brush a kiss onto Catherine’s brow, “I’ll try not to be gone too long my love.” He told her sincerely.

As Vincent walked towards the undergrowth he wondered what on earth he was to say to Mouse this time, when suddenly the bushes in front of him parted, and Mouse came scuttling through with something in his arms, “Vincent! Look!” Vincent’s eyes opened wide, “Mouse! Wherever did you get that?” He cried as he found himself looking down at a very small and highly frightened monkey.
“Found it. Friend for Arthur.”
“Mouse you can’t take it home with you.”
“Why not?”
“It lives here on the island. Its mother will be looking for it.”
Mouse looked down at the tiny monkey quivering with fear in his grasp.
“See how it trembles Mouse, you have frightened it.”
“No, leg broken see.”
Vincent took the tiny monkey from Mouse, turning it over in his large hands, noticing how it nestled into his fur for comfort, and saw that its leg was indeed broken.
“Father fix it.” Mouse told him.
“Yes” replied Vincent, “He will, and it looks as though we have another passenger to take back with us.”
“So Mouse keep it?”
“I don’t think we have a choice Mouse, it needs looking after, will you do that?”
Mouse nodded, his eyes bright, and as Vincent walked back with him towards the shelter, he decided that Jamie had been correct, Mouse did go from one thing to another it seemed without too much conscious thought, and the monkey would indeed take his mind off of things. Mouse couldn’t have found it at a better time. Vincent failed to notice as he and Mouse passed within yards of Jamie and Catherine, that Mouse’s eyes filled with tears when Jamie looked the other way, or knew how much his heart was breaking.

*** *** ***

Chapter Thirty-Two

"...but there exists a friend
sticking closer than a brother."

(Proverbs 18 v 24)

“You see what I mean Mary, as I said before when I helped the injured Orca, I should have been a vet. What is it with everyone, do I look like I love animals or something? A monkey indeed, whatever next!”
“Well you’ve kept a cat for years.” Devin broke in before Mary had time to think up a suitable answer, then ducked as Vincent’s arm came out to strike him. “One of these days, brother you are going to take me too far.” Vincent told him, trying to still his twitching lips.
“I really don’t know how you get away with all the jibes against Vincent’s differences,” Mary told Devin laughing, “Vincent would have bitten anyone else’s head off by now. Oh!” she clapped a hand to her mouth, “I’m sorry Vincent, I didn’t mean....”
Vincent knew she hadn’t meant it the way it sounded. And he was long past feeling sorry for himself about his other side. More so since Catherine had convinced him he was more than a man not less because of his differences. So Mary was surprised when Vincent burst out laughing over Devin’s jibe unable to contain himself any longer.
Mouse stood gaping at them all; still feeling pretty vulnerable after his day’s events, all he wanted to hear now was whether his new friend would survive.
“Well, you are right Mouse, the creatures leg is broken, and I can repair it, but everything rests on whether he stands up to the operation while I set his leg, its fortunate someone thought to pack this plaster of Paris, whose bright idea was that?”
“Mine” Gerry spoke up, “After reading your medical journals, I was brainwash to never travel without a pack of it. Devin bought it for me when he and Catherine went Above that day.”
“Well done to you then Gerry, for without it I don’t know what we would have done. Used chewing gum I suppose.”
“We didn’t bring any of that.” Devin remarked dryly.
“Well, one thing is for certain,” Father told them straightening up after examining the frightened monkey that Mouse was pinning down on the bench, “Once his leg is in plaster, we won’t be able to set him free. He’s very young too, probably still taking milk. That might be a problem, although I think he is taking solids too. We had best take a couple of hands of banana’s back with us when we go, and mash them up for him, unless he is capable of eating them by himself. And we will need something with which to make a cage. We can’t have him running around the boat tripping us all up can we?”
“So Mouse, how did you come to find him?” Mary questioned the boy, wondering where Jamie was; they were usually glued together.
“Found him.” Mouse told her.
“Well I guess that’s as good enough answer as any.” She replied, then added, “Does Jamie know more about it?”
Vincent coughed and shot Mouse a look, watching as a slow red blotch crept up Mouse’s throat to infuse his cheeks.
“Have I said something I shouldn’t?” Mary asked perplexed.
Vincent didn’t know how to answer, so taking Mary aside, he led her out of the shelter onto the beach where he told her, “I’m afraid Jamie and Mouse’s love affair was short lived Mary. It would appear that Jamie came to her senses before it went too far.”
“Oh no.” Mary shook her head, “Leaving Mouse confused no doubt?”
“Yes, it would seem so. I was on my way to have a word with him, when he came running out of the shrubbery with the monkey in his arms. Jamie and Catherine are over there on the beach, none the wiser. I’d best go over there, and fill them in now.”
Devin had followed the two of them out, and overhearing the conversation, shook his head, “The poor guy, I bet that was all he needed.”
“That’s what I said when Jamie told us, I felt really sorry for Mouse. Seems they got to a vital stage and she went cold on him, I wouldn’t like to ascertain his emotions right now, its as well he has the monkey to take his mind off of things, but we’ve still all got to live together.” Vincent grew thoughtful, “Do you think we can help them re-establish their friendship? Perhaps at a later stage something will develop again, when each of them are more at ease with it. Personally I think Jamie’s hormones forced the issue before either of them were ready.”
“I don’t think Mouse will ever be ready.” Mary told them sincerely, “I think if we asked him what hurts most the loss of his friend or the loss of a lover, he wouldn’t know the difference. But certainly he and Jamie were good friends, and really that’s the way it should have stayed. Especially in light of what you have just told me Vincent.”
“You say Jamie doesn’t know about the monkey?” Devin asked thoughtfully, as Gerry joined his side, slipping her hand into his.
“Then perhaps we could ask Mouse to go and tell her, break the ice so to speak.”
“If she’ll listen.”
“You think she wouldn’t?”
“When Mouse and I walked passed Catherine and Jamie on the beach, Jamie saw us passing, but turned her head away.”
“Perhaps she was just embarrassed.” Mary told him.
“I think it’s worth a try, Vincent. We can’t have them at war with one another, really they care for each other deeply, and both will be hurting. We have to do something to help.” Devin told him.
“Well, there’s not much we can do, while he’s obsessed with the monkey’s leg setting, I doubt we’d prise him away at this stage. I’ll go over and speak with Jamie, I think she has to be the one to make the first move here. But I must go over to the boat first to fetch the wire casing that surrounds the gas cylinders, it’ll help to make the monkey a good cage, and most of the cylinders are empty now.”
“That’s a good idea,” Mary told him. "And when you return why don’t you bring Charles back with you? He’s always cooking in that kitchen. He says he enjoys it, but really it can’t have been much of a holiday for him stuck in there, and look how much he enjoyed swimming when we went to collect those oysters. I’m sure you could manage him in the water Vincent.”
Vincent nodded, promising he would go to speak with Charles right away, and would not take no for an answer. He too had noticed that Charles shut himself away a lot, and really he was as entitled to as much fun as everyone else.

