LOST GIRL (CATHERINE)

by Tunnel Muse

Catherine Chandler, socialite, beautiful daughter of Caroline and Charles Chandler.

Caroline, Catherine’s mother, came from a well-to-do family. Her mother was a homemaker, her father a District Judge. Caroline and her parents are now deceased.

Catherine’s father, a single dad and widower, raised Catherine alone since she was ten. Now, Catherine was an adult and alone.

* * *

Catherine woke up for work, getting ready for another long day at the DA’s office.

She couldn’t believe that it had been two years since she started working there. Where did the time go? she wondered. What a roller coaster ride it has been.

She sat to drink her morning coffee and eat some yogurt. Burnt toast, ugh! Really!! Not again. She shook her head. I’d burn water… domestic I’m not. She laughed. Well, off to work.

It was another crazy day at work, with dried-up coffee in the pot again. “Can’t I get a decent cup of coffee?” she mumbled to herself.

The day dragged, with paperwork overdue and another witness not showing up and another continuance to next Monday. The judge was not impressed, saying, “He better be here at 9am Monday morning.”

It was already Thursday and Joe gave Catherine a frustrated look. “What happened, Radcliffe?” asked Joe.

“I haven’t a clue, Joe. I’ll call his lawyer when I get to the office and find out what’s going on,” Catherine responded, also frustrated and angry.

“Find out, Cathy. We can’t afford another delay. This is the third time!”

“I know, Joe! What can I say? I’ll call when I get back to the office. Okay?!”

Catherine sat heavily into her chair, running her fingers through her hair, making her call to the attorney’s office. 6pm and still so much to do, she thought. Another late night; this is getting to be a habit, Chandler.

Catherine made the call…not good… The attorney said his client was in hospital with a bullet wound and was critical. He was going to be a no-show for Monday’s court date at 9.

Well, nothing I can do about that, she said to herself after telling Joe, who obviously did not like the answer. He had waved his hands and frowned, walking away, stating, “He better hope he lives!!”

 

It was 10pm and a tired Catherine stumbled into her apartment. Tossing her case on the settee, she flopped on the couch. “I’m exhausted,” she muttered under her breath. ”I haven’t eaten all day, I’m starving.”

She looked in her fridge and exhaled. Of course, no groceries. Didn’t get to shop today.

Going to the phone, she ordered a pizza, which arrived twenty minutes later. She ate slowly despite the hunger. It was after 11. Then she got ready for bed, fell into it and slept.

 

6am and up again for another day. It’s Friday and the weekend is almost here. I’ll be going Below for two days. God, I miss him. Her thoughts were on Vincent. She sent her love through their Bond. Vincent returned it to her with a little extra.

After getting dressed and swallowing another lukewarm coffee, she left the apartment for work. When she arrived, she grabbed another coffee and started on her paperwork, as usual stacked higher than she wanted. Well, better get to it, Chandler. It’s not going to do itself. Shaking her head, she started on the first of many cases. Another late night, ugh!

Catherine was at it for three hours before Joe stood in front of her, looking none too thrilled. “Radcliffe, have you talked to the doctor at the hospital, about our witness?”

“No, I haven’t yet, Joe. I’ll call them in a few minutes, okay?”

“All right, Cathy, I need to know if we can get him to court sometime soon, okay? We need this case done ASAP.”

“I know, Joe. I’m on it.”

As Joe turned to go back to his office, Catherine was immediately on the phone to the hospital. “Hello, this is Catherine Chandler from the DA’s office. I need to speak to the doctor in charge of the shooting victim.”

The receptionist paused and said, “I’ll put you through to the emergency department.”

Catherine waited for a few minutes and a nurse in the emergency department answered. “Can I help you?” was the response at the other end of the line.

“Yes, you can,” replied Catherine. “I’m calling about a patient that was brought in four days ago. A shooting victim, critical. How is he doing?”

“We can’t give out that information except to close family.”

“This is the District Attorney’s office, I’m Catherine Chandler. I know his status, he’s a witness in a criminal case.”

“I’m sorry,” replied the nurse. “He’s in a coma and we don’t know when he’s going to wake up.”

That’s just great, she thought, but out loud she said, “’Okay, just keep us informed as soon as anything changes.” Catherine gave the nurse the DA’s number and hung up the phone.

