Once in a lifetime, you find the one you really love
From now and forever, one love that never ends
Once in a lifetime, when every star that lights the sky
Will shine with one reason,
leading your heart to the one love you find
Just once in a lifetime
Part Two of the Trilogy
Once In A Lifetime 2
Turning the book over and over in her hand Catherine examined the simple filigree of the flowing letter V. She didn’t need two guesses to know whose initial it was even if the book hadn’t given her a clue. It belonged to Vincent, but it was the way in which he had written it that gave her pause for thought. It was written with almost a loving gesture and the book had been one that he knew she enjoyed, sitting for long hours in the silence of his chamber as he had read a different book assumedly absorbed in it enough not to take much notice of what it was that held her attention. Holding the book to her nose, Catherine sniffed at the delicate scent she found there, or candle smoke, earth and a muskiness that she might have mistake for old books had it not been reminiscent of the scent that she associated with Vincent. That time when he had met her in the tunnel after she had seen Devin on the bed with Mel came rushing back at her from just sniffing at the book, therefore she knew that scent to be Vincent’s probably seeping into the cover when he had carried it up to her balcony beneath the folds of his cloak. The strange thing was that then just as now and within hours of putting the tunnels and all its residents behind her once and for all, Vincent had seemed to know what she had been thinking. Why else had the book appeared between her going out with Tom and returning home, and how? Looking over her balcony wall Catherine looked not for the first time at the street level below and knew that to be a long drop. So for Vincent to have left the book on her balcony he would either have to have climbed up or…with her back leaning against the balcony wall Catherine looked up to the overhang above the terrace…he would have had to come down from there. Even so that was a precarious climb for anyone of any calibre and Catherine doubted that even Vincent could have managed it. Yet facts spoke for themselves, the book was here and it had been in the tunnels, and that led to another question…why had he not simply wrapped it up and had it delivered to her door. Why go to such life threatening lengths to bring it up to her balcony…unless…had Vincent hoped to see her?
Her heart pounded as Catherine reached that conclusion…not only with anticipation but also with horror. How many times had she and Tom been petting in the apartment and not known that Vincent might have been watching from the balcony? Embarrassed Catherine had to know, and she had to know that instant and ignoring the hour she slipped out of her gown and donned jeans, sweatshirt and denim jacket and sneakers and with a flashlight in hand she snatched up her door and car keys and headed out of the apartment. It had been a long time since she had visited the tunnels and now might not be the right time, but tomorrow she had work and all week, and next weekend seemed too far away. Thus heart in mouth Catherine made the uneasy journey to the parking lot beneath her apartment building and just as she was about to insert the key into the lock she screamed when a voice sounded behind her, “Catherine?” Turning ready to strike even at someone that knew her by name, Catherine did a double take at the hooded figure that stood there and just as her mouth opened to scream again, the figure dropped the hood revealing his person.
“Vincent!” The relief came away in a rush leaving Catherine feeling physically weak.
“Forgive me for startling you.” Vincent told her apologetically. “But when I saw who it was I just had to stop you before you drove away.”
“I was coming to see you.” Catherine told him as she re-locked her car and placed the keys into a jeans pocket.
“You were!” Vincent asked incredulous.
“Yes, thank you for the book Vincent.”
“You’re welcome, Catherine.” An awkward silence followed when neither could find anything to say until Catherine remembered with acute embarrassment what she had been intent on finding out had she managed to get to the tunnels.
“What is it,” Vincent asked surprising her with further words of, “Your heart is troubled.”
“How do you know that?” Brows drawn together Catherine challenged him to tell.
Sensing this was not the time to reveal the connection he had with her, Vincent shrugged, “It is a gift.”
“Its disconcerting!” Catherine flared causing Vincent to apologise, “Sorry.”
“No matter, Vincent just tell me, have you ever been to my apartment balcony before tonight?”
“And how did you know where I lived?”
“Someone must have mentioned it.” Vincent didn’t like to lie but knew this wasn’t the time for telling the truth.
Again another pregnant pause had them looking at one another not knowing what to say next until finally Catherine moved toward the doors that would take her back to the elevator and ultimately her apartment. “As I say thank you for the book.” She told Vincent as she moved away from him, he didn’t appear to have anything else to say and neither was she interested to know anything. Her mind had been made up this evening before her date with Tom, and she wasn’t about to let anything prevent her from moving on with her life.
Knowing her heart Vincent let her go. What could he say to hinder her? He knew what he wanted to say, but she would never accept such a thing from him, and so the words ‘I love you’ were held very much deep within his heart, maybe he would never utter them, but Vincent knew that for the rest of his life he would love no other the way he loved Catherine.
As she reached the doors, Catherine hesitated, she could feel him watching her and she found it faintly amusing and a little disturbing he seemed to want to say something to her, and since he had climbed eighteen floors to see her it had to have been important. Catherine hesitated, turned round and walked back, “That was no mean feat you accomplished there Vincent climbing to my balcony. Was there something else you wanted other than to leave the book?”
Now was the time to tell her…not of his love…but anything else. Something that would suffice to hinder her, something he might find that would bring her back into his life…but on the spur of the moment and tongue tied as he was, Vincent could think of nothing, and so he shook his head and noticed that by so doing, Catherine seemed almost disappointed and he blurted the first thing that came to mind, “Are you well?” He chided himself on his stupidity, Catherine looked beautiful and it was obvious that she was healthy and well.
“Yes, I am, and you?” It was small talk but it was talk, and Vincent smiled, “I am well also.” Next Catherine assumed they would start talking about the weather, except…she suddenly remembered that Vincent would not know whether it had been a sunny day or not. Vincent detected the amusement in her heart and wondered if she might be laughing at him and flustered he sought for something else to say, something intellectual something with which she would have to stay and answer in detail.
“I have some news.” Catherine told him suddenly, “I realise that Tom is no one you know, but tonight he proposed to me.” Catherine told him excitedly.
“Tom?” Vincent could hardly speak the name and what he did manage came out flat and toneless.
“Yes, Tom. We’ve been seeing one another and Daddy approves of him, I think he sees him as someone to take over the reins of his company when he retires.” Catherine laughed and didn’t notice that Vincent didn’t laugh with her. “You’d like Tom, I think, he’s a decent man.”
“Do you love him?”
What a question! Catherine stared at Vincent, and the way he had asked, it was almost as if he already knew the answer. Catherine tried to laugh but it was off balance, “Of course I do!” Vincent knew that she lied and being the soul that he was told her truthfully, “One can only build a relationship from a firm foundation. Those that are built upon sand are soon washed away by the tide. Catherine if you do not love this man, your marriage will be heading for disaster.”
“I told you that I loved him!”
“I know what you told me.” Vincent’s eyes challenged her to tell him that she loved Tom again. She couldn’t. Catherine looked away mumbling as if she owed Vincent anything, “Well at least he is good to me.”
“Its not enough.”
“And you’d know what is, I suppose!” Catherine flared with tears pricking at the backs of her eyes. Why did Vincent always manage to make her face facts? How was it he could see to the heart of her?
“As it happens…” Vincent told her softly, “Yes I do.”
“But I have a feeling you aren’t going to enlighten me. Vincent think about this, I’m almost twenty, I’ve had my heart broken once already and Tom loves me…in time I will grow to love him too…and he is a good man…I would be silly not to accept his proposal.”
“And have you?”
“Accepted his proposal.”
Catherine shook her head, “As it happens, no but only because Tom told me to think about it. He said I should go away and make sure it was what I wanted, and let him know a week from today, but Vincent I could have let him know tonight. I would be stupid not to accept.”
