They stood, heads bent together. Catherine kissed
the hands she had branded as hers. Vincent cried his shame in silent
sobs. She waited for the storm to pass. This was something they had to
face together. He had been deeply hurt. Needlessly, she thought. But it
had hurt. How would she help him see the truth?
“Vincent, how old were you when this happened
“I was just a boy, maybe fifteen. I was old
enough to know not to hurt a girl.”
“Of course you were. But fifteen year-old boys,
at least as I remember them, were horribly shy around us girls, all the
while thinking they were acting like suave sophisticated men. It was
about as funny as watching us at the same age thinking we were femme
fatales, irresistible to men everywhere.” Catherine heard Vincent’s
breathing quiet as he listened. “It sounds to me that Lisa was testing
her ability to attract guys while you took her interest to be more than
“Whether it was real or not, Catherine, I still
caused her pain, caused her to bleed. These hands that you say are
beautiful, that you claim as yours, marred the beauty of a young girl’s
shoulder.” Vincent hung his head again. “All because I selfishly held on
and wouldn’t, couldn’t let her go.”
Was it nobility or stubbornness that led Vincent
to gather blame on him? Catherine decided on a new tack. “Vincent, does
Lisa blame you? Does she fear you, avoid being around you, or glare at
you in anger?”
He shook his head.
Catherine wanted a reply. She wanted him to hear
his own words. “Does she?”
“No. She does not seem to.”
“But then she doesn’t
have to does she, because you blame yourself enough for both of you.”
Catherine released his hands and walked to the balcony ledge. The city
lights danced and glimmered. In the distance, the park was cloaked in
darkness, Vincent’s kind of darkness that permitted freedom for his
visits. They would stand together here, she under the protection of his
arm, overlooking the city lights. Tonight, he stood behind her, broken
and hurting, after sharing the most intimate story about him that she
had been privileged to hear.
… Oh, Vincent. Is this why you … why we …?
What she said next mattered, more than anything.
She turned to face him, leaning back against the
ledge. “Have you ever scratched anyone inadvertently since?”
“I learned to keep my nails turned away, or
tucked into my hand.”
“So you’ve never found yourself unable to act in
a safe manner toward someone you…cared about.”
Vincent looked up, then frowned. As his shoulders
fell, he sighed. “No.”
She purposely stepped closer. “You’ve held me in
your arms. I don’t believe I’ve ever been harmed.” She smiled. “Even
under the influence of a drug, you didn’t hurt me. You never would.”
“But if I should lose myself again, Catherine…,
grow careless.” Vincent looked down.
Lifting his chin, she looked directly into his
eyes. “Vincent, you said when I returned from Nancy’s that I ‘was your
heart.’ Would you hurt your heart? You’ve risked your own life too many
times to save me. You could never hurt me. Believe that. I do.”
His eyes welled with tears as he accepted her
gift. “You do believe that.”
“With all my heart.”
He pulled her into a hug, so warmly familiar and
comfortable. A girl could get used to living in Vincent’s arms.
“Lisa was your first real love, at least as real
as a fifteen year-old can love.” Catherine pulled back to look up at
him. “An unfortunate accident happened, Vincent, that’s all. The true
tragedy was that apparently no one helped you through that, or later
helped you put it in context.”
“Until now?” he asked with that tilt of his head
she loved so much.
“Until now,” she smiled. “I won’t have you
thinking you’re responsible for anything so horrible with these lovely
hands that are mine.” She raised them up to kiss each one in turn.
He pulled her close again. “Thank you,
Catherine.” It might have been her imagination at work, but she thought
he’d never held her more completely, more secure in his right to do so
than he did now. “You give so much of yourself to me, such simple gifts
which mean more than you can ever know.”
“You give me everything, Vincent.” She stilled
until he looked at her. “You are my heart, too.” Ever so slowly she
leaned forward and brushed his mouth with a kiss. “Good night, my
“Catherine?” He kept her with a touch. “I came
here fearing my confession might cause you to turn from me in disgust or
fear. Instead, you healed me, and then you say goodnight with a kiss.
You did … kiss me? It wasn’t a dream?”
He looked so vulnerable standing there, both
bewildered and hopeful.
“It wasn’t a dream.”
He suddenly seemed taller to her. After a gallant
bow, he took her hand and bestowed another kiss.
“Good night, my heart, indeed.” With a dashing
whirl of his cloak, he climbed over the balcony ledge and was gone.
Catherine stood grinning like the Chesire cat. Not bad, Chandler, she thought. Not bad at all. She turned and walked into her bedroom. “Thank you, Lisa!”