The Jacob Chronicles

 

INEVITABLE

by Vincent Peters

The insistent chirping of the cell phone was a welcome distraction from the mountain of crumpled papers forming the graveyard of concepts that covered the desk before her. Sarah smiled when she saw a familiar phone number appear on the screen of her Blackberry, affording her a welcome reprieve.

“Hi, Gran! – Oh, heck no, you’re not interrupting me at all. I could use a breather actually so your timing is perfect. — I was just working a new proposal for the Children’s Reading Program at the Library down town. — Tonight? Just having movie night and snuggle time with Jacob.” If it were possible to hear the blood run from a person’s face over the phone, then her grandmother would have heard a roar to rival waves crashing on the shore in advance of a storm. “I — can’t wait to tell him. I hate to chat and run but duty calls. Love you, Gran.” Sarah set the phone down and slumped back in her chair with her face buried in her hands.

“Knock knock! Am I to assume that you are going to be in need of a serious Teddy hug this evening?”

She looked up to see the very welcome sight of Jacob sitting on the edge of her desk, his friendly, if slightly concerned face, beaming down at her. “I think I’m going to need that and something a lot stronger beforehand, Jacob.”

His ears perked at her statement. “Uh oh, you called me by my name, this can’t be good.”

“I just got a phone call from my grandmother.”

“Your grandmother? Is she all right?”

“Yes. She’s fine.”

Jacob tilted his head in confusion. ”If she is all right, may I ask why I felt an extreme sense of foreboding from you just now?”

“She’s been visiting with an old friend of hers over in Newark. It occurred to her that since she’s so close to Manhattan she could swing by for a visit on her way home.”

“I would imagine that a visit from your grandmother would be a good thing.”

“It is, and it would be, if it weren’t for one thing.”

“What is that?”

“Before she told me she was planning to come visit, she asked me what I was doing tonight and I told her about movie night.”

“I see. Well it isn’t as if the date for our movie nights is carved in stone. We can always postpone it for another…”

“She wanted me to tell you that she looks forward to meeting you tonight.” Sarah looked up to see that he had turned almost as pale as she had.

* * *

Vincent set his tea cup down and placed his hand on Jacob’s when he felt a wave of foreboding flow over his son. His mother, taking note of her husband’s reaction, had, likewise given her son her full attention. When Jacob opened his eyes, he slumped down in his chair, staring off into the distance.

“Jacob? Has something happened to Sarah?”

Jacob snapped out of his state and answered his father. “Sarah is fine dad, but we have a problem. She’s on her way down now to discuss it.”

“What’s wrong, kiddo?”

Jacob gave a resigned sigh before he filled his parents in on the impending problem that he and Sarah now faced. “Sarah’s grandmother is over in Newark and will be swinging by this evening to pay a visit to Sarah.”

Vincent and Catherine exchanged a look of confusion. This didn’t seem to be worthy of what Vincent had felt in his son. “Why does a visit from her grandmother have you both in such a state?”

“In the course of talking with her grandmother on the phone, Sarah mentioned that we would be meeting up this evening and now she wants to meet — me.”

* * *

Sarah descended the ladder to find a slightly winded Jacob resting against the brick wall at the far end of the crawlspace.

“Did you just run all the way up here, Teddy?”

“I had one heck of an Adrenaline spike to get rid of so I figured that would be the best way to go about it. You know, kill two birds with one stone. Burn through the Adrenaline and maybe outrun this predicament in the process.”

She walked over to him and brushed a few stray hairs from his face, lovingly tucking them back behind his ears. “And how did that work out for you?”

“In the end, I figure I landed squarely at one for two.”

“Not bad, considering the situation I’d say.”

Jacob took Sarah by the hand and they began their walk down below.

“I honestly don’t know why I was so surprised to hear she wants to meet you, Teddy. I know she’s quietly been dying of curiosity for some time now. You never call. You only send letters. I visit you, not the other way around. She knows our relationship has made me incredibly happy but , at the same time, a lot of what we think of as normal for us, isn’t exactly the way it goes up top.”

“It isn’t easy being an enigma, but I believe I pull it off rather well, don’t you think? Besides, I’ve visited with you back home all the time. She just couldn’t see me.”

