Catherine could hear the discussion that had been going on for hours in the study as she came up from her tunnel visit. It was late in the evening, as the clock chimed in the hallway. Vincent and Joe were having one of their weekly debates on whatever topic one or the other came up with for that day. It was a game of sorts, each taking a side trying to out-think the other.
She smiled as she recalled the time her youngest son, Joey, asked her a strange question. “Hey Mom, do you know why Dad wanted to look over my books on baseball today? I never knew Dad was interested in baseball.”
She only shrugged and said, “Not sure honey.”
Then a little thought made her chuckle to herself. He’s boning up for his evening with Joe, I’ll bet.
Catherine loved the fact that Vincent, even with his limited experience in many areas, was at times able to swing Joe to his way of thinking. Joe was always amazed at his friend’s knowledge in so many diverse areas. In the Above world he knew Vincent would be a leader in whatever field he would have chosen.
Joe occasionally felt sadness for his friend; that this extraordinary man was not free to go out into the world. At the same time he was a little envious of all the wonders Vincent had in his expanded yet sheltered life.
He had his beautiful Catherine and their four amazing children, living in the world she worked so hard to create for him Above. Then he had the remarkable world Below with all its own wonders and extended loving family.
“Vincent, can I ask you something? It’s kind of personal. So if you don’t want to answer, I’ll understand…ok?” Joe asked.
“Joe, you may ask me anything. I will answer it as long as it doesn’t break any confidence I have promised to keep,” he said, smiling at Joe’s inquisitive look.
“Ok, here goes. Is there anything you would really like to do that you haven’t been able to do, aside from the most obvious things, of course?”
He sat pondering for a few minutes, then nodding his head and smiling, Hmm…yes, there is something.
“Yes Joe, there is something. Not a big thing to you maybe, but for me, it’s only a dream that I have now and again.”
“What? Come on, Vincent. Out with it. What would you like to do that you have never been able to?” Joe prodded in his best courtroom voice.
He smiled at Joe, tilted his head and said, “Take my beautiful wife on a date out to dinner at a fancy restaurant. Joe, she has given up so much to be…with me. She has built a life unimaginable for me, for us, for our children.”
Vincent stood quiet for a few seconds, reflecting on his life.
“Joe, I still sometimes think it’s all a dream and I will awake to find myself alone and empty. Her heart is so full of love and she gives it freely. Catherine asks for so little in return. Without her love my heart would surely be a hollow empty shell.”
Joe sat watching and listening to his friend. A seed had been planted.
“Vincent it’s getting late, and before Cathy comes up to toss me out, I’ll say goodnight. I enjoyed our discussion tonight – as usual, my friend. See you next week, and say 'Hi' to all Below for me,” Joe said, heading down the stairs and toward the front door.
“Goodnight, Joe. See you next week.”
Lying in bed propped up with pillows and reading, they were relaxed in the warm contentment of their Bond. Jacob was away at school. Charles was out with a group of friends. Joey and Jenny were Below for the weekend, taking a small group of tunnel children on a camping trip with Cullen. They weren’t sure who to feel sorry for the most – Cullen, or the children.
“Vincent, I could hear you and Joe – well, really Joe – down in the kitchen. You two really were giving strong argument to each side of… what were you debating tonight anyway?” She asked, looking wickedly into his big blue eyes.
“Oh, nothing too controversial…just world peace,” he answered, smiling and touching her cheek.
“I’m so happy you and Joe are friends. It gives both of you someone to argue…no, debate…with that doesn’t result into bad feelings. You both respect each other’s opinions and will listen to each other. Most people argue and won’t even listen to what either side has to say.”
She sat up a little to fluff her pillow, and moved a tad closer to him.
“In the beginning, I was afraid Joe wouldn’t be able to accept our relationship. That was before he met you, my love. But you won him over. I love Joe like a big brother and didn’t want to exclude him from the happiness of our life. But you, Vincent, made it all possible, and for that I will always be grateful.”
