A Bad Day
To say Catherine was having a bad day was like saying Mouse could cause a bit of mischief; a gross understatement. Now, as she trudged, exhausted but determined, through the steady rain toward the tunnel park entrance, she thought back over the disaster of the past few hours. Rarely had a day gone so wrong for her.
Since marrying Vincent and moving Below, Catherine’s days had been quite peaceful and fulfilled. This particular day had started no differently. Vincent had left very early to join a work crew doing repairs in one of the lower tunnels. Catherine had remained in bed, savoring the peace and quiet of the early morning hours before the worlds Above and Below awoke.
Unfortunately, she had gone back to sleep and overslept. Realizing she was late as she awoke, Catherine had quickly dressed, grabbed her briefcase and headed for the brownstone that she purchased from Peter Alcott when he retired. She converted it into her law office with living space on the upper floors. Though she actually lived Below in the tunnels, the building was important to her as a way station to her life Above and a necessary retreat for her and Vincent when they needed privacy.
Catherine emerged from the door of her brownstone office, only to discover that the warm, sunny spring-like day the weatherman had promised was missing. Instead, the day was a dull dreary gray that predicted only rain. Already running behind, Catherine couldn’t turn back for a coat or umbrella. She managed to catch a cab, but as they drove toward Family Court the rain began to come down in a torrent. A few blocks from the Family Court building, traffic came to a grinding halt and wouldn’t budge. Unwilling to be late, Catherine got out of the cab and made a mad dash for it, becoming thoroughly soaked in the process and breaking a heel on her favorite shoes.
Still, she barely managed to make her appointed court time. Catherine was helping William’s nephew, Mark and his wife Ellen finalize their adoption of a lovely little girl named Rosie. Fortunately, everything went smoothly before the judge even with Catherine dripping all over the floor and the adoption was finalized. Mark and Ellen were understandably ecstatic.
“Are you sure you don’t need a lift, Catherine?’ Ellen offered. “We’d be happy to drop you back to your office.”
“No, I’ll be fine. I’m meeting a friend for lunch. Besides, I think I know a certain uncle who is waiting to hear some very good news.” Catherine smiled as she tickled little Rosie, the apple of her great uncle William’s eye. “I’m sure I’ll see you at the celebration tonight. Save me a piece of cake.” She had no doubt William had been preparing all day for the party Below celebrating Rosie’s adoption.
The happy new “family” departed and Catherine headed up to visit her friend Edie who had recently taken a new position in the same building. But, as the elevator closed on Catherine, her briefcase got caught in the doors which stubbornly refused to reopen. After some frantic tugging, Catherine managed to free the case, but the handle broke off. Then, just as the elevator began to move, there was a jarring lurch and a grinding of metal as the car came to a shuddering, abrupt halt. Catherine and several others were now trapped. For the next two hours, city workers tried diligently to get the car moving. Finally, Catherine and her fellow passengers were freed when the workers pried open the doors. Unfortunately, they were stuck between floors and the stranded passengers were all forced to crawl out. Wearily, she abandoned any hope of getting lunch.
After placing a quick phone call to her friend to explain what happened and cancel, Catherine dejectedly headed for home. No sooner had she left the courthouse than a passing bus hit a large puddle, thoroughly soaking her again. To Catherine, it was the final straw. Totally exhausted, she hailed another cab and headed for the nearest tunnel entrance in the park. She could have headed for her brownstone, but she simply couldn’t wait to head back Below and put her miserable day behind her. The cabbie actually seemed reluctant to let her off there.
“Lady, it’s pouring out there. This ain’t exactly a day for a stroll,”
He protested. But, the big tip she gave him soon stilled his tongue.
Wearily, Catherine made her way to the culvert. Normally, she would have
never done so in daylight, but the park was deserted thanks to the rainy
weather. Gratefully, she opened the hidden door and headed into the
tunnels. She was a tad disappointed that Vincent didn’t meet her, but
She had only gone a short distance when a familiar shuffling gait coming
towards her made her pause. It was Father.
The tunnel patriarch took in the disheveled appearance of his daughter-in-law with a bit of surprised amusement. Suddenly, Vincent’s rather odd request via the pipes that someone meet Catherine at the park entrance began to make sense. Obviously, he had sensed whatever had caused Catherine’s current state and wanted to have someone waiting for her. Once again, Father marveled at the wonderfully unique connection they shared. Even far below in the lower tunnels, Vincent had sensed Catherine’s approach and need of comfort. Suddenly, Father was glad he had come himself.
“Catherine, my dear,” He greeted enthusiastically.
“Hello, Father. “ Catherine replied, trying to keep the disappointment from her voice.
‘I know you were hoping for Vincent, but the repairs are taking longer than anticipated. He sent a message asking for someone to meet you. It seems he had good cause. You look a bit...eh…” Father struggled for something to say.
“Like a drowned rat?” Catherine supplied with a laugh.
“I was going to say careworn.” Father finished, with a chuckle of his own.
“I take it that it’s safe to assume your day didn’t go as planned?” Father asked, his lips twitching with humor.
“You could say that.” Catherine answered with a sigh as she held up her broken briefcase and heel as evidence. Their laughter rang out as they both made their way companionably back to the main hub.
A short time later, Catherine came out of the bathing chamber. Father had ‘prescribed’ a long, hot soak for her and she had eagerly complied. Feeling better than she had in hours, she leisurely dressed in her tunnel clothes and made her way to Father’s chamber. She was pleased to find him there talking to Eric.