Inside the shelter, Father completed his task of setting the monkey’s leg, while Mouse, collected together all manner of things to help build the creature a cage strong enough to travel on the boat and then through the tunnels when they arrived home. Father just hoped he didn’t live to regret having a monkey and a racoon living Below with them, then he thought about Devin’s remark about his keeping a cat for years, and burst into a hearty chuckle.

*** *** ***

With Vincent holding him firmly, Charles was as unafraid of the mighty ocean as he had been when Devin had guided him through several days before, thrilling in the silkiness of the water gently rippling around his skin. It felt wonderful. The growths on his body had become larger Vincent noticed, and they gave him cause for concern. Obviously cancerous, Vincent wondered just how much longer Charles had to live his life, such as it was, and almost as if reading his thoughts Charles smiled and told him, “With Eddie I lived forty seven years, with Devin I’ve lived for three. In those three years I have filled my days with more things than in all the other forty-seven. My life has meaning now Vincent, I am free, if my body only gives me another year, it will be a year worth having, and I would not ask for more than that. Everything I have now erases my past. I feel young again, as if the first forty-seven years never existed. Don’t worry about me Vincent, I have all I need, or could ever want. Now, for the first time in my life, I am living a life.”
Vincent smiled warmly at Charles; he knew the meaning behind those words. Though different, he too understood how his life had meaning since Catherine had set him free, since Devin had fulfilled his dreams, “I know this life you speak of Charles.” He told him sincerely.
Charles warmed to that smile and returned one of his own, “I know you do Vincent. I know you do.”

Reaching the beach, the two walked across to the shelter, where Vincent delivered the wire casing to Mouse and Charles told him, “I’ll go and speak with Cullen. He can show me how to do more carvings. He is a very talented man, and back on the mountain there are so many logs that I could make something with. I am eager to learn.”
Nodding his agreement, and promising to meet for the return trip to the boat, Vincent walked across the sand to where he had left Catherine hours earlier.
“Hello,” Catherine welcomed him, “If that’s not being long, I’d hate to think what is.” She laughed, “Was there a problem?”
Vincent ruffled the hair of his sleepy child, kissing Jacob as he took him from Jamie’s arms, and slowly began to unravel the tale of Mouse and his monkey, watching with joy as Jamie’s face lit up, and she became agitated to be off.
Before Vincent had finished speaking, and almost with indecent haste, Jamie was on her feet, “I’ll see you two later.” She cried and she was running down the beach towards the shelter without a backward glance. Vincent laughed, “Well, I think this is where we started wasn’t it my love, just us three, should we continue our walk along the beach, or would you like to do something else?”
Catherine smiled at him, “With Jacob nearby, something else is out of the question, but you must be tired Vincent, why don’t you settle down and relax for a hour, and then we can go back to the boat, it’ll soon be time for tea.”
Vincent yawned, settling down upon the sand, and with his now fast asleep son in the crook of one arm, he replied, “Don’t bank on it Catherine, I have just hijacked the cook!”