Catherine leaned over to place a kiss on his fuzzy nose.
“Catherine, I feel as close to Joe now as I did to Devin growing up. He’s a good man and he loves you. Although in the beginning, he was hoping for more, I believe, than brotherly love. He – as I – only wants you to be happy, and will do what ever it takes to do so. Thus, in the beginning, if having to accept me did it, he was happy to do it for you.”
Catherine put down her book, rolled slightly toward him, and started running her hand over his chest, slowly letting it drop lower. Vincent put down his book, pulled her onto his lap, and started trailing butterfly kisses down her neck and shoulder.
“Hmmm…you’re not so hard to accept my wonderful husband, lover, friend or whatever you want to be right now,” she whispered, slightly out of breath.
“I believe I shall go with lover,” Vincent whispered, rolling her over onto her back and sliding her night gown up over her head in one flowing motion. They then slowly and sensually loved each other until they finally floated down from the combined explosive celebration of their love. He purred softly as she lay on top of him, tenderly kneading his chest in contentment. A late summer breeze was flowing in the French doors of their bedroom, with hints of honeysuckle and roses making it feel thoroughly enchanted. They knew how blessed they were and accepted it gratefully.
Summer turned into fall, and a myriad of colors from the spring and summer flowers changed to the golds, oranges, coppers and reds of autumn. The air was a little cooler and the winds brought the scent of bonfires lightly into their study. They sat reading and listening to classical music playing softly in the background.
Above them they could faintly hear the music of their teenage children. Catherine was sure her music never sounded that bad. Of course, Vincent had never heard anything like it before. He was trying to understand what his children saw in the loud and sometimes unintelligible noise. But, as Catherine pointed out occasionally, her father never liked my music either, guess it must be a right of passage.
“Vincent, Joe and Jenny are coming over tomorrow evening for dinner. You and Joe will, of course, solve the problems of the world? Jenny wants to shop early for Halloween costumes. Okay?” she asked, grinning mischievously.
“Yes, I believe Joe is, and I am looking forward to solving more of the world’s problems. Isn’t Jenny starting a little early? Or is she looking for something special?” he asked quizzically.
“I don’t know. But it will be fun. Shopping with Jenny is nothing if not an adventure,” she said at the thought of her best friend.
The next day, dinner was over and the ladies had left the gentlemen to fend for themselves for the evening.
“Vincent, remember a few months back I asked you a question about doing something you couldn’t do, but would like too?” Joe asked when they were alone in the study.
“Yes, I believe I do. Why do you ask, Joe”?
“Because I think I can work it out so you can. If I can, will you go for it?"
“Joe, please…I don’t think I fully understand what you’re saying,” he replied to his friend with questioning eyes.
“Remember, you said you’ve dreamed of taking Cathy out to dinner at a fancy restaurant? I think I have it all worked out so you can,” he said, totally proud of himself.
“Joe, how could this be? It’s an almost impossible dream.”
“Again, if I can work everything out, are you game to try?”
“Tell me your plan, please.”
“Ok, here goes. We do it on Halloween, first of all. It’s the only night you can be out without looking out of place. I’ll arrange for a limo – a buddy of mine has one and he owes me a few favors.”
Vincent stood with his hands on his hips, listening intently to Joe’s plan.
“You send a message to Cathy and Jenny, telling them you’ll be late and to wait at the house for you. She’ll just think you got hung up Below a little. I’ll pick you up in the park. We come here, pick up the ladies in style and off we go. What do you think?”
Vincent still looked apprehensive at what Joe was telling him.
“Jenny knows about this and will stall if need be. She has a cousin who opened a new restaurant – the new hot spot, as it were. Reservations are hard to come by. Everyone will be in costume, so you’ll fit right in. Are you still with me?” Joe asked an astounded Vincent.
