Flowers in Tunnels
As women throughout history have told their stories, so my Catherine has told me hers.
She is my consummate lady, my very essence. I have been the key to her lock’d fears and I have been the one to open the depths of her night-terrors, so that she would tell me – confide in me – for the ultimate well-being . . . of the child.
She is forgiving beyond comprehension, to accept this possibility . . . Not the child of a knight or a king . . . but – possibly - the unfortunate waif of the denizen of a Hell created in order to rule over those who would form a loving community . . .
I have searched my recollection, wrestled with my memories – though, all I can recall is . . . darkness. Cold darkness, and the warmth of her rescue. In my madness, I was lost . . . disabled . . . and yet . . . I was then recovered through her love. I believe that when we succumbed completely that night, we found a saving pleasure. I accept the safe harbor that I must have found in her body.
Since that time, despite our joining, there remains this uncertainty between us . . . We acknowledge our mutual love. That is true. We know one another.
And now, this new life! A new being to be protected! No matter the paternity . . .
* * *
Leaving Elliott’s office building, Catherine shifted her satchel on her shoulder, her face distorted in a furious scowl as her thoughts roiled. She stomped along the sidewalk, barely slowing her steps even where taxicabs swept dangerously close to the curb. Her body still felt tense and fragile . . .
Why did she get off the elevator; why couldn’t she go to Elliott’s office? In her heart of hearts, she knew there must be an explanation, something grounded in reality, something Elliott could help her figure out. But . . . could she really believe Elliott? Was he the one who had sent a reporter to verify Vincent’s existence? If so, she would never forgive him! If Vincent were found . . . No! She could not let herself imagine it!
A huge colorful advertisement for a Broadway show suddenly flashed in Catherine’s face and she was forced to stop short as a city bus pulled up in front of her, brakes hissing loudly. Tears came to her eyes as she thought of Elliott and what he had once meant to her. She could have loved him once upon a time . . . Yet, could he have been the one to hurt her so? To hurt both her and Vincent?
That annoying Spirko! The gall of him! Harassing her as he did! Though, if he was not sent by Elliott, then – who? And why?
As she entered her apartment and turned the multiple locks on the door, Catherine flashed back to the recent kidnapping when she was taken to the Tunnels by two assailants, who quickly met their fate. She dropped her bag and sank down on the sofa, allowing her memories to gel into conscious thought.
That Spirko had been waiting there! Clearly a set-up! As horrified as she was by the abduction, Catherine was even more outraged by Spirko snapping photographs of Vincent’s predictable attack, and then turning a deaf ear to her pleas for mercy. After Spirko fled, Vincent told Catherine he would retreat deep into the Tunnel depths, and she could not accompany him.
Catherine remembered her terror, her helplessness, her stricken words to Vincent: "Hold me! Hold me - one last time!" The two of them, crying uncontrollably, hearts breaking, unable to accept, and fighting against, the end of their love.
Catherine pulled off her wrap, kicked off her boots, moved slowly into the bedroom. Her memories . . . she saw it all clearly – and yet . . .
She had followed Spirko back to the penthouse apartment at 666 Sutton Place and watched from the doorway as Spirko was approached, and then killed, by – who?? The voice was Elliott’s; but the vicious action and the tall, thin silhouette . . .
Catherine swallowed hard, pressed the heels of her hands against her temples, trying to block out the memories. She dropped to her bed, tumbled back against the cushions, her breaths coming raggedly now. She remembered the gloomy brown-stone building and she remembered entering, following Spirko, wondering what he was up to. The room was dark, lined with mahogany bookshelves, filled with dark leather furniture, smelling of tobacco smoke. The only light spiked intermittently from the streets below, slipping beneath the drapes on the tall, narrow windows.
As she stared up at the ceiling, she visualized Elliott stabbing Spirko, and herself rushing in, crying out. Elliott speaking, "Ca-thy!" grabbing her, tearing her clothes, throwing her to the floor. The back of her head striking the floor, the sickly-sweet smell on a cloth over her face . . . a rough force prying her legs apart. She remembered thinking: ‘This can’t be Elliott!’
Then the endless, briefest moment when she felt transported beyond reason, beyond hope. When she was faced with the loss of everything she loved. There was only a crushing pressure on her chest, a searing force through her body, a hallucinatory experience that ripped her mind with a horror show of unspeakable acts. Submerged in sensory distortion, she was drowning, she was falling, she was suffocating, she was burning. What was real? What was drug-induced?
