“It’s time, Catherine,” Father said from the doorway. “Mary will be along to watch over the child.”
“And I have to leave?”
“Trust me, my dear. Tonight is the first night of many for you. Soon Vincent will want to be with you.”
They remained silent until they were close to the exit. “Who was Diana to Vincent?”
Father studied her. How much had Jacob or Joe Maxwell told her? “She was a friend of Vincent’s. It was a troubling time for him. For all of us when you died – when we thought you had died. She was called in to investigate your death and the disappearance of the child. She’d found enough troubling things at your apartment that led her to us. She’d also seen Vincent.”
“And he cared for her?”
“As much as he could.” Father saw the pain on her face. “Without loving her as he loved you.” She brought her eyes back up. “No, my dear. He was not in love with her. They shared a deep friendship. It was hard for her to accept for a long time – that there wouldn’t be anything else. That was when she decided to move away.”
“She must have hated me.”
“She envied what you had shared with my son,” Father told her. “As we’ve all envied the Bond. For many it is a mystery how it could be. I felt that sort of bond once.”
Catherine squeezed his hand. “With Margaret?” she asked. He nodded. “And you were afraid that your son would experience the same pain that you did when you were torn apart?”
“Yes. I couldn’t wish that for him.”
“And yet it happened anyway,” she stated. They were at the exit. “When will I see him, Father?”
“Just know that it will be soon, my dear. Now go up and home.”
“Home,” she whispered. “Where is my home now? I wish I knew.” She kissed his cheek and began her ascent.
Joe was pacing the floor when she entered. “My God, Cathy!” He embraced her stiff frame. “It didn’t go well? You didn’t see him?”
“No,” she said. “But I just spent the best day I’ve had in years! With my son!”
"Your son lives down there?” She nodded.
“I don’t understand any of it, Radcliffe. He should be in school. He shouldn’t have to live down there in the sewers.”
“It’s not the sewers, Joe. Parts of the tunnels and chambers are more beautiful than anything you or I could imagine. And Vincent teaches the children who live there. They are better educated than most of the children who live Above. Some of them have even left the tunnels for higher education. They become Helpers.”
“There are lots of these people who live down there?” She nodded. “And no one ever has suspected that a . . . well . . . a city exists down there?”
“They’ve managed to keep it a secret this long. And it’s a secret I’m willing to keep forever.” Her eyes met his in understanding. That they both must keep it a secret.
“Yeah, sure,” Joe muttered. “But why can’t Vincent live Above and be a Helper if those people mean so much to him? If you meant that much to him?”
She rose and went to the window. “There are things about Vincent that you wouldn’t understand.”
“I’m sorry, Joe. I can’t. Just know that he’s not a fugitive. That he helps keep the tunnels safe. That they all depend upon him. That they all love him.”
“But they aren’t part of him like you are. Are they?”
“That’s beside the point.” She turned to him and smiled. “It’s late. I’m going up to bed.” As she reached the bottom of the stairs she turned back to him. “How did you know where to go in the first place?”
“I heard you say something about ‘messages on the pipes’. I worked it all out.” She nodded at his words and took a step up. “I spoke to him.” She stopped. “It hurt me to listen to his pain.”
“You saw him?”
“Well not like that. He stayed back in the dark. Made me turn my flashlight off. I felt like I was in some kind of movie where the monster is waiting for the attack.”
“He’s not a monster!” she screamed. “And I won’t listen to you say that!”
“Hey, Radcliffe! Calm down! I didn’t say that he was a monster.” But he had struck a nerve and he knew it. “What is it? Why are you so defensive?”
“He’s beautiful!” she cried from her position on the second step. “He radiates such beauty.” She choked on a sob. “If only everyone else could see that.” Then she morosely climbed the rest of the way to her room.
“You’re back so soon?” Father asked as Vincent entered the Library the next morning. “Breakfast will be served soon.”
“She was here.” It was an accusation rather than a statement. “She was in my chamber.”
“Yes, she was.”
“Why? How did she come to be here? Did she see Jacob?”
“All that in good time, son.” Father turned back to his book. “Perhaps it best that I not share much of that with you.”
“You want to live separate lives. What good could come of you having too much information.” Father turned his back.
Vincent stepped out of the library and returned to his chamber. Jacob was stretching as he awoke. For a moment his son’s eyes settled on the chair before finding him standing in the doorway. “Father! Mother was here!”
“She’s so beautiful. We read 'Great Expectations'!”
He couldn’t deny the happiness that he saw on his son’s face or felt in his heart. He wished that he had been the one to give Jacob the gift of seeing his mother. The boy was still talking all about the visit they’d had.
“She’ll be back again, Father! Maybe today!”
“She said this?”
“Well . . . no. But maybe!” Then the child grabbed Vincent’s hand. “Maybe she’ll take me Above to see things!”
All the man could think of was that his son would be gone from him. For how long? Surely now, Catherine would want to keep the boy with her for always. She’d missed out on ten years of his life. What if Vincent was never to see him again? As if sensing his father’s fear, Jacob squeezed his hand.
“Don’t worry, Father. It would only be for a visit. I’ll never leave my home.” Yet there was sadness in the boy’s tone. How could he ask so much of a small child? To forsake one parent for the other? To live without the love and nurture of a mother he’d missed? To keep such a life away from Catherine who needed happiness at this time more than he did?
“And we can be together? In the sunshine?” The Vincent in her dream was asking. It was a dream she’d had many times for many years.
“Yes,” she answered him.
“How can this be?”
“Because it is what I wished for. More than anything,” she answered. They walked hand in hand. Sunshine turned to darkness.
“We can’t be together,” Vincent was telling her. “We have to live apart.”
“No! How can you say that? I don’t want that.”
“Your life is Above, Catherine. You must not forsake the life you were meant to live.” He was moving away from her.
“No! Don’t go! Please don’t go!” Her screams woke her. How long could these nightmares continue. After her sobs lessened, she felt a strong resolve. “They won’t continue one more night!” She scrambled out of bed & started to dress. “I refuse to let him make this choice for me. He’ll have to tell me to my face that he doesn’t want me in his life anymore. I’ll believe it only when I see it in his eyes. And when I feel it in the Bond.”
Her nightmare hadn’t woken Joe. She inked a quick note.
Joe – don’t worry. I’ll be safe. I know what I have to do now.
She stole out into the daybreak and found the entrance to Below that she’d used the day before. Once in the tunnels, she felt the familiarity once again. “Please, God,” she prayed. “Let the Bond carry me swiftly to him.” She held still for a moment in meditation. A beating heart. A whisper. She could feel it and she ran.
“I thought your father had returned,” Father said to Jacob at breakfast.
“I asked him about the painting. That maybe Mother would like to see it the next time she comes Below. He went to get it.”
Father pondered on where Vincent had hidden the painting. He thought he’d known but wasn’t sure. If it were in that place, his son wouldn’t return until nightfall.
Part Eleven! (The End)
All characters are the property of Ron Koslow, Republic Pictures, and CBS. No infringement is implied or intended. Story is purely for entertainment purposes only. "Courage and Care" copyright 2002 ® Wendy Littrell
"Courage and Care" copyright 2002 ® Wendy Littrell
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