THE BIRTHDAY GIFT

by Tunnel Muse

May was a beautiful month; it had been exceptionally warm and the flowers were blooming in beautiful pinks, reds, and yellows. Even the trees were budding, and there were crocuses of every colour popping out of the gardens. Spring had always been Catherine’s favorite season, next to autumn with its fall colours of reds, oranges, rusts and golds.

Vincent loved the spring, too, even the rain, which made everything smell clean and new. He would say that he could hear the squirrels and chipmunks scampering through the grass and hear the buzzing of the insects, even though he could only see and hear them at night.

Catherine and Vincent had been married for almost a year now, and loved their life together Below. She had moved Below right after they had married and just before she left the DA’s office, with no regrets.

Soon they would be moving into the brownstone she had decided to buy, which had a tunnel and no nosey neighbours to bother them. It had a half-acre lot with mature trees in the backyard, and with plenty of space to sit outside in private. It had six bedrooms with their own washrooms, a large kitchen with a huge pantry on the main floor, extra-large counter space, two ovens and two fridges. There was a private attic bedroom for the two of them with an extra-large shower in the massive bathroom.

There was a private porch on the back of the house overlooking the beautiful yard and trees, and there were flower gardens with red, white and yellow rose bushes. It also had several hanging baskets along the porch, with comfortable chairs and tables to enjoy the outdoors on warm and rainy days, if they wished. Vincent would love it – not always being confined to the indoors or the tunnels – and Catherine wanted that for him so much, with no prying eyes but still living in safety. To see her world that she had taken for granted.

The brownstone would be livable in a couple of months.

 

Catherine left work for the Home Tunnels feeling a bit unwell. How strange, she said to herself. I didn’t feel like this in the morning. Oh, well, I just forgot to eat breakfast today, I’ll eat lunch with Vincent, it’s almost lunchtime anyway. She would just have to freshen up first.

Vincent met her in their chamber when she arrived. “Hello, my Love, you look tired. I felt your fatigue earlier. Are you all right?”

“Yes, Vincent, I’m fine. I think it’s because I skipped breakfast this morning. I’ll feel better once I eat something.”

“Well, it so happens that the meal signal came over the pipes just a few minutes before you arrived.”

“Wonderful, I’ll eat first and bathe later, it will help me feel better.”

They left for the dining hall.

They could hear everyone talking and moving around to get their meals. Today’s meal was beef stew with dinner rolls and raspberry tarts for dessert.

Catherine filled her bowl and took two rolls. Vincent grabbed a large bowl of stew and also took two rolls. They found a couple of seats next to Father and Mary.

Father asked Catherine how her day was and she began to explain. “It has been a busy day today. I went to the brownstone to check on the progress. I had been there for about two hours getting details on when Vincent and I could move in. The contractor said it would be ready in two months’ time, and what I saw was beautiful. Our attic bedroom is very large, as is the rest of the house. The extra rooms will come in handy for the children when going to post-secondary school or jobs, if they want to. The Helpers will have a place for pickup and drop off, as well as the occasional meetings with you, Father.”

“That is amazing, Catherine. Thank you again for your generosity.”

“It’s the least I can do, you are my family now. It’s nothing, believe me. Besides, it’s a way for Vincent to come and go as he wishes, and privacy for us when we need it,” she said, smiling at Vincent lovingly.

Vincent and Catherine finished eating, got up to leave and said their goodbyes. They got to the entrance of their chamber and suddenly, Catherine fell to the ground. It happened so fast that Vincent couldn’t grab her quickly enough. Stunned, he swiftly picked her up and placed her on the bed. 

“Catherine!” he almost roared in fear. “I’ll get Father, lie still!”

She quickly grabbed his hand and said she was fine.

“You’re not fine, you need to be checked out… please,” he said more softly.

Catherine smiled slowly, nodding, and he left to tap a message on the pipes.

Father arrived a few minutes later, with a cane in one hand and a medical bag in the other.

“Father, Catherine passed out and fell to the ground. She looks pale.”

Father took out his stethoscope and checked her heart, which was beating a bit fast, then her blood pressure, which was also a little high. “Are you feeling dizzy, my dear? How does your stomach feel? How is your head?”

“I do feel a bit dizzy and my stomach feels a little queasy. I didn’t eat breakfast this morning. I think that’s all it is really, Father. Don’t worry, if you want, I’ll go see Peter about some vitamins, all right?”

“That’s a great idea, Catherine, get him to give you a thorough physical. He has some equipment I don’t possess down here. Now, please get some rest. Vincent, don’t worry, I’m sure it’s nothing serious, she will be all right.”

Vincent looked from Father to Catherine and back to Father again. “Thank you, Father,” Vincent said solemnly.

“Thank you,” she replied tiredly.

Father said goodbye and left their chamber to return to his.

Returning to Catherine, Vincent gazed at her. Sitting beside her, he put his hand on her forehead, relieved she had no temperature. “You frightened me, Beloved. It happened so fast, I couldn’t catch you when you fell. I’m sorry, my love.”

“There is no need to apologize, my love. I’ll be okay We will find out what Peter has to say and go from there, all right?”

“All right, Catherine. Please let me know what he says and tell him hello from me.”

 

It was another beautiful May morning when Catherine walked to Peter’s office.

“Good morning, Cathy. To what do I owe the pleasure of seeing you on this beautiful morning?”

