The concluding chapters of part 3 of the Oblivion Trilogy
Mich’ael had just one loose end to tie up before he could lay the whole thing to rest and as soon as he were able to, he went Above and made his way to see the scientist James Burton.
*** *** ***
Lifting the brass knocker on the great oak door Mich’ael let it fall back into place with a loud thud and waited. After a few minutes, he heard the sound of many bolts sliding back, and then the door opened, to a plumpish fellow with red hair and glasses. “Yes, can I help you?” He asked looking down at Mich’ael who stood a couple of steps down from the doorway. “My name is Mich’ael Reidel, I wish to see Mr. Burton."
The man’s face lit up, “I am he, come on in, Mr. Reidel, thank you for coming to see me. Tell me how are you? Your secretary told me about the terrible accident you sustained.”
For a moment Mich’ael wondered about that, then remembered Catherine had taken his call back at Sonn Alp, “Yes, she told me, and it was good to get your letter for I was curious as to who you were.”
“I did ask her not to say anything. Oh well, not to worry, so tell me have you been to see Fabian?”
“Yes, we went there, my colleague and I, and my secretary, before we left for America. There wasn’t a lot he had to say.”
“Really, but he told me it was urgent.”
“To him maybe. Ignatz worked for years on that idea he had you know, and it seems Fabian tried it too. Neither of them had any success, but Fabian had an idea that he wanted to share with Ignatz that he thought might achieve something. He was reluctant to tell anyone but Ignatz, and as we have no forwarding address for him, I’m afraid Fabian wasn’t very forthcoming.”
“So did Fabian and Ignatz ever have any of these creatures?”
“For a while yes, but they are ferocious beings, and had to be destroyed. Han’s Kogler was killed by one. Really its a lifelong project with few results, a labour of love, time and expense, and really ungrounded. For if man cannot tell us what he thinks of the earth’s ruination, what more can an animal tell us, who lives purely by instinct? After all if you tell a creature that relies on the seasons that there isn’t going to be an autumn, do you think he will stop preparing for hibernation? Far from it, he will do what he has always done, despite the way the world is.”
“I suppose there’s some logic in that somewhere. I always said, though, that it was a waste of time. I’m pleased I got out of it when I did. I work on cures for mankind now, and the only animals I have dealings with are mice and rats, the occasional rabbit, and a dog or two. They’re quite enough for me.” James Burton replied.
“Well, I thought I would come to see you while I am in New York. I hope to be buying an institute in the Appalachian mountains, where I shall be studying climatology. Perhaps we can get together sometime, compare notes, and all that. Though of course we will be dealing with different subjects. Nonetheless, some corners might fit.”
“Yes, I’d like that, when you have an address send it to me. Thank you for coming to see me Mr. Reidel, I’ll show you out.”
Not many minutes after James Burton, closed the door behind Mich’ael, a young boy came out of the study, he was about nine or ten, and asked James Burton, “Who was that dad?”
“It was Mich’ael Reidel, one of the scientists who worked on that experiment that you are so interested in.”
“Really, what did he say?” The boy sounded excited.
“Only that it was a waste of time, and had no real results.” James Burton looked deeply at his son, “So I hope that puts you off?”
“No way. It makes me all the more determined to succeed where they failed. You wait and see dad, one day I’m going to create such a creature successfully. Dad, you'll see, I'm going to be the one to do it!”
Once Catherine had spoken of the things that had happened, she did begin to feel better. It was only from time to time, while she and Vincent were together, either reading, playing with the children, listening to the concert, or walking hand in hand through the park at night, that she would think about Dominic. And then she would feel regret that someone, somewhere could have found the joy with him, that she had found with Vincent. No longer disguising her thoughts and feelings from him, Vincent was able to see straight through into her heart and mind through the connection, and know how she felt. It served to him as a reminder of what a special person she was, and made him love her all the deeper. One particular starry night, Devin and Gerry walked out with them, through the park to stand beside the waterfall and watch the water sparkle silver in the moonlight. Devin was walking alongside Gerry his arm through hers, as Catherine was alongside Vincent, when Devin surprised them all by saying, “I wonder what the stars look like from Dominic’s, Daniella’s and Dinah’s standpoint. I expect they are truly awesome from heaven. Though Mich’ael would only believe they were asleep in death.”
“Do you think they ever saw a star in their life Devin?” Catherine asked him.
“No, I guess not, nor the sunshine. But I bet they can see the whole world now. You know Cathy, perhaps they were right, that kind of freedom has no bars.”
“Daniella told me that they were human beings trapped within a prison. That it would always remain that way, even if they were to be free, and Dinah, said to me, ‘here beneath my heart an animal grows. Maybe with the mind or a human, maybe with the ability to speak as a human. Imagine, she said, having that kind of prison’, I’ve thought about that a lot, why do humans mess with nature like that? Vincent, Gerry, you are beautiful people, and you have your heartaches, your dreams and desires. But in many respects, you perhaps have more than those that have access to everyday things. But to think of someone actually being trapped inside an animal and then set free onto the African Savannah? Well the mind just cannot comprehend the despair that would bring.”
“What were these people like, Catherine, “ Gerry wanted to know, “Did the women look like me?”
Catherine turned to her, reaching out to touch her face, “Oh yes, they were as beautiful as you are, gorgeous faces, green eyes, golden fur upon their cheeks, and bridge of their noses, and a soft down of golden fur covering their bodies, they were perfect.” Turning to Vincent she stroked his cheek, and looked into his eyes, continuing, “And Vincent, if you want to know what it would be like to be yourself but to have a human face, I saw that in Dominic.” She smiled, “He had your hair, your hands, the hair over his body was the same, yet his face was just like Fabian’s really, you could tell he was Fabian’s son. That brings me to another question, how could you do that to your own son?”
“I don’t think these scientists see such experiments as their own offspring, Cath, to them its just advancement, with their own imprint. I just hope no-one else ever tries to do it.”
Together they walked away from the waterfall, across the park, and back again towards the tunnel entrance, the stars were gorgeous, and they craned their necks backwards in an effort to take in the whole sky as they walked along. “You know everyone, the stars are wonderful, but with all the lights of the city, we don’t really get to see them at their best. What do you say we all go to my home in the mountains for a few days? I can tell you from up on the peak, the whole sky opens up into infinity. Believe me until you have seen the night sky from the top of a mountain you have never lived.”
“Do you mean that?” Gerry cried happily, “Could we really?”
“Well I don’t see why not, we could go at night in a van, even my father said it may be possible to take the two of you, will you come Vincent?”
“I should like to see your home Devin, yes I would like to go, and it would be good for you and Catherine to have this break away. Perhaps Mich’ael and Mama could go too?”
Devin grimaced, “Alas there won’t be enough room in the cabin for more, we will be a squeeze as it is, besides, Mich’ael will soon be working in the mountains, and hopes to take your mother with him. While we were on Sonn Alp I had the idea of taking our next holiday in the mountains rather than the island, but now I don’t see why we shouldn’t do both. However, we could take Marie and Mich’ael with us, when we next go to our island.”
“That would be great.” Gerry told him, “Mama would love to share that time with us. And Timmy must come too.”
Devin hugged her, glad of her acceptance to his son, pleased at the friendship that had so quickly developed between the two of them. Timmy adored her. “Yes” he replied, “Timmy must come too.”
In the meantime there is something that I want to ask the three of you,” he paused looking sheepish, “How are you all at singing?”
“Singing” They all cried in unison.
Devin laughed, “If you could only hear yourselves.”
“What do you have in mind, yodelling from the mountain tops?” Catherine asked him, laughing her head off.
“No. I don’t mean singing in the mountains. I was thinking rather of singing a double duet at Father and Mary’s wedding.”
“You are joking, tell me this is one of your not so better jokes” Catherine asked.
“Actually I am deadly serious. Think of it, the four of us singing together, I thought it would be a nice gesture, something to make it that bit more special. That is if you all can sing.”
“Well providing you leave the catawailing to Vincent and I, it should go down okay”, Gerry told him, slipping her arm through his, “But don’t expect us to reach the low notes.”
Vincent chuckled, “What song did you have in mind?”
“A love song. One of Diana Ross’s. She sang it in duet with Lionel Ritchie. Its called Endless Love. I thought the words would be perfect, not only for Father and Mary but also for us.” He laughed heartily, “and I don’t just mean you and I, Vincent, when I say us.”
Gerry’s tinkling laughter echoed around the four, as Devin continued, “I thought we could practice in the apartment, what do you say Cath?”
She smiled, “It could be good fun, and there are some neighbours I wanted to get shot of, also it will certainly afford us the opportunity to get to know some things about one another that we never knew.” She nodded, “It might work out well in the finish.”
“Well the wedding is in ten days, so we have to get it right by then, and remember its to be a complete surprise. Just after they are married, we’ll sing it. What do you say?”