His comment ushered forth a much needed laugh between them. “It was a good long run, Teddy, but it couldn’t go on forever. In the back of my mind I always knew this moment was inevitable. I just wish it had come at the right time and not out of the blue like this.”

“Given what I am, I don’t think there would ever have been a right time. For now, I take some solace in the fact that when you learned that all this wasn’t a costume, you took it in stride. To borrow from the theater, perhaps there may still be an encore performance of that moment waiting in the wings.”

“I hope so, Teddy. I really do.”

* * *

When the two arrived below, they made their way to Vincent and Catherine’s chamber. When they entered, they found not only Vincent waiting for them, but Father as well. The two were seated around the table in the middle of the chamber with three seats left unoccupied.

Vincent stood and walked over to greet her. “It’s always a pleasure to have you here with us, Sarah. Even if the reason may not exactly be ideal this visit”.

Sarah gave him her trademark hug. “Hi, dad!”

 Father attempted to get to his feet as well, but was obviously having a bit of difficulty doing so. “I agree wholeheartedly . Welcome, my dear.”

“Please don’t get up on my account, Papa. My signature hug works just as well when the recipient is seated.” Sarah walked over to his chair and leaned down to hug him around his shoulder, her head resting atop his.

“Catherine will be joining us momentarily.”  Vincent pulled two chairs back from the table for Jacob and Sarah. “Please, make yourselves comfortable.”

As if on cue, Catherine returned pushing a small dolly upon which rested a rather large tea pot, the steam rising from its spout filling the chamber with the smell of Chamomile. “Hi, Sarah. I thought some Chamomile might help sooth our collective nerves while we try to figure this all out.”

“I’m all for that.”

“As am I. Thanks, mom.” 

Once the tea had been poured, Vincent began the discussion. “Have you two been able to make any plans for this impending meeting?”

Jacob looked at Sarah and took her hand. “We have the beginnings of one. It’s not much but it seems sound.”

“And what have you come up with so far?”, Father asked.

“Sarah will meet her grandmother at the apartment. I will be waiting in the park at the South Portal. The introduction will take place there.”

“In the open?”

“No, Papa. For safety sake, I plan to meet her just inside at the tunnel junction by the false wall. We both agree that the junction is as far as she comes into the tunnels. The less she sees of our world the better, at least to start off with.”

“Have you given any thought to what you are going to say?”, Catherine asked.

Jacob thought about it for a moment, but in the absence of anything that might be appropriate he dejectedly answered, “Not really. I’m afraid that if I try to have something made in advance, nervousness will get the better of me and it will just end up sounding overly rehearsed or even worse, incredibly insincere.”

“Speaking from the heart  in instances such as this is often far superior to speaking from the mind. This may have taken you by surprise, but you seem to have taken the best path so far.” Vincent said, giving his son and Sarah a very noticeable look of pride.

“I don’t want this to sound mistrustful, but, what does she know about Jacob and the rest of us?”, Father asked, trying desperately to not sound the way he had years ago when speaking with his daughter-in-law.

“I told her the truth but in such a way as to not risk his safety or the safety of your world. She knows that Jacob is physically different without going into any real detail; that he lives apart from most everyone because of his differences and that his family and the community he lives in is very supportive and protective of him”.  Sarah could tell by the expression on Father’s face that he was rightfully concerned and she took it upon herself to speak from her heart as Vincent had suggested. “Papa, since I’ve come to know all of you, seen the world that you’ve built for yourselves down here, to say that this place is something worth protecting would be beyond just an understatement. I’ll do whatever it takes to help protect Jacob, Vincent and all of this, even if it means being less than honest with my grandmother.”

Fathers entire demeanor seemed to reflect a sudden sense of relief as she spoke. He smiled and took her by the hand. “Thank you, my dear. For everything you’ve done and continue to do for us. I am quite grateful.”

The moment was broken by the sounding of the timing pipe which Sarah had long since learned to understand. Time was running short and they all knew it. Jacob and Sarah looked at one another before he addressed his parents. “Before we have to go up, there’s something we’d like to ask of both of you.”

“Of course, anything”, Vincent said without a moments hesitation.

Catherine added her unconditional support to the request. “Absolutely!”

Sarah felt a sudden surge of hope for the evening when her adopted family made it abundantly clear that they were behind them one hundred percent.” If all of this goes the way I’m seriously praying it does, I’d like Gran to meet you too. She knows I’ve sort of been adopted by you guys and I thought,” she paused to try to think of the expression Jacob used from time to time,” What’s that expression you use for moments like this, Teddy?”