“Hello, Peter. I was hoping you could fit me in today. I know I don’t have an appointment and it’s not like the Tunnels have phone service.” She laughed.

Peter laughed right along with her and replied, “I guess not, though if Mouse could concoct some fashion of a phone, he’d try to build it. Borrowing not stealing.” Trying to regain his composure, and collecting himself, he checked his schedule.

“I actually have an hour or so. What do you need, Cathy?”

“I need you to give me a physical, please, if you don’t mind. I was dizzy yesterday and almost passed out, and fell down to the ground in front of our – Vincent’s and my – chamber. Father checked me out but thought I should see you. Oh, Vincent says ‘Hi’ as well.”

“How are Jacob and Vincent doing? I meant to come for a visit, but as you know my schedule’s been extremely busy lately. I promise to come soon,” replied Peter.

“They are both well, Father has his usual aches and pains, as you know, but doesn’t let that bother him. Vincent is busy with the children, teaching literature and swimming classes. As for myself, I’m busy with my family practice. It’s been busy but very rewarding.”

“I’m happy for both of you, Cathy. I always wanted you to be happy with someone special and now you are.”

“Thank you, Peter,” she said with a smile.

“Now, let’s see what’s going on with you, shall we?” Peter proceeded to take her blood pressure and temperature, which were normal. “Okay, Cathy, put on this gown and give me a urine sample. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Peter left the room and she gave her urine sample and put on the gown as requested.

Peter returned just as Catherine started feeling dizzy and lightheaded again, almost falling. Peter grabbed her just in time and sat her on the examination table.

“Wow, Cathy! That was close, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“You said this happened before,” he replied.

“Yes. It happened yesterday after lunch. I thought it was because I forgot to eat breakfast that morning and by the time lunch came, I thought I’d feel better after I ate something. I thought my queasiness was from that.”

“Well, I’d better take your blood pressure again.”

It came back a bit higher this time.

“I’m going to give you a thorough physical before you go. We need to find out what’s going on,” Peter said with concern.

It took about half an hour until Peter was done.

 

In the meantime, Vincent was growing increasingly concerned himself. He felt the change in Catherine’s heart rate and stress through their Bond, and he could do nothing but wait for her to return. He wanted to know what was going on with his beloved wife, but for now he paced nervously around the chamber.

 

Back in Peter’s office, Catherine got dressed and waited for the test results, sending a calming message to Vincent, sensing his restlessness.

Peter came in and responded, “Cathy, your urine and blood work results will be in in a couple of days. I’ll phone you at your office if you wish, or you can come to my office and I can discuss it with you then.”

“All right, Peter. I’ll wait for your call. Right now, I need to get home to Vincent. I know he is worrying about this.”

“It’s a good idea, especially when he can’t see you during the day.”

“Goodbye, Peter,” she said, hugging him and kissing his cheek.

“Goodbye for now,” he said, smiling.

 

An hour later, Catherine got home into the arms of a waiting Vincent. He rushed quickly to her, hugging her tightly but gently.  

“I’m so glad you’re home, Catherine, I felt your uneasiness and discomfort.”

“I’m sorry, Love. I know you can feel what I do.”

“What did Peter have to say about what happened to you?” he asked, frowning.

She tried to keep it light and smiled. “Well, he gave me a physical, as you know. Blood work, blood pressure, etc…”

“And?”

“And…” She paused for a moment. “Peter said to say ‘Hi’ back, and he’ll try to come for a visit soon.” She smiled at him.

“That’s great, but what about the tests, Catherine? What did he say about that?”

“He said it would take a couple of days. He will call me at the office to let me know then.”

Vincent still looked concerned but she hugged him and felt him relax a little.

“I see,” he replied. “Please let me know when you do, okay?”

“Promise, Vincent.”

They held each other for a long while, then Catherine left for the office for a couple of hours to get some work done. It was Friday, and she would have the weekend to relax. She had explained that she would be home early. Vincent himself had a couple of classes, as well. 

 

The weekend was relaxing for both of them. There were no incidents of fainting or queasiness, which pleased them both. They decided to go for a swim at a pool Vincent had found a while ago; it was warmer and more private then the other pools they usually used. They wanted some husband-and-wife time… alone.

After a wonderful meal with Father, Mary, and the rest of the community, they left for that swim, first making a quick stop for a blanket and towels.

It was relaxing, wonderfully exhilarating, and quiet.

After an hour of swimming, Vincent asked. “’How are you feeling, Catherine?” He knew the answer, but he wanted to hear her say it herself.

Reassuringly, she responded, with a loving smile, ”I feel great, Vincent, really I do. After I left you the other day, I worked for a few hours with no dizziness or stomach upset.”

“I’m glad to hear that, my Love, however, I wish for you to rest this weekend.”

“I will, I promise,” she replied with a mischievous smile, kissing him passionately. “Since we just happen to be alone…. I thought we could, you know, play.”

Vincent hesitated for only a moment or two, pulling her gently away from him. He focused on their Bond and read only her feelings for him and his body. Grinning, he brought her into his arms and began to kiss her passionately in return.

After they had made love, they bathed again and toweled off. The swim and the long day had taken its toll on them both. Lying on the blanket relaxing, they fell asleep. A while later, Vincent awoke first. Realizing the lateness of the hour, he gently woke up Catherine.

Waking, she looked at Vincent, asking, “What time is it? I didn’t realize how tired I was”’

“It’s late, and it’s been a long, stressful day. We need to go back to get some proper rest.”