Vincent said nothing but Catherine could almost hear him saying that she would be stupid to accept.
“Then what am I to do?” Catherine wailed, “Come on ye who have all the answers.”
Catherine hadn’t expected to see Vincent smile, but he did, just then and strangely the sight of his smile lighting up the blue of his eyes had Catherine’s heart hammering ninety to the dozen. Surprised she looked away hoping that however he knew anything about her, he wouldn’t see it in her eyes.
“You’re young. Twenty is nothing. Some of the young women from our community have waited until their thirties for true love and have not forsaken finding it along the way with a lesser person. Those that have plunged headlong in passion or some other misguided notion have lived to regret their marriage vows, I wouldn’t want to see that happen to you Catherine.”
“I wouldn’t want it to happen to me either, but Vincent, you are forgetting something, not every girl wants to wait so long, and I for one want to be young enough to enjoy my children. My parents had me late in life and I was an only child. I have been lonely Vincent and then my mother died when I was only ten years old.”
Vincent knew this, and he also knew that he could not offer anything to Catherine. True he loved her, but with the person that he was could offer her nothing least of all children, even so he knew that this Tom fellow was not the man for her, and reluctantly he told her, “Someone will come, soon. I know it.” And strangely he did. He also knew that this person would no more appeal to him than Tom did, but he knew that with such a one Catherine would be happy.
“Who? Devin?” Catherine asked accusingly, “If you think I’ll ever trust him again, then you’re wrong.”
“No, not Devin. We have heard from him and he does not speak of returning anytime soon.”
“So much for a year then.” Catherine told him derisively.
Vincent said nothing he did not want to get into a debate about his brother right at that moment. “No, I don’t mean Devin, but believe me Catherine I know these things, as I say it’s a gift and there is someone for you, but its not Tom.”
“How can you say that, you don’t even know Tom?”
“I know that you don’t love him, what else is there to know?”
Catherine despaired of ever starting this conversation, and sighing deeply told Vincent, “Its late, I’ve work in the morning and I’m tired. Vincent if you wish to visit me again, do it here okay, you shouldn’t be climbing eighteen stories to my balcony, its dangerous.”
Vincent chuckled, “I ride the roof of the elevator did you seriously think I risked climbing eighteen floors?”
Smiling Catherine chuckled too, “Yes, I did, and I am relieved to know that you aren’t as stupid as…”
Catherine laughed out loud, “No, I was going to say as I thought. Now look what you’ve done, by butting in like that you’ll always be left to wonder now won’t you? Well serves you right.”
“I’ve missed you Catherine.” The words spoken simply and honestly almost brought tears to Catherine’s eyes. In that moment she too remembered the talks they had had, the carefree banter between good friends, and she told him sincerely, though only just realising the truth of it, “I’ve missed you too, Vincent.”
Then there was nothing more to say, they hesitated and gazed at one another and Catherine turned to walk back to the doors that lead to the elevator, when Vincent caught her arm, “So if I visit I can use the elevator?”
Catherine smiled a few moments ago that idea would have been totally out of the question, but suddenly Catherine made a snap decision, “Yes. Be Well Vincent.”
“Be Well, Catherine.”
Strangely Catherine made her way back to her apartment lighter of spirit than she had felt in a long time. Talking to Vincent had always left her so invigorated and she couldn’t believe how much she had missed it. She had even decided in a split second that Tom definitely wasn’t the man for her, and the reason Vincent could visit her balcony was because she intended never to be intimate with Tom ever again so Vincent would have nothing to disturb. And if Vincent believed that there was someone else out there for her, someone she would love, then he was probably right, for she had never known Vincent to be wrong before.
Reaching her apartment, Catherine slipped the key in the lock, walked in kicked off her shoes and without further ado went to the telephone and dialling Tom’s number told him as he picked it up, “Hello, Tom? It’s me Catherine. Sorry I can’t marry you, and I think its best if we don’t see one another anymore.” Then before a taken aback Tom could reply, Catherine replaced the receiver and leaning against the telephone table she released the biggest sigh she had never known she’d been holding as she realised that she felt the best she had felt in a long time. And downstairs in the parking lot standing where she had left him and knowing exactly how she felt, Vincent smiled with satisfaction before turning and heading back to his world beneath the city streets.
*** *** ***
Walking through the tunnels leading to his home Vincent encountered no one as it was late, but he was surprised when passing his father’s chamber a flickering light signalled that his father was moving about the chamber and Vincent went to investigate.
“Father?” Vincent enquired seeing his parent wearing his long night robe with a woollen dressing gown over the top and belted at the waist. Thick woollen socks complimented the picture and Vincent smiled to himself imagining had his father worn a nightcap with a bobble on the end he would have stepped right out of a nursery rhyme.
“Oh hello Vincent.” Holding out the candle sitting on its holder Father peered more closely, “Are you wearing your cloak? I thought you were in bed.”
“No Father, I’ve been above.”
“Above? Walking the streets at this hour?”
“Not exactly, I went to visit Sam, and then as I was near by I went to see how Catherine was getting along.”
“Catherine? Catherine who?” Father tried to remember where he had heard the name before but Vincent reminded him before he remembered. “Catherine Chandler, you can’t have forgotten. The young girl that stayed here two years ago.”
“Oh the one that turned Devin’s world upside down, and yours too as I remember.” Father chuckled, “So is she well?”
“Good.” Again Father started shuffling round his chamber as if looking for something he had lost.
“Is something the matter Father?”
“I lay a book down earlier today.” Vincent smiled the whole chamber was a library, “Which book?” He asked.
“It was about the Cahokia Indians.” Alarm bells sounded in Vincent’s head.
“Oh dear. I do believe that was the book I took to Catherine’s tonight.”
“You left it there?”
“Yes, I’m sorry I didn’t know you were reading it. Catherine was going through it the last time she was here and I found her book mark only yesterday and decided to take it to her to finish.”
“Oh that’s alright then. I have read it. I was just wondering what I had done with it. I was beginning to think that the book had disappeared just like the tribe. Had me going for a moment I can tell you.” Father peered spectacularly at his son over the rim of his glasses. “Are you certain that Catherine wanted to finish it?”
“Not exactly, but while she was here she couldn’t seem to put it down. I think she like us found it fascinating reading material. To imagine that once the Cahokia civilisation was once ranked the largest Indian nation in the history of its time and that all other tribes can trace their origin from the Cahokia.”
“Well I can understand her interest. Would you ask her to return the book as soon as she is done with it, Vincent? I know its been here a long time, but it only crossed my mind earlier that it would make a good study aid for the children that are learning about Mesoamerica.”
“I will. I wish I had known that you required it, forgive me I should have asked.”
Father’s eyes twinkled, “And pray what would you have taken her instead? A box of chocolates perhaps?”
“Am I so transparent?” Sighing Vincent made his way to the overlarge chair that he favoured on visits to Father’s chamber. He fitted it snugly and Father reaching for his cane walked across to the chair he called his own and sat down opposite his son. “I worry about you, Vincent. I had hoped that you were successfully putting your feelings for Catherine behind you.”
“Maybe I could but for this connection that we share. Father it never subsides, I know what she is feeling I know when she is happy, sad, or anxious. I can’t understand why I should be connected to someone that I hardly know, and certainly not to someone so beautiful that would never look twice at someone like me, especially knowing as I do that she will one day meet someone that she will fall in love with.” Vincent sighed, “Why should I be so tormented with something that can never be, Father and still know that even with the slightest of hope she is destined to meet the man of her dreams.”
“And could that man not be you?”
