An Education For Everyone

By Kathy De

 

 

Vincent walked into the library to see Father shuffling through a large stack of books. “Father, Mouse said you wanted to see me...”

 

“Yes, I needed to speak with you.” Father motioned towards a chair. Vincent sat down and looked at him expectantly. “Vincent, these past few months have gone by so quickly.”

 

“Perhaps. For me it seems like my recovery has been slow.”

 

Father frowned at him worriedly. “You haven’t voiced any complaints so I imagined you were fully recovered from your sickness.”

 

Vincent rushed to reassure him. “I am, Father. I’m fine…really. I…still have no memory from that time, but I do feel better.”

 

“Good.”

 

“But that isn’t why you asked me here…”

 

“No.” Father turned away and mumbled to himself, “But maybe I shouldn’t ask…”

 

“Father, please you can ask me anything.”

 

Father sighed and nodded his head ruefully. “Well...now that you’re back to teaching full time, do you feel like you could take on yet another lesson?”

 

Vincent shrugged nonchalantly. “Of course. What is it?”

 

Father grew flustered with the request he had to make. This subject was never a comfortable one to teach and he knew Vincent would have just as hard a time with it as he did. “I wouldn’t normally ask, you know that, but with Kanin gone and Pascal always so busy and Matthew tied up working with Kevin and…”

 

“Father?”

 

“And if that weren’t enough…the last time I taught it, I overheard Brooke saying something in the tunnelway about me being an old fogey...I mean...really!”

 

Vincent quickly lowered his head to hide his grin. He, too, had heard the term amongst the older teens, and he didn’t want Father to know it was true – that the children often referred to him in that way.

 

Father was ever observant and frowned. “Hummph...so it’s true?!”

 

Vincent chuckled. “I’m sure it was said affectionately.”

 

Father grumbled and shook his head. “Either way, sometime during your sickness, the next group of children...discovered...one another, and it’s time to have another sexual education class.”

 

Vincent looked surprised. “With whom, Father? Brooke, Michael, Amanda, Heather, Scott...they all sat through the last class...”

 

Father nodded. “Yes, but Zachh, Kipper, Eric, Geoffrey, Samantha, Patricia, and Emily did not.”

 

“But they’re just children!”

 

Father laughed aloud. “Yes, I thought so too, until I caught Zachh and Patricia about to kiss in the tunnelway last week. Yesterday Emily and Geoffrey were holding hands under the table in the dining chamber and…I don’t know why you haven’t noticed Samantha’s crush on you?!”

 

Vincent chuckled and shook his head with confusion. “Samantha?! A crush? On me?”

 

“Yes…she hangs on your every word!”

 

“I love all the children, Father. You know that…but Samantha’s always been a favorite of mine. I never noticed...”

 

“Young girls always have crushes on their teachers, Vincent. I remember when Brooke used to bring you fudge…”

 

“I thought she was trying to butter me up for a better grade.” Vincent chuckled.

 

“Well, either way, this new group of children is becoming young men and women quite quickly, and they must be made aware of the biological changes occurring in their bodies. Will you take it on?”

 

Vincent thought back to his own class and what Father had taught them, and then he remembered how boring it was. He reached out and took a familiar book from the stack. “Yes.”

 

Father shook his head and offered a different one. “This one is better. I think.”

 

Vincent grinned devilishly and cocked his head to the side. “Maybe, but I don’t want to be referred to as an old fogey. I’ll use this book.”

 

Father rolled his eyes in disgust as he waved his hand dismissively. “Either book will do. As usual, Mary will talk to the girls and you will speak to the boys. If they have any questions you can’t answer, let them know that I will make myself available to any of the children if they have any biological questions.”

 

Vincent snorted sarcastically. “Good. I know those were the first questions that popped into my mind!”

 

Father sighed aloud and ignored Vincent’s sarcasm. “When can you fit it into the lesson plan?”

 

Vincent stood. “I’ll do it tomorrow after the history lesson. That should get their attention again.”

 

Father nodded in agreement. “Ahhh, yes...spring is in the air! It’s so hard to keep them attentive when the weather changes up top...”

 

Vincent nodded and smiled as he got up and walked to his chamber.

 

********************************

 

The next day, Catherine woke to find that it was rainy morning. As she got ready for work, she decided she would ask Joe for the afternoon off. As long as it was so dreary, she thought she would head Below and surprise Vincent. She knew he had an early class, but she could spend the rest of the day and evening with him. Fully intending to leave from work, she dressed in warm clothing.  

 

She rushed to work and plowed through case file after case file. She rarely looked up from her desk as her pencil furiously scribbled out notes about each of the cases. She looked up as she completed her last file and noticed it was 12:30. “Wow,” she thought. She grabbed the pile of files and headed to Joe’s office. He was on the phone but waved her in, and Catherine stacked them in front of him with a satisfied smile.

