The English version of this story is dedicated to my friend Rusty, who
chose it for me, not knowing it was mine.
Thank you for this almost-a-year of
Once again, Vincent found himself climbing. He had not found Catherine in her apartment for more than six months, but even so it continued to be a special place. He experienced a bittersweet happiness, anticipating the prospect of soon enjoying the sweet torture of being so close to his beloved’s memory. As always, he would appreciate the view, remembering the moments they had spent together, and looking over the lights of the city for some clue as to where she could be now. Eventually he would start remembering that moment, six months before, when a pipe message sent by Catherine had led him to her; but he had barely gotten to see her from a distance while she entered a car, and his attempts to stop the vehicle had failed. This memory would cause him renewed anxiety and frustration, and he would spend the rest of the night wandering the city streets looking for his love in vain. If only he could feel her.…
At her apartment, he felt an upsetting beat. He shook his head once again, troubled; the strange sensation had appeared suddenly three days ago, along with an intense and inexplicable pain which had driven him to the edge of madness. During this trip the beat had intensified. Maybe the exercise.… Father did not want him to go out, and he probably was right. Vincent was still recovering.
Before he reached the balcony, he noticed something was wrong, and he
traveled the rest of the way carefully. The apartment was lighted. There
was the possibility that another police officer had entered the
apartment looking for clues in the
An unpleasant idea entered his mind. What if someone had occupied the apartment? He avoided the thought; it caused him too much pain.
Vincent crossed the balcony. He knew that for his own sake he must abandon the area, but he did not stop even to consider it. Now that their empathic bond had disappeared and she was not close, this place was his bond with Catherine, and to lose it terrified him as if he were losing her by proxy.
A prick of nostalgia assaulted him when he saw the French doors, through which Catherine had so often run to his arms, glowing. He could see two shadows inside. Carefully, he stepped closer to them.
At first he could not believe what he was seeing. It must be another dream. And if it was, he did not want to wake up … for it gave him the opportunity of seeing Catherine’s shape … so close … as if she were not going to vanish at a touch.… She was not moving with the lightness he was familiar with, and her expression was of weariness and sadness, but it was her … safe … at home.
Now he was so close that he could support himself on the door, and he did, not considering even the risk of the other shape seeing him. This dream was too beautiful, too important.
Joe Maxwell didn’t look in Vincent’s direction; he was looking with worry at the woman. She had gone through pretty hard times. She had been kidnapped throughout all of her pregnancy! If not for Diana, who had found her and had guided the police to her.… It had been a good decision to employ the detective. Even with her help, Cathy had been found just in time, and she had had to give birth in an ambulance in precarious conditions. It had been just three days since then. It was incredible, the strength of this extraordinary woman who now saw him with a quiet, tired face. He embraced her lightly and crossed the threshold but, reticent to let her alone, he stayed there until he saw her close the door.
Catherine put her forehead against the door and sighed. Along with the wonder illuminating Vincent’s soul, he felt a prick of restlessness, followed by the overwhelming wish to comfort her. He raised his hand and just hesitated a moment before tapping the window with his nails as he used to do so many months before.
A second later, his arms closed around the delicate, warm shape of his beloved and felt her tremble. He felt Catherine’s arms slowly surrounding his waist, and the familiar yet longed-for touch made his eyes wet. He put his cheek against her hair and he inhaled his beloved’s scent. It had been months, and never before, not even in Catherine’s apartment, had her essence been so intense. Vincent felt amazed at how well he could remember her, and he thanked his subconscious with all his strength for giving him such a spotless, filled-with-details dream; he would treasure it for the rest of his life.
They embraced tightly for a long time. Neither of them had any wish or will to cut short this long-craved-for moment.
A shriek separated them. Catherine glanced into her apartment and then she turned to look into his eyes. A shiver traveled through Vincent. He needed no supernatural bond with her to understand her expression, and it was one of hesitation, almost of guilt. In any case, it just lasted a moment, until Catherine ran towards the source of the sound.
A child? Catherine had a child?
A swarm of powerful, contradictory emotions went through Vincent’s heart like a mortal arrow. He could only identify some of them: a furious envy as he had never known towards the father of the child – whoever he could be – and guilt for feeling something so wretched, along with pride for Catherine and an advanced pleasure for seeing her in the role of mother which would fit so nicely in such a complete woman.
Beside those emotions, his questions made no sense; they were too incoherent. If she had not been forced to leave, why had she disappeared so suddenly, without speaking with him? If she was not in danger, but just … spending time with her new family, why had she called him to her for help through the pipes six months before? Who would her lover be? What did all of that matter now?
She was long in returning. Perhaps she is breastfeeding her child, Vincent thought with ambivalent feelings. For a moment he thought about going away, but he had no strength to leave her - not now - and he found the perfect excuse to obey his feelings in the warm welcome she had given him.
Finally, Catherine’s delicate shape came closer. This time Vincent noticed her slightly stretched belly and her large breasts, along with the rounded face so typical of pregnant women and new mothers. Making it even clearer, Catherine held a swaddled infant in her arms.
It was like a vision.
Vincent had desired to allow himself to dream that this woman was his wife, that this baby was his child, but such dreams are allowed only to a man, and Vincent did not regard himself as such … not completely. Not even in his wildest dreams had he considered the possibility of creating a family with Catherine, and he had always known that she would find her own … with another man. Why this pain, when she had achieved the life that he himself desired for her? He smiled sadly, as he had smiled those painful days when Catherine was starting to love Burch; in his pain, he still felt happiness for her, and for this child who would have the opportunity of being breastfed by Catherine and, sated, sleep in her arms.
When Catherine came close enough, Vincent could see that her expression had changed: now it showed resolve. She stopped just before him. Vincent wanted to speak, to tell her how well maternity suited her and how happy he was for her, but a knot closed his throat. Eventually, she spoke.