Slowly each in turn nodded agreement and Devin cried, “Okay let's do it.”
Vincent having the last word made them all laugh, “And let’s just hope that everyone at the wedding brings some ear-plugs!”
*** *** ***
The following evening the four went along to Catherine’s apartment to begin. Devin had been able to obtain a copy of the song with words on the A side, and instrumental on the B side. Playing the A side through, while Catherine wrote out the words, the four listened carefully, and then they started to practice. Devin asked Vincent, “I think you should start off, Vincent”.
“What alone!” Vincent exclaimed, “You mean me, alone?”
Devin laughed, “Why not, look its only, one, two, three, four,” he counted on, “thirteen little words Vincent, surely you can manage that?”
“You mean singing thirteen words in front of all those people, alone!” Vincent asked once again, hoping Devin was joking.
“Come on Vincent, you can do it. You’re a special person Below, its only right that you should start off.”
“But it was your idea, surely that right belongs to you?” Vincent argued.
“No, I want you to start it off, then Cathy can answer you with the next line.”
“Me” squeaked Catherine, blushing, “You mean by myself?”
“What is it with you two?” Devin asked them, “ can’t you sing?”
“Not well” Vincent replied.
“It's not a singing contest Vincent. Its a nice gesture that’s all.”
“Yes, but I don’t want to be the one to turn the guests away too soon Devin”.
“So when Vincent and I have started it off, when do Devin and Gerry propose coming in?” Catherine wondered aloud.
“In the next verse. I just think it will be perfect, if the two of you stand looking at one another all gooey eyed, as if you are the only two in the room, and sing those lines to one another. Oh come on, lets try it, I’m sure it will sound perfect.”
“You know what I think would make it perfect Devin.” Gerry said starry eyed as she imagined it all.
“Instead of playing this record on a tape recorder, to have the children playing it with their instruments.”
“Now that would be good.” Vincent agreed.
“What a wonderful idea," Catherine exclaimed, “Do you think we could do that Devin?”
Devin pondered on the idea for a few moments then replied, “It won’t be easy, we haven’t a lot of time, and we couldn’t do it here, there isn’t the room.”
“Then it would be better surely? We could do it Below somewhere, and then we could use the days as well as the nights, giving us more practice time. Come on Devin what do you say, the children would love to be included in this?” Vincent told him, and Catherine backed him up, “Yes for just imagine how they will feel if they weren’t asked.”
Devin nodded, “Okay, but only if you and Catherine take the leads.”
Catherine laughed out loud, flinging a cushion at him playfully, “You’ll stoop to anything won’t you?”
“How well you know me Cathy.”
Vincent and Catherine looked at one another, and then re-reading the words, imagined singing them to one another. The words were beautiful, matching their own love perfectly. Vincent nodded, and Catherine replied for them both, “Okay we’ll do it."
“That’s great. Vincent you won’t regret it.” Devin told him happily.
“No, but you may, you haven’t heard me sing yet.”
Devin laughed, “You’ll be great. Your voice is wonderful. Up Above women would swoon over a voice like that.”
“I’ll second that Devin. When Vincent took me Below for the first time, I could not see him for my eyes were bandaged, I could only hear him. From the first moment he spoke, I fell in love with that voice.” She blushed softly.
“I never knew that” Vincent told her, “did you really?”
“You have the most captivating voice Vincent I have ever heard. And I think that putting that voice into song would be enchanting.” Catherine told him sincerely.
“Well let's get started then shall we, and hope that we don’t embarrass one another.” Devin told them, as he put the tape back on again. The A side had the lyrics, the B side just the instrumental. “We’ll all sing along to the words first and go it alone afterwards. Are you ready everyone?”
As music filled the room, they sat each with a copy of the words on their laps and began, and to the pleasant surprise of each other, it sounded fantastic.
*** *** ***
The Great Hall overflowed with people, it had never been so full, not even when Catherine and Vincent were married, because the guests for Father and Mary’s big day went back generations, people they hadn’t seen for over thirty years wanted to come. Father dressed in his finest attire. White ruffled shirt and black suit, and Mary dressed in powder pink satin and lace from head to foot, with tiny little bows and pink pearls sewn in. Her hair pulled up away from her face, and held in place with little blossoms of white gypsaphillia and tiny pink rosebuds. She looked a vision of loveliness.
Vincent dressed in a rich emerald velvet, with white ruffled shirt. Devin in complementary black like his father. Catherine and Gerry in deep cerise and Jacob and Timmy in blue and grey pageboy outfits with white shirts. And with the white gypsiphillia in Catherine and Gerry’s beautiful hair, the overall effect was stunning. It was a sight to behold and cherish.
Father and Mary read out their written vows to one another, exchanged rings and Vincent conducting the ceremony in his finest voice, pronounced them man and wife. A huge cheer went up from the guests as Father bent his head to kiss Mary, thus sealing their marriage, and the children brought forth gifts.
Standing by their side, Devin tapped his father on the shoulder, “Father, Mary, we have something we would like for you to listen to. Would you both like to sit down?”
“Why?” Father questioned his son, “What have you done now Devin? Will it come as a shock?”
Devin laughed, “It may do, but in the nicest possible way.” Then turning he said, “Children are you all ready?”
From out of no-where, the children involved produced musical instruments, and formed a half-circle. Vincent took Catherine’s hand and led her into the centre just in front of the ‘orchestra’ and waited while Devin using the B side soundtrack on a very low setting, set everything up.
As the music began, Vincent looked deep into Catherine’s eyes, his love shining for all to see, while Devin and Gerry stood, waiting either side a few feet away, for their turn to come in alongside them. And as the children started to play along with the background music Mary grasped Father’s hand tightly. Her eyes bright she told him, “Jacob what a treat are we in for. I believe this is going to be something overwhelming.”
Father nodded, his eyes bright with happiness, “Surely, these four aren’t going to sing are they? I’ve never heard them sing before.” He whispered. As on cue the music started and was followed by Vincent’s beautiful voice with, “My love, there’s only you in my life, the only thing that’s right." Phew, thought Vincent, I’m glad that’s over, as he heard Catherine’s exquisite voice sing back to him, “My first love, your every breath that I take. Your every step I make.”
And the two together went on;
“And I, I want to share all my love with you,
No-one else will do,
And your eyes, your eyes, your eyes,
they tell me how much you care,
oh yes, you will always be,
my endless love.
Catherine and Vincent stepped back into the shadows, as Devin and Gerry sang through the following verse together;
Two hearts, two hearts that beat as one,
Our lives have just begun,
Forever - (this word Gerry solo, her voice was gorgeous)
I’ll hold you close in my arms
I can’t resist your charms
And love, oh love, I’ll be a fool for you, I’m sure
You know I don’t mind (Gerry solo)
You know I don’t mind (Devin solo)
‘Cos you, you mean the word to me,
I know, I’ve found in you,
My endless love.
The children came forth with the music between verses, as Vincent, Catherine, Devin and Gerry hummed along. The last verse, the four sang together.
And love, oh love, I’ll be that fool, for you
I’m sure, you know I don’t mind
you know I don’t mind (Gerry and Cathy)
And yes, you’ll be the only one,
‘cos no one can deny
this love I have inside,
And I’ll give it all to you,
My love, my love, my love,
My endless love.
As the children trailed away with the music and the song came to an end, Vincent and Devin bowed their heads to seal a kiss with their wives. For a long moment there was complete and
utter silence. It was a beautiful choice for a song. Mary had taken every word to heart and a lump had formed in her throat that made it difficult to swallow.
With tears in his eyes, Father stood, walked across to the four and enfolded them in his arms, as a rush of applause swept through the Great Hall, becoming thunderous in momentum and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
It was, as Devin had imagined, sheer perfection.
*** *** ***
When Father and Mary heard of the proposed trip into the mountains, they wanted to come. “Do you suppose there are any cabins to rent for a few days nearby Devin”, Father asked him.
“Not near by dad, when Charles and I went there, we purposely chose a cabin well away from anyone else. There are some smaller ones for hire of course, but they are in the region of a mile from my cabin. Would you like me to see if any are available.”
*** *** ***
“Maybe, there is also something else. Its not often that most of us, here Below go away together. I think it is something we should entertain. I know we mentioned it last year and naturally it goes without saying what a holiday like that would do for the children, and they more than deserve it some of them, would it be possible do you think to take a lot of them with us?”
“Well, we have promised Mich’ael and Marie a holiday with us on the island when we go next time, so no doubt they will stay behind while we go to the mountains and look after Vincent and Catherine’s babies. I think Jacob should definitely come with us. How many were you thinking of asking dad?”
“Well, I thought for definite that Elizabeth could do with joining us. Just imagine what joys she could bring to our walls, after a trip in the mountains. Also Pascal, though we may have difficulty prising him away from the pipes. And Cullen, I’m, certain he would enjoy the trip. Look how more creative he has become since going to the island. And I’m certain Charles would love to see him again. As to the children, there is Jamie, Kipper, Hazel, Rebecca, Helena, Benji, especially Timmy, young Sammy, and between the vein of adult and child, there is Mouse. I doubt we could take his monkey though.”