“In for a Penny, in for a Pound?”

“That’s the one! Thanks.”

“Any time.”

She returned her attention to Vincent and Catherine.” So, what do you think?”

Catherine spoke first. “I think it’s safe to say that we would be happy to meet her.”

“Yes. I agree with Catherine completely.”

“ I hope you don’t feel excluded, Papa”, she said turning her attention to Father. “I’d like her to meet everyone but I know that isn’t an easy trip for you to make.”

“I don’t feel slighted in the least, my dear and you would be correct. It has been some time since I have ventured beyond the gates of our world.” Father smiled warmly at her before he took her hand. “When , or if, the time comes that you feel she is ready, I will be more than happy to welcome her to our world.”

“Thank you, Papa”, they both said. Jacob and Sarah smiled at one another and together said, “Jinx!”

The fact that they could share a lighthearted moment warmed the hearts of all who observed it.

* * *

Jacob stepped out of his chamber with a look of satisfaction gracing his youthful face. “Showered, clothes changed, fangs polished and all in a fraction of the time it usually takes me to do so. I would bring this to the attention of  the Guinness Book of World Records , but given my unique physicality they would, more likely than not, take one look at me and direct me to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.”

“One way or the other, I would be getting an autographed copy, Teddy.”

“Ready to head up?”

“Do we have any real choice?”

He sighed and shook his head. “Not really, no.”

Sarah took Jacob by the arm and they made their way back to the surface. Along the way they spoke of whatever topics came to mind, intentionally excluding the reason for their journey.

When they reached the surface, Sarah opted to not make her way to the crawlspace. Instead she accompanied Jacob to the South Portal. He was openly glad for the company, but as with all good things, they eventually come to an end. “For now, this is where we must part company.”

“I know the other way is faster, but I thought a little walk through the park on the way back home might help with my nerves”, she said, looking toward the opening of the tunnel and the park beyond.

“I have something that might help, Sarah”, Jacob said taking her hands in his.

“I’m all ears, Teddy.”

Jacob held her close and spoke in a deep, hoarse whisper meant only for her. “If you should feel that your nerves are going to get the better of you tonight, remember how much I love you and let those memories vanquish your fears.”

Sarah never failed to be moved by his sincerity. “You too, big guy.”

* * *

The door opened wide and Elmira Hancock found herself enveloped in a hug. “Hi Gran! How was the drive in?”

“Not nearly as eventful as it can be and for that I am beyond thankful” She entered the apartment, giving the living room a cursory look over. Sarah could tell that she was more than happy about her granddaughter’s new accommodations. “I love your new place. Now, let me look at you.” Her grandmother studied her for a few seconds.  “Mmmmmmhum, just what I thought.”

Sarah wasn’t entirely sure what to make of her grandmother’s statement, but tried her best to put Jacob’s advice into practice. “Just what you thought?”

“You have a glow about you that I haven’t seen in ages and I am pretty sure a certain young man has something to do with it.”

Inwardly, she heaved an enormous sigh of relief. “I didn’t think it was that obvious, but , yeah, Jacob has more than made a huge difference in my life especially now that we can be together.”

“I know the two of you have plans this evening and I don’t want to take away from your time together, but I’m sure you understand that, after seeing this incredible change in you, I am more than a little eager to meet the young man that has made all that possible.” She looked about the apartment again. “Is he here?”

Here we go, she thought. “Jacob isn’t here but he is nearby and waiting to meet us.”

“He’s not coming here?”

“Remember how I said he’s a little shy because of how he looks? He’s waiting to meet up with us somewhere that, for him, is a little more at home.”

“That poor young man. I wish our world wasn’t so judgmental of those with physical differences, but I do understand and I am more than happy to do whatever will help him feel more at ease.”

“Thank you for being so understanding, Gran. I hope you’re ready for a little stroll.”

“After driving into Manhattan, walking is a very welcome reprieve, dear.”

Sarah gathered her courage, along with her jacket and keys and began their trek to the South Portal.

* * *

As they walked along, Elmira brought her granddaughter up to date on the goings on back in Vermont. They passed the Carousel which played its final tune of the evening and headed south into the Heckscher Playground beyond. Eventually, their walk took them off the beaten path and down a gentle slope to the mouth of a storm drain, illuminated by a single lamp which had recently come to life as the sun began set.