And the voice, the voices . . . tumbling, indistinguishable, confusing and frightening . . . a silken growl; a polished, articulate clip; a base, sarcastic threat. Those words: "Perhaps I’ll get a son this way!" No, no! This is not real!
Catherine got up off the bed, reaching for her robe, drawing her clothing off piece by piece, unable to stop herself from remembering.
She had awakened on the floor, alone in the dark room with most of her clothes torn off, feeling ill. A blanket was thrown loosely over her, her body felt tense and cold; her hands ached from being clenched so tightly that little crescent nail marks showed in her palms. Dried blood was smeared over her belly, her thighs . . .
Her belongings were scattered across the floor. She had collected her things, pulled her clothes on haphazardly. She had rushed home, too frightened and traumatized to cry or call anyone for help. Amazingly, she had found the business card for Sharon Wilkes, RN, SANE, on her dressing table. They had worked together on a case, recently.
"SANE - sexual assault nurse examiner," Catherine mouthed the words silently. Sharon would use a rape kit to collect the evidence. Catherine had considered calling her, knowing not to destroy evidence. But what if an investigation drew more danger to Vincent? Of course, she couldn’t let that happen . . . And, if Elliott were to blame . . . ! Oh, God, she was sick! And her head was pounding, throbbing . . .
Reluctantly, Catherine had picked up the phone and dialed Sharon’s number. The message machine answered. Catherine had drawn a deep breath and spoken quickly: "Sharon, this is Cathy Chandler. I need your help . . . I – I was . . . Please just call me as soon as you get this." No sooner had she dropped the phone back in place than it rang again, and Sharon’s voice was on the other end. She would be right over and she would bring her supplies.
Sharon had been very thorough with her evidence collection. She had helped Catherine change into a paper gown, bagged the clothes she had worn, inspected her overall, then put on exam gloves and proceeded to swab the body areas where forensic evidence might be found. Gently, Sharon scraped under Catherine’s fingernails and combed through all her hair.
Sharon had released Catherine to go into the bathroom with a specimen cup while the remainder of the evidence preparation was completed. Catherine had provided the urine sample, then turned and vomited into the toilet, then stepped into the shower. Was there enough soap and hot water in the world to make her feel clean again? She had toweled herself absentmindedly, pulled her robe on, and joined Sharon in the living room.
Sharon had made hot tea and poured a cup for Catherine, though Catherine refused it. "Go ahead and sip it, Cathy; I need to talk to you," Sharon had said.
"I brought antibiotics and a tetanus injection," Sharon had started. "But . . ." and she had hesitated, looking intently at Catherine, "Cathy, did you get a look at this guy?"
The teacup clattered in the saucer as Catherine had set it down with trembling hands. "No . . . no, not really. I’m sure he used something to drug me . . ."
"The urinalysis will determine that," Sharon had remarked, looking away. Then Sharon had faced Catherine directly and spoken in a serious tone: "Cathy, this isn’t the usual collection . . . There is really no evidence at all . . ., none that I can see anyway . . ."
Catherine remembered feeling offended, blurting out, "Don’t you believe me?"
"Of course, I believe you! I do not doubt you in the least, Cathy," Sharon had assured her. "Some of these creeps use ‘protection.’ It’s just that there are no defensive marks on your body, so you must not have seen him coming at you, or maybe you recognized him and didn’t think he would hurt you. There’s a small lump on the back of your head. And the dried blood; there are no wounds on you anywhere, and no blood on your hands or mouth. Maybe the blood is his - "
Catherine had dissolved in tears, had covered her face with her hands, sobbing, realizing it was probably Spirko’s blood on her body!
"Catherine, you are a survivor, and you will survive this!" said Sharon, placing a hand on Catherine’s arm. "Let’s see what the lab shows."
Catherine remembered Sharon’s surprise at being asked not to file a police report. They both knew evidence could be held until the victim decided to press charges, and so, reminding Catherine that answers may also be delayed, Sharon had agreed to wait.
After Sharon was gone, Catherine had crawled into bed, where she burrowed under the covers, sobbing until she began to dream.
She had awakened hours later from fitful, nightmarish sleep to the echo of Elliott’s voice: "Your chaste, courtly love!" Was it Elliott’s voice?? Vincent’s voice??
Oh, God, what was happening to her? The memories of that night . . .
