It was almost time. Time for the woman to decide her own future. Aware that this moment would eventually be upon her, she still had not come to grips with what the implications could be. Ten years had passed since she'd been savagely torn from everything she knew and loved. Ten years of loss, grief, pain, sorrow and fear. What had transpired to all that she held dear in a decade? Would anyone still be grieving for her? Would anyone have waited for her return? Would he be waiting? The unknown answer to that was her greatest fear.
She hadn't felt him as she once had. Not since before she'd disappeared. She was also sure that he hadn't felt her either for if he had, he would have risked everything that he held dear to find her. What if he thought she had died that night? The night she had seen him for the last time? What if he'd found another to love? She was beside herself with grief and pain.
Even though ten years had passed, she could still close her eyes and picture him beside of her as he'd been in much happier times. His golden mane of hair. The blue eyes that saw into her heart and soul. His gentle heart that had loved her with his whole being. Those strong hands that he had feared would maul her in the heat of passion. His stong arms that had embraced her with such tenderness. Those images had carried her through her loneliness. She was afraid that when he closed his eyes, he was seeing someone else - or that he had forgotten what she looked like long ago.
Tears threatened to spill from her emerald eyes. She fought them as she'd done since their last parting. Why had it taken so long? Why had the wheels of justice come between them?
"Are you ready?" It was the same voice that she'd heard every day for a decade. Yet today it seemed a stranger was talking to her. "Cathy, are you ready?" The first time her real name had been spoken aloud since that long ago night. "It's time."
"Has the press been told?"
"They've been appraised that things are not always what they seem," was the answer. "It's still not time for a press conference. Loose ends and such."
"Do we have time to . . . " she was uncomfortable with her suggestion. ". . . to stop at a church?"
"A church?" her companion wore a frown. It eased seeing her troubled expression. "Sure."
She was ushered to the back of the building into an alley. A waiting limousine was there. She dove into the back out of habit from being on the move for so long. Her hand felt another, and she sat back frightened. Would she ever feel safe again? When her eyes adjusted, she saw the other passenger. He wore a huge smile.
"Joe!" she exclaimed as she embraced him warmly. "Oh, it's so good to see you!"
"It's even better to see you, Radcliffe!" he replied. "Too long!" He pulled back from the hug to look at her. "You look pretty good."
"For an old lady!" she chuckled. "I see some gray in your hair, Joe!"
"Over you," he explained as they laughed again. "When they told me yesterday that . . . that you were going to be released from the program, I was thrilled."
"Of course," he replied and then realized that the few times he'd seen her, she had never known he was there. "It was hard when they had your funeral to not tell someone . . .."
"My funeral!" she yelled. Her decade-long companion touched her shoulder.
"It was the only way to make sure no one came looking for you."
"But . . . " she began sobbing as she realized the depth of pain her beloved would have been in thinking her dead. "There was someone who needed to know that I . . . " Joe put his hands on her shoulders.
"I didn't know where to find him," he told her. "I tried everything I could think of."
As his words sunk in, the tears trailed off. "You knew there was someone?"
"How could I not know? You spent those last three years mooning over someone. It was as obvious as the nose on your face. Whoever he was, he was one lucky guy."
"He never knew that I was alive." Tears sprang forth again.
"He must have gone away," Joe told her. He didn't realize that "gone away" for her beloved meant further into the bowels of the earth. "I did everything I could short of putting a notice in the paper."
"The pipes," she whispered. "Messages on the pipes."
"Pipes? What are you saying?"
Before she could respond, the vehicle pulled up to a church. Her companion helped her out. For just a moment, she stood in the moonlight and allowed herself to believe that her greatest love was also sharing in that brilliance somewhere close to his world.
"Son, you must get some rest," the older man admonished. The other man continued draping the cloak around his shoulders. "Where are you going?"
"Above," came the whispered reply. "I must."
"You haven't been Above for a long time, Son. Why tonight?"
"I feel drawn. I must see the moon."
"You can see it from the grate below the park."
"Father, I must go now!" With those last words, the tall cloaked man took his leave as his father watched after him.
He moved with stealth and grace. The tunnels and chambers were as known to him as his own heart. The more he walked, the stronger the urge to feel the night air and see the moon, and he broke into a run. Through the Whispering Gallery, up the stairs, over the bridge and then finally - the drainage pipe. He stepped out onto the ground of the world Above - a world of which he could never be part of - at one time it had been Her World. An ache tore through his heart.
As he set his blue eyes upon the silver moon, he felt an old sensation. The beating of a heart. For just a short moment in time that was suspended for him, he allowed himself to hope. Could she be alive? Somewhere? Was it her desolation that swelled up inside of him? Were those her tears that he was feeling sliding from his eyes? Was that her heartbreak that seemed to paralyze him? A roar came from deep within him as he let his anguish out. Just then a hand took hold of his cloak. Whirling to the source with canines bared and claws out, he came face to face with one of the few who could calm him. Immediately his countenance changed from one of terror to serenity. He was startled to see the child whom he'd spent years warning not to come Above.
"Jacob!" he exclaimed. "Son! What are you doing Above?"
"Father, I saw you running. I was scared."
The man pulled the child into him. "No reason for your fear."
"Did something make you mad?"
"I was thinking about your mother," the man replied. "And it made me sad."
"Tell me again how you met," the boy urged as his father guided him back toward their home Below.
The man laughed. "Okay, son, for you. Once upon a time in the city of New York, there was a beautiful woman . . . "
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 2001 ® Wendy Littrell
"Courage and Care" copyright 2001 ® Wendy Littrell
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