At Last … Forever!


 Part One

 The afternoon passed quietly into evening … at least, it did somewhere other than the Tunnels! 

 During the early afternoon, people scuttled busily, and smiled at each other.  They bumped into each other in the passageways and in the kitchen, laughed and moved on.  The Great Hall was a beehive of activity, choreographed and directed by Rebecca and Jamie. 

Excitement permeated every inch of the tunnels.  Today was the day that Vincent and Catherine would be joined in marriage, the event to finally seal the promise of love each gave to the other and step further into their own enchanted fairytale.  It was the beginning of a much deserved happy life for the both of them, as seen in the eyes of all their family and friends.      

Pascal was on the pipes, helping to organize the escort and arrival of several of the Helpers and Catherine’s new-to-the-tunnel top-sider guests…the latter a grand total of three, including her father, Jenny, and Joe.  William was in his element, creating massive amounts of mouthwatering food for the masses.  

Later, Vincent, Devin, and Mouse were seriously passing time by showing Joe Maxwell around and answering his multitude of questions.  Joe was… adapting.  He had been introduced to Vincent just prior to Winterfest, a meeting that had been interesting…to say the least.  

Charles Chandler was visiting with Jacob and Peter in the library, ironing out the final detailed plans for Catherine’s post-matrimonial legal status. Vincent legally did not exist in the world Above, but she would legally change her name, adding “-Wells” after “Chandler”.  She would also wear her wedding band and have an absentee husband to all but her closest friends.

Catherine was being attended by Jenny and Mary in a guest chamber, preparing to join her groom.  The ceremony was slated for 6 o’clock; it couldn’t arrive soon enough for Catherine.

The bride and groom had wanted a small, quiet ceremony.  Tactfully, it had been pointed out that excluding anyone would have been needlessly hurtful when everyone felt they had a vested interest in the couple.  The Helpers had watched Vincent grow from an awkward, lovable child to a large, much-loved friend who had had the good luck and foresight to fall in love with Catherine.  Catherine had proven herself time and again to this community, the people Above, and to Vincent.  She was not accepted just as Vincent’s Catherine, she held her own place in the tunnel family.  She was valued for her kindness, her wisdom, and for her loyalty…to all of them.  The fact that she made Vincent happy and complete just cemented her position as beloved to all.

Excitement permeated the vast tunnels.  Happiness pushed all other things aside, leaving only a perfect atmosphere for the adored couple to celebrate their joined destinies.

The Great Hall was getting used more than ever this year.  First the engagement party, then Winterfest, and now Vincent and Catherine’s wedding. As evening approached, the guests were assembling; the food was ready to be brought in afterwards for the reception. Everyone was in attendance.

At last, Catherine stood waiting at the back beside her father; she couldn’t seem to stop smiling.  She didn’t wear the standard white wedding gown; she wore an exact replica of the rich velvet burgundy gown that Kristopher Gentian had painted her in.  Her hair was brushed smooth until it fell in soft, shining abundance. She wore a narrow circlet of baby’s breath and pearls with a cascade of veil falling gently down her back, her face left uncovered.  She carried a small nosegay of white baby rosebuds wrapped in cascading ribbons.

She and Vincent had decided against having anyone stand up with them, so it was just going to be her and her father entering. 

Charles caught his daughter’s hand in his and brought it to his lips.  The small fingers were unadorned; Vincent would replace her crystal ring where it belonged during the ceremony.  He didn’t have to ask if his lovely daughter was happy; she radiated happiness.

The Great Hall became quiet as the strains of Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” began.  The tunnel musicians did a beautiful job with the acoustic guitar and violin.  Catherine grinned and took her father’s arm.

Charles had to tease.  “Walk, Catherine.  Don’t run.”

“Yes, Daddy.”  She tugged a little on his arm and they turned toward the gathering.


* * *

Vincent stood at regal attention, his startling blue eyes fixed on the beauty walking slowly towards him.  The music faded from his ears and the presence of the filled chamber ceased to exist for him. His entire being was totally focused on the universal light encased in the small frame of his beloved Catherine.  He saw the bright warmth of her smile, the graceful tilt of her chin, the overwhelming love that beamed forth from her shining green eyes.  Love for him--unending, uncomplicated, and unconditional.  Unbelievable!

From the first moment he’d met her, she had captured his heart…a heart that he had always felt unworthy, unwanted.  A meager gift, he had shamefully thought…but all he had was hers.  His strength, his friendship, his protection…his heart, soul, and love.  He had never, and would never, regret giving it all to her.

Catherine barely restrained the impulse to break free of her father’s arm and run the remaining distance to her beloved Vincent.  He stood so tall, so still…as if frozen in a moment of suspended time, waiting for her to reach him.   

