EVENTYR

by Carole W

There’s a bit of steaminess in this one toward the end.

Author’s Note: What follows is a re-imagining of “certain events” from the episode Remember Love, assuming Vincent and Catherine’s relationship is ‘advanced’ by the time she tells him about … Well, I don’t want to give much more of the story away, but you’ll need to set aside your recollection of the aired episode.

* * *

He’d taken the lone chair at the long table’s end, its location putting him in her easy sight. For the meeting’s first hour, he’d participated – listened, considered, intervened when necessary to let the quieter ones have their say. But his knee had started jiggling within minutes of the budget committee’s taking of the council floor and now his fist was clenched on his thigh. His expression remained engaged, his face turned toward the charts propped on easels, but every five breaths or so, his lips would part on the inhale, the exhale a long, if silent, sigh.

Give me a broken bridge to fix, he’d told her. A critical steam pipe loose at its joints. A rock fall imperative to clear. But please, no columns of figures.

She had to get him out of there.

A lull fell when the charts needed shuffling. The audience rustled and chattered. Most on the council bent to the notes they’d taken, toting up numbers with the taps of their pencils, scribbling in the margins – most likely questions of debate once the presentation resumed. But not Vincent. As still as stone he … inspected the ceiling.

At his suggestion, she’d taken a specific seat in the first arc of rows – the one nearest an exit. You may have cause to thank me, he’d prophesied, and she’d entered the meeting room flushed with anticipation. Thanking him was quite the pleasurable adventure these days. And when he thanked her

Now, without disturbing anyone in the assemblage – no pardon me necessary, no navigating knees – she hustled to his side, whispered in his ear. “Frown,” she murmured. “Look concerned. Nod your head. Say just loudly enough … I’ll be right there. Make your apology and meet me in the library.”

Hopefully, no one – or hardly anyone – looked twice.

 

The chamber was a relief of quiet, of cool and tranquil air.

Cullen’s crew had been hard at work building and installing new tall shelves, and books that had been stored behind the front-facing rows were at last accessible. A rare-bookseller’s dream it always was, but more so now with many first editions unearthed, decorated in still-bright gold gilt. But more, the redesign had created within the new labyrinth several alcoves and inglenooks offering retreat, offering privacy. At the first of these aisleways she waited … waited for him to hurry through the entry, to grasp the railing and swing himself over the three-step staircase without touching a tread.

He took her hand and led her into the softly lit avenue of tomes.

“You saved me, Catherine,” he whispered, once they’d made the first turn of the maze.

“Will you need to go back?”

“I should,” he answered, though with a casting-aside shrug of his shoulders.

He’d been working on “shoulds” lately, practicing more choosing than rote acquiescing. “The rewards …” he’d reported, sometimes purred against her skin, “have been … remarkable.”

The niche they were surely headed for was close-quartered, hidden from view by anyone passing through the main reading room of the library, one they’d christened two mid-afternoons ago with Father right there taking tea with Mary and Sebastien, stepping in to the byplace as breathless as two teenagers having stolen away, their kiss as sweet and deep as if a first rather than a postscript to their recent hour of delight. The shelves there, after all, housed poetry of a certain … intensity: works of Neruda, Witter Bynner, Sappho, Adrienne Rich, e e cummings. A place of inspiration, he’d murmured just below her ear, one hand strong at the small of her back, the other—

“Hey, Vincent. Hey, Catherine.”

Samantha. Sitting cross-legged on the floor in the new Folk Tales section.

Vincent bent to the few books she’d stacked, took up the topmost. “The Blue Fairy Book,” he read aloud. “Did your outing today spark new interest among your students?”

“Oh, that’s right,” Catherine said. “You took a group to the movies today. Was it crowded? The Eighth Avenue Cinema isn’t very big and I bet Dollar Disney Day really drew them in. You saw Sleeping Beauty and …”

Cinderella,” Samantha finished.

“Did you have a good time?” Vincent probed.

“Oh, I know we’re supposed to be appreciative and it was nice of Eli to give us those twenty tickets and money for popcorn. The First-Years hadn’t ever been to the movies before, so they were … awed … I guess. The music was good, and the animation was neat.”

“But …” Catherine encouraged.

“But they’re not the stories I knew. Know. They weren’t the stories you read to us, Vincent, when we were little.”

“Not as little as your charges though.”

“No, but I think I can get them started. The problem is … now that theyve seen the movie version and all that … color … its gonna be harder to win them with words. And these books …” She indicated the volumes shed pulled from the shelves. “… mostly have black and white plates. I was hoping to find something a little more colorful.”

