Catherine walked out across the park, her mind in turmoil. Vincent had told her that there wedding was off. She couldn’t believe he’d said that. And for Joe Maxwell no less!
Grr, was she mad or was she mad? She stopped walking turned and faced back toward the tunnels tempted to go back and slug Vincent, knock some sense into him.
This was just what their soul mates had faced eons ago, the same thing, some clown came along and upset the applecart.
Well she wasn’t having it, damn it! She wasn’t. Catherine turned and headed back toward the tunnels and Vincent.
“If he thinks I’m taking this lying down he’s very much mistaken.” Catherine grumbled as she marched toward the storm drain centred in the park where the entrance to the tunnels began.
A fleeting memory swept through her mind of a roguish, good-looking fellow with a mop of dark hair falling over smiling brown eyes. Her footsteps faltered.
“Oh go away Maxwell!” Catherine reprimanded the image, “Your face is the last one I want to be reminded of right now.”
In her mind’s eye Catherine summoned another image, one of a leonine face surrounded by a halo of honey gold hair. Blue eyes to drown in, a cleft lip that had pressed against hers time and time again, stimulating such delight and ecstasy, that Catherine fairly wept. “If he thinks I‘m giving all that up, he’s got another think coming!”
Anticipating the gate with its iron bars and touching the mechanism to release the lock and grant her entry, Catherine was perturbed to meet a solid wall of muscle and the man that she loved instead. “Vincent, you’re here?” Her heart fluttered with trepidation.
“Looks like it.” He told her gruffly arms folded barring her entry to his world. “What are you doing here Catherine? Did I not make myself clear?”
“You’re wrong Vincent. Joe is nothing to do with us, and if you let that come between us…”
“No! It’ll ruin what we have. You know it will. We don’t need this Vincent, its pointless. Can’t you see this is the sort of thing our soul mates faced time and time again? They probably acted just the same way you are now, and the other one accepted it, and due to that they never were together. Surely you can see that by turning me away, you are leaving the situation open to all kinds of terrible things.”
Vincent sighed, “I’m not turning you away Catherine. I’m facing this thing logically. You have feelings for this man. Deny it you may…(he added as she shook her head furiously) but I know you Catherine, I know your heart and your heart tells me its leaning toward this man.”
“He’s funny, witty, handsome, there is that what you want to know? And yes I like him, but as a friend, Vincent, no more than that.”
“Then why does your heart leap when you think of him, why do your eyes light up when you see him?”
“Well I assume your eyes light up, if your heart tells me nothing else. When he is in your company, I feel such happiness soar through your soul, its on par with what you feel when you see me. How else am I to judge?”
“I probably feel the same way when I see my father too. Or your father come to that.”
Vincent shook his head. “No, its different. What you feel for your father and mine is pride, love, and affection. The feelings you have for me are wild abandonment, deep, deep love…and sexual…” A smile quirked the corners of his mouth “unfortunately, that same feeling passes through you when you see Joe Maxwell.”
“It does not!” Disconcerted, Catherine bit her lower lip, ‘did she really behave like that when she saw Joe?” Her gaze rose to meet Vincent’s, her eyes asking the silent question. He nodded then whispered sadly, “You do, and so long as you do my love, we are going nowhere.”
“I’m sorry Vincent. Be that I could rip away my traitorous heart!”
He pitied her then. She appeared so vulnerable, innocent, really she had no idea of her feelings for Joe, or hadn’t accepted them up until that moment. Vincent stepped forward and took her into his arms whispering, “You know what I’m most afraid of, my love?” Catherine shook her head. “If we were to marry while your heart harboured feelings for another then I truly believe it would come between and destroy us. And I truly believe that is what happened to our soul mates. They ignored the warning signs, and along the way another muddled in between them and pulled them apart, for forever and all time. We mustn’t let that happen Catherine. While I could forgive you a relationship with another now, since this is larger than the both of us, I could not forgive an adulterous affair after we were married. You do see the difference don’t you?”
Reluctantly, Catherine nodded. Vincent sighed, “So you’ll leave me? Go from here, follow the path of your destiny… and return?” That last said so hesitantly.
“I’ll be back Vincent, you can count on it. As to the other thing, I don’t know. Do you seriously believe I can go from one lover’s arms straight to another?”
Catherine gasped, “How much time, I don’t want to be away from you too long?”
“Oh Vincent, can you hear yourself? This isn’t right!” Catherine gazed up into his tempestuous blue eyes, like a boat out at sea in the midst of a storm they were severely troubled. He did not want her to do this thing anymore than she wanted to do it, but destiny…
“We have to go with what’s mapped out for us Catherine. There’s no swaying from the path. If we are to be happy, if our soul mates are to find blissful peace at long last, this is the way we must go. I can’t say I’m happy about it, but if at the end of the day you come to me with nothing in your heart but love for me, then it will have been well worth the disruption to our plans.”
Reluctantly, Catherine nodded, “Okay Vincent. But I’m not promising anything. That is I will return to you that’s a promise, and sooner rather than later, and I will not actively pursue a relationship with this man…we’ll see if destiny has really mapped that out for me…and I still believe you’re wrong.”
Vincent hugged her, knowing she needed that, and released her to set her on her way with a wry smile. “When you return here, let it be because you aim to stay, not before. I couldn’t bear to see you if you are with Joe Maxwell, or any other man.”
“Any other…?” Catherine began, as Vincent placed a finger to her lips to quieten that question.
“As long as it takes, my love…” he told her tenderly, “then forever will be ours.”
Her eyes welling with tears Catherine gazed up into his face, imprinting every treasured part of it to memory. How long would it be before she saw him again? Not long she hoped, but it had always been hard to accept that Vincent was uncannily often correct.
She hated to suppose he was correct now, but she couldn’t deny the possibility.
Not trusting herself with words, she turned from him, walked a few steps, and stopped, intent on turning and looking back one final time. Found it impossible to do so without rushing back into his arms and staying there forever, and let the threatened tears fall when she heard the clang of the metal gate behind her. Vincent had taken that problem into his own hands. Being the stronger of the two he had stepped back inside his world and closed the gate behind him. All Catherine would see if she turned around now would be an empty space. She couldn’t bear it. Resolutely she squared her shoulders and marched out of the dim light of the storm drain into the sunshine beyond.
“I’ll return soon… sooner than you expect my love.” She vowed. ”You’ll see…you’ll see.”
*** *** ***
Charles Chandler was being difficult. The nurses were at their wits end with him when Catherine walked in a few hours later after speaking with Vincent.
“Oh Miss Chandler, what a sight for sore eyes you are.” One of the nursing staff cried as Catherine pushed open the big swing doors leading into the private ward.
“Why what’s the matter?” Catherine asked with a grin. “I was only here yesterday.”
“I know, and nothing’s wrong, its just that your father isn’t the best of patients, at the best of times, but now with your wedding looming, he’s impossible. He’s talking of discharging himself and nothing we can say will stop him. He’s in here now getting dressed to go home.”
“What!” Catherine charged through the double doors leading to her father’s room, catching him in the act of stuffing his remaining belongings into an already over stuffed suitcase.
“Whoa, oh no you don’t daddy!” Catherine cried as she began yanking clothing from the case, “You are going nowhere.”
“Cathy, honey. There’s too much to organise, I can’t be here, no time.”
“There’s all the time in the world daddy.” Catherine told him as she slumped into the nearest chair, “the wedding’s off.”
“Off?” Charles reiterated, “What do you mean off?”
“As in over, well that’s not strictly true…”
“Catherine! You haven’t postponed your big day on my account I hope? When was this done, quick if you get back there now, there may be time to re-arrange it. Tell them I’m okay. I’m coming home, no need to wait for me now.”
“Its not that daddy, that is its nothing to do with you being in here. Vincent has a bee in his bonnet over something, and he’s called off the wedding. And before you ask, no I don’t want to talk about it. So you can get yourself back in that bed because there’s no reason for you to leave before your well enough to do so now is there?”
“And that’s telling you!” A chuckle rose from the corner of the room and Catherine swung on her heel to the sound. Joe Maxwell’s eyes crinkled at the corners, and he was grinning from ear to ear.
“I thought you’d been discharged?” Catherine asked hotly, acutely embarrassed that he’d overheard everything. Him of all people! He was the cause of it all!
“Well hello to you too.” Joe laughed.
“There’s no need to take it out on Joe, honey. He wasn’t the cause of your split with Vincent.”
It was the last straw! Catherine flew to her feet and hurried from the room swinging the doors behind her.
“What did I say?” Charles looked after her retreating back.
“Lord, if I know.” Joe replied. “But I tell you this Charles, your daughter’s one beautiful woman when she’s as mad as hell.”
Charles chuckled, but said nothing, not sure what to make of Joe’s remark. It was one thing for Vincent to think Catherine was beautiful, but a man they’d known only a few days? Charles wasn’t sure what to think.
“Shame about that wedding.” Joe went on as though speaking to himself. “What do you think went wrong?” He mused.
Charles didn’t say. There was too much Joe could never understand. He knew that Catherine’s Vincent was different, because Charles had hinted as such when Joe tried to angle for a wedding invite, but of course Charles couldn’t elaborate on how different and thankfully Joe had never asked. Now he sensed it coming.
“You said her fiancé was different, in what way did you mean that? Culturally, religiously, what?”
“Neither of those.” Charles told him pretending to be engrossed in unpacking his case to pay too much attention to what Joe was asking.
“Then how so?”
Charles drew in a deep breath and letting it out slowly he turned to face Joe. “I’m really not at liberty to say. It suffices that there are differences between them, but it has never mattered before and I’m certain that isn’t the issue here. Something else must have cropped up. Although I can’t help thinking that they have postponed the wedding for my sake, even though my daughter adamantly states that is not so.”
*** *** ***
“Please tell me you are joking.” Father pushed his spectacles up off his nose, grappled with them a moment in his hands before placing them back onto his nose. He stared through them at Vincent with a look of disbelief warring with anger.
“No you wouldn’t be.” Father resigned himself to the truth, “You of all people wouldn’t joke about something like this. The wedding is off? Why in God’s name, why?”
“Something came up.” Vincent wouldn’t elaborate further, didn’t know if he dared. Tears were forming at the back of his eyes ready to tumble at the slightest provocation.
“Something came up! Vincent, do you know what we have done…what we have arranged…William has been baking for weeks…oh there’s no expense Catherine paid…but all the same, the work, the preparations, not to mention how distraught the children will be. Have you not noticed anything? The children…will be so disappointed…do you not care? What do you mean something came up?” Father had a terrible thought, “Is Charles Chandler…? He couldn’t bring himself to say what he hoped hadn’t happened to Catherine’s father.
“No, not that, Charles is still in hospital, but recovering slowly…it wasn’t that.”
“Then what was it?”
“I’m not at liberty to say. Just know that the wedding is off, or postponed, don’t ask me which because right now I do not know, and I don’t want to talk about it.” Vincent made to leave Father’s chamber intent on going to his own to lick his wounds.
“Halt!” Father shouted before Vincent could make an exit, “You can’t just leave it there, I need an explanation. What am I supposed to tell everyone? There will be questions, a lot of questions. Vincent, are you even listening to me!”
When his son turned Father’s heart went out to him there were tears streaming down Vincent’s cheeks, “I can’t Father, I just can’t.” Vincent stormed from the chamber leaving Father only to speculate.
‘If he’s that upset, the problem can’t lie with him…so if it’s not with Vincent…” he mused, “then it has to be with Catherine. So what has that little minx been up to now!” Fumbling for his cane and rising from behind his desk Father went to visit Vincent. He had to consol his heartbroken son, and he had to get to the bottom of it, no matter how much it hurt Vincent to reveal all. Once Father knew he would be better prepared, especially if he should see Catherine anytime soon.
*** *** ***
Mulling over her last conversation with Vincent, Catherine jumped when the telephone at her elbow shrilled. The last person she expected it to be was Joe Maxwell.
“Hello, that you Cathy? Its Joe, you know Joe Maxwell, I’m sharing a room with your father. I just wanted to offer my condolences.”
“Your condolences!” Catherine screeched, “What do you mean, is my father…”
“Oh, no, no, oh Lord, I’m not handling this right am I? Forgive me. No, oh I’m so sorry Cathy. I didn’t mean to frighten you. No your dad’s fine, or at least he was the last time I saw him, which was less than a minute ago. I’m out in the corridor you see, making a private phone call to his daughter.” Joe grinned hoping to hear Catherine chuckle or something, or say anything, anything at all. What he met was a wall of stony silence.
“What?” Catherine snapped. Would this man never butt out of her life, hadn’t he caused enough damage already?
“Sorry. Though what I’m apologising for I don’t know. Look I only rang to offer my condolences on your wedding disruption. I wanted to let you know that I know how that feels. Well not personally, but it happened to a guy whose wedding I attended, and he was jilted at the alter, which is like this.”
“Its nothing like this!” Catherine exclaimed.
“Well okay then similar.” Joe grinned again, and wished she could see that he had.
“Its not even close. Anyway if you’ll excuse me I was busy.”
“Sorry. You sound like I should have known that.”
“I beg your pardon?”
Joe laughed, “You sounded as though I ought to have known I was interrupting something. But while I may be good with most things X-ray vision isn’t my forte.”
Despite how annoyed she felt with him Catherine chuckled. Joe warmed to the sound and he pictured her in a house he’d never entered before sitting on some comfortable leather sofa laughing at something he’d just said. It cheered him no end.
“Anyway I’m sorry.” They spoke together then laughed and Joe added, “You first.”
“I’m sorry you have called at an inopportune time, but I really am busy.”
“So you said…my apologies…perhaps you could tell me when would be an opportune time?”
“Why? You’ve said all there is to say.”
“Unless there was something else?”
Joe’s palms were sweating so much he could hardly hold onto the phone. This is it, he told himself the real reason you rang her.
Catherine smiled, picturing him standing beside the green corridor telephone plucking up the courage to ask her something personal, then with that thought in mind snapped, “I’m not telling you why Vincent and I broke up, if that was your next question. My relationship with my fiancé has nothing to do with you!”
“No, no…Cathy… you gotta believe me, I wasn’t even going to…Oh Lord…I’ve put my foot in it again haven’t I? And we were getting along so well.” Joe brightened suddenly seeing his opportunity to say what was on his mind. “Talking of well, from tomorrow I’m outta here. I’ve been discharged, I’m better now, so I wondered if perhaps you’d like to go for a drink, or a meal perhaps…you know…just to cheer you up maybe…?” Joe’s voice trailed away as he realised that she would think he was trying to hit on her, but then that was exactly what he was doing.
There was silence at the other end of the telephone. Joe was reluctant to push his luck by speaking. Believing that perhaps he’d said too much already.
Then…”I don’t think so Joe. Thanks for the offer, but I’m in no mood for socialising.” Especially with you, she added under her breath. Deep down inside though she was quaking…how had Vincent been so right? Not a day had passed since she’d announced her wedding was off and already Joe was asking her out. It terrified her to think that Vincent had seen this coming.
“Okay then, well if you change your mind, you know where to find me. Bye Cathy.” Joe hung up.
“Actually I don’t.” Catherine spoke into the receiver as she heard the burr of the dial tone. Once Joe was discharged from the hospital she had absolutely no idea where to look for him. As if she wanted to.
‘But then, if this is really to be, perhaps it would be better to get this over and done with soon, then I can get back to my real life with Vincent.’ Catherine reasoned. There was only one thing for it, she’d have to call the hospital and speak to Joe before he left. Better to do it now, rather then let him think she’d been thinking about it all night and had gone to great lengths to seek him out. Best not to let him think she was that keen, might give him the wrong impression.
Joe was just stepping from the corridor back to his room when the telephone he’d just called Cathy from started to shrill. He looked all around expecting to see someone hurry to pick it up. Maybe they were expecting a call right about then. There was no one and as the phone continued to shrill Joe decided he might as well answer it. Probably a wrong number anyway.
“Hello?” He enquired as he placed it to his ear.
Joe did a double take. “Cathy?”
“Yes, its me. Don’t take this the wrong way…but I was thinking over your offer. Maybe some light socialising is just what I need right now. So if that offer for a drink is still on…?”
Joe couldn’t believe he was hearing right, “What? Oh yes, of course!” He tried to keep the joy out of his voice, “Only I just thought, you know, maybe you could do with a change of scenery, time to think about something else. You know what it is when you spend too much time by yourself after something like this…your mind starts going into overdrive…and you get yourself in a right state.” Joe babbled, unable to stop talking or contain his delight.
Catherine smiled, “When then?”
“When what? Oh the drink? I can pick you up tomorrow night if you like. Charles can give me the address and directions.”
“No! That is, no I don’t think daddy ought to know about this. That’s if you don’t mind?”
Joe shrugged, “No, er…if that’s what you prefer?”
“Okay then, I sort of know where you live, but I can still get that from Charles. Since he’s asked me to stay in touch and I’m leaving tomorrow, I can write down directions from him. I haven’t a pen and paper right now.”
“Oh okay. So you’ll pick me up tomorrow?”
“Yep, seven do?”
“Seven will be fine.”
“Great. See you tomorrow then. Bye Cathy.”
“Bye Joe.” They each replaced the receiver, one filled with jubilation, the other full of apprehension and dread.
