Once In A Lifetime Part 2

Chapters 13, 14 & 15

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
(Michael Bolton)

The story continues...


Chapter 13

Sunday finally arrived, and the tunnel dwellers looked forward to Vincent’s return as though he had been gone a month. William baked Vincent’s favourite cookies and even made a special journey above to buy him a large tub of Neapolitan ice cream with a bag of mini marshmallows to go with it, something he knew Vincent’s sweet tooth would love.

Father couldn’t settle about doing actually anything, each time he tried he would say, ‘better not start this or Vincent will return before I’m done and then I’ll never get it finished.’ And Devin, well Devin was on tender hooks awaiting his brother’s return since Mel was spending the weekend in the tunnels and Devin wanted to be the first to inform his brother and Catherine of that fact, and then of the other one, that he and Mel had kept to themselves wanting to enlighten Vincent and Catherine of their plans to be married before they told anyone else. Because at the back of his mind Devin wondered if they might have a joint wedding, assuming of course that Vincent and Catherine wouldn’t be getting married anytime soon, as he and Mel wanted to wait awhile.

Going along to the pipe chamber Devin enquired of Pascal, “Does my brother usually announce his arrival home before going to see Father?”

Pascal told him that if Vincent didn’t then one of the sentries would and Devin should not be worried for the moment Vincent entered the perimeter of the hub everyone would know about it and that if he had anything he wanted to tell Vincent, the only thing he need worry about was actually being among the first to grab him, because everyone would be pleased to see him back. That placed Devin in a predicament, because he wanted to spend his time with Mel, but if he did he wouldn’t be seeing Vincent before anyone else, and if he did then he would have to spend the day apart from Mel because he didn’t want his brother and Catherine seeing her in the tunnels before he’d had a chance to explain everything and so for one reason or another no one could settle that Sunday as they awaited Vincent’s return.

Finally it happened, and Devin alternating between the falls and the chamber assigned to Melanie was actually arriving back at the falls for the tenth time that day when he heard Catherine’s unmistakable laughter and stayed where he was, inclining his head so that he might pin point their whereabouts, and then he saw them hand in hand and crossing the river by means of the stepping stones and his face lit up in welcome.

“Well you two look happy.” He called as they reached his side of the river, “Welcome back.”

“Hello Devin, to what do we owe the pleasure of your welcome, is everything alright?” Catherine asked as an afterthought came that maybe he’d been waiting for them because someone had fallen ill or something had happened that they needed to know about the moment they got back.

“Yes, don’t worry. I just needed to speak with you, before any one else did.”

“What about?” Vincent asked. Devin noticed how easily his brother held Catherine with one arm draped around her waist holding her close to his side and now that he had his moment, Devin found he was tongue-tied. “I’ve got, I mean, I want, that is I need…” Catherine laughed, “Spit it out Devin!” Devin grinned, “Its difficult, we have an addition to the tunnels and its someone you know.” Catherine’s face fell, “Not Elliot?” She whispered.

“No, No! Not him, he would be the last person I would want to see.” By Catherine’s curious glance Devin added, “Well that you’d want to see I mean. No this other person is an old friend of yours and mine, its Melanie.”

“Melanie, as in Rawlingson? What here? Why on earth would she be here?” Catherine asked her questions in quick succession and her tone implied that she was not happy to know of it either.

“In short? I love her. We’re going to be married, and you two are the first to know.” Vincent’s face lit up but soon quelled when he felt Catherine’s feelings on the matter.

“You and Mel?” She laughed derisively, “Oh yes that would be about right, of all the people…Devin how could you!”

“She’s changed Cathy, she’s not who we thought she was, and believe me when you know her like I do you’ll see that. Just give her a chance huh?”

“Never!” Vincent recoiled from the venomous tone Catherine used, and he gave her a sidelong glance beginning to wonder if there was more to it than met the eye. So did Devin, he knew that Catherine was unaware of Mel’s behaviour with Elliot or how she had been the spoke in the wheel that had ended that particular romance for Catherine, but what he couldn’t understand was why Catherine appeared to hate Mel so much. “I thought you two were friends?” Devin enquired thoroughly bewildered.

“A long time ago we were friends, and you have a short memory, Devin, you know why I can’t stand her! Look what she did for God’s sake, look how she came between you and me.”

“But that’s old news Cathy, we’ve all moved on, and Mel didn’t come between you and I out of spite, she genuinely loved me, always has.”

“And that makes it alright does it? But for Melanie you and I could have been together!” ‘Oh my God!’ Catherine suddenly realised what she had said, and how it would be misconstrued and especially by Vincent who was looking at her bewildered and hurt and Devin’s mouth had dropped open and seemed to appear would stay that way, until he shook his head, “But you don’t feel anything for me still, do you?” He glanced at his brother quickly, and Vincent noticed the unease in Devin’s eyes.

“No…course not” Catherine laughed but it sounded hollow and untrue even to herself. She tried again, “I mean it, anything there was between you and I was over years ago, not that we actually got anywhere with it anyway.” Again she laughed but it still sounded hollow, Catherine was growing furious with herself. She could tell she had dug a hole and was sinking deeper and deeper inside it with every word she said.

“Even so…” Devin was doubtful, “Mel said something similar and she has been secretly in love with me for years…” He said this as though speaking out loud to himself, pondering the issue of possibility but Vincent saw it for what it was, and he looked between his brother and his bride to be with a look of incredibility. Surely Catherine did not harbour feelings for his brother, not now, not after everything that had happened between them during their trip to the crystal cavern?

“Look, I’m tired and there were a few misplaced words back there, they didn’t mean anything or ought not to have done and the more I try to convince you both of that, the harder it becomes.” Catherine told Devin simply but that she had brought Vincent into the equation gave them both rise for speculation. Finally Devin told her, “Well anyway, whatever you think, feel or do, I love Mel now, and she is coming to live in the tunnels and she and I will be married, and you will have to get used to it, ‘cos nothing you say about her will change my mind! And now to that other problem though I hate to say it that way, I’ve explained to Mel that my brother looks different, and she is here in the tunnels actually in a guest chamber awaiting the chance to meet you. Vincent, what do you feel about that though? Maybe you’d like to freshen up first?” Vincent was silent the happiness he had returned with had evaporated by what Catherine had termed a few misplaced words. He probed the bond and found Catherine’s emotions high and muddled, and that did him no good either. Finally he replied, “I shall be in my chamber, you take Catherine with you to see Melanie, I will see you all at dinner.” And he took his arm from Catherine’s waist and waltzed off taking great long strides away from the pair of them. “Now see what you’ve done!” Catherine cried as she set off to hurry behind Vincent. Devin called after her, “I did nothing Cathy you were the one being pigheaded about it all.”

Catherine turned back, “I have good reason to be!” She flared.

“No you don’t.” Devin shouted at her, “There’s no reason for you to get uppity about this. You have Vincent now, and I have Mel, I love her and she loves me, and Vincent loves you, the question forming here is…who do you love Cathy?”

“What’s that supposed to mean? I love Vincent, you know that.” Catherine stepped back toward him seething not so quietly.

“I thought I did. I thought it was a cut and dried case. I thought that you and I had nothing left between us, but now I’m not so sure. We didn’t actually finish anything did we it was just something that didn’t actually happen as you say, because Mel got in between us. So what is it Cathy, what kind of animosity do you hold in that heart of yours, do you consider that I should never find anyone to love as much as I loved you. Would that make you happy to know that some kind of retribution would leave me unhappy for the rest of my life seeing you move on a while I have to live with what I lost. Is that it? Is that why you can’t bear the thought of my finding someone else? Huh? Huh?” Devin was really yelling at Catherine and she winced, “I couldn’t care less what you do anymore, only why do you have to taunt me with Mel?”

“Because it shouldn’t matter who it is, if you love Vincent, nothing I do, no one I see should bother you. But it does doesn’t it, why is that Cathy. Do you still have feelings for me?”

“I told you before, no I do not.”

Devin remained silent.

“I don’t!” Catherine yelled at him.

“When you can convince yourself Cathy, come and try to convince me huh? And then when you’ve done that, you’d best see if you can darn well convince my brother, cos right now I wouldn’t mind betting that he thinks that you do still have feelings for me, why else would it bother you if I was seeing Mel?”

“Like I told you, it could be anyone, but why Mel? Its not fair Devin, you flaunt her under my nose again, its not right, how can you hurt me again?”

“Why should I hurt you at all, if you have no feelings for me?”

Flustered Catherine couldn’t explain it, and she was just getting deeper and deeper into the problem. But she was incensed that Devin had brought Mel into the tunnels, and she couldn’t understand why. Devin was right if she had no feelings for him she wouldn’t care who he fell in love with. And she loved Vincent so what was the matter with her?