She slowly walked to Joe’s office, then knocked on the door.

“Come in,” called Joe, he looked up at her. “So, what’s the news, Cathy?”

“It’s not good, Joe.” She saw his face change to a serious expression. Cathy tried to give her slow smile and defuse the situation. “Well…the hospital said he’s still alive…”

“And?” Joe piped in.

“…and he’s in a coma,” replied Catherine. “I’m sorry, Joe.”

“Shit!! I guess our case is now dead against this guy,” Joe said in frustration.

“I’m sorry, Joe. They did say that they will keep us informed as soon as they know anything.”

“Well, what choice do we have… pray for a miracle, I guess.” Joe returned to his work, shaking his head.

Catherine sat down heavily in her chair and continued on her pile of unfinished paperwork. It was already 9 pm and there was so much to finish. Finally, Catherine got a good amount done. It was 11 o-clock. God, I’m tired, she thought. It will be midnight before I get home and pack a few things for the weekend. 

She would have to wait until the hospital gave her an update on her witness’s condition.

The only thing giving her an uplifted spirit was seeing Vincent, who was waiting for her at the threshold in the basement of her apartment building.

She jumped out of the cab and paid, almost forgetting to close the door. The doorman opened the apartment house door to let her in, smiling at her. “Good evening, Miss Chandler.”

“Good evening,” she said, rushing past him, giving him a quick smile.

Once inside her apartment, she dropped her things on the settee and sat on her couch to take a breath. After a few moments, she went to her bedroom and started packing her satchel. Grabbing a few essentials, she went via the back stairs to her basement threshold. She walked down the ladder and Vincent grabbed her waist to help her to the ground. Once down, she turned to hug him tightly, feeling invigorated suddenly by his embrace.

“Vincent, you are better than a cup of coffee. I feel better already.”

“I could feel your tiredness, Catherine. I’m glad you came Below.”

“I am, too,” replied Catherine. “A couple of days of quiet with you sounds heavenly right now. What a week I’ve had.”

“I felt your stress and frustration over the last few days, Catherine. Perhaps you

can talk about it over a nice cup of herb tea, then some rest. You are exhausted,” Vincent replied sympathetically.

They walked the long tunnel to Vincent’s chamber. They got into their nightclothes, Vincent in his usual tunnel garb and Catherine in the beautiful nightgown she wore when her father passed the year before. They had a hot cup of tea and retired to bed.

Catherine had been sleeping with Vincent in his huge bed for about four months now. Catherine loved it very much, as did Vincent, but their relationship was still somewhat new, and Vincent was still a bit apprehensive at times.

They had kissed each other already, even in public, although their public ones weren’t passionate. Those they kept for their private moments. Vincent was still shy when showing intimacy in front of his family and friends. He knew lately that he wanted more with Catherine and needed to express that to her. Soon, he thought…Soon.

Catherine wanted very much for their relationship to move forward, as well. But seeing his apprehension, she wondered if he would. At times, he seemed to be very affectionate and wanting to move in that direction. Then, suddenly, the nervousness set in and then… nothing. Still, she loved waking up in his arms in the morning and being in his arms at night when they fell asleep.

 

She sensed something different in Vincent the next morning.

They had decided to go to breakfast in the dining hall. It was full of bustle and activity, with joyful noises and plates rattling. They smiled at all the people there and they, in turn, smiled back and waved their hellos.

Catherine and Vincent found their seats and enjoyed their porridge and biscuits and crispy bacon. A pot of hot tea also passed around. While they ate, Catherine turned to look at Vincent. He didn’t look at her, continuing to eat his breakfast.

Catherine smiled at Vincent to hide her concern at his behaviour. “What is it, Vincent?” she asked quietly so no one else could hear. “Is everything all right?”

Vincent didn’t say anything at first, giving her a quick glance before he finished his tea. He again turned to her and gave her an uneasy smile.

Catherine took a deep breath, trying to relax, not realizing she was holding her breath.

Vincent got up and took Catherine’s hand. He looked thoughtful and said, “Come with me, Catherine, I want to take a walk.”

“Okay,” Catherine replied. “Where do you want to go?”

“The Chamber of the Falls,” responded Vincent softly.