“Sounds good, Love, I am tired.”

They packed up the towels and blanket, dressed again, and went to the Home Tunnels.

After arriving in their chamber, they readied for bed and had some tea, retiring to bed. 

The rest of the weekend came and went without any unusual incidents.

 

Monday morning, Catherine kissed Vincent goodbye after breakfast and went to work. Vincent had a swim class that morning and a Shakespeare class later that afternoon. It would be another busy day for both of them, and the reality of Peter’s call about her test results was on both their minds. 

It was another beautiful morning, sunny and warm with a gorgeous blue sky. Catherine enjoyed her walk to work, loving the warmth of the day, thinking how Vincent would love it too. Soon… very soon now, she thought to herself.

She entered her office and started working. It would be a busy day, with clients coming in for help with one thing or another. Four hours into the day, she had just finished with one client and a phone call, then another, when the phone rang again. Noticing the time, she hesitantly picked up the phone, it was 12:30 by then. She’d hoped to have lunch with Vincent.

“Hello!” she responded in her usual cheerful tone.

“Hello, Cathy. It’s Peter,” he replied. “Did I get you at a bad time?”

“No, Peter. Actually, I was planning to go home and have lunch with Vincent.” She tried not to sound nervous. “How are you, Peter?”

“’I’m fine, Cathy. I was calling to see if you could come to my office sometime today to talk about your test results.”

Catherine paused momentarily before responding.

“Cathy, are you there?”

“Oh…sorry, Peter, I’m here…yes… I can come to your office. What time do you want me there?”

“How about 1 o-clock, will that do for you?”

Checking her appointment book, she replied, “I don’t have an appointment until 3. I can reschedule that one until tomorrow morning. It’s 12:30 now, see you at 1.”

“Okay, Cathy, see you then.”

After hanging up the phone with Peter, she was able to change the client appointment to the next day.

Grabbing a cab, she made it to Peter’s office with time to spare. Catherine asked if Peter was in. The receptionist said he was, asking if he was expecting her. A few minutes later, Peter ushered Catherine into his office, politely seating her with a hug.

“How are you, Cathy? Any more dizzy spells or upset stomachs?”

“No, thank goodness. As for my stomach, I still think it was something I ate, or should I say didn’t.”

“That’s good to hear, and also why I wanted you to come,” responded Peter. “Your one test came back with higher than normal hormone levels. Your blood test is good; the urine sample showed higher hormone levels.”

“What does that mean, Peter?”

“The test show you’re pregnant.”

“What?! Pregnant?!” Catherine had a look of shock and surprise.

“You look surprised, Cathy. You and Vincent have been having sexual relations since you married, right?”

“Yes, but I’ve been on the pill for months. I guess you could say they didn’t work. Understatement!” Catherine tried to smile and deal with the news. “How far along am I?”

Peter looked thoughtful before answering her. “From the hormone levels, I’d say a month, maybe six weeks. I’ll do another exam in a month’s time. Congratulations, Cathy, to you and Vincent. You both deserve happiness and a family of your own.”

“Thank you, Peter… I’m sure Vincent will be as surprised and happy as I am.” She gave him a kiss on the cheek and a huge hug of thanks.

“Make an appointment for next month, okay, Cathy? The receptionist will give you a date.”

“’See you next month. Goodbye for now.”

“Goodbye, Cathy.”

 

 How to tell Vincent, what will he say? Her thoughts were racing.

Catherine left Peter for her office, walking in a daze. Forgoing a cab ride, she thought the walk would help clear her head.

It’s almost 3 and too late for the office. I can’t think about work, she thought. All I can think about is what Peter said and how I’m going to tell Vincent. Will he be surprised, will he be happy about it? I guess I’ll find out when I get home. She was happy, excited and also a bit nervous.

 

Vincent had been busy Below with studies and swim classes. Finally in his chamber, he was also wondering about what Peter had said to Catherine. He felt her nervousness and happiness through their Bond, but also her concern and hesitation, which confused him. All he could do was wait… as usual.

Soon they would have the brownstone and a little more time alone and privacy. He couldn’t help smiling at the thought, giving him a moment’s distraction. He was so in his own thoughts that he didn’t hear Catherine arrive.

Turning suddenly, his surprise showed on his face, then a smile. “Hello, my Love.” He reached to hug her warmly and lovingly in his arms.

“Hello, Love,” she returned with a smile. “How was your day?” She was trying to figure out how to broach the next topic.

“It was busy, though a bit hard to stay on task at times.”

“I see. I had the same issue as well, it seems,” she replied.

“I suppose your call came about your tests.”

Hesitantly, she tried to choose her words carefully.

The pause caused him to raise his eyebrows questioningly. “What did Peter say to you? Nothing serious, I hope?” He had a concerned expression on his face.

Catherine smiled and took his hands in hers to reassure him. “No, Vincent, nothing serious.”

He breathed in a calming breath.

She kissed his lips tenderly and squeezed his hands. Then she walked a few steps, taking him with her to his large chair. Pushing him gently to have him sit, she knelt in front of him so she could look into his sky-blue eyes.

“Vincent, love, when I told you it wasn’t serious, that part is true. Peter gave me some information that is very important and it does also involve you…both of us, actually. Very much so, and will change everything between us.”

Vincent looked intently at her, trying to understand what she was trying to tell him, then he noticed that her side of the Bond was partially closed to him. But why?