“I have to think about this.” Catherine flopped herself down wearily and Devin about to walk off changed his mind and sat down with her, “Want some company?”

Catherine managed a half-hearted smile and sighed heavily, “I’ve messed it all up haven’t I?”

“Between you and his nibs?”

Now Catherine laughed, “If you mean Vincent, then yes. God he’s going to get the wrong end of the stick here.” Catherine buried her face into her hands and sighed raggedly.

“He’s not the only one if there actually is a wrong end. Catherine? Want my suggestion?”

“Only if it’ll erase all of this, you know that feeling when you wish you could start the day all over again, well I’ve got it. So what do you suggest?” Catherine turned to face him, noticing him truly for the first time in a long time and realising in that swift moment what exactly had drawn her to him in the first place. He was gorgeous and he took her breath away.

“Well we have to talk, you and I, we’ve never actually done that have we? We began to embark upon a relationship and misunderstandings and other stuff got in the way and then I left the country and you a letter that didn’t ask you to wait for me, but in truth I hoped that you would, I loved you Cathy, really loved you, and I guess if I admit it a part of me always will. I care for you deeply, it would hurt me dreadfully if anything happened to you, and its great being able to live where you live and seeing you every day but I’m not in love with you anymore, and I guess if it wasn’t Vincent you were marrying, I’d be a bit peeved about anyone else. What I’m trying to say in my clumsy way is that I have feelings for you and you have them for me, but they are feelings we have to keep buried honey, cos they would destroy the ones we care about if they misconstrued them to be deeper than they supposed. Catherine, if I was with anyone but Mel, you wouldn’t mind would you?”

Catherine shook her head and told him ‘no’ there had been a lot of logic in what Devin had said.

“But because it is Mel, it brings it home forcefully what we might have been to one another?”

Catherine smiled, “You should have been a philosopher.”

“Than I’ve hit the nail on the head?”

“Okay then a carpenter.”

Devin laughed, “Seriously, is that it?”

With a sigh of relief Catherine nodded, “Yes, that’s just about it. I know exactly what you mean, and you are right through and through.” Devin smiled, “Good, so we agree,” He grimaced, “Now all you have to do I’m afraid little girl is convince Vincent and everything will be hunky dory again. Good luck babe, cos believe me knowing my brother’s stubborn streak you are certainly gonna need it.”

Catherine laughed and let him help her to her feet, “Ever the pessimist. Devin you never change.”

Devin laughed and together the two of them walked back toward the hub both lighter of spirit but with one of them quaking about how to explain things to Vincent.

*** *** ***

Catherine located Vincent by the mirror pool. Having reached his chamber he found the welcome committee inside it a little too much and couldn’t face them so had sidetracked to the place where he knew he could think. If he hadn’t of heard it with his own ears he would never have believed it, but there is was, something still between his brother and Catherine, after all they had become to one another, she still felt something for Devin. So when she finally sat herself down beside him and lay her hand on his he moved it away out of her reach.

“Its not what you think, Vincent.” Catherine appealed to him with all the tenderness she could muster.

“And how do you know what I think?” He replied desperately looking straight ahead.

“Back there…what I said, it gave both you and Devin the wrong impression. I love you, you know that.”

“I thought I did. I thought that you and I were forever that I had found that special once in a lifetime kind of love that some people search for all their lives. But I think perhaps had we not been connected then you would have been with Devin. He is in your heart, please don’t insult me by denying that.” Catherine detected Vincent’s wet cheeks and knew he’d been crying. Her heart went out to him and he told her, “I don’t want your pity Catherine, just the truth.”

Catherine tried to remember how it was that Devin had explained things. When he’s said them she could see it all so clearly, it was exactly as he said, but telling Vincent was different entirely, since Vincent loved her so much and possibly if Devin tried explaining it to Mel, he would meet with the same problem. All the same she had to try. “Vincent over and above everything else, and from the bottom of my heart, I love you. No one else, just you, for now and forever, whether we had the connection or not it would make no difference, I simply and utterly love you and there is no one I’d rather spend my time with.”


Catherine drew in a deep breath and sighed, “But nothing. Devin and I have talked, we realised what has happened here and have accepted it for what it is and have moved on. Your brother cares for me because of our past and because of you, and he is happy that we are together, and I’d be happy for him also if he had someone other than Melanie, but the thought of seeing them together brings back so many heartbreaking memories that I don’t think I could bear it, Vincent. I loved Devin, he was the world to me, and I care for him deeply, but I don’t love him, and knowing what I know about Mel, I can only see that she will hurt him and he doesn’t deserve that. If he was with anyone else it would be wonderful, in the same way he has told me if I had been with anyone else but you it would have been awful. We care for one another, but we do not love one another, not in that way, not in the way that I love you.”

“I can’t judge since I have yet to meet her, but I can’t help believing that Devin has acted hastily with her, only last week he was still in love with a woman he met in England.”

“He was? I didn’t know.” Catherine told Vincent as she reached for his hand again, relieved when he did not draw it away this time.

“I promised I would tell no one, and you must not speak of it. I’m only saying this because I am worried about him and what you tell me about Melanie. And I can feel here,” Vincent touched his heart “that you have animosity toward her neither do you trust her and that worries me. I think Devin is on the rebound and he is acting hastily, but what can we do, since he will hear nothing against her?”

“Firstly and forgive me for putting myself first, but I have to know Vincent, are we okay? You and me, is everything fine between us?” For a long while Vincent was silent and Catherine worried incessantly then as he read her feelings of anxiety through the connection and how much she loved and adored him, he relented and turned to face her, “I love you, I will always love you, yes everything is fine between us, don’t worry I understand your explanation and accept it, and know that you care for Devin maybe more than a brother but not as much as a lover and I know he will let nothing happen to you ever.” Catherine hugged him tightly, “I was so frightened, I thought I’d lost you.”

“I know, it was that as much as anything that told me how much you do care for me. Thank God for the connection.” Catherine smiled, “Yes thank God for the connection. As to Devin and Mel, I don’t think he will listen to anything I say against her, we will just have to meet her and be as friendly as we can and se if she has changed. What I remember of Mel though, she very cleverly changes to suit the mood, I just hope when she finds what a gorgeous hunk you are she doesn’t try to muscle in between us, she has a great track record for doing that, and not just with me and Devin, she did it with a great deal of couples at school and then the moment she broke people up she dumped the guy and moved on to someone else. Nasty piece of work is Mel.”

“Why did she do such a thing?”

“Jealousy. For some reason she couldn’t get a boy of her own, though she bragged about how many lovers she’d had, she gave boys the impression that she was an easy one night stand, but you should have heard the things they used to say about her. That she was a tease and led them on and didn’t deliver. I used to believe them until the night I found her in bed with Devin, and believe me Vincent every time I clap eyes on her that’ll be the picture that will fly to mind. They both betrayed me Vincent.”

“But you forgave Devin?”

“Yes, because he’s changed.”

“Doesn’t weigh up, he still betrayed you.”

“I know but Mel tricked him, made him think I didn’t want him and she did, he fell for it hook, line and sinker and he’s still doing it.”

“I’m not.”

Vincent and Catherine twirled round and found Devin a few yards behind them with his hand in Melanie’s. She gasped at the sight of Vincent’s face and stared at him openly but did not cry out or scream or call him anything insulting as the old Mel might have done, not stopping to care about hurting feelings.

“We’re having a private conversation.” Catherine reminded them, Devin shook his head, “No you’re not your talking about us, so as we’re included we’re staying to thrash this thing out, once and for all, cos like it or not, Mel’s staying here with us.”

Vincent rose and bowed before Melanie and giving her the benefit of the doubt that he hoped Catherine would do, he extended his hand and offered her a seat alongside him. Mel stared at his furred hands with the claw tipped nails and shuddered and clasped hold of Devin’s hand more tightly. “No offence, “ she looked at Vincent, “But I’d rather sit next to Catherine.”

“No offence taken. Vincent replied and sat down next to Catherine’s other side, but to his dismay as Mel sat next to her, Catherine got up and sat on the other side of Vincent, leaving Devin to do the only thing possible, he sat between his brother and Melanie.

All were silent for some time, animosity flaring from Catherine to Mel, leaving Devin and Vincent feeling uncomfortable as they waited for the fireworks to ignite. Still Catherine said nothing, though inside she remembered that just a few short weeks ago, she had invited Melanie into her apartment and had held a civil conversation with her, even though she had been sure that Mel had been up to something as her track record spoke of. She’d never found out what it was though. But she was just about to.

“Cathy, “ Melanie spoke very quietly, “You aren’t aware of it I think, but I owe you an apology.” A sidelong glance from Devin surprised Catherine, more so as he told Mel, “You don’t have to do this honey, besides its personal.”

