BEHIND THE SCENES
WE’VE NEVER WITHHELD THE TRUTH
FOURTEENTH IN THE SERIES BY KATHY DE
“Father!” Kipper yelled loudly as he ran into the library.
Father came from around a corner of the bookshelves. “Yes, Kipper?”
“I have a message.”
“Yes, well, you probably could have delivered it from your sentry post…two blocks away.”
Kipper blushed at the light reprimand. “Sorry.”
Kipper handed it to him then turned to leave. Father noticed the return label on the outside of the envelope and fear settled into the pit of his stomach. “Kipper, where was this note left?”
“In the grate over near the theater district. Tommy gave it to Eric who sent it to Joey who gave it to me.”
Kipper was gone in a flash. Father ran a hand over his face then grabbed his cane and slowly headed to Vincent’s chamber.
Vincent was reading quietly when Father walked in.
Vincent motioned to a seat. “What is it, Father?”
Father ignored his request to sit and leaned against a chair. “This message arrived for you tonight from Above.”
Vincent tore into it and read the message. He felt his heart skip a beat. “Lisa,” he said quietly.
Father pretended not to hear. “I’m sorry. Did you say, Lisa?”
Vincent nodded. “Yes, Father. She’s asking me to meet her at our special place.”
Vincent smiled as he remembered. “It’s the little alcove just passed the five-way tunnel split. We used to meet there as children.”
Father frowned. “It’s been almost 20 years since she left here; how could she remember such a place?”
“We met there every day for two years…”
“I suppose you’re going to meet her then?”
“Lisa’s never asked me for anything before…”
Father exploded angrily. “May I remind you she left us and never sent word of her life or career? Never reached out to one single person from this community including you?”
“She’s reaching out now.”
“Yes, she’s probably gotten herself into some kind of trouble.”
“And if she has, will we be here to help her?”
Father ran his hand over his face. “What are you asking me, Vincent?”
Vincent lowered his head. “If Lisa needs something...help of any kind...even a place to come to...will she be welcomed here?”
“I - ” Father thought about the little girl that Lisa used to be. He remembered her skipping through the tunnels and humming, her long dark hair shining in the candlelight as she sat at his table and attentively did her schoolwork, her sitting on the floor in his chamber playing checkers with Vincent, keeping him busy so he wouldn’t miss Devin. Father sighed and looked defeated. “Yes.”
Vincent looked relieved. “Thank you, Father. If the need arises, I’m sure Lisa will be glad to know she still has a home to go to.”
Father nodded. “Yes, I’ll tell Mary to prepare a guest room just in case.”
“I’m going to make sure the tunnel she would use is well lit.”
Vincent waited at the meeting place for over an hour and a half. When Lisa didn’t show, he became worried, knowing deep within him that she would have been here if she were able to.
With a sigh, he headed to see Catherine.
Catherine woke at a tapping on her window and quickly got up when she saw Vincent’s shadow on the balcony.
“Catherine…I’m sorry I woke you, but I needed to see you.”
“It’s always nice to see you, too, Vincent, but it’s in the morning!”
She went into his arms and they hugged briefly.
Vincent pulled away and began to pace restlessly. “I came because I need your help.”
“There was a girl who grew up with us in the tunnels. One day, when she was not quite a woman, she left suddenly. She’s been gone for almost 20 years without a word to anyone. Her name is Lisa Campbell, perhaps...”
“The ballet dancer?” Catherine gasped. “Lisa Campbell grew up in the tunnels?”
“Yes. You’ve heard of her?”
“Of course. Hasn’t everyone?”
“Lisa contacted me today; she wanted me to meet with her.”
Catherine grappled to figure out why he was acting so strangely. “And you don’t want to meet her?”
“No, that’s not it. I’m worried about her. I don’t know where she is or how to find her. All I have to go on is,” he sighed, “nothing...” He walked over to the edge of the balcony. “A message in the night...it said so little but I could feel the urgency...her need.”
Catherine frowned quizzically at the note as she realized Lisa has set up the meeting. “But she didn’t come?”
“No, it’s almost as if I imagined it.”
“There is a touring company in town. Maybe she’s with them?” Catherine could see that there was more important information Vincent was withholding something from her, she wondered what it was. “Your memories must be strong...”
“She left the tunnels so many years ago. We’ve heard of her successes; Helpers would bring us news...”
“I saw her dance once. It was truly inspired.”
“What is it, Vincent?” Catherine urged him to tell her.
Vincent lowered his head as his mind raced. He wanted to open up to her but fear made him remain silent. For Lisa, he continued on. “Please tell her that she has a place and that I’m here.”
“I will.” Catherine promised before she tried to lighten his somber mood. “Did she leave the tunnels in order to dance?”
Vincent turned away from her to look out at the city. “That is not why she left...although it may have been a reason in time.”
“Why did she leave?” Catherine asked curiously.
Vincent looked back at her to gauge her reaction as he blurted out the truth. “Because I loved her.”
Catherine felt the impact of his words deep in heart. “Oh.”
“I’m...sorry,” she muttered as her stomach turned and she swallowed down the jealousy she knew she shouldn’t be feeling. “I’ll try to see her tomorrow.”
“Thank you.” Vincent nodded then looked away. “I should go.”
Catherine smiled weakly. “Okay. I’ll let you know what I find out.”
Vincent scaled the wall without a backward glance and Catherine sighed as she turned and walked back inside.
Catherine went to work the next day. Mid morning, she called a ticket broker and paid an exorbitant amount of money to get one of the few seats left for the ballet that night. She left early to go home and change clothes only to head right back out to the theater. She got settled in her seat just in time then watched in awe as Lisa flawlessly performed.
Catherine went backstage to deliver Vincent’s message and was comforted by Lisa’s words that she was all right. A man came to the doorway and Lisa pretended she and Catherine were old friends. Catherine was surprised but went along with the ruse.
She left and as she waited for a taxi, she puzzled over Lisa’s odd behavior. On a hunch, she headed to the library to investigate Lisa’s background.
The library’s night watchman was a Helper and Catherine knocked on the back door.
“The library is closed!” Carl, an elderly gentleman said to a shadowy figure in the alley.
“Carl, it’s Cathy. Can I come in?”
Catherine blushed at him calling Vincent her beau. “Vincent’s not with me, but is it okay if I look through the microfiche alone?”
Carl motioned with his arm. “I’ll be walking the halls. Call if you need me.”
“I will,” she said as he walked off leaving her alone with the computers.
Catherine found out that Lisa was involved with a man named Alain Taggart. She quickly became frustrated when she couldn’t find out any more about him and the only articles about Lisa were negative ones about her missing and canceling performances.
Catherine said goodbye to Carl then headed home. She thought briefly about going to see Vincent but she hadn’t really found out anything so she thought she’d wait until Rita could run a check for her.
The next morning, Catherine came to work early. Joe looked up from his desk as she passed by.