“Are you hiding something from me? I feel your side of the Bond is changed, why have you closed me off?”

“It’s not what you think, Vincent, I’m just not sure how to tell you the news Peter gave me. I’m not sure how you’re going to respond to the news. I can tell you that it’s actually wonderful. I am not ill, Love, I am quite well. Peter explained everything to me and now I’m trying to… hope to…”   Oh, honestly, just say it, Cathy!

 

Vincent suddenly read myriad emotions all at once; it overwhelmed him. Then Catherine’s side of the Bond hit him full force.

“I’m PREGNANT!” she almost yelled.

She stood up then and he just stared at her as if he didn’t know her or hear her. He got up from his chair and started to walk as though he was lost and without direction.

Catherine stood watching him, looking first confused then concerned. “Say something, Vincent! Please!!”

He turned to look at her. Seeing tears forming in her eyes and fear of his reaction, Vincent swiftly came and held her. He put his strong arms around her, kissing the top of her head.

“I’m sorry, Vincent. I didn’t want it to come out like that. I’d thought you would be happy for us. I thought you would love being a father, even though we never really talked about it, but…”

Putting his clawed finger tenderly on her mouth to stop her, he responded with a kiss that would melt butter. He picked her up and gently placed her on the bed. “’Beloved, it is I who should apologize. I never thought it was a possibility and now, I am overwhelmed by the news of being a father. The dream of you becoming my wife after three years was a dream come true for me…for us. You believed so strongly, but now, to become parents!”

“So you are really happy about this?” she asked, still unsure. 

“Yes, I am, though I do wonder what kind of child it will be!”

“He or she will be an extraordinary child, Vincent, with an extraordinary father. An amazing and loving father,” she responded gently.

“Now, what else did Peter say? Now that we are sure of your pregnancy, did he have any concerns, and how far along are you?”

“Peter said nothing about any concerns, and I’m a month to six weeks along. He wants to see me next month to get a more accurate timeline.”

“Are you worried about this, Catherine, having this child?”

“No, Vincent, not worried, only about your feelings. I don’t want it to stress you out. Peter is an excellent doctor and so is Father.” She suddenly stared into space. “Oh God, Father…what will he think, what will he say? We can’t keep it a secret, not for long. I’ll start showing soon and everyone will know!”

He held her reassuringly. Smiling, he said, “Father will be fine. He’ll have his concerns for your safety, as will I, but as you said, we have two excellent doctors on hand to help us. We’ll get through this together.”

“Together.”

‘”Now, let’s go to dinner. I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry and the dinner code tapped on the pipes.”

“Let’s go, I’m suddenly hungry, too. I’m eating for two, after all.” She laughed, as did Vincent.

 

The dinner hall was busy as always. Father and Mary, now also a Mr. and Mrs. Wells, were sitting together eating, so they joined their table. 

Dinner consisted of roast beef with mashed potatoes, gravy and steamed vegetables. And dessert was apple crumble with cream. Everything was delicious, as always.

“Vincent, Catherine, how are you both doing?” asked Father, swallowing a mouthful of food.

Vincent replied first. “We are very well, Father, thank you.”

Catherine only smiled and took her seat, as did Vincent, and started eating their meal.

“Cathy, you must really be hungry, you’re eating like it’s your last meal.” Father chuckled.

Catherine stopped short with her fork in mid-air, about to swallow, then put it down, blushing. Vincent smiled at her and took her hand, kissing it softly, no longer feeling self-conscious about showing affection in front of her or others. She looked at him and he opened up his side of the Bond, letting her know what he was thinking. She smiled, nodding in response to what only she could hear.

“Father, as you know, Catherine has been ill the last few weeks. After Peter examined her and gave her the test results today, would you like to tell Father and Mary what Peter said?”

Nodding, she looked at Father and Mary. ”I’ve already told Vincent and we thought it best to let you know, as well. Peter does want me to come back for a follow-up appointment. We thought you should know first, with the exception of Vincent. I, or, I should say, we are pregnant!”

There was a pause, then Father and Mary gave them both a huge hug and congratulations.

“I knew it!!” Mary exclaimed, then lowered her voice, looking around to see if anyone else heard her. No one did, however.

Whispering, they both asked at the same time, “How far along are you, Catherine?”

“Peter thinks a month, no more than six weeks, though he’ll be checking in a month for a more accurate timeline. We’ll know more then. Please… don’t say anything to the community until I see Peter next month.”

Vincent jumped in and said that they needed time to get adjusted to the happy news themselves.

Father and Mary agreed they would say nothing for now and wait for them.

Dinner over, they returned to their chamber and a hot cup of herb tea. 

”I’d like to have a nice warm bath. Will you join me, Love?” Catherine said softly. “We can read something before bed.”

With a twinkle in his eyes, he responded, “Don’t mind if I do, my Love!” Kissing her passionately, he grabbed a couple of large towels and a signal towel to prevent any interruptions.

 

The four weeks went by quickly. Catherine arrived at Peter’s office with nervous excitement.

“Dr. Allcott is ready to see you, Miss Chandler.”

“Thank you.”

Catherine walked to the door just as Peter opened it. Perfect timing, she thought. “Hello, Peter, nice to see you.”

“You as well, Cathy.” Giving his goddaughter a hug and kiss, he led her to a chair by his desk. “How are you holding up, Cathy?”

“I’m good. I told Vincent about the baby, then we told Father and Mary. They are staying quiet until my appointment today.”