“I do, I need to, it needs to be said, and besides it grieves me, Cathy should know what I did.”

“What did you do?” Catherine wanted to know now.

Mel took a deep breath, exhaled quickly and began quietly, “I found out that someone was visiting you at night, now I know it was Vincent, but then all I knew was that it was Devin’s brother and I went straight to Elliot Burch and told him you were seeing someone else behind his back.”

Catherine jumped up and ran round to Mel and to Vincent’s and Devin’s horror dragged Mel to her feet by her hair and hit her hard. Shamefaced Mel just stood there, but Devin was up at her side and holding back another blow that Catherine would have issued. Vincent too was standing and watching a scene that caused him much distress.

“You cow!” Catherine cried, “You little bitch, I knew you were up to something that day, I knew you didn’t visit with me because you were interested in me. You did it again didn’t you? You came between me and someone I loved, I hate you!”

“Catherine, Catherine…” Vincent held her arms at her sides and pulled her back against him, it was all he could do not to believe that Catherine still had feelings for Elliot, but he could tell thankfully through that blessed connection that Catherine was annoyed for what might have been not what was.

To Catherine’s surprise though Mel told her simply, “You should do. What I did was appalling, and what I did between you and Devin was unforgivable.” Catherine expected anything but that, and neither did she expect the tears that glistened in Mel’s eyes, but she reacted to them furiously. “You little liar…what kind of game are you playing now Mel? God Devin why did you trust her to bring her here?” Catherine directed her question to Devin then stared back at Mel, “Let me tell you madam” and she spat the word, “If you so much as tell a soul about the tunnels and Vincent, I’ll kill you. Got it? I will, I’ll kill you!”

“Cathy I’m sorry. I wouldn’t do that, I’ve changed, just give me a chance to prove it please?”

“No way, not ever, you’re track record speaks too highly of you unfortunately it’s the only thing that does!” Catherine wretched her arms free from Vincent and flounced off leaving the three of them to stare after her. Despite their calls she just walked away, but suddenly when they thought she wouldn’t be back, she turned and hurried back to them, “What did Devin mean, when he said, you didn’t have to tell me,” she glared at Devin, “Surely you wouldn’t have let her hide what she did from me?”

“No, it wasn’t that.” Devin spoke softly looking in Mel’s direction. Mel in turn looked at Vincent, who taking his cue told them, “I’ll be in my chamber if anyone needs me, I understand the welcome committee are there?”

Devin nodded, “Thanks bro, yes they are, and if they knew you were here they’d have followed us.” Vincent walked toward the exit and Catherine watched him go, she longed to go with him, but whatever Mel had to say she needed to hear that too.
When Vincent had gone the three sat slowly back down again, Devin tossed pebbles into the mirror pool and Mel watched the ripples as she spoke while Catherine watched her face for every expression to see how genuine Mel actually was.

“After I told Elliot about you and someone else, he offered me a ride home in his car. I was impressed I’ve never been in a saloon and it had started to rain, so I agreed. We were half way home when he started touching me.” Catherine gasped, “What do you mean, touching you?”

“He put his hand on my thigh. I promise you Cathy I never instigated it all I wanted was to get home. But then he offered me money to let him touch me, and it was a lot of money Cathy and I was tempted, but I thought all he wanted to do was touch me.”

“Yeah right.” Catherine retorted angrily.

“Honest. I know what you think, I know you think I’ve slept around, but I haven’t Cathy, I never have, Dev was the only one I came close to sleeping with, and we all know what happened that night.” Mel’s laughter was high pitched near hysteria and Catherine stared at her, disbelieving that the tears in her eyes were for sorrow at not having actually slept with Devin. “Do you mean to tell me that you two never actually ever did it after that, I mean after I left?”

“No, we didn’t. Dev chased after you remember, cut his foot on some glass, and the whole mood was gone and we never got back together after that, it just didn’t happen. But I loved him so much Cathy, I still do and I always will.” Devin squeezed Mel’s hand. “You have to remember that I didn’t know at first that you and he were an item, that night in Billy’s bar when you and I walked in and saw him, the two of you said nothing at first and by then, that’s all it took me to know I had found the person I wanted to have babies with.” Mel laughed here directing that final comment in Devin’s direction who visibly blushed beetroot and that too made Catherine laugh. “So when I saw he was with you, it broke my heart and though I considered you probably the best friend I had I set out to hurt you and take him from you just as I had done on numerous occasions with other couples, only with Dev it was different, with him, well, I would have gone all the way with Dev and he would have been the first.”

“Never!” Catherine laughed derisively. Now Catherine was furious, but not with Mel, “He did what! I don’t believe it!” Mel cringed relaxing only when Catherine cried, “the bastard!” Knowing Catherine’s fury was no longer aimed at her.

“As soon as he knew I was a virgin he got off me, but it was too late…” Mel’s lower lip quivered and Devin held her close, “Its not honey, like I said he didn’t get to make love to you, you’re still a virgin as far as I’m concerned, just like me.”

Catherine’s mouth dropped open, “You? Now I have heard everything!” She laughed derisively, but quietened fast when she saw the look of sincerity on Devin’s face. “Really?” She asked with incredibility. Devin nodded, “Fraid so, amazing how many there are of us left huh? Now it’s not just you and Vincent anymore, you’ve got company. We should form a band, the innocent citizenship, do you think it’ll catch on?”

Now Catherine smiled, “Well actually, its members are two down.” She told him with a chuckle and Devin gasped, “Really?” his eyes opened wide, “Man am I going to rib my little brother about that or what?” And he burst out laughing.

“Don’t Devin, please. I think he’s had enough to cope with for one day.” Catherine begged him.

“Who said anything about today?” Devin grinned. Catherine laughed.

Mel looked between them wondering if she fit in yet, despite the fact that she and Devin loved one another she would have given anything for the easy companionship that appeared between Devin and Catherine, but then they had known one another a long time and shared many things, like the tunnels for one and the people in it, Mel loved it all, and she would never tell a soul, she had quit telling people private matters, and she could see that Vincent depended on the secret of his home being kept safe.

“Vincent seems nice.” She spoke hoping it wouldn’t be taken the wrong way. Catherine stared at her, wondering if what she had mentioned to Vincent about Mel coming between them might be happening, but one look at the way Mel clung to Devin’s hand made her think otherwise. “He is, everyone loves Vincent.” Catherine told her, “Especially the children.”

“Correction.” Devin told her, “Especially you.” Catherine nodded and as she thought of her true love her face softened, “Yes, especially me.” She drew in a deep breath and sighed, “Okay Mel, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and not give you a hard time, but just remember, hurt Devin, Vincent or anyone down here and you won’t know what hit you, okay?”

Mel nodded, “That’ll never happen, this place is unreal, I wish I knew about it when I was eight.”

“Why what happened when you were eight?” Mel began telling Catherine the full story of her past, and by the time she was done, Catherine decided that Melanie the one she had known certainly had gone for good. Love had done that for her, Devin’s love, and it was easy to see that Mel loved him to bits. Catherine hoped that Vincent was wrong that Devin wasn’t on the rebound from the woman in England, but right now it seemed that Devin worshipped the ground Mel walked on. So Catherine just hoped and prayed that everyone would live happily ever after and that all four of them had found the once in a lifetime kind of love that some people search all their lives to find and with that thought in mind, she bade the couple farewell and went in search of Vincent. They’d been apart too long already and she missed him dreadfully.

She found him in his chamber and alone and walked into his arms, “I love you, “ she told him and probing the bond he could tell that all was well with her world again, and Vincent was happy and drew her down into his lap. “My dear, shall we take the crystal to Mouse so that he might fashion a stone for your ring with it?” Catherine wrapped her arms around Vincent’s neck and gazed into his eyes, “Tomorrow my love. I had hoped to spend our first evening home doing other things.” Vincent’s eyebrows rose, and he asked innocently, “Oh, what other things?” In reply Catherine kissed him passionately and he soon understood and spoke not another word till morning.

*** *** ***

Chapter Fourteen

A month past and in that time two weddings were planned, strangely Devin and Mel’s being first, since Vincent insisted that his older brother should marry before him, but there was one thing Vincent was most concerned about. Devin had not mentioned Kei-Anne, but at the same time whenever any of the children asked Devin to talk about his holiday in England, he was unable to speak for several moments, as if he couldn’t see past one thing to all the others and the day came when Vincent took Devin aside and brought it out into the open. It was a rare moment as Catherine and Melanie had gone up top shopping together leaving Vincent the ideal opportunity for a private word with his brother alongside the mirror pool, where much planning for their weddings had taken place.