“That’s a lot of people dad, are you serious about so many?”
“Well what do you think?”
“Personally, I would put it to them, give them the option, of say, a week in the mountains, or a week on the island.”
“You’d take them all to the island?”
“Yes, I think they would love it. And for a certainly Mouse would never forgive us, if we went there without him from now on.”
“So let me get this right, you’d seriously consider taking all of them?”
“Well fortunately Greg did buy us a large boat, so we could do it. And you know dad, it would be great having them all there.”
“You really mean that don’t you?”
Devin nodded, “Yes. So what do you say, that just the six of us after all, go to the mountains, I can get you and Mary a cabin as near as possible to mine, and then have the others come with us to the island.”
“That would be wonderful. But we won’t tell the children, until its all arranged. Will you be thinking up a grand finale for the last day?”
“Oh absolutely, why?”
“I was just thinking, as spectacular as they were, it might not be a good idea to have all those fireworks and children together in the small confines of a boat, Devin. Especially with Mouse around and his inventions. After last year he just might blow us all up.” He laughed.
“Don’t worry dad, though I haven’t thought of an idea yet, I do try to do something different each time, there won’t be fireworks this year, besides, do you remember last year when Cathy found out how much I’d spent on them?”
“How could I forget, its a wonder she ever forgave you. Speaking of which, shouldn’t we be including Catherine in these plans, after all its from her bank account that the funds have to come isn’t it. Though at least she won’t have to worry about boat hire any more.?”
Devin clapped a hand to his mouth, “Oh Lord, yes, I had better hadn’t I?” his eyes bright with laughter, “Though I’m certain Catherine will be as delighted about it, as you and I are.”
She was. Catherine thought it was great. The thought of taking all the children to their island, a whole two weeks of sunshine, sea and sand, and the other ‘s’ word for the adults, filled her with joy. “Will you be taking Charles too?”
“If he’ll come yes.”
“And Elizabeth? She can bring our island home to the tunnels.”
“Yes, I will ask Elizabeth to come too.”
“Then let’s do it. We’ll go to the mountains this weekend, and from there plan the island holiday, when should we go, any ideas?”
“Yes, I propose three months from now.”
“Excellent, and you know, I might just take the babies, the sunshine would be good for them. And it goes without saying, I shall definitely take Jacob this year.”
Taking the van up into the mountains was a memorable experience for both Vincent and Gerry. Though they travelled through the night, just being on the road was fun in itself, and watching as Catherine and Devin shared the driving, even more interesting. Both were amazed at how their partners could not only negotiate the traffic but talk at the same time, and see to drive in the dark, with the oncoming glare of other vehicles to dazzle them.
“I’ve never realised before when I’ve watched the traffic from the roof of a building, just how precarious driving can be. You two deserve an award for being able to drive through traffic like this.” Vincent told them both when they had driven for almost two hours.
“It soon gets better Vin,” Devin told him, when they were approaching the mountains, “there aren’t a lot of people driving through the passes at this time of night.”
Nonetheless as Catherine took over the wheel for another stint of driving, Vincent’s heart was in his mouth, as she negotiated the sharp twists and turns in the mountainous region, with an ease born of familiarity.
“Its such a pleasure to be back again,” Father told them all, “I know its not long since Devin and I were here, but I have really missed the mountains.”
Devin remembered something and laughed. “You know dad when Mich’ael and I were on Sonn Alp, we decided that it would have been in Vincent’s interests if you had brought him to live in the caverns beneath the mountains rather than the city streets. So that he could get to see the sunlight, when he came Above. For up here, there would be no-one to see him, and he could have enjoyed so much more of life.”
Vincent sighed, “Yes just imagine that!”
“Alas,” Devin laughed at the memory, “Mich’ael pointed out the only problem to that was that there would be no beautiful women on balconies for you to fall in love with in the mountains.”
Everybody roared with laughter, Vincent too.
Mary who had been dozing during most of the journey, now came to life, “Oh Timmy taught me a travelling game to play on the way up here. He said it would drive you all mad, would you like to try it?”
Gerry giggled, “he taught me too, he said it needed two people to start it off, shall I start or you Mary?”
“Age before beauty my dear,” Father piped up, and received a mighty nudge in his ribs from Mary for his help, nonetheless Mary began, “When I go camping I take a Macintosh with me.”
“You can go camping”, Gerry told her, adding, “When I go camping I take a goldfish with me.”
“You can go camping.” Mary told her.
“That’s ridiculous, why would you want a goldfish!” Devin asked his wife, “Huh!, not to chase me with, is it?”
Gerry laughed, “No dope, listen to the game and try to catch on, whoever does must not tell anyone else. Mary its your turn again.”
“When I go camping I take a mug with me.”
“You can go camping.” Gerry told her.
“Can I go too?” Catherine asked.
“You can if you take the right things with you,” Mary told her.
Catherine had a try, “When I go camping I take a sleeping bag with me.”
“You can’t go camping,” Mary and Gerry chorused together, doubling up with laughter.
Catherine’s mouth dropped open wide. “Why ever not?”
“Try again.” Mary told her.
“Okay. When I go camping I take a camera with me.”
“You can go camping.” The pair chorused.
Catherine ticked it over in her mind, why could she go with a camera, but not with a sleeping bag. Why could Gerry take a goldfish and Mary a Macintosh and a mug. Of course! She had it.
Devin tried. “When I go camping I take my dad with me.”
“You can go camping. Lucky guess.” Gerry told him.
“When I go camping I take both my sons with me” Father told them.
“You can’t go camping.”
“Well how come I can go if Devin takes me, but I can’t if I take him? It doesn’t make sense.”
Vincent thought he would give it a go. “When I go camping I take my backpack with me.”
“You can’t go camping.”
“Hmm.” Vincent said, “There has to be a catch here somewhere.”
“There is, but you have to work it out. Catherine you try again.” Mary told them both.
“Okay. When I go camping I take my... camera case with me.” She answered feebly, a little uncertain.
“You can go camping. And I see you have worked it out. Smart move, that was very quick.” Gerry told her.
“Tell me?” Vincent nudged Catherine.
Catherine laughed, “What prize do I get for telling?”
Vincent smiled at her, “I’ll whisper it.” He leaned close, so that no-one could overhear. “Vincent!” Catherine exclaimed. Making everyone laugh.
Devin was having another go. He too had started to work it out just as Catherine had. “I think I’ve got it. Lets see if I go camping and take a dog, a doormat, or a dagger with me I can go right, but if I took a sleeping bag, and axe and a tent I couldn’t, right.”
“Got it.” Mary told him.
“I know then,” Vincent exclaimed, “I can go too, if I take my vest, this van or a... a... God what else begins with V?”
“Vincent!” Catherine exclaimed.
Vincent frowned, “I can’t take myself can I?”
“No, not that, you have just given the game away.”
Father beamed, “So you thought you would all play with me did you, and send me mad? Well thank you Vincent, now I have had my sanity spared by this lot. So one can only go camping if they take something beginning with the first letter of their name, otherwise they can’t go. That’s it isn’t it?”
Mary nodded, “There’s no fooling you is there Jacob?” She laughed out loud.
“I can see how it would drive you mad though.” Devin added, “I bet Timmy gets a real kick out of thinking of us playing it.”
Everyone laughed at the thought.
“You don’t happen to have a pair of scissors Catherine do you?” Mary asked her.
“Why me?” She asked, “Do I look like the scissors carrying type? As it happens yes I do, would you like them now?”
“Yes please I know another drive you mad game.”
“They’re in my bag down there.” When Mary found them she closed them firmly, then asked everyone, “Are they open or closed.”
“Closed.” Came the chorus.
“No they’re open.” Mary told them grinning from ear to ear.
Everyone frowned. They weren’t open. Catherine looked in her rear-view mirror, and smiled quizzically, they were definitely closed. Whatever was Mary playing at?
Mary then opened the scissors, an
d asked “What about now. Are they open or closed?”
“Wrong. They’re closed.”
“This is so infuriating.” Catherine told her.
“Hey you, keep your eyes on the road,” Devin told her, as they skidded round a sharp bend, he laughed.
“I think its time you took over anyway.” Catherine told him, pulling onto the side of the road where it had widened a little and turning off the engine.
“Not until we finish this game. I think it could make me crash.”
Turning on the interior lights, the six people continued the scissors game, getting madder by the minute. Open closed, open closed, they never got it right. Suddenly Father said “Will you keep your legs still Mary, you keep clonking your knee against mine.”
Light dawned in Gerry’s mind.
“Let me have a go.” Gerry asked, taking the scissors from Mary. “Are they open or closed.”
“Closed” Mary told her. Though the scissors were open.
