“20 for 20”
Vincent sat just outside the culvert entrance in Central Park. Thanks to a new moon, it was as dark as it could be. In addition to providing warmth, his cloak was also an extra layer of protection to hide him from those who were brave enough to walk in the pre-dawn hours of the morning.
It was the middle of winter, but an unexpected warm front was moving through. A blast of cold weather was expected in a few days, along with the possibility of snow. But, for now, it was mild enough to enjoy the fresh air.
A small sound and movement against his chest captured his attention. With a sigh, Vincent knew it was time to head back Below. He didn’t want to risk drawing attention to his position, should his companion wake. As he carefully stood, a gentle rain began to fall. Vincent took one last long breath of the clean, fresh air, before heading back into the tunnels.
The trip back was quiet, and as he entered his chamber, Catherine also entered from the direction of the bathing chamber.
“You’re back,” she whispered. “How was your walk?”
She crossed over to where he was standing and carefully unhooked the baby sling that Mary had made for Vincent to wear across his chest. The baby stirred, but mercifully didn’t wake.
“He finally fell asleep, so I went to the park entrance to give him his first taste of the night air Above. He slept well while we were there.”
Vincent hung his cloak, then shed his outer clothes as Catherine settled the baby in the bassinet. Vincent pulled her into his arms.
“How did you sleep?”
“Well,” she said with a smile. “Thank you for taking him.”
“You’re welcome. Perhaps you can sleep for another hour or so before he’s hungry again.”
He guided her to the bed and put out all but one candle before they crawled under the quilts and into each other’s arms under the gentle glow of the stained glass window.
The next afternoon, everyone gathered in Father’s study.
“It has been said that the child is the meaning of this life. Today, we celebrate the child. This new life that has been brought into our world. We welcome the child with love, that he may be able to love; we welcome the child with gifts, that he may learn generosity; and we welcome the child with a name.”
Father looked expectantly at Catherine, but it was Vincent who spoke.
“Father, we have named our son Jacob. Jacob Charles Chandler.”
Murmured whispers and gasps of delight spread through the room as Father was speechless for a few moments. Finally, he cleared his throat and tried to blink away the sudden moistness in his eyes.
“Jacob is a good, strong name. May God bless this child.”
After nearly an hour of being passed from one pair of loving arms to another, Jacob made it clear that he was done being the center of attention. Catherine took him back to their chamber, while Vincent enlisted the help of several of the older children to gather and transfer the gifts that the community had given to Jacob.
As Catherine fed their son, then lulled him to sleep, Vincent put all of Jacob’s gifts away. Toys were admired and placed carefully in the beautiful chest that Cullen had made. Clothes, bibs, and blankets were folded and put in the drawers of the changing table that Mouse and Jamie had found, repaired, and refinished. Finally, there was one item left, and he sat down by Catherine.
“Mary did a wonderful job with this.”
Catherine reached out with one hand to take the lovely brown stuffed bunny. “Yes she did. It looks just like the illustration from my copy of The Velveteen Rabbit.”
“She is a little worried that it might make you sad.”
“Because I read it at my father’s funeral?”
Vincent nodded and swung his legs up onto the bed so that he could also lay against the pillows and put his arm around her.
“It does make me a little sad, because I wish he could be here to meet his grandson. But, it’s a wonderful memory and I want Jacob to have memories like mine when he is older.”
That evening, Mary insisted on watching Jacob so that Catherine and Vincent could take a walk together. Vincent led them to the Great Falls. When they arrived, there was already a pile of cushions and blankets ready for them, and a red rose sitting on one of the pillows.
“Oh Vincent,” Catherine touched the delicate petals reverently, “it’s beautiful.”
They settled down and Vincent pulled out his copy of Shakepeare’s Sonnets and read to Catherine for a while. He stopped when he felt that she was about to drift off to sleep.
“This is so nice. Thank you, Vincent.”
“You’re welcome. WIth Winterfest coming up this weekend, I wanted to make sure we had some quiet time to ourselves before I’m needed for preparations.”
“It’s just what I needed. Other than the dining chamber and Father’s study, I’ve spent almost all of the past few weeks in our chamber. I’ve loved every minute, but it is nice to have a change of scenery.”
They sat together in silence for a while, until Vincent felt trepidation begin to build in Catherine.
“Catherine? What is it? Tell me.”
With a sigh, she snuggled closer against his chest. “I need to go Above soon.”
“Just to my apartment. It’s been over a month since I was last there. Even though my mail has been forwarded to Peter’s and brought Below, there are things that I need to take care of and phone calls to make.”
“But you don’t want to go.”
“No,” she admitted. “The past few weeks have been wonderful without having to worry about work or phone calls, or any of the other daily annoyances of living in the city. It’s just been us.”