“So, its all coming together nicely, then Dev?” Vincent asked his brother after they had been discussing the final arrangements for the wedding. “And everything that should be is tucked well into the past?” Devin turned and looked at his brother shrewdly, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“In a word, Kei-Anne.” Devin stiffened but said nothing and Vincent went on, “I see her name still affects you?”

Devin swallowed with difficulty, “Sometimes.” He told his brother evasively.

“I wondered if perhaps you would be wise to lay the ghost before you actually marry Melanie.” Vincent said as tactfully as he dared looking toward his brother.

“Return to England you mean?” Devin turned to face Vincent, searching his eyes for clues.

“If that’s what it takes, then yes.”

“And what excuse would I give to go?”

“You might try the truth. Melanie loves you, there should be no secrets, I’m sure she will understand after all it is for your own peace of mind and happiness for the future. When I thought Catherine still harboured feelings for you, it hurt me dreadfully, but deep down inside I would rather have known where I stood than be with someone whose heart wasn’t fully mine.”

“But therein lies the difference, Melanie knows nothing of Kei-Anne.”

“And therein lies the problem, if Kei-Anne no longer disturbed you would have been able to talk about her freely as among people that you met in England.”

“Yeah right, like Cathy is unable to speak about Elliot around you?” Devin retorted angrily.

Vincent understood but knew his brother had confused the concept. “Actually Catherine chooses not to speak of Elliot to me, because she feels that doing so reminds me of the kind of life she missed with a man that could walk beneath the sunlight and not have others frightened by what they see in him. And she’s right, a man like Elliot Burch could have given Catherine everything, but so too knowing she prefers to be with me instead of him tells me how much she truly loves me. She could have had so much Devin, and her consideration for my feelings prevents her from reminding me of my limitations.”

Devin nodded and mumbled an apology but he was still broody and silent and Vincent continued, “Just tell Melanie that you need to go to England, that you need to make certain that Kei-Anne doesn’t affect you anymore so that you can move on with your life, with Melanie one hundred percent.”

Devin shook his head, “ I love Melanie…and the more we are together, the deeper it gets, but if I am honest, yes there is still that hankering for someone that didn’t want me, and it gets to me from time to time, like its always holding me back from giving Melanie my all but to go back to England and lay the ghost, I don’t think I could find the strength Vincent, and neither would Kei-Anne appreciate seeing me again. But for Mel it would have taken me a long time to get over Kei-Anne.”

“That’s what I mean, and if a long time had lapsed you would have been ready to move on, but as it is…” Vincent paused as Devin told him, “You think I’m on the rebound?” Vincent nodded, “Yes, I do and you owe it to yourself and Melanie to know whether that’s true or not.”

Drawing in a deep breath, Devin exhaled slowly, “Perhaps you’re right, but I don’t think I could face Kei-Anne alone. Maybe Mel will come with me.”

“Do you think that’s wise?” Vincent asked cautiously.

“Actually yes, and I needn’t tell Mel why we are going to that particular airport, she may never need to know what kind of fool I was to love a woman that wasn’t free to love me in return, and having Mel there, well it would show Kei-Anne that I don’t mean trouble.”

“I hope you’re right.” Vincent was dubious.

Even so Vincent detected the lighter mood that Devin responded with when he said, “I think I am. Thanks Fuzz I owe you one.”

Vincent smiled, inclining his head, only Devin could get away with calling him Fuzz and have him not mind and it took him instantly back in time to the day when they were boys playing rough and tumble fighting. “When will you go?”

“We could take a honeymoon in England.” Devin’s answer surprised Vincent and he cocked one eyebrow, “Do you think that’s wise waiting till after you are married?”

Devin nodded, “Kei-Anne is married Vincent,” Devin shrugged, “She’s hardly likely to have changed her mind about me, and all I’m going there for is to see her one last time and know that absence hasn’t made the heart grow fonder, for my own peace of mind and ultimately for Mel and my happiness. Besides I can’t afford to go twice and Mel had hoped to go there someday and I thought to surprise her with air tickets for England as my wedding gift.”

Now Vincent grew silent and Devin instantly knew why, “You’re wondering where you could take Catherine aren’t you?”

Surprised Vincent told Devin, “Yes, how did you know?”

“I know you, that’s how I knew, and it ought not worry you Vincent. Mel hasn’t seen anything of the world above, but Catherine has and all Catherine seems to want to do is explore this world, your world and all its wonders. Didn’t you promise her another few days at the crystal cavern?”

Vincent smiled as memories of their last visit to the crystal cavern washed over him, “Yes I did.”

“Then I’m sure Catherine is looking forward to that, which reminds me, what exactly happened between you two down there? You’ve both been different since, closer, more intimate even?” Devin asked innocently.

Vincent turned to stare at him, “What do you know?”

“Know? What is there to know? You tell me?” Devin asked flippantly.

Vincent smiled just a little, “Someone has said something, and that can only have been Catherine…”

“Yeah well she did kinda let something slip.” Devin refrained from telling his brother that slip was hardly the word.

Vincent’s face lit up, “Yes, I owe everything to Catherine, she made a man out of me.” Devin laughed “And that’s all you are going to tell me? Come on Fuzz spill, I want to know everything, what’s it like? Is it as good as the books we read? Oh come on you can’t stop there, tell me everything.”

Laughing Vincent shook his head, “Wait and see, it’ll be more surprising that way.”

“Spoil sport!” Devin remarked perturbed, “That’s a whole week away yet.”

“Doesn’t have to be.” Vincent reminded his brother innocently, “Catherine and I aren’t married yet.” Devin’s mouth dropped open a mile, “So you aren’t, hey why didn’t I think of that, me and Mel could do it before we’re married too, thanks Vincent.” However Vincent lay a hand upon Devin’s arm, “But since you have only a week to wait till you are married, make it last huh? It’ll make all the difference. Catherine and I only relented because we are connected. It was obvious to see that we should be together and will be together otherwise we too would have waited till we were married. And personally from what I have learned of Melanie, she would appreciate you respecting her like that.” Devin nodded and understood, “Yes of course, you are as always right about this and the Kei-Anne thing and I have another idea, maybe we can go to England before we are married, but I’ll say no more until I’ve spoken to Melanie. But thanks Vincent, thanks for everything, for your perception and your wisdom, you are a brother in a million.”

“I’m one in a million that’s for sure.” Vincent reminded Devin glumly. But Devin reminded him, “Not for long, you and Catherine keep working on it and there’ll soon be others like you.”

“Not until our children have children.” Vincent reminded him.

“Even so, it’ll happen and I’m quite looking forward to seeing another fuzz ball in the tunnels, it’ll be fun, hey maybe your grandchildren and mine can play like we did, we should see about going down to the nameless river and building them a boat. By the time we’ve finished it, they should be about ready to be born.” Devin chuckled picturing this and Vincent did too. “And may we never grieve them as Father did us.” Devin added but Vincent ever the wise one and realising discipline in its place was healthy and good, added, “Well maybe a little bit.”

Devin grinned and agreed, “Yeah okay then, maybe a little bit.”

*** *** ***

Evening came and Melanie and Catherine had returned with their wares but Devin was happy to note disappointed at not finding that exquisite wedding gown that Melanie had searched for. It wasn’t that she had anything specific in mind, it was just that she knew that the moment she saw it, it would be the one for her. “I have an idea,” Devin told her as the four of them sat around a table in the dining room where other tunnel residents had gathered to partake of William’s chicken stew with dumplings followed by apple pie and custard or ice cream and fresh fruit for those that didn’t want to partake of too much saturated fat. “How about if you and I go to England to find your dress?”

Mel spat out a piece of chicken or she would have choked, “England! Devin, are you serious!”

With one quick look in Vincent’s direction Devin glanced at Melanie, “Yes, I was thinking about it today, now I have no idea if the wedding gowns are any better over there than they are here, but it would widen your choice wouldn’t it. Or we could wait and go there for our honeymoon, its up to you.”

“Ah now the predicament, can’t I do both? Besides, baby, much as I would love to go shopping in London with you, it simply would not be possible, you can’t see my wedding dress before the big day, and I would hate to go there alone.”

“Then I’ll go with you.” Catherine told her brightly, “I haven’t been to London in years, but I think I would still know my way around. At any rate I know where the best shops are, and I could find my own wedding gown over there also.” Devin glanced at Vincent appealing for help, but Vincent shrugged, he couldn’t see any reason why Catherine shouldn’t go, but whether Devin should still go too was another thing.

“But we could all three go right?” Devin asked hopefully. Catherine shook her head, “No, you stay here, there will be much to organise, and besides we will only be gone a couple of days, then you and Mel can return there for your honeymoon and we can book a hotel for you while we are there. I think it’s a great idea, Mel, shall we go tomorrow?”