“How did Vincent take the news?”

“Shock, surprise, and then acceptance. He’s concerned, of course… how this is going to affect me physically, and possibly the dangers, if any.”

“And Father?”

“He took it well, considering his own concerns. He’ll be watching me like a hawk until it’s over. All Mary could say was, ‘I knew it! I knew it!’ Overall, it went well, negating my own concerns with Vincent’s handling of it.”

“Well, let’s check you out again and see how the baby is doing.”

Seeing the baby no bigger than a pea was definitely an eye opener. After the ultrasound and internal exam, Peter let her re-dress and meet him back in his office.

“I can give you a more accurate timeline, even though it might be off by a week or two for now.”

“When do you think the due date will be?”

“I’d say around the middle of January. It’s approximate. Maybe the end of January. We’ll know more the further along you are, Father can be there to help if you have any other issues, as well as Mary. They have brought a couple hundred children into the Tunnel Community.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, Peter. Thank you. Vincent and I can start planning. Our brownstone will be ready next month. It’s been a long-awaited dream for us both,” replied Catherine, thinking of Vincent’s new life changes. “See you next month, Peter.”

“Goodbye, Cathy.”

 

She went to work for the rest of the day, it being a relatively slow day, then she decided to go home early. Vincent was finishing a literature class when she arrived home, and she decided to take a nap before dinner. She was more tired than she thought.

She was still asleep when he returned.

Seeing her sleeping, Vincent went to the dining hall to get their dinner. It would be dinner together alone tonight, how wonderful.

Catherine woke up to chicken soup, hot biscuits and butter, and strawberry tarts. It smelled delicious and she was hungry.

“Dinner is served, My Lady.” He chuckled.

“Great, I’m starving.” She smiled and sat at their round table. 

Vincent moved a couple of candles and a poetry book he was reading and sat down to eat. “How is our doctor Peter these days, we hardly see him,” he asked.

“He’s doing great and sends his love to all.”

“Any news on our soon new arrival?” He took a bite of the biscuit, still warm.

“As a matter of fact, he said we should expect him or her in January.” She grinned at him.

“What makes you smile, my beautiful wife?”

“We could have it around your birthday, maybe the 10th to the 15th of January. Wouldn’t that be lovely!”

Vincent started thinking about his birth, how he was left and then found; he felt a tone of melancholy.

“What are you thinking, Love?”

“About when I was found in that same month, how I was left in the cold, wrapped in rags until Anna found me.”

“Paracelsus’ wife?”

“Yes…” He went silent for a moment.

“Our child won’t have that, Vincent. They will be loved, with both a mother and an extraordinary father, who is full of love, compassion and tenderness. The man I love more than my own life, the father of my child.”

Grabbing his hand, she looked at him with such love it took his breath away.

“I love you, Catherine. You are the heart of me.”

“I love you, too, Vincent. Forever!!”

“Yes… Forever.”

After their meal and hot tea, they retired to bed, awaking to another day.

 

It was now July and a hot summer day. Catherine was heading to the brownstone. The contractor wanted to show her the progress inside, hoping she would like what she saw. Catherine was definitely excited to see the progress. She’d hoped to be in by September, especially now with the baby coming early next year.

She arrived at the brownstone by noon, the contractor meeting her at the door with keys in hand. He walked her around the whole house, the rooms ready, painted and furnished. The kitchen was huge, with plenty of room for seating and two very large picnic-style tables and chairs. There were the two huge fridges, the microwave and the  stove with the double oven. She laughed to herself. I’m not domestic…I burn water.

The contractor looked quizzically at her and she waved her hand. “Inside joke,” she replied.

“Oh,” was all he said.

Shaking her head, they continued the tour. Everything was as she had hoped and more.

“How about the attic bedroom?”

“It’s done to your specifications, ma’am.”

They walked upstairs to a full attic loft with a large oversized king bed, and a double-sized bathroom with a special sized clawfoot tub. It also had the extra-large walk-in shower to accommodate two adults quite nicely. It made Catherine tingle all over, sending shivers down her spine.

“Excellent!” she replied. “I love it.”

The contractor was happy with her response and went back downstairs.

The living room with a huge fireplace was an added feature, as was the one in the attic, great for cold winter nights. 

The contractor mentioned, “We didn’t do much to the basement, as you can see, only a few wall modifications as requested. The rest is untouched.”

“That’s fine, thank you.”

He looked at her questioningly without commenting further.

Catherine ignored his look and smiled warmly. 

Shrugging his shoulders, he said, “Well then, here are your keys to your new home, Miss Chandler. If you need any more of our services, don’t hesitate to call us. We’re glad to help.”

“Thank you for everything, it looks great. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye, miss.” Then he left.

It’s all ours, yours and mine. Catherine smiled happily and sent love to Vincent through their Bond, love and home…HOME!

She rushed home through the basement, now an entrance and exit for them both if they wanted time alone. A transition for the children and the Helpers with no snoopy neighbours gawking at them. A quiet and safe street.

Excited, Catherine almost ran through the tunnel hub and Vincent. She couldn’t wait to show him the keys to their new home.

Vincent sensed her excitement and rushed to meet her part of the way; with his long strides, he got there quickly. “Catherine, I sensed your excitement. You should be careful down here, it isn’t always smooth ground for walking, let alone running. The light isn’t that great either. I’ll talk to Mouse and see about some torch sconces to brighten it up in strategic places.”