Vincent smiled and pressed a kiss against her forehead. “It has been wonderful, but if there are things that need to be done, it’s better to do them sooner rather than later. It wouldn’t be good to have them hanging over your head.”
“I guess. Hopefully it won’t take too long. I’ll take Jacob with me, just in case it takes more than a few hours.”
After a few hours of calls, bill paying, and paperwork, it was a little past noon. Jacob had already had his lunch and was sleeping peacefully. Catherine was beginning to get hungry, so she packed up to leave. Just as she reached for her coat, there was a knock at the door. Cautiously, she walked to the peephole, but quickly undid the lock and opened the door.
“Jenny! What are you doing here?”
She pulled her friend inside and gave her a fierce hug.
“When you called earlier to say hi, I took a chance that you would be here for a bit and I brought you lunch.”
“Jenny, you are a lifesaver. I was just getting ready to leave because I’m starving.”
“Great! Now where is that beautiful baby of yours? I’ve been dying to meet him.”
Jenny’s arrival woke Jacob, and he immediately began to fuss. Catherine scooped him up.
“Jen, this is Jacob. Jacob, this is your Aunt Jenny.”
“Oh my goodness, he’s so precious! Can I hold him while you eat?”
Jenny took baby Jacob with a confidence born from years of experience with her siblings, nieces, and nephews. He fussed for a few minutes more, then calmed. He stared at Jenny with his blue eyes as she talked to him and occasionally to Catherine.
The weather had turned cold and blustery, so going out on the balcony was not an option. However, the sun was shining brightly through the balcony doors, so Catherine had pulled her table as close as possible in order to take advantage of the sunshine. As Jenny continued to fawn over Jacob, Catherine practically inhaled the sandwich from her favorite deli, along with chips and a piece of cheesecake for dessert. When she finished, she sat back in her chair with a huge sigh.
“Thank you, Jenny.”
“You’re welcome. How about we share a taxi to get you home and me to work? You’re going back to Peter’s aren’t you?”
“Yes. The trip Below is easier from his threshold compared to mine.”
“Yeah, but it’s still a crazy walk. I’ll never forget the first time you brought me Below. With all the intersecting passageways and stairs and hidden doors, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to find my way without help.”
“That’s ok Jen. I’ve gotten lost a few times. Just when I think I really know where everything is, the ways change, but it keeps us all safe.”
When Saturday arrived, Catherine carefully did her hair and makeup. Most of her special topside clothing wouldn’t fit for a while. However, Mary had helped her make alterations to a beautiful skirt and silk blouse, and she topped it off with a cashmere shawl. Vincent wore his ruffled shirt with russet colored pants and a deep blue vest.
The trip down to the Great Hall was uneventful. William had outdone himself, and both Catherine and Vincent heartily enjoyed the food, especially since there were plenty of willing volunteers to hold Jacob. Once everyone had eaten their fill, the tables were moved to allow for dancing. Catherine headed to a small attached chamber where Olivia was taking her turn watching the handful of small children and infants so that their parents could enjoy the celebration. Catherine settled down in a rocking chair to feed Jacob. When she was done, she closed her eyes and rocked him while listening to the faint strains of music coming from the Hall.
Eventually, she became aware of a ripple in the bond. She slowly opened her eyes to see Vincent watching her from across the chamber. He walked over and bent down to give her a kiss.
“Would you like to dance?”
“I would love to dance.”
Vincent carefully took Jacob and placed him in a bassinet. He then took Catherine’s hand and led her out into the Hall. They slowly made their way to join the other couples. The musicians started another waltz, and Vincent led Catherine as they swayed and moved across the floor. The song stopped all too soon, and all the dancers clapped their appreciation.
Catherine all of a sudden realized that she and Vincent were in the center and that all the others in attendance had moved to form a wide circle around them. Puzzled, she looked to Vincent for an explanation. He took her hands and kissed them both.
“Catherine, since we met, my life has been moving in a direction I could never have predicted that it would take. Our path has not always been easy, but my love for you is a light that shines brighter than the brightest stars. What we have is everything. You have given me more gifts than I ever dreamed of: hope, love, and now a son. You have given me so much that I hardly dare ask for more.”
He paused and reached into a pocket and pulled out a gold ring with a crystal stone.
“Catherine, would you do me the honor of being my wife?”
10 x 2 = 20 Categories
- Principal characters: Vincent, Catherine, Father
- Supporting or minor characters: Mouse, Jamie
- Places Above: Central Park, Catherine’s apartment
- Places Below: Great Falls, Father’s study, Great Hall
- Events: Winterfest, Naming Ceremony
- Quotations: What we have is worth everything. Tell me. The ways change
- BatB symbols: crystals, candles
- Words from episode titles: a gentle rain, God bless the child
- Items found in Vincent’s chamber: stained glass window, quilts
- Books from the episodes: Shakespeare’s sonnets, Velveteen Rabbit