“You’re in early!” he shouted.
Catherine peeked around the corner. “Not that early...”
“Early enough for someone who had a hot date last night!”
“Yeah. Last night. That’s why you left early, isn’t it?”
Catherine rolled her eyes then grinned mischievously. “I should’ve taken you with me but I knew you wouldn’t leave work.”
“I would’ve left!” Joe looked intrigued. “Where’d you go? Concert?”
“Sort of. I went to the ballet.”
Joe made a face. “The ballet? Why would anyone - ” He stopped himself and changed his approach. “Did you like it?”
“Uh huh. It was mesmerizing.”
Joe looked away as he rolled his eyes. “Well, I’m glad you got a night off, anyway.”
Catherine laughed as she turned away then added impulsively. “Have you ever heard of a man by the name of Alain Taggart?”
“Taggart...hmmm... I know I’ve heard that name before but I can’t figure out why.”
Catherine nodded then went to her desk to work. A few hours later, Joe told her he remembered that Alain Taggart was an international arms dealer. Not long after that, Rita gave her a file on Alain’s criminal activities and Catherine had enough information on Lisa to tell Vincent what she had found out.
At lunch, Catherine made her way to the culvert entrance in the park. She waited patiently after tapping a message to Vincent. “I would’ve thought he knew I was coming,” she wondered aloud as she paced the tunnel.
Vincent opened the door and looked out strangely at Catherine.
“It took you a long time to come here. I’m sorry if I interrupted...”
“What is it?” Vincent asked sounding almost brusque.
Catherine frowned but continued on. “Yes, after she performed I went backstage...gave her your message.”
“Thank you, Catherine.”
“We were talking about you and she seemed fine until a man came into the room and then her demeanor completely changed. She ...um...was afraid. Seriously afraid. She pretended as if we were old friends that went to school together.”
Vincent looked up in surprise. “Lisa did that?”
“I played along with the ruse but it disturbed me so much I went to the library to investigate her.”
“What did you find?”
“Nothing, but today at work I had a co-worker look into Lisa’s background.”
“She’s involved with a man who’s about to be indicted for arms smuggling. There’s a good chance she’ll be called on to testify against him.”
Vincent had been questioning all night why Lisa had shown up and seemed so frantic. “For Lisa to come back to us I knew there must be other reasons.”
Catherine assumed he meant the letter she sent and nodded. “I’m sorry. Her performances were cancelled. She’s probably gotten herself out of the country by now.”
Vincent sighed as he delivered the bad news. “Catherine, she’s with us.”
“She is?” Catherine let the impact of his words sink in once again. Lisa had been there this whole time and he had never once mentioned it. “Well, at least we know where she is.”
Vincent rolled his eyes in exasperation. “Yes.”
“What does this woman mean to you, Vincent? Can you tell me?” Catherine asked worriedly.
“There are moments...images I remember so clearly...burning so deeply...”
“Tell me about those moments.” Catherine begged.
“There was a time when I first felt the tremendous joy that dreams could bring...the intoxication of sending your heart soaring into the realm of hope. But at that same time I learned that for me, dreams could bring more pain then I could ever bear...enough pain to destroy me...even those around me.”
Catherine was even more confused by his cryptic words. “How? What happened? You can tell me’ you can tell me anything!”
“I once thought that, but there are things...things that I had dreamt away.”
Catherine cocked her head with alarm. “We’ve never withheld the truth from one another...never!”
Vincent’s shoulders sagged as he sighed. “I know.”
Catherine stared in stunned silence as he went behind the closed the gate and with barely a glance at her, he hit the lever that sent the tunnel door sliding closed on her. She couldn’t believe he was leaving her this way and not discussing their problem.
She stood alone in the culvert as her mind raced with thoughts of the relationship that still existed between Lisa and Vincent. What does she mean to him? What does he mean to her? Did she come back here because she was in trouble? Is she back to reclaim a relationship she once had with Vincent? Is Vincent staying silent because Lisa was his first love...his first choice of a partner and now that she’s back, he wants to be with her but he’s unwilling to hurt me?
In a daze, Catherine turned and headed out the culvert entrance. She was so engulfed with her thoughts that she was unaware of where she was walking.
Catherine looked at her friend in shock. “Oh, Rebecca, I am so sorry!”
She bent over and helped Rebecca gather her supplies back into the bag.
They stood up at the same time and Catherine looked into the twinkling eyes of her smiling friend. “You were a million miles away!”
Catherine nodded ruefully. “I guess I was. I’m sorry.”
Rebecca shrugged. “No harm done.” She cocked her head curiously at Catherine. She could clearly see she was distressed and wondered why. She hoped it hadn’t had anything to do with Lisa. Overnight, the women had set the entire tunnel community on edge. Rebecca reached out a hand and touched Catherine’s wrist. “Penny for your thoughts.”
Catherine's emotions had taken hold and she looked at Rebecca with tears in her eyes. “I’m afraid they’re not worth a penny.”
Rebecca was flooded with concern for Catherine. “What’s wrong? Please tell me.”
Catherine looked at the tunnel entrance then back into Rebecca’s eyes.
Rebecca could see the uncertainty there but she could also see the need for Catherine to talk. She glanced over at a nearby bench then grabbed Catherine’s sleeve. “C’mon, let’s sit.”
Catherine followed her and the two women sat down facing each other.
Rebecca smiled. “Okay, spill it!” Catherine merely shook her head. Rebecca sighed then leaned forward, trying to discover the truth. “Did you and Vincent have an argument?”
“Argument?” Catherine looked up and blinked in surprise. “No...he...I don’t know. Maybe….” she shrugged in defeat. Suddenly a thought struck her and she looked at Rebecca curiously. “Does Vincent argue?”
Rebecca laughed. “Vincent? You should have heard the arguments between him and Devin when we were growing up!” She grew serious when she saw Catherine’s smile slowly fade. “So, you didn’t argue.”
“No, in fact he didn’t say a word. He...shut me out. I asked him a question and he shut me out!” Catherine’s tears spilled onto her cheeks.
“It must have been a tough question.” Rebecca reached over and took her hand. “Can I ask what it was?”
Rebecca sighed and then looked at the ground. Catherine’s stomach turned at the thought that Lisa must have been pretty significant to Vincent at one time for Rebecca to not want to discuss it either.
Catherine leaned forward. “If you know something, please...you have to tell me!”
“I know that Vincent loves you.”
Catherine shrugged and looked out towards the park. “Then why turn away from me?”
“I don’t think he’s doing it intentionally. You know Vincent. You probably surprised him and he needs some time to think about everything.”
“No, I can tell he’s keeping something from me. Something that he knows will hurt me. I could tell he felt...afraid, I guess...to tell me something. I even told him I thought he was withholding the truth from me.”
Rebecca looked at her with concern. “What’d he say?”