“I’ll be careful. I just couldn’t wait to tell you, show you. We got the keys today,,, the house is ours. We can move in whenever we want. I want to show it to you, Love, it’s beautiful.”

“That’s wonderful. Maybe after lunch you can give me the grand tour,” he said with a big smile.

“That’s a good idea, Love. We can go through the basement entrance. It’s amazing, they finished it two weeks early and we can move in.”

After hugging each other, they went to the dining hall holding hands.

Father and Mary were thrilled with the news as well. “We are so happy for you both,” said Mary.

“What did Peter have to say about your pregnancy’s progress?” asked Father.

“Peter still believes it will be the middle of January, give or take a few days either way.”

“OH!! How exciting,” added Mary. “We’ll have time to make some baby things for you, and maternity clothes. We can check with Annabelle. If she doesn’t have anything, I’m sure the sewing circle can make something for you, dear.” Mary smiled warmly at her.

“January,” responded Father. “You’re going to need a crib. Cullen may have some wood for that and make you one.”

“I’ll be seeing him tomorrow morning,” replied Vincent. “Maybe he can help me try my hand at making it myself.” He turned to Catherine with a loving smile, which she returned.

“I’ll be showing Vincent the brownstone after lunch. I got the keys earlier.”

She did, and he loved it, especially their attic bedroom with the huge fireplace. He loved the bathroom, as well. He absolutely loved the oversized king bed made for them. It had carved lions on the corners, with a bird at the center of the headboard and footboard. made of solid oak.

 

The next few months went by quickly and busily. Summer over and school, autumn and winter – seasons, like life, go on as always. Catherine’s pregnancy was progressing and Vincent enjoyed their new home, as well, with meals Below. As she’d said, she wasn’t domestic. Thank goodness, poor Vincent would starve otherwise, she thought.

 

December was only a week away and so was Winterfest. So much was going on now. Christmas was just around the corner and soon… their baby. Wow!! Thank God for Father, Mary and the Tunnel Community, her adopted family there to help if needed.

Vincent had made the crib with Cullen’s guidance. Everyone was excited for Vincent and Catherine…even the children couldn’t wait for their baby to arrive.

 

Less than a month to go now. Christmas and Winterfest were over. Catherine closed her office for a while; time for concentrating on herself and the health of her baby. Peter came to her until December, and Father and Mary took over the last month until her delivery. As for Vincent, he never left her side, to the point that she had to push him to go to his classes.

“We have weeks to go, Vincent, relax. There is plenty of time yet. Besides, our Bond will let you know when I need you. Okay, Love?”

He reluctantly agreed, but said that at the slightest change in their Bond, he was going to come running.

Nodding, she just smiled and kissed him passionately on the lips.

 He hugged her gently, as though she was made of glass ready to shatter.

Smiling, she said. “I won’t break, Love, honest.”

“I’m sorry, Catherine, this is all so new for me. I’m a bit scared,” he said, holding her tighter but gently.

“I remember your fear and uncertainty when Lena had her baby and she said you could hold her. When you held Kathy in your arms, the look on your face was one of awe.”

“Yes…” The word was almost a sigh, almost a whisper. “I’d never gotten to hold a newborn before that moment, and when you asked me what I thought…”

“I know,” she said softly, reaching for his face to caress his cheek. “Your eyes looked at her in wonder and longing. I felt it too, trust me. I was a bit jealous that you got to hold her and I didn’t. It’s silly now.”

Looking lovingly at her, he asked, “Are you afraid, Catherine?”

“Afraid? No, I wouldn’t say that.” She thought for a moment. “Excited, worried, and a little overwhelmed at times, not afraid. I hope I can be a good mother. It’s all new for me, too, Vincent. We will do this together. I’ve seen how you are with the other children, believe me, Love.” 

 

Only a few weeks to go and the new addition would be here. Excitement and tension were in the air. Father was now monitoring Catherine’s pregnancy, as Peter had a family emergency to attend to and would not be available. He knew she was in good hands Below. 

Father checked her every few days and all was well. Just like the month before, Vincent refused to leave Catherine’s side, Father said it would be any day now and wanted her to rest.

She felt awkward and clumsy in her movements. She tried to make light of it by saying she walked like a penguin, unable to even bend over and put on her boots. Vincent would help with some of the attire she couldn’t handle herself, and this frustrated her at times, which made her feel very irritable.

To make things easier, Vincent would bring their meals to their chamber. Catherine appreciated it, but missed being with the other members in the dining hall, talking together.

“Vincent, I can’t take it anymore! I need to get out for a while.”

“It’s not a good idea,” he responded.

“Please, Vincent! I can’t sit here any longer, I need to move around, I feel cooped up. Just a walk, maybe to the Chamber of the Falls or the Whispering Gallery. I’ll go slow, I promise, and if I get tired, we’ll come back. Please?!” she pleaded.

Vincent put the food down and looked at her intently. He had always known of Catherine’s determination and occasional stubbornness. It served her well at times, but in this situation, he wasn’t fond of the idea, especially so close to her due date. Her eyes softly pleading, he reluctantly agreed to her request. “All right…”

She seemed to have a way of hypnotizing him with her emerald green eyes.

“But,” he started his rebuttal, as Catherine smiled coyly.

“But what, my Love?”

“We’ll go if it’s not too long and return if tired, deal?”

“Deal,” she said with a smile.

“Now, eat something.”