Jamie hesitated when she arrived at the shelter, noticing that Mary and Father were sat side by side on deck chairs, with Brook reading as she sunbathed on a towel at their side. Cullen and Charles were bent over a piece of wood in the shade of a large palm tree, and there was no sign of Mouse.
Nervously, she peeped around the makeshift door, made from more palm fronds and could just make out Mouse’s form huddled over a tiny furry creature laid now safe and secure inside the wire and wood cage he had fitted together with Vincent’s help.
Silently she padded inside, feeling nervous, and gave herself a violent shake, ‘don’t be silly Jamie’ she chided herself, ‘this is Mouse, your friend.’
As if sensing her presence, Mouse turned before she was ready to face him, and she froze, ready to take flight, when suddenly a beaming smile lit his face, and he cried, “Jamie! There you are, look, come see, a monkey.”
Jamie gave herself a mental shake, tossing the clouds from her mind, taking Mouse’s offered hand and laughed joyfully when he tugged her down beside him.
“Where did you find him?” she asked, casting Mouse a shy glance before stroking the monkey who was still asleep through the bars of his new cage.
“Secret.” Mouse told her.
Jamie swallowed hard. This was the ultimate test then. Nervously she licked her lips, and told him softly, “Friend’s don’t keep secrets from one another Mouse,” and she was stunned when he turned to her looked her straight in the eye and told her, “Friends don’t hurt each other either.”
It was such a normal statement, that Jamie wondered if Mouse had mimicked it from someone else. It was so unusual for him to not only say it, but to put the correct feeling behind it at the same time, and then to wait patiently watching her face for a response.
“I’m sorry Mouse.” Tears gathered in her eyes, “Can we still be friends?”
Mouse smiled. He didn’t have it in him to hold a grudge, and even within the space of an afternoon, he had missed Jamie’s company dreadfully.
“No more funny stuff.” He asked her shyly, looking away embarrassed.
Jamie laughed, “No, Mouse, no more funny stuff.”
Mouse looked up then a huge smile beginning to spread on his face, and offered her his hand, “Friends.” He told her, and she nodded happily, the tears gathered and fell, “Friends” She told him sincerely, and hugged him tightly. “Mouse missed Jamie.” He told her.
Jamie nodded, “And I missed you too. Now are you going to tell me where you found the monkey?”
Mouse beamed, grabbed her hand and dragging her through the doorway out into the sunshine, he cried happily, “Show you come see. Maybe find more.” His eyes lit up at the thought, and together they ran hand in hand into the undergrowth, happy to be nothing more than just good friends again.

*** *** ***

That evening when Jacob was safely tucked up in bed, and Father and Mary had promised to baby-sit, Vincent suggested that Catherine, Devin and Gerry accompany him for a moonlight swim. “Remember last year, my love?” He whispered to Catherine, who gasped, “You surely don’t mean in the same way.” Her eyes widened, in surprise.
He chuckled, “If only. No, this time we will have on our swim-wear.” She hugged him, her eyes dancing with mischief, “but,” he told her, “It might be nice to spend the night again on the beach.”
“Well this time we will go prepared. Let’s take a bottle of wine with us, and get hopelessly drunk.”
“That reminds me,” Devin told them laughing, “I brought just the thing. I’ll just go get it.” Quickly he headed back to his cabin, and returned with two bottles of Charles home made wine, “This is the perfect stuff.”
“I thought we had been consuming Charles wine all week, darling.” Gerry told him.
“We have, but these are older, they have a real kick to them. You just wait until you taste them, they are superb.”
Swimming towards the beach later, the wine safe in a net bag, the four took their time, lying upon their backs drifting beneath the glittering stars, “This is bliss.” Catherine told them, “Nothing on earth could beat it.”
“Yes, I agree.” Vincent told her, “You know Devin, after Catherine and I did this last year, we re-lived the memory so many times when we were back home. Just to lie in bed and close our eyes, and visualise floating in the ocean, brought the whole experience flooding back to us.”
“That’s very apt Vincent, using the word Ocean and flooding in the same breath, and I know what to buy you for Christmas now, ha! A water bed, that would really bring back the feel of it.”
“What with these claws, are you kidding.” Vincent laughed out loud.
Devin joined him; “Oh! Can you imagine it!”
“Look at the stars Devin,” Gerry broke into their laughter and something wistful in her tone halted their fun. “They are so beautiful. Sometimes just seeing them reminds me of being on Sonn Alp. The stars were the only thing I ever saw a lot of. From behind my bars, I used to try to count them, and wish I was up among them. To me nothing was more perfect. I would sleep through the day, and come alive only at night when I could gaze at the stars.” Everybody fell silent, imagining this.
“When we were in Austria, “ Devin spoke softly, “I would catch Cathy staring up at the stars and the moon with a far away look on her face. I knew she wasn’t wishing to be up there with them though, I could tell her heart was still on the earth.”
Catherine sighed, “Yes, I would look up at the sky, and know that Vincent would be doing likewise from his vantage point in the park. Somehow the moon and the stars brought me great comfort knowing he could see them too. Even though the hours of the day were different, I didn’t seem to think about that.”
“While you were gone my love, I actually noticed how Orion reminded you of a little dog. Funny that, when you first showed me, I just couldn’t see it, but since I have, I never see anything else.”
“A little dog how so?” Devin asked.
“The three stars you can see, that’s it, the ones they call Orion’s belt, with the Crab Nebula, that’s part of the dog’s face. Then straight down there’s his foot. Back this way is his other foot, straight up to the tip of his little stumpy tail, and back across again to the top of his head.”
“Why that’s a two legged dog!”
Catherine splashed Devin playfully; “You have to use your imagination to join the dots.”
“It’s got an awful lot of dots missing Cath. That’s some imagination you have there.”
“Can’t you see it at all?”
“Not yet but after the wine I am sure I will do, when the missing dots appear.”
“How do you make that out?”
“Because I’ll have double vision by then!”

