A Waste of Time

by ChicagoTunnelKid

 

 

The knife slid into her side with no warning. Catherine felt the pain, the incredulity of it all, and the fleeting thought that it was so unfair. She no longer did investigative work at the DA’s office; instead, she concentrated on family law cases.

 

Vincent had been relieved, although he supported whatever she wanted to do. Father would have turned cartwheels if it had been possible, but settled for “Wonderful news!” instead.

 

All her efforts, taking lessons from Isaac and trading investigations for court, and she gets mugged walking down a city street. After work, she’d gone to a nearby center for family services where she volunteered. Since it wasn’t that far from the office, she’d thought she was safe.

 

Lost in thought, she hadn’t heard anyone around her, and assumed she was alone on the street. The young mugger had been stealthy, and struck before she was even aware.

 

Propinquity. She found it curious that the word popped into her head, but that was what she was to that mugger. A target of propinquity. She never carried much cash, wore an inexpensive watch, and any jewelry she had on at work was costume jewelry, so the mugger didn’t get much. Nor had she resisted, which is why she lay upset and bleeding on the sidewalk.

 

It was around 10 PM, which meant the street was not entirely deserted, but it might be a while before someone happened upon her. She was concerned she’d lose too much blood before then. She doubted Vincent could get to her in time, even if he could be safely above in the streetlights. She tried to rise up and, giving that up for the pain it caused, gave crawling a try. She felt like an inchworm.

 

Fuzzy. Everything was turning fuzzy. She knew she didn’t have long before she lost consciousness. And then, what? Providence, she guessed. What was meant to be.

 

A tear slipped from her eye as she thought about Vincent. She had thought they were meant to be, and would get there, given time. But suddenly, time seemed to be at a premium. She had long been ready, and wished for faster forward progress, but Vincent had a different time and plan in mind, it seemed.

 

A sudden flash of anger seared through her. All the time they could have been together, and now they may never have the chance. Sometimes caution becomes a cocoon, wrapping you up in a feeling of safety but preventing you from reaching out and living a life. Such a waste of time ...

 

From a distance, she looked like a transient sleeping on the sidewalk.

 

***

 

Vincent studied the chessboard, and made his move. A strong flash of feeling had him tilt his head. Curious. Catherine was very angry, then nothing. What was going on? He searched the bond, but nothing indicated anything was amiss. Suddenly, he was very worried for a reason he couldn’t quite elucidate.

 

He stood up. “Father, we must finish the game at a later time.”

 

“I hope you find all is well with Catherine.” Father sighed. He wasn’t as worried as in the past since her job had changed, but he still was a parent and that worry never ended.

 

Vincent walked out of Father’s chamber, went to his to retrieve his cape, and headed up to visit Catherine. At least, he hoped he would be able to visit Catherine. The strange feeling he had made him doubt she would be there. Why could he not sense her more strongly?

 

***

 

The young couple turned off the street, ambling slowly onto the side street. Young love, in no hurry, with eyes only for each other. The young woman leaned her head on her beau’s shoulder, curious at the sight ahead. She screamed when her mind interpreted what she saw through her haze of love: the body of a slender woman lying in a pool of her own blood.

 

“Stay with her,” her beau directed. “I’ll go look for help.”

 

The young woman thought it was a pity. This woman looked so pretty, obviously not a homeless woman, but she could barely feel a pulse. She looked around nervously, wishing her boyfriend would return. She didn’t want to be mugged herself.

 

He came running back just about the time she heard a siren in the distance. They hung around knowing they’d need to report to the police. Besides, they didn’t have the heart to leave the woman alone.

 

***

 

Vincent was puzzled. Her apartment was dark, save for a table lamp she controlled with a timer. Where could she be? It’s not that she had to report her comings and goings to him, but he felt something was not as it should be, and he was worried.

 

All he had received from her was an intense feeling of anger and his intuition suggested it was directed at him. What had he done from a distance to provoke her anger?

 

It was times like these that he wished their bond contained an element of a location device, one not dependent on strong emotion. For right now, he didn’t get any emotion from her. He had no way to know where she was.