When Sarah stopped at the mouth of the tunnel, her grandmother looked at the dimly lit opening with a hint of reservation. “What on earth are we doing here?”

Sarah swallowed nervously. “Jacob is waiting for us — in there, Gran.”

“In a sewer.”

“Technically, it’s a storm drain. Jacob’s way too fastidious about his hygiene to ever set foot in a sewer.”

Elmira stood dumbfounded at her granddaughter’s reply. “You’re serious aren’t you. He’s waiting in there?”

“I’m afraid so, Gran, but you’ll understand when you meet him.” Sarah instantly regretted her choice of words. The moment she said them, she felt that she had betrayed him and acted like any other toplander; that was until she heard his comforting voice through the Bond. “It’s all right, Sarah. You’re right. She has to see me for all this to make any sense to her.”

Elmira knew her granddaughter well and saw that she was being completely serious. “All right then, if this is where Jacob feels safe, then I will put aside my misgivings about venturing into a dark sew — storm tunnel and abide by his wishes.”

Sarah took her grandmother by the hand and the two entered the portal. As the familiar world she knew receded behind her, Elmira couldn’t help but notice that Sarah seemed to be very familiar with the tunnel she found herself in. She watched in astonishment as Sarah navigated low spots, standing water and numerous trip hazards with ease which gave her cause to wonder just how many times her granddaughter had been in here. Eventually they reached a junction in the tunnel which was far better illuminated than anything she had encountered since they entered the storm drain. To her right was a very old, rusted iron gate, beyond which was a sealed off dead end. Ahead of them was darkness and to the left the tunnel continued on around a bend and out of sight, lit only by the dim glow of work lights much farther down its length.

“Wait here, Gran. I’ll be right back.”

From her vantage point in the junction, Elmira watched her granddaughter walk only a short way down the dimly lit passage. She paused at another junction and reached out her hand. From the shadows, a gloved hand reached out to take hers, followed by a  tall, cloaked figure lit only by the lights behind him. As the two walked side by side back to where she stood, Elmira couldn’t help but think that Sarah was understating just how tall he actually was.

Jacob stopped short, remaining in the safety afforded him by the shadows, his face well hidden by the folds of his hood.  “Jacob, allow me to introduce my Grandmother, Elmira Hancock.”

“Good evening, Mrs. Hancock. Sarah has told me so much about you. It’s indeed a pleasure to meet you,” Jacob said, trying to sound anything but frightened.

“How do you do, Jacob. It’s a pleasure to meet you as well.”

“I would like to apologize for the location of our introduction ma’am, but I am fairly certain that Sarah has told you there is a reason for it.”

“She has,” she said, stepping closer to where Jacob stood, noting that the moment she did, he retreated slightly. Elmira stopped instantly when she realized he had shied away from her advance.” Sarah has told me that you are rather shy about your appearance. I am very sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable. I will let you decide when the time is right to come forward”, she said in a soft, reassuring voice.

“It is quite all right, Mrs. Hancock.  I’m afraid that when it comes to how I am received by those who do not know me that old habits die hard.” With that, Jacob took a few tentative steps into the more illuminated portion of the junction.

Sarah took Jacob by the hand and began the next stage of the introduction. “Gran — there’s so much I’ve wanted to tell you, but I couldn’t. I know I’ve been holding things back from you and I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am that you respected my privacy.  I’ve had a very good reason for being so secretive when it comes to Jacob. It’s never been about not trusting you or anything like that. It’s always been about protecting Jacob, his family and everything he holds dear.”

“I understand, dear, I really do. People can be so cruel about trivial things like appearance. It shouldn’t be that way but it is.” She looked up into the darkness of the hood in the hopes that she was making eye contact with him. “Jacob, my boy,  please don’t ever be ashamed of the way you look. I may be old school New England in some of my ways, but when it comes to judging a book solely by its cover I have never lived by that axiom and I don’t intend to.”

Jacob looked over at Sarah who gave his hand one, final, loving squeeze before she released it. “This is always a difficult moment for me, Mrs. Hancock, and equally difficult for my father as well.  Please don’t be frightened, and  know that in spite of my appearance I would no sooner harm you than I would your granddaughter.”