Catherine shrugged. “That’s when he walked away.” She stood suddenly and began to pace. “Maybe he’s trying to tell me he’s fallen in love with Lisa again. Maybe he doesn’t know how to tell me because he doesn’t want to hurt me... Maybe he...”
Rebecca interrupted. “Maybe he loves you so much that he’s afraid you’ll leave him if you know the truth.” Rebecca bit her lip and looked down, afraid she had said too much.
Catherine whirled and looked at her then sat down on the bench again. “The truth about what?”
“Catherine, it’s not my story to tell.”
“There is nothing that Vincent could ever tell me that would make me want to leave him! Rebecca, do you know something that you’re not telling me?” At her look of indecision, Catherine prompted her further. “Is it something about Vincent and Lisa? About the past or the present?”
“Catherine, I can only remember so much about Lisa. She and I weren’t exactly...friends.” Catherine’s face fell and Rebecca continued. “In fact, the only real friend she ever had Below was Vincent.”
Catherine looked intrigued. “Vincent said Lisa grew up here. I thought everyone considered her family.”
“Oh, she’ll always be considered family.”
“She has to be like a sister to you and to Pascal and the others. But to Vincent...” Catherine broke off as another wave of emotions came over her.
Rebecca patted her hand. “Catherine, I hate to speak ill of people but Lisa was more like the sister you could barely tolerate.” It was her turn to stand and pace. “The stories I could tell you...” She glanced at Catherine who still sat looking forlornly at the ground. “Lisa had a way of breezing into a room and clearing it out. Oh, she was captivating all right and so beautiful to watch as she danced and whirled around the room. She truly was a princess...” Rebecca shook her head. “And then she would open her mouth and her words dripped with arrogance and cruelty.”
Catherine looked up in surprise as Rebecca continued with her story.
“Most of the kids would head for other parts of the tunnel before she could condemn them for whatever reason she could find: Pascal’s ears; Matthew’s feet; Mitch’s eyes; my curly hair... No one was safe.”
Catherine began to worry that Lisa’s cruelty extended to Vincent. “That doesn’t sound like someone Vincent would want to be around.”
“Vincent was the only one who tolerated her. She would never say anything cruel about him. There was only the one time...” Rebecca stopped and thought back to the past, quickly becoming lost in the memories.
Catherine waited then her curiosity forced her impatience. “Well, what happened?”
Rebecca looked down. “Sorry, there was one time… We were a little bit older. I don’t know, I guess about twelve or thirteen. We were playing spin the bottle. A group of us sat in a big circle. Of course we all took turns spinning the bottle on the floor and kissing the person it landed on. Everyone had taken a turn except for Vincent. Mitch insisted Vincent had to take a turn. Vincent refused but by then everyone was nodding and agreeing with Mitch.”
“Oh no!” Catherine’s heart sank.
Rebecca rushed to explain. “Everyone was always so quick to include Vincent in everything. They wanted him to be treated just like the rest of us. Vincent felt pressured to spin the bottle. He reached up and spun it. But by then a few of us could see the hatred in Mitch’s eyes and we realized it was a cruel joke. The bottle landed pointing to Lisa.” Rebecca clenched her fists in anger. “Of course, even though she had just been kissed by Matthew, Lisa, being the princess that she was, got up and announced she didn’t kiss boys and stormed from the room leaving Vincent to sit there.”
Catherine groaned aloud, aching for the adolescent pain Vincent must have suffered through.
“Mitch and his buddy laughed hysterically. Vincent felt miserable but I got my revenge.”
“What did you do?” Catherine asked curiously.
Rebecca grinned. “Well, first I have to tell you that Mitch had a thing for me for about six months and everyone knew it. Of course, I never would’ve considered liking Mitch because he was so cruel. But I leaned over and smiled at Vincent and said, Hey, Vincent! It’s so dark in here, Lisa was wrong; the bottle is pointing at me! It’s my lucky day! Sure enough, I had scooted the bottle enough with my toe that it did look like it was pointing at me. Mitch was furious! He looked at me the whole time as I kneeled and leaned over to give Vincent a huge kiss!”
Catherine laughed. “You didn’t!”
“I did! Vincent was so surprised! Then I grabbed his hand and asked him to walk with me to the Chamber of the Falls. Mitch about died! He stormed out of the room so fast!”
Catherine was glad Vincent had been saved from further embarrassment and chuckled gleefully. “Oh, Rebecca, you are the best!”
The two friends laughed over the incident. Then Catherine’s face fell. “So what happened next?”
“Pascal, Vincent and I walked back to his chamber. Vincent was so quiet. He finally sat on his bed and then looked up at me. He told me how grateful he was that I had offered to kiss him and save him further embarrassment. He said he knew it couldn’t have been very enjoyable but he thanked me anyway.”
“Oh, poor Vincent.”
“Yeah, but I took his hand and told him he was just like my brother and I loved him...then I kissed him again and left. A week later, Lisa apologized to Vincent and he forgave her.”
Catherine looked confused. “But I thought that...perhaps Lisa had loved him once as well. Her response doesn’t sound like someone in love.”
Rebecca’s nose wrinkled in distaste. “After that Lisa and Vincent did get really close. They spent a lot of time alone together. I think Vincent fell in love with her. A year or so later, Lisa left and Vincent got really sick.” Rebecca threw her arms out from her sides. “I don’t know any more than that.”
Catherine’s brow furrowed. “Why would Lisa leave? Did she want to pursue her dancing?”
Rebecca shrugged. “I don’t know, Catherine. One day she was there, the next she was gone.”
Catherine glanced at her watch then shook her head. “I need to get back.” She hugged Rebecca. “Thanks for talking to me. I guess I’ll just have to wait for Vincent to come to me. I won’t come Below until he does. The ball is in his court now.”
Rebecca nodded. “I know Vincent like the back of my hand. He loves you, Catherine. More than he’s ever loved anybody in his whole life. He’ll come to you, I just know it.”
Catherine shrugged and looked uncertainly at her.
“Maybe. Thanks for listening.
Rebecca dumped off her purchases in her chamber then headed to Vincent’s chamber. She walked in to find Lisa sitting on a chair, her stockinged feet up on Vincent’s bed. Vincent sat in a chair opposite her. Rebecca noticed the room was unusually quiet.
Lisa saw Rebecca standing in the doorway and jumped up. “Rebecca, how good to see you. Please come in and have some tea with Vincent and me.”
Rebecca wondered why Lisa was playing hostess in Vincent’s chamber. She walked in and stood in front of Vincent.
“I just came in to talk to Vincent.”
Lisa poured her a cup of tea. “How nice. We were just sitting here talking about all the wonderful times we had as children.”
Rebecca muttered under breath. “That’s why it was so quiet.”
Lisa frowned. “Excuse me?”
Rebecca looked up and smiled sweetly. “I said I bet that was a riot. I was wondering, Lisa, would you mind if I talked to Vincent…alone?”