*** *** ***
It was almost as though she were going on her first date! Catherine was so nervous. And her bed was covered with every conceivable item of clothing she possessed. What was she to wear? Come to that where would Joe be taking her? Though they’d agreed on a drink, chances were they’d eat also, and the dress code for one didn’t automatically follow for the other. Catherine was frustrated and annoyed that she hadn’t been more specific with their plans. If only she knew what to wear!
She was perturbed therefore that just when she was mulling this dilemma over and reaching an answer the telephone rang, and snatching it up she only had time to mumble hello before Joe’s voice sounded at the other end. “Hi Cathy, its me Joe.” For a split second Catherine felt a mix of disappointment and jubilation believing he was ringing to cancel their date.
“Are you having trouble deciding what to wear like me? We never actually made definite plans of where to go did we? And I’ve sat here this past hour getting dressed, undressed and redressed wondering if you might come for a meal after that drink or not. I tell you now I am starving…so I thought hey why don’t I ring Cathy and make some definite plans so that’s why I’m calling.” After waffling through all that he felt a real dork.
Relieved, and chagrined that she was relieved, Catherine replied, “I’m glad you did. I have absolutely no idea what to wear. Now if you could tell me where we’d likely be going that would make my selection a whole lot easier.”
“Right then, well you know that new place over near the hospital? Thought we could go there, then when we’ve done you could visit your father, or before if you’d prefer?”
“I’ve been meaning to take a look in there for the last couple of weeks, as to my father I’ve visited him already.”
“Great that’s settled then, so a suit and gown it is then?”
Catherine chuckled, “Yes. Should I wear the suit?”
“Oh yes, pink is just my colour don’t you think?” Joe replied loving her humour no end.
Catherine laughed. They hung up still laughing and looking forward to meeting at seven o’clock.
*** *** ***
Deep beneath the city Vincent sat by the great waterfall. He was both dismayed and concerned by Catherine’s feelings storming through him like a great torrent. If Devin were there to express an opinion he’d say that Catherine was on the rebound. Pretending to have fun to mask the deep hurt she really felt, but Vincent knew better.
Having been set free from her commitment to marriage she was following through on the path mapped out for her, but did it have to be so soon?
Not a day had passed before she had embarked upon the quest with another man. What did that say for their love and commitment to one another? What was she hoping to achieve, did she not remember that he would feel every nuance of her feelings for Joe Maxwell? Assuming it were Joe Maxwell, for Vincent had no way of knowing who Catherine was out having fun with that night. Not unless he followed them and he balked at that idea.
It grated on his nerves, nerves already fraught with such tension and he felt they might snap at any moment, especially if Catherine continued to show she was enjoying her evening out with another man. Vincent had felt in her that same joy, that same exquisite delight only recently when she had been with him, and he felt betrayed that she could feel it with another so soon.
Perhaps she’s trying to get it over and done with…a tiny voice reminded him…and Vincent hadn’t dismissed the possibility. But then did she have to enjoy herself so much as well?
Hurt, deep, deep hurt lanced through Vincent and it was all he could do to stop himself jumping into the icy depths beneath the waterfall and drowning his sorrows literally.
There was no one he could tell, not even Father, no one that would understand why he’d seen fit to send Catherine away. Why he even felt that destiny maps out certain paths that people had to follow or regret for all time, he didn’t know. What he did regret was bringing them to Catherine’s attention. She had been blissfully ignorant before. Maybe she would never have assumed that she shared anything other than friendship with Joe Maxwell. So then what had he done?
Well whatever he’d done, there was no going back now.
Like a lamb to the slaughter Vincent had to know, and standing he brushed the dust from his belongings and left the vicinity of the waterfall. He would go above, follow Catherine’s heart, and see whom she was with. He told himself he had to know in case she wasn’t with Joe, but rather with some stranger whom she might need protection from. Come to that how well did either of them know this Joe Maxwell? Perhaps she would be grateful that her guardian angel was watching out for her, Vincent reasoned as he made his way up to the park, so that by the time he reached it he was thoroughly convinced he was doing the right thing.
Catherine’s protection was too important to ignore. Stealthily he made his way toward the hospital, where Catherine’s heart was showing him the way to go.
*** *** ***
“The food was delicious.” Catherine remarked as she and Joe left the restaurant, “I must take daddy there when he’s well enough to leave the hospital, he’ll love it!”
“It certainly was. Those king prawns were scrumptious, haven’t tasted king prawns like that in a long time.”
“Which was when?”
“I’m Italian. At least my parents were or should I say are, shouldn’t wish them away just yet, comes soon enough as it is. Anyway enough of that, like I was saying they’re Italian and we spent quite a few vacations visiting the old folks. Out there king prawns in fact all seafood is delicious. So to answer your question, the last time I tasted anything the like, was about four, five years ago. I’m long overdue for a visit as it happens. My parents go regularly but I just haven’t had the time. Though I admit having someone to go with would make all the difference.” He stopped turned and looked at her, “Say, maybe you’d come?” He asked hopefully.
“Why not? You’d love it there.”
“I do love it there, years since I’ve been, but I have fond memories still.”
“Oh.” Joe replied sadly.
“What’s wrong? What did I say?”
“Nothing. Well…its your memories…I suppose they were of your mother…you wouldn’t want to dredge those kind up again by revisiting a place you made them, right?”
“On the contrary, no. Well yes, but no I didn’t go to Italy with my mother. I went with the school. It was a school vacation, we had such fun!”
“Then you’d go again?”
“Oh but…I didn’t mean…oh what the heck…yes I’d love to go again…when?”
Vincent had arrived shortly before this conversation had started and his heart plummeted as he heard Catherine agree to go to another country with Joe Maxwell. To go somewhere where he would not be able to follow, where only Catherine’s heart were able to tell him how she felt. Vincent didn’t think he could bear it.
Neither could he bear hearing them make their plans, but he was unable to tear himself away.
“Will Charles be convalescing, when he gets out of hospital? I was just thinking, you couldn’t possibly go while he’s in hospital or when he’s home recovering, so we need to plan our trip for after that. When he’s truly well and back at work.”
“My thoughts exactly. Well its April now, so what do you reckon, June, July?”
“July would be great, nice and hot there then. We could picnic on the beach every day. Believe me Cathy, when my folks throw a picnic on the beach it’s a picnic to remember. Everyone comes, the whole darn village. There’s music and merriment, you’ll love it!”
“Okay then,” Catherine replied caught up in the arrangements, “July it is, pending my father’s recovery on time.”
It was only later when Catherine was back home and going over the evening’s events that she realised what she’d done. She had just extended her relationship with Joe three months in advance. How could she have been so stupid?
*** *** ***
Catherine was even more stupid three days later, after spending the day out with Joe at the zoo and theme park having the best time she’d had in a long while. Then after visiting her father, came home and while getting ready for bed listened to the messages left on her telephone.
“Cathy, hi baby, it’s Debs, you know cousin Deborah. Just ringing with commiserations. Should have been your big day today, I know I wasn’t coming, but all the same, just wanted to know I feel for you honey, ok? Don’t go doing anything silly. If the pig won’t marry you, there’s always another that will. Plenty more pigs in the sea…that’s what I always say. Anyway, you know my number if you want to do a little ear bending, cry on my shoulder that sort of thing…I’m here for you, okay honey…byeeeeeeeeeee.”
“Hi Cathy honey, its me dad, just wanted to see how you were feeling. If you don’t feel up to visiting tonight, don’t worry I understand…just relax, have a good cry if you must, see you tomorrow okay? Bye honey.”
“Cathy? You there? Pick up Cathy! (Pause) Can’t be in…guess you’re out after all. Well look when you get back and hear this message ring me okay, better still come over and we’ll have a girly night in. Peanuts, munchies, a movie…what you say? We can even play blind man’s bluff and pin the tail on the lion…or wherever else you choose to stick it…okay? Good. Oh its, Jen by the way, as if you didn’t know that. Bye Cathy. Take care huh?”
Catherine reached for the machine and switched it off before another message reminded her of what she had totally forgotten. This day, the one she had sat through on swings and roundabouts, licking ice cream cones and laughing with Joe, should have been her wedding day and she had completely forgotten! How sick was that?
Her father hadn’t even mentioned it when she had visited with him. Sure he seemed delighted to see her, and his remark on her arrival, ‘so you came after all’ made sense to her now. He’d expected that she’d be too upset to show her face to the world this day. And what had she done? Breezed in there full of the joys of spring still bubbling over with the fun she’d had that day, but careful not to tell him in case he asked whom she’d gone with.
He must have thought she was either potty or was covering her feelings remarkably well.
With her hand on her night robe Catherine eyed her jacket. “I ought to go see Vincent. He must be feeling horrible. He wouldn’t have forgotten what today was meant to be. He wouldn’t have let something else blind him to the day. I bet the tunnel dwellers are feeling awful too, I ought to visit, show them that I care. But then would I be welcome? What has Vincent told them? Has he told them anything? What could I tell them that would make any sense? Best I keep away. Besides Vincent said that I should. He didn’t want to see me while I dated another man. He’ll know I am, little chance he won’t. Oh my God what a stupid, stupid woman I am! Fancy forgetting my own wedding day!”
Thus Catherine lamented for the rest of the evening, until she fell into a fitful sleep and awoke feeling awful.
More awful than she’d felt in years, not only that but she felt she’d betrayed Vincent and all they held dear, and for what? The sight of a few idiot monkeys and a couple of rides on a roller coaster?
Well who was the idiot now?
*** *** ***
And so the trend continued. As much as Catherine berated herself on her relationship with Joe, as long as she kept seeing him she began to have feelings for him, feelings hard to ignore, still she forced them low and deep in the back of her mind. They were friends nothing else, and as soon as the friendship drew to its conclusion she would end it and go back to Vincent.
“Keep telling yourself that Cathy and you’ll believe it.”
“Talking to yourself are we? First sign of madness you know.” Catherine hadn’t heard the door open and swung around to the sound of her father’s voice.
“Daddy! What are you doing here?” She ran into his open arms.
“Surprised you huh? Good. Hoped I might. Doctor discharged me this morning.”
“The doctor?” Catherine asked suspiciously.
“Yes, the doctor. Not me, but the doctor, God’s truth. He said there was no more they could do for me…then before I had a heart attack, he winked and added quickly, that the last test results had turned up trumps and I was declared fighting fit enough to leave the hospital and return home. Course I have to go back for check ups, but Lord Cathy its great to be home.” With that he settled into the cosiest armchair in the room. His armchair, the one he’d missed and dreamed about for weeks. “Oh how I’ve longed for this.” He told her snuggling into the soft white leather.
“Well its wonderful to have you home daddy. Can I get you anything, tea, coffee, a sandwich?”
“No I ate on my way home, say have you tried that new restaurant opposite the hospital, its wonderful!”
Catherine told him she had and how she had planned to take him there on his first day out of hospital.
“Well I beat you to it. The scents wafting from there as I left the hospital were too enticing to ignore. I bet the patients on that side of the building hate it, smelling something so delectable and being faced with the muck the hospital serves instead. Good job I was in a private wing on the other side of the place, or I’d have smelt it too.”
Catherine laughed, “Its good to have you home dad. And so soon too, its still only May, I never expected you’d be out till near the end of June.”
“Can’t say I’m not relieved, honey. After Joe left and no one else joined me, I was going stir crazy in there by myself I can tell you.”
“That’s something I’ve been meaning to ask, daddy, what was Joe doing sharing your private room in the first place?” It had been a question she’d wanted to ask Joe but hadn’t dared.
“Oh, he and I used to chat in the day room, and since there was space for another bed in my room I asked if he could be moved in with me. We really got on well honey. I am eager to invite him over if that’s okay with you. I’ve missed our chats.”
“Why shouldn’t it be alright with me?”
“Well you seemed, I don’t know, antagonistic toward him on the few occasions you were in his company. That saddened me I confess, but I put it down to your problems with Vincent at the time. I’m sure if you got to know Joe, your attitude would change. He’s such a nice fellow and so trustworthy.”
“I know he is daddy.” Catherine’s eyes were brimming with delight.
“You know? How so?”
“Daddy, I have something to tell you. Joe and I have been dating regularly for weeks.”
“Really?” To say Charles was stunned was an understatement. “But what about Vincent?”
“Oh that’s ok…you see…” and she went on to tell him everything. When she was done Charles looked grave and unhappy, “So let me get this right, just because Vincent felt that Joe was woven into your destiny, you should date him, get him out of the picture and return to Vincent?”
Glumly, Catherine nodded. The way he said it made it sound awful.
“And is Joe aware of this?”
“Of course not!”
“Then don’t you think he should be? If you get along that well, I’m certain Joe will start having feelings for you, if he hasn’t already. And you plan going to Italy with him?”
“Yes but that was planned weeks ago.”
“All the same, he’s looking forward to it I’m sure. Romantic place Italy, all kinds of things can happen there. And what will his folks make of it? More to the point where will you be sleeping? I doubt his folks have more than one spare bedroom, or are you sleeping with him already? No don’t answer that, I apologise, it’s none of my business.”
“No it isn’t.” Catherine blushed hotly there were some things one did not tell one’s parents. “But all the same I can see your point. I never thought of that. I should ask Joe before we set off. I wouldn’t like for him to presume too much.”
“That’s my girl. And while you’re at it, fill him in ok? Let him know that Vincent is precognitive and tell him your relationship with him is only temporary.”
“I can’t do that!”
“You’ll have to. If its true.”
“No, daddy I can’t, it’ll break his heart.”
“Then how do you suppose to undertake it? Eventually you have to break his heart anyway.”
“No, the relationship will run its course. And then it’ll fizzle away and I can return to Vincent.”
“That is if you still love him.” Charles knew his daughter and he knew that right now this return to Vincent business was mere words.
“Of course I still love him! I will never stop loving Vincent!”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Out of sight out of mind, Cathy.”
“And absence makes the heart grow fonder don’t forget that one, daddy. Besides Vincent isn’t out of mind, not a day goes by when I don’t think about him. I miss him like crazy, but he doesn’t want to see me while I’m dating another man.”
“So you told me, but things spoken in haste are very often regretted at leisure. Could be Vincent would love to see you. Besides I think enough time has lapsed that you couldn’t go visit and chat about this like responsible adults. It’ll keep the flame burning if nothing else. And despite what you’ve been telling me about how you’ve been having this wonderful time, you don’t look wonderful. In fact I think the hospital staff should have been saying, roll over Charles, your daughter is getting in.”
“I don’t look that bad! A few rings around my eyes sure, but that’s from the late nights I‘ve been having, oh and something I ate last night must have upset my stomach, I’ve been feeling a little queasy this morning. Maybe its that.”
“You sure you’re not pregnant, young lady?”
“Well I have a right to ask. You’ve been seeing a lot of Joe, so you can expect I will jump to conclusions.”
“Well I haven’t slept with Joe, so you can forget that idea!”
“Then its Vincent’s.”
“Rubbish! Daddy I’m not pregnant, stop insinuating I could be. I just ate something I ought not, that’s all. I’ll be right as rain by tomorrow you’ll see.”
“Well I still think you should go see Vincent, pregnant or not. He deserves a visit.”
“He knows where to find me.”
“Oooh what’s this I hear? A grudge?”
“Nooooo!” Catherine wailed. “Just how it is. He made the rules, so he can break them. If I go down there and he shows me the door, how do you think that will make me feel?”
“I doubt he will do that. But as you insist, you know best. Now when is Joe coming over, I can’t wait to see him. I have something I wish to discuss with him.”
“Daddyyyy? I know that look. What are you scheming now?”
“He’s qualified Cathy, he’d do great in my company. I’m thinking of asking him to work for me. And…if…it should turn out that you and he…well you know…then as my son in law…he can eventually take the place over when I retire.”
Catherine almost choked on her spittle, “Your son in law! Have you gone stark raving mad! I’m not marrying Joe, no way!”
Charles smiled. He too had dreams. “We’ll see.” He told her with a twinkle in his eye.
“We’ll see nothing!” Catherine grumbled. “I’m going back to Vincent. Daddy have you forgotten everything I’ve told you, about our soul mates and the tin your grandmother gave you, and all that?”
“Not at all, but I didn’t envisage to find you dating another fellow so soon after your break with Vincent. Which I might add I’d been informed was only temporary. So what else is a fellow to think?”
“It is only temporary, and while it is I’m only doing what Vincent expects of me.”
“Oh, like you’re not enjoying it.” Charles said wryly.
“I didn’t say I wasn’t. Joe’s good company…” before she could continue Charles butted in, “Joe’s good looking, witty, charming, takes you to all the right places, and above all lady he can be seen above ground in the daylight!”
“That was below the belt daddy. I thought you liked Vincent?”
“Of course I do, but you have to admit marrying him comes with a whole bag load of problems. Take your aunt Abigail and cousin Deborah for example, they begged and begged for a wedding invitation. I had to lie and say there weren’t enough spaces and there was no standing room at the back of the registry office. Then they wanted to wait outside, return to the house…you know how it went, it was awful fobbing them off all the time, not just them but all of our relatives that know nothing of Vincent’s differences. I know there’s the destiny thing Cathy, but a little normality goes a long way at times.”