Sadly Vincent shook his head. “I have dreams. Whomsoever he is, is good looking and wealthy and Catherine will fall head over heels in love with him and he will love her forever. What am I to Catherine, Father some sort of guardian angel? I love her yet I can never tell her so for what good would it do?” Father’s heart ached. It had been bad enough with Lisa, but Vincent had moved on, grown up, he now knew the difference between infatuation and true love, and he had loved Catherine a long time already. Obviously absence had made the heart grow fonder.
“I don’t know what to say except…”
“Don’t tell me not to see her, Father!”
“I wasn’t going to do. As if you would listen to me if I did. Every book we have read down here fact fiction fantasy they all have a certain relative ending, and life is much the same, Vincent. We can only move through the chapters of life closing them behind us as we reach forward toward new ideals and the next stage of our lives and until we have moved through those certain stages we cannot remain stagnant like a half finished book, for we are always on the move through the stream of time. Therefore what I am trying to say in my clumsy way is that perhaps you should get to know Catherine better, invite her to stay with us, allow her to understand the person that you are. The best of friends form the best foundations for a long and lasting relationship Vincent, even ones that do not move toward intimacy. Perhaps you are connected to Catherine because you are to guide her throughout her life. Perhaps her mother works through you have you ever thought of that? You are such a spiritual person Vincent, that could be a possibility, and the love that you feel for her is that of a mother’s love passing through.”
Had Father’s words had intended to make Vincent feel better the last few had made him feel terrible. He didn’t want to be a vessel through which a spirit could communicate with a loved one. The love that he felt inside for Catherine was his, he was certain of it. It was his love for Catherine, his dreams hopes and ambitions for a life with her despite how impossible that seemed and Vincent held on to that belief for all he was worth.
By his silence Father watched his son over the rim of his glasses wondering what he was thinking. Vincent was always deep, deeper than the three rivers near where the Cahokia lived. The Mississippi, the Missouri and the Illinois, the area that geologists referred to as the American Bottom. Well right at that moment Father could not see to the bottom of his son’s emotions but he knew that they run deep if that sombre pondering expression was anything to go by and a well timed yawn smothered by a hand was all father could think of to signal to his son that it was long past time that the two of them got some sleep.
“I’m sorry Father, I’m keeping you up.”
“Not at all.” Father protested, feeling guilty and especially as since he had feigned a yawn they were now coming thick and fast of their own accord. Of all the things in the world one could catch a yawn was definitely the easiest and Vincent succumbed. A hand to his mouth Vincent revealed large fangs and shiny white teeth reminiscent to that of a lion as he tried to hide a yawn and with a grin admitted defeat. “Well I need to sleep even if you do not.” Vincent told his father, and standing he went round to where his parent was sitting and kissed his brow. “Goodnight Father.”
“Goodnight Vincent, pleasant dreams.” Both of them knew that with Catherine in mind Vincent dreams would be pleasant, but Father wondered how his son might cope with them. He hoped for Vincent’s sake that something might come of the friendship, his son deserved to be happy, but then remembering how beautiful the young woman was… Father sighed, if wishes made dreams come true…well he wouldn’t know where to start first.
*** *** ***
The shrill sound of the telephone woke Catherine from slumber. Dragging herself from the bed the persistent sound continued as she made her way from the bedroom to the living room and betting that it would stop the moment her hand reached the receiver Catherine was surprised when it did just that. “Damn!”
Well she was up now, and the clock reminded her that it was well past time to be so and padding barefoot into the kitchen Catherine swept hair from her eyes as she switched on the kettle and prepared a cup for one with coffee granules.
While it boiled she made her way back to the bedroom and tried to choose her clothing for the day. Her head was a little muzzy and Catherine found concentration difficult and was just about getting it together when the telephone started again.
This time Catherine moved a bit quicker but even so the caller did not ring as long as before and she just reached the receptacle when it stopped again.
“Damn, damn, damn!” Catherine fiddled around with the appliance and taking from the cabinet beneath a fresh battery she installed it into the answer machine, “There, I defy you to bother me again.” She spoke to the invisible caller and smugly went back to the kitchen where her lifesaver was almost ready.
Pouring hot water onto the granules always revived Catherine as just the aroma of coffee wafting up and over her face brought her back to life. “They should make face packs out of this stuff.” Catherine mused as she added milk to cool and sipped at her perfect cup of morning coffee, knowing that at no other time of the day did coffee taste better.
When the telephone rang again, Catherine was prepared, but did not attempt to go across to it. Coffee time was her time and she would allow no interruptions, so treading across the plush carpet to one of her pastel shaded sofas she sat down and leaned back and listened to whomsoever would be leaving her a message.
“Cathy! Pick up! I know you’re there this damn machine wasn’t on five minutes ago! Pick up!” Pause. “I said pick up god damn it!” Pause. “Okay well if that’s the way you want it then fine, we’re through, finito, GOODBYE!!!!”
Lips pursed Catherine sniggered into her coffee, she had always known Tom to have a temper but he had never before used it against her. Strangely, Catherine wondered just how much insight her friend Vincent actually had. Tom had always been the perfect gentleman and whenever they had had the slightest tiff he had been charm itself. Well now that she had ruffled his feathers she was seeing the side of Tom that he often directed at people that stressed him, his employees, bank managers, irate drivers that sort of thing.
“Thanks Vincent.” Catherine held her mug in the air in mock salute, “I owe you one.”
Her day appeared somewhat sunny after that, and Catherine deposited her empty mug into the kitchen and returned to her bedroom lighter of spirit than she had been in a long time. Strange how she hadn’t noticed the ton weight chained around her shoulders all the time she had been with Tom. And she realised that he was a very oppressive person, and Vincent had been right, she would not have been happy with Tom. How Vincent had known though beat her, but feeling as she did at that moment, Catherine knew that the moment she was ready to face the outside world, she would make her way to his and let him know how grateful she was for his timely advice.
While she showered, she vaguely heard the telephone ringing again, but did nothing about it. The splash of the water drowned out the caller and she wasn’t about to turn it off and stand freezing while she listened to whatever whomsoever said but as she dried and dressed some fifteen minutes later it started ringing again.
Feeling stronger of spirit and more inclined to face whatever Tom might say, Catherine made her way to the telephone, and managed to pick up the receiver before the caller rang off or left a message. “Hello, 555….” Catherine began and was cut short by her father’s irate voice, “Cathy, baby what on earth are you doing?”
“Good morning dad.” Catherine replied hoping to calm whatever tantrum her father was having.
“Tom’s told me!” He blurted ignoring her greeting entirely. “In fact he’s here with me now, I’ll put him on.” Behind him Catherine distinctly heard a scuffle, and she pictured her father holding the receiver to Tom and Tom waving his hands stepping away and shaking his head as he whispered ‘no we have nothing to talk about. She’s made her bed…”
“Sorry honey, he won’t speak to you. Now what’s all this about? I thought you and Tom were made for each other. I’ve even had the papers drawn up…what?”
“I said I don’t love him, daddy. I never have.”
“No buts daddy, what is, is. I don’t want to see Tom again, well not that way. It’s over, daddy. Tom and I are through. I’m sorry your plans were wasted, but my mind is made up, and surely my happiness comes before your business?”
“Well yes, that goes without saying. Alright Cathy, have it your way I can see your mind is made up.”
“Thanks dad, I’ll be over later. There are some things I need to do this morning first.”
“Okay honey.” Catherine heard her father speak to her ex-boyfriend, “Sorry Tom, I tried.”
“Not hard enough!” Catherine heard Tom’s angry retort and her father’s reply, “At least I tried harder than you did you wouldn’t even speak to her!”