“So that’s how its done!” Gerry exclaimed, and proceeded to have as much fun as Mary had had for the next few minutes.
Watching the two of them as they passed the scissors between them and kept opening and closing their legs, both Father and Vincent realised at the same time, quickly followed by Devin and then Catherine, who laughed out loud when she realised. “Of course, it has nothing to do with the scissors, they are just a decoy. You are actually talking about whether or not your legs are open and closed. How funny. That is an excellent game.”
“Yes, because notice I never once said were the scissors open and closed, only asked were they open or closed.”
“Well, all these games have certainly helped to pass the time, and just over that mountain range there is my home. About another mile or so.” Devin told them.
“Another mile! And you’ve had us on the side of this road playing silly games when we could have been at the cabin, I ask you.” Catherine exasperated.
“Hey don’t blame me, you were the one who quit driving.” Devin told her laughing loudly.
*** *** ***
Vincent’s first view of the mountain would stay with him all his life. As the van drove up alongside Devin and Charles cabin, the sun had risen, and stepping from the van, Vincent could only stare and stare at the tranquillity, at the beauty of the russet and amber clad mountain ranges.
The crisp feel of autumn was very much in presence here, not like the humidity of the city, and the air so fresh, Vincent took a deep lung full, literally drinking it in. His family stood watching him, spellbound by his reactions, until Devin told them, “This is just how it was the first time I came up here. It was Spring then, so the fragrances were different, but the air, it is so pure, its as if until you come here, you have never really breathed.”
“Yes.” Vincent agreed, “I feel I have waited all my life for this moment.”
A sound of a door opening caught their attention, and turning their heads towards it, all smiled to see Charles beckoning them inside, “There you all are at last, Come on in, I have fresh pancakes and coffee awaiting you.” Devin’s eyes lit up, “Pancakes!” He cried licking his lips, “with blueberries and cream?” Charles nodded, “Could it be anything else?” He laughed.
Helping to carry the bags from the van, Gerry followed him inside, while Catherine and Vincent continued to partake of all nature had to offer. Standing side by side, Catherine’s fingers wound into Vincent’s, as together they stood looking across the mountain ranges absorbing as much of the beauty as was possible. “If my last thought in life isn’t of you my Catherine, though I am sure it will be, then may the alternative be of these mountains. I have never seen anything so beautiful from what nature has to offer in my entire life. The colours, so vibrant, so spectacular, see how they blend in, the various hues of gold, scarlet and russet, and the evergreens with the red berries, it is simply stunning. What Elizabeth would give to be here. Someone must bring her, I simply have to have this scene painted on the tunnels back home.”
“If we take loads of photographs, I dare say she could paint from that, look what she did with the letter I sent to you from Austria, and that had no photograph.”
“Yes Elizabeth is very talented, her mind has eyes that have the ability to see better than sight.”
“Look Vincent down there, can you see a movement?”
“Yes, what is it, do you think?”
Straining their eyes, they could make out three shapes, two small and a larger one, and as the three came into focus, they saw the unmistakable gait of a bear with cubs. “Bears!” Catherine exclaimed, “It is years since I saw any.”
“Its the first time I’ve seen any, except in books, why they are more magnificent then even I imagined, see how the mother bear stands on two legs to reach those fruits up in that tree, and pulls some down for her cubs.”
A voice from behind turned their attention away, “Many years ago, when my family lived in the mountains”, Mary began as she stood behind them with an arm draped around each of their shoulders, “I had a bear cub for a pet. Its mother had been shot. I really loved that cub. I taught him many tricks, and we would go everywhere together. Of course in time the call of the wild beckoned and he left me, but I never forgot him, and every time I come to the mountains I sit and watch the bears and wonder are these his grandchildren? I used to wonder if he were still alive. He was most unusual. One of his forelegs was completely white.”
“How long ago was that Mary?”
“A long time ago, forty-five years maybe. It was in these mountains too.”
“Do bears live that long?” Vincent asked, “Maybe we’ll see him while we are here?”
“No, that would be impossible. Bears live for about twenty five years, if they make it to old age. These bears are the American Black. Further north one would find the grizzly. They are much larger and of a different colour, harder to spot in autumn for they are camouflaged with the trees and bushes. If a grizzly were to fight against a black bear the grizzly could kill the smaller bear with one swipe of its paw. It is a very mighty animal, and not one to tamper with. I don’t think there are any grizzly’s around here in these mountains.”
“What other animals are there here?” Vincent wanted to know.
“For my money the most beautiful has to be the mountain lion, or cougar, or puma, whichever you want to call it. Its sleek, and fast. Its muscles ripple beneath its skin as it runs, and its soft honey colour has a radiance beneath the sunlight that is breath taking. I think to be honest Vincent, you would also find the cougar very interesting.”
Vincent frowned, “Thank you Mary, I had almost forgotten that aspect of my make-up.”
Mary felt her face redden, “I’m sorry Vincent, no offence meant. Its just that the mountain cat is such a beautiful animal, and you do owe a lot to your other side in many respects. Your strength, your emphatic connection, your senses. I know if I had something like that I would be very absorbed in the reason behind it, no less than someone who had a gift in another direction.”
Vincent blushed, “Now it is my turn to apologise, I’m sorry Mary, I jumped in before realising you would not attempt to hurt me, I should have known you would have a positive side to why you said it. And if I am perfectly honest with myself, I suppose I would find the mountain lion a topic for observation.”
“Well you should see one or more while you are here, there are quite a few about. One of the reasons. you don’t want to be out sleeping in a tent in the mountains, that and the bears of course. Anyway, the reason I came out here was to bring you both in to partake of Charles delicious pancakes, I think he is eager to see you tuck in, before Devin eats them. He’s already been eyeing up your share!”
Laughing the three of them turned from the picture book scene, and went towards the cabin and breakfast!
*** *** ***
When Devin drove Mary and Father along to their cabin later that day, he told them, “Don’t wander away from here you two. I’ll be over every day with the van, to see if everything is okay. But just in case, there is a radio frequency you can contact my cabin on, should you need me or anyone of us in a hurry, or just to keep contact. Just make certain that whenever you go out of the cabin, that you keep it in sight at all times, and never ever leave the doors or windows open, if you don’t want unwelcome intruders. I knew a chap who was only outside chopping logs, and when he got back, his cabin had been taken over by a bunch of bears, intending on hibernation. It took him a five mile hike to the ranger’s cabin through rough weather, in order to evict his non paying tenants, and then he had to clean up afterwards, and get in fresh supplies, they had scoffed everything he had. So be warned!”
He left them then to begin their honeymoon, promising that he would call on the radio before coming over to see them, in case it wasn’t convenient. Winking at them, he got back in the van and drove the half mile back to his own cabin.
The first three days passed so quickly, there was such a lot to do, picking wild blueberries, rose-hips and damsons, which Charles made into jellies, jams and sauces, to spill over his famous pancakes in the months to come, and also to make wine.
And they walked miles, though Devin found his recent back injury quite a strain, and knew what it was to be able to tell when damp weather was on its way, by the ache in his joints. “It seems that hobble Wells junior is in the making now, he grimaced when they returned from a particularly long walk with Mary and Father one afternoon, “I can quite sympathise with you now dad.” He told Father truthfully.
“Its not something I would wish on anyone”, Father told him, “You need to see a specialist as soon as possible, to avoid the pain I sometimes get, especially during the winter. Some nights I have felt so cold, I have had to take three hot water bottles to bed. The ache goes right through to the bones, and I just can’t seem to get warm.”
“Things should be better now Jacob, with me sharing your bed, you will only need one hot water bottle from now on, at your feet.” Father patted her hand, “Mmm and a lot less wobbly too. Though on second thoughts!” he teased.
Mary laughed, slapping him playfully, “Plus I won’t go cold, and you won’t have to re-fill me.”
Father smiled cheekily at her, “Well I don’t know so much about the latter, my dear.”
Mary giggled, “Oh you.” She cried, slapping him again.
They reached the cabin door, to find an anxious Charles coming out to meet them, “Whatever is wrong?” Devin asked as soon as he saw Charles, expression.
“There’s been a cougar hanging around. At one time he was slumped right up against the door. Look there is blood on the steps, I think he may be wounded.”
“Do you know where he is now?”
“He went over towards the gorse, but he keeps milling around. Look! Over there!” Devin spun around, in time to see the cougar low to the ground slinking slowly forwards. “He’s hurt.” Devin told everyone, “I wonder if we can help him.”
“Let us try.” Vincent told Devin, taking Gerry by the hand, as he made to step towards the cougar.
“Vincent be careful!” Father called.
“He’ll be all right.” Devin told him.
As the cougar eyed the two people warily, Vincent held his gaze, and dropped down to his knees so that he didn’t appear aggressive towards the animal. Copying, Gerry did likewise, and together they made welcoming sounds, animal sounds, sounds the cougar would recognise as a greeting.