Catherine stood facing her father, uncertain of how to reply, not knowing if whatever she said would do any good. She could see the rest of the day stretching into oblivion with the two of them banging their heads against a wall in frustration. Obviously her father had to get back into the swing of things, and not picture Joe as a knight in shining armour so much. That would only happen when they’d spent more time together, letting her father see Joe’s flaws, if he had any flaws and skeletons in the cupboard that was. So far she’d not seen any. The guy was practically squeaky clean. But then so was Vincent.
“Well if there’s nothing I can get you daddy, I have things to do upstairs. Will you be okay by yourself?”
“Of course.” Charles had rested his head back against the sofa and closed his eyes. Catherine could tell he was more tired than he was letting on. “How did you get back daddy?”
“What?” He didn’t even open his eyes to question.
“Here. How did you get here? By taxi?”
“No, by train.”
“There were no taxi’s and the train came sooner, I caught that. Had to make a few changes, but got here eventually.”
“No wonder you are so tired, straight out of a hospital bed and going on trains. You should have called me!”
“Then that would have spoilt the surprise. It’s no big deal Cathy. I’m home now and can rest all I like. Besides took me back taking the train. Reminded me why I never take it anymore.” He chuckled, “If I was born to be a sardine it wouldn’t have been so bad.”
Catherine laughed out loud, “Well it’s good to have you home. Now you rest and I’ll go buy something for dinner.”
“No need…when I found out how wonderful that restaurant was I made a reservation tonight for three.”
Grinning wryly but still with his eyes closed Charles nodded, “I took a chance that you’d agree to have dinner with Joe and I tonight, then left a message on his answer machine. We eat at seven.”
Catherine shook her head at him then bent to kiss his cheek, “Welcome home daddy.” She told him, “If you need anything, just shout, I’ll be in my room.”
*** *** ***
Below the city streets life was sombre. It was as if the light had gone out of all their lives. Father noticed it, and Vincent he noticed it more acutely, and not a day went by when he didn’t rue the fact that he had caused the mood that shrouded everyone below.
Father knew now, they all did, and while many could understand why he had done what he’d done, few felt he’d done the right thing. Father reminded him how with Catherine living in the tunnels, she would have seldom seen Joe. Even had she visited her father and Joe been there, the meeting would have been so brief that it was unlikely anything would have developed. It was even possible that in Catherine’s eyes there was no one for her but Vincent, no matter how handsome Joe had been or how much he liked her.
Still what was done was done, and Vincent was reluctant to give his father updates even though he was grieved by the length of time Catherine continued to see Joe. He hadn’t envisaged that she would follow through on the relationship quite so long, and he missed her dreadfully. The months had passed since he’d seen them together outside the hospital restaurant, being unable to do that again. July was almost upon them, and that would mean Catherine would be flying to Italy with Joe. Vincent knew he had to see her before then.
He made plans to visit her that evening. The idea both terrified and delighted him, and when he arrived on her balcony he kept to the shadows. Catherine was in the lounge and heading for the door. Since she wore no shoes, Vincent could only assume one thing. She was going to open it to let someone in. When the door opened Vincent saw that someone was Joe Maxwell, and though he berated himself for doing so, Vincent chose to deliberately eavesdrop on the conversation between Catherine and Joe.
*** *** ***
“Cathy, I came as soon as I could. Was the news not good?” Vincent reeled to see Joe kiss Catherine, like he’d done it a million times before.
“No, Joe. It wasn’t good. Sit down.”
Joe moved across to the nearest chair and sat awkwardly, his gaze never leaving Catherine’s, “Is it as we supposed?”
“You and my father? Yes.” Catherine drew in a deep breath and sighed heavily as she lowered herself into a chair opposite, “Yes Joe, I’m pregnant.”
Hand on his heart Vincent recoiled and had to grab at the balustrade for support. His heart thumped heavily and he found breathing difficult.
“Oh honey I’m so sorry, what will you do?”
“You got that wrong Joe. Its not what I will do, its what you will do. How do you feel about this? And just when we were going to Italy too. I suppose that’s off now.”
“Cathy…”Joe stood crossed the room and bent down at her side. “Honey…” he took up her hand and tenderly kissed it, “I love you Cathy, and no matter what I intend to be there for you, so long as you’ll have me?”
“What are you saying Joe! You need time to think about something like this!”
“No I don’t. It was me that suggested you go see your doctor remember? It was your father that first speculated on the problem. I’ve had days to ponder the possibility of you being pregnant, and that’s given me all the time I’ve needed to know what to do. Cathy…will you marry me?”
“Oh God,” Catherine covered her face with her hands then lowered them to tell him sincerely, “I can’t Joe!” She wailed, “I still love Vincent, it wouldn’t be right to marry you.”
What minor jubilation her words gave Vincent, were soon marred by Joe’s reply, “But honey he didn’t want you, and you have to move on. And I’d take care of you Cathy, you and this baby. I love you so much. Look we’ll go to Italy, assuming you can fly while pregnant, have to check on that, and you can meet my folks, see what a wonderful bunch of people we are, and then give me your answer. I beg you to consider it Cathy, even if you don’t love me yet, we get along so well and I’m sure you’ll come to love me in time.”
“I don’t know.” Catherine faltered, “I need to see Vincent.”
“No you don’t! Where has he been these last few months? Has he been to visit you? No, so what does that tell you? He doesn’t care anymore Cathy, and the sooner you wake up to that fact and move on the better!”
“He does care! He loves me! Joe, there are things you don’t know…”
“Then tell me, help me to understand why a guy that’s turned you away deserves any of your heart?”
“Vincent is precognitive…” Catherine began and then launched into an explanation leaving out the bit about soul mates. Joe listened and Catherine watched his face for signs of understanding. Instead it seemed that with each word she spoke he was becoming more and more delighted until when she’d finished he cried; “So Vincent saw us together? And what does that tell you, Cathy? It’s not you and he that should be together, its you and I! Come on Cathy, its as plain as the nose on your face!”
“No, no it isn’t…” Catherine bit her lip and then started telling him about the soul mates hoping that would make him understand. However Joe was doubtful, “Never heard anything like that before. And if your father hadn’t of started that ball rolling I’d be inclined to think it were something Vincent had made up to make you stay with him. Only now that doesn’t ring true cause he finished with you. Look Cathy, you think about it okay? My proposal and my offer to take care of you and the baby for all your life. I do sincerely love you, and I’m sure we could make it work…”
Vincent heard no more, he’d heard enough, and swept from the terrace up onto the roof and away into the night. Had he of stayed another second everything would have become crystal clear.
“…even though the baby isn’t mine, even though its Vincent’s, I would gladly give it my name. So think about it Cathy and let me know, huh? You know where to find me. Call me when you’ve decided what you want to do.” Joe kissed her goodbye and left the apartment. But Catherine never even heard him go, her mind was in too much of a whirl.
*** *** ***
After a restless night where she was none the wiser by morning than she had been on going to bed, Catherine decided she had to see Vincent.
Things had changed now, and no matter how much she liked Joe, she did not love him would probably never love him, not in the same way she loved Vincent.
She selected her clothing wisely, though up top it was blistering hot, below ground it would be cooler, though not as cold as it often was. She put on flat pumps and denim jeans and accompanied it with a bottle green hooded sweatshirt with the words New Yorker emblazoned across the front in gold. Satisfied, she slipped her apartment keys into her jeans pocket and left her home, taking the stairs rather than wait for the elevator and after passing through the building’s large swing doors made her way toward the park.
Though she’d looked out across the park from her apartment on many occasions, it felt somewhat alien to her to be striding across the damp grass after not doing so for so many months. Once it had been an every day occurrence and she hadn’t realised just how much she’d missed it. There was a spring in her step as she walked jauntily along and she looked forward to entering the tunnels and seeing all her friends that she had missed terribly. Vincent the most, she longed to see him, wrap her arms around him she and anticipated his reaction when he saw her.
Maybe he might be a little difficult, but once he knew about the baby he couldn’t fail to stop this stupid idea and welcome her home with open arms.
As she reached the storm drain, she made a show of bending to tie her untied laces in order to listen and gaze all around her. When she was certain no one was looking she entered the dim interior of the storm drain and while her eyes adjusted to the light walked forward with arm outstretched to reach for the mechanism that would open the door to the tunnels below. Therefore when her hand touched material and a warm body Catherine stiffened and gasped, blinking rapidly to see who blocked her entry, a little relieved and perturbed to find it was Vincent, standing much the same as he had weeks ago, like he had never left at all. His arms were folded and he stood gruffly barring her entry.
“Vincent!” Catherine cooed, “How good it is to see you.” She decided to ignore the way he was standing, and the disturbing look in his eyes. She didn’t like that one bit.
“Catherine…” he acknowledged curtly.
“Can I come in? There’s something I have to tell you!” Catherine cried joyfully, sure that when he knew he’d be different entirely.
“I have no wish to hear what you have to say…”
“Oh but Vincent, you don’t understand…!” He held up a hand to silence her, and as if she hadn’t spoken went on; “I know all about it Catherine. I know you are with child.” Catherine felt as though someone had thrown a bucket of icy water over her. “You know…but how?”
“Doesn’t matter how. Suffices that I do know, and I think that well and truly decides our fate does it not?”
His voice contained not a trace of tenderness and prevented her from saying another thing. He appeared angry, furious and it frightened her. This was so unlike Vincent. She was carrying his child for God’s sake! Surely he wouldn’t turn aside from her now, not at a time like this, surely not!
“How so?” Catherine felt compelled to ask.
“You ask that?” He laughed derisively. Catherine quaked she didn’t like this side of Vincent one bit.
“Yes, you said it decides our fate, I want to know how?”
Vincent turned away from her reaching for the door mechanism, “Figure it out Catherine! You come here expecting me to be overjoyed to see you, when you’ve… you’ve…” he roared angrily frustrated by what had happened and told her angrily, “Its over Catherine…you and I are over…finished…do not come here again…another time I won’t even grant you my presence here. I do not want to see your face ever again!”
Before Catherine had time to recover from his outburst he had flung open the gate stepped through and slammed it shut again. By that time Catherine was reaching for and banging on the closed door screaming his name. On the other side Vincent leaned against the wall and covered his ears, tears fell relentlessly down his cheeks. That she’d had the audacity to believe he’d be happy about the fact she carried another man’s child beat him. Certainly she was not the person he thought her to be. Yet though he reasoned on these things and though he deemed it lucky to have found all this out before he’d married her, none of it made him any happier. He loved her, would always love her and he would die if he had to live without her. He had to admit that things had gone from bad to worse since he sent her away, and he had only himself to blame.
Slowly he walked away from the door, Catherine continued to thump on the other side and maybe she would have tried to gain entry if he hadn’t locked it on his way back. He’d return when she’d gone to unlock it for any other tunnel dwellers returning home that way. In the meantime he’d move out of earshot and try very hard to clamp down on the bond that joined them, so they’d never be connected again.
It was best that way.
*** *** ***
In the storm drain Catherine wept. She didn’t really know what had happened. And how had Vincent known she was pregnant? And why did he not care for her any longer because she was?
None of it made any sense.
Vincent loved children, so why was he being so awful about one of his own? Didn’t he believe he was the fa…th…er… Even as she said it she realised the truth. He didn’t. He didn’t believe he’d fathered their child…and he must be thinking then that the child was Joe’s…oh God! Catherine started hammering on the doors even harder, “Vincent, its not what you think! Vincent, I know you’re still there…let me in…let me in, Vincent please!”
She knew he wouldn’t. When Vincent had a bee in his bonnet he was very adamant and impossible to deal with…there was only one thing for it…she’d have to get word to Father, and he would have to act as mediator between them before Vincent would even agree to see her.
Turning on her heel, Catherine brushed away her tears with the backs of her hands and marched out of the storm drain into the sunshine beyond. Striding across the grass moments later, Catherine became more and more indignant with the whole affair…”Damn you Vincent! You didn’t give me a chance to explain…it would serve your right if you never saw me again…damn you! Think what you like, believe of me what you will, I know the truth. And Joe…he’s prepared to take on another man’s child as his own. Yet you! You believe this child is Joe’s and you say that you love me…why then would you not do likewise…huh so much for your undying love…” she panted as she strode across the grass. By the time she reached her apartment building her mind was made up, “I won’t marry Joe, that would be stupid, but I’ll let him take care of me…I need someone after all…someone that cares…and I’ll have this baby…and then…then…” Catherine brushed away hot angry tears unable to think that far ahead, it was too difficult to comprehend a life without Vincent and a life bringing up Vincent’s child alone. “Well if there’s one thing, at least the baby won’t look like Vincent. That sort of thing skips a generation. So I don’t have that to worry about, and that’s a blessing in disguise at the very least. No, I’ll go home, call Joe and ask for his support and nothing else. Of course Daddy will help, and Jen. I have some good friends who will never let me down, not like Vincent! Damn him!”
Yet though she convinced herself of these things they did not make her feel any better. She wanted Vincent. She wanted to be married to Vincent and bringing up their child together. Catherine was extremely distraught and unhappy and without Vincent her future looked bleak.
*** *** ***
“Vincent the sentries inform me that some kind of rumpus took place at the park entrance. Who was it do you know?”
“Yes Father, it was Catherine.” Vincent replied as he settled into his favoured armchair inside his father’s chamber.
“Yes don’t look so shocked.” Vincent reached for a cookie set on a plate before him, took a bite, brushed the crumbs from his jerkin and looked around for a mug of tea to wash it down with. Seeing the dregs of his father’s mug he picked it up and used that.
“Why were you arguing?”
“Who said we were?”
Father sighed, “Vincent you may say this is none of my business, but I’ve seen you these past few months, and this sending Catherine away has not been good for you. You’ve changed, and if Catherine came to visit with you that’s good, isn’t it? You ought to have been overjoyed to see her?”
“Ordinarily…but on this occasion the news she was bringing I found no pleasure in.”
“Catherine is pregnant.”
“Yes Father, don’t look so stunned, it happens.”
“Being cynical doesn’t become you Vincent. And I am shocked that you would argue with a pregnant woman, no matter who she is, but most certainly not with Catherine in that condition. How could you?”
“Catherine wanted to be allowed down here. I presume she expected me to have her back when she is pregnant with another man’s child.”
“Ah, that’s the reason. Then I’m sorry Vincent, you were perfectly at liberty to be angry in the circumstances. Oh dear, that means Catherine will never be a part of your life. But then what of the soul mates?”
“That theory has to pass us, just as it passed others. Obviously the world is not yet ready to acknowledge the presence of one such as me. And don’t even go expecting that someone else will come along. If it’s not Catherine, I want no one. She seemed so right for me, Father. Why did it have to go so wrong?”
“I know you don’t want to hear this Vincent, but I did tell you at the onset of this ridiculous idea of yours, that you were leaving yourself wide open to all sorts of grievous things. That no one suspected Catherine becoming pregnant in the grand theme of things was an oversight we will all rue forever, but mainly you Vincent, and my heart goes out to you and how you must be feeling right now.”
“I was stupid. You can say so. But had I of had that time over again, even in hindsight I wouldn’t have done it any different. These things had to happen, Father. I’m more angry with Catherine, she should have been more careful.”
“Yes that goes without saying. So she wanted to see you, did she intend to return to stay here? I have to say that seems a little unusual. If she loved Joe enough to sleep with him, why does she want to be here with her child and not with him?”
“You should know, Father. When a woman is pregnant her hormones are all over the place, she is seldom thinking clearly. Perhaps Catherine feels safer with us, though she has no one to be afraid of in her world. I’m certain her father will be delighted about the child, once the shock has worn off. He’ll support her. What grieves me is that she thought I’d be happy for her. I cannot believe that she would flaunt her pregnancy like that, to me, of all people. What did she hope to achieve?”
“I told you so, perhaps?”
“No, Catherine wouldn’t do that.”
“In your own words Vincent, pregnant women do the strangest of things.”
“Well I’m sorry Vincent, about the whole affair. I trust you won’t do anything stupid?”
“Such as killing myself? I thought of that. But it’s not the answer is it?”
Gravely, Father shook his head.
“I just have to learn to accept it. Catherine is no longer a part of my life and after all we shared mere friendship is not an option. It’s best that I never see her again. It’s going to take a long time, Father, and I apologise in advance if I appear to be a bear with a sore head.”
“In the circumstances Vincent, you can be excused. Would you like me to send word that Catherine is not to be allowed down here?”
“I don’t know. I can’t go that far, there are others that love her.”
“Yes, but they’d understand and be loyal to your feelings Vincent. You come first after all.”
“Then do as you see fit.”
Vincent rose from his seat. He looked older than his thirty odd years. He appeared old, haggard, lost and alone. His future stretched endlessly before him, a lonely future with nothing to savour or look forward to. His dreams had diminished when he’d first sent Catherine away, now they disappeared altogether.
Father watched him go, there was nothing he could add to make the passage of time any more bearable for his son, but he wished, oh how he wished that with one click of his fingers he could wipe away everything that had happened. For now he doubted that he would ever see his son smile again.
*** *** ***
The weeks went by. Catherine grew bigger and unhappier every day. Looking at her refection in the mirror each morning, she hated the image she saw there.
Nothing fit. All her clothes adorned only hangers in her wardrobe. She had to go out and buy some proper maternity clothes, and that grated on her nerves even more.