“I’m amazed that you even remembered a trivial everyday event for most. But it’s truly a dream for me. I don’t know what to say. It seems you have put a great deal of time and thought into this,” Vincent said, shaking his shaggy mane and smiling.
“Hey pal, isn’t it Cathy that always says nothing is impossible? Come on, Vincent, where’s your faith in me?” Joe asked, with his hands over his heart looking hurt.
“Joe, I’m without words. It’s for Catherine…so I must try.”
“Seeing you at a loss for words makes this all the more fun,” Joe said, grinning at Vincent and cuffing him on the arm.
“Joe, I’ll need money and I won’t use Catherine’s. I need to earn it.” After a moment of quiet thought, he said, “And I think I know how I can. I’ll need to speak with Jenny.”
The following week, before their weekly debate, Vincent closed the study door, crossed the room and smiled at Joe.
“Joe, I know how I can earn the money for our dinner. And at the same time, do something useful,” he whispered.
“What are you whispering for, Vincent? You can’t be heard outside this room when you speak naturally,” Joe said shaking his head and smiling at his friend.
“Okay, first, how are you going to earn the cash, and second, what has my Jenny got to do with this?” Joe asked, as he stood with his hands on his hips, trying to look alarmed.
“Jenny told me once that my voice was very soothing. She also knew people who used their voice for audio recordings. She told me if I ever wanted to do it, let her know.”
Vincent was starting to pace as he explained his plan to Joe.
“Well I let her know, and she contacted a friend who did recordings for the blind. I did a test recording. She said they were greatly pleased.”
“How could anyone not like listening to you read? Heck, even I like it when you read to the kids,” Joe said.
Vincent continued. “We used a helper’s home for the test reading, and can do the actual recordings there also. A few hours here and there in the evening will be all I need. Catherine will think I’m just out walking in the park, as I do sometimes to relax. This way, I can truly take my beautiful wife out to dinner with the money I earned like any regular husband,” he said.
“You know, pal, you are everything she ever said you were. I’m really glad that we’re friends. In the beginning, I was a little more than skeptical about you. But I’ve come to know and understand you and am honored to call you my friend. Or, if I may, a brother,” Joe said with pride.
“Thank you, Joe. I’m truly humbled that you would consider me a brother. I hope I never let you regret that. I see this is another gift of Catherine’s love that I must accept,” he quietly said with the hint of tears in both of their eyes.
The plan went along smoothly. Joe made all the Above preparations and Vincent did his recordings at the helper’s home. All was completed approximately two weeks before Halloween, leaving Joe and Vincent happy and proud of their undercover accomplishments. They actually felt like two teenagers who got away with something neat.
Halloween arrived with all the usual pomp in the household. Their children considered themselves too old to trick or treat Above, so they went Below to help make the tunnel children’s night fun and exciting.
Vincent, Catherine, Jenny and Joe were going to go walking in the city, and then Below for the evening.
Catherine and Jenny were finishing their makeup and costumes; they looked like two fairy princesses, all lacy and demure.
Joey came up from Below to deliver Vincent’s message.
“Hey, Mom! Dad said he’d be a few minutes late, so please wait for him here.” Joey yelled up the stairs and then disappeared again.
“Really, I have to wait on him for a change. Now there’s a first!
Charles, I guess you’re the one who will be passing out the treats this year for the trick or treaters. Okay, sweetie?” Catherine asked as she handed him the bowl of goodies.
”No problem, Mom. I always like to see what costumes the kids come up with. Every year it’s something new, and besides, I like to tease them with my empty dish trick. They look really surprised when I show them the empty dish and tell them it’s all gone.”
“Charles, it's terrible to tease little kids that way,” Aunt Jenny said, shaking her finger at him.
“Nope, it’s fun,” he said, looking devilish. “Hey, Mom, there’s a limo pulling up out front. Are you expecting someone special tonight?” Charles asked.
“Yes, sweetie. Your father…but he doesn’t have a limo,” she said, starting toward the front door curiously.