“Ah, here she is now, Eric. Catherine, Eric has something he’d like to give you. Go ahead, my boy.” Father encouraged.
The little boy approached Catherine shyly. Once again, her heart lurched at the sight of the small, gentle youngster behind large glasses. Bashfully, he stepped forward and spoke quietly. “We made these in art today with Olivia. We were making them for some of the elderly helpers, but I wanted you to have mine.” From behind his back, he produced a paper flower made from tissue and pipe cleaners.
To some, the fake posy might have seemed artless and unsophisticated, but to Catherine, it was more valuable than the most exotic bouquet. “It’s a carnation.” The boy informed her proudly.
“Thank you, Eric.” Catherine said softly, her voice choked with emotion as she accepted his gift. “It’s beautiful.” The little boy beamed at her praise. Impulsively, he ran over and hugged her before dashing out.
Catherine blinked away tears as he watched him go. Father smiled indulgently at his daughter-in-law. Catherine wiped her eyes, immeasurably moved by the small gesture and turned to Father “How?”
Father chuckled. “You know how word gets around in the tunnels, Catherine.” Father informed her. Smiling, she sighed and nodded. “I’m afraid he isn’t the only one who has heard of your vexing adventures today. William brought you a tray just a little while ago. He knows you left without having breakfast this morning. He has threatened to return and spoon feed you himself if you don’t eat every morsel.” Father added humorously.
When Catherine teared up again, he instantly became concerned. “Are you all right, my dear?” She shook her head in reply. “It’s nothing, really. I was just thinking how nice it is to have family to take care of you. After my father died, I’m ashamed to say that sometimes I envied Vincent for having all of you to worry and look after him.” She admitted sheepishly as she sat down to eat.
Father’s heart contracted at Catherine’s simple admission and he was forced to clear his throat to dislodge the lump in it before he spoke. “Well, that’s all in the past, Catherine. Now, you’re part of our family as well. You’d better eat before it gets cold.” He urged as he patted her hand.
Later, Catherine sighed contentedly as she finished. “That was delicious.” Father chuckled knowingly.
“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” He pronounced dramatically.
“Who said that?’ Catherine teased, knowing full well it was a famous quote. “William?”
“George Bernard Shaw, actually.” Father replied with a grin. “Would you care to join me for a game?”
Catherine wrinkled her nose, her voice filled with regret. “Oh, Father, I’m sorry. I don’t think I’m quite up to the rigors of a chess match.”
“Actually, I had another game in mind. I’ve been trying to teach Eric to play chess, but he’s having trouble grasping some of the more strategic elements of the game. So, I decided to try one a little simpler. I haven’t played it in years. I’d quite forgotten how enjoyable it can be.”
Catherine laughed as he sat up the board. “Checkers?” She asked.
“Of course!” Father protested. “That’s how I taught Vincent to play. He wasn’t always as good at chess as he is now, you know.”
Catherine grinned, imagining Vincent as a child. “No, I didn’t. Why
don’t you tell me? I’d love
to hear about it!”
Vincent hurried to Father’s chamber, anxious to see his beloved wife. Earlier, he had felt Catherine’s potent emotions at the disastrous events of her day. Unfortunately, he had been unable to leave the work crew and had to console himself with the knowledge their tunnel family was there to take care of her. Not wanting to waste time going back to his chamber, he had collected some of his clean clothes from the laundry and made a quick trip to a handy bathing pool on his way back to the main hub. As he reached the doorway to Father’s chamber, he paused to drink in the sight of the two people dearest to his heart pleasantly engaged in a game of …checkers?
Vincent couldn’t suppress a chuckle at the sight. Catherine jumped up at the sound and ran to him. Without speaking, he quickly swept her into his strong arms and gave her a long, slow, passionate kiss. After a few moments, Father cleared his throat loudly and asked in amusement “Shall I leave you two alone?”
Catherine broke the kiss with a heavy sigh of total contentment. “No, Father, it’s fine. But, I’ve needed that kiss all day.”
Vincent chuckled again. “I assume your day was a bit trying, Catherine?” He asked as he moved into the room, his arm firmly around his spouse.
“You have no idea.” She sighed as she began to relate the tale of her day.
Much later, Vincent and Father were finishing their game. “I must say, I’m impressed, Father.” He remarked jovially. “You almost had me there once or twice. Perhaps, you should give up chess and take up checkers as your new pastime.”
“Humph. I can still hold my own against you, no matter what the game. Care for a rematch?” Father challenged.
“Alas, no. I think I could use a rest before tonight’s festivities and I am certain Catherine could as well.” Vincent quipped lightly as he looked over at his wife. Catherine had curled up comfortably into an overstuffed chair and was now drowsing lazily, more than half asleep.
Vincent went over and effortlessly lifted his beloved tenderly into his arms. She murmured a small protest, but he shushed her.
“Shhh, sleep.” He urged quietly as his arms tightened gently. She sighed softly and snuggled deeper into his embrace. Vincent took his leave and carried his precious burden back to their chamber. He drew back the plush covers on their soft, oversized bed and settled down, tenderly tucking Catherine next to him. She roused just enough to murmur softly before cuddling deep into his comforting embrace.
“It’s good to be home.”
Next to her, her large husband smiled sleepily as he lovingly cradled
his spouse and counted his blessings. He couldn’t agree more.