Catherine could hardly stop herself from giggling, there was a friendship quickly losing footage if ever she heard one. “Cathy? You still there?”
“I’ll see you later baby. Don’t worry I won’t be trying to get you back with Tom.” A slam of a door behind her father signified to Catherine that Tom had left and her father’s whisper as though he were still there amused her. “Can’t say I blame you actually honey, I always thought you were too good for him.”
Catherine laughed, what a turnabout! “Still you would have let me marry him and said nothing?”
“Honey, love can be seen through rose tinted glasses, and if you thought you loved Tom, who was I to interfere, you would only have dug your heels in and done the complete opposite to anything that I advised.”
“No daddy, never think that. In future if you think something isn’t right, you just go ahead and say so, okay? Daddy last night a friend told me that Tom wasn’t the man for me, he didn’t elaborate but what he said was enough to convince me that marrying Tom would have been wrong. What I’m trying to say is that if I can listen to a friend’s advice how much more so would I listen to yours?”
A lump rose into Charles’s Chandler’s throat and he replied huskily, “In future then I promise to tell you if I think you are making a big mistake.”
“Thank you daddy.”
There was a pause then Catherine asked, “Was that you ringing before? I was in the shower.”
“Yes, I left a message on your machine for you to call me, don’t worry about that now. Tom marched in here this morning screaming blue murder, never seen him like that before. I think his pride is hurt more than his heart honey, so don’t worry about him.”
“That’s my girl. So who are you seeing this morning, the friend that advised you not to marry Tom?”
“Actually yes, I want to thank him.”
“And do I smell romance in the air?”
Catherine laughed, “Oh no, daddy, Vincent is just a friend. We’ve known one another for years.”
Her father’s silence said everything.
“Daddy?” Catherine asked in an accusing tone.
“Well can you blame me? Your mother and I were friends for years honey before we married and we had a marriage made in heaven. Can’t keep an old man from dreaming you know.”
“Less of the old…”
And so the banter continued, an honest hearted father/daughter conversation that left them both smiling when each put down the receiver at their end and made the day a brighter one all due to it and with sunlight streaming through the windows of her apartment Catherine decided she would take some of its warmth down to the tunnels, reflected by the smile on her face and she looked forward to the excursion immensely, it had been a long time since she had visited her friends from the tunnels.
*** *** ***
Vincent had spent a troubled night. Laying awake for half of it watching the candlelight flicker across the ceiling of his chamber he had imagined pictures with the flames and the shadows childhood dragons and slayers in the hope of falling asleep, but his daydreams had been in vain. Now close to the first day’s classes he was dog tired and Father hobbling in to see what was keeping his son, found Vincent still not dressed and flat on his bed, the covers strewn around him.
“Vincent? Are you unwell?”
Vincent struggled to sit up at the sound of concern in his father’s voice and shook his head yet even that hurt, “No, just tired. I didn’t sleep well.”
“Is something on your mind?” Father asked coming closer to where his son lay on the bed and picking up one of Vincent’s hands he tried to see past the obvious as only a doctor could.
“Yes and no. Its nothing really.” Vincent tried to sit up and Father let his hand go, but picked it up again when Vincent leaned back against the pillows and examined the fingernails with scrutiny. A lot could be learned from the state of fingernails and in this case whether or not his son was ailing.
“It has to be something to keep you from sleeping.” Letting go of Vincent’s hand Father sat on the side of the bed and watched his son closely.
A curtain of tawny hair fell forward as Vincent tilted his head and mumbled, “I gave Catherine some advice last night that really was none of my business.”
Vincent looked up, “Is that all you’ve got to say? What no reprimands?”
“Many is the time that things are not our business, however also the same is true that an outsider can often see things that one who is too close cannot see at all. If you gave Catherine advice and she took it, she probably knew deep down that what you said had foundation and if she didn’t take it then by the observation alone, the seed of doubt has been set and she will act on it if, indeed there is anything to act upon. Besides, which, what is done is done and you can’t take it back by worrying about it, Vincent.”
“I know that.”
“Then the worry has little to do with the advice that was given, rather I do believe that you are blaming yourself for any regrets Catherine might have due to acting upon what you told her. You can feel her emotions can you not, how is she today do you know?”
“I have been afraid to examine how she feels.” Vincent told him, hauling himself reluctantly from the bed. He was way overdue for getting dressed.
“Then you should do so without further delay. Things are seldom as bad as they seem Vincent. You may have spent a restless night worrying unnecessarily.” Father told him, passing his son the clothing he had left draped over a chair the night before.
Vincent sighed, “Maybe.” But he didn’t sound convinced. Father sighed too, “It’ll work out for the best Vincent you’ll see. Was Catherine annoyed with your advice?”
Before he replied Vincent pulled on his jeans and sweater then feeling sufficiently dressed for his chamber he told Father, “I believe she was more perturbed than annoyed. Father I know her heart but I cannot tell her about the connection that I have with her. I had to let her believe that it is a gift that I possess that enables me to advise her so personally and as much as my advice is well grounded I feel that I am withholding something from her by not telling her of the bond. If someone were to tell me something or advise me on something so personally as I did with Catherine, I might not take it lightly either. Yet, I do believe that Catherine did act upon my advice, if her heart was anything to go by after she had returned to her apartment. I definitely felt a great weight lift from her shoulders and when she made a certain decision. Alas, the bond does not let me know which way the decision swings. Whether or not she acted on my advice we can only wait and see and it is that which concerns me and has led to my having a restless night.”
“Do you plan to visit her again any time soon?” Father asked, “It might be as well to do so if you think she will grant you a friendly reception. At least that way you wouldn’t have any more sleepless nights.”
“Yes, and Catherine did say I could visit her.” Vincent told him.
“Just out of interest how do you actually visit with her?”
With a wry grimace Vincent replied, “I’m not certain that you would wish to know.”
“Oh spare me please!” Father replied then as an afterthought felt inclined to ask, ”Is it dangerous?”
“Not to me. And some dangers have certain rewards. Try not to worry yourself Father. I have been climbing all my life, and these claws enable me to accomplish more than most.” Vincent’s eyes danced with merriment which fortunately Father noticed, “You are kidding me aren’t you, Vincent?” He asked just a little warily.
Vincent nodded, “Catherine supposed that I climbed the eighteen floors to her apartment balcony up the very walls themselves I assume, but I told her as I tell you now, that I simply ride the elevator on top of it of course, it would be a fine day when I could travel inside.” Vincent told his father dryly.
“That it would Vincent. And I don’t need to highlight such dangers as doing that do I? You are well aware that you need no reminders about your safety, not just for travelling above but…” Father faltered, his son was the most important person in the world to him, but if he should be discovered then such questions would be asked and someone might start poking around in the tunnels then they would all be discovered. Fortunately Vincent understood, “I know Father, I am part of the cornerstone that holds our world together. If I fall the whole lot could come crumbling down. Don’t worry, I understand my responsibilities, it’s not just about me is it? Others are at stake whatever I do.”
Thankful that his son understood so reasonably Father told him simply, “Yes.” Then he sighed, letting it out long and slowly, “Well, since you know the ropes so to speak when are you considering visiting with Catherine again?”
“No need.” A sweet voice from the entrance startled the two of them and they both looked round to find that the mountain had come to Mohammed.
“Catherine!” Both greeted her at once, with Father adding, “Welcome my dear. What’s it been two years? And you haven’t changed a bit. Still as beautiful as ever.”
Catherine grinned, “Neither have you changed, I am pleased to see.”
“Shall I take that as a compliment?” Father drew her hands into his as she reached his side, and Vincent made them both laugh when he told him, “You should do, it’s rare that you get any.”