Joe though, bless him, adored her. Lovingly he would lay his hands on her belly and at times even kiss it. Catherine knew she would go a long way before she found a man as good as Joe. But she didn’t love him, not in the way she loved Vincent. With Vincent she was connected. It went deep, a tangible thread that was unbreakable, no matter how much she tried to put thoughts of him behind her.
The nights were the worst. When she fell into bed tired and depressed and thought of the tunnels deep beneath the city and the warmth and bliss of being wrapped in Vincent’s arms. She missed him unbearably and she hated him too for what he was putting her through. Feeling alone and desolate and the pregnancy thus took its toll, and Catherine soon began to feel very unwell.
Charles noticed, was naturally concerned and asked repeatedly what he could do to help. His daughter didn’t have to tell him whose child she carried her misery was enough to inform him.
Speaking to Peter one day he spoke of his concern, “I have to see Vincent, Peter. This isn’t right. She should be down there with him. Its his baby after all.”
Peter was startled, “Vincent’s child? Are you sure?” He’d heard differently from the man himself.
“She hasn’t said so, but I can tell. I think she’d know I’d interfere if she told me the child is Vincent’s.”
“Mm, well she’d be right there. But Charles, you have to be sure about this. She’s still with Joe isn’t she?”
“Yes, he’s very supportive of the situation.”
“Then that should tell you everything for it takes a very special kind of man to take on another man’s child.”
“Joe is that kind of man. And he loves Catherine very much.”
“I don’t know Charles. Unless we know for sure that Joe isn’t the father…or rather that Vincent is, then we shouldn’t interfere. Maybe you could ask Joe, if Cathy won’t tell you.”
“I couldn’t do that.”
“No, I understand how difficult that would be. But really Charles, we have to keep out of this. Why hasn’t Catherine been to see Vincent?”
“I believe she tried, she is very evasive about the whole thing. I don’t know what she went to tell him, that he wasn’t very nice to her was all I could glean.”
“That should tell you everything. I can’t imagine Vincent sending her away, if she told him the child was his, no matter how her felt about the relationship with Joe. If you ask me, he ought not have allowed her to pursue that in the first place. Catherine is a very beautiful young woman, there are always going to be other men attracted to her. She may even feel something for them, the problem is not that she does, but rather that Vincent can feel that she does. He has to remember that there are times when all of us find ourselves attracted to other people but that doesn’t necessarily mean we want to actively pursue a relationship with them.”
“I’ve never thought of it like that before. Of course with Vincent feeling everything Catherine feels, he would assume she wanted a relationship with Joe. It could be very difficult all through her life. Vincent might well become possessive.”
“I believe he has a tendency to be that way as it is. We have to remember how it is for him. There will always be people attracted to Cathy unfortunately it won’t be the same for him. There is always going to be that bit of resentment there.”
“Perhaps you’re right, Peter. And perhaps I shouldn’t interfere, but I’m worried about her. Joe is attentive and I know he’d jump at the chance to be closer to her, but she won’t entertain it. His support is all she will take from him.”
Peter’s eyebrows rose, “Well that tells me something. Has he never spent the night?”
“If you’re asking has he slept with her, well then, I really believe he never has. That’s one of the reasons I’m so sure this baby is Vincent’s. There’s been no one else.”
“No one else as in…”
“Having a relationship with Catherine. She went straight from Vincent to Joe. She sees Joe almost every day, but I know for a fact he never stays the night. I also know that when he attempts to kiss her, whether she knows I can see or not, she very discreetly turns her head to avoid him. I wish…you know what I wish…”
“As much as I admire Joe, would like no other man from above to be my son in law, I wish Catherine would not keep him hanging on like she is. I wish she would just tell him to get lost…its almost pitiful to watch him hope and dream and make plans, but even a fool can see that the relationship will never be more than friendship.”
“We need to speak to Vincent.”
Charles was taken aback, “But you just said…”
“I know what I said, but that’s what Catherine needs. Vincent has been there for her for so long, and in whatever capacity he can offer her now she needs him. Its as simple as that.”
“There’s no time like the present. Come on, we can use the secret passageway in the basement.”
Charles checked his watch, he did have meetings scheduled, but this was more important. “Just let me use the phone and rearrange some appointments, and I’ll be right behind you.”
“Okay meet me in the basement, I have a few supplies to take down there as it happens, I’ll go get them sorted.”
The two men parted company briefly, Charles to make his calls, Peter to collect together some medical supplies he had obtained for Father. When the two met up again ready to go, they entered the tunnels and walked along in silence.
Sentries announced their arrival and Father deep in concentration of a game of chess with one of the children, had to be prompted three times by the child before he heard the call.
“Charles Chandler and Peter are coming down.” Father told the child, “Where’s Vincent?”
“I’m here Father. I heard the announcement too. I can understand Peter being here. Its what Charles wants that concerns me.”
“Perhaps it’s a social visit?” Father suggested hopefully. Both knew that wasn’t the case, and as Vincent settled into his armchair to await their visitors, Father noticed the grim look that set about his son’s mouth. Whatever Charles had come for, it looked very much like Vincent would ensure that he went away without it.
Greetings were made all round as Peter and Charles stepped into the chamber. Usual pleasantries exchanged between them then as things do silence enveloped the small group and Charles and Vincent grew agitated, each expecting the other to say something. Finally Peter cleared his throat, “I have something to say.” He aimed the statement at Vincent, who looked up surprised. “You Peter?” Vincent looked from Peter to Charles in turn.
“Yes me. Because I can see that the moment Charles starts to tell you his concerns you are going to leap down his throat. You’ve already made up your mind whatever Charles has come down here to impart you don’t want to hear it. Is that true or is that true?”
A look of anger crossed Vincent’s face, “Whatever Catherine has done, is doing, expects to do or doesn’t expect to do, is of no concern of mine! And I have no wish to hear anything you have to say on the matter!”
“Not even when she’s carrying your baby!” Charles flared before Vincent had time to cover his ears.
With his hands half way to his ears Vincent faltered, “My baby?”
“Yes yours! Who the hell do you think made her pregnant, Joe?”
“Actually yes. What proof do you have that the child is mine?” Vincent’s heart raced. He had never even contemplated the chance of it.
Now Charles balked, he had no proof, but he knew the child wasn’t Joe’s, he was ninety nine percent sure of that. His silence replied for him and Vincent’s hopes fell. “You have none.” His voice was flat expressionless. It pained Father to watch the agony pass over his son’s face. For a moment there he had seen such hope in Vincent’s beautiful blue eyes.
“It’s not what I know. Its what I see, what I feel and I know the child isn’t Joe’s.”
“Then that’s contradictory to what I know.” Vincent sighed heavily, and Father took up the narrative, “Vincent overheard Catherine speaking to Joe about the baby. Joe said the child was his.”
Charles and Peter gasped but Vincent cried, “No, he insinuated the child was his.”
“But you said yesterday…”
“I know what I said, but that was because I was so certain of the facts…” Vincent felt his heart lift again, was there the slightest chance the child was his?
“All I know is that Catherine has never had any kind of intimate relationship with Joe…at least she hasn’t since she fell pregnant…if ever she did before…and she keeps him at arms length. He wants to be a part of her life, he talks all the time about the baby, but Catherine…she…well you can see it in her eyes that he irritates her…even though she welcomes his support.”
“If he was the father and the act of conception had been a mistake that she regrets that would bring about such a reaction to Joe now.” Father told them.
“Yes, you’re right and I’ve thought of that.” Charles replied, “But it doesn’t weigh up. My daughter isn’t one to rub salt in another’s wounds yet even to Joe’s face she talks about Vincent all the time. That isn’t like Catherine, she isn’t callous, if Joe were the baby’s father, she wouldn’t speak about another man all the time, that would be hurtful.”
“I was horrible to her.” Vincent mumbled and all three men turned to look at him.
“As I understand.” Charles told him, “and it hurt Catherine deeply. Why do you think that was? She came to see you didn’t she, to tell you about the baby?”
“And did you let her speak?”
“No, I’d already overheard the conversation she had with Joe. I wasn’t prepared to hear anything she had to say.”
“And so she never told you. I can understand that. If you were ready to assume the worst, why should she enlighten you to the truth? Far better for you to suffer as you were making her suffer, and…while we are on the subject… you’ve made her suffer since you set her on this foolhardy path to begin with!”
“If the child is mine, she should be here.”
“Yes she should!” Charles reiterated forcefully.
“But what if the child isn’t mine?”
“And what if it is?” Father asked. “Vincent, you owe it to Catherine to let her speak, only she can enlighten us all to what is so. How is she by the way?” He turned the question to Charles.
“Emotional, weary, doesn’t eat enough, depressed, is that enough to go on?”
Vincent felt terrible, he’d started all of this it was time to end it. “I’ll go see her.”
“She’s not at the apartment. Hasn’t been there in weeks. She’s at my house. That’s why I know so much about her relationship with Joe.”
“Oh. Then can you have her come down here? Or meet me in the park?”
Charles shook his head, “And admit I’ve been to see you? No way!” They all laughed.
“Then what can we do? I can’t come to your home it’s too exposed.”
“I have an idea.” Father responded, “We can have one of the girls invite Catherine down. Whether she’ll come or not remains to be seen, but it’s worth a try.”
Everyone nodded and responded favourably.
“Then that’s what we shall do. Just a minute, I’ll call Jamie.” He went to reach for his cane to tap out a message when Vincent stilled his hand. “No, I have another idea. Peter had to come here with the supplies, so there is absolutely no reason why I should not have given him a note to give to Catherine. I think its best the invite comes from me.”
“Yes Vincent, your right. Peter?” Father looked toward his old time friend.
“Yes, I can do that. I’ll take it straight round there after leaving here. Is she home Charles?”
“She was when I left. She hardly goes anywhere these days. Mooches around the house agitated most of the time, not knowing what to do with her time. That’s why I think Joe’s visits are a welcome distraction, but she soon tires of him being there.”
“She needs me.” Vincent stated flatly.
“Can you feel that?” Charles asked.
Vincent shook his head. “I have been unable to feel anything since Catherine fell pregnant, it’s as though our connection has been severed. Look I’ll go to my chamber and write her a note. This is going to take some thinking out.” Vincent rose and the three watched him go in silence. All hoped this plan would work. All felt that it wouldn’t.
*** *** ***
It went disastrously wrong the moment Charles entered his house. Catherine met him in the hall, “Daddy where have you been? Barbara said you’d rescheduled your appointments for today, but Bob Jenkins needed to speak with you urgently. They’ve both been ringing here and…” By this time Catherine had walked right up to her father and her eyes narrowed, “That smell…daddy? You’ve been down to the tunnels haven’t you?” She asked accusingly, “And don’t even try to deny it, I’d know that smell anywhere!”
The tunnels had a definite odour not found anywhere else, of damp rock, old books and candle wax.
Charles didn’t know what to say, so he stuck to the truth, “I was at Peter’s…” he begun.
“Don’t give me that, you’ve been to the tunnels and I want to know why!”
“If you’ll just let me speak.”
Catherine listened as her father went on, “I was at Peter’s, he needed to see Father with some medical supplies, and so I went with him.”
“Just like that?” Catherine didn’t believe a word of it. “And you phoned your office to rearrange your appointments on some whim to go down to the tunnels with Peter? Come off it daddy, you went to see Vincent didn’t you? Well what did you have to say? Or didn’t he let you speak, seems he’s good at doing that these days!”
“Catherine!” Charles shouted as his daughter turned on her heel and sped from the hall. He went after her, shrugging out of his raincoat as he went. “He gave Peter a note for you.”
“Oh really!” Catherine cried “And that’s supposed to make me feel better? Why did he give it to Peter? You think I’m stupid? You didn’t expect I would know you’d been to the tunnels? Let me get this straight. You and Peter and Vincent concocted some story that Vincent simply wrote me a note for Peter to deliver sometime today…land et me assume that Vincent actually wanted to see me without being forced into it by you! That’s it isn’t it? Well I don’t want to read his note. So you can tell Peter…”
At that moment the doorbell rang, “Oh talk of the devil.” Catherine sneered as she ran down the hall to yank open the door. A startled Peter stood there as Catherine rifled his pockets, “I hear you have something for me…come on then deliver!”
Peter’s eyes met Charles’s over Catherine’s shoulder and he dished the note from Vincent from the inside breast pocket of his jacket, “I have a note from Vincent…” Peter began as Catherine snatched it from his hand and ripped it into tiny shreds. She let the bits of paper fall then clapped her hands together, “There, you can go back and tell Vincent, thanks, but no thanks!” With that she spun on her heel and ran up the stairs to her bedroom.
“That went well…how…” Peter began stopping only because Catherine was coming down the stairs again.
“Can you perform an abortion?”
The silence was such that one could hear a pin drop as the mouths of both Charles and Peter dropped open in stunned surprise.
“Peter, I asked you a question. Can you perform an abortion?”
“On…on…you?” Peter asked.
“No on Mother Teresa! Of course on me!”
“But Catherine…” Peter shook his head, “No…No I can’t give you an abortion…I refuse to.”
“Fine, I’ll go elsewhere.”
Charles had up until that moment been too stunned to speak, but now he flared, “Catherine no! You wouldn’t. That’s my grandchild you have there.”
“I’m carrying a monster daddy. You want that for me? You want to pass this off as your grandchild? Do you seriously want to introduce a lion faced freak as your grandchild? I think not!”
“It won’t be like that!” Charles grabbed at Catherine’s shoulders before she had a chance to run again, stopping her on the spot. “It misses a generation, you know that?”
“Oh and so my child has to accept that its child is going to be the furry one? No thank you, daddy. I’ve thought this through and my mind is made up. Vincent doesn’t want me, he believed this child to be Joe’s. Joe was happy to accept Vincent’s child, but Vincent who sent me off in the first place was unprepared to do likewise. So I made up my mind, it’s best for all concerned if I get rid of this baby…because as things stand I don’t as hell want it!”
“No, you’re angry…you love Vincent…you would never harm his child…” Charles began.
“You’re wrong daddy. I did love Vincent, past tense, now I hate him. I hate what he did to me, what he set me up for, I hate having Joe come round expecting that I will love him one day. It’ll never happen daddy! I never want to love another man as long as I live! All they do is break your damn heart! So I want an abortion…and I’m darn sure I’m going to get one!”
“You’re on the borderline Cathy, it might already be too late. You’ll have no time to think it through if you mean that.” Peter looked at her shrewdly.
“I have thought it through. I’ve thought of nothing more for weeks. I’ll go make an appointment.” She turned with intent to the study where the telephone book was located but Peter caught her arm.
“If you’re serious, I’ll do it.”
Charles gasped, “Peter, No!”
With sorrow Peter looked at his friend and turned back to Catherine, “If the child should look like Vincent, it has to be me. Otherwise questions will be rife, and while you obviously don’t care what that would do to Vincent, you should at least think of yourself.”
Catherine bit her lower lip, “You’re right. So when…”
Peter looked at her, checked her size, knew her dates, knew the risks… ”The child could well survive this…” He warned her. Catherine shrugged “You’ll think of something. I just want rid of it.”
Neither Peter nor Charles could believe they heard her say that, they were shocked but said nothing. This wasn’t like the Catherine they knew, she was deeply bitter. An abortion was the last things she needed. But if Peter didn’t perform it, she would make an appointment and likely have a termination within twenty-four hours.
“Its Monday, my diary is booked through tomorrow…the earliest I could schedule it would be Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, take your pick.”
Tempted to say Wednesday, Catherine was thus surprised to her herself say, “Thursday morning.”
Both Peter and Charles were only slightly relieved that she had taken the longer option. Still it gave them only sixty hours grace. Sixty hours to make her change her mind, or have her regret this decision for the rest of her life.
*** *** ***
With her mind settled on something Catherine began to feel better. Her future suddenly dawned brighter, sunnier and she made plans. First she would tell Joe that she did not love him and thought it best they parted company. Besides once he knew of her intention with the baby the chances were he’d think her too callous to be with any way. That was fine by her, an easy way out of an unfortunate situation. Deep down inside she still blamed Joe for everything.
Next she had to make certain that things with Vincent were terminated. She in no way regretted ripping up his note, reading it would have only made matters worse. Likely he would have said things to pull on her heartstrings and that would have been no good. She’d had enough of emotional blackmail from Joe and her father. However, she was intelligent enough to realise that until she made it plain, her relationship with Vincent was still ticking over. She had to finalise it, and as painlessly for everyone as possible.
After several attempts she finally decided what to tell him and sat down to write him a note.
“Vincent…” she began not wishing to precede it with dear, dearest or my love, endearments she had used in the past. His name straight forward and to the point would suffice.
“Firstly I didn’t read your note. I knew my father had been to see you. I could smell the tunnels on him the moment he walked through the door. So anything you had to say would have been concocted between the two of you, and not from your heart.
No doubt he told you that the baby was yours. Notice I say ‘was’. Had you of let me explain months ago I could have told you so myself. But you didn’t, you assumed the worst of me, just as you did when you noticed I was attracted to Joe.
I said the baby was yours, because by the time you read this note, the baby will be no more. I am having the pregnancy terminated and that is what I wish for our relationship.
From this moment on, any friendship, plans, or future that we had are ended. Whatever our soul mates think to that, I could not care in the slightest. No longer do I intend to sacrifice my life in order to appease theirs.
It’s over Vincent. We are over. Do not reply to this message as I will not read anything you send. Do not try to contact me. I shall be leaving here shortly, I may go to London for a time, I’m not sure yet.