 

Joe ended his call and looked at her suspiciously. “What’s this, Radcliffe?”

 

“What’s it look like?”

 

“Your files. Why are you giving them back to me?”

 

Catherine grinned. “Because they’re done. Well, everything I can do on them has been done. I need to hear back from a few of the attorneys, but my work on them is complete.”

 

Joe pointed over to a stack on the other side of his desk. “There’s more...”

 

Catherine sighed and looked at him beseechingly. “I was hoping I could get the afternoon off...”

 

Joe rolled his eyes. “You’re the fourth person to ask me that today! No way, Chandler! Get back to work.”

 

“Aww…c’mon Joe! I’ll work extra late tomorrow...”

 

Joe frowned. He knew she had put in more hours this week than any of her colleagues, and he also knew he took advantage of it. He sat back in his desk and looked nervously through the window at the other workers. “Okay, but if anyone asks, you tell them you’re heading out to do research.”

 

“Got it!” Catherine smiled as she headed out the door.

 

She grabbed her purse and an empty sheet of paper and waved it in the air. “Hey, Carl?! I got a hot lead I need to follow through on; it may take awhile. If anyone needs me I’ll have my beeper on. I’ll be in first thing tomorrow...”

 

“Got it, Cathy!”

 

********************************* 

 

Catherine grabbed a taxi and got dropped off near the park entrance. Luckily, few people were out on such a rainy day and she was able to slip inside the culvert easily and head to the library.

 

“Catherine!” Father said with surprise.

 

“Hi, Father. Hi, Mary.”

 

Mary smiled sweetly. “Vincent is still in class, dear. I’m afraid he’ll be another hour or so...”

 

Catherine looked disappointed and glanced at her watch. “Oh! I thought he finished his history class early.”

 

Father nodded. “Normally he does, but today he has an extra lesson to teach.”

 

Mary shook her head anxiously as she turned back to Father. “Which is why I’m here. Father I can’t possibly leave Lena with little Cathy. The poor dear got so little sleep last night and Cathy has been crying for hours. You’ll have to help Vincent with his class.”

 

“Mary, I told you I can’t. I have to meet with Paul about the engineering in the tunnels; he could only spare me an hour this afternoon. What about Rebecca?”

 

“She’s preparing for Winterfest…”

 

Catherine listened to their discussion and anxious to spend time with Vincent, stepped forward. “I can help Vincent with the class.”

 

Mary looked relieved and stood. “Oh, Catherine. Thank you. I’ll get back to Lena...”

 

Father shook his head vehemently. “Mary, that is not a solution! You cannot possibly ask Catherine to teach that class!”

 

“Oh, for Pete’s sake Jacob. I’m sure she can handle it! It’s only junior high children.”


“No! It’s not fair to ask this of her! She’s had no preparation and this group of children is highly inquisitive! You cannot ask her!”

 

After everything they had been through, Catherine wondered why he was still adamant about her helping. “No one asked me, Father. I offered. I’ve had twenty years of schooling, and I’m sure I retained enough knowledge that I can fake my way through a lesson for junior high students. Besides, Vincent will be there to help me.” Trying to hide her hurt feelings, she grabbed the book from Mary and swiftly walked away from them.

 

Father’s mouth hung open in shock and Mary grinned impishly at him. “Well, this should prove to be an interesting class.”

 

Father shook his head, then started to chuckle. “Oh, to be a fly on the wall...”

 

Peter unexpectedly walked into the chamber. “A fly on the wall in which chamber?”

 

Mary grinned and clasped her hands together happily. “This may be just the thing those two need to push them forward.”

 

“Who?” Peter wondered.

 

“Yes! That’s what I’m afraid of!” Father commented.

 

Mary waved her hand dismissively. “You worry too much, Father. It’s only a few questions...”

 

“Those kids will eat them alive!” Father grumbled.

 

Peter lost his patience. “All right! Tell me now! Who are we talking about?!”

 

Mary looked up at him gleefully. “Vincent had to teach a sexual education class today and I was supposed to help. Lena needed me and Catherine overheard me asking Father to take over for me. She volunteered to help not knowing what she was getting herself in for.”

 

Peter looked astonished. “Let me get this right. Vincent and Catherine are teaching a sexual education course right now...together...”

 

Father and Mary nodded simultaneously as Peter roared with laughter. “To whom?”

 

“Zach, Kipper, Eric, Geoffrey, Samantha, Patricia, and Emily,” Mary supplied.

 

Peter laughed even harder. “Oh, Jacob, you’re right. Those kids will eat them alive!”

 

Father frowned worriedly and stood up suddenly. “I’m going to see if I can help.”

 

Mary and Peter followed him out the door and through the tunnelways.

 

“Lena can wait a few more minutes for me,” Mary giggled.