“All right.” Smiling, Catherine took Vincent’s hand as they started walking to the falls.

 

It was a quiet journey to the Chamber of the Falls. It seemed that, for now, no words were necessary. Vincent put his arms around Catherine and she did so in response. Contentedly, they walked that way till they got to the Chamber of the Falls, their Bond singing warmly through them both. When they arrived, they found a small stone-like bench and sat down. They were content to sit silently for some time, saying nothing at all.

After some time passed, Vincent moved slightly away to look into Catherine’s eyes. He was lost in thought, or maybe it was her green pools of emerald he seemed to be lost in, which made him unable to think. Either way, he shifted slightly, trying to focus on his purpose for coming.

Catherine looked at him and asked, “Is something wrong, Vincent?”

Shaking his head, he replied, “No, nothing is wrong. We need to talk, Catherine, or I should say, I need to talk.”

His hesitation made Catherine uneasy. “Whatever it is, Vincent, we can fix it, together. I love you, you know that. I always will!”

”I know that. I love you, too.” He tried to push his nerves and apprehension away, with difficulty, however. “I’ve been wanting to speak with you about what you asked me a year ago, when your father died About moving toward love.”

Catherine stared in shock, not believing what he had just said to her.

“I told you then, ‘We must go with courage and we must go with care’,”’ Vincent

said cautiously. “As you know, I’ve had my fears. The way I look, my hands, the fear of hurting you with them. When I confessed to you about what I did to Lisa…” Vincent closed his eyes, fighting the tears from threatening to fall.

Catherine took his hands and gently kissed them. “Beautiful, as are you. You are the man I love.”

“I know that, my Catherine. And I love you, more than my life. That’s why I need to tell you about this. You know I have fears long ingrained from my childhood; into my adulthood, they are not easily dispelled. From my fight with Devin, his scars, Lisa’s injury by my hand, and from Father, though only because of his trying to protect me, from his own fears of the unknown. All of it, and now…” He paused to collect his thoughts.

Catherine looked intently and lovingly into his eyes, taking his breath away. She squeezed his hands to encourage him to continue. Smiling back at her, he continued.

“Catherine, I’ve been thinking of our future together for many months now, and I have come to a decision. Please, Catherine, I want us to move to the next phase of our relationship.”

“Oh, Vincent!! Yes!!” Catherine exclaimed, still trying to process what Vincent had just said to her. Gasping, she replied, “Oh, my God, yes! I’ve wanted that so much, Vincent! I was afraid you didn’t want to go deeper. I love you so much; it has been my dream.” She hugged him tightly.

 

Vincent embraced her firmly but gently and kissed her passionately. Catherine returned a very passionate kiss, from which both parted to catch their breath. They sat silently for a few moments, digesting the conversation they had just had.

Vincent broke the silence to continue. Pulling away slightly, looking into her loving eyes, he began again. “Catherine, I want to make it clear to you about my intentions.”

“Yes?”

“When I said I want us to move toward love, I want to be in your life, always… I am yours always, Catherine. I want to give you what you deserve… what we both deserve. Do you understand?”

“I believe so,” she responded.

“I’m speaking to you about your life with me… together…”

Vincent searched their Bond to see if there was any hesitation on her part but found none, only mild confusion on what going forward meant. He couldn’t catch if she misunderstood what he was saying in regards to his desire for their future together, or if he was genuinely not clear on its implications on how to move forward.

“I feel confusion in you, Catherine. Do you not really understand what I am saying to you?”

“I think I do, but your wanting to go forward is what I’m trying to understand, I guess,” she responded. “Perhaps, if you could be a bit more clear. I was feeling some uncertainty from you as to what you tried to say, but no apprehension. I know what I have always wanted from our relationship, Vincent, but there was always a wedge of some kind. Fear, concern, uncertainty. I feel none of that now. However, I sense a determination as to what you want to express. So maybe you should just say it as plainly as you can.”

Vincent took a deep breath, exhaled, and taking her hands, looked directly into her eyes. “Catherine,” he said as calmly as he could, “what I’m trying to say is… I want to make love to you every day, consummate our love… Marry me, Catherine. Please!”

He paused when he watched her expression. He tried to make out her feelings, which suddenly ran in every direction.