“Vincent, do you still trust me?”
Vincent, getting back his voice, assured her, “Always.”
“Come with me then.”
She guided him to her living room. Vincent stood in front of one of the chairs, still watching her, hypnotized, while she turned. Behind her there was now an enormous mirror, and Vincent had the opportunity of seeing her from two different angles. She seemed to him more beautiful than ever.
Without further words, Catherine came close to him and offered him the child. Vincent hesitated a moment before taking him. Babies, such wonderful creatures, had always seemed too delicate and precious to risk them near his claws; besides, the dark emotions invading him made him feel dangerous, and therefore unworthy of such a privilege. Finally, at Catherine’s insistence, he raised his arms and felt the weight of that little life.
Vincent looked at his face. He was rosy and wrinkled, and he was covered by a blond fluff, thicker on his head. He would be a few days old. Through the thin clothes Vincent felt his warmth, and for some strange reason he felt the heartbeat, not from the baby’s body, but from inside his own. The child had a peculiar odor, too, something like Catherine’s. At that instant, Vincent knew that he would give his life for this one, more easily than for any other member of his family, and he knew that he loved him.
Catherine watched her family carefully. From his expression of surprise and pain at hearing the cries, she had inferred that Vincent didn’t suspect whose baby this was; probably he still hadn’t remembered how they had made love in the cave during his fever. It would had been difficult enough to explain everything at the beginning of her pregnancy when nothing indicated that a child grew inside of her; she would have started from the beginning, from her initial despair to giving warmth to her beloved to bringing him back to life, and how, as he responded, in her heart she had known that only love could bring him back from death. She didn’t want to reveal to him abruptly the child’s identity, nor could she start from the conception. She had to trust that the father’s heart would recognize the child. As the way Vincent held the child became more natural, Catherine knew that she had made the right decision.
“What do you feel?” Catherine asked on impulse, remembering the first
time Vincent had held
The slight movement made the infant open his eyes. Oddly, he didn’t start to cry, he just looked at the man with curiosity.
Vincent looked into the baby’s eyes, infinitely blue, and he felt his legs tremble. He remembered those eyes; he had watched them a long time ago in the surface of still water … in his own reflection. He felt the enormity of this revelation before he analyzed it.
Catherine saw him hesitate and she smiled. “He inherited your eyes,” she confirmed softly.
She saw his expression alter. She saw her beloved collapsing into the chair. He was shivering violently – and perhaps she was, too – but the child stayed still and safe in his arms, untouched by the trembling. Catherine moved quickly to kneel beside him. The condition in which she saw him, although understandable, worried her.
The bond between Vincent’s gaze and his son’s had not severed even for an instant. Eventually, the child nestled and closed his eyes again. The father copied him.
Vincent was in shock. The first coherent emotion he could distinguish was a transcendent, ineffable happiness filling every fiber of his being and reaching his heart, to a place he himself had never known existed. He could not think with congruity, and it took him a long time to control his voice. Finally, he tried to articulate. “How…? When…?”
“In the cave, during your sickness. You weren’t fully conscious, but….” A groan seemed to resonate around the room as her memories did. “Vincent, for a moment you were dead; I was so scared. And when you held me … I couldn’t withhold anything from you … and even I.… Vincent, I needed to feel you as close as possible, after I had felt you go.” Her words were unconnected and almost lacking sense, just as the emotions which had moved her at the time, but they were enough.
Vincent felt divided. He wanted to scream with joy, to cry, to raise his son, to seize Catherine in his arms, and yet all that would not be enough. So he gathered all that happiness inside of him, placed it in a gaze and gave it to Catherine. “Thank you,” he said simply. The word could not contain all he felt, as all the words in the world would not, but the rest would have to be expressed in actions, and the rest of his life would not be enough.
She stood and took the baby in her arms. For a moment, she remained facing him. My woman, Vincent thought with shocked pride. He had possessed her physically nine months ago, but she had belonged to him long before that, and he no longer could ignore it: the happiness he had not allowed himself to grasp before, as a blue bird, had flown back to him and nestled in his hand by its own will. My son: the idea took his breath away.
He stood beside her and Catherine put her free arm around his waist and rested her head against his side. Vincent passed an arm around her shoulder, a protective gesture that was already familiar, and he put a hand over his son gently asleep in his mother’s arms. Then he raised his gaze to the mirror, without fear, and it gave him back the most beautiful vision he had ever seen.
In the polished surface he saw Catherine lifting her gaze to him, and he turned to watch her. She smiled at him, and his gaze was attracted to her half-open mouth. By habit he fought for a moment against the desire to taste those lips, but then he surrendered to it with a smile.
It was the chaste kiss of a new-married couple: beautiful and ephemeral, but pregnant with the promise of being together an entire life.
Then, lightly, Catherine walked to her room and disappeared into the darkness. She reappeared, still baby-in-arms, to invite him to follow her. Vincent hesitated, but his need to remain beside her left him no choice. From the door, he saw her place the child gently in the cradle, near the French doors hidden by curtains, and then turn and smile.
In that room, silhouetted against the night and the pale curtains, dressed in those white pajamas, Catherine recalled a dream that he had had once upon a time. He neared her and she took his hand and guided him towards the bed, lay down and made space for him.
He shook off his hesitation; it would not be the first time that he had watched over his beloved’s dream. Resolved, he took off his boots and leaned, facing her. They weren’t touching, but just facing each other, watching each other, made them happy.
“What is his name?” Vincent asked.
“He has none yet. I wanted to ask your opinion. I was thinking about … Jacob.”
Vincent smiled. “A good choice.”
Catherine rolled into his arms and he cradled her. They both sighed at once with pleasure, and for the first time in months they fell into a quiet sleep.