Lisa blinked at Rebecca’s rudeness but quickly recovered. “Certainly, it’s good he’ll have you to keep him company until I get back. I have an appointment with the children and I’m already late. I hate to disappoint a captive audience.”
Lisa breezed from the room as Vincent watched her go. His face clearly showing mixed emotions.
Rebecca frowned at his strange behavior. “She’s the same old Lisa, huh?”
Vincent smiled at Rebecca then looked down at his hands as they fiddled with a tea cup. “Yes.” He shook his head clearing it and looked up again. “You wished to see me? Is there something I can do for you?”
As she had done a hundred times before, Rebecca kicked off her shoes and sat cross legged on his bed. “No, but I was hoping there was something I could do for you.”
Vincent looked confused. ‘For me?”
“I saw Catherine leaving the tunnels earlier. She was pretty distracted. In fact, she didn’t even see me and walked right into me. She knocked a bag out of my hands.”
Vincent looked down and sighed. “She was upset.”
Rebecca knew it was a statement more than a question as she bent her head to try to catch his eye. “Yes, by a question you refused to answer!”
Vincent blinked in surprise. “She told you?”
Rebecca shrugged. “I dragged it out of her after she began to cry.” Vincent winced at her words and Rebecca softened her comments. “She doesn’t deserve this, Vincent. If you think you’re falling in love with Lisa...”
“My heart belongs to Catherine.” Vincent shot to his feet, clearly distressed. “I could never love Lisa again…I mean not in that way!”
“Catherine thinks you do. She told me she asked you what Lisa meant in your life then she reminded you that you two had never withheld the truth from each other. She said you wouldn’t answer her, that you just shut her out and walked away.”
Vincent groaned and sank heavily into a chair as he buried his face in his hands.
“Vin,” Rebecca said using her childhood name for him. “She loves you so much. Don’t let her get away because you can’t be entirely honest about something.”
“Becca, Catherine is my life. Without her I am nothing. What will I do if I tell her the truth about me and she walks away?”
“I’m not sure what truth you’re talking about but I bet it’s not as bad as you’ve made it out to be. Besides, Catherine would never walk away from any truth. She’s the strongest person I know. Vincent, you have to tell her whatever it is. You owe her at least that much.”
Vincent hung his head and Rebecca could tell that he was crying. She walked over and squeezed his shoulder affectionately. “The truth will set you free.” Vincent patted her hand but never looked up. Rebecca took a step back. “I’ll leave you alone but you know where to find me if you need to talk, okay?”
Vincent nodded as she turned to leave the room.
“And just so you know - Catherine doesn’t define you. And you are not nothing without her. You are one of my best friends, as well as Pascal’s. You’re Father’s favorite child, and you’re the best teacher and confidant to all of the children here Below. You are important to so many of us in so many ways.” Rebecca leaned forward and kissed his cheek. “I love you, Vincent. You’re the best big brother any girl could have.”
She turned and quickly and smiled shyly knowing that eventually he would take her words to heart.
Father was sitting alone in the library when Vincent went in and plopped down in a chair. He frowned thoughtfully as he listened to Vincent plead for permission to allow Lisa to stay Below for an extended period of time. Vincent argued that it was wrong that Father blamed Lisa for what happened between them when it was actually all his fault she had been hurt.
Father sat down heavily and sighed. “I’ve tried to be fair, Vincent, in raising all of you. I...made choices that had to be made...” Father shook his head slowly, second guessing himself for all the decisions he had ever made. “I don’t know anymore which was right and which was wrong. All I do know, Vincent, is that they were made with love!”
“And it is with love that I make the choices I must make.”
“Love? A concept Lisa never did understand!” Father grumbled.
“That’s not true, Father!”
“Vincent! Love is not selfish and cruel! I cannot tell you the amount of times I had one of you children in here crying because of Lisa’s careless comments.”
Vincent shook his head slowly. “Lisa can be oblivious to the feelings of others but I promise you, Father, she does have a good heart.”
Father blew out a long breath. “Okay. This was Lisa’s home for the first fifteen years of her life; she can stay as long as she needs to. But, Vincent, you will have to keep her ‘under control’ so to speak.”
Vincent smiled. “Lisa? That’s almost an impossible task.”
Father looked down again and fiddled with his shirt sleeve. “And what of Catherine?”
Vincent threw back his head in confusion. “I don’t know.”
“Well, I think you should figure it out soon.”
“I need to speak to Lisa about what happened,” Vincent said suddenly as he shot up from his chair.
Father sighed as he watched his son leave the room.
Catherine was walking down the street when Collin came up and shoved her into a car.
“What is it you want with me?” Catherine demanded.
“Not you, miss. I want Lisa. Where is she?”
Catherine shrugged. “I have no idea. I haven’t seen her since the night I saw her perform.”
“As I recall, you were supposed to meet for lunch.”
“She never called me.”
Collin looked away disgustedly. “Tell me the truth. How do you know Lisa?”
“She told you how. We went - ”
Collin’s head whipped back to face her as his eyes flashed angrily. “Yes. I remember the story she told me. Now I asked nicely for the truth.”
“That is the truth!” Catherine lied easily.
His henchman, John, looked up into the rearview mirror and Collin nodded imperceptibly to him. John promptly turned into a nearby warehouse district while Catherine nervously looked around.
John slammed to a stop and Collin dragged Catherine from the car. She struggled to get away until John lifted her up and carried her inside the abandoned building nearby.
Collin’s patience wore thin as Catherine continued to evade his questions. He watched with glee as her head flew from side to side while John slapped her repeatedly.
Collin nudged John to the side and Catherine tried to hold her fear in check as she watched John slam his arm against the frame of a wall effectively splintering the decaying wood. Collin told her what was going to happen to her and he approached her menacingly.
A roar was heard and a small part of Catherine sighed with relief when she heard a crash from above and knew Vincent had come to help her.
Shattered glass rained down on their heads and the distraction gave Vincent enough time to dispose of John. Catherine watched in horror as Collin grabbed her to use as a shield and pointed his gun at Vincent. When he moved his arm high enough to ensure his shot was effective, Catherine took the opportunity to slam her elbow into his ribs and spin around to grab the gun. The element of surprise gave her the leverage she needed to twist his arm and point the gun at his own chest while she squeezed the trigger.
The gun went off and Catherine could feel the burn of the gun powder against the side of her hand as Collin fell to the floor. She collapsed back and fell against Vincent’s solid form.
Vincent’s heart pounded fiercely in his chest as his arms came around her and he cradled her close. “Catherine...Catherine...”
He had nuzzled the top of her head and for a moment she thought he may have kissed her. She tried to reassure him as she spoke through the pain. “I’m okay...I’m okay.”
Vincent tightened his hold and held her as he gently swayed with her in his arms. He could feel the fear ebbing from her body. He groaned and held her tighter as she began to gather her strength.
The sound of sirens in the distance conveyed an urgency that gave Catherine the added strength to pull away as she looked at him pointedly. “We’d better get out of here.”