She smiled, cried, laughed, and stared at the realization of what he had asked her.

“OH, MY GOD!!! Yes, Vincent!! Yes!!” she exclaimed as tears of joy fell down her cheeks. She was feeling so many emotions at once – joy, surprise, love, excitement – overwhelming her in one huge wave.

Vincent tried to read it all through their Bond and became bombarded by all the emotions at once. As he tried to dissect each emotion, one at a time, he was slowly able to get to what she was truly feeling… Overwhelming joy and love, mostly love and jubilation. Once his hesitation left him, he was filled with absolute joy and happiness at her accepting his heart.

He hugged her, and she reciprocated. They kissed each other passionately and clung tightly to each other. Time stood still as they sat on the stone bench.

Vincent pulled away slowly, looking at her intently. “Catherine…” he said as he paused to think of what to do or say next.

“What Is it, Vincent?”

He had finally had the courage to ask her to marry him, but now suddenly he was at a loss for words.

“Is there something wrong, Vincent?” she asked, wondering.

“No. I was hoping… Would you… come with me to speak to Father? I want the both of us to tell him, all right?”

“I would love to go with you,” Catherine replied. “What do you think Father will say when we tell him?”

“I guess we’ll find out soon. It’s almost meal time, I think we should let him know before that. Okay?”

Catherine nodded her head in agreement and they both set off to Father’s chambers.

There was time before lunch. Catherine and Vincent entered Father’s chambers, where they found him reading one of his medical journals. He and Catherine were holding hands as they walked in.

“Hello, Father,” said Vincent.

“Hello, Vincent, Catherine, so nice to see you. How are you doing, my dear?” asked Father in a genuine tone. He had grown to love Catherine dearly, almost like a daughter.

“I am quite well, thank you for asking. I’m busy at work as usual, no surprise there.” She smiled warmly at him.

“Lunch isn’t going to be for a while yet. Is there anything I can help you with?”

“Actually, Father, there is something I, or I should say we, would like to speak to you about,” responded Vincent as he gave Catherine a quick glance. Catherine squeezed his hand encouragingly and smiled at him. Vincent took a deep breath before continuing, thinking to himself, Here goes nothing.

“We wanted you to know… Catherine has consented to become my wife.”

There was a long pause from Father, who had a strange expression on his face.

Vincent and Catherine looked at each other, and back to Father. His silence was a bit unnerving. There was no response at all from him, no anger, no rebuke, nothing.

Puzzled, Vincent and Catherine just looked at him, thinking he had suddenly become ill.

“Are you all right, Father? Are you ill?” asked Vincent, concerned.

 

“Maybe we should call Peter! He can help!” Catherine suggested anxiously.

As if coming out of a trance, Father shook his head. “I’m sorry, Vincent, I’m sorry, Catherine. I didn’t mean to alarm you. I’m quite fine. I was a bit surprised, and in my thoughts,” Father said, trying to reassure them both.

“It’s such a huge surprise, and I must say a pleasant one. I am truly happy for you both, really. The two of you couldn’t deserve it more. I know I have made my concerns known, but I also know I have learned much from my relationship with Jessica, having found her again and then losing her. I realize life is too short to waste, and in trying to protect you from pain, I also kept you from the joy of love as well. I am truly sorry for that, Vincent. And I want to apologize to you as well, Catherine.”

“Father, there is nothing to apologize for,” Vincent and Catherine responded together.

Father gave Vincent a hug and kissed Catherine on the cheek. “You are like a daughter to me, Catherine. I would be honoured to have you as a daughter-in-law.”

“Thank you, Father,” replied Catherine. “You are all like an adopted family to me since my father passed away.”

Catherine and Vincent were about to leave and head for the dining chamber when Father stopped them. “Just a moment, please,” he said as he headed for his desk. Rummaging through a couple of drawers. he pulled out a black velvet box, very old and worn. He walked over to Vincent and Catherine. Standing in front of Vincent, he handed it to him. As Vincent opened the small box, Father started to explain.

“These rings are from when Margaret and I got married. She gave them back to me when she came Below in those last seven days. Before she died, she said I should give them to you, if and when you found someone special to love as I did her. I gave her this engagement ring and wedding band, with a matching band for you, Vincent.”