“Tea?” Father asked indicating the brazier with a nod of his head, “Or will it be coffee?”
Catherine smiled, “Tea will be fine. Good and hot. I’ve forgotten how chilly these tunnels can be and a nice big mug to warm my hands would be wonderful, thank you Father.”
Vincent drew a chair up near the brazier, “Come Catherine, sit here, its been lit for hours, you will soon feel warm again.”
“Thank you, Vincent.” Catherine smiled up at him and Vincent was unable to stop a flutter of excitement run through him. He stamped on the feeling immediately knowing such things could never do him any good. He may as well get used to the idea, if Catherine offered him anything it would be platonic only.
“So, what do we owe the pleasure of your visit, my dear?” Father asked as he passed her a pretty burnt orange and red mug. That it was warm was emphasised by the colours and Catherine felt better the moment she took it into her hands. “Thank you Father. Actually, my plan initially was to come to see Vincent, but don’t be offended because no sooner had that decision taken root when I realised how much I had missed everyone else and was eager to see you all.”
Vincent wondered what she could possibly have wanted to see him for and nervously awaited hearing and almost as though she had known how he felt Catherine turned from the brazier to face Vincent, “I’ve come to thank you, Vincent. You gave me some very sound advice last night. Don’t know how you do it, but you were right. Tom wasn’t the man for me. And nothing was surer than that this morning when I saw him in his true colours, or heard him rather. To say he was livid about our break up was an understatement. I could never have lived with a man like that Vincent. He didn’t even plead with me to stay with him.” There were other things also but Catherine decided not to mention them in front of Father. Vincent might understand, but she wasn’t certain she should share such things with him either but then they’d known one another a long time. Vincent, it appeared, knew her inside out, so what better person to confide in?
“Have you got some time to spare Vincent?” Catherine asked before sipping her tea. It was herbal and she enjoyed the aroma realising it had been two years since she had last drunk any like it. Probably the last time she had visited the tunnels in fact.
Taking it as his cue to leave Father intercepted Vincent’s turn to reply, “I have classes to arrange, so if you’ll excuse me? I take it you will be doing the rounds before you leave Catherine? There will be many that would wish to see you.”
“Yes Father. I have the morning free.” Her eyes darted between Vincent and Father, as she awaited Vincent’s reply but did not want to seem rude by ignoring his father.
“Then I’ll tell them you are here. Though why Pascal did not pass on the sentries message that you have arrived I will never know.”
“I asked them to keep it quiet. I wanted to surprise you.” Catherine grinned.
“Ah then all is revealed. All right young lady, well Vincent is taking it easy this morning, I’m sure he will grant you all the time that you need to talk. Vincent?” Father asked just to make certain of his facts.
“Yes Father, its as you say, I have time to speak with Catherine.”
“Good, good,” Father moved toward the exit, “Well see you later then my dear. Bye for now.” Then he was gone and Catherine was able to direct her full attention toward her friend.
“So what’s on your mind?” Vincent asked a few minutes later when Catherine having set her mug to the table was wringing her hands together in her lap nervously. “Tell me?”
“Oh its something and nothing really.” Catherine began then haltingly stopped.
“Even so, you know you can tell me?” Vincent’s blue eyes were sincere, and when he pulled up a seat next to hers and sat down beside her, they were close enough to touch. Catherine understood the gesture, he had done it so that she might whisper if she deemed it necessary.
“Its just that…” She began not looking up. How could she tell him this, and why should she even attempt to? It was too personal. She should talk it over with Jenny or Nancy, or some other female confident. Why had she chosen Vincent? Catherine shook her head, the sudden misgivings flying out of the window, she knew the answer to that, Vincent had always been so wise, he saw beyond what was there, and he replied and gave sound advice where no one else ever could. That’s why she was laying bare her heart to him.
Without prompting her further Vincent let her take her time, whatever she wanted to say she had to put it into her own words but he knew that her heart was troubled. So, come to that was his, as the need to pull her into his arms and hug her became almost too overwhelming to bear.
“Oh I’m being silly!” Catherine sighed, “Its nothing really, certainly nothing to base relationships upon.” Catherine laughed nervously, “Don’t worry Vincent, it doesn’t matter. Now how are you?” Catherine asked brightly.
“I am fine.” Vincent told her while wishing she was able to confide in him thinking that perhaps he wasn’t the friend he thought he was to her for her not to be able to do so.
“Father said you were taking it easy today, why is that? Did you have a headache or something?”
“I had a bad night. Catherine, I worried that I had given advice where it was not wanted. I had no right to tell you how to run your life.” Vincent told her his eyes pleading with hers for forgiveness. “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be!” Catherine exclaimed. “I saw the world through rose tinted glasses Vincent, and you lifted the veil that showed me the light. I shall be indebted to you for that. Imagine today I could be making the biggest mistake of my life, by ringing Tom and telling him I didn’t need a week to decide, and that I would marry him. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for your timely advice Vincent, nor for the amount of times you have been there for me in the past. I am grateful to you, so quit worrying. You did me a big favour.”
Vincent smiled, “Thank you Catherine. Its just that…sometimes…” His words trailed away, he could no more explain his connection with her than ask the stars to fall from the sky something that he would never want to see happen anyway as a star studded sky had always been a source of pleasure to him.
“Hey, what are we like?” Catherine laughed out loud. “Here I am come to seek more counsel from you and find myself unable to say anything and there you are doing something similar. Lets make a pact shall we?” Catherine’s grey green eyes danced merrily pulling Vincent along without too much of a fight on his emotions. He grinned at her, “What do you have in mind?”
Extending one hand toward him Catherine replied, “Shake.” Gingerly Vincent laid his hand into the palm of hers. What contrast! It was seen instantly and it was all he could do not to snatch his hand back. His overlarge beastly hand against the soft delicate skin of hers looked monstrous. Catherine though, to give her, her due, did not seem to notice.
“From this day forth,” Catherine began, “I Catherine Caroline Chandler, promise to confide in thee Vincent… do you have a middle name?” Vincent shook his head and Catherine continued, “thee Vincent Wells on any topic under the sun, no matter how difficult that topic might be to disclose. There that should do.” Catherine grinned.
“Why?” Vincent wanted to know, “I mean why should you feel obligated to tell me anything?”
“Are you serious?” Catherine’s eyes opened wide, then she chuckled, “Vincent, oh wise one…” She mock bowed to him, “You give such great advice I could never go wrong. You see in me things I didn’t know were there, help me to avoid pitfalls before I drop right on in to them. Why shouldn’t I want to confide in you? That’s a wonderful little gift you have there mate, and I plan to milk it, that’s if you have no objections? And of course if I can be of service to you, then…”she shrugged, “You know you don’t have to hesitate to ask. One good turn deserves another, Vincent.”
Vincent felt uncomfortable. While they were speaking of such things he knew that this would be the time to tell her of his secret, however Vincent found that he could not, so he said nothing at all, which in turn left Catherine feeling terribly awkward. “Have I assumed too much?” She asked him apprehensively.
“No. No, Catherine, I feel honoured that you feel able to tell me things, but…it’s just that…” Vincent grimaced and Catherine finished for him, “You feel unable to do likewise? That’s okay Vincent. As I say I’m here if you ever need me, cry on my shoulder that sort of thing. We’re friends aren’t we Vincent? And friends are always there for one another come what may?”
Vincent nodded, “Yes Catherine we are friends.” Inside his heart screamed ‘but I want to be so much more.’
“That’s good then. So now that we have got that out of the way I suppose I should tell you what is bothering me.” Catherine sighed, famous last words. Doing so was still as difficult as hell. “Vincent…” She attempted to begin.
