After Arabesque

 By ChicagoTunnelKid  

With thanks to Carole W.

 

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 with Lisa?” 

“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 it was.” 

“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. Is this … 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 heart!”  

“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!”