“So soon? That’ll be great, oh wait…I don’t have a passport.” Mel’s hopes sunk, but Devin told her, “Oh yes you do honey, I took the liberty of having one done for you. I was going to surprise you with a honeymoon in England as a wedding gift, and…” he looked toward Catherine as he went on, “The hotel is already booked, as is the flight.”

“Oh Devin!” Mel flung her arms around his neck and kissed him sending some curious glances their way, many of them with smiles.

“Okay then, Mel and I will go tomorrow and find a gown each and you two can go again next week. Hey thanks for suggesting it Devin, this is one of your better ideas.” Catherine laughed. Only Devin and Vincent knew it hadn’t quite been that, since Devin was not going, this particular better idea had well and truly backfired on him.

*** *** ***

Even so, things do have a way of working out for the best, as Devin was to find out when he escorted Melanie and Catherine to the airport the following afternoon. Catherine knew nothing of Devin’s other plans, Vincent having chosen not to enlighten her unless Devin did so first and he chose not to. It was hard knowing just how close Cathy and Mel had become and whether or not Cathy truly trusted Mel now. It looked like she did, but looks could be deceiving. Therefore he stayed quiet saying nothing, but his goodbyes as the pair moved away from him and into the departure lounge and eventually out of sight moved him. Devin watched them go, his heart in his mouth and suddenly he knew why that was. The thought of something like a plane crash or a fatal accident befalling Melanie while she was in England, grieved him dreadfully, and suddenly Devin knew it for what it was, he did love Melanie and his heart truly did belong to her wholly so. With relief, Devin left the airport his footsteps taking him quickly back to his brother. Vincent had to be the first to know, that Devin felt complete, and Kei-Anne was part of his past and Melanie was most definitely, his future.

*** *** ***

Father’s eyes glistened with tears. He never thought he would see it. With Devin his son being foot loose and fancy free, he had always assumed that if ever Devin found himself a girl they would be shacked up together in some cabin in the mountains, and the thought of marriage would never enter their heads. So to walk down the isle holding on his daughter-in-law’s to be arm as he gave her to his son waiting proudly by the table-cum-alter did Father proud.

Melanie smiled as she lifted her veil upon reaching Devin’s side, and she took Devin’s breath away. The gown shimmered, its bodice high and lace covered, tied at the waist by a wide gold sash, the rest of her body hugging gown in ivory silk rustled as she walked the sound reminding Devin of the fall and walking through a carpet of russet leaves.

“You look beautiful.” Devin whispered as Melanie placed her hand in his. He squeezed it affectionately to curb the butterflies he guessed would be there. Melanie had shown him the child that she was in so many ways over the last few months, almost as if the childhood that had been snatched away from her had been re-found with Devin. And he loved her, he loved her so much and she was so beautiful with her glossy red hair tumbling down in soft waves over her shoulders, Devin longed to run his fingers through it and couldn’t help picturing the night ahead the only one they would spend in the tunnels as husband and wife before they spent their honeymoon in England, and then returned to take up life in the tunnels until they found a house above where they intended to live, with access to the tunnels so that Vincent and Catherine could visit as well as other tunnel members not least of all Father.

“And you are soooo handsome.” Melanie whispered back as she gazed at her husband to be. A fine black suit with a crisp white shirt and sky blue tie enhanced Devin’s good looks, even Father was impressed that his son could scrub up so well.

“Are you ready?” The Master who would do the honours whispered.

Devin and Mel nodded, and Vincent their best man checked for the hundredth time that he had the rings secure in his pocket and Catherine at Melanie’s side and as the maid of honour looked after Melanie’s bouquet during the ceremony.

The Great Hall was hushed during the vows, and when Devin and Melanie finally kissed as husband and wife the tunnel children threw fragrant rose petals over the newly wed couple and rejoicing broke out among the crowd and then came the gift giving and the dancing amid one of the finest feasts William had ever prepared.

“I love you so much.” Devin told Melanie as he waltzed her around the Great Hall while everyone watched with wonder. Devin had never been one for dancing, but he never put a step wrong. Neither Catherine nor Vincent enlightened anyone that the pair of them had given the couple lessons night after night for weeks around the Mirror Pool.

“As I love you, baby.” Mel gazed into Devin’s eyes, “Do you like my gown?”

“I love it! Was worth going to England then?”

“Yes, but I’m going to enjoy it more with you. Cathy was great company, but we had to rush here there and everywhere to get it all done in two days, and with you it’ll be better, we can do it nice and slowly.”

Devin chuckled, “Mm just like the other stuff?” But to his dismay Melanie frowned and pulled slightly away from his arms, her eyes big and luminous and quickly filling with tears and apprehension. Devin was a little alarmed but then suddenly he understood and pulled her back toward him holding her firmly yet gently, “My love,” he told her, “Don’t be afraid, I won’t hurt you, I promise.”

“I’m sorry, I know you won’t but it’s just…” Devin kissed the tip of her nose, “I love you honey, and I know its just that you had a bad experience, but I’ll put that behind you, I promise. Believe me babe, after tonight you’ll never think about Elliot Burch again and nothing I do with you will ever resemble what he did to you.” Leaning her forehead against his chest Melanie sighed, “Thank you Devin, for being so understanding. I love you.”

“I love you.” He told her, and lifting her face to his he kissed her tenderly as several people gasped with delight as they looked on. No one had heard anything that the couple had said to one another but they looked so perfect standing their together. Devin and Mel had stopped dancing and seemed oblivious to anyone else in the room but each other and when Father announced, ‘let the dancing begin’ people moved around the couple careful not to bump them. Finally Devin led Melanie from off of the dance floor and making their excuses the couple discreetly left their guests and headed for a chamber assigned to them for their wedding night. Even so what met them there took their breath away and Devin knew without a doubt he would have Catherine and Vincent to thank for the lilacs and the roses that were fastened to every nook and cranny around the chamber, fresh linen on the bed with a pink, peach and apricot satin duvet on top and the chamber awash with candles, but they weren’t any candles, they were candles shaped into twists and coloured to match the duvet and all of them alight and glowing amber around the chamber. And at the entrance a new drape hung just ready for pulling over the entrance to give privacy to the would be lovers, and after carrying his bride inside, Devin undid the tie that held the drape in place and to his surprise found himself staring at a London scene and knew that Catherine must have purchased the drape while there, since Mel at his side gasped and cried, “So that’s what she was up to!” Adding, “Oh Devin its beautiful, all of it.” And she twirled around with arms outstretched to show she meant the whole room, but Devin pulled her into his arms and told her, “But none of it outshines you Melanie. You are the beautiful one.” And then they kissed, tenderly and a little apprehensively as neither could help noticing the domineering presence of the bed in the centre of the chamber.

Slowly, slowly they made their way toward it, and Devin told Melanie, “I’ll change in the bathroom if you want to change here?” Mel shook her head, “let’s do this as we mean to go on baby, let’s change here together.” Devin nodded, and selecting a side of the bed he stood facing her as she stood on the other side and both began undressing. Finally down to their underwear, Devin turned and sat on the bed to pull off his pants and socks and Mel taking her cue from him did likewise, and then each sitting on their own side of the bed nervously wondered what they should do next until Devin remarked, “Tell you what, on the count of three whomsoever lands in the middle of the bed last has to let the other one tickle them senseless.” Mel burst into laughter and not wanting to be that one dived for the centre of the bed, reaching it the same moment as Devin, and he laughed telling her, “I’d say that was a draw, even so…” And he reached for her tickling her sides as she giggled hard and begged for mercy. So the ice was broken and as Devin’s tickling fingers turned to brushing light caresses across Mel’s skin, so too did Mel wind her arms around his neck and kiss his face all over, “I love you, husband.” She told him with tears in her eyes. Devin groaned and at first moulding his naked flesh next to hers he next kissed her with tender abandon from head to toe until he was satisfied that he hadn’t missed a spot. By that time Mel was awash with yearning, she ached for him, her hands reaching for his body and caressing his skin with such joy and abandon as she had never known before and she worshipped him and adored him with her hands and mouth until he begged her to stop.