Elmira smiled warmly up at the hooded figure before her. She took a long breath to brace herself for whatever he felt he needed to keep hidden from sight before she spoke. “I’m ready and I will do my very best. I promise.”

Jacob removed his gauntlets one at a time and tucked them into his belt. With his hands now fully visible, he brought them up to the edges of his hood, pausing for a moment to screw his courage to the sticking place. When he paused, he heard Sarah’s voice in his mind “I love you , Teddy”  and with that,  he drew the hood back and let it rest, draped across his shoulders. He had been standing with his head down to keep his face concealed, but when the hood fell, he stood to his full height. It was done. All he could do now was stand there in the hopes that his worst imaginings would remain just that; the works of a worried mind and nothing more.

Elmira stood there for a moment in silence as she gazed up at his face. Her reaction was one that he had not seen before. The usual confusion was present, but it did not give way to the fear that inevitability followed it. After a moment she took a step closer and asked,” This is the costume you wore to that festival isn’t it?”

“When Sarah and I first began writing , I  told her simply that I was physically different from other people. Please believe me when I say, that I took no joy in misleading her, but there were no other options afforded me to explain that I am not like other people.” Jacob gestured to himself from head to toe. “I have looked this way since the day I was born.”

She listened to his every word. As he spoke, she studied his face with great interest. She wasn’t sure what to make of his explanation. In the past, she had fallen victim to her granddaughter’s mischievous tricks and was beginning to wonder if she was being set up for yet another. All that changed with the simple turn of Jacob’s head as he spoke. When the light from a nearby fixture struck his face, she saw his pupils react to it. Having shared Sarah’s interest in theater, she knew full well that no contact lens ever made, no matter how convincing it may look, could do that.

Sarah studied her grandmother’s expression carefully as a look of sudden realization overtook her. “You okay there, Gran?”

Elmira took another encouraging step towards the, now, silent and motionless Jacob. “May I?”, she asked, tentatively raising her hand towards his face.

“Of course you may.” Jacob bent down a little to bring his face closer to her hand.

Elmira cupped his face with her hand and immediately felt the warmth of his skin. She gently ran her thumb across he cheek and felt the pronounced bone structure beneath it, the blood rushing back into the flesh in the wake of her thumb. She also took note of the fact that as she studied Jacob’s face, she could see his ears moving ever so slightly as they tracked her hand.

It seemed to both Sarah and Jacob that this moment had been an eternity, but it had lasted only a minute if that. She lowered her hand but did not retreat from where she stood. “Sarah, dear”, she asked without ever taking her eyes off Jacob, “may I have a moment alone with Jacob, please?”

“Uh, sure. I’ll uh — I’ll…”. It was then that she heard him through the Bond.  Mom and Dad are down the tunnel behind you, second junction on the right. “I’ll just go over here. Come and get me when you’re ready.” With that she turned and walked down the tunnel, disappearing into the shadows at the second junction.

Jacob stood alone with her Grandmother and waited for whatever was about to come, for better or worse.

* * *

Sarah rounded the corner of the junction and there, seated on a stack of timbers, was Vincent and Catherine. They rose to greet her, each looking concerned.

“How’s the introduction going?”, Catherine asked.

Sarah looked back over her shoulder for a moment before she returned her attention to his parents. “I’m almost afraid to say this but, I — think it’s at least not going wrong?”

“That assessment sounds promising, if not still tinged with doubt. Do you think she will accept him?”

“For what it’s worth, she didn’t do the thing when she realized that he wasn’t wearing a costume.”

Vincent tilted his head slightly. ‘The — thing?”

“Oh, uh, sorry, dad. It’s very hard to explain if you’ve never seen her do it, but she has this posture she adopts when she is not happy with something or someone and when I left them, she hadn’t adopted it soooooo — so far so good I guess.”

Vincent placed his hand on her shoulder. Then until we hear otherwise let us all take that as a good sign.” He gestured to the timbers. “Please, come join us and we will all hope for the best together.”

* * *

Jacob and Elmira stood in the silence of the junction, neither certain where to go from here. For his part, Jacob was intentionally not reading her emotions out of respect for her privacy, but especially to keep his nervous state from being fueled any further by potentially negative feelings he might sense from her.  Across from him, Elmira was allowing herself time to process this revelation.