Drifting right up to the island, they didn’t get up, but lay with their backs on the gritty sand, still gazing up at the night sky, drinking in its beauty, “I don’t think I need any wine Devin, I think I could become intoxicated by the beauty of the heavens.” Vincent told him honestly.
“Spoken like a true poet.” Devin told him, “It is beautiful though isn’t it. I find I can’t pronounce its real name but perhaps we should rename it something appropriate. Something that means something to us perhaps?”
“That would be lovely!” Catherine leaned up on her elbows, and rolled over to look at the palm trees gently swaying beneath the silvery moon, “What do you think would suit it best?”
“I can think of so many things. Pearl Island. Treasure Island. Though we don’t want to call it anything that might attract tourists or treasure seekers. Even Emerald Island would suit it, but that too would have its own drawbacks in the same way. And it’s got to be something that makes it ours, and is easy to say.” Devin replied.
“I’ve got it,” Gerry told them, “It’ll be perfect. Let’s call it Mouse Island.”
Devin and Vincent readily agreed.
“It’s great.” Catherine told them, “And at least anyone who hates mice wouldn’t come here.” She laughed, “Oh Mouse will be so chuffed to hear we have named it after him.

In silence they continued to enjoy the sights around them, until one by one they stood and walked along the beach with the four of them arm in arm, “Its been a great holiday hasn’t it?” Devin told them, “And I am so glad that the four of us are such good friends like this.”
“There were times, when I thought our friendship would be severed for all time.” Gerry whispered, “I’m so glad the love we have for each other cemented us all back together.”
“Me too. Sometimes I feel that what we have between us, is almost as four hearts that beat as one. We are a great team aren’t we?” Devin laughed a little nervously, “And I promise you that nothing, but nothing will ever rock our friendship again, and you don’t need me to remind you of what I mean. I’m only grateful that you could all forgive me.”
Vincent was silent, realising something. Devin had put him through a great deal of anguish over the past year. Gerry too had suffered, but his brother’s affection for them all had eventually brought the four of them closer together than they had ever been. And he had never really told him he had forgiven him, well not in so many words, and there was no time like the present to do so.
“Devin,” Vincent stopped walking, and turned the group in a semi-circle to look back at him, “You are more than a brother to me, you are a friend, a best friend. Anything you have done, or said or left unsaid I forgive you, for I love you with my life.”
Devin felt a lump come up into his throat and tears sting his eyes, and for once he was speechless.
Gerry sighed, why did it always have to be brought up, time and time again, would it always stand behind them, waiting in the back ground, unseen, unheard, but there nonetheless? Taking a deep breath she told them, “It’s still there isn’t it? No matter what we say to one another, no matter how many promises we make, its still there isn’t it? Can we really forgive and forget? This is the hardest test on our friendship, that we will ever have to endure,” Gerry smiled warmly, “And nothing must ever give rise for insecurity from it again. Cathy I love you, and Vincent you are adorable and I love you very much, but you Devin, you are my heart, you are an extension of me, and because of that I can see and feel things that you may not even be aware of yourself. I love you more than life. More than freedom of life. I would gladly go back to a life behind bars just as long as you were there with me. But Devin there is a tiny part of you that does not belong to me, I know this, and I accept it, but I think its time that you faced it yourself.”
Flopping wearily down onto the sand, Devin looked up at their anxious faces, as each sat down beside him, sighing he drew a deep breath, “I have faced it. When Cathy and I went shopping that day, and we waited for you at the apartment, we told one another of our deepest feelings, and we made a pact. And I know of that this tiny part of me, that you can feel is not with you Gerry, for it belongs to Cathy, I can’t help that I feel this way, but please you don’t have to worry for it isn’t romantic love it is friendship love. It is strong and will stand the test of time. Together Cathy and I are a team, there are things that we have experienced and things that we have talked about that only we too know about, they aren’t secret things they are friendship things. I love you Gerry, I love only you, and you and Vincent can believe me when I tell you that that’s the way it will always be. You have no need of feeling insecure ever. What Cathy and I share is friendship, a deep friendship. And real friends would lay down their life for one another, and I would gladly lay down mine for any one of you three.” He paused, letting his words sink in, watching as Catherine smiled encouragingly at him, but it was Gerry’s smile that made his heart beat faster.
“Are we going to drink this wine or what?” Catherine laughed out loud.
“Yes we certainly are,” Vincent told her drawing her into his arms, “And we are going to drink to everlasting friendship. Devin where are the glasses?”
“Oh no,” Devin sighed, tragically, “I knew I had forgotten something!”