“God I want you, Mel.” Devin told her later after they had enjoyed several hours of foreplay, and Mel nodded, agreeing that she needed him too, but Devin noticed the apprehension in her eyes and promised her again that he would be gentle with her and he wanted to oh so much, to erase the bitter memory from her mind and just hoped he was able to do that. Whatever happened, he had to make this first time together so beautiful that she saw no further than it whenever she looked back on the first time she had made love, and so carefully and tenderly, he placed one hand between her thighs as he lay at her side and touched her gently stroking her soft curls until her anxiety dropped a level. His eyes gazed into hers, and he told her, “We don’t have to do this honey, there’s always tomorrow.” Mel shook her head, “No baby, I want to do it here, in the tunnels, just how you dreamed.” Devin understood and with his brown eyes he thanked her silently. He’d always assumed that one day he would make love to his bride in the tunnels and Mel knew that it was his dream and she aimed to let it be so no matter how frightened she felt at letting it happen. Taking a deep breath Mel reminded herself that Devin was nothing like Elliot Burch and that the situation was so different. It was her wedding night and Devin loved her and she loved him so much and wanted to join with him, wanted to feel him inside her so much and she desperately wanted to have his baby, had wanted that ever since she had met him. To imagine a child in his image gave Melanie such a wonderful feeling and thinking on it her body relaxed and Devin felt her grow wetter beneath his questing fingers and smiled encouragingly. “That’s it baby, just relax.” He leaned forward and trailed kisses around the aurora of one nipple, liking the way each stood up proudly amid their little pink nests knowing it had nothing to do with the chill of the chamber, but rather the heat of his loving. Her nipple puckered and watching its twin as he kissed the first Devin knew from the books he had read and with one quick look at her face and seeing her eyes closed and lips slightly parted Devin knew that Melanie’s body was reaching climax. He wasn’t sure what to do at that stage, whether to keep doing what he was doing or to straddle and penetrate her but while he deliberated Melanie started to thrash her head from side to side on the pillow one moment with eyes tightly closed and the next with them wide open as she cried out and her body convulsion and warm liquid covered his hand. “Oh thank you, thank you, Dev, that was beautiful.” Melanie told him as her laboured breathing quietened, “Now its your turn.”

Devin swallowed with difficulty ‘what exactly did she mean? Did she mean she would hold his erection in her hand and work a similar sort of magic on him or did she mean…” He looked at her face with hopeful expectation and was surprised to hear her whisper, “Make love to me Devin, I want you so much.”

Needing no second bidding, Devin manoeuvred himself until he was positioned between her thighs and looking down at her found her vulva to be swollen, pink and glistening with the remnants of her climax and still with the odd tremor associated with such. He looked on, unable to tear his gaze away and reached out a hand to touch her moistness, gasping when he felt her muscles react against his questing fingertips. “You are so beautiful Melanie.” He told her with awe, “So very beautiful.” The red curls were silky to the touch and he slid his finger down until he located her clitoris once again, only now seeing what he was doing as well as blindly touching, and it excited him almost beyond control. Mel watched him beneath hooded eyes, leaning slightly up upon her elbows loving the look of reverence of his face and the light of love and desire in his eyes and she saw it the moment he made the decision to join his body with hers. Laying back down, Mel concentrated on pure feeling as Devin lay his body atop hers and with one of his hands held her open and with the other guided his erection home. Slowly the tip of his penis touched her quivering lips, and Devin edged up her body as he pressed his erection deeper inside her. He gasped as the head of his penis slipped inside her and felt her muscles hold him tight. He stayed still a moment fighting the urge to thrust and slowly entered her body bit by bit his full concentration upon her needs, her feelings, and her anxiety. But when she reassured him, “Devin I love you, keep going baby, you’re not hurting me” then he let go and with his hips slightly raised he thrust into her gasping with pleasure and rising excitement as the best feeling in the world rushed over his body and he cried out her name with words of love as tears gathered in his eyes and fell down his cheeks as he pulled out of her slightly and thrust back again. Melanie grabbed a hold of his shoulders and when she decided he was completely inside her she wrapped her legs around his hips, using her feet against his buttocks to hold him to her tighter, and then they moved together, beginning the rhythm of life and the joining of two bodies that would love one another for the rest of their lives.

“Oh God Devin, its beautiful.” Melanie whispered as she kissed his face everywhere, Devin panted his agreement, his eyes bright and cheeks wet with tears, and buried his face in her neck as his breathing became laboured and his body moved faster against hers. Unable to keep his pace, Mel stopped moving beneath him and let him take her, faster and faster until finally…Devin groaned loudly and thrust one or two more times before he slumped utterly spent against her slick wet body.

There they slept, moving apart sometime a few hours later only to join again moments later and make love over and over until morning found them fast asleep in one another’s arms after a night-time of joining and loving one another so blissfully on that first night that they were wed.

*** *** ***

Checking the flight arrival list Kei-Anne, noticed that there were three couples requiring bouquets, champagne and chocolates as part of her company’s special promotion plan that she had been promoted to oversee the previous week. So far it had gone well and the input had been good, her company had already received letters of congratulations from satisfied newlyweds whom on arrival in a strange country had immediately received a warm welcome that had touched them deeply.

Kei-Anne checked the names, and wrote them on the presentation cards she would greet them with as they stepped from the aircraft, another move ahead for her by greeting her arrivals straight from the plane rather than after they had collected their baggage. She would then escort them as a group to a lounge made available for them where they would be offered long stemmed glasses of champagne and handed the chocolates and the bouquet as well as another bottle of champagne to take away with them. And they would be offered hotel accommodation at her company’s expense for one night if they had married sometime during the day of arrival in the United Kingdom.

The first names were Mr and Mrs Boyle the second Mr and Mrs Wells, the third Mr and Mrs Davies, Kei-Anne checked them all against her presentation cards, and then awaited their arrival. She loved this part and her first initial cry of ‘congratulations!’ as they stepped from the plane, the airhostesses were forewarned that the newlyweds should disembark first, and then Kei-Anne would escort them through to the wedding lounge and give them their gifts. It was, her company hoped, something that would ensure a firmer rating on their particular airline and ensure them better business, a nice touch for special occasions, which didn’t stop at weddings, they did it also for anniversaries, special ones like twenty five years, forty years fifty years and so on and were contemplating doing it for people that were making one of those once in a lifetime trips to see a relative they hadn’t seen in decades.

As the arrival of her plane came up on the board, Kei-Anne moved to the terminal from where they would alight, and waited for them a genuine smile at the ready. First a couple of hostesses moved through the doors and then behind them Kei-Anne spied a group of heads very close as they moved tightly together a look of anxious expectation on their faces as they had been selected to leave the plane first. “Congratulations!” Kei-Anne cried as the three couples came into view, and after explaining why she was meeting them she asked them to follow her to receive their gifts.

“What’s the matter, honey?” Melanie nudged Devin as he seemed rooted to the spot “Come on we’ll get behind if we don’t follow her.”When he said nothing she went on “Devin? Is something wrong?” Devin stared after Kei-Anne’s retreating back and feeling Melanie’s arm shaking his, he looked down at her a trifle flustered and feigned an excuse, “What, ah no, I’m just surprised that’s all, I didn’t know this airline did this kind of thing.” In fact he had deliberately booked with that particular airline hoping that he might just get a glimpse of Kei-Anne sure that he would be unaffected but just for the hell of it would do it anyway. Now he had found himself catching more than a glimpse of her actually coming face to face with her and probably having to exchange small talk and hope that she would not recognise him. Slowly he followed the group, hanging back as much as he dared though Mel was eager to keep up, “Come on slow coach, we’ll lose them.”

Finally a large wooden door was opened up before them and Kei-Anne standing to one side bade them enter, Devin deliberately looked down at the floor as he moved past her but he thought he heard Kei-Anne gasp and looked up at the precise moment that she was staring at him and anything she had been about to say evaporated on her lips. Inside the room the newly weds waited for her to speak, the smiles on their faces turning to ones of anxiety as she remained staring at Devin and he at her, until Melanie tapping him on the arm asked, “What is it baby? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Devin tried to reassure her, though his reply trembled off his lips and Melanie cast a worried frown in his direction. Devin’s heart hammered and he was glad that he hadn’t told Melanie anything about Kei-Anne, not because she meant anything to him he could see that now, and it was such a relief for him to know that, but because he had been so shocked at seeing her so close that Mel might have misconstrued the whole thing, and all kinds of problems might have arisen. “You sure, babe?” Melanie asked worriedly. Devin smiled at her, turning his full attention her way, “Absolutely honey, nothing is wrong, for a moment I thought I knew this lady but now I know that I never did.” He said it loud enough to inform Kei-Anne of his altered feelings and the anxiety in her eyes slowly faded. It did Devin’s pride little good to know that when she had gasped and stared at him it wasn’t because she was surprised or pleased to see him but rather afraid of his being back to pester her further but with his beautiful bride at his side Devin found that his pride wasn’t so terribly hurt, Melanie was worth ten of Kei-Anne, he could see that now and he sighed happily as he realised it.