 

Peter grinned wickedly. “I’m not even going to try to come up with an excuse. I just want to see what’s going on.”

 

*************************************

 

Meanwhile, Catherine stood outside the school chamber and listened to Vincent conduct the rest of his history class. She heard him close the book as he sat down on a desk in front of his class.

 

“We have one last lesson today.” Groans echoed around the room and Vincent shrugged. “Father feels its time to teach you about sexual education.”

 

Catherine gasped and looked down at the title of the book in her hands. “Oh, no,” she groaned.

 

Vincent cocked his head curiously and peered out through the chamber door and into the dark tunnelway. “Catherine?”

 

Catherine was caught and she knew it. “Well, Father tried to warn me,” she thought. She squared her shoulders and entered the chamber tentatively. “Mary asked me to fill in for her today. I...hope you don’t mind...”

 

Samantha waved. “Hi, Catherine.”

 

“Catherine!” Eric greeted happily.

 

“Cool. She’ll be way better than Mary,” Patricia whispered loudly to Emily.

 

Vincent ignored the happy greetings of the children as he reddened and looked away. “Um...no...you’re...always welcome here.”

 

Catherine smiled nervously. “Well, what do I need to do?”

 

Vincent quickly split the class by gender. The girls went with Catherine and the boys stayed with him. Each of them talked to their group about the changes that would eventually happen in their young teen bodies. They showed pictures from the books and described in detail the clinical aspect of intercourse and pregnancy.

 

The group joined together once more and Vincent looked at each if his students. “I want you to know that any adult here would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Remember, it’s better to ask the question and hear the correct answer then ask a peer and get an incorrect answer.”

 

Samantha raised her hand and Vincent nodded his assent. “Can we ask you questions too, Catherine?”

 

“Um...sure, if you need to talk to someone, I’ll be here for you.”

 

The children smiled at one another. Catherine was well liked because she was unlike any other adult Below. She was more like a friend or an older sister than an adult.


Zach raised his hand. “I have a question.” Vincent held his breath and nodded as Zach jumped right in. “Brooke says you have to be all romantic, play goofy music, read poetry, even carry her dinner tray before a girl will like you. Is that stuff true?”

 

Catherine smiled at the easy question. “Part of it’s true. Girls like to feel special and be treated to the more romantic gestures like you mentioned, but sometimes little things will stand out for her as well.”

 

“Like what?”

 

Vincent looked at her curiously wanting to know as much as Zach what things Catherine liked. She shrugged then sighed. “You know…little things…a secret smile from across the room, holding her chair for her while she sits, even your hand on the small of her back as you lead her through the room will make her heart beat faster.”

Vincent nodded his approval and added. “It is…magical…when she responds easily to just the lightest touch on her back or at her elbow.” He glanced at Catherine who smiled lovingly at him. Vincent balked at the intensity in her eyes and turned quickly back towards his students. “But remember, we are not pushing her across the room, only gently guiding.”

 

The kids giggled and seemed to relax. Catherine relaxed too and came over to lean on the desk next to Vincent as she looked out at the class.

 

Patricia raised her hand and at Vincent’s approval, asked her question. “Can we really ask anything?”

 

Vincent and Catherine both nodded as Patricia looked at Samantha, who nodded towards them.

 

Patricia frowned and sighed as she plunged ahead. “Brooke said that sometimes when a boy kisses you his lips are kinda wet and sloppy and that even though you want to back away you shouldn’t. Vincent, when you kiss Catherine does that ever happen to you?”

 

Unknown to them, Father, Mary, and Peter arrived in front of the chamber door. Peter grabbed the other two’s arms and stopped them. He held his finger up to his mouth to silence them as they overheard the question asked. 

 

Vincent’s jaw dropped open and Catherine felt his shock flow through the bond. Feeling sorry for him, she quickly came to his rescue. “Patricia, a true gentleman never kisses and tells...”

 

“But...”

 

Catherine waved her finger and smiled. “Nope, no buts! What happens between a boy and girl or a man and woman is private and if a boy really likes a girl he won’t brag about it to other people. Now, in answer to your question, sometimes the first kiss can be...kinda wet...” The kids chuckled and Catherine giggled with them. “It’s pretty common, so don’t worry about it. I remember my first kiss...Tommy Wilson forgot he had mint gum in his mouth and it ended up in mine.”

 

“Ewww...” the girls chorused.

 

The boys glanced at one another and seemed to make a mental note not to have gum in their mouths.

 

Zach’s hand shot up instantly. “How do you make sure your mouth isn’t wet and sloppy?”

 

That’s a good question, I never thought about that before, Vincent wondered to himself.


Catherine shrugged. “I’m not sure...I...um...guess, go slow and don’t rush it...maybe when she’s not looking wipe your lips off to make sure they’re dry.”

 

Emily raised her hand. “If you start to kiss a boy, you don’t have to do all that other stuff we learned today, do you?”