*** *** ***

Since Mouse had showed himself and Vincent the treasure, Devin had found that his mind had given it a great deal of thought. It was true that they didn’t want people crawling all over the island while they were there, but he felt he owed it to Greg to tell him as soon as possible. Besides if he waited, it would mean hiring a boat at a later stage and coming out to the island to meet Greg, and having to leave Gerry again. So despite what he had told Vincent he would do, he found that he simply had no other choice but to contact Greg and take it from there. Though he didn’t intend worrying the others with his final decision, until he knew for certain if Greg was coming out to the island.
Finally at peace about everything he contacted the coast guard and had him send Greg Masters a telegram, with the words, “Found a fortune. Can you come to island before the 17th? I’ll meet you there. Devin.”
Then having sent it, he paced for days wondering what to do about hiding Vincent and Gerry, and just hoped Greg would come alone.
So when everybody milled around after breakfast on the morning of the 16th, and Catherine noticed a large boat drawing into the bay, there began once again panic stations, just as before.
Devin looked sheepish, “Actually,” He told everyone as he helped bring out the props, cameras and lighting, “I think I know who this is, and it might be as well if Vincent and Gerry stayed below deck this time.”
“Who is it?” Father faced his son, “What have you done this time, my boy?”
“Nothing to worry about dad, just leave everything to me.” Neither Jamie, Mouse, Vincent or himself had told anyone else about the sovereigns.
As the other boat drew alongside, Devin recognised Greg at once; a stocky built blonde haired fellow with an endearing smile, that as soon as she saw him Jamie’s heart missed a beat.
“Greg, hi,” Devin called happily, “ glad you could make it.”
“How could I not. Tell me what have you found?”
“Come with me and I’ll show you.” He knew Mouse had not moved the treasure, he had checked himself each day. The monkey seemed to have taken priority over the gold, and for that he was thankful, otherwise he wouldn’t have put it passed Mouse to have hidden it somewhere else.
Beneath the sanctuary of the lower deck, Vincent and Gerry exchanged glances, “What’s going on Vincent do you know?”
“I have an idea, but I am surprised that Devin has tackled it this way. Let’s hope he doesn’t stay long.”
“Can I go with you Devin?” Jamie asked innocently. Devin ruffled her hair and winked, “Now I wonder why you would be so interested?” He told her, smiling.
Jamie bit her lip and grinned, “He’s gorgeous.” She told him, laughing. “Have you known him long?”
“No, and he’s way too old for you. Those hormones of your will get you into trouble one of these days Jamie. I think you had best stay here, where you are safe, men like Greg would eat you for breakfast.”
Jamie pouted, she was going to say something but then she noticed that Greg was getting changed, and her face lit up as Greg peeled off his jeans to his bathing trunks beneath, and followed Devin into the water. Jamie found herself glued to the railings as she watched them swim towards the island, daydreaming about the way Greg’s muscles rippled beneath the sea, and hoped that they would soon return.
Catherine laughed at her, “It didn’t take you long did it?” She told her affectionately. Jamie shook her head, unable to find the words with which to reply, she was having difficulty believing it all herself. She was in love, helplessly and hopelessly in love, and now she knew the difference.

Catherine continued to smile at her as she made her way below deck to seek out Vincent, “What’s happening. Do you know?” Finding that she was followed by a group of anxious people, including Mouse, who since his burns had healed nicely, had started to swim out to the boat from the island, as did Cullen these last few days.
Vincent didn’t know what to say, and drew Mouse to his side, “ I think Devin is going to show the owner of the island what you found Mouse. Its not a secret anymore, do you want to tell everyone what you found?”
Mouse shrugged, put his hand into his pocket and pulled out something shiny, “Some of these.” He told them.
“Oh Mouse!” Vincent exclaimed, “You took some!”
“Let me see those,” Father exclaimed, taking the coins, “Are these real?”
“Yes it would appear that Mouse found treasure on this island. Devin dates them back to the seventeenth century.” Vincent told him.
“They must be worth a fortune. How many did he find?”
“We never counted them, but there were quite a pile.”
“One hundred.” Mouse told them grinning.
“A hundred!” Father exclaimed.
“Something else.” Mouse told them, putting a hand into his other pocket, he pulled out some green stones. The sparkled in the sunlight that came in through the windows.
“Are they what I think they are?” Mary exclaimed.
Catherine took hold of some, “Emeralds.” She gasped, “Is this all of them Mouse?”
Mouse shook his head, “No, Come see.”
Following Mouse to where he had hung his jacket, their eyes bulged with stunned surprise when he produced a small bag in which when he emptied it, out fell a mass of glittering gemstones in every colour imaginable. “Green ones favourite.” Mouse told them gaily. “Mouse keep them.”
“No Mouse, they aren’t ours to keep. You must give them all to Greg. Did you take all that there was?”
Mouse frowned, he wanted to keep them, and he liked the way they sparkled and danced beneath the light. “Everything in the bag.” He told them.
“Oh Mouse!” Father exclaimed. “Whatever are we to do with you.”
“Change his name to Jackdaw perhaps.” Charles told him, laughing heartily.

When Greg and Devin returned, and Mouse brought out his find, Greg stumbled in shock, and Devin steadied him, “I can’t believe it Devin, this lot will be worth millions. Look come over to my boat will you I would like to talk to you about this.” Taking the bag of gemstones from Mouse, and the gold coins, he led the way, stepping from one boat to the other, to discuss with Devin his idea.
Once seated, he poured Devin a glass of wine, “I don’t want anyone knowing about this Devin, can your friends be made to keep quiet about this?”
“Absolutely, you have no worries on that score.”
“I can’t thank you enough for telling me, you could have kept the lot and I would have been none the wiser, but I can’t ignore your honesty, I simply have to repay you somehow. This is what I propose to do. I’ll take the jewels and the coins to a friend I know. Someone who will give me a good price and won’t ask any questions, and I’ll give you ten percent. I know that’s not much, but I was beginning to get a bit strapped for cash, and believe me I have so many debts, this could not have come at a better time. Do we have a deal?”
Devin thought long and hard, “No, I have a better idea. One that should suit us both.”
“Tell me?” Greg leaned against the railings, sipping his wine, as Devin highlighted his plan. “I don’t want any money, just sign the island over to me as owner, and I promise that anything else we find on it will also become your property.”
Greg’s mouth dropped open wide, “For real! You’ll do that for me!”
“I have no need of money, Greg, but this island is special, and I know many people that would benefit from coming out here, under privileged children and all that, people who have nothing and would love to come here, that is all I ask for.”
Greg nodded, a slow smile forming on his lips. “Okay,” he told him “You’ve got a deal, but I will throw in one gift. I’ll buy you a boat to make it easier for you to bring those people out here. I’ll have the papers drawn up legally, but I’ll sign it over to you now before I leave. Just in case I get shipwrecked or anything! So shall we shake on it?”
Devin took his friend’s outstretched hand and shook it heartily.
The island was his, this beautiful idyllic paradise was his, and nothing could surpass the joy of that knowledge. He had his own Treasure Island, he and his dear family had the island to use whenever they wished, till time indefinite. And as he thought of Vincent being able to go out into the sunshine several times a year for the rest of his life Devin had never felt so happy. And he was so happy that he had been honest about the finding of the treasure to his friend. Real treasure was the happiness of his family, and especially of his brother.
However, later as Greg sailed away with the treasure Jamie gazed longingly after him. And everybody hugged Devin for joy of his news, but no-body noticed when Mouse went back to his cabin to drop some of the dazzling gold coins and the sparkling green stones back into the safety of his jacket pocket!