Her loving eyes drank in the width of his shoulders, the strength of his muscled legs, and her heart began a solid pounding.  His beautiful mane of hair was brushed and gleamed blond-gold in the candlelight.  Her breath caught in her throat as a sob of pure joy trembled forth when her eyes lit on his beautiful leonine face.  Fierce blue eyes flared with love and longing…for her; a love that enwrapped her soul and made her complete.  

From the moment he’d found her, she had belonged only to him.  Catherine saw and understood how deeply he felt, how strong, how gentle, how very loving this special man was.  She wanted him and his love--couldn’t breathe without it.    

Catherine’s eyes never left his as she stopped beside him.  Love shimmered between them, above them, around them.  Golden light gently embraced them as her father murmured the words, “Her mother and I,” before he gave her hand over to Vincent, then went to take a seat.     

A quiet moment descended as if everyone were held spellbound.    

Quietly, each beheld the other.    

Vincent’s eyes moved over his bride from the top of her encircled hair, then became ensnared in the beauty of her eyes all over again.  Finally, he tracked the graceful length of her throat down to bare shoulders, fitted sleeves that ended in a Renaissance “vee” at her hands.  The draped velvet bodice rested atop soft breasts where his pendant remained safely nestled.  The deep burgundy velvet hugged her waist and loved her hips and thighs before flaring at the knees and dropping to the top of the matching velvet shoes.  His eyes returned to her face, radiant with happiness.   

“Catherine…”  His voice broke.  He tried again, a bit clearer.  “You take my breath away.”    

Her fingers tightened around his.  “That’s okay…”  She smiled that enchantingly mischievous smile that was purely Catherine.  “…I’ll give it back to you, later.”     

He couldn’t help it. He laughed - a rare, purely happy laugh.  The assembled people were pleasantly surprised and a murmur spread through the chamber.    

With a quick, heartfelt kiss to the knuckles of her hand, they turned to face a smiling Father, who began the ceremony.  Soon it was time for their own written vows. 

     I, Vincent, take you, Catherine, to be my beloved wife.

    When men look upon me, they would think how little

    I have to offer, and how much I have been given.

    I am truly blessed. 

    I give you all that I am.  I will protect you, cherish you,

    And love you for the rest of my life and beyond.

    I give you my promise: You will know every moment of

    Every day that you are loved … eternally.    

Vincent placed her crystal ring on the fourth finger of her left hand and gently kissed it. 

    I, Catherine, take you, Vincent, to be my most beloved husband.

   I will love you in body, in mind, and in Spirit until Spirit

   Is all that remains … and then I will love you even stronger.

   I give you all that I am and receive you to myself, all that

   You are.  I will protect you, cherish you, and love you for the

   Rest of my life and beyond.

   I give you my promise: You will never be alone.  I will never

   Leave you.   

Catherine’s voice was steady and sure.  She placed a simple gold band on his finger and raised his hand to her cheek, her eyes steady on his.  The ceremony soon ended and Vincent swept her forward in a thorough, poignant kiss.  Joyfully, Catherine returned it as the witnesses stood with happy applause.


End of Part 1


Part 2 of “At Last … Forever!” will be available at The Steam Tunnels.


* * *

*Author's Note

Dear Readers,

 Thank you so much for taking time to read my stories. I don't think many people give much thought to  the author's actual motivations in how the characters are presented; but with this being my last planned story, (Any others will have to strike my imagination in the future) I wanted to reply to the readers serious feedback to me.

 In the three stories presented on The Steam Tunnels (The Education of Vincent, Our Music Chamber, and Teasing the Beast... written in that order) my intention (and Catherine's) was to give Vincent the lovely experiences of falling in love and the exploration of intimacy he missed out on while growing up. (The kisses, the heavy petting, the frustration and the teasing.) 

After "Visions of Love", Catherine knew just how deprived of human touch the younger Vincent was... what he missed and what he needed. Her promises she made in that story (and really throughout the series), was that-- given the chance she would give him everything she had, that she would be there for him, his every need she would endeavor to fulfill. Granted, they are not teenagers, but Vincent is still innocent in so many ways and Catherine has never truly been in love before... not anywhere near the real love she feels for Vincent. That's why my stories are in stages and end where they do, I used the promise of a complete wedding night and "At Last, Forever!" to reflect not only Vincent's old-fashioned gentlemanly charm, but ultimately it is really just the place where he can claim her as his wife and physically love Catherine without fear and with a confidence he would not have had otherwise. It's the Happy Ever After ending I so much felt they deserved. I'm not truly a puritan at heart as my stories should reveal. LOL
 Did I succeed? I may never know... oh well, such is the life of an author!