 

Vincent shook his head vehemently. “No, Emily. You should never do more than you’re willing to do.” He looked pointedly at the boys. “Kissing someone is a way to show affection for that person...it is not an invitation to more! The rest of it will come later...when the time is right...”

 

Geoffrey raised his hand. “How do you know when the time is right?”

 

Vincent now wished he hadn’t said anything. He sighed aloud. “Years from now when you’re grown up and married...” he mumbled.

 

Eric laughed. “You sound like Father!”

 

Zach nodded. “Yeah, Vincent! I mean, what if a guy wants it sooner?”

 

Catherine winked at the girls then looked back at the boys. “Sorry, guys. This is the one time when the girl gets to call all the shots. I have to agree with Vincent. Having sexual intercourse is a huge responsibility and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Ideally, it happens when two people have been in love for a very long time and they know each other well enough to go forward. Sometimes it happens sooner, but not until she’s ready to proceed.”

 

Samantha raised her hand and looked at Catherine devilishly. “You said a man and a woman should be together a long time...”

 

Vincent knew that look on Samantha’s face and answered cautiously. “Yes, she did, Samantha.”

 

Samantha sat back in her chair defiantly. “How long?”

 

Catherine didn’t know Samantha as well as Vincent and had missed the look. “Oh, I don’t know...there’s not really a time frame...but they should be adults…and responsible...”

 

Samantha’s eyes sparkled wickedly. “What was the longest you ever waited?”

 

Catherine blushed and looked down. “Um….”

 

Vincent frowned at Samantha. “That’s an inappropriate question and you should apologize to Catherine.”

 

Samantha blinked innocently. “I’m sorry, Catherine! I just wanted to know how long most people wait.”

 

Catherine fell Samantha’s remorseful comment and decided honesty was the best approach. “It’s okay…um…a year or so…I guess.”

 

Patricia had caught on immediately to where Samantha was heading with her questioning. Knowing Vincent had caught Samantha’s look, she innocently asked the next question for her friend. “You and Vincent have been together for almost three years...”

 

In the tunnels, Father groaned softly. Peter shook his head to silence him.

 

Catherine now knew that she had been baited into an answer. “Yes, we have.”

 

“Ewww…” Geoffrey looked disgusted. “So you guys do that intercourse stuff?!”


Vincent was horrified and looked down as Catherine blushed.

 

Zach saved them from answering when he punched Geoffrey in the arm. “You idiot! Catherine just said a gentleman never tells.”

 

Geoffrey looked up apologetically as he rubbed his arm. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to ask.”

 

Emily piped in quickly. “So, if you guys keep doing that stuff, you’ll have a baby, right?”

 

Catherine knew that Vincent was in shock and wouldn’t be able to answer the question. She gulped and nodded as she nervously cleared her throat. “Yes...a direct result of intercourse is sometimes pregnancy.”

 

“When are you two gonna have a baby?” Emily asked.

 

Zach looked disgusted. “They’re not even married, stupid! Besides who said they want kids? There are ways to prevent it, you know.”

 

Geoffrey looked over in surprise. “Catherine wants kids. Don’t you, Catherine?”

 

Catherine nodded. “Yes, someday...”

 

“Vincent’s kids?” Samantha asked.

 

Catherine swallowed hard and decided again to be as honest as she could. She nodded again as she answered quietly. “I would be honored to have Vincent’s children.”

 

Eric smiled wide as a thought popped in his head. “Hey! You could have a baby that would look just like Vincent!”

 

Vincent gasped and was almost physically ill as he looked away from the group.

 

Samantha clasped her hands together. “Wouldn’t a baby that looks like Vincent be super cool?!”

 

The kids looked around at one another and nodded in agreement.

 

In the tunnelway, Father was about to step forward when Peter stopped him. “No, Jacob, let him hear her answer,” Peter whispered vehemently.

 

Catherine had felt Vincent’s emotions flood through the bond, and she knew that it was important he hear how she answered the questions. “Yes, Eric, genetically, I could have a baby that looks exactly like Vincent. And yes, Samantha, having a baby that looks like Vincent would be better than super cool...”

 

“Catherine, can you imagine how cute a little Vincent would be to hold in your arms?” Patricia asked.

 

Catherine blinked back the tears in her eyes as she nodded. “Yes, Patricia, I’ve imagined it too many times to count.”

 

Shocked, Vincent hesitantly looked over at Catherine. She felt the change come over him and she smiled at the look of hope in his eyes.

 

The kids were ignorant of what was happening between their favorite couple and talked loudly amongst themselves. 

 

Patricia wondered, “Where would they live?”

 

Emily rolled her eyes. “Duh, in Vincent’s chamber...”

 

Geoffrey shook his head. “Yes, but Catherine works up top. She’d want the baby with her...”