Not stealing mind - just taking!

*** *** ***

Chapter Thirty-Three

“In the hour of adversity be not without hope,
for crystal rain falls from black clouds”
(Hope by Nizami)

“What a year it’s been.” Father leaned back on his seat, with his wineglass in his hand and sighed. “I don’t think any of us have been unaffected one way or another.”
“But we came through it Father” Vincent told him, reaching across to squeeze his arm affectionately.
“Yes, even though at times it seemed we never would. Do you know the worst part for me, it was when you went Below the catacombs that time.”
Vincent groaned, “Don’t remind me.”
“Nor me.” Gerry added, “Its something I try to forget.”
“Some good came out of it though Gerry. I shall never forget the power of the love of those that helped through the Bond that day. And Narcissa, arriving just when we needed her the most, almost as if she knew how to steal the limelight.” Devin told her.
“Narcissa.” Father said softly, “I think Narcissa can materialise whenever she wants to do, for a certainty, she always appears when you need her the most. Why if she appeared here right now, I would not be surprised.”
“I would.” Devin told him dryly, “I think I’d mess myself.”
Vincent spluttered his wine, “Devin! you nearly made me choke.” He told his brother.
Devin smiled, “Can’t have that Vincent, I need your help, this evening.”
“You do. Why?” Vincent asked intrigued, “What tantalising experience awaits us next?”
“You’ll see.” Devin told him mysteriously.
“Hmm”, Father went on thoughtfully, “I don’t know if I like the sound of this. Is it dangerous?”
“As if!” Devin replied, then changing the subject went on, “The most amazing thing that happened to me this year was when Cathy’s water’s broke all over my feet!”
Catherine groaned, “Oh don’t remind me.”
“When you think about everything though,” Mary told them, “Everything that happened came out good, didn’t it. I mean at the onset, it seemed formidable but as they say, every cloud has a silver lining.”
Father nodded and patted her hand; “Yes, my love, and you were mine.”
“Were?” She teased him.
“Are” He replied seriously, as his eyes told her ‘I love you’.
“Its amazing isn’t it,” Catherine told them, “No matter what came to pass, none of us ever gave up on hope.”
“No, and the love we have for each other in the community shines through all those storm clouds. Look how happy Mouse has been since he delivered Jade, it transformed him. His light has burned brighter than all the candles put together. It was so wonderful of you to ask him.” Mary told them gratefully.
“”And its been great having him here with us, even if we do have a monkey to take back with us. But I can forgive him for that. If it weren’t for him being here, we would never be owning the island right now, and that has to be the greatest thing that has happened to me this year.” Devin told them all happily.
Gerry’s mouth dropped open wide, “Well don’t mind me!” She teased, pretending to look hurt.
He gasped, “Oh Gerry I’m sorry, I’ll take that back, having the island is the second best thing that has happened to me this year.”
“And the first?” Catherine couldn’t help asking.
Devin put a finger to his lips, “The first...er now let me think, what could it be I wonder...”
Gerry kicked him playfully beneath the table, “Is that a gentle enough reminder for you darling.” She told him huskily.
Devin shook his head, intent on teasing her further, then a impish thought came to mind, “Oh yes,” He told everyone, “That’s it, of course, Mouse found a monkey, but I went one better, I found a tiger.”
Silence enveloped the group of friends, shooting nervous glances from one to the other of the couple, and looked daggers at Devin but then he smiled sheepishly, “But it was the most fabulous tiger I have ever laid eyes on.”
“Keep going.” Gerry told him mischievously, tapping her claws upon the table menacingly, “If you want to see another day that is.” She added menacingly.
Vincent chuckled, “I knew there would come a time when you would go too far.” He told his brother gleefully.
“With these beautiful amber and emerald gemstones for eyes.” Devin licked his lips nervously.
“And?” Gerry asked, “I’m waiting?”
“And a gorgeous figure, nothing like a tiger at all really.” He stammered nervously.
“Ho, oh, Devin you are on safer ground now.” Catherine laughed at him.
Gerry continued to tap her claws, coyly peeping beneath her lashes at her husband.
“And I fell in love with her the moment I set eyes on her, and never in all my life have I ever been so happy with this beautiful woman with the tiger eyes.” He told her truthfully, his heart beating fast with desire.
Gerry felt her pulses race, “You say the nicest things.” She whispered, leaning across and kissing him soundly, “and I love you too.”
“What no retribution!” Catherine cried, “Gerry you’re slipping.”
Gerry smiled wickedly flexing her claws; “Don’t you be so sure. Some forms of revenge are best accomplished in private.”
Everyone laughed.
“Going back to that monkey...”Mary reminded them, “ Father and I did say that when we could come here on other occasions and bring the children, we could return the monkey to his rightful place.”
“That depends rather if Mouse hasn’t made him too domestic by then, personally I don’t see any reason why Mouse can’t keep him in his chamber.” Devin told her.
Father groaned, the thought of it was too much. He’s heard how monkeys could be trained to steal things, and didn’t doubt for one moment that Mouse would teach him this. Then they would have to nail everything down.
“So what did you think of the island then Mary,” Catherine asked at an attempt to change the subject, “It is a beautiful place isn’t it?”
“Oh yes, thank you so much for bringing me. It turned out far better than I had expected.” she replied taking Father’s hand to her lips. He looked a trifle embarrassed.
“You’ll have to get used to that dad, these women like to outwardly show affection, its something we have to learn to live with.” Devin laughed, as Gerry slapped him playfully, “But I wouldn’t have it any other way, my love.” He told her nervously as an afterthought.