Vincent looked into her eyes and was satisfied with what he saw and nodded. “Yes.”
He got to his feet and then reached for her. She took his hand as he helped her up and then followed him as he guided her to the closest tunnel entrance.
Once safely inside the tunnels, Vincent noticed she was favoring her left arm. He reached out and gently felt along its length. Catherine hissed in pain but he continued with his prodding. “I’m sorry, Catherine, but we need to know…” After he examined her further he nodded satisfactorily. “I don’t think it’s broken.”
“It still hurts.”
Vincent got a better look at her face and noticed a split lip and a bruise already forming. He reached up and cupped her chin lovingly as he moved in closer. Catherine held her breath in anticipation. She thought he was going to kiss her.
Vincent looked at the bruise carefully then looked into Catherine’s eyes. He held his breath at the desire he saw in the depths of them. His own eyes darkened with passion then in an instant, he backed away. The spell was broken. “I...should get you to Father. He’ll...look at your wrist, check that burn.”
Catherine tried to hide her disappointment. “Okay.”
Vincent tapped out a message announcing their return. Catherine stayed silent until once again they walked side by side.
Vincent reached for her hand and then stopped himself. Catherine felt the stab of rejection in her heart. Back to Lisa, she thought to herself. It felt ridiculous to have this tension between them but Catherine couldn’t find a way around it. She leaned over and wanted to lay her head against his shoulder but didn’t want to make him uncomfortable with the intimacy of the gesture.
She took a deep breath then looked over at him. “Thanks for coming tonight. I guess I underestimated how dangerous Lisa’s friends were.”
Vincent looked at her suspiciously. “Lisa’s friends?”
Catherine nodded. “Yes. Collin - the one holding the gun - is Lisa’s bodyguard.”
“And he hurt you trying to get to Lisa?”
Catherine sighed. “Yes. I suppose he thought that if he roughed me up a little he could get the answers he needed. Thanks to you he didn’t get very far.”
Vincent shook his head in dismay. “He got far enough! I was almost too late.” He turned to her suddenly and drew her into his arms, holding her close. Catherine hugged him back and they started to walk again arm and arm. “I’m sorry it took me so long to get to you.”
“Vincent, I don’t expect you to be waiting around to rescue me. I had no idea I was in so much danger until Collin had his friend started hitting me.”
“Being in the Great Hall slowed me down or I would have been here sooner.”
“The Great Hall? Were you doing repairs there?” she wondered.
Vincent shook his head, unwilling to lie to her. “No. I...was speaking with Lisa.”
“Oh.” Jealously seized a hold of her heart and Catherine unconsciously drew away, their arms dropped to their sides.
Vincent continued. “We were...talking...when I felt your fear.”
“Well, I’m sorry I interrupted your...talk...I’m sorry you had to come help me...again.”
Vincent wondered at the strangeness of her comment and was about to respond when around the corner of the tunnel way, Jamie and Mouse came walking up and stopped his response.
Mouse smiled. “Catherine okay?”
“Yes, Mouse. I’m fine. Thanks for asking.”
Jamie stepped forward. “Lisa said she and Vincent were talking and then suddenly Vincent ran from the room.”
Mouse nodded knowingly. “Knew it was about his Catherine.”
Jamie noticed the tension in her favorite couple. “We thought we’d try to help. I guess you don’t need us.”
Catherine smiled weakly back. “But it was nice of you to come to see if you were needed. Thank you.”
Mouse walked between Vincent and Catherine and started talking to Vincent about a new gadget he had concocted. He talked almost all the way back to the home tunnels.
Vincent kept looking over at Catherine but she pointedly ignored him, keeping to her conversation with Jamie about other tunnel members.
Catherine stopped at the crossroad of the tunnels that would take her back to her apartment. “I’ll leave you here and head home...”
Vincent stepped forward and gingerly reached for her arm. “Let Father take a look at your injuries, then I’ll walk you back.” He could see she was about to protest. “Please?”
Catherine looked up at him with a hurt expression. “I’m fine. I don’t want to be a bother.”
Mouse snorted and laughed. “Catherine, a bother!”
Jamie watched the exchange and knew something odd was going on between them. “Mouse and I are going to go on ahead. I’ve got to show Mouse this new electronic...um...thing Kipper found.” She grabbed Mouse’s arm before he could protest and dragged him away.
Vincent’s eyes had never left Catherine’s through the whole exchange. He repeated his request. “Catherine, please.” Catherine shrugged and stayed strangely silent but she followed him to his chamber. Vincent motioned towards the bed. “Please, sit down. Try to relax. I’ll go find Father and bring him to you.”
Catherine smiled tentatively. Her arm was starting to hurt even more and she decided she would have to go to the hospital if Father didn’t look at it so she relented. “Okay.”
Vincent left Catherine in his chamber to go get Father. He ran into the library and looked around. “Father!” he shouted.
Father came around the corner of the back book shelves. “For Pete’s sake, Vincent, stop shouting. I’m right here.”
“I need your help. Catherine’s been hurt tonight.”
Father looked at him in alarm. “How badly?”
“Superficial mostly, but...”
“Catherine did not find this trouble. I sent it to her!”
“I put Catherine in harm’s way! It was I who sent her to Lisa’s side to see if she needed help. The men who harmed Catherine tonight were associates of Lisa’s boyfriend! I’m to blame for what happened to her!”
Father grimaced as he checked his supplies. “Well, that’s not true and I can’t believe Catherine believes that either. But no matter. Let’s go see what I can do to help.”
The two men left and headed towards Vincent’s chamber.
Catherine had sat down then with a sigh; she lay back and stretched out her length along the bed. She propped her leg up to stop the pain in her abdomen from where she had been punched. Her arm was starting to throb and the powder burn on her hand hurt as well as her split upper lip. She touched her hand to her lip and felt the swelling in her face from the different blows she had sustained.
Lisa suddenly came bounding into the room. Noticing Catherine on the bed, she tried to leave immediately, but Catherine confronted her. Lisa tried to wave off the entire incident but inwardly her heart was racing at the news that Collin was the one responsible for the bruises Catherine had.
Catherine spoke of the harsh realities to Lisa as Father and Vincent walked up behind her. They all watched as Lisa slowly came out of her fantasy world and let the truth of her situation sink in.
Vincent stepped forward. “Lisa, you must do the right thing.”
She looked up with a half-smile. “I know. I’ve always known. But you know me; always trying to look on the positive side of everything.”
“Yes, by ignoring the reality of it,” Father grumbled. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a patient to attend.”
Defeated, Lisa left the room so Father could help Catherine.
“You too, Vincent,” Father grumbled as he nodded towards the door.
“Father,” Vincent protested weakly, “I’d like to stay…”
“Catherine?” Father questioned.
Catherine looked at Father and shrugged indifferently. “It doesn’t matter.”