 

Vincent returned from the kitchen and found Catherine ready for their walk. Excited, she had a blanket under her arm with a satchel in the other. “I see you’re prepared; what’s in the satchel?”

“I thought I’d bring some treats and a blanket to sit on, or maybe to wrap ourselves up in.” She giggled.

Shaking his head, he grabbed the blanket and satchel. “You are incorrigible, Catherine,” he said, putting his free arm around her. 

They walked slowly but steadily. The walk was exhilarating and felt wonderful. She seemed energized by the walk and not at all tired, which surprised them both alike. They made it to the Whispering Gallery first, standing while listening for noises from Above. The direction of the wind made the chamber quiet, so they decided to go to the Chamber of the Falls.

Arriving shortly after, they found a stone bench protruding from the wall. Vincent opened the blanket and spread it out on the ground, while she took out the treats and placed them on the stone bench. Vincent gently helped Catherine sit on the blanket and he joined her, wrapping his cloak around her.

“How do you feel? Are you tired?”

“No, Love, I’m not. I feel good, actually, quite energized, thank you.”

“You’re welcome, my Catherine.” Searching their Bond, he could feel only joy, love and contentment. “It seems that the walk has helped your emotional  mood, I’m glad.”

“I don’t feel as boxed in. When the baby is here, we’ll be busy. This is a nice distraction.”

They sat talking a little, but mostly sat without saying anything at all. Their Bond vibrated between them, saying everything they needed to say. They stayed like that for some time, just enjoying the silence. After an hour or so, Vincent said, “It’s getting late, time to go back home.”

“I’d like to stay a little bit longer, Vincent. Maybe another half an hour, please?”

“It’s dinner soon, and it’s a long walk back, Catherine.”

“Just a little longer, I’m not hungry right now.”

He was about to respond when he saw her expression. “All right, just a half an hour, no more.” With a smile and a nod, they sat down again. Putting his arms around her, they sat, lost in thought.

It was Catherine’s turn to speak. “It’s your birthday tomorrow. I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to get you anything. With the baby coming any day, I haven’t had the energy to go shopping. Maybe after the baby arrives, I’ll go.”

“There’s no need to get me anything, you are my birthday gift. You are my gift every day, always and forever.” He hugged her a little tighter.

“As you are mine, Love,” was her response. “Vincent? We never discussed it but we should have names for the baby.”

“Names?” He looked at her, puzzled.

“Yes, one for a boy and one for a girl.”

“OH! Of course, Catherine. What did you have in mind?”

“Well, I thought, if it’s a boy…Jacob Vincent Wells.”

He smiled at her, “Jacob Vincent?”

“Yes. What do you think?” she asked, looking into his blue eyes.

Looking thoughtfully, he replied. “How about we make it Jacob Devin Wells?”

“After your brother?”

“Yes, do you mind?”

“No, actually it’s a great idea. I know you miss him. Jacob Devin it is, then. That’s solved. What if it’s a girl?”

“I will defer to you Catherine. You choose.”

“All right, let me see.” She thought. “I have one in mind, actually; let me know what you think. Okay?”

“’Shoot.”

“What do you think about Anna Caroline Wells?”

Vincent’s expression was one of surprise and contemplation. Saying nothing for a time, she waited for a response to her suggestion. A moment later, Vincent came out of his thoughtfulness.

“Are you all right?”

“Ummm… yes…yes, I’m sorry, Catherine. It’s just such a surprise, that’s all.”

“You don’t like it? We can change it.”

“No! No, don’t, I like it,” he stammered. “It’s been a long time since I heard that name. Anna was the woman who found me, saved me. Though she was my adopted mother for only a short time, she has never really ever left me. Mary took care of me after…”

“After Paracelsus killed her,” she said softly. “We don’t need to use her name if it troubles you.”

“No, please. I would be honoured to call our little girl Anna. Anna was a very loving, warm, caring woman…a mother, no matter how short a time. If it’s a girl, call her Anna Caroline Wells.”

“That settles it. We should go now though, I’m hungry and a bit cramped in my legs from sitting too long.” She laughed.

He picked up the blanket and satchel and they started back to the home tunnels. It would be forty-five minutes at best, but pregnant and slower, it took an hour or so.

 

Less than ten minutes from the home tunnels, Catherine groaned sharply, starting to fall to the ground. Vincent’s reflexes were as fast as a cat’s. He dropped everything and grabbed for her, catching her halfway before she hit the ground.

“UGH!” she groaned, grabbing her belly. “Oh, God, that hurts,” exclaimed Catherine, still holding her stomach. 

Still somewhat standing with Vincent’s help, she tried to walk again. He put his arms around her waist to guide her; she was determined to keep walking. However, a couple of minutes in, she buckled under another contraction, then another.

At this point, Vincent panicked and dropped the satchel to the ground, picked Catherine up in his strong arms, and quickly went to the Hospital Chamber, forgoing their home chamber. 

They were only a couple of minutes from the Home Tunnels by then, and he got her to the Hospital Chamber, almost running. As he was putting her on one of the beds, she had another contraction, a painful one coming on fast.

“I’ll tap for Father. I’ll be right back. I promise.”

Catherine grabbed his hand as another contraction hit her. She squeezed his hand so hard, his fingers felt like they would snap. Who knew she had such strength in such a small body, he wondered.

When she finally let go, he left to tap on the pipes. Father, Hospital Chamber, Catherine, come quickly. That done, he returned to Catherine.