 

He went back to the tunnels and sent Kipper on an errand to Peter.

 

***

 

The paramedics wheeled in the gurney to the ER.

 

“Woman approximately 30 years old, knifed in her side, lost a lot of blood, BP 80/30, pulse thready. No history, no name. We started fluids and oxygen.”

 

The ER doc and attendant nurses wheeled her into the nearest empty cubicle and went to work on their latest “Jane Doe.”

 

***

 

Peter got Kipper’s message and thought to call Jenny before fearing the worst. However, Jenny said they’d had no plans tonight and that she hadn’t heard from Cathy in a while. She asked Peter to let her know if anything had happened to Catherine, and asked if she could help. He thanked her, and suggested she call any other friends she might be visiting and to let him know.

 

With Jenny checking on friends, Peter went to St. Vincent’s Hospital and checked for any Jane Does admitted that night. Apparently, it had been a busy night, with three Jane Does admitted. Armed with the room numbers, he went from one room to the other, checking all the beds in each room. He was fairly confident the third room would be hers based on the description of the patient, but he was not trusting anything to chance so he checked them all.

 

She looked so small, so alone lying in that hospital bed. But it was Cathy. He pulled her chart and went through the information. Severe blood loss, lacerations internally to her spleen. Surgery had taken care of the worst. Now, it was a matter of time.

 

Peter approached the nurses’ station and informed them they had Catherine Chandler, Assistant District Attorney, in that room. He made arrangements for her to be moved to a room further down the hall, where it was quieter, and, more importantly, a private room. He would take over and become the doctor of record.

 

After the arrangements were made, he took off. He had an errand to run.

 

***

 

She was floating. It felt so good, being light enough to float. Her worries seemed lighter, too. What had she to worry about? Her mind grappled with that a moment. Vincent. Something about Vincent. Floating was too nice to bother with that much thinking.

 

***

 

“She’ll be all right?”

 

To Peter, Vincent’s question seemed calm on the surface but his eyes were blue pools of worry. “She’s got a while to recuperate, but yes, she should be all right.”

 

Vincent’s eyes closed in a prayer of gratitude. She would be all right. She would not be taken from him. That thought had him pacing his chamber as he waited word from Peter.

 

The older man saw the relief set in, and knew what it meant. Catherine was deeply loved by an extraordinary man, and Peter shuddered to think about what would happen to him if Catherine were lost to him.

 

“I’ll send word when you can visit her. It may be a while, so try to be patient.” He put his hand on Vincent’s shoulder with a quick squeeze in support as he exited the chamber.

 

Vincent was grateful for Peter’s visit. His heart ached with worry that she would be taken from him. He always thought along two polar opposites – that they would have a lifetime together, and that she should find someone from her world to love, and he would free her for the life she deserved.

 

When he thought in terms of a lifetime, he remembered a visit to Narcissa when she had once shown him what his future could be – he and Catherine truly together, with two children, and a happy life blended between Above and Below.

 

She had told him he would have a boy and a girl. He had forgotten to ask who the children looked like – Catherine, capable of leading a normal life, or – him, condemned to live their lives Below. He would love them either way; but he feared the latter, for it was no life to pass on to a child.

 

But the idea of a child like Catherine had his heart melting. She’d be stubborn like her mother, no doubt. Not that Catherine would admit to being stubborn. He smiled thinking of a miniature Catherine stamping her foot in refusal of something her parents wanted her to do. Parents. A word Vincent never expected to apply to himself.

 

He shook his head to stop his woolgathering thoughts.

 

At the time, he thought that Narcissa had capitalized on his wishes rather than foretelling any type of future. In a quixotic moment of curiosity, he asked Narcissa what his life would have been without ever finding Catherine. He remembered her face grew sad and troubled, as she told him he would struggle many years to find himself, and control that part of him that hungered for love, until he would be driven mad and live in exile deep Below.

 

He had reared back at that information. The next question popped out before he could prevent it. What would happen to him if he lost Catherine now?

 

She had rattled some bones in a bowl and cast them on the ground. “It depends,” she said.