“I think later in the rainbow of Fairy Books – the Crimson, the Yellow – the colored plates are more numerous.”

“I know I’ve seen the Hans Christian Andersen volume, the one illustrated by Arthur Rackham,” Catherine mused, having stepped closer to the shelves. “And the Grimm’s, too, with Anne Anderson’s art. They were crammed two rows of books back in the shelf behind Father’s desk. We unearthed them ourselves, Vincent. Remember?”

Vincent sighed. “Yes, but they’re now in a crate, their fate in debate.”

Samantha giggled at his rhyme, but Catherine raised her brows.

“A coalition is lobbying the Budget Committee – probably right this very minute – to have dozens of our first editions valued above,” he continued. “A significant source of income just …”

“Collecting a refined dust,” Catherine finished and now both Vincent and Samantha raised their brows. “A reasonable option, I suppose,” she went on, not entirely convinced. Or … rather … resistant to the reasoning.

“Should the plan of action be instituted,” Vincent vowed, “I shall remove those volumes.”

And a few more, no doubt.

“Well,” Samantha interjected, bringing her project back center-stage, “have you seen anything, I don’t know … taller? With pictures? A book I could hold up and show around? But with good stories. I want to broaden their vocabularies too.”

“When I was a girl, I had this wonderful fairy tale book,” Catherine began. “One I read over and over, even into junior high. The stories were unusual. And … it was a big book. Tall. In fact, it’s packed up in a box in my storage area. I’ll dig it out for you.” Catherine sighed, the memory suffusing, first of her mother reading to her, later visiting the magical worlds on her own. “My favorite story was called Bright, Deardeer, and Kit. And the illustrations were wonderful, by … Oh, what was the artist’s name?”

“Adrienne Ségur,” Vincent supplied. “My favorite story was Green Snake.

“You had that book, too?” Catherine exclaimed.

“I did. I still do.”

Their shared smile, Catherine believed, was as unsurprised as it was wonderstruck.

“As far as I know,” he went on, “it’s the only copy here Below. It was a gift from my favorite teacher, Marguerite. Id love to pass it on to you, Samantha, because I know you’ll be the favorite of many children.” He bent for the the few books Samantha had chosen.

“I promise to take good care of it,” Samantha pledged, scrambling to her feet, dusting her hands on her long, quilted vest. “And you’ll still have Catherine’s copy to read to … when you have …” She folded her arms to a cradle, rocked them back and forth. “… You know.”

The second smile they shared – this one over Samantha’s head – was just as wonderstruck … and just as unsurprised.

* * *

“Here it is,” Vincent said.

The treasures from his trunk – all of them – were arrayed on the chamber floor, the searched-for book found beneath every other keepsake. The cover image – a girl, a brown speckled bird, and a wide-eyed squirrel peeking over a tree root to find an elf and seven jewel-crowned crows feasting amongst the flowers of the forest floor – brought back the same feelings she’d had every time she drew the book from her bedside shelf: the anticipation of the marvelous, of escape into the extraordinary, of enchantment.

Samantha, now, paging through, seemed flushed with the same excitement, lost already and happily so.

“To think,” Catherine murmured … and only Vincent heard, “you and I were reading the same stories at the same time.”

“Oh, here’s Green Snake!” Samantha noted. “And here’s your favorite, Catherine, Bright, Deardeer and Kit. Oooh, a double-page illustration! It’s beautiful! I’ll read these two first! Thank you, Vincent. Thank you, Catherine.” Samantha turned the last pages. “Oh, look! There’s a note or something stuck in …”

Vincent took the yellowed linen paper Samantha held out, unfolded it, smoothed its creases, recognition softening his features as he read.

Casting him back years, Catherine discerned. Unsure, she waited, wanting to ask, but holding back.

Samantha forged ahead. “What is it, Vincent?”

“A list,” he answered. “A list of words I found beautiful … back then.”

“Neat! What were they?”

Vincent drew and released a breath. “Azure. Cerulean.

Samantha nodded encouragingly. More, she seemed to say.

Vincent complied. “Sibylline. Stardust.”

“What’s sib- … sibylline mean?”

“Mysterious,” Catherine supplied.

“Are there more? More words on the list?”

“A few,” Vincent allowed, but through the heavyweight stationery, candlelight revealed to Catherine line after line of darkened script, lines that filled the page.

“So … and?”