Regaining her composure Kei-Anne extended her company’s welcome to the newly weds and presented them with their gifts, let them drink their glasses of champagne and to those that had got married earlier that day offered them top hotel accommodation and a refund of anything else they had already booked. The other two couples took up the offer and as Melanie appeared disappointed Devin told her, “Don’t worry honey, I’ve booked us at the Hilton, one of the best hotels in London.” Mel’s squeal of delight was all Devin needed to hear and as she flung herself into his arms he twirled her around and around not caring whom and especially looked on.

Finally they were being escorted from the room with their armload of gifts and passing by Kei-Anne again as she held open the door shaking each hand in passing. Devin took up the rear and watched Kei-Anne shake Mel’s hand and wish her happiness but when it came to his, she hesitated and drew in a deep ragged breath as if touching him was the last thing that she wanted to do. “Don’t worry about me.” Devin told her understanding her predicament, “My hands are dirty.” Kei-Anne issued him with a half-hearted smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes, and Devin again felt like a heel that he had ever pestered the woman to such a degree that she remained wary of him even when she could see that he was happily married now.

“Enjoy your stay in London.” Kei-Anne called after the newlyweds as she closed the room door behind her, “Goodbye.”

Devin turned, looked her in the eye and called cheerily, “Thank you. Be Well.” Then he turned his attention back to his wife, put the memory of Kei-Anne firmly behind him and looked forward to his future with Melanie the girl that he truly loved.

*** *** ***

Chapter Fifteen

Five weeks after Devin and Mel’s return to from England and five days before Vincent and Catherine’s wedding, Charles Chandler fell ill and had to be hospitalised thus throwing the wedding plans into confusion. “I’m sorry Vincent,” Catherine wailed after a visit to her father, “I don’t want to get married until he is well enough to give me away.”

“That’s understandable.” Vincent told her hugging her close. He could feel her distress. “And then that’s all that matters.” Vincent smiled at her and kissed her brow. “Now how is your father, have they discovered yet what is wrong with him?”

Just as Catherine was about to reply Father stepped inside Vincent’s chamber and asked, “Ah Catherine I heard you were back. How is your father my dear?”

“I was just about to tell Vincent.” Catherine replied and moving apart from her truelove’s embrace she thoughtfully positioned a chair near Father so that he didn’t have so far to walk into the chamber itself before sitting.

“Thank you, Catherine.” He was touched by her thoughtfulness, as was his son.

“It appears he has picked up some kind of virus, and its just as well he hasn’t visited down here recently because it is catching. I had to wear a mask, gown bags over my feet, everything before I could even get near him, and in the next room another man has been brought in with the same virus, and that’s not all. Both my father and the man in the next room were in the same company a couple of days ago, its thought that they contacted it at the same time, which happened to be that conference he went to in Connecticut. Hospital personnel are trying to track down the other members of the meeting in case of an epidemic. However, they are optimistic that it will only last a couple of weeks, three at the most and is like a strong dose of the flu. The problem is, while dad is in hospital he can’t give me away, so we have to postpone the wedding, Father.”

“Well what has to be has to be,” Father told her regretfully, “It can’t be helped, and of course you must have your father here for your wedding. Don’t worry I’m certain everyone will understand, I’ll get on to it right away down here, I expect you will have people to contact above?”

“Yes, but that’s covered, Peter is putting them in the picture, in the expectation that it might be postponed. He did mention that there could be a slight chance that my father might be allowed out just to give me away, but I’m not certain I want that, it wouldn’t be the same, and he would hardly feel well enough to enjoy it. As much as I hate to say it, I think postponement is the only way at this time.”

Vincent said nothing and Father eyed him with concern, he could almost feel his son’s disappointment, although beneath it there appeared an underlying sense of trepidation that Vincent wasn’t telling.

“Is something wrong Vincent?” Father approached tentatively.

His son shook his head, “Nothing more than disappointment, but don’t worry all good things come to he that waits.” Father smiled, “Yes it does.” Even so the haunted look remained in his son’s eyes, and when Vincent began to question Catherine about the other sick man Father listened attentively.

“Do you know who it is that also has the virus Catherine? That is the man in the other room?” Catherine nodded, “Yes, I peeked in on him on my way out. He didn’t see me he was sleeping, but his name was on the door. Its Joseph Maxwell, he’s a corporate lawyer.”

Vincent visibly paled Father noticed. Catherine did not and Vincent asked, “I think I’ve seen this man.” Father’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “He has dark curly hair and looks to be of Italian descent.” Catherine laughed, “As far as I could tell, that’s about right. Is he one of the helpers?” Vincent shook his head, “No.”

“Then how do you know him Vincent?” Father asked shrewdly. Vincent had given him the general opinion that he didn’t actually know him. Catherine was yet to learn about Vincent’s mannerisms and Father having studied them a lifetime knew what to expect.

Vincent drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly, “I dreamed of him.” He spoke quietly causing Catherine to laugh out loud. “You dreamed of him?” She laughed harder, “What do you mean you dreamed of him?”

Again Vincent paled before her but only Father noticed, “Sometimes, I have dreams about people or places I have never before seen, another gift of my genetic makeup, and two weeks ago I dreamed of this man night after night, I even knew his name.”

Catherine giggled a little nervously, “But why should you? Is there ever a meaning to these dreams?”

“Usually yes.” Vincent voice was barely audible and both Catherine and Father had to strain their ears to hear him. “What’s wrong Vincent?” Father prompted, “What does this man mean to you?”

“Destruction, desolation, desperation…” Vincent faltered, “He will take Catherine away from me.”

“No!” Catherine cried, “No Vincent, he won’t ever, I promise you, No!”

Shaking his head, Vincent didn’t mean to disbelieve her, but he knew the facts, his dreams were seldom wrong. “He will Catherine, when you and he start talking you will fall in love with him, and you and I will be a thing of the past.”

Catherine shook her head and with tears sliding down her cheeks, sobbed, “No, no, no.” With every word he spoke seeing all the happiness she had found being snatched away by the strong conviction that he believed it would be so.

“I love you, Vincent. I’ll never leave you, and if that’s what you have dreamed, then I will see to it that I have nothing to do with this man. I won’t go near his room, I won’t even think of him. Nothing and no one will come between us, ever, believe me!” Still Vincent remained seated his heart heavy as if his fate was already sealed and doom was suspended over him with no way of erasing it.

“I don’t know what to say.” Father told the two of them. “Vincent’s dreams have seldom been wrong, but I cannot imagine that anyone would come between the two of you, not after everything, and not with such a connection as the two of you have, its impossible.”

“Its not.” Vincent reminded him and with eyes of sorrow looked at Catherine, “This is the fate of our soul mates. Every time they thought they had it made something happened to snatch their happiness away from them. I feel it so strongly, I’m going to lose you Catherine.”

Slowly, haltingly Catherine moved her head from side to side in denial, her eyes were wounded and she felt bitterly betrayed by a dream. “It won’t happen, Vincent, it won’t. This time your dream is wrong, and if its fate then I will fight it all the way. Perhaps you had this dream to be forewarned so that I might not fall into the trap. Forewarned is forearmed, and now that I know, I will let nothing happen that might make me feel anything for this man, other than that of a friend. But if it is at all possible I will not see him at all…”

“But don’t you see?” Vincent interrupted, “How will I know that you are for me, if you do not give yourself the opportunity of another? There will come a time when I will wonder, when you will wonder about life with Joseph Maxwell, you’re sure to do, and it will come between us. Catherine, much as I hate it, you must go with the flow. You cannot outrun destiny and you cannot avoid what is meant to be.”

“Yes I can!” Catherine reminded him venomously, “And I will. Nothing comes between us Vincent, nothing! I love you so much.”

Vincent sighed, “As I love you…”


“But until you have met and spoken with this man you must not pledge anything that will hold you to me, and as regrettable as it is, its as well the wedding is to be postponed. At least this way we will get time to know and act accordingly.” Catherine started to cry and Father felt desolate. He looked from one to the other of them and his heart felt like someone had just ripped it out. It was a feeling shared by Vincent and Catherine and all three stared at one another not knowing what to say anymore or what to believe until finally Catherine whispered, “You are my life, Vincent my life, I would never be happy with anyone but you, and I promise you no one will come between us. Just let destiny try to break us up and she’ll see what I’m capable of.” Resolutely Catherine believed in what she had said and Vincent saw the determination in her eyes, but it did nothing to lessen his pain. His dreams had never been wrong before.