 

“On what?”

 

“On the nature of your relationship at the time she passes.”

 

Vincent waited for her to explain, knowing her way of causing him the most discomfort so that her words struck deep. He tilted his head in question.

 

“If you are like you are at present, you will lose your sense of who you are. You will no longer believe in hope or possibilities. Your life will hold no meaning for you, and it will end.” She spoke simply, as if stating a fact.

 

“So how do those children ever happen, Narcissa, the ones you saw before?” The pain in his heart made asking that question difficult.

 

“Because, child, if you lose her when you are a family, you will be deeply wounded and lost, but a father to her children. She would live on in them and in your heart. In time, you would find your way, and her spirit would walk with you.”

 

He’d left that visit more shaken than he’d care to admit. He knew Catherine meant everything to him. He thought he was doing the right thing for them both.

 

But what if Narcissa spoke the truth? What if he faced his concerns and he and Catherine forged a life together? What if Father was overly cautious? What if her vision of his future could be, and he was condemning them both to lives only half-lived?

 

He sat on his bed, suddenly chilled. She lived. Now the question was what he planned to do about it.

 

***

 

Peter made rounds and always saved Cathy for last. He spent extra time with her. Her incisions were healing nicely, no infection, yet she hadn’t awakened. He would give her another 24 hours before trying more forcefully to rouse her.

 

***

 

Where was she? It was somewhere Below, since there was a lot of brown and less light. She saw a curly blond-headed little girl run past her yelling “Poppa! Poppa!” She saw Vincent bend down and hoist her up high, laughing. He brought her down to his chest. “What brings you to see me, Caroline?”

 

Our daughter, she thought. We named her after my mother. She smiled. She saw him approaching her, Caroline on one hip, and his other arm held out to encompass her. They walked back to their chamber – their chamber – together. She could tell it was Vincent’s chamber, but it had changed, enlarged, with some of her pieces of furniture in it now.

 

“How are you still here?” he asked.

 

She looked at him with a question on her face. “Where else should I be?”

 

“I thought you had a deposition this morning. That case Joe referred to your office?”

 

So, she opened her own office. How interesting.

 

“Yes, I must get going.” She picked up her coat that was conveniently set out on the bed.

 

“Don’t forget Jacob’s concert tonight. He’s been practicing very hard, and wants to show you how much he’s improved.”

 

That stopped her in her tracks. Jacob. A son. A son and a daughter. Her own practice helping others.  

 

This could have been their reality. If only.

 

She resumed floating. Waking would spoil the feeling, and thrust her into decisions she wasn’t sure either she, or Vincent, was ready to make.

 

A nurse walked in to check on her vitals. She noted the odd event of a tear running down the cheek of the bedridden woman.

 

***

 

Peter sent word to Vincent that he could visit tonight. He secretly hoped Vincent’s presence would be the trigger to rouse Catherine. She wasn’t in a coma, per se, she just wasn’t awake. Peter didn’t think the visit would hurt Catherine, and would help Vincent deal with his anxiety about her recovery.

 

He unlatched the window and settled into a chair to await Vincent and play watch guard. About1:30 in the morning, Vincent arrived. He woke Peter, and sent him outside to go chat with the nurses.

 

He gazed upon his Catherine. She looked the same, just very quiet. He grasped her right hand in his left, and used his right hand to gently draw back her hair, then lovingly run his finger across her forehead, around her cheek on the opposite side, and finally cup her chin in his hand. He lowered his forehead to hers. If thoughts could cure, then she should be waking anytime.

 

He drew back, content to watch her. He saw her eyes fluttering under her eyelids! Slowly, they opened. He lowered his head to gaze into the green eyes he loved so much. He saw a certainty in them he hadn’t noticed before.

 

“Welcome back, Catherine. I’ve missed you so!”

 

She mustered up a wan smile, and for a time, neither spoke as each was lost in the other’s gaze and in their own thoughts.

 

Moments passed until the need to speak hit them at the same time:

 

“Vincent, we need to talk.”

“Catherine, we need to talk.”