Sitting there in the early evening sunshine, around the table. The group of friends continued with enjoyable conversation for hours, on this, the eve of their last day. Reminiscing on the past year, the things they had undergone and survived, their hopes and ambitions for the future, when Devin touched Vincent’s arm and whispered something into his ear, and trying without too much success not to be noticed, they slipped away.
“What delights await us this year?” Vincent asked Devin as they went below deck.
Devin lifted up some boxes. “Fireworks Vincent! I thought we could take the dingy to the beach, and set them up, Charles, Mouse and Cullen have offered to light them, while the rest of us watch from the boat. I think it will be a perfect end to another perfect holiday.”
“Fireworks,” Vincent repeated, “So that’s the secret, Mouse stole some from you right?”
“Not stole Vincent, don’t you learn anything? Not stole, borrowed.” Devin laughed.
“How can you borrow a fire work? Mind you I don’t blame him, I love them too, and I have never been to a proper display, only ever seen other people’s from afar. This is going to be wonderful”
“I’d hoped you’d say that. And we have so many, and good ones too, thanks to Cathy, she insisted I ended the holiday with something grand, and sent me shopping with a blank cheque, I can tell you I felt like a boy let loose in a candy store when I went to buy them.”
“I can imagine,” Vincent laughed with him, looking at the many boxes that surrounded them.
As Devin had previously made the boxes watertight, he handed them down to Vincent as he waited in the dingy and then stealing Charles away without anyone noticing the three rowed across to the island.

Much later after placing the fireworks in their required places, Vincent marvelled at how many there were, as Mouse danced happily around them with glee.
“You must have spent a fortune on this lot Devin.” Cullen told him.
“Well yes, I did go a bit wild.”
“A bit?” Vincent queried.
Devin straightened, from his job of putting rocket holders into the ground, “You don’t think I over did it do you. I must admit when they told me the price I nearly fainted. Still, it’ll be worth it, and they should last several minutes.”
“Minutes! What all this lot! It’s taken hours as it is to put them in place.” ”Vincent was stunned.
“Yes, if its going to be any good they have to go off simultaneously. That’s why I have installed these tapers, as soon as Charles, who has the privilege of lighting them, lights one end it quickly runs through and ignites all the others. The show will be spectacular.” Devin replied, excitedly.
Catching his excitement, Vincent replied happily, “Then I’m sure it will be worth every penny, and I too, can’t wait to see it.”

Gerry and Catherine were waiting for them when they got back to the boat, “And where have you two been?” Catherine asked, “You’ve been gone over three hours.”
“Really, that long?” Vincent told her, his eyes shining brightly with mischief. “You will have to wait and see. Where’s Father?”
“He went for a lie down, I think he had too much wine. Mary too, she went with him.”
“Ho, ho. Ever the innocent, aren’t you, Catherine.” Vincent told her hugging her tightly.
“No, its true, no really, don’t laugh at me, I know what you think they are up to, but really, he did put away a lot of wine, Vincent.”
“Dutch courage maybe.” Devin sidled up to them; “After all it has probably been a long time for him.”
Suddenly Gerry giggled.
Interested, Devin looked at her; ““Do you know something Gerry?”
“No.” She squeaked, and giggled some more.
“Come, give.” Devin told her, “You do know something. What, have they been at it already?”
“My lips are sealed.” She told him, her eyes bright with laughter.
“Hmm, but not for long.” And he took her in his arms, and kissed her, pushing his tongue into her soft mouth, making her moan with longing, and whisper between kisses, “Perhaps we should rest awhile too, my love?”
Abruptly, Devin let her go, and told her, “Not until you tell us what you know.”
Catherine laughed out loud, poor Gerry, she was practically begging Devin with her eyes, and he deliberately held back. “I’m waiting.” He told her, tapping his foot. Jamie and Brook burst into laughter. “Is this what you meant when you said you knew of a tactic to get Father to see my way of things?” Jamie asked her.
“I can’t tell you.” Gerry replied.
“Why not?” Jamie and Devin chorused together.
“Because I’m using the knowledge as a lever.” She told him, looking downwards, slightly embarrassed.
Vincent burst into laughter, “Blackmail. Why Gerry, I didn’t know you had it in you.”
“Hey, now this gives me a good idea.” Devin suddenly exclaimed, “ You don’t have to tell us what you know Gerry, I think we could become allies in this. Let me give it some thought, I’m sure there must be a lot of things I need from my Father. How about you Vincent?”
“Oh, I’m sure to think of something.” Vincent replied, mischievously.
“You two are wicked.” Catherine told them, then laughed at their faces, “In the nicest possible way of course. Poor Father.”
“Poor Father, my foot!” Devin replied, “If you knew the satisfaction of holding one over on him, you would never say that. Now this is going to be so good.”
Catching his mood everyone laughed out loud.