She was losing her mind . . .
Catherine got up from the bed, clutching her robe around her. She felt thin to herself. Was she losing weight? When had she eaten last? She walked to the balcony door, drew the drape aside, looked out over the cityscape, blurred through her tears.
* * *
Jacob’s hands trembled violently as he gazed upon the photographs just delivered to him. Vincent in the act of killing! The note, in John Pater’s handwriting, instructing him to come immediately, or else, see the photographs published. Sick with worry and determined to protect his family, Father made extreme preparations to go Above.
* * *
As the next evenings turned to mornings, Catherine could not be sure if hours, days, or weeks were passing. She only knew that she must continue as if all was normal . . . she felt suspended in fear . . . fear of exposure from Spirko’s photographs or reports. As she left work, she stopped by Joe’s office to let him know she would be working from home for a few days.
Catherine was shocked to find Father waiting for her outside her apartment door. He showed her a photograph in an antique locket and begged her to come Below to help him give Vincent some difficult news.
In Father’s chamber, Catherine could see the distress on Vincent’s face as he held the locket open in his hand. "Anna. My . . . mother . . ." he whispered, incredulous. Though Catherine wanted to reach out to Vincent in this painful moment, he resisted her and set off for the catacombs to see Anna’s burial site. Filled with fear, Catherine waited in Vincent’s chamber alone.
When, finally, Vincent returned, he was clearly not himself. Finding Anna’s tomb marked ‘wife of John Pater,’ Vincent had confronted Father.
Catherine stood frozen in horror as Vincent repeated what Father had told him. "I don’t believe it!" she cried, reaching for Vincent.
Despite Catherine’s conviction, Vincent dismissed her from his chamber. Shaken and in despair, she left him, obeying his order to not look back.
* * *
I am destined to violence. There is nothing to save me. I was doomed before I was born . . . in blood . . .
* * *
Back on the city streets, full of uncertainty and fear, Catherine phoned Elliott. He agreed to see her. Finding him meeting with his security man, she persuaded him to return with her to the building where Spirko had been killed.
Following noises behind the wall, they found Father, wounded, locked in a hidden cabinet, and he told them: "Paracelsus is Below!" Catherine panicked at the realization that Paracelsus had been close to Vincent – and to her - all this time!
On the way to the lower chambers, Father explained about Paracelsus’ murder of Anna over obsession with the foundling baby Vincent. Arriving at Father’s chamber, they witnessed Paracelsus lying dead; his impersonation as Father revealed at last. Vincent stood stunned with confusion and horror at the death.
Helped to his chamber, Vincent sat silent, lost and withdrawn as Catherine and Jamie washed the blood from his hands. Father bathed Vincent’s face and offered him a cup of water, which he refused. The three made plans to take turns staying with Vincent.
As Catherine settled onto the bed to keep the first vigil with Vincent, she slowly began to comprehend what may have happened to her. She clearly remembered her first Winterfest celebration – marred by the invasion of Paracelsus. Cleverly disguised as the helper Lou, who he had murdered, Paracelsus attempted to ruin the event and harm members of the community. Catherine realized with certainty now that her attacker couldn’t have been Elliott. But on the heels of her relief, came the sickening thought of Paracelsus forcing himself on her! She had always thought of Paracelsus as an elder, old as Father, but the man who attacked her that night was incredibly strong . . . Oh, what was real?! Would she ever know the truth of that horrible night?!
As the days passed without consequences of Spirko’s actions, or John Pater’s death, Catherine began to hope she and Vincent could regain their relationship. She traveled back and forth between the tunnels and her apartment. Learning of a Vivaldi concert in the park, she made hesitant plans to join Vincent Below for the evening.
* * *
I can barely collect thoughts enough to compose an entry. Yet, I will try . . . My sanity slowly returns to me, a little more each day, as I am surrounded by the love and care of the community. Through the violence I abhor, a most despised enemy has been eliminated. I should sleep peacefully, and yet . . . I suffer with delirium and fear . . .visions, uncertainty . . . nightmares. I am obsessed with escape! Escape from this burning! This darkness . . . How much longer can I expose my loved ones to the risk? The risk . . . that is . . . me –
* * *
Nestled against each other, Vincent and Catherine sat listening to the rising and cascading strains of Vivaldi. Catherine was actually beginning to relax, lifting her hands to gesture with the music. She turned, smiling, to face Vincent. But her smile vanished and her heart filled with dread as Vincent startled violently, leaping to his feet. He dashed off into the passageway, leaving her to stand alone, shivering with fear.
