When Vincent refuses to discuss their relationship with Catherine, she tells him something that leaves him totally perplexed
Seeing Catherine back to the threshold beneath her apartment building always left Vincent with a great deal of sadness, but this evening he felt even worse than usual. Catherine had spent the weekend in the tunnels and had enjoyed visiting with his family helping them with their assigned chores.
She had made candles with Rebecca, cooked pies with William, mended sheets with Mary and had spent a great deal of one whole afternoon with Pascal learning the pipe codes and when she wasn’t with any of his family she was spending time with him or his father reading and playing chess in their chambers.
It had been a pleasant weekend until Catherine had started to presume more of Vincent than he deemed appropriate to presume. In fact he felt that she was encroaching on his rights and the way home to her apartment had not been an enjoyable one.
Fraught with tension both had dawdled neither wishing their time together to end but at the same time each wanting space of their own to think about the things that had been said.
Finally they could prolong the inevitable no more, as standing beneath the blue white light that would take Catherine back to her world she turned to Vincent and with one hand placed over his heart asked him, “Will I see you before I visit again next weekend, Vincent.” He stared straight ahead over the top of her refusing to look into her eyes. Catherine felt utterly bereft, she knew she had hurt him, but after all it was only a little presumptuousness on her part surely he could forgive her?
“I’m sorry Vincent perhaps I should never have mentioned those other things, clearly you aren’t ready to move our relationship forward at this time.” That got his attention. He looked down at her and Catherine saw the corners of his mouth twitch with agitation. She waited for him to speak, almost knowing word for word what he would say, “there never will be a time Catherine. Our relationship can never include those things.” He looked away embarrassed.
“You say that now, but Vincent if only we could talk about it?” Vincent shook his head.
“Please? At least tell me that you will think about it during the week ahead. I love you Vincent and I’m sure this will be right for us. I’m not afraid.”
“You should be afraid.” Catherine heard the warning note in his voice but dismissed it, “You’re wrong. Nothing will happen to me, you always protect me, how can making love harm me?”
Catherine saw Vincent shudder when she said the words making love but other than that she got no response from him, he simply would not talk about it.
With a sigh Catherine placed her foot on the first rung of the ladder that would take her back to her world and began to climb, surprised when Vincent caught her half way up. Still holding onto the ladder Catherine looked back enquiringly wondering what he might say. He told her, “We must never bring this subject up again, Catherine. When you return next weekend I don’t want to hear you speak of it. Such things are not for the likes of me and you must learn to accept that.”
“I would never try to force you into something that you wouldn’t want, Vincent, but there are ways to an end and we could talk about those. I need you Vincent and I’m sure if only you let yourself you can agree that you need this between us too.”
Abruptly Vincent let go of her and she tottered for a moment on the ladder before steadying herself and there half up and half down Catherine sighed deeply, “Just tell me you’ll think about it, that’s all I ask. And I don’t mean negatively. At the end of the day Vincent you are the man that I love and I so want to give everything to you.”
Shaking his head so that his tawny mane shrouded his face Vincent refused to listen, “Go now Catherine, don’t speak of this again!” He sounded gruff angry and Catherine felt tears prick at the backs of her eyes. Resolutely she forced them away and then she said something that would leave Vincent perplexed for many days to come.
“You always abide by tunnel rules don’t you Vincent?”
He regarded her cryptically before nodding and saying “yes.”
“Well you aren’t obeying them this time, Vincent. You’ve forgotten Pascal’s Promise.” Smiling enigmatically with her face turned so that he could not see Catherine continued to climb the ladder, “See you Friday night if not before, my love.” She called down cheerily. Vincent said nothing, still pondering this ‘Pascal’s Promise.’ What on earth did she mean? He had never heard of a rule with that title before.
Closing the doors to the world below Catherine caught one last look of him standing absolutely bewildered and she chuckled as she stepped away to ride the elevator up to her apartment. “That should fox you, my love.” She spoke out loud, “Let’s see what you make of that.”
*** *** ***
Back at his chamber, Vincent still wondered what Catherine had meant. He’d never heard the phrase before and as soon as he was able he went along to his father’s chamber to seek advice there. Of course he couldn’t just ask because Father would shrewdly know that there was a reason behind such a question and so Vincent had to slip it in unnoticed so to speak without causing a stir.