The cougar, fooled by the sounds, edged forwards and it appeared that he was unable to use his hind legs. For Vincent the moment was unforgettable. Here he was his first time in the mountains, confronting a wild creature, and one of the cat family at that, yet it seemed to trust him and Gerry so much, that the experience was nothing short of amazing. As the cougar came right up to Vincent and Gerry, its eyes held theirs warily, until Gerry and Vincent began purring. This relaxed the cougar immediately, and it came right up to them, with trust in its big amber eyes. Reaching out their hands, Gerry and Vincent ran them along the animal’s back, and down its hinds legs, the cat squealed out in pain, and Vincent noticed the bullet hole at the base of the cat’s spine.
“What do you think Gerry?” he whispered, and the cat backed away at this human voice.
“I think his back is broken.”
“If that were so, he would crawl away to die, wouldn’t he? Not be searching for help.”
Gerry nodded, “Yes, of course you are right. Do you think he’d let us lift him?”
“I wouldn’t like to try it. Not because of him turning on us, but more because of his injuries. Can you go back to Father, and see if he has any drugs that would knock the cougar out, so that we can tend to his needs.”
Rising to her feet, Gerry made her way carefully back to Father, and was thankful when he told her he did have something that might work, only it was back at his own cabin, so Devin had to drive him over there.
While she waited, Gerry had Catherine take some photographs of Vincent and the cougar together, without his knowledge for a surprise.
Devin and Father returned some fifteen minutes later, and Father explained to Gerry how to administer the drug through an injection. “What do you think is wrong with him Gerry?” He asked her.
“At first I thought it was a broken back, but now I think his spine might be inflamed because of the bullet. We are going to need your help to remove it.”
“What is it with these holidays you bring me on Devin, first the Orca, then the monkey and now the Cougar, perhaps I really should have been a vet.”
“An ailing creature doesn’t care what you are, so long as you can help him dad. It must give you a real thrill to know you can alleviate pain like this.”
Father nodded, his eyes fixed on Vincent and Gerry from his safe distance, then when he saw Gerry beckon him, he picked up his bag, and went across to them cautiously. The cougar was safely sleeping, and Father was able to locate the bullet through the folds of skin with his finger tips. Sure enough it was wedged against the spine, and Father could feel it by inserting his fingers into the hole. “I might be able to get it out without cutting, with tweezers which will be better, then his recovery will be so much quicker.”
Father worked as quickly as he could, knowing the drug wouldn’t last more than twenty minutes. And when the bullet had been extracted, he cleaned the wound with antiseptic lotion, and stitched it up. Then as an added precaution he gave the cougar an antibiotic injection against infection. No sooner had he declared the job finished when the cat’s breathing became laboured, and his inner eye lids started to open. Father quickly moved away, while Vincent and Gerry stayed near by.
As the cougar re-gained consciousness, he seemed to know that things were different, and struggled to move away, finding almost at once that the obstruction against his spine, that had preventing his hind legs from movement was no longer there. Apart from being hesitant on his feet, in the main the effect was incredible, for the cat regained eighty five percent mobility, only the inflammation now preventing his legs from taking his weight. Nonetheless, the cougar decided he had hung around long enough, and slunk off into the dense shrubbery, no doubt to sleep until he felt much better.
Vincent and Gerry stood up, and hugged one another, walking slowly back towards the cabin to re-join their family, their faces radiant with smiles. “I don’t think I have ever felt so pleased about what I am.” Vincent told them happily as he came up to them, “If it wasn’t for the things my other side taught me, that cougar would never have shown such trust.”
“I feel the same way, it was a marvellous experience.” Gerry added, as a smile of happiness lit up her eyes.
In comparison the remainder of their time in the mountains was not as exciting, though enjoyable and they never saw the cougar again.
Vincent had great dreams that on their last day the cougar would appear and lick them all over with his thanks, but Devin reminded him, that kind of thing only happened in stories, and it was unlikely they would see ever see him again.. Nonetheless the thrill they had in the knowledge of helping such a wild animal would stay in Vincent and Gerry’s heart for all time.
Another highlight of the stay in the mountains was also seeing the stars every night, which were as Devin had promised a sight to behold, and unsurpassable. From his vantage point, Vincent felt so much closer to the starry heavens, and he and Catherine would spend night after night on the veranda outside the cabin gazing up at the stars. “I feel as though I have come to life Catherine.” Vincent told her on their final night in the mountains, “Being here. Its almost as if I have come home.”
“Do you really Vincent? Its funny isn’t it, how the mountains make people feel that way. It makes you wonder if high altitudes were once the rightful home of mankind. Either that or the fresh air makes us high in ourselves, and so much more vibrant and alive. I always feel much the same in Italy and Austria, and I’m so happy that you and I have been able to share this time here, it makes up for the fact that you won’t be able to go to the mountains in Europe.”
“Catherine, do you remember the dream we once had of going to that place in the mountains of your childhood, by the lake.”
“Is it far from here?”
“No, not really. About five or six miles further on. But we won’t be able to go there Vincent. Since I told you about it, a developer has moved in, and built holiday villas all over the area. These villa’s are used all year round now.”
“So I will never see your special place.” He sounded so sad that Catherine hurried on to say, “It doesn’t matter Vincent. Too many things have happened since, whereby we can find special places together. Surely that is more important?”
“Yes, but had I have gone with you at that time, I wouldn’t be feeling so bad about it now it is unobtainable.”
“Nonetheless, there was no guarantee that the developer wasn’t on site at the time. For all we know we could have got there only to find, surveyors all over the place. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise, that we didn’t go.”
Vincent nodded, feeling so much better.
Devin and Gerry joined them then, coming out onto the veranda with a plate of hot buttered muffins to share with them, “May we join you?” Devin asked.
“You mean to tell me you would actually go away if we said you couldn’t?” Catherine teased him. Devin took up a chair alongside her, “Of course not. Why change the habit of a lifetime.” He told her stuffing a muffin into his mouth. He chewed and swallowed, his eyes opening wide by their staring faces, “What?” he asked them, a big smile lit his face, “Its this mountain air, it gives me an appetite.”
“If you say so darling.” Gerry teased him.
Choosing to ignore her, Devin went on, “So what are the final plans for the island holiday then, has anyone got any clues?”
They shrugged, “I think what you said the other night is a good idea,” Vincent told him. “You know, the party thing.”
Devin nodded, “Yes, being that the others won’t have been to a disco in a long time, if ever, I too think that will be a great idea to hold that again for the last night. Does anyone else have anything to add?”
“Yes.” Catherine spoke up, “I do. Seeing our singing debut came off so well, I think it might be fun to take along a karoke machine, and get everyone singing along with it.”
Devin’s face lit up, “Hey now that’s not such a bad idea. Do you think you can get one though. They haven’t been on the market long Cathy, I bet they are scarce.”
“Oh you know me, if you know the strings to pull?”
Vincent snorted, “So long as the puppets aren’t Elliott Burch or Joe Maxwell!”
Catherine looked up at him with an impish smile lighting her eyes and whispered, “Now Vincent, as if I would.”
*** *** ***
“And the ones having insight will shine
like the brightness of the expanse...
like the stars to time indefinite,
(Daniel 12 v 3
“Boo!” Gerry’s head appeared from beneath the water as Devin swam around the boat looking for her. He laughed, “I am beginning to think you were crossed with a catfish. I’ve never known anyone hold their breath underwater for so long. Come here, let me see if you have gills behind those pretty little ears.”
Gerry laughed, “You have to catch me first.” she dived beneath the crystal water again, and was gone in an instance. “Did you see where she went from up there?” he called to those up on the boat.
Catherine leaned over the side and watched as Gerry swum towards the island, “No.” she called back to Devin, just as Jamie, and Timmy swam by beneath the water and catching hold of Devin’s feet, they ducked him. Coming up, wiping his eyes, and spluttering, Devin could not see who it was, and Catherine hanging over the side of the boat was laughing so much, he knew he’d get no answers from her.
Just then Gerry popped up several feet away, “What kept you”, she called back to him, just as she felt something grab her feet and pull her under. As she too, came up spluttering, Devin came alongside her. “Seems our game has been sabotaged, Gerry. Let’s get them.”
Streaming behind the two children, Jamie and Timmy swam faster, reaching the beach first, and running for cover beneath the fronds of the palm trees, with Gerry and Devin in hot pursuit. Once out of sight Catherine turned her eyes towards Vincent sat alongside Marie and Mich’ael who was still using a walking stick from his back injury, though thankfully the two weeks of swimming had lessened the pain and improved things so much more.
“Its lovely here.” Marie told Vincent, “These two weeks have been bliss.”
“I never want to leave Mama. Its hard to imagine that this is my third time here, every time is as the first, we always have such fun and do so many things, and Devin always creates something spectacular for the last evening.”