Terrified, Catherine made her way to Father’s chamber. "What is happening to him?!" she cried, clutching the old doctor’s robe. His face lined with worry, Father sat Catherine down and explained about a similar illness that had affected Vincent in his adolescence – and nearly killed him. Father and Catherine could not know that Vincent was Above as they spoke.
* * *
The only good to have come from the last three days is that I have finally expressed to Catherine my true love for her. Now, she’s seen the shame of my madness, my demons . . . she can understand why we can never be -
She deserves so much from life! Not to be with me! The agony is tearing through me . . . I can no longer bear it . . . I wanted to make her understand that death is not the end of love . . . she mustn’t fear the physical loss of me . . . it’s best . . .
I have experienced even more loss of control since returning from Catherine’s apartment. It can no longer be contained, and, I can no longer stay . . .
* * *
When Catherine arrived in response to Father’s urgent message, Vincent had already fled the community. The tunnel dwellers gave tearful reports of Vincent’s farewell and expressed extreme concern for his well-being. Pascal reported that Mouse was following Vincent in his flight and Catherine insisted that she and Father be shown where Vincent had gone.
At the entrance to the cavern, Father and Catherine hesitated. As Catherine moved to enter, Father entreated her to stay. "He could kill you!" he warned, hating the words. Despite Father’s pleas, Catherine entered toward Vincent’s terrible sounds of rage.
Hours later, to the relief of the waiting community, Catherine and Vincent emerged from the cavern. No one could know what had transpired between the two of them, but Catherine held the memory in her heart. She and Vincent! They had shared the love they had only dreamed of until now! Vincent had no recall of the incident, but as Father and Mary hurriedly examined him, it was clear that he would live.
Barely recovered from the ordeal herself, Catherine returned Above and prayed that Vincent would be well again. She attempted to reorganize her life, while keeping vigilant for any word from Tunnels. Her excitement at the memory of their love-making, even under those circumstances, was literally keeping her alive. Weeks went by.
* * *
I have no sense of her. It is lost to me, I know. The penalty – for the resolution – of madness. I am adrift; found and yet, lost, still . . .
* * *
Catherine stepped out of the hospital blood bank where she had just donated on Joe’s behalf. She pressed the hospital elevator for the surgical floor. Whatever Joe was mixed up in, Catherine was willing to help him. He had been a good friend to her. A car explosion! Thank God he wasn’t killed.
As she was leaving, after obtaining Joe’s belongings, a nurse called after her. Nothing could have prepared Catherine for the message: "You’re pregnant!"
The memory of that horrible night came crashing back to her. A haunting voice – "Perhaps I’ll get a son this way!" Oh, no, no, no! This cannot be happening!!
All her happiness at her intimacy with Vincent in the cavern, now dashed by the possibility of a pregnancy as the result of rape! Rape by John Pater!
Suddenly, in this most desperate moment, Catherine needed Vincent. Joe had advised her to continue working from home and she decided that getting away from the city right now might be a good idea. She stopped by a helper’s place of business to send an urgent message Below.
As Catherine entered Vincent’s chamber, he greeted her, lit candles on the table and drew the tapestry across the doorway. He did not speak, ushering her into a chair. They sat down to barley soup and green tea from William’s kitchen. Vincent cut an apple crosswise, showing her the two halves. "Look," he said with a smile in his voice, "it makes a star. Laura showed me how to . . ."
The sight of Catherine’s tears stopped Vincent’s words and he drew her by the hands to face him.
"What happened in that cavern, Catherine?" he asked. "Tell me, please. I have asked Father - and he tells me - he says you saved me. Everyone was afraid, but you went in . . ."
Catherine took a deep breath. "I was afraid too, Vincent," she began. She felt an urgency to tell the story, yet she hesitated.
"I must hear this," he said in a low, plaintive tone, releasing her hands. She felt the sadness in him.
"The torch had burned low, the air was cold and wet, shadows everywhere," she went on, "suddenly, you appeared before me – but not you, really - "
How could Catherine tell Vincent what she saw that night? Her beautiful Vincent so changed, so feral! Beautiful blue eyes crushed into evil slits, lips drawn back revealing cruel fangs, slobbering, snarling, great clawed hands drawn back to strike. Dangerous. Insane.