“Oh God, I can’t do this.” In her heart she scolded ‘quit looking at me like that’ as his eyes searched hers for clues of anything that would prepare him for what was coming.
“I have an idea, maybe the setting is all wrong. Shall we recline on the ottoman or if you prefer we could go along to the falls. Remember the ledge where we used to sit, I go there often when things are bothering me.”
Checking her watch, Catherine opted for the ottoman, and they made their way across to it, Vincent reclining at one end, his legs sprawled in front of him and Catherine lounging back against his chest sitting snugly between his thighs. They had done this sort of thing eons ago while Vincent had read to her. Catherine suddenly realised how much she had missed such moments. “Oh yes, this is bliss.” She breathed dreamily and was glad that she didn’t have to see into Vincent’s eyes as she confided her secrets to him.
Understanding her dilemma Vincent prompted, “So tell me.”
Drawing in a deep breath, Catherine exhaled slowly, “You know Devin…” Vincent grinned, “Yes I do believe I know Devin…” Catherine heard the humour in his voice and grinning went on, “Well it all stems from there.” She told him while focusing her attention on the tight denim covering his lean muscled thighs. In a moment her hands sought the leather throngs that were tied there and she distractedly played with them, her fingers gliding along the leather throngs as she sought for the right words to say. Vincent waited breathlessly, trying not to notice the feeling her fingers were having upon his leg, focusing his full attention on whatever she was about to impart, but it was difficult and took all of his concentration for any lapse resulted in his imaginings of her busy fingers caressing his long muscled thighs, her hand gliding higher and higher to touch him where he needed her touch the most. Suddenly Vincent moaned and was acutely embarrassed when Catherine swivelled round to face him wondering if he was in pain. “Vincent?” She queried, “Is something wrong? Am I sat on something?” She moved, wiggling her bottom more firmly against him, doing little to lessen the emotions spiralling out of control. Too late Vincent realised this hadn’t been one of his better ideas. Catherine was too close, but it appeared to be the only way she could confide in him, and so he had to grin and bear it. “No.” He told her huskily, “Just keep talking.”
“Well if you’re sure?” Her grey green eyes searched his a moment more before she reluctantly turned back to eyes front and once again took up her narrative.
“Well then it’s like this.” Another deep breath then, “You remember that I was going to let Devin…” Catherine whispered the next two words “make love…to me…” Vincent froze. Oh no not one of these conversations! It was the last thing he needed in his present frame of mind. Vincent shifted uncomfortably but said nothing could say nothing and encouraged Catherine went on, “Well I don’t know Vincent, but due to some of the things Devin said…well its prevented me from having that kind of relationship with any one I’ve dated since.”
Vincent’s mind was full of questions and his heart raced. It wasn’t that he had taken the liberty over the years of thinking of Catherine’s personal life, but he knew deep down inside that he would have been heartbroken to know that she was sleeping with anyone. So what she was telling him…did it mean that she hadn’t? And what was she asking? How could he give advice on this?
“Say something Vincent.” Catherine pleaded at length.
“What would you have me say?” Vincent didn’t know what to tell her.
“Well, tell me something. Give advice. Tell me why it is that I can’t…I can’t…that is I simply feel as though the things Dev told me blocks me from having any kind of sexual relationship with anyone else.”
Vincent was afraid to know, but they would get nowhere till he did, “What did Devin tell you?”
Another deep sigh from Catherine prompted her to reply, “He was so caring, Vincent. I asked him if it would hurt and he said that it might but he would be as gentle as he could and that there were things we could use to make it better for me.” Those words came out all of a rush and Catherine sighed with relief when they were said.
“And?” It was taking all of Vincent’s willpower to sit this one through. If he could have run away and never returned he would have, never had he wanted to so much.
“Well, everyone I’ve dated since, haven’t been that considerate. They just kiss and fumble and assume that it’s a dead cert and don’t care for my well being at all. But how do I know that they are sincere? How do I know, Vincent that they want to make love to me because they care for me, and not because it’s all that they want? I’d hate to be used, Vincent. I couldn’t bear it.”
God what a conversation! Vincent drew in a deep shuddering breath, “I don’t know that I am the correct person to advise you, Catherine.” He told her truthfully, “This might have been better discussed with one of your girlfriends, or with Father.”
“True, but you give such counsel Vincent. I thought if anyone had an answer I could accept you would. What about if it were you?”
“What do you mean?” Vincent asked guardedly.
“I mean, what if you wanted to make love to me, how would you approach the matter?”
Too close, too close, Vincent groaned within. How on earth could he answer her? Truthfully, a little voice told him, tell her like it is. Tell her how you would make such a proposition.
Focusing on the matter in hand, trying to imagine it were no different from discussing his views on any other topic he might set for his class was the only way Vincent could begin to advise her. “Firstly…” he told her, “I would commend you on staying a virgin for so long.” Despite herself, Catherine giggled and much encouraged that she could Vincent went on, “I would then ask if you would marry me.”
“Really!” Turning to face him, Catherine’s eyes were wide and incredulous.
Vincent nodded, “One should not encroach on the rights of another without first making a promise. I would promise to love and adore you forsaking all others till death do us part. Most of all I would be tender and appreciative of all that you offered me, and I would make certain that you never suffered in any way. That…” Vincent paused as her green eyes gazing into his with such trust took his breath away.
“Yes that what?” Catherine prompted him and Vincent went on quietly, “that…” So many reasons galloped to mind and Vincent had a hard time trying to choose one from them all to tell her. “Catherine, I would feel honoured to have you allow me to make love to you.”
Catherine missed the import even though Vincent blushed acutely when he realised not only what he had said but also how sincerely he had meant it, and was only glad that Catherine seemed not to have noticed how earnest he had been as she replied, “Perfectly answered Vincent. You and Devin must have taken lessons together. So let me get this right, you would put my feelings ahead of your own. You would make certain that I did not suffer from the act, and you would also make certain that I was comfortable?”
“Yes, and I would marry you first.”
“The perfect gentleman.” Catherine smiled happily. “I should send all my boyfriends to you for lessons. Tom might not have listened though. He thought he knew everything.” Vincent detected the sorrow in Catherine’s voice and eager to get off the intimate subject asked her, “You sound bitter. Did he not care for you as he should?”
“Last night when he asked me to marry him, he said that since we would be getting engaged, if I agreed to the marriage, then it would be proper to see if we were suited in bed first. Does that not sound like he was using me to you?”
“Perhaps, but the way of the world as I hear it, has different values to those that I have been taught to adhere to. Sexual matters are often very important to couples. Few focus on the things that are just as important like friendship and companionship. It is my opinion that friends make the greatest lovers, but not always the other way around.”
“You see, wisdom personified. There you go again Vincent. You know you could be reading it straight off my heart. You believe exactly what I believe only you are able to put it into words. So then to clarify, what should I do? Wait till someone marries me first?”
“That would be entirely up to you, Catherine.”
“I know, but lets hear it from you. What would you have me do?”
Such a dilemma, Vincent knew exactly what he would want Catherine to do, but could never tell her. He wanted her to marry him and let him look after her and now that she had brought up the subject he could envisage making love to her, and it was what he wanted more than anything in the world still…that would not be what she expected to hear him say…so…”Catherine, if you really want my advice then hear it. Until someone asks you to marry them, and you love them with your whole heart and there are no ultimatums then you should abstain from sexual relations until you meet the man that is for you.” A lump formed in Vincent’s throat as he said the last few words for he deemed she had already met the man for her…it was him.