That’s all I have to say.
Even to her it sounded harsh, but it was how she felt. She felt bitter and hard and different. The path Vincent had set her on had changed her, and it had not been for the better. Catherine knew she had a long emotional roller coaster ride ahead of her, but she felt by the end of it all she would feel was relief.
She placed the note into an envelope and addressed it to a helper’s store. Then she worked out if she posted it Wednesday afternoon, it would arrive at the shop Thursday morning. By the time it reached Vincent’s hands the baby would be no more.
That suited Catherine fine…she hardened her heart and her resolve one more notch and began her next task, working out how best to tell Joe.
Joe had been a faithful friend but he irritated her beyond belief. Always fussing around her, always making plans for their future. She supposed any other girl would be flattered, and had she not felt so bitter to everything that had happened, she supposed she might have fallen in love with Joe and been happy.
Now though the future looked brighter with a clean slate ahead of her.
Joe always called on his way home from work, as regular as clockwork then if he could he would go home and return later and stay most of the evening. Catherine knew her father would miss Joe’s visits, which was why she had opted to return to her apartment after the abortion, and from there make plans to go abroad for a while.
She didn’t have long to wait for Joe to call after work. He arrived as cheerful as ever armed with a bunch of pretty flowers, pushing them into her hands the moment she answered the door, and leaning forward to kiss her, though she had successfully avoided his kisses for so long that all he caught was air.
“Hi Cathy, and how’s my girl?” His soft brown eyes danced with love and affection, “And how’s junior today?” He slid a hand over the soft bump of her abdomen as he entered the hall.
Catherine said nothing. She refused to feel anything at all about her decision to end her baby’s life. She had to remain strong and focused and see the end result. Now was not time to become soft and emotional or pass any comment as to the child’s welfare. So she ignored his questions and followed him into the lounge where her father sat trying to read a newspaper.
“Hello Joe.” Her father looked up as his friend walked in, he looked sidelong at Catherine, wondering what she might have told the young man. By his appearance nothing yet, and Charles felt on tender hooks wondering what was to come.
“Evening Charles. I hear you weren’t in the office today. Are you feeling unwell?”
“No, I had things to do at home today.” Charles hated to lie and a sidelong glance at Catherine begged her not to elaborate. She didn’t. However, she did ask Joe to go with her into the kitchen. Charles caught Joe’s curious look as he followed Catherine out of the lounge. Charles was aware Joe was anticipating something but didn’t dare wonder what.
As soon as they arrived in the kitchen Catherine closed the door. Joe thought that was strange and his nerves got the better of him. Anxiety shone from his eyes as he asked her, “What’s wrong, Cathy?”
“Joe, I’m not even going to try to make this easier than it has to be. Short and blunt that’s the best way.” Catherine heard herself and cringed, ‘what had she become that she cared not for another’s feelings?’
“Oh no…Cathy…please…not that…please…” Joe begged sensing what was to come.
“Joe, its no use prolonging the agony. I don’t love you, I will never love you, I’m sorry. But that’s the way it is.”
“No, no, Cathy…not this…is it space you want? I can do space…maybe I’ve come on too strong…I thought I might have…I’m always here aren’t I? Regular as clockwork…but I love you Cathy…and I want to be with you…”
“I know you do Joe, and that’s what makes this so hard. Don’t you see? I can never love you?”
“Maybe not in the same way as I love you, yes I accept that, but Cathy, we can make it work, I know it… and you know I’d take the baby as mine…”
“There is no baby, Joe.”
“No, no baby?” Joe looked shocked, then as his mind raced he remembered Charles had been out of work all day and he exclaimed, “Oh God Cathy! That’s why Charles wasn’t at work. You lost the baby…oh God…why didn’t you tell me, I’d have been round straight away…oh God, its awful, you poor thing…here you should sit down…” He pulled a chair from under the table for her, but she sidestepped it and leaning against the counter faced him to say, “No Joe, you don’t understand. I’ve not lost the baby…I’m having a termination. An abortion.”
Joe’s face went white. He felt sick. The room spun and he leaned on the chair for support.
“No…” he cried with disbelief, his knees buckling…”Cathy, no, you can’t…”
“I can. It’s my body and I can do as I like.” Again she cringed. How often had she heard other women say the self same selfish thing and hate them for it, and now here she was doing likewise?
“It’s not your body that’s dying though is it? You are killing an innocent life! I beg you to reconsider. Does your father…” Joe turned and ran from the kitchen. Catherine tore after him.
Charles dropped the newspaper when Joe tore into the room, “Do you know about this! Do you know what she plans to do?”
Gravely Charles asked, “If you mean the abortion…”
“God, how could you!? You should be locking her in her room or something…how can you sit there reading a frigging newspaper and not do anything about this! She’s killing your grandchild for God’s sake!”
“I know, and I quite agree, it’s barbaric!”
Joe was stunned to silence for a moment, then continued, “So you aren’t in agreement?”
“No I am not!” Charles flared, “It breaks my heart. But it would seem her mind is made up.” Both men glared at Catherine who retorted angrily, “Yes it is…so now you know. Daddy, you can get back to reading your paper and mind your own business, and Joe…you can…” Catherine glared at Joe, her chest heaving with anger, “Get lost!”
“No.” Charles stood his tone deathly disquieting, “You young lady can get lost. I want you out of this house now. Collect your things and go!”
“Don’t but daddy me…I’ve been thinking…if you intend to go ahead with this wickedness I want nothing more to do with you. Do you think I could bear to look at you again, and not remember what you’ve done? What you’ve robbed me of, not to mention robbing that child of its life. And for what? To get back at Vincent? When you hit below the belt Catherine, you really hit below the belt. Well get out, that’s all I can say, get out of my house and never come back, you callous little bitch.”
For the first time in all of this tears pricked the back of Catherine’s eyes. Losing her father’s respect and love meant too much. For a split second she reconsidered her plans, but then a sudden thought of a lifetime of Vincent or Joe changed her mind back again. She turned on her heel, and slammed the door shut behind her.
“She won’t go.” Charles told Joe, unconvinced. The two men were silent as they heard drawers and cupboards slamming from the room above. Then footsteps sounding down the stairs. They waited in breathless anticipation for the door to reopen and Catherine appear with some angry comment or another, and Charles was ready with an apology. Instead the front door slammed, and before either of the two men realised what was happening Catherine was getting into her car.
“She’s leaving!” Joe shouted as he raced out of the room and down the hall. He yanked open the door in time to see the bright red tail-lights of Catherine’s car flying down the drive.
“CATHERINE!” Charles bellowed from behind Joe.
Catherine did not look back and her car was soon lost to their sight in rush hour traffic.
“I have to go after her.” Joe announced fumbling for his car keys, “Got to stop her doing something she will regret for the rest of her life.”
Charles held him back, “We’ve got till Thursday morning. Let her calm down, she’ll not see sense right now. I’ll go round to her apartment with an apology tomorrow. Things always look brighter in the light of day.”
“I hope you’re right Charles. As for me, I’m not taking any chances. I love that kid as if it’s my own, and she’ll kill it over my dead body. I’m going after her now!”
Seeing Joe was adamant Charles let him go. He hoped Joe could make his daughter see sense, but somehow he doubted it.
*** *** ***
Beneath the city streets, Vincent was agitated. He’d hoped Catherine would have been to see him by now. Surely she would have read his note? He’d been up to the park entrance twice and waited but she hadn’t showed up. Now he was worried, feeling that something must have gone wrong.
“Do stop pacing Vincent, you are making me dizzy.” Father told his son not for the first time that evening. “Perhaps Peter hasn’t had a chance to see her yet.”
“He was following Charles home. Charles said Catherine would be there, surely she would have read the note by now?”
“Did you say anything to reflect her father’s visit perhaps? How did you word your message?”
“I told her that I’d been thinking about things and would like a chance to speak with her. Perhaps she felt I was demanding a visit, perhaps I could have worded it better, but I was anxious to know f the child was mine.”
“You didn’t ask that did you?”
“No, I didn’t think that would be appropriate.”
“I should say not.”
“Did you tell her you loved her?”
Vincent shook his head, “I wasn’t sure if I should. My actions of late have not spoken of love. I did start the letter dearest Catherine though.”
“Mm, you should have signed it with love also.”
“I did. Maybe it wasn’t enough.”
“And maybe she hasn’t read it yet. Tomorrow will be soon enough to worry…what’s that? Listen.”
Vincent listened, Pascal was sending a message, and hope flared to life in Vincent’s heart and died again when he realised the message was to say that Peter had entered the tunnels.
“Peter again, so soon?” Father and son looked at one another each asking questions neither dared voice. Their agitation matched Peter’s as he entered the chamber moments later.
“Vincent good, you’re here. I delivered the note unfortunately she was aware her father had been here. She tore the note to shreds without reading it. I’m sorry Vincent.”
“It’s not your fault. Thank you for trying Peter.”
Both men could see that wasn’t all, as Peter still remained agitated.
“Something wrong Peter?” Father ventured.
“In a word, yes. Look I’m betraying a confidence here, and I wouldn’t normally interfere but…I think she’s wrong…”
“For not reading the note. No, I did wonder if she might not…”
“No, you don’t understand Vincent. It’s not that. Catherine was in a very strange mood, whether because of her father’s interference or something else I don’t know, but she…well she asked…look there’s no easy way to say this…Catherine is having an abortion.”
“NO!” Both Father and Vincent cried together.
“But she can’t.” Father cried.
“Believe me she can.”
Vincent was thoughtful then asked, “Did she ask you to do it?”
Gravely, Peter nodded, “Yes.”
“On principle I accepted…” Both men cried out angrily and Peter hastened to add, “If I didn’t she would have gone and booked in with a clinic for tomorrow. I played for time and I told her I could do it Wednesday night or Thursday morning. She opted for Thursday. But I’m not going to do it.” Peter passed a weary hand through his hair “I’m hoping you can entertain me in this.”
“What do you mean?” Father asked guardedly.
“Look, she’s on the borderline for the last possible date for a termination. The child could live, though its survival is doubtful. I would have to anaesthetise Catherine to perform a termination this late in the day. I thought perhaps when she came around she could find herself down here with the baby still inside her. If she comes down here awhile I know she will change her mind. In fact since then it will be passed the time for a termination, we can force her hand so to speak…make her have the baby, then when she realises that Vincent does love her…well…everything should go back to normal?”
Father thought it a trifle underhand but could see Peter’s point. He was surprised therefore when Vincent questioned, “And Catherine maintains the child is mine?”
Relieved, Peter nodded, “Yes Vincent she is adamant about that.”
In a voice deathly quiet Vincent asked, “And yet she proposes to kill it?”
Slowly, Peter nodded. Inside he felt sick with apprehension and dread. Vincent it seemed would not play along the way he had hoped.
“No.” Vincent strode from one side of the chamber to the other, “No…no…no!” he roared mightily, then brought one fist down onto a pile of books bending the top one in two.
Gingerly, Father dared ask, “No to what, Vincent?”
“I don’t want her here. Perform the termination Peter, if that’s what she wants. Let’s end this whole fiasco now!” With that Vincent waltzed from the chamber in a flurry of black cloak and dust.
Peter looked askance at Father, “I can’t do it Jacob. I can’t kill the child.”
“You said it might live even though aborted?”
“What did you mean when you said if it did it might not survive?”
“Ordinarily if the child looked human I would rush it to intensive care, let it have the best of chances. But if it should favour Vincent…” he left the sentence unfinished, they both knew the reason.
“Then bring it here. If it looks like Vincent bring it here, in fact whether it is dead or alive bring it here, promise me Peter?”
Peter nodded, “I will. And if its alive I’ll bring down an incubator, you’ve a generator down here haven’t you?”
“Mouse has one.”
“Good, then Thursday morning have it ready, you might well need it.”
“And if the child is normal…what then?”
“Yes I see what you mean. Then I’ll bring it here regardless. Above, an unwanted child would go up for adoption however any child of Vincent’s would cause problems. I’ll bring it here whatever happens Jacob, I promise.”
They gazed at one another gravely for a time and then Peter turned on his heel and made his way home. His heart was heavy, what he had to do worried him. He hoped Catherine might see sense by Thursday. He hoped he would not have to do what he’d promised her he would do.
*** *** ***
Tuesday was a long day and Catherine spent it holed up in her apartment. She had done something about the telephone that had been easy, she only had to unplug it, but she could not stop visitors from hammering on her door. First it was Joe, then her father, now it was Joe again.
“I know you’re in there Cathy.” Joe called, “Please let me in. We need to talk.”
Catherine remained silent. There was nothing she needed to say to Joe that she hadn’t already said. He just had to learn to accept it.
While he spoke, she went into her bedroom and quietly closed the door. There she began packing the few things she would need for her visit to Peter’s, and another bag for her overseas trip to England. As she packed she could only vaguely hear Joe’s voice. What she was unprepared for was the light tapping on her balcony window.
Angry he had been, furious, disgusted with her, and vicious contempt Vincent had felt all those things after Peter’s revelation, but when he’d had a chance to simmer down he realised he’d been the one to bring all this on. Father, Catherine, every one who had spoken to him about it these past few months had been right, he should never have sent Catherine away in the first place. He should realise that there would always be people coming in and out of Catherine’s life, and that she might find some of those people attractive. It didn’t necessarily follow that she would want a relationship with them. Vincent understood that now, and he blamed himself for the road to destruction that he had set her on.
So he stood on her balcony terrace tapping lightly, hoping that she might let him in. He knew what he must do. Only one thing would suffice if only she would open the door.
Frozen to the spot Catherine stared at Vincent standing on the other side of the door, his silhouette haloed by the bright full moon. It had been months since she had seen him stand there and every memory rushed back of all the times she had raced to fling open the doors and slide into his arms. Catherine ached to be held by him now, to have him smooth away all the horrors of the last few months and put it behind her. But she couldn’t, she’d endured too much hurt for it to be washed away just like that.
They gazed at one another through the glass until Catherine turned away and resumed her packing as if Vincent didn’t exist. When she heard the door handle turn she looked up in stunned surprise, Vincent had never dared to intrude before…then she saw the determination and the sorrow in his eyes and her resolve wavered a little.
While his eyes were fixed on her Catherine watched his hand turn the doorknob, when it clicked but refused to open she remembered it was locked. Both disappointment and satisfaction flooded through her. Vincent gazed into her eyes, begging her to let him in.
Outside in the hallway she could just about hear Joe lamenting to be let in, could hear him promising all kinds of things…and Catherine wondered what she should do. A thought flashed through he mind of letting them both in at once and seeing what they made of one another, well what Joe would make of Vincent at least, and then to tell him ‘is this what you want Joe, to claim fatherhood to someone that looks like this?’
That would be too cruel, and Catherine wondered how she had dared to think it. She had changed recently, whether it was hormonal or the things she’d been forced to endure she did not know but she did know she was bitter and tired with both of them.
“Go…” her voice faltered, “Go away Vincent!” She called through the glass then opening the door to the lounge she marched up to the outside door and hollered, “Leave me alone, Joe! I don’t want you, get used to it!”
She flopped wearily onto the sofa and closed her eyes. She was tired of this, tired of everything. Her whole life had been one round of ups and downs, nothing ever on the level, oh for the blessed relief of bliss and tranquillity, a calm existence with no worries. Good job Thursday was almost there.
Catherine sat for a good half hour pondering her future and when she heard no more from Joe, supposed he had left. Her heart did a double take when she looked up at the balcony doors leading from the lounge, Vincent was still out there, he’d moved only from her bedroom doors to the living room…those doors she knew were unlocked…
“I can’t give him the satisfaction…” Catherine stood and went wearily toward the doors, her intention to lock them and make him see she meant business, but as her hands reached for the doorknob so did his on the other side. Whether he knew her intent or he expected to be let in Catherine was never sure but the moment he turned the knob and the door swung open he was inside her apartment and facing her.
That same odour filled her senses, books, rocks and candle wax, and… Vincent…and she didn’t know how it happened, neither did she see it coming, but one moment he was standing there in front of her and the next she was enveloped in his arms. With his head over her shoulder she felt the tears wet on his cheeks, but her resolve to be strong remained intact and as much as she wanted to never be anywhere else in the whole wide world, she summoned all her strength and wriggled free of his arms. He reached for her, tried to bring her back against him, wishing only to wash away the past few months with his love and affection…for until that moment he hadn’t fully realised how much he had missed her. “Catherine, please…”
“Please what, Vincent?” Catherine demanded.
“Please let me hold you.”
Catherine took a step back. “No!”
“I love you.” He spoke quietly, tears bedimming his eyes.
Again Catherine’s resolve diminished a little.
“You can say that now…”
“I could always say it.”
“Right. You sent me away, not just once Vincent…but three times…the last was the worst of all, you wouldn’t let me speak, and now that you know what I wanted to tell you, you’ve decided you want me after all? Get lost Vincent, I don’t love you anymore!” she lied.
Vincent swallowed with difficulty, his eyes stinging with tears, “I can understand that you feel that way, and I apologise…but Catherine…there are other things…there is another we must consider…and you loved me once…”
“The baby?” Catherine laughed derisively. “Two days from now there will be no baby!”
“Yes, I know.” Vincent spoke sadly.