Upon reaching the door, she looked out to see the driver opening the
passenger door. Vincent and Joe stepped out, both smiling like the
“Ladies, may we have the honor of escorting you to dinner this evening?” Vincent asked, glancing back at Joe and winking.
Catherine just stood there looking totally bewildered. But she smiled as she looked into his heavenly blue eyes.
“Vincent, what did you say?”
“I asked if you would do me the honor of going out to dinner with me, my love.”
“No buts. Please be careful on the steps. Take my hand – you seem a bit unsteady. And may I say, you look beautiful when you’re perplexed.”
With that, he kissed her hand as he escorted her down the front steps to the limo. Joe was smiling along with Jenny as he helped her into the car.
Once seated, they were off to the restaurant and dinner in style.
The ride to their destination was quiet; Catherine was silent in her amazement, and the others enjoyed the fact that they could pull this off.
Vincent looked dashing in his white ruffled shirt, black velvet pants and matching vest. His black thigh high boots were shined smartly, and his cloak capped the outfit magnificently.
Jenny thought to herself, She really is surprised. Great! The evening is only beginning. We three are going to expand her world for as change!
Catherine’s eyes were as big as saucers. The look on her face was priceless. Vincent was enjoying the feeling of multiple emotions in their Bond: wonderment and joy, confusion and disbelief, but most of all, love.
They arrived at the restaurant and were seated with a flourish by the owner. Their table was by the window overlooking the river. The glowing lights on the walkway made star-like shapes on the water. The restaurant was bathed in soft lighting, making it seem as if a thousand candles were shimmering.
“My love, you’re so quiet. May I ask why?” Vincent whispered softly in her ear.
“Vincent, it’s like a dream I’ve had occasionally. You, my love, have made it come true. How did you know?”
“Catherine, it had been a dream of mine also…for you, for us. You have given up more than you realize to love and be with me. I can never give you enough for the gifts you have given me. At least I could try tonight. Now, with Joe and Jenny’s help, I have been able to fulfill one of your dreams…I hope.” His heart was so full of love for this woman.
“Vincent, you have made all my dreams come true from the moment I met you. Granted, there were more than a few hurdles. But we took them together and we never looked back, my love.”
She touched his cheek and caught the tear her words brought to his eyes.
“Hey, you two, if you keep that up you’ll need a room,” Joe said, trying to keep the evening light.
“You’re correct, my friend. Tonight is to be fun. Good food and wonderful friends,” Vincent said with a grin that let his canines show!
Their dinner was excellent, the champagne sparkling and the dessert sinful. They were like any other couple out for the evening and having a great time. When the waiter brought the check, Catherine started to reach for her purse.
“My dear wife, please allow me,” Vincent said with a smile.
She looked at him in disbelief. Then, with a smile, shrugged her shoulders and watched in amazement.
He reached inside his vest and took out a small leather pouch and produced the money to take care of the bill plus a generous tip for their waiter. She simply looked at him in bewilderment.
Back in the limo, they all sat laughing. Even Catherine had given up wondering and was truly enjoying the evening. Their driver told them all to sit back and let him give them the grand tour. True to his words, the driver took them all over the city. It was Vincent who contributed most of the dialogue. His knowledge of the city and its history was remarkable for someone who never lived in the Above world. They were amazed at his awareness on so many levels.
As they returned home to the brownstone, the driver told Vincent, “Hey buddy, any time you need a job as a tour guide, let me know.”
“Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind,” he said, knowing that it would never happen.
All was quiet in the house when they got home. A note from Charles said he had gone Below after giving out the treats to the tricksters.
“Vincent, I don’t know how you did all this. It was wonderful in so many ways. Thank you, my love. And thank you, Joe and Jenny. It was an incredible evening.” Catherine smiled and hugged them one at a time.
“Hey Radcliffe, did we expand your world for a change?” Joe asked, ever so pleased with their combined efforts.