Father scowled at her defeated attitude and motioned for her to sit in the chair he pulled out. “Come on now, young lady. Let me take a look at your injuries.”
Vincent pulled up another chair for Father to sit on and placed it near Catherine.
Father gently rubbed Catherine’s cheek as he looked closely at her cut lip. “I can see the damage that was done to the lip and cheek but where else have you been hurt?”
“My stomach. It’s okay though.”
Father frowned and motioned to her. “Stand up. Let me see.” Catherine did as he asked and lifted her shirt up to just under her bra line. Vincent looked away to afford her privacy as Father felt along her ribs then gently probed her stomach. She winced only once when he touched the area Collin had punched. “I don’t think anything’s broken.”
“I didn’t think so either.”
“Okay. Anywhere else?”
“Her arm,” Vincent added.
Catherine showed Father her arm and he performed the same examination as Vincent did earlier.
Vincent waited just beyond his shoulder. “I don’t think it’s broken, Father.”
Father looked up at Vincent and nodded. “Yes, I agree. It’s just badly bruised.”
Father turned her wrist over and noticed the burn on the side of her hand. “This looks like it’s...” Father leaned in for a closer look, “...a powder burn. Is it from a gun?”
Catherine nodded. “It is.”
Father looked at Vincent with alarm, his eyes flying up and down the length of his son’s body. “Vincent, have you been...?”
Vincent shook his head. “Father, I’m fine. I…wasn’t involved.”
Father looked back at Catherine who nodded in confirmation. “It’s true. I did it myself. I...shot...” Her voice broke and she began to cry. As the intensity of her tears grew, Vincent stepped around and lifted her into his arms then sat on the bed with her on his lap.
Father muttered as he shook his head. “Delayed reaction, I guess.”
Catherine was oblivious to Father putting ointment and a bandage on her burn and then an ace bandage around her arm.
He looked at Vincent. “Anywhere else?” Vincent shook his head and Father stood. “Then, I’ll leave you two alone.”
Vincent nodded. “Thank you, Father.”
Father left and Vincent held Catherine until her tears were spent. She was snuggled comfortably against his chest until they were interrupted when Lisa suddenly walked in.
“Good. You’re still here.”
Catherine sighed and took a deep breath then pushed off from Vincent. “Yes, I was just leaving,” she said as she swiped the tears from her face. She stood up and faced Lisa. Vincent stood behind her and rested his hand on the small of her back.
Lisa looked at the floor. “If you have a minute, I’d like to speak to you.”
Catherine misunderstood and glanced briefly at Vincent as she started to walk away. “I’ll leave you two alone then.”
Lisa’s head shot up with surprise. “Catherine, I meant that I’d like to speak with you.” Catherine eyed her warily and Lisa could tell she was wavering with indecision. “Please! I promise it will only take a minute.”
Catherine reluctantly nodded, turned around and took a seat in a chair. Vincent motioned for Lisa to take the other seat while he walked over to pick up a third chair from against the wall. He placed it by Catherine’s side and sat down next to her. He could feel Catherine’s heightened emotions and reached over and took her hand into his own. Catherine blinked in surprise at the intimate gesture made in front of Lisa. She glanced at Lisa to gauge her reaction. For a brief second, Catherine saw Lisa’s face reflect the happiness she felt for Vincent. Catherine’s emotions wavered with uncertainty, wondering if she had read the situation wrong.
Lisa cleared her throat and looked at the floor. “I wanted to tell you how sorry I am that this has happened to you. I had no idea that Collin could be so brutal.”
Catherine’s voice was husky when she answered. “It wasn’t your fault.”
Lisa shrugged. “No, but... Well, I’ve always been afraid of Collin myself. I didn’t think he would hurt someone else. I mean, I knew that if the time ever came, he wouldn’t think twice if he was ordered to hurt me. I fear that I will still be in danger as long as he has access to me.”
Vincent leaned forward. “Collin can no longer hurt you, Lisa.”
Lisa shook her head fearfully. “If he can find a way - ”
Vincent interrupted her. “Lisa! Collin is dead.”
Lisa looked to Catherine for confirmation. Catherine nodded and looked down at the floor as Lisa gasped. “Vincent! I can’t believe you - ”
Catherine rushed to clear the air. “It wasn’t Vincent. It was me.”
Lisa looked at her incredulously. “You!”
Catherine sighed. “We fought, he lost.”
Lisa took a moment to process the information. “What about John?”
Vincent sat back disgustedly as he thought of the other man. “He was actually the one beating Catherine when I got to her. I...stopped him.”
Lisa stood up and walked around the room. “Catherine, if both of Alain’s bodyguards have been taken care of, it will be at least a day before he can send new ones out here. We have a small window of opportunity for me to tell the U.S. Marshall what I know. Can you arrange it?”
Catherine looked at her with surprise. “You’d be willing to testify to everything you know about Alain’s operation?”
Lisa nodded. “Yes.”
Lisa looked at her ruefully. “You think I’m shallow and that I only think of myself. Well, most of that is true but there is a good side to me, Catherine. I have been under Alain’s watchful eye since I met him. I just want to be free again. I want to earn back the reputation that he destroyed! I want to show the world that I truly love to dance and that I’m not the spoiled little ballerina the media has made me out to be. Every time I had to cancel a performance it was because of Alain! I want to win back my audience’s trust and perform for them again.”
Catherine nodded. “I can
arrange for you to speak to the
“First thing? You know I’ve got to be held in protective custody until it goes to trial!”
Catherine nodded. “Yes, I’ll arrange all of that for you. I’ll make sure you have the best protection we have to offer.”
“Thank you, Catherine.” Lisa stood. “That gives me some time to say goodbye to the few people here that actually like me.”
Vincent reached over and took her hand. “Many people Below love you, Lisa.”
Lisa squeezed his hand and smiled. “We both know that’s not true but perhaps I can make amends for my past mistakes and next time I want to come home, I’ll actually be welcomed.”
Catherine quickly stood. “I’ll leave you two alone then.”
Vincent looked at her quizzically. “No, I’ll walk you home.”
Catherine knew Vincent loved her and she had come to terms with his unusual relationship with Lisa. She decided to trust him and wait patiently for him to come to her. “I have to make all of the arrangements for the meeting in the morning. It’ll take me some time to come up with Lisa’s new identity. Why don’t you stay here and visit with Lisa. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Vincent shook his head as he started to protest but Lisa grabbed Catherine’s hand. “Really, Catherine! Oh, thank you. Vincent has always been able to pave the way for me Below. He’s really the one I want to visit with the most.”
Vincent had been standing behind Lisa and was unable to see him roll his eyes with impatience. Catherine caught the gesture and hid the smirk that crept onto her face.
She smiled at Lisa. “I’ll
see you in the morning. Vincent can bring you to the threshold of my
apartment building...from there we’ll go and meet the
Vincent came around the side of Lisa and stood before Catherine. He reached for her with his arm and she stepped forward leaning against his chest. His arms engulfed her as he bent his head low. His hair fell forward surrounding them in privacy. Catherine turned her head and kissed his chest then looked up.