“You know? How?” Catherine was thoughtful a moment then added, “Peter. I should have known. He told you didn’t he?”
Vincent couldn’t lie, neither could he break a promise so he declined to reply.
“Just go Vincent. What we had is over. After Thursday I’m making a new life for myself. It doesn’t include you, or Joe or any soul mates, for once I’m doing what I want to do, and to hell with the lot of you!” She tried pushing him out of the door, but Vincent was unmoveable. He stood his ground, “I love you, and I know that you love me.”
“Do I? Don’t lie to yourself Vincent…you know exactly how I feel…and if this is love…then…” Catherine laughed hysterically, “I’d hate to know what hate is!”
“You’re bitter, I can understand that.”
“Oh really! You don’t know the half of it! Get out of here Vincent before I call the police.”
Vincent’s eyes darted to the telephone, then back to Catherine, he wondered if she’d dare do that…to him…knowing all it would mean…Catherine glared at him…then walked toward the telephone. When she picked it up and turned back before dialling, Vincent had gone and the jubilation she expected to feel didn’t come.
“You callous bitch!” Catherine whispered tearfully, “What is wrong with you!”
Still she did not call after him, she sighed deeply and went to the door, shut and locked it, then slumped back down in the sofa, her mind full of chaotic thoughts, until she drifted into a fitful sleep staying there on the sofa until morning.
*** *** ***
Wednesday…it brought no further relief for any of them.
Charles was in his house watching the hands of the clock as he got ready for work saying; ‘this time tomorrow…’
Peter dreaded the following morning.
Joe wondering what he could possibly do to stop Catherine making the worst mistake of her life.
Vincent, was sick to the heart and wanting to end his life the moment Catherine ended the life of their child…
Father, pained for the sake of everyone…moreover for his son’s agony…
She awoke groggy eyed and unsure what the day was and sat up quickly. The room span and she lay down again, distraught to find she had spent the night on the sofa. Morning sickness had long gone now, but she dashed to the bathroom anyway…and was as sick as a dog. What was wrong with her? As she gazed at her wan expression in the mirror, she remembered other times when she had gazed at herself there, times when her cheeks were flushed, her eyes bright and her lips swollen from Vincent’s kisses.
“Oh God…oh God…Vincent…I love you so…” Catherine’s knees buckled beneath her and she sobbed uncontrollably, and dragged herself out to the lounge only to cry harder still when she saw the balcony doors and remembered all that had happened the night before. She cried harder still when she admitted how good it had been to be back in Vincent’s arms. In those few blissful moments and the security she had felt, the love and warmth of belonging…and for the briefest of moments the searing joy to know his child lived inside her.
“I can’t do it.” Her hand touched her abdomen lovingly, and then a fresh bout of resolve flowed through her, “I have to. It’s the only way. Vincent said he loved me, yet all these months he kept away. He would know how I felt…yet he stayed away…what kind of love is that? No, he’s only back now because he knows about the baby…so what kind of future will we have? If there is no baby, then I will really see if he loves me despite everything…but then…I won’t be here to know.”
All day long she reasoned along similar lines, one moment sure she would never have the abortion, the next positive it was the best thing to do. By the time Wednesday evening arrived she fell into another fitful sleep still undecided.
*** *** ***
Wet, chilly and cold. No sunshine to cheer her. The day reflected her mood as Catherine left her apartment and walked straight into Joe.
“Backtrack…I can’t let you do this Cathy.” He told her tugging her back into the apartment. “You’re gonna regret this for the rest of your life.”
“Let me go Joe! You can’t do this, I’ll call the police.”
”Be my guest, but I warn you I’ve already spoken with them. Seems some highly emotional woman might call them today and make untrue claims about being held against her will in her own cushy apartment.”
“It's true, go ahead call them.” He pointed to the telephone, even intended to stride across and pick it up till he realised as he stepped toward it Catherine made a dash for the door. He grabbed her arm before she got very far. “Not so fast, Cathy. I’m doing this for your own good.”
Exasperated, Catherine checked the clock on the wall it was almost nine and the appointment with Peter was scheduled for ten.
“I’d best close the door, save you making another dash for it.” Joe told her walking around one side of the sofa. Quick as a flash Catherine was over the back of it, very agile for a five months pregnant woman, and out of the door before Joe reached it. She ran the full length of the hall and thanked her lucky stars when the elevator door opened as she reached them, only to swear most unladylike as she was bundled back out again by her father, saying “Oh no you don’t young lady…get back in to that apartment.”
“Daddy please…let me go.”
Joe appeared and Charles raised an eyebrow, “Two minds with a single thought?” He questioned the younger man. Catherine glanced from one to the other telling them, “Likely story, I bet the two of you concocted this little idea between you.”
“Absolutely not. Haven’t seen or spoken to Joe since Monday.” Her father told her as he locked the apartment door and put the key in his pocket. “Now how about a game of cards, monopoly, or something else to while away the next couple of hours. I’m sure Peter will be relieved to know you aren’t going to make the appointment.”
“No.” Catherine looked toward Joe then her father “You can’t do this to me. It’s up to me what I do about this situation. If Peter doesn’t perform the termination today, I can go somewhere else. Or do you intend to keep me locked up for the next two days?”
“If that’s what it takes, yes.” Joe replied.
In desperation, Catherine looked out at the terrace, she had an idea. It was ludicrous and she wouldn’t carry it out, but they didn’t know that.
“Making me have this baby will be the ruin of me. I can always have it adopted.”
“Then have it adopted.” Her father told her, “At least then it will be alive.”
When that didn’t work Catherine walked toward the balcony, “I need some air.” She told the two men and opened the doors, then pretended to lean out too far over the wall, “If you don’t let me out of this apartment, I‘ll take the other way out.” She faced them. Charles and Joe gasped, “She wouldn’t?” they asked one another. Catherine was overjoyed. They believed she’d actually contemplate suicide.
“I may as well be dead than be forced to have this baby.” She told them. Inside she laughed at herself, being so melodramatic, it was so unlike her.
“Cathy, honey no…come back inside…look I’ll go…Joe, come, let’s go…” Charles eyes were wild with fear.
Joe too was afraid, “maybe we went too far. Look Cathy, I’m sorry. I only wanted what was best for you.”
Catherine said nothing.
“Ok honey, look watch us leave okay. You can do that from there can’t you? Look down, but don’t do anything silly? Promise me you won’t?”
Catherine remained silent, and watched while her father and Joe left the apartment and closed the door behind them. The moment they had Catherine raced to the door and slid the deadbolts back, remembering that her father still had the key in his pocket. Then she went back to the balcony and looked down at the street below.
It was a full thirty minutes before she saw her father and Joe emerge from inside the building. Both exited and looked up at her floor.
“That was a terrible thing you did Chandler.” Catherine told herself, “You should be proud of yourself.” She giggled checked the clock again and made a hurried call to Peter’s. “I’m on my way.” She told him when he answered the phone, “I might be a little late, but I’ll be there.”
Peter grunted some reply, Catherine never listened to what it was in case he too was going to try and talk her out of it. She just replaced the receiver grabbed her purse and exited the apartment choosing the fire escape to go down, and out through the back door in case her father and Joe intended to intercept her at the front.
Twenty minutes later she drove into Peter’s drive. She wasn’t surprised to see her father and Joe’s car parked outside.
Turning her car around, Catherine selected option two, and headed out of town for the other appointment she had made the day before, just in case Peter should refuse to carry out the termination after all.
*** *** ***
Father was staring at his son as if he’d been told an atom bomb had been dropped in the city though of course if it had, he’d unlikely to have been sat there. But you get the picture.
Vincent had been telling him what had happened when he’d gone above to visit Catherine, and Father couldn’t believe he was hearing right.
“She did what? Let me get this straight. She threatened to call the police on you?”
“To make me leave, yes.”
“Vincent, that’s…that’s…for want of a better word…insane!”
“I know it is.” Vincent rubbed the bridge of his nose and up between his eyes wearily. He was so very tired, he’d been unable to sleep all night.
“You’re best out of it. The girl has gone stark raving mad!”
“And I put her there. I can’t help thinking I’m to blame for all of this.”
“That’s as maybe, but to threaten you with the police…So what’s she doing now?”
“I haven’t a clue, although since its Thursday…”
Father’s complexion paled before his son, “Oh Lord…so it is. You don’t think she’ll really go ahead with it do you?”
“I don’t know. I wish I did. Can anyone contact Peter and find out?”
“I’ve heard from him already. Late last evening, he sent word that if Catherine should turn up today he would tell her he couldn’t perform the termination. He said he would regret it for the rest of his life and what’s more you would never forgive him. So if she is still intent on having one, it won’t be at Peter’s.”
Vincent checked the clock on Father’s desk, “Nine thirty five. The appointment was scheduled for ten wasn’t it? Can we send someone to find out what’s happening?”
Father nodded, “I’ll get onto it straight away. You know you could always go up to Peter’s through the secret passageway.”
Vincent nodded, he knew that, but he didn’t want to go. He’d seen enough of Catherine’s mood the evening before.
“You should go.” Father was adamant. It’s your child too, you should have a say in this. If you hurry you could make it in time.”
“But you said Peter wasn’t going to do it.”
“Yes, but between now and ten Catherine is due there, so you may catch her before she goes away again.”
Vincent looked at the clock the minutes were ticking by. If he ran like the wind he’d only just make it by ten. He made the decision to go at least he wouldn’t have to regret never having tried. “If you can get word to Peter, let him know I’m on my way…have him stall her, anything, even if he has to anaesthetise her like he suggested.” He called over his shoulder as he ran from the chamber.
Father wasted no time sending the message, for what good it would do. He didn’t know what to think, it was all such a mess and Catherine had really disappointed him. To think she was intent on called the police to remove Vincent! Father didn’t think he’d ever get over that.
*** *** ***
Dorothy Shaw was putting together the final apparatus needed for the day. This was a job that she tried not to think too much about. She needed a job and as soon as she could find something better she would leave. She hated having to be nice to women who came to have abortions, and she hated seeing all those little bloodied bodies carted away and discarded. The babies were fully formed some even moved for a few minutes after the termination some were sucked from their mothers silently screaming.
“Your eyes saw even the embryo of me.” Dorothy mumbled as she recited a verse from the Bible. Wise words spoken by King David, “And in your book all its parts were down in writing.”
Every embryo was precious in the eyes of God, and it hurt Dorothy to imagine how he must feel when one is pulled from its mother and killed. “The world is full of contraception, there is no need for this!” Dorothy slapped her hand on the day’s list of patients, “Why oh why do they not see that what they do is murder? A life for a life, huh Father? May it be that those that do this thing suffer for the rest of their days so that their life becomes unbearable.” Dorothy looked down the list of names, gasping when she came to the fourth one. “Catherine Chandler? Not Vincent’s Catherine, surely?”
Dorothy had been a helper of the tunnels for as long as she could remember. Her father had taken her there when she was small, and Vincent was a very dear friend.
“Couldn’t be.” Dorothy checked the address and date of birth and her face fell, “It is Catherine. Oh this is terrible! I wonder if Vincent knows? Oh this is terrible, the children adore her, how could she do this awful thing, when children love her so much?” Dorothy felt sick to the heart and checked the wall clock. “An hour, that’s all. I haven’t time to inform those below, whatever has to be done, I have to do it. I will never forgive myself if Miss Chandler goes ahead with this, and what’s more Vincent will never forgive her either. Whatever is she thinking of?”
Dorothy hovered around the waiting area on the pretence of doing a bit here a bit there, looking busy while all the time conscious of listening for Catherine’s voice, or sight of her. She knew her vaguely, and hoped Catherine hadn’t changed too much since they’d last met.
Dorothy swung around, her heart sank as she saw doctor Lewis walking toward her, “There you are, are you busy? I wondered if you might just man the reception for an hour.” Dorothy tried not to appear too delighted, she didn’t even ask why, she just said she would and fairly ran to reception. Dr Lewis chuckled and went on his way.
“Must be divine intervention.” Dorothy mused. She’d never been asked to man the reception before. From there she could see every woman that walked in.
Most were early, and sat fidgeting, biting their nails, trying to read, or clock watched the whole while they were there. A few callous cows, as Dorothy labelled them, painted their nails, read a novel or sat with a laptop involved in whatever business this appointment was keeping them from.
When she arrived Catherine didn’t follow the norm. First she was late, second she was flustered and third she looked like she couldn’t believe she was actually there.
“Hi Cathy.” Dorothy greeted her as warmly as she could muster. It cheered her to see Catherine looked acutely embarrassed. “You’re appointment is scheduled for eleven, but there are a few things you must do before you go through. Can you fill in these directives please, oh and don’t forget to sign them.”
Catherine didn’t know what to do. The last thing she wanted was to find that she was confronted by someone that she knew and just as importantly someone that knew the tunnels. She realised confidentiality played a big part but so it did in the tunnels also. Dorothy could so easily inform all below of what she had done and they would never forgive her. Then she tightened her resolve, ‘oh what the heck, what does that matter? I’m leaving for goodness sake, unlikely to see any of them again.’
Yet Dorothy didn’t appear to condemn her, she was just being her usual businesslike self, offering her the appropriate forms, sign here, and here, and here…
“Of course, the one good thing about this is that Vincent will be able to feel you again…” With that comment Dorothy startled her.
“I’m sorry. What did you say?” Catherine had been aware that Dorothy had been speaking all the while she had been filling out the medical directives, but until that last statement she hadn’t heard a word of it.
“Vincent…” Dorothy leaned forward and whispered, “You know he’s empathic? He hasn’t been able to feel your feelings while you’ve been pregnant. The baby blocked your feelings off from him. After today all that will change, and you’ll have your guardian angel back again.”
Catherine’s face went white, her fingers clutched at the counter till her knuckles turned white, and Dorothy felt triumphant. “You didn’t know?”
Catherine shook her head.
Dorothy laid it on thick. “Oh yes, Vincent has been quite distressed these last few months because of it. Not being able to see you or feel how you are, he’s been like a man set adrift on an ocean.”
Suddenly everything came back to Catherine. The nights she’d laid alone wishing for Vincent to come to her, the days and weeks she’d longed for him and he had never come the times when she’d expected him to be somewhere and he never had. She had concluded that he really didn’t care about her anymore. Not once did she think that he hadn’t been able to connect with her. She’d assumed too much.
“I don’t have to do this do I?” Catherine pulled the directives toward her, intent on destroying them. “I mean its not too late to refuse to have it done?”
Dorothy was delighted and tried not to show it, “Of course not. Here let me.” She tore up the directives and dropped the bits into a waste paper bin. “I wish more women were like you. Children are precious in the eyes of God.” Dorothy raised her voice a little so others could hear her. “He sees the embryo you know, and he judges those that take the life of the unborn. Do you know that that if two men were fighting and a pregnant woman lost her child because of it, God made a law that the men should die. A life for a life, that’s what God’s says…people are such hypocrites. You can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll celebrate Christmas, so they must have some belief in God, although to be honest Christmas has nothing to do with God, but you know what I mean…”
Catherine smiled, “Yes Dorothy I think I do. And if there’s any consolation what you have told me today has saved the life of at least one child. You should feel proud of yourself.”
“No, you got that wrong, you should feel proud of yourself. You could have regretted this for the rest of your life, every time you saw a baby in someone’s arms, every time you saw a child on its way to school, every time you saw someone else’s child unwrapping a present. And when you grow old and you look back on life you’d be constantly wondering, what that lost child might have been, what they’d be doing what grandkids they might have given you. The joys you would have lost would have far out weighed the mess you thought you’d gotten yourself into in the beginning, but you wouldn’t know any of them. All you would know is regret and sickness deep in your heart for all of your life.”
To her satisfaction a few of the women that had been sat awaiting their appointment stopped whatever it was they’d been doing and got up, picked up their bag and left. Catherine smiled reached over and squeezed Dorothy’s hand, “Keep this up and God will bless you, Dorothy.”
Dorothy smiled and nodded, tears welled in her eyes. “So what will you do now?” she asked Catherine.
“Me? Well I’ve a flight booked for Friday to London, alas I shan’t be taking it now.” Catherine patted her tummy, “This little one might not like heights. So I will probably drive up to Westport and spend some time with a friend of mine, while I think over my options.”
“If you want my advice…”
Catherine smiled and nodded.
“Go see Vincent. You two belong together…no…make that, you three belong together.”
Catherine squeezed Dorothy’s hand again, “I’ll think about it.” Then she smiled and said goodbye just as she heard her name being announced to go through to the day room.
The last she heard as she went out the door, was Dorothy speaking on the intercom, “I’m sorry Dr Lewis, your eleven o’clock appointment has changed her mind and left…so has the noon appointment, the two o’clock and three o’clock…oh and wait a minute…someone else just left…”
Dorothy smiled maybe the job wasn’t so bad after all…nursing could be quite fulfilling… so many lives to save…
*** *** ***
When there had been no news from Catherine for three days everyone feared the worst, the baby had to be no more.
Charles had never felt so desolate in his life. He’d tried not to think about a grandchild too much over the last few weeks, but somehow the thought had wormed its way in. Now it was as though he’d lost something of himself and he felt real grief. He almost hated Catherine for what she had done.
Joe was bereft he’d imagined being father to the child for so long, it was as though he’d lost one of his own. He too couldn’t forgive Catherine but he blamed himself for not giving her the space she so obviously had needed. If he hadn’t have been so pushy she may not have reached this irreversible position.