“Oh.” Catherine wasn’t certain she liked that answer and went on, “Can I ask you something else?”
Vincent nodded, thinking you may as well, after that what could be worse?
“Do you think that somehow, someway I’m waiting for Dev?”
The bond open and vibrant Vincent instantly knew the answer, “Yes, without a doubt. You believe deep down that Devin offered you something that you never got the chance to partake of, and until you do no one else stands a chance.” Vincent’s jaw dropped a mile as Catherine gasped and told him, “How did you do that? That’s exactly what I was thinking only deep down. I’ve never really let myself accept it, but it’s always been at the back of my mind. God Vincent you must be telepathic!”
“Actually, Catherine…” Now was the time to tell her, but doing so posed all kinds of other problems, not least of all why? Why did he share such a connection with her and what did it mean for them? “It doesn’t matter. As I told you before…” He finished lamely, “It is a gift.”
“Well its truly appreciated, if a little disconcerting.” Catherine drew in a deep breath and let it out in a rush, “Thank you Vincent, I know this can’t have been easy for you (that was an understatement thought Vincent) but I do appreciate your counsel. I think I will go and seek out some other tunnel members now if you don’t mind. It’s getting late and I have to be in work this afternoon, I promised my father.” Shunting forward Catherine alighted from the ottoman and Vincent drew his legs to one side before rolling over onto one elbow, “That’s okay Catherine, any time.” She waved goodbye as she left him lying there, and he drew in a deep breath and sighed, ‘any time? Who was he kidding?’ That had to be the hardest conversation he had had with anyone. Why oh why did it have to be with the woman that he loved? It had been so painful for him, and now his head was reeling. Feelings he had tried so hard to squash had been brought to the surface and Vincent knew he would have to try harder than normal to put them very firmly back in their place. That done he would have to hope that whatever he had advised Catherine would be accepted, for once again the thought of her doing any of those things they had spoken about with anyone other than he, would surely break his heart.
*** *** ***
After that day Catherine became a frequent visitor to the tunnels. She had assumed at first that going there would bring back poignant memories of her time with Devin, but strangely it was her time with Vincent that she remembered more and more and she was eager to pursue all their old haunts as soon as possible.
One afternoon as they were reclining once again on the ottoman Catherine surprised Vincent by asking, “Can we go to the concert this weekend Vincent? Its never been the same since you introduced me to your way of listening to it, and I confess that every time I have been since I would look over to the drain and imagine you there listening to the same music yards beneath me.”
“Did you really?” Vincent sounded surprised. He had assumed Catherine had forgotten all about him during those two years she had disappeared from tunnel life.
“Of course.” Catherine shrugged, “I wasn’t likely to forget something like that was I? Did you think I would?”
“Frankly yes. Your life is such a busy one, I thought you would have no time to ponder on past events, especially events shared with someone like me.”
Catherine turned so that she semi reclined her side against him in order to see into his face. “I could never forget you, Vincent. Oh I know there’s the obvious, but you are also pretty special to me you know. Actually now I think of it, I reckon we will be friends until our dying day. Maybe I can bring my children down to the tunnels to meet you.” While in her minds eye Catherine pictured this, her words shot a hot arrow straight through Vincent’s heart as the face of some imaginary man loomed before him, being the father of Catherine’s children and then she asked an impossible question. “Do you think you’ll ever get married Vincent?”
Uncomfortable, Vincent shuffled on the seat, but pinned as he was by her body he couldn’t move as far away as he would have liked. Since their intimate conversation of months ago, they had never spoken of anything personal and now it looked as though they might but Vincent answered as honest as he knew how, “I shouldn’t think so. Why do you ask?”
“I just had this incredible image fly to mind of children looking like you, so obviously I wondered the inevitable since you said you would never have sex before marriage.”
“I shouldn’t think I would ever have sex at all.” Vincent told her before he could stop himself and quickly dipped his head to hide beneath a curtain of tawny hair.
“Oh I’m sorry. Why not?” Vincent detected the concern in Catherine’s voice and it almost broke his heart. She could be so open at times, and definitely took this friend thing a bit too far for his liking. She didn’t seem to see him as the opposite sex, just a friend on line with those of the female kind.
Still Vincent tried to answer as tactfully as he could, hoping that by so doing the subject would soon be dropped. “Who would have me?”
Catherine moved again to kneel between his legs looking him in the eye, “I would.” Vincent’s heart thundered. “Metaphorically speaking of course.” Vincent’s heart plummeted even so he was compelled to ask, “What can be metaphoric in that?”
“Well, you know, we are different, but if you were like me, or if I was like you then I would find no trouble having you as my partner. What we need to do is find someone that is like you. Do you think there is anyone?”
“I don’t know.” Catherine was surprised by the sadness in Vincent’s reply and she apologised, “I’m sorry. Have I upset you?”
‘Yes’ thought Vincent, ‘but not in the way you presume.’ Instead he replied, “No.”
“Look let’s talk about something else.” Catherine searched his eyes wanting to be sure that she hadn’t upset him and saw Vincent nod, not trusting himself to speak, and then she asked something that surprised when she asked it but maybe it was something about those eyes, big and lagoon blue, just right for drowning in. “Vincent, have you ever been kissed?”
Vincent swallowed with difficulty finding it impossible to tear his gaze away from her lips the moment she had asked the question. He shook his head, adding, “No.” Knowing exactly what sort of kiss she was referring to.
“Not even by Lisa?”
“No, not even by Lisa who by the way, is doing remarkably well. Father got a letter from her just yesterday, her dancing career is coming on in leaps and bounds and…”
“Later, Vincent. Don’t change the subject.” Catherine was looking at him in a way he couldn’t fathom. “Now, I’m going to kiss you and I want you to tell me what it feels like.”
This time Vincent did try to stand, “No Catherine.” He pushed her back from where she knelt between his legs, “Please don’t do that.”
“Why not? Its not like we’re anything to each other is it? And I feel sorry for you Vincent, you’re what twenty and never been kissed? I feel so much gratitude for all you have done for me Vincent, let me kiss you please.” If Catherine had known what she was doing to him she would never have suggested it, but innocently she had decided to do this thing for him because she sincerely believed that he should know what it was like to be kissed. It was so unfair that no one had ever taken the initiative to show him and because she thought so much of him, Catherine knew that she could do it. “Just lean back and close your eyes.”
“Oh come on…it’ll be fun.” As he held her away from him Catherine leaned forward her intention plain. Vincent sighed, he did want this, he craved it and he might never get another chance…so with a ragged breath he gave in and letting go of her arms watched as her face came closer and closer…
“Wow, give a gal an inch and she’ll take a mile!” Both swung around at the sound of the familiar voice chorusing together, “DEVIN!”
“Seems I arrived in the nick of time, bro. Cathy was just about to smother you was she not? So how you doing Cathy, got a kiss for me too?”
“There’s no too about it, I haven’t given Vincent his yet.” Catherine laughed, all the same Vincent watched mesmerised as Catherine got up from between his legs and marched across to his brother, threw her arms around his neck and kissed him long and hard. “Wow!” Devin came up for air, “Now that’s what I call a ‘pleased to see ya’ kiss.”
“And that’s all it’s meant to be.” Catherine told him giggling, “So don’t go getting any other ideas mister.” With one finger Catherine prodded Devin in the stomach playfully, “I haven’t forgiven you yet.”
“Forgiven me? What did I do?”
“Its what you didn’t do that’s the problem. You said you’d be gone a year Dev, its been two.”