Vincent saw the desire in her eyes as he stepped back. “Good night, Catherine.”
Catherine left and Vincent turned to face Lisa.
Lisa smiled coyly as she floated around the room. “She loves you.”
Vincent looked sheepishly down at the floor. “Yes.”
She smiled at him sincerely. “I’m happy for you, Vincent. She’s a great woman.”
“Yes, she is.”
Lisa chuckled. “Will I be invited to the wedding?”
Vincent’s head shot up in surprise. “What?”
Lisa shook her head in surprise. “The wedding! You are planning on marrying her, aren’t you?”
Vincent shook his head in disbelief. “I - ”
Lisa laughed. “See! Now I’ve left you speechless! My God, Vincent! You would have to be blind not to be able to see how much you two love one another! When will you ask her?”
Vincent sighed in resignation. “I can’t ask her. You of all people should know that.”
Lisa came to him looking confused. “I’m...not sure what you’re getting at.”
Vincent turned from her angrily. “Must I repeat what happened that day?”
“What are you talking about? What day?”
He shot her a look of total exasperation then turned from her. His back faced her and Lisa shook her head disgustedly. “Vincent, I started to tell you earlier that what happened that day was child’s play. I was...shamelessly teasing you.”
“You were afraid of me and backed away.”
“No, I was never afraid of you! I was afraid of what I was feeling. I was so young and I cared for you so much but...I didn’t want to be trapped here and I backed away from those emotions.” She started walking around the room. “I wanted to dance, Vincent. I wanted a life away from these tunnels. I could never have allowed us to get any closer. I was planning on telling you that night that I was leaving. I wanted to dance for you one last time and then share my news. But then...”
Her voice trailed off. Vincent looked up with tears in his eyes. “Then, I hurt you.”
Lisa shrugged indifferently. “It was an accident; it was just a few scratches.”
“I don’t think so.”
Lisa began to get a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. “Vincent, did you think I left the tunnels because you scratched me? Did you think I left because of what happened?”
Vincent lowered his head shamefully. “What else could I think? You were gone the next day.”
“Oh, Vincent! No! I left because I had a chance to get into a dance academy that had a six month waiting period. An opening suddenly came up and I jumped at the chance. Didn’t anyone tell you?”
“No. I...became very sick after you left. By the time I was better, I suppose no one wanted to mention your name.”
“Well, I’m sorry they never told you. But what does all of this have to do with Catherine?”
“Don’t you see Lisa? I could never take the chance that I could hurt Catherine like I hurt you.”
Lisa threw up her arms. “Vincent, what must she be thinking? She knows you love her and that you have some deep pain you’re not telling her about. You should tell her about what happened. I bet she says the same thing that I said.”
“That is was an adolescent mishap.”
Vincent shook his head in disagreement. “The truth would only frighten her.”
Lisa chuckled aloud. “I can’t imagine Catherine being frightened by much. If you think a story like this will turn her away then I think that perhaps you don’t know her as well as you think you do.”
Rebecca walked in and overheard the last part of the conversation. “I didn’t mean to overhear. I’m sorry. But Vincent, Lisa’s right. Catherine will not think twice about standing by you.”
Lisa stood next to Rebecca and together they looked at Vincent. He shook his head and looked away, unwilling to trust what they were saying. Rebecca looked over at Lisa and the two women took seats by the table.
Rebecca sighed. “I did tell you about Lisa leaving. It was towards the end of your illness. I had just found out myself and I was sitting with you one night so Mary could go have dinner. You woke up and asked me about Lisa. I told you she left to go to school and you wouldn’t believe me; you said she left because of what happened.”
“I don’t remember.”
Rebecca sighed. “Well, I wished I had known. I would have told you again when you were feeling better.”
Vincent could not be convinced. Both of the women knew that he needed some time alone to process and come to terms with what they said. Rebecca caught Lisa’s eye again and nodded towards the door. Lisa nodded with understanding.
Rebecca stood up. “Lisa, I came in here looking for you. I was wondering if you would like to join a group of us women in the sewing room. We could use someone to help model some of the outfits.”
Lisa made a face and then smiled knowingly. “I’d love a chance to visit with my old friends. Vincent, will you be all right alone?”
He was lost in his thoughts and didn’t answer as the two women left the room quietly.
A few days later, Vincent sat in the library staring at his hands.
“Catherine. I have to tell her what happened.”
“What happened?” Father was confused. “I’m sorry, Vincent, I need more to go on than that.”
Father assumed he meant something recently and waved his hand dismissively. “Catherine trusts you. I’m sure she realizes that you and Lisa were only talking.”
Vincent knew he misunderstood and interrupted him. “No, Father. I meant about what happened in the past.”
“Oh,” Father said quietly. “Do you think that’s wise?”
Vincent threw back his head and shook it as he looked at the ceiling. “I have no idea.”
“You’re afraid of losing her.”
“What I have to tell her is frightening. I’m not sure. She may decide she’s too afraid to take the risk...”
Father chuckled and at Vincent’s scowl, grew serious again. “Vincent,” he said as he leaned forward, “son, Catherine is one of the bravest women I know. I’ve seen her crawl into a hole to be with you when you were...less than yourself.”
Vincent was surprised by the answer. “Father, you’ve always said that I should refrain from...”
Father held up his hand. “I know! I know what I said. But you were a young man and I was so afraid that you wouldn’t be able to...control yourself...if and when the time came.”
“And now...I’ve sat back for almost two years watching you struggle with the past. I know in the beginning I steered you away from a relationship with Catherine. And if I’m being honest I thought very little of her back then because of the constant danger she seemed to put you in.”
Vincent lowered his head. “I know, but...”
“But...I have since come to believe that Catherine is...an amazing woman, one deserving of your love. She has proven herself loyal to you time and time again.”
“She and I have sat for hours and hours and just talked, Father, about every topic imaginable. I have told her things about myself that I have never shared with anyone; not Devin...not you. But this one thing stands like a solid wall between us...”
Father nodded. “Then you must tear that wall down if you are to proceed further.”
Vincent shook his head in distress. “What if it destroys all that we have now?”
Father cocked his head to the side and looked at him endearingly. “What if it brings you closer and you find a new, more fulfilling happiness?” He kissed the top of Vincent’s head then dropped his arm and squeezed Vincent’s shoulder. “Think about it.”
Father nodded again. “Yes, but you could also end up with everything!”
“What should I do, Father?”
“Vincent, I can’t answer that for you. Only you know what’s in your heart.”
“My heart screams with my need to be with her, but my mind...”
“Tells me it cannot be...it shouldn’t be...”
Father chuckled again. “It isn’t often I say this but sometimes you have to lead with your heart not with your head.”
“So you would take the chance?”