*** *** ***

With some hesitation, Catherine visited her father that evening, with the words she and Vincent had had swirling round her brain until she had a thumping migraine and thought that she could use a hospital bed. That’s if she could sleep, she doubted it very much, in fact tonight she could tell she’d be in for fitful sleep with all this on her mind. But on the other hand she was determined to prove Vincent wrong. That he and his father held the dreams in good stead did little to thwart her intention and she kept her eyes straight ahead as she passed Joseph Maxwell’s door on the way to her father’s room. There peeking through the window she could tell that he was awake, but she had to wait until she was kitted with the necessary covering before she was allowed in to visit with him. Charles face lit up when he saw her. “Cathy, honey, twice in one day? I’m in safe hands you shouldn’t worry so, besides there must be a hundred and one things you need to be doing rather than visit with me.” He paused and all at once Catherine realised that her father wasn’t alone as he turned toward a bed she had not noticed was there and more importantly to the occupant upon it, when he said, “This is my daughter Catherine, she is getting married in five days time.” Then to his daughter he smiled and told her, “See they gave me some company. Catherine, this is Joe, Joe Maxwell.” Catherine found her feet interesting. Strange the little bags that she had to cover her feet with, they didn’t fallen fasten at the ankles, all manner of germs could leak out. “Catherine, honey? Is everything okay?”

Catherine’s gaze moved from her consideration of hospital footwear to her father’s face but refused to look beyond there, “I’m fine dad.”

“No you’re not. It’s not like you to be rude, I introduced you to Joe, didn’t you hear me?” Catherine tried very hard to send her father signals with her eyes, and only Joe’s reply of, “Obviously has her head in the clouds.” And the chuckle that followed it had her looking up and meeting his gaze and that was the end of that! Warn brown eyes danced with merriment in a face wreathed with laughter and Catherine felt her heart somersault a thousand times. Chagrined by her traitorous heart Catherine smiled weakly, and when she haltingly spoke her father was concerned as her words sounded slurred and he again asked if she was feeling well, finishing with, “You should see Peter, maybe you have caught a bit of this bug. Don’t let them know here though or they’ll whisk you off into intensive care before you can blink, which reminds me, the reason Joe is here with me is that they found the other members at the conference and they are filling rooms all the way down this corridor.”

“Really?” Catherine kept her focus on her father and tried her hardest to forget that Joe was there but it was difficult. The more she told herself not to look, the more she stole a tiny glance at him and whenever she did it was to find him looking at her with the hugest boyish grin on his face that did nothing to lessen the pounding of her heart. And whatever her father had been saying was totally lost so that she had to keep embarrassingly ask him to repeat it.

“What is it with you Catherine?” Her father despaired, “Are you tired?” Catherine heard Joe laugh, “Maybe she’s tired of me looking at her. I’m sorry honey, but I can’t believe how beautiful you are, forgive me, I’ll try to keep my eyes on this newspaper.” Now it was Catherine’s turn to laugh just a little unable to stop the sound bubbling forth, besides she never could ignore a compliment. “Thank you.” She told him to which he replied, “For what, noticing you are beautiful or the promise to read my paper?” Charles laughed, “Don’t mind Joe, honey. But for him this afternoon I would have been climbing these blasted walls. There is so much I should be doing, and Joe feels the same, fortunately though he has a deliciously wicked sense of humour that has got us both through the waiting game, not to mention the tests, and I tell you if they take anymore blood I’ll have none left.”

“Nice little nurse that, though wasn’t it?” Joe reminded him, “Wouldn’t mind if she came to take my blood every five minutes.” Charles laughed then strangely told Joe, “No, she’d not your type, wouldn’t make you happy, believe me I know these things at a glance.”

“Really?” Joe looked to Catherine for confirmation and she smiled shaking her head as if to say ‘don’t look at me, I’m only his daughter.’

“Yes really. The sort of woman that would make you happy would be someone that you could share your innermost secrets with and know they would be safe. Someone like…”Charles thought for a moment, then he had an idea, his face lit up, “Well someone like Cathy here, she would be so right for you, unfortunately she’d already spoken for.” Had Catherine not known how greatly attached to Vincent her father had become and how he knew the important of destiny and the leonine clan she may have concluded by that quip that he had changed his mind and now wanted her to be with someone like Joe, even so the way he said it and the way Joe said little but continued to look appraisingly at her, made Catherine feel uncomfortable.

“I’d better be going.” Catherine leaned down to kiss her father’s brow, stopping short inches before his face as she remembered she wore the mask, and blew him a kiss instead grateful for the fact that the mask was transparent so that he could see. “Will you come again tomorrow?” Her father asked and to her surprise Catherine noted Joe raised his eyebrows and withheld some witty comment but what was even more surprising was her reaction to it. Where instead of ignoring the look in his eyes, she told him firmly, “Now quit that, my father didn’t mean it in that way!” Joe’s eyes creased at the corners and he started to laugh, “Wow you’re quick, remind me to be more careful what I’m thinking in future.”

Charles laughed, “ You’d do well to be careful. That’s one of my daughter’s vices, she can read people’s minds.” Both Catherine and her father knew it was only with Vincent, but Charles thought it worth mentioning all the same.

“Really?” Joe asked, “I must remember that.” He winked at her, “Thanks for brightening my day Cathy, you brought in one of those rays of sunshine out there, I’ll look forward to seeing you again tomorrow, you can bring me another one.”

Chuckling, Catherine shook her head, “I’ll see you tomorrow daddy…” She crossed to the door, then with a backward glance told Joe, “I’ll see what I can do about that sunshine, Joe.” Joe grinned, he liked her, a lot, and sunshine was the least he wanted her to bring to him, “Just bring yourself honey and I’ll have it.” He told her simply. Disconcerted Catherine looked away, reached for the door handle and exited the room and mustering another cheerful goodbye for her father’s benefit she left. Outside of the door, Catherine removed the mask and leaned against the wall of the corridor and took some deep breaths to calm the pounding of her heart. It did her no good at all to think about Vincent, because when she did, she remembered his dream, and when she remembered his dream she thought of Joe, and when she thought of Joe…Catherine sighed, she was going to have to be very careful, otherwise Vincent was going to be found right, because to her consternation Catherine admitted it would take very little to have her falling head over heels in love with Joe Maxwell, and the worst of it all was the fact that there wasn’t a simple thing she could do to prevent it from happening.

*** *** ***

Vincent waited by the park entrance for Catherine’s return but when she did not appear he remained there till dark and then sought her through their connection, surprised when it led him to her old apartment and her balcony. It had been an age since she had been there, even longer since he had and with his heart somewhere in the region of his feet, Vincent tapped lightly on the balcony doors and waited for her to open them. That she took a long time only heightened his awareness of her reluctance to face him even more, and that too spoke volumes to Vincent. Finally, she held back the voiles and unlocked the door leading out onto the terrace and bid him enter without a word. Her eyes were haunted, Vincent noticed and her heart was troubled, and there was no beating about the bush, “I was right then.” He told her simply.

Catherine didn’t know what to say, she felt as though she had died. Inside she was empty, hollow, and she had been crying, what was worse she felt and looked lost and Vincent’s heart despite his pain went out to her.

“Why, Vincent?” Catherine looked up at him suddenly, “Why is this happening to us?”

“Father thinks it is a test. A test sent to try us by our soul mates, to see how deep our love is and if we can withstand such things. After all Catherine you are a very beautiful woman and you have to give up much to be with me.”

“Its not fair Vincent.”

“Nevertheless you did feel something for this man. You tried your hardest not to do, but it was there anyway, whether or not it had been enhanced by the knowledge of my dream we will never know but the fact remains you are attracted to him, and I do not think it is one way.”

He never asked the question, but Catherine answered him anyway, “Yes, I believe he does.”

“Catherine, it grieves me to say this, but I know that I must.” Catherine watched him wring his hands together, but just when she thought he might start to pace the room he remained strangely calm and told her, “I’m setting you free, I have to.” Catherine tried to argue, but he silenced her with an adamant shake of his head, “Its no use Catherine, you have to see this through or we will both wonder what alternative there may have been for you, and you might hold it against me one day. Better that I set you free than insist you stay with me and ignore what is happening. Resentment I could not live with, Catherine, and for whatever reason this is happening to us we cannot fight it. There must be a belief deep, deep down inside you that is causing you to react to this man otherwise with a love like ours you would never have noticed him.”

Catherine had worried about a similar thing all afternoon. Why when she loved Vincent so much did she find Joe attractive, and not only that but appealing to a point that she wanted to follow through on it. “I can’t tell you what you should or should not do with this man Catherine, but when you have decided whatever it is, I’d be grateful if you would do me the honour of being the first to know.”

Catherine detected the great deal of strength it took for Vincent to remain calm and she fought the urge to run to him, hold on tight and never let him go. That he even contemplated leaving almost killed her, but she saw the sense of his words, and knew they would get nowhere until the problem was resolved so she nodded with eyes haunted and filled with sorrow, and without another word Vincent vanished from her sight in a swirl of black ebony cloak that concealed him with the night.

*** *** ***

This story will conclude in Once In A Lifetime 3



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