Jacob’s face, up to that point, had been rather expressionless as he fought to keep anything from showing that might have a negative impact on their meeting. He knew there was little he could do about how his facial features looked to those who did not know him but, there were ways he knew of to soften his predatory look.

 Like any good chess game he had ever played, he knew there always had to be a first move and so he made his. He lowered his head slightly, turning it a little to the side, a smile gracing his once blank face. “I’m fairly certain you have a multitude of questions or possibility concerns, Mrs. Hancock, and I can think of no better way to both address them and introduce myself in the process, than to say that you may ask of me anything you like.”

“If I were to ask every single question on my mind at this moment, I’m afraid we would be here all night, young man.  That being said, I am especially curious about one very specific thing to do with our meeting this evening.”

“What is that, Ma’am?”

“Why meet here of all places?”

Jacob let out a small chuckle of relief before he answered. “We are meeting here because this is where I live. Well, not here exactly, but in tunnels quite removed from these. The apartment to which my mail was delivered and which Sarah now calls home belongs to my mother and, as it so happens, some of these shallower service tunnels run directly under Sarah’s building allowing me to visit her unseen.”

“That explains it.”

“Explains what, Ma’am?”

“Sarah mentioned you making a housewarming visit shortly after she moved in and referring to yourself as being her extremely downstairs neighbor.”

“That would be why, yes. My family and I live over seven hundred feet below all of this.”

Elmira looked at Jacob. Her granddaughter’s entire relationship passed across her mind’s eye – the day his first letter arrived, his steadfast compassion for the loss of her parents and his efforts to help her through the reminders of that loss, the books he had shared with her from his collection, the way she was positively aglow after every face to face meeting with him. It all made sense to her now. She was right.

Elmira took Jacob by both hands, which dwarfed her own, and looked at them for a moment before returning her gaze to his face. “I always knew, deep down, that when the time was right, my granddaughter would find someone truly special to share her life with. It would seem that I have, at long last, been proven right in my belief.”

“I would surmise that you never imagined the word special would look like me, did you”, Jacob said, his humor beginning to show through his worries.

“No, I most certainly did not, but, as Sarah once told me after she had met you in person, that she knew the book long before she ever saw the cover. It didn’t matter to her and it doesn’t matter to me. I could tell just by what little I did know about you, that you are, in your heart, far more loyal, loving and compassionate than any human boy that has ever cross her path.”

Jacob smiled at the complement and chuckled at her appraisal of Sarah past suitors. “In all honesty, Mrs. Hancock, I am more human than I appear to be, but that part of me which isn’t is far more dominant.”

“That part of you only adds to how remarkable and special you are in my book, young man.”

“Thank you.”

“You are welcome but, it is I who should be thanking you. In fact that was the very reason I chose to come here when I heard you were going to be visiting Sarah this evening. I wanted to meet and thank the young man who had done everything he could, even as far away as you were, to be there for her; to help her begin a new page in her life, loved and freed from the pain of her younger years”. With a hint of a tear in her eye she continued, “I will forever be in your debt for that and gladly so.”

“The honor has been all mine, Mrs. Hancock and I , too, shall forever be indebted to you.”

She chuckled a little before asking,” How on earth could you be indebted to an old bitty like me?”

“Along with her late parents, you helped to teach Sarah to look beyond the superficial; to see the person inside. It was through all you taught her, that she was able to see me — truly see me — for all that I am and not be the least bit frightened by it. That gift, among the many gifts of her spirit that she brings into my life and the lives of all those in my community who have crossed paths with her, is one of the many reasons I fell in love with her and will love her until my last breath escapes me.”

 Elmira smiled and gave his hands as firm a squeeze as she could muster. “Sarah tells me that you can’t fib to save your life and that makes what you just told me music to my ears, young man. Your secret is safe with me, and even though you and Sarah don’t need it, you two have my blessing. There aren’t that many Hancocks left in my branch of the family tree but on their behalf, I gladly welcome you to our little clan.”

“Thank you, ma’am. On the subject of family, my parents are nearby and I would like to introduce them if I may.”

“The more the merrier, son.”

“Please excuse me for a moment. It won’t take long to get them.” Jacob walked briskly down the tunnel and shortly thereafter, returned with Sarah and Catherine. “Mrs. Hancock, allow me to introduce my mother, Catherine Wells.”