 

Samantha shook her head. “She couldn’t take it there. According to our science books, the baby has a 50% chance of looking like Vincent. It would have to stay Below with us...”

 

Zach shrugged. “Lena works in the flower shop for Mrs. Graves. Little Cathy stays with Mary and Sara in the nursery. Catherine’s baby could stay there during the day.”

 

Patricia nodded. “Right. Catherine’s here almost every night anyway...”

 

Samantha tapped her cheek. “Wonder what its name will be?”

 

Eric piped in. “Ellie...if it’s a girl, Catherine...can you name it Ellie?”


Vincent and Catherine had heard the children’s talk despite the fact that they never lost eye contact with one another.

 

“Ellie is a beautiful name, Eric, but I always thought I would name my daughter Caroline, after my mother.”

 

Eric shrugged, “Caroline’s a nice name. What about Ellie for your second kid?”

 

“Maybe.” Catherine’s eyes filled with amusement as she looked at Vincent. They hadn’t even spent their first night together and the kids were already picking out names for their babies. She reached for his hand and squeezed it as she turned to the group.

 

Peter turned to Father and Mary. “I would imagine Vincent and Catherine have some talking to do.”

 

Mary smiled. “That dear girl just took away the last of his fears.”

 

“Then perhaps we should go in there and rescue them from their class,” Father said as he walked in followed by Peter and Mary.

 

Mary shooed the children from the room and followed them to the dining chamber for a snack. 

 

“How did the class go today, Vincent?” Peter asked with amusement as he slapped Vincent on the shoulder.

 

Father stood next to Catherine and whispered apologetically. “I promise you, I did try to warn you, Catherine...”

 

Catherine smiled ruefully. “I know. Next time, I’ll ask before I volunteer.” 

 

Father looked nervously over at Vincent. “Is everything all right, Vincent?”

 

The shock was starting to wear off and Vincent nodded. “Yes...I...I’m fine.”

 

Peter grabbed Father’s arm. “C’mon. I’ve brought you some new medicine and I want to show you how to administer it.”

 

 

**********************************

 

Father and Peter left and Vincent and Catherine were finally alone. The silence was deafening as each of them sorted through their own thoughts.

 

Finally Catherine spoke. “It was a good class. I think the kids learned a lot.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I learned a lot from them. I’d forgotten how innocent things were back then.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“It was cute when they asked about a sloppy first kiss. Its funny kids still worry about that stuff.”

 

Vincent shook his head nervously. “It’s not amusing to anyone who’s never experienced their first kiss before.”

 

Catherine guessed that other than the peck she had given him after her father’s death, he had never had his first real kiss. She moved to stand in front of him then scooted between his legs and pressed her palms against his chest as she leaned forward and kissed him. She pulled slightly away then leaned in again as she waited for him to kiss her.

 

“Vincent?!”

 

“Catherine…”

 

“Please?!”

 

Vincent bent his head forward and captured her mouth with his own. Catherine sighed and slipped her arms around his neck and deepened the kiss. Vincent flinched when he felt her tongue slip into his mouth but he soon relaxed and let her lead him through their first real kiss.

 

Soon enough, Catherine pulled away and leaned her forehead into his. To lighten the mood she playfully grinned at him. “See, if you take it slow it’s not sloppy at all.”

 

Vincent smiled and hung his head shyly. “Yes.”

 

Catherine moved quickly to give him another brief kiss and was surprised when Vincent gently cradled her face in his hands and pulled her close. He kissed her softly, then deepened the kiss as Catherine melted against him.

 

This kiss soon soared to a new level of passion, and Catherine moaned as Vincent’s hands slipped down her shoulders. She backed away and tried to guide one of his hands to her breasts. 

 

Vincent stopped suddenly and walked away from her. “I’m sorry, Catherine.”

 

“I’m not.”

 

Vincent knew she misunderstood him and he turned back to face her. “I didn’t mean the kiss. I meant the location we’re currently in.”

 

Catherine looked at the schoolroom and laughed aloud. “I suppose we could find a more romantic location.” She grew serious and looked at him uncertainly. “Would you...um...come to my place...tonight?”

 

Vincent thought briefly about it then took a deep breath and looked at her nervously. “Yes, I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

 

Catherine knew he would be nervous coming into her apartment and she rushed to put him at ease. “I could pick us up something for dinner...”

 

“That would be nice...”

 

“Then…I guess I should...”

 

“Yes, I’ll walk you...”

 

“No, you don’t have to,” Catherine interrupted. “I have to stop at the store. I’ll go out the park entrance.”

 

“Then I’ll walk you to the park entrance.” Vincent put his hand on the small of her back and gently guided her forward.

 

Catherine looked up at him and grinned. “Even the feel of your hand on the small of her back as you lead her through a room will make her heart beat faster...”