He didn’t hesitate … not exactly, at least not so that Samantha might notice – she leaned forward for his continuing with shining eyes – but between them, Catherine sensed their ribboned Oneness tense.

Halcyon,” Vincent chose before he refolded the list to its long-pressed creases. “Meaning simpler, happy, peaceful days.”

Had they been? Certainly not all could be counted so, by anyone, really, but for Vincent …

“Double neat,” Samantha declared. “I’m going to use that idea with the First-Years. And I’ll tell them to keep their word lists tucked in their favorite book too. It’ll be fun one day to look back on. I’m going to do it myself. Can I borrow one of yours, Vincent? Sibylline? I love that word. Saying it out loud, just thinking it, feels like it means … amazing things are possible, even if it doesn’t seem obvious how.”

Samantha was eager now to be gone, and after tight but quick hugs, after gathering her books, after her laughing goodbye, they were alone. With a look, she sought allowance … to move closer, to ask, the incline of his head, the soft keeping of her gaze his answer.

Beside him on the edge of the bed, she took his free hand in both of hers; his other, fingers spread wide, flattened the list to the muscled curve of his thigh.

“This list is more than words, isn’t it.”

He nodded.

“May I see it?”

Again, he nodded, and she slipped the paper from its entrapment, unfolding it with a necessary reverence. The roster of words began as he’d recounted, but the definitions accompanying … changed everything.

Azure … “she read aloud, “the blue of a clear or unclouded sky.”

Then …

Cerulean … a deep sky blue.

“Sibylline …” She looked up. “Not so much mysterious as—”

“Having a secret meaning,” Vincent finished, gazing, she perceived, into the past of days not necessarily described as Halcyon.

She went on. “Stardust … the magical quality of romance.

“Mediterranean …” She sought his gaze again. “There’s no definition here. Is it … just a lovely word?”

It was more than that, she knew.

“Yes … a beautiful word,” Vincent told her, “for a beautiful place I longed to visit … and knew I never would.”

She saw now …

Apricity … the warmth of the sun in winter

Psithurism … the wind-whispers of leaves in the trees

Sareureuk … the sound and motion of snowflakes slowly melting in the morning sun

Abendrot … the color of the sky while the sun is setting

Serein … fine rain falling from a sky in which no clouds are visible

Moonglade … the track of moonlight on water

Seatherny … the serenity you feel when listening to birds chirp

Gloaming … the romantic time of day when the light has not quite faded

Limerence … the state of being in love

Commuovere … To stir, to touch, to move another’s soul

Anam Cara … the One with whom you share your inner-most self, your mind, your heart, your dreams

Retrouvaille … the joy of reuniting

Sempiternal … enduring, lasting forever

Sophrosyne … a deep awareness of your true self, resulting in true happiness

Nepenthe … something to make you forget sorrow

Desiderata … things wanted or needed

An emptiness of a few lines followed.

And then … a final entry, its tone divergent

Tacenda … things better left unsaid.

                       

And its postscript, the lettering grim and tight …

All of it, everything, always, never

 

If there were a word for the desperate search for the right thing to say, she only wished she could call it forth. Her heart ached with the fire of love. How alone he must have felt, how impossible. And to stow such a list – itself a desideratum – in the back of a book magical transformations, of braveries, and happy – if nuanced – endings.

“I experienced some … dark times, Catherine.”

There were no words. Their bond thrummed.

With a gentle touch, she turned his downcast face toward hers, brought him through the delicate distance between them …

“You believed you’d never experience any of these things,” she whispered at the corner of his parted lips. “But some you can cross off now.”

She let the list flutter to the floor needing both hands free to free the laces of his vest.

Limerance,” she murmured. “Commuovere. Anam Cara.”

Retrouvaille,” he rumbled, his fingers deftly working the pearl buttons of her blouse.

Retrouvaille …” against her bared, cupped breasts …

Retrouvaille …” against the concavity of her hipbones, against the warmth of her thigh high above her knee …

“Sempiternal,” she managed … afterward.

 

Albeit belatedly, Vincent rose from the tangle of bedclothes to drop the tapestry across the chamber’s entry. His stride over and back was long and sure; his posture … proud, she thought.

And deservedly so.

“What’s the word for thoroughly love-struck?” she managed.

“I’m not sure,” he answered. He perched on the edge of the bed and inched the covers she’d pulled up down … down. “Whatever it might be, I am its definition.”

“We’re lucky, aren’t we, that the council meeting went on so long William had to send a message on the pipes to the kitchen for sandwich makings, that no one came looking for you.”