“I did...once...a long time ago, when I asked Margaret to become my wife. What you’re feeling is something every man goes through, Vincent.”
“I am not like every man.”
“No, and Catherine knows that, recognizes it, and then dismisses it, because it just doesn’t matter to her.”
Father smiled then walked away before Vincent could ask him any more. He knew his son would have to be by himself to think about the whole situation.
An hour later, Father was relieved to hear the message on the pipes that Vincent was going to Catherine’s.
These past few days, Catherine had been tied up with Lisa and her trial and was missing Vincent terribly. She made her way out onto the balcony. A movement made her turn and she looked over to see Vincent hovering in the corner.
She turned to him with a smile. “I wonder if I’ll ever not be surprised to see you there.”
Before he could lose his nerve, Vincent rushed headlong into the reason he was there. “We’ve never withheld the truth from one another.”
Catherine shook her head. “No.”
“Catherine, there are things that I must tell you about who I am...and what I am.”
“Vincent, to me, you’re beautiful.”
“What I have to tell you is not beautiful. It’s terrifying and shameful...but it is the truth.
“Then I want to hear it.”
“It’s about Lisa. About what she meant in my life...”
“I would watch her dance...she would dance in the Great Hall for herself...for me...there was nothing in this world as beautiful as Lisa.”
Catherine wanted to help him through this. “And you desired her; there is no shame in that, Vincent.”
“For me there is.”
“Because I hurt her! Because in my desire I forgot who I was...who I am! As she moved closer, I wanted to hold her and she was dancing and I felt a pull. It was pulling me to her and I reached out for her. Suddenly in her eyes, I saw a fear of me. I saw myself but I couldn’t let go of her...these hands wouldn’t let go of her and I hurt her! And I knew that these hands were not meant to give love.”
Vincent held his hands in front of him. He wanted Catherine to look at them and see how truly abnormal and disgusting they were.
She kissed the backs of each of them and then rubbed her cheek against them. Tears flowed from Vincent’s eyes as he put his head down in shame. Catherine touched her forehead to his and held his hands tightly as he cried.
She finally gave up and reached her arms around his neck and pulled his head down to her shoulder. Vincent cried harder and buried his face in her neck. Catherine ran her fingers through his hair and offered all the comfort she could as he cried out years of misery.
She was beside herself wondering what she could do to convince him that he could never hurt her. That he had built up an adolescent mishap to something that was bigger than it ever needed to be. She felt the change in him through the bond before it registered in his body.
She pulled back slightly and offered him a smile. “Are you all right?”
“No, Vincent. Please stay.”
“What? What is it?”
“Don’t be; I’m glad you told me. If I get us a blanket to sit on, will you stay?” He nodded and Catherine reached inside her door to grab the one that normally was there, ready to be used. She frowned when she remembered she washed it and it was on top of the dryer. “I’ll be right back.”
While she was gone, Vincent sat down heavily in a chair. Catherine came out and watched as he fiddled with an unlit candle sitting on her table. She came out and set the blanket on the table and stood next to him, then placed her hand on his back and gently rubbed it. He looked up at her with uncertainty and then looked back down. Catherine moved closer and pulled his head to rest against her chest. He leaned against her as she caressed her fingers through his hair again. She kissed his temple as her hand gently ran up and down his cheek.
“We’ll get past this, too, Vincent.”
“You...shouldn’t have to get past anything, Catherine.”
“I’ll do whatever I have to, to be a part of your life. I love you, Vincent.”
He closed his eyes in disbelief. “How can you still love me after what I’ve just told you?”
Catherine began to wonder how deep his pain went. “Vincent, what happened to you was just an...awkward teenage incident.”
“That ended with her blood being spilled. I hurt her, Catherine! In my desire, I hurt her!”
“No, Vincent. You were just two hormone driven kids who got in over your heads and Lisa got scared and chose to back away. She probably didn’t realize how far her teasing had gone.”
Vincent cocked his head as he realized that those words were much the same as what Lisa had said yet he still wouldn’t take a chance. “And if you’re wrong?”
Catherine lifted his chin to look into his eyes. “I’m not a child, Vincent. I’m a woman. A woman who knows what to expect and who loves you; who would never back away from you or anything you have to offer me.”
Vincent looked at the intensity of the desire in her eyes and shook his head. “Catherine, what we have is...worth everything. If you...turned away, I...don’t think I could go on living.”
“Vincent, you know my heart and you know that I would never do that to you.”
“What if it couldn’t be helped? Would you lay with me and love me anyway even though you no longer wanted me? Would you continue to make that sacrifice?”
Catherine shook her head slowly. “Sacrifice? It would not be a sacrifice to be loved by you.”
In an instant, she had come to a decision. She had kissed him on the lips only once before and she was going to kiss him again now. This time it would not be in a gesture of thanks. She leaned over and Vincent’s head moved back from hers but Catherine continued her path. Her lips touched his gently as she kissed him.
He suddenly stood and moved away from her. “I...need to go.”
Catherine hid her disappointment and decided she would give him the time he needed to come to terms with everything that had happened. “I understand.”
Vincent looked at her gratefully. Catherine came forward and put her arms around his waist while he pulled her close and held her tightly to his chest.
Catherine kept the embrace short and backed away slowly. “Good night, Vincent.”
“Good night, Catherine.”
Catherine watched him scale the wall and at the last second she called out to him, knowing he would hear. “I love you.”
Vincent lay on his bed thinking about all that had just happened. Father walked into the darkened chamber and frowned when he saw Vincent lying there.
“Are you okay, Vincent?”
Father sat in a chair and lit the candle on the desk. “You went to speak to Catherine?”
“How,” Father sighed that Vincent wasn’t being more forthcoming, “are her bruises?”
Vincent smiled at him, lovingly. “They’re healed, Father. Catherine is fine.”
Vincent knew he had come to Father countless times for advice and deserved to hear the outcome of his conversation. He sat up on his bed and looked at him. “We spoke about what...happened between Lisa and me...”
Father nodded and braced himself. “Good...um...what...um...did she say about it?”
Vincent shrugged. “She said that it was an adolescent mishap; she said she was an adult and knew already what to expect…”
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, Vincent, and she’s right. It took me seeing Brooke and Tommy together to realize that. I overreacted, it’s as simple as that. And if because of it I have caused you any deep harm I am so, so sorry.”
“It wasn’t just you, Father. I think my emotions were less than predictable back then. Catherine helped me realize that.”
Father smiled inwardly at Catherine’s bravery. “So she said she was not afraid...”
Vincent shook his head in disbelief. “Yes, she said she would never back away from anything I have to offer her. Then she...”
“What?” Father asked curiously when he stopped suddenly.
“She kissed me...”
Father smiled with relief and stood. “Well, I’m heading to bed now that I know it went well.”
“Good night, Father.” Vincent said as he lay back in bed.
“Good night, Vincent. Have pleasant dreams.”