She was trying to breathe between contractions and relax her body. “Vincent,” she called softly, sensing his concern for her and their child.

The baby was determined to make an entrance and Vincent’s father’s own feelings of past fears surfaced. His fears of hurting her and the fear of the child hurting her. Maybe even….

Being pregnant and their intense love for each other made her Bond stronger with Vincent, sensing his fear and apprehension. “Listen to me, please. This child is from our undying love, he or she will not hurt me anymore than you could. Trust in that love, Vincent, trust me. Everything will be all right, my Love.”

Father and Mary entered the Hospital Chamber and went straight to work. After helping Father don his surgical scrubs, Mary got the medical equipment, hot water and towels. 

“I need to examine you, okay? Try to relax and breathe through the contractions. Don’t push.”

As the examination continued, Mary put a cool cloth on Catherine’s forehead. Vincent held Catherine’s hand and stroked her head to keep her as relaxed as possible. It was not so easy, however, with the contractions coming every two minutes.

The examination was now over, and Father reported, “You are 9 centimeters dilated, it won’t be long now. I’ll check you in about an hour. Mary will stay with you. If anything changes, tap on the pipes. I’m going to look into one of the children in the dormitory.”

“It’s late, Cathy, dear, try to get some rest if you can. It will help you later on”

“I’ll try, Mary,” she said, trying to smile through the pain. Turning to her husband, she asked, “Stay with me?”

“I wouldn’t be anywhere else, Beloved, believe me. I don’t want to miss anything.”

It was midnight and Catherine tried to rest as best as she could, but rest was elusive.

 

An hour passed, and Father was back to examine Catherine again. “Any changes, Mary?”

“Yes, Jacob. The contractions are more frequent now, 30 seconds apart and lasting a minute and a half. Looks like this child wants to join the rest of us,” Mary said, smiling. “She is ten centimeters and fully effaced.”

“Excellent!!” Father replied. “All right, Catherine. Let’s get this child to see our world.”

Vincent was at the head of the bed holding her hand and encouraging her to push when told. Mary had towels on the ready and tools needed to assist, if necessary, with Father ready to receive the new arrival. It took another hour or so and finally their child arrived.

Turning the baby upside down, Father patted its tiny behind to get it to cry and breathe. Vincent and Catherine listened intently for that cry, which seemed to take forever, but it was only a moment or two. Suddenly, they heard the most beautiful sound, their baby’s cry.

Vincent and Catherine exhaled at the same time, not realizing that they were holding their breaths. 

“He’s a beautiful boy,” replied Father. “You have a healthy, beautiful son.”

“Can I see him?” Catherine asked with joy, though tired.

“Just a moment, let me clean him up a bit.” That done, Father let Catherine hold her child briefly, wrapped in one of the old yet warm and dry hospital towels.

“Let me have him, Catherine, dear, I need to really clean him, weigh him and give him a vitamin K shot. I’ll return him, I promise you. Mary will help clean you up and change into something warm.”

She hadn’t realized how cold she had suddenly gotten after the baby’s birth. Her body felt cold without the baby to keep her warm. Amazing, she thought.

Mary saw to Catherine’s personal needs as Vincent went outside of the chamber to wait and think.

Twenty minutes later, Catherine was in a clean gown and holding her son in her arms, Vincent sitting next to them. How wonderful it felt, her husband, her son, so complete and whole.

Father smiled at them, saying, “As I mentioned before, dear, you have a beautiful, healthy boy at 7 pounds, 8 ounces and 18 inches long.”

“Thank you, Father, thank you, Mary,” they said at the same time.

Vincent stared at the miracle in front of him. “He’s beautiful, Catherine!!” he expressed in awe.

“Yes, he is, Love. Would you like to hold your son?”

In awe of this little blessing, he timidly reached out to hold his son. Father and son were just looking intently into each other’s faces. Vincent noticed also that there was a gold thread-like Bond between father and son, just like his mother and father’s. A three-cord Bond, unbreakable… Forever.

Father placed a temporary crib they kept for births next to the bed. “If you are all right in a couple of days, you can be discharged, okay? Until then, rest. I’ll get Mary to bring some food for both of you. You must be starving.”

“Thank you, we are hungry.”

Father started to leave the Hospital Chamber when he suddenly came to a stop. “’A very happy birthday, my son.”

Shocked, Catherine and Vincent looked at each other, then looked at Father and their son. With everything that was happening, they had forgotten what the date was. In a moment of clarity, Catherine turned to Vincent with a big smile and wished him a very, very happy birthday.

“Thank you, my Love,” he said, then kissed her passionately.

“Vincent, remember at the Chamber of the Falls, I told you that I didn’t have time to get you anything for your birthday or buy you anything? Well, I guess that’s not true anymore.”

Looking into her green eyes, he asked, “No?”

“No, my Love, it’s not. Your son has become your birthday gift, born on the same day you were found. From what seemed a tragedy to become a triumph into another beautiful triumph…your son, Jacob Devin Wells. Happiest of birthdays, my Love.”

The rest of the night they watched their son sleeping peacefully, as they did soon after.

They awoke to a new blessed day, in awe and wonder of a future together… Forever…

1 Comment

  1. I enjoyed reading about their life together, their daily affairs. I always liked the idea of a house with access to tunnels with a large garden,where V.can go out during the day and enjoy the sun, the surrounding nature, admire the sunrise…And could there be a more beautiful gift for his birthday than the one he received from Catherine? A truly wonderful story.

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