"I wanted to call you back to me – back to yourself. Away from this . . . battle. I felt your anguish, Vincent. I was helpless."
He was silent, listening. Catherine swallowed hard, and ran her hands through her hair. This was going to be difficult. Her hair tumbled down around her face, shielding her tears.
"You came toward me. You – you were not yourself. There was another . . . a third. . . presence. I could see only you, but I could feel that there was someone, something . . . else . . ." Catherine struggled with the words.
"You feared me," Vincent whispered, his voice full of pain.
He leaned forward in his chair, addressing her with strong emotion. "Catherine, if I’ve harmed you in any way, if I’ve brought you any shame or disgrace . . .! That would be my death!" He fell on his knees. "How I love you, Catherine!" he cried. "How I love you! Please, forgive me! I’ve never meant to live a violent life."
She reached out to him in empathy; but he stood up quickly with fists clenched, holding himself away from her, waiting for her to speak, dreading her words.
"I was not afraid of you, Vincent, I was afraid for you. You were lost . . . to yourself . . . to me."
Catherine’s words were coming rapidly now, "There was a crevice, just wide enough to hide me; I slipped in there, I think I was praying for something to restore our connection."
Vincent stood without speaking, his face a worried scowl.
Catherine continued, "I had no way to help you.You were in such a fury . . . full of rage and fever." She felt uncomfortably warm herself, like her clothes were sticking to her skin. She had no right to hide the truth from him.
"Finally," she went on, "you collapsed on the cavern floor. I thought you were . . . I rushed out to you right away. I – I wanted to breathe life into you. Vincent, you were so cold and soaking wet! I was so afraid! I pulled your clothes . . . off . . . I wanted to warm you . . . I undressed as well. . . I pulled your cloak over us. I wanted to warm you . . ."
There was a long, tense silence as they regarded one another in the candlelight. Then, "Catherine, I remember," Vincent said softly. "I remember the Other dissolving away from us at that time."
Catherine stared up into his beautiful face. She wanted him to know everything. "Yes . . ., yes, we . . . we loved. Oh, Vincent! You and I . . . our physical bodies were one!" She dropped her gaze, worried that her enthusiasm would startle him.
"Tell me . . ." he said softly.
"At first, I thought only to revive you; but then you responded to me – as a man responds to a woman – and your hands – your hands were on me - "
Vincent looked down at his clawed fingers curled into fists. "My hands?" he asked.
"Yes! Your hands . . . your loving, gentle hands. Vincent, you lifted my body to yours, we curved into each other. I could feel the desire in you and I have wanted . . . to answer you . . . for so long . . ."
They paused, barely breathing, gazing at each other in muted amazement.
"After . . . afterwards, we slept briefly. You did not speak. You – you were barely able to stand, you had to lean against the rocks. We dressed. I helped you with your clothes, then we sat down together, exhausted. I held you in my arms, up off the cold sand. They were coming, they were afraid, but they were coming – everyone had been waiting, worried, so worried for your life."
He was watching her mouth. Her mouth felt dry; she ran her tongue over her lips, looking down at her hands. She pressed on, telling him, "They were all there; Mouse was the first, then Father, and Jamie, and Mary and Pascal. They reached out to touch you; they wanted to be sure you were really there . . . , you were so withdrawn, silent . . ."
Catherine raised her face to Vincent’s, her hands pressed lightly against his chest. "They all love you, Vincent. They all love you, and so do . . ."
He lowered his head to hers, stopping her words. Their lips touched lightly, then pressed more urgently, then relaxed, then opened to reach toward each other hungrily. They kissed again and again, then parted, gasping for breath.
Vincent took her hands in his. He turned her hands over to place kisses on her palms, first the right, then the left. He lingered on the left. He spoke softly, without raising his head, "So, then . . . we are already wed . . ." he said, his voice dropping into a low breath on the last word. He lifted his face to hers and saw the tears shining on her cheeks.
"Yes, yes . . . Vincent!" Catherine murmured as he held her.
* * *
Catherine closed her apartment and came to stay in Vincent’s chamber, and over the next days, they prepared to wed. Or, at least, Vincent prepared.
Catherine encountered continual delays, not the least of which was sleep deprivation. She was plagued with nightmares, screaming out almost every night and unable to return to sleep.