So while they had sat either side of the chessboard with Father winning due to Vincent’s mind on other things, Vincent finally brought the topic up quite innocently he hoped. “Father, what do you think of Pascal’s Promise?”
“Huh? What? Pascal’s Promise?” Already Vincent could see he should never have asked, he felt his cheeks redden and was glad his father wouldn’t notice in such poor lighting.
“It doesn’t matter.” Vincent told him but Father was already hooked. “Pascal has promised something? What is it? Why haven’t I been informed?” And before Vincent knew what was happening Father was tapping out a message on the pipes that Vincent deciphered as being for Pascal and asking what he had been promising to do around the tunnels.
Seconds later Pascal tapped back, ‘haven’t promised to do anything. Who said I did and what is it?’
Perplexed Father leaned back on his chair and regarded his son with a look of puzzlement, “Care to explain what all this is about, Vincent.” He asked. Vincent had the distinct impression that if Father smoked he would be lighting up his pipe and waiting for him to speak about now. Instead Father peered over his spectacles and waited, Vincent, however, knew not what to say.
“Anytime today.” Father told his son with a twinkle in his eye.
Vincent sighed, decided to come clean well as clean as he dared and told his father, “It was something Catherine said. She told me that I was avoiding the tunnel rules by forgetting Pascal’s Promise or words to that effect. I haven’t a clue what she meant and she would not enlighten me.”
Father almost laughed, huh Catherine and her synonyms, Father betted that she was feeling every bit the minx right now, and he intended to tell her when she next visited just how she had ruffled his poor son’s feathers. “Tell me,” Father began “Just what were you and Catherine talking about at the time?”
Distinctly Father saw Vincent colour up and his eyes twinkled merrily, “As if I didn’t know.” It was all too much for Vincent, who pushing back his chair stood and exited the chamber as fast as his legs would carry him. Father burst into laughter, “Oh my, oh my. Dear Catherine, you have my son running ragged, you most certainly have.”
*** *** ***
Receiving no joy from his parent and wanting to know what Catherine had meant even more now since Father seemed to have an inklin but would not say without embarrassing him, Vincent sought out Mary, who had been forewarned somewhat by the messages that Father and Pascal had posted to one another. She looked up from her sewing as Vincent came through the entranceway to her chamber enquired as to his well being and then bade him sit near her, “Tea Vincent?” She rose, but he beat her to it, “Let me.” Soon he had poured them both a steaming mug of tea one of which Mary placed her hands around to seek the warmth she found there. “Thank you Vincent. So what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?” Her eyes twinkled and Vincent almost got up and left. His father and Mary were two of a kind. Each were very perceptive and especially so when it came to him. “You would have heard of course?”
“About Pascal’s Promise, yes my dear. However I haven’t a clue as to what the promise is. Care to enlighten me?”
“If I could I would.” Vincent shrugged, “As it is I know no more than you or Father. Perhaps I should ask the man himself.”
“I thought Father had already tried that, in his bull in the china shop kind of way.” Vincent and Mary laughed together, “Yes not very discreet is he?” Vincent added.
“And then some!” Mary burst into laughter and then she asked a similar question as Father, but Vincent did not take umbrage with her. “So how exactly has this thing come up? Were you discussing it with someone?”
“Yes Catherine.” Vincent replied wishing he didn’t have to say and then found himself filling Mary in with the same explanation he had used on Father.
“Mm,” Mary was thoughtful. “Sounds like a synonym to me. Obviously Catherine used it to mean something else, but in such a way to keep you wondering and asking questions about it. When you do find out what she meant Vincent let’s hope you learned the lesson whatever it is, because knowing Catherine that was her sole intention for using the synonym and there has to be a hidden meaning behind it.”
Only Vincent knew, of course, what he and Catherine had been discussing, or rather what Catherine had tried to discuss and he wouldn’t have a bar of. Everything she had said had fallen on deaf ears, Vincent resolutely refused to listen to anything that Catherine said about moving their relationship forward. The matter was closed and that was that. He couldn’t even begin to think about it, as such things could never be for him, so thinking about them would be a lost cause, a waste of time and energy and fruitless to do so.