“Do you know what he has up his sleeve this year Vincent?” Father asked, as he sipped wine alongside Mary, with Jasmine on his knee, and Timmy’s dog, Sandy sprawled out at his feet.
Vincent tickled his daughter beneath her chin, making her chuckle with delight, “Yes, I do. But my lips are sealed. Its to be a big surprise.”
“All I will tell you,” Catherine added, as she scooped a wandering Jade up into her arms, “Is some of it has been tried here before and it was very enjoyable.”
“Hmm, that leaves a lot to the imagination.” Father told her, making a grab for Connor as he crawled too near the edge of the boat, “I think you ought to put one of Sandy’s leashes on this little lot, where has Cannon got to?”
“He’s with me.” Charles called out, “Don’t worry, he’s found a cosy spot beneath the table in the kitchen and fallen asleep.”
Catherine went to see, and picked up the sleeping child. “I know this young man pretty well” she told Charles, “he will let you think he is sleeping, and will get into all kinds of mischief instead when your back is turned. I’ll put him in his cot, where I know his movements are restricted.”
Making her way to the children’s cabin, Catherine found Jacob waking up. “Hello Jacob, have you had a nice sleep?”
Jacob’s chubby little arms reached for her, “Carry me up?” He asked.
“Just as soon as I’ve tucked Cannon into his cot, would you like a drink and something to eat darling?”
Jacob nodded, waiting patiently for his mother to lay his younger brother down to sleep, and then put up his arms for her to lift him.
She met Vincent on the way out, carrying a sleepy child on each arm. “So soon. Why Connor and Jasmine were full of beans just moments ago. Did Father knock them on the head or something?”
Vincent smiled. “Worn themselves out I think, racing round the deck. Jade is tucking into ice-cream by the way. Hello Jacob, did you have a nice sleep.” he ruffled his son’s hair, and kissed his cheek, “I’ll be out in a few minutes.”
Going back out into the sunshine, Father sighed, “Huh, as one door closes another opens eh? I bet you thought you were in for a few hours peace Catherine.”
She smiled, “Jacob isn’t half as tiresome as the other four mischief makers. I need eight pairs of eyes with that lot. Thankfully I have so many helpers.”
“Well look why don’t you and Vincent have some time to yourselves over on the island this afternoon. I know you have enjoyed having your family with you these past two weeks, but really you haven’t had much of a holiday have you.” Elizabeth told her, “We’ll manage the children between us.”
“Well if you’re sure.”
“Absolutely,” Mary confirmed, “Besides no doubt you need to get your heads together with Gerry and Devin about tonight’s surprise.”
Catherine laughed, “Yes, but mainly what I would give to go and lie on that beach and sunbathe.”
“Then its all arranged, go get your swimsuit on, and the pair of you go enjoy yourself.”
Catherine met Vincent again as she went to do as she was told, “We’ve been given time off Vincent, everyone has agreed to baby-sit, while we go over to the island and enjoy ourselves.”
Vincent’s face lit up, “Now I wonder what we should do first.”
Catherine slapped him playfully, “No doubt we’ll think of something.”
*** *** ***
The water was delicious upon their skin. And it had been a tiring holiday with having the children with them, but the stored memories of having them there were well worth it. Nonetheless Vincent and Catherine appreciated the times when everyone shooed them away to have time by themselves. The holiday had been fantastic, and as Vincent and Catherine made it to the beach they met Devin and Gerry, and finding a secluded place to sit, put together the final plans for the evening.
“Do you think the boat will be big enough?” Gerry asked.
“It will have to be. Providing we clear most of the deck space, there should be room for about eight people to dance. Obviously the tighter they hold one another the better.” Devin chuckled.
“We really have to get everyone off the deck though at some stage, so that we can erect the lighting, and the lanterns. Though seeing as everyone is expecting something to happen, I’m sure they will meekly allow us to lead them into their cabins until we are ready for them.” Vincent added.
“I hope it goes off okay, and no-one is disappointed.” Devin wondered aloud.
“I should think it will be a hoot.” Catherine encouraged him, “When you rigged this for us that time, it was great.”
“Well, let’s hope so. Now how about some serious sun-bathing for the next few hours, I’m beat.”
With the hot sun upon their skin, they found that sunbathing was a delight that could not be overdone. And eventually with the way of lovers, a touch and loving eye contact, brought the four to their feet to melt away beneath the canopy of palm trees, to find a deliciously shady place to lie down to make love and rest. Catherine, her head laid upon the steady rise and fall of Vincent’s chest gazed up through the fronds of the palm trees to the blue of the sky above, “I’ve never felt so happy.” she told him truthfully.
“Mmm,” he replied, his eyes closed, as he listened to the sounds of creatures and birds round about, the sound of the ocean gently lapping at the beach, “I could lie here forever and never grow tired of it.”
“I think everyone has had a great time don’t you Vincent?”
“Oh yes, especially the children. Remember their faces when Father told them of our plans to bring them here?”
Catherine remembered, “Yes, I thought their cries of excitement would be heard in the city Above. You realise we will have to bring them every year from now on, don’t you?”
“Every year.” Vincent mused, “What a wonderful thought, to know we can come here again and again. You know Catherine, before you came into my life, I just existed from day to day. I had dreams, but knew they were fruitless dreams, now between you and Devin I have had my dreams made true, and I want to share this happiness with as many people from Below as I can. Every year we must bring someone different.”
“Yes, it is a wonderful place, I agree with that. Even if it means we may have to get a bigger boat every time.”
Vincent laughed, “I wonder if Devin can drive an ocean liner?”
“No I can’t.” came a deep reply from not too many yards away, from behind some tall grasses.
“Hey, how long have you been there, you weren’t there when we, er, you know?” Vincent called back.
“Probably, for we haven’t moved from here, have you.”
“No.” Catherine laughed, reaching for her bikini, “And you had better not even now.”
“Then how come we didn’t hear you?” Devin called back.
“Probably you were making as much noise as we were.” Vincent replied.
Devin laughed, “Its not me, its this wildcat here, remember that woman with the long fingernails Vincent, well she has nothing on Gerry, ouch!”
“What woman with long fingernails?” Gerry sat bolt upright, “Do tell.” She purred.
“Not until you’ve kissed my arm better.”
Gerry smiled, “Why its only a little scratch darling. Now tell!”
grabbing his shoulder playfully between her teeth, Devin fell back against the ferns beneath him, “Okay Okay, I’ll tell you.”
Catherine burst into laughter, looking at Vincent, “And you!” she prodded his chest playfully, her eyes lighting up with mischief, “Can tell also.”
*** *** ***
As the sun began to settle upon the ocean casting a river of refined gold, with undulating ripples over the lazy waves, the four made their way happily back towards the boat, swimming slowly through the cool satiny water.
Lying on her back looking back at the island, Gerry sighed, “So long island,” she whispered sadly, “See you next year.”
Overhearing, Catherine felt downhearted. Next year seemed such a long way away. It needn’t be that way. She was wealthy wasn’t she, surely she could do more for those that had no choice but to live life hidden away, but for two weeks out of every year. Okay so they had spent some time in the mountains, but still it could never be enough. Gerry had been locked away just as much as Vincent had, in her life, she deserved more. Making up her mind quickly, she told her, “It doesn’t have to be so long Gerry. There is no reason why we shouldn’t go more than once a year.”
Gerry’s face lit up, “Do you mean it?”
Treading water, the four milled around in a semi-circle, while Catherine explained, “I have the money, its only sitting in the bank, I’d like to use it to bring you and Vincent happiness. Besides now we own the boat, there’s only food and drink to pay for, and something for the last night’s entertainment. We could come here two or three times a year. Or you and Devin could come here by yourselves if you wished.”
“No it wouldn’t be the same without the four of us.” Gerry told her, “We are a team.”
“And perhaps I could locate another island to visit.” Devin told them.
Catherine nodded, “Okay, let’s see the world, or as much of it as possible. And there is no reason why we shouldn’t attempt using the aircraft at other times.”
Vincent’s eyes opened wide, “Flying! You mean flying?”
“Yes why not. We brought Marie and Gerry right across the Atlantic by plane, I think that is an excellent idea Cathy. I can map out some charts, you know the sights are endless, there is so many places to take the two of you.”
“You have me believing in miracles. First the island, then the mountains, now the world, if only it were possible.” Vincent shook his head doubtfully.
“But it is. Now we have the proven plan of the movie making business, and we have seen that works from last year, really if we can always find places that are remote or virtually uninhabited, then there is no reason why we shouldn’t attempt to go.”
“Well for now, before we get too adventurous, I’ll settle for our own island and the mountains.” Vincent told them.
“Me too.” Gerry added, “There is so much of us here, so many memories, I’m not sure that I want to go anywhere else really. Just knowing I can come here more than once a year is enough for me.”