After one such episode, Vincent gathered her into his arms, rocking her like a child. "You must tell me, Catherine, what it is that torments you so!" he implored her. "You endure this burden alone – but there’s no need! I am here to be a husband to you . . ." He clutched her to his heart, resting his cheek against her hair.
"A father will be needed as well . . ." Catherine answered in a small voice.
Vincent drew back from her, his face displaying the confusion provoked by her comment.
"Vincent . . . I am pregnant," she said. She pulled out of his embrace, wiping her tears, wrapping her arms around herself.
"From that dark night . . ," Vincent said softly. He paused a long while, looking intently at her.
Then, joyfully, he said, "Catherine! It’s wonderful news! A child! Why, we would welcome -- "
Her stricken expression stopped his words and they both felt a chill creep into their bones. In a flat tone, devoid of emotion, Catherine said, "I was attacked. Raped."
Seeing the horror in Vincent’s eyes, Catherine rushed to tell him, "Not that night, Vincent. Not that time with you and me . . ."
Now the confusion and anguish on Vincent’s face brought Catherine to wracking sobs as she struggled to explain. "After that horrible Spirko accosted us in the tunnel, I followed him."
"Catherine! The danger - !"
She held up her hand, turning slightly away from him. If she had to look at Vincent’s wounded beautiful face, she would not be able to tell him any more.
"I saw Spirko killed . . . he was stabbed . . . by . . . I don’t know . . . it seemed to be . . . Elliott . . ." she heard herself saying the words as if someone else was speaking in the distance.
Vincent began to pace, low growls rumbling in his chest.
"When the killer saw me, he . . . he came at me. Vincent, I think I was drugged. I . . . he . . . I was raped . . ." Catherine’s body seized at the memory and she curled into herself.
"When I remembered, and saw, how Paracelsus could disguise himself – and how powerful he was – I knew . . . it could have been . . . John Pater . . . who raped me . . ."
"Vincent, I can’t marry you . . ." she finished in a whisper, "until I know for sure." Catherine’s humiliation and sense of loss were complete.
Yet, Vincent seemed to draw strength from the despair of the situation. "Catherine, let us join as we planned," he said, gently, reaching for her. "The child needs a family and, you and I . . . we love each other."
* * *
Is Paracelsus’ revenge complete? Lou is dead, Winslow also, nameless others . . . Paracelsus’ plans have been foiled many times while he lived. Now that he is dead – will his evil legacy live on? In Catherine’s child?
I have tried to convince Catherine that we must tell Father and Mary about our burden. We should not bear this alone. We need our family. She agrees only to tell them that the child’s paternity is in question; nothing more. I will abide by her wishes.
* * *
There is a crevice in the tunnel ceiling on one of the upper levels that lets in small beams of sunlight during certain hours of the day. The tunnel floor is soft there and water trickles from the rock nearby. Mary has helped me plant some flower seeds in this place – and they have begun to grow. I have made a garden in the tunnels to honor the fatherless child.
There are plants particularly suited to cool, damp places with limited light. I feel that I am one of them.
Mary and William have guided me in my selections for the garden. There is chamomile, with feathery leaves and white flowers. We can use the flowers to make a soothing tea. There is lily-of-the-valley with its sweet fragrance, and sage, with its silver-gray leaves and mauve-colored flowers. Mary says it loves ‘poor soil.’ William wants to use it in his bean dishes.
The violets are my favorite. They stand for faithfulness. William saves the vegetable trimmings for compost, and he has helped me prepare the soil. There is Trillium that bears a lily-like flower. We will have to wait to see what colors come forth.
Blue phlox multiples rapidly against the stones. And borage, with its small blue flower. William says its flavor is like cucumber. The blue colored blooms were the first to appear.
I draw solace from tending this small patch. I wait upon my lady; my wife and her child.
* * *
Our joining ceremony took place this morning. Catherine was elegant, her beauty and her courage intact. Her warmth, however, is diminished; she fears the future, I know. I am come from my own uncertain beginning to assist this orphan and this woman I love –
* * *
Our bond is somehow returned to me – though it is altered. I feel it comes to me now by some diversion. So many blessings are upon me, that I can feel only gratitude.
* * *
Alone in Vincent’s chamber after the joining ceremony, he and Catherine regarded each other cautiously. "Catherine," he entreated, "let me make you comfortable. Come, sit down . . ."
"You were beautiful today," Vincent said. He lifted the sparkling ornament from her hair, tugged gently at the ties on the bodice of her wedding gown.