“Have I helped?” Mary watched the many expressions chase their way across Vincent’s face as he pondered her explanation.
“Yes, I think so. It would of course, help if I knew what Pascal’s Promise actually is. “ He rose, “Thank you Mary, I think I will go and see Pascal now.”
“You’re welcome child. I hope it all works out for you.” She winked at him and Vincent detected an underlying message in her eyes. He knew Mary and Catherine were close could it be that Mary had an inkling as to what this was all about? Vincent blushed, he hoped not. Quickly he left Mary’s chamber behind and headed for Pascal’s domain.
He found the small man with the balding head and bright merry eyes hard at work always checking that his pipes were in full working order, knowing lives depended on them as well as the tunnel communication. “Hello Vincent,“ Pascal greeted the younger man warmly, “Wondered how long it would be before you turned up and if you are coming to ask me what ever it is I’m supposed to have promised to do, then I’ll tell you the same as Father, as far as I know I haven’t promised anyone anything.”
With varying questions, Vincent prompted his friend, but Pascal just shook his head. He was finding it all tiresome and needed to get on with his work, finally he said so. “Look, sorry Vincent, but I really don’t have time for this.” He spoke crossly and Vincent blushed apologised and moved to the exit. “Sorry to have troubled you.” He told Pascal as he left and standing outside of the older man’s chamber Vincent wondered who he should seek next to ask his questions.
*** *** ***
Half a week later and still none the wiser, Vincent was growing exasperated. What had Catherine meant? Lying on his bed late one evening after Father had dismissed him from one of his classes for not paying attention much to his embarrassment and the children’s satisfaction, Vincent pondered what Catherine had been referring to.
‘Pascal’s Promise…you’ve forgotten Pascal’s Promise.’ Her words set to haunt him. What did she mean? It had something to do with what she had been trying to discuss that was for sure, but what part did Pascal play in such a thing? Vincent knew that Catherine had spent one whole afternoon with Pascal learning the pipe codes, but he could hardly imagine that they would discuss such private things as her relationship with him. Pascal would be most indignant at being chosen to offer advice and views on such a subject regarding the two of them, and Vincent doubted that Catherine would seek Pascal’s help on that topic anyway. Therefore, if she referred to Pascal’s Promise and it had been a synonym then she must have been referring to his reluctance to talk about their relationship but how? Where was the link, the clue? Vincent thought he would go mad. He’d asked everyone he knew and the annoying part now was that everyone wanted to know what Pascal’s Promise had been when he did find out. Vincent wasn’t certain that he wanted to enlighten them. In fact he felt terrified having to do it. For beginning to tell would mean having to explain why Catherine had used it and then that would lead to other embarrassing questions that he should only discuss with Catherine.
By Thursday evening and four nights since Catherine had gone home Vincent could stand it no longer. Donning his cloak, Father watched him sweep past his chamber and with fingers entwined beneath his chin his eyes twinkled as he pondered on the outcome of his son’s visit above sure that Vincent would be going to visit Catherine. “About time” Father commented to Mary who had also seen Vincent rush by, “Though you’d think having fretted about it all week, he could have waited another twenty four agonising hours until Catherine is back again, wouldn’t you? This way we may never find out what it was all about.”
Mary laughed, “Maybe Catherine will enlighten us. Clever woman that Catherine, whatever Vincent’s problem, she made certain that he did not forget it.”
Father chuckled, “Never seen him so bothered. Had to throw him out of class again today, the children were running riot while Vincent stared off into space. I just hope Catherine doesn’t do this sort of thing too often.”
Up above Catherine never intended to do anything like it ever again. But peeved as she was that Vincent would not even discuss their relationship she had had to do something that would at least keep his mind on it. Yet she did not expect him to visit with her before she met him on Friday and it was an absolute surprise when he suddenly dropped down onto her terrace as she was closing the balcony doors.
Opening them again, she stepped outside, “Vincent?” She queried, “How wonderful, would you like to come in? It’s getting chilly out here tonight.”