 

Vincent thought back to the lesson and added. “Gently guiding her...”

 

Catherine giggled. “No pushing...”

 

Vincent gently pulled her closer and Catherine leaned in and put her head against his shoulder as they walked.

 

Too soon, they were at the culvert entrance.

 

“Until tonight, Vincent.”

 

“Yes.”

 

Catherine started to walk away then stopped and walked back in front of him. “I love you, Vincent.”

 

He lowered his head to hers. “I love you, Catherine,” he said before he captured her lips in his.

 

He deepened the kiss and this time it was Catherine who pulled away.

 

“Tonight...” she said as she turned and walked away before she lost her nerve.

 

 

*********************************

 

 

Vincent walked back into the library and was surprised to see Peter was still there with Father. Both men hid their amusement when they saw how distressed Vincent was.

 

“Vincent, come over and sit down...talk with us,” Peter invited.

 

Vincent sat heavily in a chair.

 

“Where’s Catherine?” Father wondered.

 

“She left...” Vincent answered.

 

“Left?!” Father said anxiously. “Why?! I thought she was having dinner here.”

 

Vincent looked up at him nervously. “We decided to have dinner tonight at her apartment.”

 

Peter and Father exchanged knowing glances. “Got a lot to talk about, eh, Vincent?” Peter ribbed.

 

“Some things came up today that we need to discuss, yes.” Vincent answered quietly.

 

Father sighed. “I’m sorry, Vincent. I should have stepped in sooner. I knew the children would ask questions. I didn’t realize they would get so personal.”

 

Vincent chuckled. “It’s all right, Father. I think I learned as much in class today as the children did.”

 

Father was relieved that his son wasn’t hurting. “Me, too! I learned that your Catherine is a force to be reckoned with when she puts her mind to something.”

 

Peter laughed aloud. “She sure is! Watch out, Vincent. Right now, I think she’s got it in her mind to seduce you tonight!”

 

Vincent looked away and nodded. “It seems like it should be the next step...”

 

Father smiled knowingly. “I remember my first time...It was awkward...” he cleared his throat and shrugged. “...and quick...but Margaret didn’t seem to mind. The next time...the next time is when we really made love.”

 

Peter chuckled in agreement. “Sounds too much like my experience. The first time is never the best, Vincent...for anyone...Just remember you get to spend the rest of your life perfecting it...”

 

“I just want to get through tonight,” Vincent said with a sigh.

 

Peter reached out and shook Vincent’s shoulder. “You will. Cathy is a special kind of woman, Vincent. Let her lead the way.”

 

Father nodded towards the door. “It’s at least another hour before you can leave. Why don’t you go take a nice long bath? It should help to relax you.”


Vincent walked to the bathing chamber, stripped, and slid into the warm water. He put his head back and let his mind wander over the past few years with Catherine.

 

*****************************************

 

Catherine stood in the grocery store and looked at aisle after aisle of food. The nerves in her stomach were so tight she thought she was going to be sick.  I’ll never be able to eat, she thought.

 

She decided on some wine to have with assorted cheeses and meats on crackers. Thinking of Vincent, she grabbed a pair of steaks and some potatoes as well as the fixings for a salad. Impulsively, she grabbed a box of chocolate mints for dessert and headed out.

 

She walked into her apartment and quickly put the food in the refrigerator. She straightened up a few piles of papers and headed to her bedroom. “Well, I just changed the sheets yesterday, and I’ll put out fresh towels after I shower,” she said aloud as she started to strip off her clothes.

 

While she showered, she mentally went through her lingerie and tried to decide what outfit she wanted to wear. She had one in mind, but not wanting to make him nervous changed it and wore a two piece silk pant and shirt ensemble.

 

It had been dark only about a half an hour when she heard his familiar footfall on the balcony. She walked from the living room into her bedroom to find him bent over and balancing on one leg as he was talking off his shoes in the doorway.

 

“Vincent, don’t do that.”

 

He shot up and stepped back onto the balcony. “I’m sorry, Catherine. I thought...”

 

Catherine realized he had misunderstood and thought he wasn’t welcome. “I only meant to say that you can come in and sit down on the bed or the chair to remove your boots.”

 

Vincent’s shoulders sagged with relief. “Oh...”

 

Catherine took his hand and led him to the side of the bed. “Sit,” she commanded lightly. Vincent sat and Catherine bent over and slowly untied his boots. She never lost eye contact with him as she slid each of his boots off and set them on the floor. Vincent looked nervous, so she backed away and held out her hands. “I’ll hang your cloak.”

 

Vincent stood and gave her his cloak, then watched as she hung it over the back of a chair.

 

Catherine walked into the living area and glanced back at him. “I have salad and steak and potatoes or something light, assorted cheeses and meats with crackers...some fruit…”

 

Vincent stomach rolled at the thought of anything heavy. “Light is good,” he said as he followed her into the living room. He glanced around at the soft candlelight and relaxed.