Rebuttoned, presentable, the both of them, he held out his hand. “I’ll walk you back.”

Drat early court.

She bent to retrieve her shoe, and, spying it, plucked the list from the floor. “Would you mind, Vincent? Could I keep this for a while?”

“Of course.”

He hadn’t asked her why. And if he had, she wasn’t sure what she’d have said.

* * *

Friday at last. Three days of court filings, depositions, delays. And in between the drafting of briefs and opening statements, she wrote out – and practiced – her Argument.

This’ll be tricky, she’d admitted to herself, but she’d pulled it off – a meeting with Father set up without the assistance of the pipes or tunnel runner or Vincent knowing beforehand. Thank goodness for Lin … who agreed without hesitation to include within the package of herbs her grandfather had ready for delivery a message requesting Father’s presence. Lin hadn’t questioned the wording either, at least not out loud – wording that might imply the message came from Doctor Wong: Come through the Beaded Curtain, Friday at 6:00.

Lin promised a pot of Longjing tea and a plate of Nai Wong Bao, Father’s favorites.

She hurried through Columbus Park, down Mulberry Street to Mosco, to Mott Street to Pell, checking her watch more than once on the way. Father was never late and often early. She needed a few minutes to catch her breath before …

Before what she hoped would not be a confrontation.

 

“Catherine?” Father stood in the entryway, leaning on his cane, the curtain parted and held open with his raised arm. “I assumed …” His gaze took in the empty – except for her – alcove, the Yixing purple clay teapot, the two blue and white porcelain handleless tea cups on the table, the tray of steamed custard buns with tiny red dots at their centers. She could see recognition in his expression: he’d been called there for a reason. A reason he chose not to question. “Is something wrong?”

“No,” she answered. “But there is something I’d like to make right. Righter. As right as I can, anyway.”

“I take it this is something I should hear sitting down?” He drew a chair away from the table, waited as she settled into it, then took his own. “I’ll pour,” he said.

“I want you to see this,” Catherine began, passing the word list over, relating, as Father read it through, its finding, her conversation with Vincent regarding it …

Well, most of their conversation. Tacenda, indeed.

Father’s eyes glistened; his chin quivered. “My sweet boy. I knew … I never knew …”

Catherine reached across the table to grasp Father’s trembling hand.

“You’ve changed his life, Catherine. Stardust. Limerence. He knows these things. You are … a gift.”

“I love him.” More words were unnecessary.

“Tell me … why am I here?”

“I … I want to …”

Don’t wobble, she admonished herself.

She began again, the words tumbling out. “When I was a girl, we spent our summers at a lake in Connecticut. I had a secret place – a glen. I would hide there in the tall grass, and I felt as if I were the only person on Earth. Safe. And if I sat very still, the deer would walk by and not even see me. I could almost reach out and touch them. It seemed … enchanted. So far away from the city, like a different world. It’s only two hours away … and no one’s even at the lake this time of year.”

She paused, expecting Father’s resistance, a shake of his head, but … no … he was nodding. A somber nod, to be sure, but nevertheless … a yes.

“I can’t take him to the Mediterranean, but with any luck he’ll come home knowing an azure sky, know apricity and psithurism, moonglade and seatherny …”

“Walk above in the gloaming, take in the abendrot of the western sky at sunset. Perhaps it might even snow – lightly, I hope – such that he’d experience the flakes melting in the morning sun.”

“If not sareureuk, then possibly serien – I’ve seen rainfall from a clear sky there. It’s magical.”

“These words and so many more, so very many more, I wanted him to know. I’d stopped dreaming for him … and I shouldn’t have.”

After a long, silent moment, Father surprised her.

“What is your plan, Catherine? Your plan to take him … to your lake house.”

And with that, the Argument she’d crafted – paragraphs simmered to a single line: I’m not asking for permission – faded away.

“I’ll tell you everything on our walk home,” she promised.

* * *

She’d called her lake house caretaker, asked him to open the family cottage, to stock the wood box and the kitchen. William, though, packed more than enough food for the few days they’d be away.

She’d rented the houses on either side of hers for privacy and for what Mouse deemed ‘backup’. Devin and Brigit would take one, happily so, and although she’d offered the other, which slept eight, for anyone who’d like a vacation above, Father suggested she ask Kanin and Olivia to go along. “They could use some time away together,” he’d said.

Three paneled vans parked near the Amsterdam Avenue entrance, three keys waiting for them in the lock box on her cottage porch. Three days off mid-week, much to Joe’s envious agreement.