Vincent shook his head, “I’m not staying” He spoke gruffly and Catherine winced and a small smile played around her lips as she replied, “Oh. Well as you can see I’m fine, so unless you have come for a social visit and intend to enter my apartment, then you had best wait until I visit tomorrow, because its too cold for me to stand out there on the terrace at this time of year.” Vincent recoiled, never had she worried before about such things. He could remember sitting out on the balcony with her wrapped in his cloak as snow fell on their heads.
“So, you coming in or what?” Catherine held open the door. Vincent shook his head, “I’ll meet you tomorrow night at the threshold.” His intention to leave was obvious, “Only if you promise to obey Pascal’s Promise. Otherwise I may as well stay up here for the weekend.” Catherine told him. His back to her, Catherine saw him stiffen and bit back a chuckle for obviously he was none the wiser as to what Pascal’s Promise was. His face confirmed it. Turning Catherine could clearly see his bewilderment and when he told her, “I’ve been asking everyone what Pascal’s Promise is, even Pascal himself and no one knows,” Catherine’s heart went out to him. He seemed so lost, so utterly bereft and tired. Yes he actually looked tired. “Come inside Vincent.” Catherine moved away from the open door and hoped he would follow. After a long agonising moment when she deemed he might do anything, he actually stepped inside closed the doors behind him shed his boots and sat at the dining table watching her closely.
“Would you like some tea, or hot chocolate? I have some whipped cream or marshmallows to add on top?” Vincent began to feel at ease, he nodded, “Chocolate with cream would be nice.” He told her.
While he vegetated in her sitting room looking for all the world like a square peg in a round hole, Catherine chuckled to herself, and as she brought to the table two steamy mugs of hot chocolate covered in whipped cream she launched her first question. “So are you ready to discuss our relationship Vincent?”
At first he seemed annoyed that she had opened with it so soon, but then his face relaxed. After wondering what Pascal’s Promise had been all week, anything else took second place. He nodded and relented, “Yes alright Catherine you win.”
Catherine was elated and it showed on her face. Her eyes shone with happiness, leaving Vincent mildly hurt to know he had said so little to make her so happy. If just agreeing to talk had done that what more could be achieved by…his mind snapped shut…he would not think on those things…yet.
“Vincent you know that I love you, don’t you?” Catherine’s hands reached across and grasped his where he lay them on the table.
“Yes Catherine, I know that you love me. It is the greatest source of joy to me that you do, but…”
“Enough Vincent. There can be no buts. Do you love me?”
Head bowed, then lifted Vincent met her eyes, “With all that I am I love you Catherine.” His lips trembled it was taking all of his control to actually talk to her as he knew what was coming next.
“There are so many expressions of love Vincent.” Catherine spoke gently, “And yet I have been denied all of them with you. I cannot express what I feel for you in touch and affection because you deny me the right, do you know how that makes me feel, Vincent?”
Head bowed, he answered her, “Yes.”
“I know our connection tells you such things Vincent, but do you know how it makes me feel when you shut me out and refuse to move our relationship forward?” Catherine asked gently with a squeeze to his hands. Had he seen them Vincent would have known the sincerity in her eyes.
He said nothing and Catherine prompted, “My love, you are everything to me. And you deserve everything. Nothing of myself will I ever withhold from you. What I have is yours, you only have to say that you want me.”
Acute embarrassment flamed Vincent’s cheeks and he had to take deep agonising breaths or he would have got up and left there and then. It was taking all his willpower to remain where he was, and neither did he want to snatch his hands away from Catherine’s. They felt good there.
“How I love you!” Catherine exclaimed seeing his discomfort, “Am I hurting you so? Would you like to leave me now?”
Vincent wanted nothing more, but strangely he shook his head. He had a momentous feeling that he was about to take a gigantic leap into the unknown and never would the chance come again. He both craved and feared it.
“Vincent I’m going to ask you something outright. You know what I want from you, I have to know if there is a possibility that you can give it to me.” Catherine paused significantly enough for Vincent to raise his head and look directly at her. In her eyes he saw love, and desire and hope.
Taking a deep breath Catherine asked the ultimate question, “Vincent, please, could you find it in yourself to…make love to me?”