“So I don’t carry a calendar around with me. Honestly Cathy, I did tell you not to wait for me. You didn’t, did you?” Catherine blushed and gave Devin all the answer that he needed, and he was extremely apologetic, “Lord sorry Cathy, I had no idea. What you go and do a thing like that for? Haven’t you dated anyone?”
“Of course I have!” Catherine flared. This was becoming a little hotter than she could handle, she was giving Devin the impression that she had awaited his return so that they might make love as planned, and that wasn’t really her intention. Turning to Vincent her eyes pleaded with his for help, but Vincent still reeling from the promise of a kiss that did not come could only watch the exchange with a sense of unreality and caution.
Devin though could go as close to the bone as he dared and did, “But you’ve never done it with them?”
Catherine blushed hotly, “No.”
Feeling as though he had just stepped right back in time Devin whispered hoarsely, “Don’t tell me that you expect me to…well now that I’m back…take up from where we left off…” His eyes gleamed at the thought.
“No!” Both Catherine and Devin turned sharply by Vincent’s exclamation. What’s it to you? Devin thought. But then hadn’t he just walked in on something that was about to happen? Huh such bad timing Dev, he chided himself with glee, and Vincent did look decidedly embarrassed.
Catherine looked from one to the other of them, undecided. Moments ago she was about to find out what Vincent’s unique shaped mouth felt like beneath hers and so geared was she for it that she now felt utterly bereft and at the same excited by the fact that Devin was back and they had immediately literally got back to the topic that was in hand the last time they had been together, almost as if no time had passed at all. It was nothing short of incredible, the only difference was that Vincent seemed to think he had a say in the matter now. Well he didn’t, and Catherine told him so, “What do you mean no? What business is it of yours, Vincent?”
Feeling as though she had slapped him Vincent’s face crumpled, and he hid his feelings behind a curtain of hair before standing and striding from the chamber without another word. Catherine watched him go with some trepidation, feeling that she had lost a true friend by being so callous, and Devin just thought the whole thing was hilarious. “Whoa, do I detect a lover’s tiff? Who would have believed it huh, you and fur ball?”
“There is no me and fur…I mean there is no me and Vincent!” Catherine snapped.
“Then what did I see? You were just about to smooch with him when I came in were you not?”
“Vincent said he had never been kissed I was just trying to show him what it felt like.” Catherine retorted angrily. This thing was getting larger than life and growing out of proportion at an alarming rate.
“Well unless my little brother has changed his views in the last two years and somehow I can’t see him ever doing that, then believe me honey, I can’t imagine him ever agreeing to allowing you to do that. Vincent is too serious about things. A kiss to Vincent would be like declaring you were in love with him.”
Catherine blushed hotly, “No, you’re wrong. Besides he knows that I’m not. You weren’t there, you didn’t know what we were doing.”
“I think I saw enough to make a correct assumption. Catherine, whatever your good intentions, Vincent wouldn’t take a kiss so flippantly, and you shouldn’t use him so. He’s not a sounding board for trying things out on, he’s got feelings and you’re messing with them. Have a heart for God’s sake and think about what you’re doing to him!”
Shrewdly Catherine eyed Devin, “What do you know?”
Equally he eyed her back, “What’s that supposed to mean? I don’t know anything that is I’m surely not keeping secrets from you. But I do know my brother. Lisa toyed with his affections, okay maybe it was unintentional but she toyed no less, and you are doing the same only outwardly so. Surely Vincent didn’t just comply with your wish to kiss him?”
“No, he was against it…!”
“As I presumed.”
“At first that was, he gave in after a few minutes. Anyway why are we discussing this, what gives you the right to decide what’s best for Vincent surely he can decide?”
“Yes I can.” Startled both looked to the entrance and found Vincent standing there. He looked miserable and a little annoyed and with startling clarity both realised he had never actually gone away from the chamber, but had been listening just outside.
“I’m sorry Vincent.” Both Catherine and Devin offered their apologies together, sincerely so. Curtly Vincent nodded, and then as if he had the right to do so, he marched into the chamber snatched up Catherine’s hand and fairly dragged her out into the tunnel beyond. Devin whistled and followed them out in time to see his brother fairly dragging Catherine off into the region of the waterfall and with a shrug Devin turned and walked toward his Father’s chamber. The old man hadn’t been there when he’d arrived so no doubt he was back by now, Devin thought, and no doubt he would know exactly what if anything, was actually going on between his brother and the girl that he used to love.
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“Where are we going Vincent?” Catherine wasn’t afraid but Vincent was hurting her wrist yet no sooner had she recognised that did he lessen his grip on her arm.
“To the falls.” He told her, “To my ledge, so you can finish what you started.”
Catherine’s mouth dropped open. Had she heard him right? She almost giggled, but the firm set of Vincent’s shoulders worried her, what actually had she started?
Over pebbles the soles of her feet rolled and fearing a twisted ankle Catherine hurried as carefully as she could though Vincent gave her no option but to follow and soon they had reached the great waterfall and were mounting the steps leading up to the ledge that Vincent favoured for his private moments. Catherine wasn’t sure what to expect and an awkward silence enfolded the pair as Vincent let go of her hand unclipped and spread out his cloak upon the floor then sitting down on it and reclining against the rock tugged at her hand indicating that she should kneel between his legs as she had been doing on the ottoman. “I believe you were about to kiss me?” Vincent told her huskily, and too late Catherine realised what Devin had been implying. Vincent was taking this all too seriously.
However knowing her fear, Vincent settled his mood and smiled at her, “That’s if you’re still willing?” He cocked his head and his eyes seemingly laughed at her. That did it Catherine laughed out loud, “Oh Vincent! Good one! Dare I say Touché’? You really had me going there.” Vincent chuckled. It wasn’t exactly Touché, but it lightened the mood. Catherine had for a moment seemed very afraid of him and he never wanted to frighten her, but neither could he have her speaking with Devin so intimately about him, behind his back. Anything Catherine was to find out about him she could learn by herself.
Turning around Catherine sat on her bottom between his legs and faced the water fall leaning back against his chest, surprised when his arms came up and around her a little possessively, but deeming that he probably meant it as security she didn’t mind. It was in a way rather nice.
And there they sat, whiling away an hour or two just thinking, speaking seldom, enjoying one another’s company, dozing a little dreaming their respective dreams, until…
Catherine turned, knelt between his legs again and with Vincent’s eyes closed she leaned in and brushed her lips with his. Blue eyes flew open astonished but Vincent did not pull away, even as Catherine’s eyes gazed into his long moments before he felt her lips move against his and then with a giggle she pulled away, “You can safely say, that you have been kissed now, Vincent.” She told him turning back around to sit once again between his legs. Vincent said nothing, his heart pounded in his ears, his hands felt clammy and his…oh his…the moment he thought it Catherine felt it, stilling immediately as she realised that he was aroused to the point of erection. Uncomfortable with ‘it’ behind her firmly against her back, Catherine didn’t know what to do. Should she just sit and ignore ‘it’ and hope ‘it’ would go away, or should she get up and leave? Or should she mention it? But how do you say to your best friend, ‘hey, is that a gun in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?’ Amazingly Catherine said just that and waited lips pursed preventing a bout of laughter until she felt Vincent’s chest begin to shake behind her and knew that he too was hopelessly laughing.
They laughed together, both eyes front, concentrating on the waterfall, and slowly Catherine felt the hardness behind her back subside and she leaned against him once more when she deemed it safe to do so. They never spoke of it and each were grateful for that and Catherine just passed it off as an extension to being kissed, Vincent knowing better, but neither confiding in the other. However, another notch was marked up on their best friend’s pole…another notch that brought them closer to becoming lovers.
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To be continued in Chapter Three - click on 'Next' below:
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