Father paused briefly, thinking of Margaret, then continued. “This sapphire and diamond engagement ring and the gold bands were sized when she was here. I designed them for her. Somehow she had known the two of you would be together one day.”

Vincent put the engagement ring on Catherine’s finger. It fit perfectly, as it had been meant to.

After another quick hug from Father, all three left for the dining hall.

When they arrived, it was full of tunnel folk but fairly quiet. There wasn’t the usual banter of loud voices as it was at breakfast that morning.

Father spotted three chairs next to Mary, who waved to them from that direction, and they sat down.

Lunch was breaded chicken with roasted potatoes and vegetables. There was apple crumble for dessert. During lunch, Father stood up and banged on the table, getting everyone’s attention. Everyone went quiet, looking in his direction, waiting for him to speak. Father then turned to Vincent, who nodded to him in turn.

“We have some momentous news to share with all of you this afternoon,” Father said, with a twinkle in his eye.

Vincent nodded again and stood up, taking Catherine’s hand in his. Kissing her hand gently, he said, “Catherine has consented to be my wife.”

The hall erupted into cheers and applause. Some were whooping and yelling, but all were clapping for joy. “Congratulations!” came from the room, with more cheers and clapping and laughter. Everyone in the hall came to give hugs to the engaged, happy couple, overwhelming them both.

Father banged on the table for order and silence, and all went back to their prospective seats and finished their meal. When the apple crumble came out, they saw that William had put an extra scoop of whipped cream on Vincent and Catherine’s dessert. “For the happy couple,” he said. Then he passed the rest around the room. Coming back around to them, he stopped in front of them.

“Have you decided on a date for the Joining Ceremony? What would you like me to prepare for food, any preferences?” he asked.

Vincent replied, “I only asked Catherine an hour ago.” Looking at Catherine, he added, “We’ve not had time to discuss arrangements yet.”

She smiled shyly, then turned to William, responding, “I will let you know as soon as Vincent and I discuss it. As for the food, I’ll leave that with you. Whatever you decide is fine. Your food is always delicious, however, if there is anything you need, let me know and I will see that you get it.”

“Very well, Catherine. I will wait to hear from you both on the date. I will also let you know if I need anything special in preparation for the meal.” William smiled and turned back to the kitchen.

Grabbing a pot of tea and two mugs, Vincent and Catherine said their farewells and returned to Vincent’s chamber.

“Well, this has been a whirlwind of a day, Vincent, and it’s only Saturday afternoon. It’s a good thing I don’t have to work tomorrow,” she said sheepishly. “You are full of surprises.”

Vincent smiled, putting his arms around her, and she wrapped hers around his waist, burying her face into his chest, smiling contentedly. She loved the smell of candle wax and summer rain and cinnamon. She loved everything about him, and he loved her.

Their Bond danced with love, hope, expectation, and something else. A quandary.

Catherine pulled back reluctantly from Vincent. He looked at her and could tell something was on her mind other than wedding dates and arrangements. ”What is it, Catherine? What troubles you? I know it’s nothing to do with our Joining Ceremony, but something is on your mind. Tell me.”

She smiled when he said “Tell me.” Then she sat down.

“So, Vincent, I was thinking about how we are going to do this. I want to marry you, and I will. I just have to finish things Above, as well.”

“’I realize that. You have a life Above, as well. You can’t just stop suddenly – your job, your friends. Your life is up there.”

“My life is with you!”

“As mine is with you. Always.”

“It’s just…I have this criminal case. I need to get it off the books ASAP. Joe is on my case to get this shooting victim to testify and find out what he knows. It’s been frustrating, not to mention a ton of paperwork I need to clean up, so we can move forward on our plans together. I don’t want my world to interfere with the safety and security of your… “ she corrected herself, “our world here Below. Your world is now my world, forever.”

“Forever,” responded Vincent, stroking her cheek softly. “When would you like to set the wedding date? I will do whatever is needed to arrange things down here.”

Catherine thought for a moment or two. It was already the middle of June, and she would have to return the day after tomorrow. Over her last sip of tea, she had an idea. “I have to arrange everything at work and in my personal life. I need to sell my apartment and move my things Below. I also want to resign from the DA’s office.”

Vincent looked shocked at what she had just said. “Catherine!! Are you sure you want to do this? Give up your job and life Above?”