She saw him swallow with great difficulty but his eyes never left hers, and then at last far faster than she had imagined he began to speak, “I want to, I want to more than anything. Oh Catherine, I love you. Do you really think we could?” His hands slipped around hers and squeezed her fingers eliciting an automatic response from her. With their hands still clasped Catherine left the chair facing him and walked around the table to his side, only then did he let go of her hands and swiftly she placed them around his neck as she slipped onto his lap. There with eyes only for each other Catherine leaned in to take her first sweet kiss of his delicious mouth. Vincent moaned but did not attempt to break contact allowing Catherine to seek from him what she craved the most. Hearts hammering they moulded their bodies together and Catherine only half became aware when Vincent lifted her and walked disjointedly into her bedroom with her clasped tight against his chest. Once there he lay down with her on the bed and shrugged out of his cloak that Catherine had unfastened, all the while not breaking contact with her lips. He was drowning in emotions her hands brushed everywhere and his hot body pulsed with a life all its own, needing her so much.
“Catherine, Catherine, show me how to love you.” He husked against her lips.
“Let your instincts guide you, my love.” He felt her smile against his mouth and let his instincts guide him.
*** *** ***
Morning found the lovers entwined safe in one another’s arms, sunlight streaming through the window casting a golden hue across the bed. Catherine played with Vincent’s upper lip, slipping her tongue into the secret cleft until his shuddering response pulled a groan from him from somewhere deep inside. “I love you Mr Wells.” Catherine told him as she snuggled more securely into his arms.
“I’d love you more if you would agree to become Mrs Wells.”
Catherine gasped, “Are you proposing to me Mr Wells?” Her eyes were bright and incredulous. Vincent chuckled, “I most certainly am, my love. How can I ever live without you now, without this? Catherine I want to spend the rest of my life waking up to find you in my arms…in my bed…oh Catherine I love you so much.”
“Well put like that how can a girl refuse?”
Startled, Vincent’s blue eyes opened wide, “You’ll marry me?”
Enthusiastically, Catherine nodded, “I’d love to marry you.”
*** *** ***
Later that day and down in the tunnels Father had never known Vincent talk so much. Naturally he didn’t go into details for his change of heart where Catherine was concerned, but now that she had agreed to become his wife he wanted to talk about all manner of things relating to their wedding, the reception, guests, their honeymoon, he just didn’t want to stop talking. Father’s head was spinning by the time Vincent went in search of other tunnel members to tell them the good news with Catherine in tow. And by evening everyone felt exhausted, happily so.
Back in his chamber Vincent cuddled Catherine close, she was spending the night with him there in his bed rather than use the guest chamber he would have it no other way, even though she had protested, “One shock too many could be detrimental to your father’s health.” She told him, but Vincent had just flippantly remarked that he had to get used to it sooner or later it just may as well be sooner.
Surprised Catherine laughed heartily, and then because he seemed to have forgotten all about it, though no one else had because they had quizzed her all day, Catherine told him, “I’m so happy Vincent, and so glad that you do obey all the tunnel rules. If you hadn’t of applied Pascal’s Promise we might never be where we are now.” Vincent frowned, “I wanted to ask you about that.”
“Oh did you?” Catherine replied innocently.
“Yes, exactly what did you mean, by Pascal’s Promise. Even Pascal denies having made one.”
“Why Vincent, I’m not surprised. Pascal’s Promise is just another tunnel rule not a literal promise of Pascal.” She shrugged, “Did it have you flustered, my dear?”
“You know it did.” Vincent replied with laughter in his eyes and he kissed the tip of her nose.
“Well I’m pretty sure it will never be a problem between you and I again, however if it does I’ll just remind you of it okay, and then you can act wisely just as you have this time.”
“So what does it mean?” Vincent sounded exasperated and Catherine wanting to toy with him further decided against it. A certain fire was creeping into Vincent’s eyes and there were better ways to tease him.
“Simply put, Pascal’s Promise is to keep the lines of communication open. Something that you simply refused to do, however I am glad to announce that it is no longer a problem.” And as if to prove her point, Vincent moaned very loudly and as her busy little hands sought ways to please him not another word was heard from him all night long.
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