“Then so be it. We’ll come once for every season for as long as we live.” Catherine told everyone, as Devin winked at her as he said, “Well for as long as the money lasts anyway.”
“That reminds me,” Catherine laughed at him, “Just what did you spend that blank cheque on this year?”
“Wait and see,” Devin chuckled, then diving beneath the golden ocean, he swam towards the boat.
*** *** ***
In a tiny corner of the Milky Way galaxy, the earth rotated on its axis, beneath the spotlight of sun and moon, and a canopy of a vast universe filled with a hundred billion stars.
Far, far below a blue and white boat bobbed upon the moonlit ocean, as tiny in comparison as a grain of sand to the sea, yet nonetheless filled with a dynamic force, upon which the whole existence of mankind depended.
That force was love.
Father leaned over the side of the boat looking down at the sky’s reflection on the crystal water and blissfully sighed. The holiday had once again been perfect, culminating in a wonderful surprise for them all, that of song and dance. He couldn’t remember a time when he had enjoyed himself so much, not even during Winterfest, but now of course he was complete, he had the love of a beautiful woman, and a loving family as well as friends so dear they moulded into that family.
All was quiet now, he was the only one still on the streamer covered deck, and the sun was beginning to show signs of awakening as a thin strip of light far, far out to sea, outlined the ocean. Today they would raise the anchor and set off for New York, back to their secret world beneath the city streets, happy yet melancholy at having to say farewell to their island home, for another year. Devin and Catherine he knew, were making plans to take Vincent and Gerry back before then but he had declined to go with them. Realising that the four of them could only benefit from going more often. That and the fact that Vincent and Gerry deserved it, as if it could make up for all the years that they’d had to endure as prisoners in their own home.
A short sharp laugh burst from his lips, as he thought of Gerry, certainly her love of life was captivating, none could be unaffected by her passion to make the most of any given opportunity to have fun, and this evening had been no exception.
From the moment the four of them had climbed back onto the boat from their afternoon on the beach, Gerry had taken control. Swiftly ushering everyone to their cabins, she had gone back on deck to help Devin erect the lighting, while Vincent and Catherine checked on their family, before coming back to help get things ready.
“This is what I got for getting the party going.” Devin called over to Catherine, “What do you think?”
“Party Poppers, nice touch.”
“Yes Father forbade fireworks because of the little ones, so I thought party poppers would be the next best thing.”
“So long as you don’t let one off behind him.” Catherine laughed.
“Oh yes just imagine!”
When everything was ready, the four allowed everyone back on deck. Everyone was literally stunned to see the coloured lights. The food that Charles had prepared throughout the day without anyone’s knowledge. And bottles of wine stood in buckets of ice. And as the music filled the air, Devin and Catherine set up the karoke machine.
“I think we should get everyone to pull out one of these straws, that I prepared earlier, to see who goes when with the singing, that way no one can get out of it.” Devin whispered to her.
“Hey what are you two plotting?” Gerry sidled up behind them, a twinkle in her eye.
Devin turned and held out the bunch of straws to her, “Take a straw Gerry.” he told her, and she pulled one from the bunch. It was very short, “I’d say by the looks of that, you are going to be the first singer this evening.”
Gerry’s eyes opened wide, “What me! That’s not fair, us four should go last, after all we sang at the wedding.”
“Shhh, keep your voice down then, and put the straw back, we won’t tell anyone. Here take the bunch and pass them around, ask everyone to take a straw, the shortest one is to start and so on, I’ll get the tapes in place.”
Gerry’s face lit up, and as she made her way through the throng of people, Devin laughed at how the sound of chatter died when they realised what he had in mind. Amid groans, of “What, you can’t be serious’, and ‘but I can’t sing for toffees”, Gerry was doubled with laughter. “Don’t worry”, she told everyone, “We aren’t giving toffees for prizes.”
The funniest thing of all, was that Father drew the shortest straw, and Devin found a great song for him to start the evening with, “Ernie, by Benny Hill”.
Gales of laughter arose from the audience, as Father hit the high notes with a crack in his voice, and Gerry almost wet herself as he acted the part of the milkman on his horse and cart. Even Devin made the whole thing more authentic as he threw a rock cake at his father, towards the end of the song.
Vincent had never laughed so much, at these two clowning around, and as song after song came and went with the groaning participants, everybody was enjoying themselves tremendously. The children sang in groups, and Gerry when she finally got her turn to sing Evergreen by Barbra Striesand actually sung the solo so beautifully, that it brought tears to every one’s eyes.
Finally, unable to escape any longer, Catherine saw her straw was the next shortest. Reluctantly she came forwards to see what song would be for her. When the title of Memories also by Barbra Striesand came up on the screen, a lump caught in her throat, and she gasped, “This was one of my father’s most treasured songs. I don’t know if I can manage it all the way through by myself.”
“I’ll sing it with you, its one of my favourites too.” Mary who had been stood nearby told her. “And we can dedicate it to your father.”
With tears in her eyes, Catherine began the familiar song, “Memories, like the corners of my mind. Misty water colour memories of the way we were...” Yet by the time she had reached the last line, the tears were streaming down her face, and there wasn’t a dry eye among all the people on the boat.
When it came to Vincent’s turn, Devin had purposefully flicked through several songs until he found the one he wanted him to sing “I’ve Got A Brand New Combine Harvester” by the Werzels, and Vincent nearly died when he saw it!
“I am not singing that.” He told his brother.
“Oh come on Vincent it will be fun.”
“For you maybe. I bet you have chosen something good for yourself.”
“I have actually, seeing as I am going last. Mine will say it all.”
“I’ll swap you.”
“Nope, you can’t sing songs about yourself.”
“Myself? What do you mean?”
“You’ll see. Now sing.”
“I don’t know how it goes.”
Father and Mary were laughing their heads off, as was Catherine, Timmy, Mouse and Elizabeth. “Oh come on Vincent, its only a bit of fun.”
“I’m not singing that I tell you, anything but that.”
“Anything?” Devin asked him, “Are you serious?”
“Okay, I’ll find something else.”
The audience groaned, “Not fair, not fair.”
“Here, sing this one then.”
Vincent opened his eyes wide with horror, “What is this? Hate Vincent week or something? I am not singing that either!”
Mary looked at the machine, and laughed out loud, “Its My Old Man’s A Dustman” she cried, bent over double. “What a hoot! Tell you what Vincent I’ll take pity on you and volunteer Father to sing it with you.”
“Me!” squeaked Father, “You must be joking, I’ve had my go.”
“I don’t care who sings it,” Vincent told them seriously, almost annoyed, “But I can tell you I will not utter a single note. Haven’t you got something better Devin. You are intent on making me look a fool aren’t you.”
“Okay, okay, I suppose I am being a bit mean. I’ll find you a ‘nice’ song” Running through the remainder of the tape, he found one he thought Vincent would like, “How about this one? Its Not The Spotlight by Rod Stewart?”
Vincent walked round to the screen, “Now that’s more like it.” He told Devin, “I’ll do that one,” and as Devin set the machine to play, Vincent began to sing. Catherine hugged herself. The words really were lovely. And when he came to the chorus, he looked directly at her, making a warm rush of love fill her entire being, “It's not the spotlight. It's not the candlelight. It's not the streetlight from some old street of dreams. It's not the sunlight, not even the moonlight, but I’ve seen it shining in your eyes, and you know what I mean.”
Catherine went along to stand at his side, slipping her arm through his, and as the song came to an end she whispered, “That was lovely Vincent. You really do have the most exquisite voice.”
“Yeah,” Devin intervened, “Too exquisite for my old man’s a dustman!”
“Now its your turn, and I think as a punishment you should sing both those songs you were aiming at Vincent, what do you think everybody?” Catherine called out.
Devin lifted up his hands, and backed away, “Oh no, I’ve chosen my song, Cathy.”
“But that’s not fair, darling”, Gerry came forward to gang up on her husband, “You aren’t allowed to chose. You have to take what comes, and I think Cathy is right. For making us all sing whatever came along, you should be made to forfeit. The songs or the sea, which is it to be.”
“Oh you’re a poet and you didn’t know it.” Devin laughed at her. Gerry frowned, “What are you talking about. Riddles won’t change my mind Devin, now chose!”
“The sea is rather tempting.” Devin looked over the side.
“For the whole night?” Gerry asked sweetly.
“The whole night! What in the water all night. You wouldn’t?”
Still smiling, Gerry’s eyes lit up with mischief, “Will we let him back on board everyone?”
“No” they chorused.
“Looks like I shall have to sing then.”
“Wise choice.” Gerry told him, her eyes lighting up with pleasure.
Father chuckled, “I’m so glad you came into my son’s life Gerry,” he told her happily, “I tried for years to get him under my thumb, to no avail, but you, well you seem to have the right touch.”
“Its these claws, Father, he’s petrified of them.”
“Yes I’ve seen those scars on his back. Did you do that?”