Peter was relieved that he hadn’t performed the termination, but was left wondering who had. Several times he placed his hand on the phone intending to call the closest clinics to see if they had admitted Catherine, but each time he pulled his hand back. He may be her doctor, and he may have had a right to know, but the real reason behind his finding out was to pass on the news to her next of kin, and that he knew was unethical as well as breaking confidentiality. He could be struck off for it, so he decided that what her family didn’t know, he shouldn’t know either.
Vincent was inconsolable, at least for a time…when he found that he was still unable to feel what Catherine was feeling he did begin to hope that maybe Catherine hadn’t been able to go ahead with the termination after all. However, it did little to change his opinion of the fact that Catherine had actually contemplated killing his child. That option spoke volumes as to how she really felt about him, deep, deep down inside.
Nancy was a true friend. She listened when Catherine sobbed her heart out after turning up on her doorstep late one evening and asking to stay. Catherine told her everything, the whole story, the differences in Vincent, the soul mate story…and though Nancy was shocked she knew that her friend wouldn’t have a relationship with anyone that wasn’t deserving of her. Thus she trusted Catherine’s judgement.
“So honey how do you feel now?” Nancy asked, the third morning following Catherine’s arrival.
“Better. I keep thinking about everything. I suppose I blamed Vincent too much in all of this. He did what he thought best. He doesn’t know living as we know it, and because he is emphatic and feels what I feel, he only had those emotions to go on. And yes, I was attracted to Joe, and I suppose if I’m being honest, I did have sexual awareness with Joe. Strange that I never slept with him though it always felt wrong as though I was being unfaithful, though that is what Vincent expected of me.”
“I can understand that. Although I don’t think Paul would be quite so ready to allow me to go off with someone I was attracted to, in order to get it out of my system. In a way I think I’d be insulted even if he should suggest it.”
“That’s how I reacted in the beginning. Vincent and I have had enough to contend with over the years without things like this. What frightens me is if I should ever see someone else I find attractive. Doesn’t automatically follow I want to jump into bed with them. I think deep down that’s one of the reasons I never slept with Joe. I was making a statement to Vincent to show him that was never my intention. Just that Joe had something that made my heart race. And Joe’s a nice guy, in other circumstances, maybe he and I could have had a good life together, but I don’t love him and I know I never will. Vincent is the only man for me, Nancy.”
“Yet you contemplated…”
“Yes I know, isn’t that the worst of all? I contemplated killing his child. I don’t think he’ll ever forgive me for that.”
“But you didn’t and I think its time you told him that. He must be sick at heart imaging that you’ve had an abortion. Come to that what about your father? I bet he’s upset too.”
“Yes I should go back, or at least call. Do you mind if I stay another couple of days, just till the weekend?”
“Stay as long as you like Cath, you know we love having you here. There is one thing I must ask though…”
“Well have you ever had a scan? I mean you seem awfully big for five months. You seem to be carrying it around the side more, both sides if that makes any sense. I knew someone like that, and it turned out she was expecting twins.”
Catherine gasped, “Twins! No, I’ve never had a scan. I’ve been too scared to in case the scan revealed anything of Vincent’s genetic makeup.”
“Well honey I think you should call your GP, and put his mind at rest since he is so obviously more like family than consultant, and arrange to have a scan done. Another thing, you say Vincent is…”
“Leonine.” Catherine put in for her.
“Yes, leonine, well how can you be sure that leonine gestations take nine months?”
“I don’t think any body can be sure, Nancy. There’s no one else to go on. Vincent’s a prototype as far as we are concerned, though of course we know better now. Still the one thing we do know for sure is that our soul mates were childless.”
“Then how did it get passed down?”
“Good question. There’s a story…” Catherine went on to explain what her father had told her about his grandmother and the tin and everything. When she had finished speaking Nancy was staring at her. “Is that for real?” Nancy exclaimed. At Catherine’s nod, she went on, “For God’s sake Cathy!”
“You and Vincent are soul mates and this baby, or babies was meant to be…yet…” Nancy couldn’t bring herself to say what was on her mind, but Catherine seemed to know.
“I tried to destroy it.” She said sadly. “In my defence I can only assume that the person I am and the person I’m meant to be have been warring against one another.”
“Maybe, but that would mean dissention in the ranks. From what you tell me you were happy to have this soul mate guide you.”
“I was. While with Vincent, but when he sent me away, its like my old self resurfaced and rebelled. It’s the only way I can describe why I acted as I did.”
“Rebellion.” Nancy laughed, “The oldest of the old, and why the world is as it is now. Satan was the first rebel, we’ve all followed suit. Well mostly all, there have been a few that managed not to let rebellion rub off on them, strong people, like Jesus and Job.”
“Yes. And with Vincent I am strong.”
“Then honey, that’s your answer. You two need to be together. Can you call him?”
The only thing Catherine had refrained from telling nancy was where Vincent lived, so she shook her head. “Not directly, but I can get word to him through Peter.”
“Peter? That’s your GP?”
Nancy pointed to the study and ultimately the telephone, “There’s no time like the present Cathy, do it now before you change your mind. For what possible reason is there to hold back?”
“None at all. You’re right. I’ll go ring Peter and he can pass the news on to everyone else. No…on second thoughts I’ll ring my father, he’s the one that deserves to know before anyone else.”
Nancy squeezed Catherine’s shoulder in agreement as Catherine made her way toward the study.
*** *** ***
Joe was round at the Chandler house when the phone rang. “Shall I get that for you?” Joe asked from the sitting room. Charles was in the kitchen making them both a drink.
“If it’s a salesperson tell them I’m blacklisted, works every time. Nothing will strike you off their list faster.”
Joe laughed, “I must remember that. I usually tell them I’m a student.”
“You’d get away with that, alas my voice is too old.”
Joe picked up the phone, “Hello Chandler residence, who’s calling please.”
“Yes…” gasp, “Cathy is that you?”
From the kitchen Charles hurried to the phone, he signalled for Joe to hand it to him, and when he did, Charles didn’t give his daughter a chance to speak.
“Now you listen here young lady…I’m not at all happy with you, so whatever you are calling for forget it, and don’t even think about returning home!” He made to drop the receiver back into its cradle but Joe caught it first. Holding it to his ear he asked, “Cathy, where are you?”
“Don’t speak to her Joe, she’s made her bed!” Catherine heard her father advise. She spoke quickly lest he snatched the phone from Joe’s hand and slammed it down.
“Look Cathy call me okay, on my phone…I’ll talk to you.” Joe glared at Charles.
“I haven’t got your number here.” Catherine explained, “Just hold on will you.”
“Then I’ll call you back. Where are you?” Expecting she’s say some clinic or another he was taken aback when she replied. “Westport. I’m staying with Nancy.”
“Westport?” Joe reiterated, and Charles overhearing stopped dead on his return to the kitchen to turn back toward the telephone.
She’s at Nancy’s?” he mouthed. Joe nodded. “Here, let me have her back.” Charles reached for the telephone. Joe handed it to him anxiously.
“Why are you at Nancy’s? No, that’s not what I meant, how long have you been at Nancy’s?”
Not really understanding the line of questioning, Catherine answered truthfully, “I came here straight after leaving the clinic…” Charles had heard enough, he dropped the receiver onto its cradle disconnecting the call. Joe glared at him, before a mouthful of obscenities followed, ending on, “Give me Nancy’s number, I’ll call her back.”
“Not here. I don’t want to hear whatever she has to say. I will never forgive her Joe!” The phone rang again. “Leave it! I forbid you to pick it up!” Joe let it ring, and ring till whomsoever was calling hung up.
“You’ll never know why she was calling. You didn’t give her time to explain!” Joe shouted as he stood and reached for his jacket. “If you won’t tell me Nancy’s number I’ll drive round Westport till I find her. I’ll ask at every house if need be.”
“If you’re going to go to those lengths, here…” Charles strode back to the telephone and from inside a drawer of the cabinet where it sat, he pulled out a telephone book. “You’ll find it in there. But don’t go calling her back from here, I don’t want to over hear anything said between you two.”
Joe thought that a bit harsh but said nothing. He found Nancy’s number, wrote it down and pulling his cell phone from his pocket walked toward the front door. He’d make the call outside.
The moment the phone rang Cathy answered, “Joe!”
“Yes, how did you know?”
“Your number was highlighted on Nancy’s phone. I couldn’t remember it, but as soon as I saw it I knew it was yours.”
“You should make a note of it.”
“No need I’m coming back today.”
“Then you’ll have to go back to your apartment. Your father won’t entertain you here.”
“What’s his problem?”
Joe couldn’t believe she didn’t know. “Er…let me see now…could be that you killed his grandchild perhaps?”
“Oh but I didn’t!”
“Ok well as we’re splitting hairs here, it wasn’t you but some doctor that did it? The thing is Cathy you made the active decision to have the abortion, so the fault lies with you.”
“No, Joe. You’re not with me. When I say I didn’t kill dad’s grandchild, I meant that literally. I didn’t go ahead with the abortion.”
“You mean you’re still pregnant?”
Catherine smiled, he sounded so relieved. “Yes Joe.”
“Oh Cathy, that’s great! You’ll never know how upset I was thinking you’d…you’d…done that…what made you change your mind?”
“Someone changed it for me. Suffices to say I’m glad that they did. I know now it would have been the biggest mistake of my life.”
“So what does this mean?” He wanted to add, ‘for us’ but didn’t dare.
“Joe…” Catherine spoke carefully. The last thing she wanted to do was hurt him, “You’re a really nice person, Joe…”
“I’m sorry Joe, I could never love you the way you love me. I’m returning to Vincent, Joe.”
“The same Vincent that didn’t want you?” Joe asked annoyed.
“Neither Vincent nor I have a choice in the matter.”
“Its that destiny crap isn’t it? Sheesh Cathy…I thought you had more sense than to believe in things like that!”
“Its not that. Its not about having sense Joe, its about facts and feelings. Vincent and I are meant to be together.”
“And what if he doesn’t want you back? You did contemplate killing his kid after all.”
“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”
“Well know this, should it all come unstuck for you, you’ll know where to find me okay?”
“I mean that Cathy. I’d have enough love for both of us, and I’d make you happy Cathy, I promise I would.”
“So what’ll you do now?”
“I’d like to speak to my father, then I must make an appointment to see Peter.” At Joe’s gasp, Catherine hurried on to explain, “For a scan…I’ve never had one.”
“Oh. Good, well your father won’t speak to you while he thinks you’ve had a termination.”
“Then perhaps you could tell him for me. If he won’t listen just shout it through the letterbox.” Catherine giggled remembering times when they’d been at odds before and the only way she’d get him to hear what she had to say was to shout it through the letterbox.
“Believe me Cathy, it might come to that.” Joe chuckled, “Ok I’ll try. No doubt he’ll call you if he decides he wants to talk.”
“So I guess its goodbye for now?”
“Goodbye then Cathy, just remember, any time…you’re welcome okay?”
“Thanks Joe, you’re a nice guy.”
“Yeah…well…” Joe hung up. There was nothing else to say.
He turned back toward the house and caught sight of a sudden movement by the window. So Charles had been watching had he? Joe rang the doorbell, waited a few minutes and when the door failed to open he lifted the letterbox lid and called, “Its okay granddad, she’s keeping the baby.” Then before Charles could react, Joe got in his car and drove away. He doubted he’d be back for a long time, if ever. Too many things there reminded him of Catherine.
*** *** ***
Later that same day Catherine made her way into the tunnels via the basement of her apartment building. It had been a long time since she’s gone that way and only hadn’t done so before because it was slippery and she didn’t want to fall. But needs must, and if Vincent would bar her entry at the park she had to take risks. Once in the tunnels, at least she’d have a chance to shout out her case before being manhandled to leave again.
The tunnels were strangely quiet as though the occupants were both surprised and nervous to see her. Once upon a time the sentries would have announced her arrival with much knocking on the pipes, now she heard only the odd tap and no answering reply. The whole tunnel world hushed as she made her approach and she met not a soul on her way to the hub though she felt their eyes upon her at every turn.
When she finally arrived at Father’s chamber she peered around ready for anything and found him sitting waiting, staring at the entrance in expectation. With her stomach full of butterflies Catherine walked in and crossed the chamber stopping only when she reached the desk he sat behind.
“Father.” Catherine acknowledged, “Are you well?”
Father nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
“Is Vincent here?”
Catherine swung around to the sound of his voice. She’d not noticed him sitting in the corner in the shadows when she’d walked in. the sight and sound of him brought tears rushing to fill her eyes.
“Vincent!” Catherine whispered. Her gaze met his.
“What are you doing here, Catherine?”
“I live here.”
“Correction, you lived here. No more.”
“Oh but you’re wrong. You gave me no choice but to leave. Well I’m making a choice now. I’m back and I’m staying. You and I have been idiots, you the fool for sending me away, me the fool for letting you. Well things have changed Vincent, I’ve been through hell and back and I’m stronger now.”
“Stronger than me?” Vincent stood and took a few steps toward her. Catherine braced herself. If he thought he could pick her up and carry her out of the tunnels he had another think coming.
“Yes, stronger than you.”
Vincent kept coming toward her, his mouth set into a grim hard line, his eyes as hard as ice. “I think not Catherine.” He told her as he swept her from the floor and threw her over one shoulder, “You aren’t welcome here anymore.”
A pain lanced through Catherine, it was so violent she vomited down Vincent’s back. Father was on his feet at once, “Put her down Vincent, you’re hurting her! Catherine?” Father placed a hand to her brow, “Are you ailing?”
As Vincent settled Catherine to her feet she swayed, the room spun around her and she put out a hand to steady herself clutching only Vincent. “I… I don’t know…I was…fine…” Another pain doubled her and as her knees buckled she went down. Father was down beside her in an instant, “Who performed the termination…you must have an infection.”
Between stabs of pain Catherine panted, “No…one…didn’t have…abortion…”
Vincent and Father exchanged glances before father began issuing commands. “Call Mary, have her get the examination room ready…on second thoughts…” One look at Catherine and Father knew… “No time…have her come here now!”
“What’s happening?” Catherine moaned as another pain stabbed through her.
“It looks as though you’ve gone into labour.”
“Labour!” Catherine wailed, “But its months too early.”
Grave faced Father preferred not to reply. Instead he worked methodically, selecting the right instruments, clearing his desk. “Catherine can you get up here? I’ll help you.”
Vincent was back and at his side, “I’ll lift her.”
“I think you’ve done enough damage for one day, Vincent. Catherine, just push up onto the desk that’s it, come on I’ll help you.”
“I can’t, I can’t do it Father.” Catherine doubled when another pain lanced through her, she grabbed her abdomen as tears streamed down her face. “Oh Father, what’s happening?”
Within an hour it was all over…and Catherine was inconsolable…her babies were dead.
*** *** ***
Living in the tunnels the days and the nights rolled into one. Most of that time Catherine sat staring out into space. If she got up at all it was to relieve the call of nature. She could not be encouraged to do anything or visit with anyone, her whole world collapsed the day her children died.
Vincent was much the same and he blamed himself. He blamed himself from the beginning for sending her away, for setting her upon the roller coaster ride that caused her so much stress at a period of time in her life when she should have been relaxed and resting and the death of his children took its toll.
Looking down at their faces that day, he’d been shocked by what he’d seen. Both had been like him, two sons, identical twins identical leonine twins. Vincent hated himself for what he’d brought upon Catherine, he hated himself more for the mistrust that had led to the death of his children. He too was inconsolable.
Once in a lifetime, the leonine ones came once in a lifetime, once during every other generation, until the world was ready to accept them…well the world had been not the problem. First Vincent had refused to accept the conception, then Catherine had been prepared to terminate the pregnancy, finally when she had returned to him, he had again attempted to send her away… And so he believed that their soul mates had taken the matter into their own hands and determined that he and Catherine were the ones unready to accept the leonine ones.
That fact broke Vincent’s heart. He had not been ready it was true, all through Catherine’s pregnancy he had sought an outlet, he knew that now. Disbelieving the child to be his and then all the trouble he had caused when he discovered Catherine intended a termination. Everything he had forced upon her. If the roles had been reversed he could see how insulting it would have been to be sent away from the one you loved, despite everything you said to the contrary. Vincent had not wanted to listen and due to it fate had taken its own path and found the couple unworthy.
Having Catherine there in the tunnels was a source of pleasure and of pain to Vincent. Each time he looked into her eyes he saw accusation there. He could never blame her for that. The guilt was reflected in his own eyes. In the three weeks since the babies had died Catherine had not spoken to him, he wondered if she ever would again. He wouldn’t have blamed her if she hated him for what he had done to her. He hated himself.
Neither had spoken about their babies, though Father had explained the problem. “We assumed they were premature.” He told them both not long after the babies had been delivered. “Yet they were fully formed. It is possible that the gestation period for the leonine ones, is much shorter than ours… with a mix being somewhere between the two. Its possible therefore that even if early they should have survived, and we do not know why they died, as there is no one we can ask.”
Vincent and Catherine didn’t need to ask questions, they knew why their babies had died. The parents had not been ready to accept them.
“See it this way.” Father tried to consol his son “The fact that the babies were both leonine must be that the world is ready to accept them now. See how easily Charles, and apparently Nancy accepted you, and I think if Joe could see you, he would too.”