Elmira looked from Jacob to Catherine with a bit of a confused expression. “How do you do , Mrs. Wells.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you. I get the feeling that after meeting my son I’m not quite what you were expecting am I?”

“In all honesty, I am a bit surprised.”

Jacob smiled at his mother and, leaning down , gave her a gentle headbutt. “This is what I meant when I said I was more Human than I appear to be.”

Catherine headbutt Jacobs shoulder in return. “He gets a lot from me, that’s for sure, but when it comes to good looks, he is most definitely his father’s son.”

“I second that”, Sarah added.

“One need look no further than his proclivity for unmanageable hair in the morning to know he is, most assuredly, my son,” Vincent said as he stepped out from the shadows behind Jacob and Catherine.

Jacob smiled at his father’s remark. He couldn’t remember a time when his father had been so open and casual with a complete stranger.” Mrs. Hancock, this fine gentleman is my father, Vincent Wells.”

“How do you do, Mr. Wells. I thought I detected a slight family resemblance in the two of you.” They all enjoyed a good laugh when she showed her complete acceptance of the entire situation.

Vincent jokingly replied. “Only slight, but there nevertheless.”

“I was just telling your son that I am indebted to him for all that he has done to help my granddaughter. I would also wish to add how equally indebted I am to the both of you for having raised such a well-rounded and remarkable young man.”

“Thank you”, Vincent said, with no lack of pride in his voice.

“Yes, thank you,” Catherine added, looking over at her son with an equal sense of pride.

Sarah and Jacob stood there taking the whole scene in as thoughts and celebratory feelings darted back and forth between them through their bond. Sarah broke from their private, internal conversation to address the group,” Well, I would say that this meeting is cause for a little celebration.”

“What did you have in mind, Sarah?” Vincent asked.

“To keep myself occupied while waiting for Gran to arrive, I ordered a rather nice, dare I say decadent, cheesecake from a certain bakery Catherine was kind enough to get me addicted to.  I thought we could all go back over to the apartment and treat ourselves.”

A grin formed on Catherine’s face. “Did you get it with the…”

mmmmmmhum. We both might need to do some serious cardio later on.”

Her grandmother looked first at Jacob then Vincent before asking, “That sounds delightful, dear, but how do you plan to get some of your guests inside?”

“Not to worry, Mrs. Hancock,” Jacob said.” Dad and I have going to and from the apartment down to a fine art.”

“Practice does make perfect,” Vincent said, placing his hand on Jacobs shoulder.

* * *

When the trio arrived at 21E, it was the first time Catherine had been to her old apartment since Sarah had moved in. When she entered she was smiling from ear to ear. “I love what you’ve done with the place, Sarah.”

“I agree with Mrs. Wells, dear; it is lovely!”

“Thanks! I learned a lot of this from you Gran.”

“Decorating was my mom’s thing. I’m afraid I never inherited her gifts as a cook or as a decorator. My style was functional at best,” Catherine joked of herself.

“Make yourselves at home, everyone,” Sarah said as she began to light multiple candles around the living and dining room.

“I never knew you to be so fond of candles, dear.”

“I do this for Jacob, Gran. His eyes aren’t used to bright lights and it’s a way of bringing our worlds together. On top of that it is incredibly romantic.”

“You’re absolutely right. I used to do the same thing for Vincent. There was more than one summer evening we talked the night away out  on the balcony, bathed in candle light.”

“When might we expect our other guests, Dear?”

Sarah closed her eyes for a moment before she answered her grandmother.” They’ll be here in about two minutes, give or take, Gran.”

Elmira wanted to ask how she could be so specific, but held her question at bay. She thought that asking how would have been akin to asking a magician how they do their magic to the detriment of the wonder of it all.

Sarah was setting out plates and silverware when she suddenly stopped. Elmira noticed that at that very moment, that both Sarah and Catherine had smiled and looked over at the balcony doors. “We have company, Gran,” she announced, making her way to the balcony doors.

Elmira stood to welcome the arriving guests and when she turned to face the doors, there, in the darkness of the balcony, stood two cloaked figures back lit by the buildings beyond the boundaries of the park.

Sarah opened the doors and cheerfully greeted Vincent and Jacob as they entered. Seeing her granddaughter hugged by both of them, filled Elmira with a warmth that she welcomed wholeheartedly. She knew hugs like those; they were the kind you get from family.