 

Catherine was in the kitchen and leaned back in the doorway. “Could you put another log in the fireplace? I thought we could sit in front of the fire and eat.”

 

Vincent added another log, then headed towards the kitchen. “Can I help?”

 

Catherine was slicing cheese and nodded towards the bottle of wine. “Would you mind opening that? There are glasses in the cupboard in front of you.”

 

Vincent opened the door and grabbed two glasses.

 

“The opener is over in this drawer to my right,” Catherine instructed.

 

Vincent stepped over and opened the drawer at her side. He found the opener and looked down at her as she looked up. Her lips were inches from his and he watched as they parted with her sigh. He lowered his head and gave her a brief kiss.

 

“I should open the bottle.”

 

Catherine’s voice was husky. “I’m almost done here.”

 

She threw the knife in the sink and arranged the cheeses on the plate. She grabbed the crackers and followed him in front of the fire.

 

Vincent set down the wine and glasses, then took the plates from her and set them down as well. “Shall we sit?”

 

Catherine nodded and Vincent made his way to the floor. He sat back against her sofa and stretched his legs out in front of him. She sat down next to him and reached over to pour the wine.

 

Vincent was especially quiet and Catherine tried to put him at ease. “I’m glad you came here tonight.”

 

“I’m glad too.”

 

Catherine pointed towards the food. She reached for a cracker and put some sausage on it, as well as a piece of cheese, and popped it into her mouth. Vincent’s stomach was in as knot, and it rolled in protest, but he had watched Catherine and followed suit. His mouth was dry and he was barely able to swallow it, but he managed to choke it down.

 

Catherine handed him his wine while she kept the mood as relaxed as she could. “The cheese is good.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Did you like the sausage?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Catherine smiled. “Good.” Her mind raced with something to distract him, and she fell into stories about work. It worked, and they soon relaxed enough to enjoy a light meal and each other’s company.

 

Surprisingly, they polished off all but a few crackers, and Catherine picked up a strawberry and dipped it in chocolate. She held it front of Vincent’s mouth. Surprised by the gesture he backed away, but soon leaned back in and looked at her as he bit into the strawberry.

 

“Hmmm…” He smiled as chocolate assailed his taste buds.

 

Catherine watched as he dipped a strawberry in chocolate and raised it to her lips. She looked in his eyes as she slowly bit down. He had either put too much chocolate on it or her mouth was too small, but chocolate dribbled down on her chin.

 

“Oh!”

 

She reached for a napkin as Vincent swiped at it with his index finger. “Here.”

 

He showed Catherine the dollop of chocolate on his finger and she impulsively grabbed his hand and pulled his finger into her mouth, gently lapping at the chocolate with her tongue.

 

Vincent’s eyes darkened with passion as he watched her mouth gently suck on his finger. Catherine’s heart beat wildly as she leaned forward and kissed him.

 

Vincent groaned as she deepened the kiss. He grabbed her and brought her to his side and she settled comfortably against him.

 

Catherine slowly let herself lie back on the floor and, as expected, Vincent followed her down. He stretched out his length against her.

 

She kissed him deeply and felt his hand slide over her hip and rest at her waist. She took it and raised it slowly to the underside of her breast.

 

“Catherine,” he gasped as his hand slowly covered her breast and gently caressed it.

 

She could feel the strength of his desire against her leg and slowly backed away. “Let’s go into the other room.”

 

Vincent took a deep breath and nodded. Catherine got up and reached for his hand then led him into the bedroom.

 

She turned down the sheets and turned to him. The room was lit by the glow of a few strategically placed candles, and Catherine watched his face as she slowly took off her clothes.

 

Vincent swallowed hard as she stood naked in front of him.

 

Getting no reaction from him for several minutes, she became embarrassed and slowly looked down as she blushed. “Not quite the reaction I was hoping for. I…um…I know I’m not…”

 

“Perfect,” he answered for her. “You’re perfect. So beautiful…”

 

Catherine smiled as he came forward and lowered his mouth to kiss her and pull her close to him.

 

As they kissed, she slowly undid the laces on his shirt, then tugged it out of his waistband. Her hands quickly slid under his shirt to caresses him and Vincent held his breath waiting for an adverse reaction to his body, but all he felt from the bond was love.

 

Nervously, he tugged his shirt over his head, and Catherine drank in her first sight of him. She smiled as she kissed his naked chest between his breast bone. Vincent raised her chin and captured his mouth once more. It wasn’t long before Catherine ran her hand gently across his manhood and felt him lean into her. She undid the buttons on his pants and Vincent quickly shed them in front of her.

 

“Beautiful,” she gushed. “Take me to the bed, Vincent. Make love to me.”

 

Vincent lifted her and carried her over to the bed. He gently laid her down then crawled in next to her.