Catherine placed her hands on his. "Vincent," she said, "I understand if you want to wait . . . until we are sure . . ."
"Catherine," he answered, softly, "We are sure that we love each other." His kiss was against her throat. "We are sure that we . . . are married."
She acquiesced to his caress, leaning into his strong body, loving him. She remembered the details from the cavern. Vincent’s body merging with hers, opening one to the other, the epitome of her desire, her need, his power. Memories of the rape evaporated into nothingness. The child slept in her womb.
Vincent opened her gown, gently drawing the lacings apart to reveal her soft flesh. He nuzzled her throat, the tops of her breasts, cupping the pale orbs in his hands, stroking the nipples with his fingertips. Catherine moaned, her head dropping onto his chest, panting, longing for his touch. He reached for her, pushing the gown off her shoulders, her back, gathering her up in his arms, pressing his mouth against her heart.
She aroused to grasp his vest and shirt, pulling the garments from his body, seeking his chest with her mouth. Her hips lifted to his as his arms pulled her close. Their bodies pressed together, their mouths searching.
Working together, they drew their garments away, until they were bare and pressed belly to belly. Vincent nuzzled against her neck, moved his oral caresses down to her curls, lapped against her womanly body until she convulsed upon his gentle assault. Slowly, Vincent changed positions to shelter her body with his own. His erect phallus penetrated her soft folds with one smooth motion as they both shuddered with pleasure. His mouth covered hers, and their soundless keening filled the intimate space between them.
There was nothing foreign between them now. All was known, all was accepted. Faithfully, they waited.
* * *
Catherine has borne her son tonight. Her courage was humbling. She struggled with the effort and made no demands for any relief. Her capacity for love is more than I have ever known. My own love is boundless in her light.
He is beautiful. Fearless, perfect, without apology. His hair is flaxen wisps, his eyes are the color of the slate on the tunnel floors. His hands are strong to grip and his cry is bold . . . Can he be . . . my son?
* * *
Catherine and Vincent were waiting for Father to return to his chamber. When he did return, they still hesitated, lingering in the shadows of the passageway, their arms around each other for support. Father sat down at the table across the room, and opened his book to read.
Finally, they stepped to the entry and Vincent called out softly, "Father?"
The old doctor put down his book, drew off his spectacles, smiling and gesturing at them. "Come in, you two! Catherine, how are you feeling?"
"We have something very serious to ask you," said Vincent.
Father looked anxiously from one to the other, then turned his full attention upon Vincent. "Tell me, my son, anything . . . What is it you seek?" he said.
"Father, Paracelsus was a known criminal . . ." Vincent began, as Catherine stood silently beside him. "Could he have been capable of the crime of rape?"
Father got up from his chair. "Vincent! What a thing to ask! " he replied with alarm. Then seeing them recoil, he slowed his steps and controlled himself. "Dear God, Vincent! Is this what you meant when you said the baby’s paternity was . . . in question?!"
Tears spilled over Catherine’s cheeks and Vincent pulled her close, feeling her tremble against him.
Father frowned, folding his glasses in his hand. "John Pater’s . . . sexuality . . ." he said carefully, ". . . it’s not possible. He was wounded . . . years ago -"
"- A disgruntled minion turned enemy . . . attacked him, quite savagely, with a knife . . . . There was spinal damage . . ."
"Paracelsus was impotent the last ten years of his life . . . it contributed to his bitterness."
Father drew a slow, deep breath and went on, "John wanted to develop a drug to reverse the effects, but he was never successful."
Vincent and Catherine stood without speaking, without moving, barely breathing.
Father reached out to touch them, lovingly. "Please remember, Catherine . . . Vincent, Paracelsus was an evil master at creating illusions. He used drugs, chemicals – even a person’s own beliefs or emotions - for effect. It was the way he held power . . . over others . . ."
Catherine collapsed against Vincent’s chest, shaking and crying, as relief washed over her. He held her tightly as the liberation from this dark possibility became, at last, a joyful reality.
* * *
I realize now my own contact with Catherine has created this child – my son. Our love has borne this fruit. The flowers foretold . . . his coming.
* * *
Baby Jacob was eight weeks old today, and Samantha, Jamie and Rebecca had conspired to babysit overnight. The three women casually left a basket of scented massage oils and two bottles of wine when they picked up the baby and his supplies, giggling and whispering as they left the chamber.