Father really was resting. Mary too, and in separate cabins. The wine was so wonderful, he found it difficult to know when he’d had enough, but this was their last evening, and he couldn’t miss it by falling asleep. He wondered what delights they would finish with, knowing that for a certainty, his two son’s had been up to something all evening.
Looking around the cabin, his eyes rested on his chess box, ‘my!’ He exclaimed to himself, suddenly realising, ‘ I haven’t played that since we came out here, in fact so much has happened, I have never even thought about playing chess.’ He was amazed, and smiled to himself, thinking suddenly of Mary and added under his breath, ‘but then I have become re-aquatinted with a much nicer game.’

Mary looked out of her cabin window at the stars. They were beautiful. One never saw such a sight in the city. Here the sky was endless, stretching into infinity, like jewel be-decked blue velvet, giving the feeling that if it could be stepped into it would enfold a person and keep them safe and protected forever.
Mary was so happy. This holiday had given her all she’d ever hoped for and more. Yet it wasn’t finished, for she knew that Devin and Vincent had been gone all evening, certainly they were up to something wonderful.

For Charles, standing upon the beach, looking back at the twinkling lights of the boat, and awaiting Devin’s signal by flashlight, he thought that nothing had been more perfect. He loved cooking, and certainly his friend’s had been delighted in all he had served up before them. He had been made to feel as one of the family, and to Charles that was worth more than all his weight in gold. And they had shared such laughter, and done so many wonderful things. He would remember forever, stroking the Orca, swimming along the ocean bed, and collecting oysters. Building sand castles, something he had missed as a child. Devin had taken him back to a childhood he had never known, and he was grateful for that. During this holiday he had done everything his heart had desired, and now to culminate he would witness the finest fireworks display he had ever seen, firsthand. And to know that by the flick of a match he would bring immense joy to all the wonderful people to whom he owed so much.

Devin and Gerry sat opposite Vincent and Catherine and finished off the wine.
“Remember last year, and the party?” Devin told them, “It was great wasn’t it?”
“Oh yes, Devin, and I wonder how much longer you are going to keep Gerry and I in suspense of knowing what delight is up your sleeve this year.”
“No Catherine, he doesn’t keep his delights up his sleeve.” Gerry told her giggling; “You have my word on that.”
Catherine laughed, “You know, I always believed there could only ever be one Devin. My, but he has certainly met his match with you, Gerry.”
“Thank you,” Gerry laughed with her, “But I’ve been a very willing student.”
Vincent laughed, “Must be in the genes. I too have been eager to learn.”
Gerry slapped him playfully, “But more out of jeans than in, huh, Vincent?”
Catherine and Vincent laughed so much at this, that tears ran down their cheeks.

When Mary and Father re-joined them some time later, it was to the sound of laughter, “Looks like it isn’t only me that likes the wine Mary, just listen to them.”
Turning, Catherine held out a hand to them, “There you are, I was about to come and find you, you are missing all the fun.”
“And the Champaign.” Gerry told them, hiccuping. “Not to mention the jokes.”
“Now after ten days of those, the jokes I can do without, but the Champaign!” Father told them, “Why didn’t someone tell me sooner?”
Vincent smiled and stood between Mary and Father, putting an arm around of each of them, “There’s plenty Father. The evening has only just started. Come stand over here, next to the railings, the island looks so pretty in the moonlight don’t you think?”
“Well yes, Vincent, as it has every night. Why do you want me to look at it now?”
“Because, dear Father, the evening is about to go with a bang.”
“Very good Vincent, I couldn’t have put it better myself.” Devin told him, picking up the flashlight, and switching it on and off towards the island, “Now if everybody is ready, the show will begin.”

There was a few minutes silence, as Charles lit the first taper and hurried back to the safety of the shelter beneath the palm trees. There he waited in expectation with Mouse and Cullen, while back on the boat, their friends held their breath, knowing something delightful awaited them, but did not know what.
As the first sparks, jumped and spluttered, Vincent drew Catherine closer to him, this was a very special moment, and he wanted to be as close to her as he could.
Suddenly, almost instantaneously, a line of fire ran along the beach, orange and glowing, and as it came to rest upon each taper, spat blue and white sparks that ran the length of the touch paper and ignited the fireworks. With loud whistles and cracks, the fireworks exploded in never ending spirals, and the rockets jetted off across the cloudless night sky, climaxing in a profusion of stars and colours that rained down overhead covering everyone with their magic and grace.
“This is fantastic, Devin,” Father cried, “Never have I seen so many fireworks let off all at once.”
“Is that what they are?” Gerry had never seen anything so beautiful, “They’re brilliant. Thank you Devin, this is another perfect end, to another perfect holiday.” She told him softly, snaking her arms around him, and nuzzling his neck, promising him even more perfection later as his soft moan melted her.
“Yes, Devin you have certainly excelled yourself this time. Fireworks! I don’t think I could be more surprised.” Catherine told him happily.
Vincent laughed joyfully, and kissing the top of her head, told her simply, “Oh I wouldn’t say that, my Catherine, you just wait until you see your bank statement!”
Catherine gasped, and suddenly realising shouted ominously, “Devin!”
But Devin and Gerry had already slipped over the side of the boat and were swimming towards their beautiful island beneath a glittering arc of showering stars.

*** *** ***

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