 

It’s finally going to happen! Catherine thought as she groaned aloud. She felt her emotions swell inside of her. She and Vincent were in bed together and quickly racing towards consummating their love. Suddenly, Vincent sat up and turned his back towards her.

 

“Don’t stop now, Vincent, please!”

 

“I’m sorry,” he gasped, his back heaving as he tried to restrain himself once more.

 

“What is it?” No answer came from him, so Catherine guessed at what was bothering him. “Vincent,” she said as she laid a hand on his back, “you know you could never hurt me.”

 

Vincent nodded in agreement. “I know...I believe that now. You’ve shown me time and time again that I can rely on you to follow me and being me back from my dark places.”

 

Catherine sighed with relief, then cocked her head curiously, wondering what the next barrier was. “Vincent, that’s not what’s bothering you?”

 

“No...” he said ruefully.

 

“Tell me!”

 

With a sigh, he glanced over at her then turned away nervously. “There...have been others in your life, Catherine.”

 

Catherine knew he wasn’t judging her. Remorse over her past relationships had always been with her. She wished she could come to him with her virginity still intact; she wished that together they could explore the world of the unknown, but she knew she could never change the fact that she had been with other men, and part of her hoped her experience would help her guide Vincent through his first time.

 

“Yes,” she replied, answering the only way she could. “I can’t change that, Vincent.” A thought popped into her mind, and feeling suddenly vulnerable she quickly covered her exposed breasts with the sheet. Her eyes filled with tears and her voice wavered as she whispered, “Does it bother you so much that I’ve been with others that you don’t want to be with me? Is that what’s kept you from coming to me?”

 

He turned around with shock at her question. He had never meant for his insecurities to make Catherine feel undesirable. He took her hands in his own and lightly caressed them. “No, Catherine. My...desire for you...will never fade.”

 

Catherine’s shoulders sagged with relief. “Then what is it?! You have to tell me if we’re to get through this last step. We’re so close, Vincent.”

 

“I know. I...want to go there with you, Catherine. Experience all there is with you.”

 

“But,” she prompted, “...something just made you stop. What is it?”

 

“I have no...experience, Catherine. I don’t know...how...”

 

He shot to his feet and began to nervously pace. Catherine’s throat went dry as she gazed upon his naked body. Caught up in his own thoughts, he was unaware of the effect his masculinity was having on the bond.

 

“It’s embarrassing to admit that I’m well into my thirties and I was about to ask you to help me with the final step. Then it occurred to me that the others in your life probably didn’t have to ask for help. They just knew and did it. Its daunting. I’m afraid to...disappoint you...to not measure up.”

 

Catherine knew he was insecure as she willed herself to not look at his manhood and make comparisons. The men she had been with in the past would have a very hard time...measuring up. “Vincent,” she said as she reached out with both hands. “Please come here. Come back to bed so we can talk.”

 

He came over and climbed in bed next to her as she quickly adjusted the covers and then looked up at him. “I wish I could change my past, but I can’t anymore than you can change your past with Lisa.”

 

“There is no comparison, Catherine. I was never with Lisa.”

 

“No...but she was the first person you ever loved.”

 

“The love you speak of was the infatuation of an adolescent.”

 

“But still a form of love! Vincent, I wasn’t much older than you and Lisa when I was with Steven. I told you before I looked back on that time fondly because of the innocence of it all, the newness of playing at being an adult. But I soon outgrew that relationship and ended it.”

 

“And found another.”

 

“Yes, years later! Tom was everything Steven wasn’t, and in the beginning things were great until I stopped being as important as his work.”

 

“He was driven to succeed.”

 

“Yes, at all costs. He stopped asking me about my dreams and I became an accessory to parade around on his arm at important functions. Then one night, we were at a party. I was sitting with a friend who needed to talk. She was going through a really bad time in her life and needed someone. Tom came over and pulled me away from her, told me I wasn’t supporting him enough. I explained to him that I was helping out an old friend. He told me that she was a drunk and didn’t need my help. He wanted me to talk to more important people, people who could further his career. I was so mad at him for telling me who I could talk to, I left the party. That night, I met the man who not only saved my life but changed it...forever.”

 

Vincent squeezed her hand, but then looked at her uncertainly. “And Elliot?”

 

“We were never together. Vincent, I haven’t been with anyone since I met you. The only person I will ever be with again is you. You are all I desire...all I ever want. I see other men on the streets everyday and all I can think about is how they aren’t you. How they could never measure up to the man you are. You have to believe that. Please! If this is all that is holding you back...”

 

Vincent moved slowly as he put his arm around her shoulders and slowly lowered her back down to the pillow. He kissed her and she felt the difference in him immediately. She could feel his conviction and knew that there was nothing else that was between them.

 

She turned herself over to him and together they raced once again towards their final bonding.

 

The End