“I'm to blame.” Vincent reminded him, “You don’t have to say it. I wasn’t prepared to accept others like me. Our soul mates knew that.”
Father shook his head, “No. I don’t go along with that Vincent. I don’t think they have the ability to cause life or to snatch it away. It was just one of those stress related things.”
“Or the way I manhandled Catherine. You don’t have to say it Father, I know. I tossed Catherine over my shoulder so savagely she vomited, and at the same time I broke her waters. I killed my own sons!”
Father ached to disagree unfortunately it was all too plain that the possibility was there. He’d seen it. He’d seen how violently Vincent had thrown Catherine over his shoulder so that the impact had caused her to be sick and the height he’d tossed her and the fact that he’d twisted her stomach had caused her waters to break prematurely.
“Has Catherine spoken with you yet?”
“Have you tried speaking with her?”
Vincent shook his head. “I can see it in her eyes that she blames me.”
“Vincent I have to ask, do you love her still?”
“Perhaps she doesn’t know this? Perhaps you should tell her? You don’t have to elaborate…just three little words would suffice.”
Vincent sighed raggedly, “Maybe you’re right. We really should talk. It’s doing her no good ignoring this. She wouldn’t even attend the funeral.” Tears gathered in Vincent’s eyes as he remembered carrying the two small coffins one on each of his shoulders, guided by Devin on his left side and Pascal on the right, his vision blurred from crying.
They’d buried the babies among the catacombs, where they’d laid to rest all their loved ones.
“Go to her now.” Father whispered tenderly, his eyes wet with tears. “She needs you.”
Vincent nodded, stood and exited the chamber. Father would know soon enough if it worked.
*** *** ***
Vincent found Catherine in his chamber, in much the same position as when he’d left hours earlier. Always Catherine stared into space, her eyes haunted, though she would acknowledge his arrival with a slight turn of her head, and though her gaze would follow him, she’d say nothing.
Vincent decided there was only one way to do this. He dropped to his knees in front of her and looking up into her face told her, “Catherine, forgive me, I love you, and I’m so, so sorry.”
Over the weeks Catherine had wondered what Vincent might say, and how she would react. At first she decided whatever he said she’d shout and tell him to go away, and leave her be. Then as time went by she felt his pain and her thoughts changed considerably, so now with his plea she wrapped her arms around his neck and sobbed. His arms came up and went around her drawing her down off the chair to sit on the floor at his side. There they held one another freely crying, sharing their grief and their sorrow.
“I love you Vincent, I love you so much.”
“Oh Catherine…my love…my own sweet angel…what have I done to you?”
“Vincent, please…let’s not talk about that…its over now…what you did…what was behind it…I can’t talk about it anymore…it hurts too much.”
“No Vincent, enough…I don’t want to talk about what led to…to…I don’t want to talk about what we’ve lost and why, I want only to have you hold me and know that you love me.”
“Then know it! I do love you Catherine, so much, so very, very much. Oh God, I’m so sorry…so very, very sorry…” He clung to her, tears coursing down his cheeks and Catherine realised that she might not want to dredge up the past but he needed to in order to place it behind him and never look back but first…there was something she needed from him…
“Take me to bed Vincent.”
He gasped and drew away from her looking into her eyes to verify if he’d heard right. Her eyes smouldered with love and need for him. “I know it’s not the answer, but right now…oh Vincent I need you closer than a heartbeat.”
“Isn’t it too soon?”
“Catherine…as much as I would want nothing more… I really think we should postpone doing this.”
Catherine shook her head and began to stand, holding on to his hand and pulling him up with her, walking toward the bed. “Please Vincent, it’s been too long… and I need you so.”
“Catherine…it’s too soon.”
“I know my own body Vincent, and it’s okay believe me.” Catherine’s eyes shone with hope and anticipation and Vincent suddenly understood her intention. Reluctantly he shook his head, “Catherine…we must wait. Another child will not replace those we have lost.”
“Oh but it will!” Catherine tugged at his hand. Vincent’s eyes filled with tears, he hated to deny her, but he knew giving her another baby was not the answer. She must first learn to accept the loss of their sons. He shook his head, “I do love you Catherine, and oh…yes I so want to make love with you…but what you plan…it can’t be my love, not yet…it isn’t right, its too soon.”
Tears gathered and fell down Catherine’s cheeks then, and she looked so forlorn he gathered her into his arms and cuddled her.
“I miss them Vincent. I wanted them so badly…I almost had them killed and then I lost them anyway…oh Vincent…they were leonine…I want your child so much…please Vincent, please…” She begged.
He stroked her hair and wiped her tears away with his fingers, his heart ached for her and with her and his own heart was breaking. “I too miss them. They were beautiful Catherine, you gave me beautiful children.”
“You gave me beautiful sons, Vincent!” Catherine admonished, “You!”
“But the answer is not in making more Catherine, I know you see that. We need to grieve for them…talk about them…and we need to give them names…”
Catherine hadn’t thought of that, she nodded thoughtfully, seeing his dear face through a haze of tears, “Yes we should. Where did you put them?”
“In among the catacombs, three levels down.”
“Can we go there?”
Catherine nodded, and clutched at his hand, “Yes.”
“Of course we can.” He draped an arm around her shoulders, “Come.” He turned her toward the way out.
“Did you take them down there, Vincent?”
“Yes. One on each shoulder.”
Catherine pictured this, and her heart broke afresh imagining how this must have been for him. “I’m so sorry, Vincent. For making you do that alone.”
“I wasn’t alone, my family were with me.” There was no accusation in his tone.
Vincent squeezed her shoulder and drew her closer against him and revelled in having her there, only just realising how much he’d missed her closeness.
“I know you wouldn’t have…well you know…on purpose Vincent…it was one of those things…you were mad with me…and you didn’t know I hadn’t had the termination…I don’t blame you Vincent…so you mustn’t blame yourself either.”
“Oh but I do. I was horrid to you.”
“I challenged your strength against mine.” Catherine tried to smile, but it didn’t come off. “Maybe we should share the blame?”
Vincent fell silent for a time then told her, “ I think we were punished.”
Catherine nodded, “I too think that. We were considered unfit to have leonine babies. And Vincent?”
“If we are ever blessed with babies again, I don’t think they will be leonine. I think we missed our chance.”
“I too think that.” Vincent admitted sadly.
“But you will give me a child?” Vincent heard the teasing in her tone and looked down at her, meeting his gaze to hers. Her eyes were dancing with light and love for him. He bent his head till his lips met hers…”Catherine…” He murmured against her mouth, “I would like to very much…”
Catherine shrugged, “I got the feeling there was a condition tagged to that.”
For the first time in as long as he could remember Vincent laughed, “Yes my love…this time I plan to do it right. Will you still marry me, Catherine?”
“Oh Vincent, you know I will!”
“I don’t deserve you, Catherine.”
Catherine smiled, “Oh yes you do, besides what would we be without the better halves of each other?”
“I think you know the answer to that.”
Remembering, Catherine’s eyes dulled and she nodded, “Yes. Don’t ever put me through that again, Vincent.”
For a while they walked in silence and when the tunnel allowed for it Vincent kept his arm around her shoulders, otherwise they held hands, until at last they reached the silent world of the catacombs, where a slight breeze blew, keeping the area cool and fresh.
“We laid them here.” Vincent touched the granite stones positioned over each tiny grave. Tears welled in Catherine’s eyes and fell swiftly down her cheeks. Her sobs echoed through the catacombs. Vincent stood back a little way sensing she needed the space and time to say her own goodbyes, coming to her only when she fished behind her searching for his hand.
“You name one and I’ll name the other.” She told him. “Is there something we can use to engrave their names on the stones?”
“Yes. We left a chisel nearby, for when you were ready to come here.”
Catherine nodded, “With your permission I’d like to name one of our sons, Joseph.”
Vincent didn’t ask why, he’d accepted that Joe Maxwell was a good man and for that reason alone, Catherine would wish to name one of their sons after him.
“Yes, Joseph it is. And the other I should like to call Jacob.”
Catherine questioned, “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’ve given it a great deal of thought, and even though that child died its fitting.”
Nodding, Catherine bent down and smoothed her hand over the two granite slabs, “Joseph and Jacob.” She whispered, “I love you, mommy loves you so much.”
At her side Vincent bent to his knees, and placed his hands over hers, “I too love you.” He told the two tiny graves, as his tears fell to the sandy floor. “Rest in peace my sons.”
There was so much more he’d liked to say but he felt unable. Apportioning the blame would not bring them back, and he felt that it would have been inappropriate. What was done was done, and though he would blame himself for their deaths for the rest of his life…it would not bring them back. He could only learn from the very big mistake he had made and the price it had cost him.
They stayed at the gravesides for the rest of that day, Catherine helping Vincent to chisel out the names and placing a small heartfelt message on each. Then only when it became too cold for them to remain any longer did they reluctantly get to their feet and with several backward glances, leave their children behind. It was the hardest thing they had ever had to do in all their lives. They felt they were leaving the better part of themselves behind…and it almost tore them in two.
As they left their children behind they did not hear the whispered message on the breeze that blew among the catacombs as their soul mates discussed the future…nor did they hear the decision that was reached…a test had been set…as to whether or not Vincent and Catherine passed that test…only time would tell…
*** *** ***
They settled down to being together and over the days and weeks that followed life even begun to have meaning again. At first it was difficult picking up from the past, but with patience Vincent and Catherine learned to harmonise with one another until for the other tunnel dwellers it became normal not to speak about one without the other.
Eventually the question popped up, “So when are you two going to get married?” This was asked by so many that eventually Vincent asked Catherine what she thought, and together they began making plans.
“Devin’s original idea is still a good one.” Catherine told Vincent, “And I’d like to get married in the sunshine. I’m sure the sunlight will make you even more gorgeous than you are now.”
Vincent surprised Catherine when he laughed and she told him, “What no argument?”
“Catherine, “ Vincent came to stand behind her and with his arms draped around her neck, he whispered in her ear, “How can I argue when you only speak the truth?” He came to stand in front of her telling her sincerely, “When I first saw Jacob and Joseph I was reminded by what you’ve always told me. They were so beautiful Catherine, how could I never see what was right before your eyes all the time?”
Tears formed on Catherine’s lashes, “They were the image of their father. Oh Vincent not a day goes by without me wondering what they would have been like. It breaks my heart every time I think on what happened.”
“Mine too. I was careless. I wanted to hurt you as you had hurt me, had I of known…” He shook his head “I will never forgive myself…never!”
“We can’t go back my love, only forward, and we must never make the same mistakes over again. At least we will be together, which is one step nearer the right direction than our soul mates got.”
“Yes and at least we did have leonine babies, which should have proven something.”
“Do you think they are with us still? Our soul mates that is.”
Sadly, Vincent shook his head, “No, I think they abandoned us as careless counterparts. I can’t say I blame them.”
“I agree, I haven’t felt mine with me since the babies died.”
“Maybe they are grieving too.”
“Perhaps they will return when we are married, which brings us back to the matter in hand. Have you any dates you wish to be married on?”
Vincent was thoughtful for a few minutes then he said, “You want it to be sunny, and I’m sure you will want to look beautiful as well as radiant, so it mustn’t be too cold. Neither too hot, so I think June would be appropriate, which leaves us five weeks to prepare.”
“Mid summer’s day.” Catherine told him, “That way every one will remember it.”
Vincent nodded, “Mid summer’s day it is, shall we say at twelve noon?”
“Yes, the middle of the middle.”
Vincent chuckled, “So it is. That’s settled then. Is five weeks enough time for you?”
Her eyes bright Catherine nodded, “In many respects it’s too long, but I’m sure it will fly by. Thank you, Vincent.”
Vincent inclined his head, “For what, Catherine?”
“For asking me to be your wife. I promise to make you happy.”
“You have always made me happy, my love.”
Catherine smiled, they both knew there was a time…but they passed up on it, they were learning to forget about the time she intended to terminate her pregnancy…Catherine was not of her right mind back then, and Vincent had been the cause. Neither wanted to dwell on that any more, and though deep down inside it rubbed at their conscience it was best left buried in the past. All they could do now was learn from the experience.
“Vincent…I have to ask.”
Vincent inclined his ear, his blue eyes penetrating and fearful of what she might impart. His heart thudded painfully in his chest, and Catherine seeming to guess placed her hand over the spot. “Don’t fret so, its nothing bad, so relax.” He smiled at her, an indulgent smile yet his anxiety didn’t diminish one iota.
“Vincent, we will never forget our sons I know that, and they will always be a part of our every day lives I know that too, but my arms ache for them my love, so much…I long to nurse your child, its like a pain so deep its almost unbearable at times. Vincent, please tell me…when…”
He placed a finger to her lips, to quieten whatever she had been about to ask, then he followed through with his lips and kissed her tenderly, “I’ve felt this pain in you my love…it reflected my own, so you have no need to fret Catherine, I too want to hold our child in my arms…soon Catherine, I promise you, soon.”
She melted against him holding him tight, had it been possible to unzip and step inside him she would have, so great was the need to be a part of him. Carrying his child was the next best thing, she’d lost out before, too much had happened at the time for her to enjoy the feeling.
“I love you, Vincent.”
“As I love you.” They stood wrapped in one another’s arms, just enjoying the closeness of being together, knowing that things were becoming settled, they were moving toward their future happiness.
For once both felt secure and looked forward to a future of their making… neither knowing that there’d be one more task set before them…or that it would begin the very next day.
*** *** ***
Woken early Vincent made his way to the guest chamber where Catherine lay awake staring up at the ceiling. She turned her head to him as he stood there in the entrance gazing at her, a haunted expression on his face.
“My love, what is it?” Catherine was up and out of bed in an instance.
“I had a nightmare. A vision, call it what you will.”
Catherine nodded, “I too. Tell me about yours.” Her heart was pounding with anticipation. As to her dream she’d never had one like it before.
“It was more of a message. Catherine, I believe my soul mate has returned, and I’m not happy with what he is suggesting.”
“He wants you to show your face to the world doesn’t he, my love?”
Vincent gasped, “You had the same dream?”
“If that’s what happened, then yes.”
“Catherine I don’t think I can do this. Too many things could go wrong.”
“I’ve lain awake pondering this Vincent, come, slide into bed beside me, its too cold for you to stand there, and too cold for me too.” That Vincent did no refuse to get into the bed with her brought home just how worried he was about the dream. She held him close to her and felt him tremble, whether from her nearness after so long apart or from the dream she couldn’t be certain, but it felt good to have him in her bed again.
“You have to go above and literally walk about up there. They set these goals before us Vincent, but they’re as much in the dark as we are as to how people will react. I think its unfair they should ask this of us.”
“Its my punishment, Catherine. I didn’t think I could escape any. Had the babies of lived it would have proven that the world was ready to receive them, but alas…”
“Since they died, you have to do it?”
“And what if the world isn’t ready for you?”
“That’s what worries me. Catherine, I would be made a spectacle, there would be questions and no answers, and they must not know about these tunnels.”
“Lord no, if you need an escape they certainly must not. Look at it the other way though, supposing they do readily accept you. What a change it will make to your life.”
“And yours. I could accompany you above.”
“I might find I’ll have competition. Once the ladies see you, I may need an appointment in your little black book just to spend time with you.”
“That will never happen.”
Catherine refrained from getting into that one. It seemed to her in much the same way as Joe was sent to tempt her, their roles were now being reversed, and anyone might come along that would find Vincent desirous, and maybe vice versa.
Cuddling him close Vincent snuggled against her, he needed her surrounding him, what was more he seemed just to need her in the same way she had needed him of late. His hands caressed her body and Catherine bit back a moan afraid he would pull away and return to his chamber.
His words startled her, “I know what you’re thinking. I also apologise. You’ve needed me and I denied you believing the timing was wrong, thinking it best we do things in the correct order, marriage first, loving after. But Catherine, I’ve missed the point haven’t I? It’s already too late to do things in the correct order, and to be honest…” he grinned, “I have no regrets about that.”
They kissed then, a long sweet kiss that set both their hearts thumping and their bodies simmering with need and desire, “Catherine…”
“Love me Vincent, I’m yours for the taking.”
His hands covered her body, tenderly stroking, bringing her to fresh heights time after time, until she begged for mercy and more besides…so when his body covered hers, Catherine felt as though bliss personified surrounded her.
His kisses set her soul ablaze and Catherine wrapping her legs around his hips rode with him, taking him in deep, deeper still…she’d missed him so much, craved him so much…and at the point of ecstasy each looked into the eyes of the other, and neither needed telling what his climax would mean for them both.
“God I love you!” Catherine wrapped her arms around his neck holding him tight as he emptied his seed within her, he seemed to pump forever, back and forth and before he was done, hardened afresh and made love to her again. Strange how she had forgotten he could do that, not just once, but night long till he was too tired to move. All night he took her, over and over, his need raw and relentless, until finally he slumped his sweat drenched brow on to her shoulder and moved no more.
Catherine kissed his shoulder brushed the hair from his eyes and wiggled out from beneath him. She ached all over, but it was a good ache, one she cherished, and she lay at his side and with her hand on her abdomen she fell fast asleep and dreamed of walking beneath the New York City sunshine with her leonine children and their father at her side.
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Ten
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