Sarah collected the cloaks and hung them in their place of honor in the closet. “Who’s up for some cheesecake?”

* * *

The conversation around the dining table that evening had been as relaxed and cordial as could be found at any other small family gathering. Eventually, Elmira looked across the table at Jacob and her granddaughter with one final approving smile. “This has been a very delightful meeting and I hope it will not be the last for us, but I do seem to recall these two young people having made plans for this evening and my being here is a bit of an unplanned fifth wheel.”

“You’re not a fifth wheel, Gran.”

“I know dear, but I think it’s about time that you two got your evening back. It’s a long trip home and I still have to drive the length of this island before I arrive at anything resembling civil driving. The sooner I can put that part of the 9A behind me the better.” She rose from the table and as she did, ever the old school gentlemen that they were, Jacob and Vincent likewise stood. “Oh my, I haven’t seen manners like these in a very long time. You were both raised right, I dare say.”

Vincent looked over at his son. “My father’s own upbringing has been more than a fleeting influence in the social graces which Jacob and I live by. I am certain that he will be quite pleased to hear of your complement, Mrs. Hancock.”

Having seen Vincent off, Catherine closed the balcony door and gathered her things. She hugged Sarah and Jacob in turn. “Good night, you two. I’ll see you below, kiddo.”

“Good night, mom.”

Catherine turned her attention to Elmira. “I’ll be waiting outside,” Catherine said as she closed the door behind her.

Sarah retrieved her grandmothers coat and handbag from the closet. “Here you go, Gran.”

Jacob stepped back into the living room from the kitchen with a plate wrapped in foil in his hands. “I’ve never driven in the city, let alone out of it, but from what I’ve heard it can be a little harrowing. I thought you might want an extra piece of cake to help recover from it later.”

“Thank you, Jacob. I really shouldn’t eat things like this at my age, but I won’t tell my doctor if you won’t.”

“Since I would not know where or how to contact him, your secret will remain in my keeping, Mrs. Hancock.”

“Good! Now, before I go there is one last thing I must attend to.”

“And, what is that, ma’am?”

To the surprise of both, Jacob and Sarah, he found himself taken up into a hug which had a very familiar feel to it.” I was a little nervous about Sarah moving here, but now that I know she’s in such good hands, I won’t be adding to my gray hair any longer.”

After the initial surprise of Elmira’s hug wore off, he returned the hug in kind. “As long as I live, no harm will ever come to her.”

Elmira broke from the hug and smiled up at Jacob. “Of that I have no doubt and judging from that hug of yours, I pity anyone who’d be foolish enough to try.”

“I doubt it would end well for them,” Sarah said, giving him a knowing look.

* * *

With his parents having retired to the tunnels and Elmira Hancock on her way back to Vermont, the couple collapsed side by side on the sofa. They leaned against each other, her head on his shoulder, his head atop hers, both enjoying the restoration of tranquility to their lives. A moment or two later, they mustered the energy for a triumphant fist bump.

“I don’t know about you Teddy, but now that the nervous energy has run out, I’m wiped.”

“Even if I had never come to possess my father’s abilities, at this moment, I would still know exactly how you feel.”

“Now that I think about it, you might have me beat hands down in the exhaustion department.”

“How so?”

“In one day’s time, you ran all the way up here then walked back down below only to turn around and come all the way back up here. I’m just wiped, but you have got to be wipederer.”

He turned his head slowly and looked at her with one eyebrow raised inquisitively. “Wipederer? Is that even a word?”

“Eeeeeeyup! It comes straight from Sarah Hancock’s Concise Dictionary of Words I Made Up All by My Lil Ole Self. It’s in volume six.”

“In that case, who am I to question such a compendium of wisdom.”

Sarah snuggled up closer to him while she brought forth a yawn that would be impressive even by Jacob’s standards. “I think at this point, I’d pass out before the opening credits of the move were not even half way over.”

“Perhaps we should plan on breakfast and a movie then?”

Sarah chuckled. “Assuming we don’t sleep till noon.”

Having fallen victim to the contagiousness of yawns, Jacob followed suit. “Lunch and a movie it is.”

With their remaining energy, the candles were doused, the bed made down and, wrapped in a loving embrace, they drifted off into peaceful slumber.

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