Vincent pulled Catherine onto his lap, lifting her hair to nuzzle against her neck. "Are you happy, my wife?" he asked, characteristically suppressing his smile.
"Delirious," she answered, returning his kisses. "Can it really be true that we are husband and wife and parents of an adorable son?"
"It is true," Vincent answered. Pressing his face to her breast, he remarked, "Your fragrance is stronger, Catherine, since you birthed our son."
"I feel stronger, too," she replied, combing his golden hair with her fingers. She kissed him full on the mouth, murmuring, "Mmmmmm!" as she did so.
Feeling her passion, Vincent drew back slightly, asking, "Are you sure you are healed . . . from the birth . . .?"
Catherine gave a little laugh. "We needn’t have waited this long, Vincent!" she said, taking his face in her hands. "I gave you a hint weeks ago!"
"I will proceed with the greatest care," Vincent said seriously. His solemnity brought Catherine to a full belly laugh and she hugged him tightly.
"Vincent!" she admonished with love. "You are so chivalrous! And I love you for it!"
Vincent looked somewhat abashed, and it was Catherine’s turn to be serious now. "I can never have the power you possess, Vincent," she said, as their eyes locked on one another.
"It is I who can never have the strength of your grace, Catherine," he replied earnestly.
"Let me show you my strength," she answered. Her focus enchanted him and he held still as she gently pushed him down on the bed and positioned herself above.
Vincent watched her intently as she opened her garments and knelt naked across his thighs. Her rose-colored nipples stood up tautly in the cool chamber air.
She pulled at the lacings below his belt, loosened everything completely and drew his trousers and boots off with slow hands. Ignoring his arousal, she thrust her hands under his tunic, firmly massaging his torso. His muscled flesh came alive under her assertive caresses, and his respirations increased in depth and rate, though he remained completely still, watching her.
Her hands slid down his hard belly, around his hips to cup his buttocks, then up and between his thighs and down to the base of his phallus and lower to his scrotal sac. He was watching her intently, a low rumble in his chest. "Be still," she commanded him and she kissed the tip of his swollen sex. She felt him tense beneath her as her lips opened over his burning flesh. She took him into her mouth, bathing him with her tongue, grasping his heated column with both hands.
He reached for her but she swept his hand away, taking control, drawing him into her deepest kiss. She reared up on her knees, keeping her hands in place, clutching him with a new-found strength, watching the passion play on his face. Within moments, Vincent’s golden body began to convulse with pleasure and his rumbling growls erupted into a lusty roar as his seed spilled out between her fingers.
"Show me, Vincent!" she cried. "Show me your power! Give me your power!"
At this, Vincent rose up from the bed and grabbed her body possessively. In the tumble, she fell with her back against his chest, her head thrown against his shoulder, her legs splayed out over his hips, his throbbing erection thrusting up between her labia, engorged and glistening.
"I can never be like you!" Vincent panted, in his deep velvet growl. "You are all that I love and all that I fear! I am forever humble before you!"
The two of them fell across the bed, Catherine face down, Vincent on top of her from behind. Instinctively, she lifted her hips to him and just as instinctively, he entered her.
"Vincent!" she gasped, between thrusts, "We are the same! The same! Both of us!"
She pushed up off the bed, almost lifting him with her. She raised her head . . . and roared. "Arrrrrrrrrrggghhhhhhaaaahhhhhh!"
He bore down on her, deep inside her, filling her, adoring her. She engulfed him, surrounded him, pushed back with equal ferocity, equal love. Before she could climax, he withdrew and turned her around to face him. He spread her arms out across the bed, pushing her legs up and open with his knees, filling her again and again, driving through the apex of her pleasure to his own. His mouth against her mouth, heart to heart, they collided, merged, and melted until there was only a spicy steam in the air and sheets wet with sweat.
* * *
The next day, the new family visited the flower garden, Baby Jacob peeking out from his sling tied snugly around Vincent’s chest.
"Vincent! It’s beautiful!" Catherine exclaimed. "Such delicate flowers! White . . . and blue . . . and, oh look! Some new ones. Pink blossoms! How lovely! They look like little lilies!"
"The Trillium," said Vincent, thoughtfully. "The flowers bloomed in pink . . ."
Baby Jacob gurgled pleasantly, looking up at his parents with the wisdom only seen in children.
~ ~ ~