“No, as it happens I didn’t but only yesterday I found out who did.” she laughed.
“NO!” Devin lunged at her, slapping his hand over her mouth, “You wouldn’t dare.” Struggling Gerry freed herself from his grasp, her twinkling eyes challenged him, while Catherine called, “That’s got you well and truly cornered Devin.”
Vincent laughed, “This could be tricky Devin. I’d sing if I were you. After all you only have one pair of hands, whereas your secret could be uttered from any one of three mouths.”
“You know this story too Vincent?” Father beamed, “Do tell?”
Devin’s face reddened from acute embarrassment, wishing he hadn’t told Gerry the story the day before, about his night of passion with the lady with long fingernails, and had let Vincent tell Catherine the story. “All right, all right, I’ll sing, only please keep my secret safe you three.”
“Our lips are sealed,” they uttered in unison, and stood by while Devin was forced to sing through My old man’s a dustman, and I’ve got a brand new combine harvester, much to his obvious embarrassment.
Father giggled all the way through the song, as did Mich’ael and Marie, while the others gave great bursts of laughter from time to time, especially when Devin roped Timmy into acting out the songs.
Finally as the music came to an end, Devin took a long drink from his glass of wine, and grew serious. “Can I sing the song I chose now?” he asked everyone.
“Well you are certainly a glutton for punishment. It must be important.” Gerry told him.
“It is. I want to dedicate it to my brother Vincent, and that’s what it is called, it was brought out by Don McLean, and has been one of my favourites since then. And I know Cathy likes it too.”
Reminiscing on the evening, Father gazed up at the starry heavens, now just visible within the dawning sky, and smiled. His son’s choice of song was perfect, he understood why he had felt compelled to sing it. With the night sky overhead filled with a billion twinkling stars, Devin’s
voice sang out loud and true, “Starry, starry night...” It was a haunting ballad, and the final words kept going over and over in Father’s mind, as he spent the entire night awake upon the deck. "For a could have told you Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.”
Father had seen Vincent brush away a tear at the words, and when it was over, it had brought joy to his heart to see Vincent embrace Devin and the pair, hug one another tightly, unashamed to let their love for one another shine brightly for all to see. Even the star light paled in comparison to that within their eyes.
Father sighed, ‘ What man could wish for a better family’ he told himself. Surely he was blessed among men. To have Vincent, his unique son was one thing, and to have Gerry as his daughter-in-law, and Marie living with them too, was a bonus that made Vincent’s life complete.
Looking back over the past few years, there had been problems, anxieties yes that was true, but through it all, it had been the quality of love that had held everyone together and the dynamic power of love which had strengthened the bond between them all.
Without love, Catherine would never have stayed within Vincent’s life, without love Vincent would never have known he had a mother and a sister, Devin would never have met Gerry and married her, Catherine, Devin and Mich’ael would never have helped those other three creatures in Germany. Without love Vincent would not have a family of his own, and he, Father, would not be happily married to Mary. Without love the whole existence of their secret world beneath the city streets would not be, and without love he and Devin would not have the close relationship they now shared.
Though Father had regrets, it seemed now that love, the perfect bond of union, had glossed over the past, made it of little consequence, so that there was only the future to look forward to and make the most of.
Father rubbed his weary eyes, he needed to sleep, and taking a final look at the morning sun rising in the sky over the ocean, he turned away and walked quietly to his cabin, his heart filled with love.
“And each one must prove to be a hiding place from the wind, and a place of concealment from the rainstorm, like streams of water in a waterless country like the shadow of a heavy crag in an exhausted land...” Mich’ael, reading from the book of Isaiah in his Bible looked at everyone. “Those words,” he told them, “Make me think of my life as it is now. Without the love I have been shown since coming to live in the world beneath the city streets, I would not be who I am now. To me, having the friendship and love of all you dear people, has been like finding refreshing water in a waterless country, and finding a cool spot beneath the shadow of a heavy crag in a hot and tired land. I cannot begin to thank you all for taking me in, and letting me stay as part of your family. I thank you with all my heart.”
Father smiled, “You are welcome Mich’ael. My only regret is the words I spoke to you, that day at the hospital. I hope you can forget about it eventually.”
Mich’ael frowned, “What words?”
Father smiled, “Thank you.”
“So shall we have a toast then,” Devin poured champaign into all the glasses, “We have a great family, and so much to live for, yet there is a lot of things we need to put behind us. It’s been an horrendous year, and not one I would wish to live through ever again.
Nonetheless, like Mich’ael said, its thanks to the strength and love of this extended family that has helped us all through it, and we have much to celebrate.”
Taking up their glasses, and lifting them high so that the sunlight played upon the crystal and dazzled their eyes, Father drew Mary close to his side, he told everybody, “I’m sure you will agree with me that this holiday has been wonderful and the company even better.
The love we have among us spans the earth, that much has been proven with the unique Bonds that Vincent, Marie and Gerry share with Catherine, Mich’ael and Devin, and within it, we all benefit. So I should like to raise a toast to love, friends and family.”
“May I say something?” Everyone turned to see Timmy with his dog at his side. Father nodded, and Timmy began, “My life was a happy one, while I lived with Grandpa and I had Sandy here for company when Grandpa needed to rest. Then when Grandpa died, I thought I would die without him, I missed him so much. I was sent to loads of different people, but I missed Grandpa and Sandy and I was so sad, that no-one could make me laugh, and I didn’t ever want to smile again. My mother didn’t want me, and I never knew my father. Until the day when Catherine rang Mrs. Brennan, and I came to live Below and met my Grandfather, Gerry, Vincent and Marie, and then my dad, and suddenly I had a whole new family. But its more than that, though I have to keep the secret,” he laughed, “other kids wouldn’t believe me anyway, there is something different about this family, and I feel special somehow, in a way I never did, and I am so happy that you have let me become a part of it.” then turning to Devin, he told him, “I love you dad.” and he hugged him so fiercely, Devin’s recent injuries ached, but he was too thrilled to say so as tears in his eyes he bent down to tenderly kiss his son’s head.
“I too have benefited from the love you all show.” Charles spoke up, “My life was hollow and every day filled with pain until the day Devin rescued me from all that, and gave me back my dignity and the will to live. But for him, where would I be now? And these holidays, as well as living in the mountains, these have been wonderful moments to cherish. You have made me feel normal, and helped me to forget what I look like. In your eyes I see the man I feel that I am, and that is a treasure beyond price. And I would like to thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.”
“And I too have something to add,” Vincent rose from his seat to come and stand beside his brother, “There are few words to express the gratitude I feel for the life I lead now. I firmly believed that what Catherine and I shared was just a dream, nothing more, but with Catherine’s love, warmth and courage and the love of all you dear people, you gave me the faith and trust to keep the dream alive and make it a reality. And as Charles so aptly put it, this is a treasure beyond price and I could never begin to thank you for what I have now, and the sunshine is beyond everything I ever dreamed of. Sometimes it seems to me that I am still locked within my dream, except to know that no dream could ever be this perfect and I thank each and every one of you, with all of my heart.”
Devin sighed, “I think we all have a lot to thank our special family for, and there is no doubt about it, that love is at the nucleus of all that we have. I’m sure everyone of us would have his own story to tell, his own reasons for showing gratitude for being able to live in our secret world below the city streets, through which without my father none of it would be possible, and so I am sure you will all join me in raising your glasses to the one through which all this outpouring of love comes into existence, please join me everyone, To Jacob Wells, and all who sail along with him.” A burst of laughter rose at his words, and Father found his eyes be-dimming with tears, more at the fact that those words had come from Devin, and knowing that he truly meant every one of them, as all his dear friends and family raised their glasses to toast him.
“Finally,” Father cleared his throat, “There is just one last thing. I wish from this day forth that none of you ever have to suffer the way some of you have in the past, and though love for each other has brought you all through it, I wish only one thing, that you will eventually grow to be oblivious to all the suffering you have undergone. So would you all join me in raising your glasses to two things, two very important things, without which none of us could advance.
The first is to oblivion, for from this day forth may all our regrets, all our pain and suffering never be brought to mind, and the second is to love.”
“To oblivion!” Everyone chorused. “To love!” They added as their hearts filled with joy and their happiness soared upon the wings of angels far beyond the stars and into infinity, where God in his heaven smiled down upon them, knowing without a doubt that these dear people had found among themselves and extended to others the deepest gifts of the heart. 'Faith, hope and love, these three, the greatest of which is love...
...The Perfect Bond Of Union.'
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The stories found within this website have been written by and for lovers of the American television series Beauty and the Beast and no infringement upon the rights held by Ron Koslow, CBS, Republic Entertainment, Witt-Thomas Productions or any other Copyright holder to Beauty and the Beast is intended.
Furthermore all the stories found on this website belong to Wendy Tunnard de-Veryard, are protected by copyright and none should be copied, added to or subtracted from or altered in any way, without the prior authorisation of the author.