Vincent’s list in the outer pocket of her overnight bag.

And her Anam Cara by her side.

* * *

“Halcyon,” he’d whisper in the gloaming of their last day at the lake and she’d feel it too – peaceful and perfect. “All of it, Catherine, everything, always … forever.”

 

___________________

Story title: Eventyr – Norwegian for “fairy tale”

This story first appeared in the San Diego 2023 conzine.

 

16 Comments

  1. Such wonderful crafting… as always continuing to switch dream into reality for him, never doubting… couldn’t love this more!

    Reply
    • Ahh, thank you, Vicky. You’ve always been so supportive and kind. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one!

      Reply
  2. Carole, you showed us perfectly how Vincent’s dream comes true. At the beginning, you beautifully introduced us to the closeness between our favorite couple… I was moved by Vincent’s list of beautiful words and I liked the way Catherine immediately began to fulfill some of his wishes(in few words the depth of emotions) I can already feel his joy. Catherine is determined to make Vincent see more. Father touched me with his acceptance…Now they can see, sense, savor together…I love such graceful stories! Thank you!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Paula! This was a vague story idea I’d filed away where it waited, gathering hopeful dust until this conzine challenge was issued and it coalesced in my mind finally. I’m so glad you liked it. You found in it what I hoped you would. Your encouragement means everything!

      Reply
  3. I love this story of taking heartbreak and turning it over into fulfillment. Your characters are always spot on. I never thought of Vincent as, “the doer”, not the numbers guys, but he would be that. 😉
    And as one of those starry-eyed, fairytale readers, I appreciate your gentle and exquisite depiction of us.

    Thank you for this. ❤️

    Reply
    • Thank you for liking this story, Karen! I’m glad you found the characters in-character even though we never saw any of this happen. 🙂

      And yes, fairytales are the best – doorways into fantastic places. I know we’ve been through to those lands together through the ages!

      Reply
  4. The place, the right place to dare to begin praising this tender, beautiful dream-coming-true story – I don’t know that place, Carole. It’s so far beyond me. I’m breathless where I am and I’ll never be able to meet you where you’ve gone to create this piece. Thank you for showing me the … exquisite love of our Vincent and Catherine. Love you, dear Heart.

    Reply
    • Oh, Nancy – you bring tears to my eyes with your kindness. You’ve kept me going at this writing thing for years and I have no big-enough words of gratitude. That you enjoyed this one means so much and I wouldn’t still be here doing this without you. Always …

      C

      Reply
  5. Oh, Carole, what a LOVELY way to take the desperate disappointment of Remember Love and turn it into something joyful.

    Who knows? On some future visit, perhaps they’ll take Eimear and Flynn with them. Maybe even Rosie and … Joe? Or even my Stan and Luz?

    One can dream …

    HUGS,

    Karen/Lindariel

    Reply
    • Lindariel – a house party! Now there’s a story that needs telling! I’m putting that idea on the burner right now!

      Thank you, again, always, for your kind and encouraging words. Hugs!

      Reply
  6. I loved how this was both steamy and meaningful, a thoughtful and creative dive into Vincent’s mindset before finding Catherine. So many wonderful details stood out, from sitting at the end of an aisle to sneak out of the counsel meeting early to the way Catherine arranged the conversation with Father outside the tunnels. And the fact that she was telling him rather than asking was such an important distinction, although I felt as though he had come to agree with the need for Vincent to have such an experience. The way Catherine arranged it was also clever, having others nearby in case of emergency or disaster whilst simultaneously giving Vincent more space away from outside eyes. I also loved that she approached the task like preparing for court.

    Your writing style is especially evocative, making it easy to flow from one paragraph to the next.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Tasha! Thank you for reading and thank you for taking the time to leave this message. You found what I hoped you would in the story and your noticing of the details makes me want to keep working (harder if not faster!).

      And I’m so pleased by your comment on the technique of writing. It’s what I hope and strive for and I’m really grateful you told me this.

      Reply
  7. Ah this was perfectly Vincent, and also caring Catherine. I lose myself in these stories, almost believe they are true. Absolutely wonderful

    Reply
    • Thank you, Karen! I’m so glad you liked this story. I, too, get lost in daydreams of this world, of these wonderful people – folks we have all loved into reality!

      My best,
      Carole W

      Reply
  8. I absolutely loved this. Well written, and charming. Beautiful

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Ingrid! I’m so glad you liked it!

      Reply

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