“I told you, I love you more than my life. You are everything. Without you, there is nothing. My job isn’t my world, you are. I can help the people down here more than I can Above.”

“But, Catherine, you don’t need to leave your job!!” he tried to explain.

She raised her hand to stop him, and he paused.

“Vincent, let me explain something to you, okay? After my mother died, I was very young, only ten. As an only child, my mother was my world, as was my father. That’s all I knew. When she died, I was lost. You remember when I tried to explain to you my feeling of loss, the loss of her and what that meant? It was the loss of that simplicity, the innocence and security.

“When my father died, it was the same, except that time I came to you for help with that loss. My life of safety and security was pulled out from under me again… I was a lost girl when I was small, age 10, with no way of coming to terms with the loss of my mother. Then, twenty years later, I lost my dad.

“Remember when I came to you and told you I felt lost, and again I felt I had no place to go? My job, my home, nothing was the same, and I couldn’t stay. I had to see you, you were the only solid thing left in my world then and now.”

Catherine paused for a moment to collect her thoughts and catch her breath.

Vincent was silent, focused on her words and their Bond. Besides, there was nothing he could say at that moment.

After a few moments she continued. “I was a lost girl when I was attacked, being slashed and raped. You showed me more love in those ten days than I ever remembered.

“I know my father loved me, but he lost himself to my mom’s death. He did the best he could, and I will always love him for that. But, Vincent, you must understand, the love you gave me was so much more. You gave of yourself unselfishly; you gave your heart. Your love went beyond the physical, and now I want to share that with you, as well. Your help gave me the strength to believe in myself and become much more. No longer that frightened, lonely and lost girl I was then. I will always and forever love you for that.”

She stood up from the chair and hugged Vincent, caressing his cheek and kissing him passionately. “Let’s choose a date for the wedding day, shall we?”

Vincent kissed her on her cheek and nodded yes. “It might be best to choose a date that works with your schedule, since mine is a bit more flexible.”

“All right, Vincent. It’s June, and I still have that court case to deal with. However, I’m hoping to get that cleared up sooner than later. There is the paperwork, which I can take care of, also the apartment. I’ll ask Peter. Maybe I can rent it out, he may know someone. If not, I’ll sell it. Either way, I will be living with you Below.” She thought for a minute, then said, “’How does September sound to you? I was thinking about the 26th, it’s my birthday then. What do you think, love, will that work?”

Vincent thought for a moment. “Three months, that sounds like plenty of time, Catherine, if you’re sure.”

“Excellent!!” she said with enthusiasm. “It will give me time to let Joe know I’ll be resigning.”

“Are you absolutely sure you want to quit your job, Catherine?”

“Yes. Besides, I’ve been thinking of opening a private practice, The DA job has become too stressful, and after two years, I need a change. Helping our community and those who really need help is what I’m looking for now. I’ve seen too much of the other side of it, and I need this, Vincent, for both of us.”

“What of your friends? Nancy Tucker and the other one…Jenny Aronson, wasn’t it?”

Catherine looked into Vincent’s sky-blue eyes and smiled warmly. “I will tell them about us in due time, but for now… Nancy knows a little from when I went to Westport to visit her a year ago, but mostly just your name.”

“All right, I’ll leave that part with you. Now, the dinner code has sounded on the pipes. Let us go and tell Father about our decision. I’m sure William will be pleased, as well, and he can make preparations for the wedding day feast. Three months should be enough time.”

 

William was definitely pleased about the date, and said he would get the things he needed and the helping hands. Catherine reminded him to give her a list of things required. He smiled and said he would, but needed to check his storage cabinet first.

 

After breakfast Sunday morning, a jubilant Vincent and Catherine walked back to the threshold of her apartment building’s basement.

“Catherine, I don’t want you to go.”

“’I don’t either, but it won’t be for long. I’ll come below more often. I need to tie up a few loose ends, but the time will go quickly, believe me.”

They hugged each other fiercely and, with a moment’s hesitation, Catherine turned to the ladder. Vincent stood for a few moments, just staring into the misty light she’d walked through, then he turned to walk the long path home.

Catherine entered her apartment and went to the kitchen and made a cup of tea. Relaxing on the sofa with her tea in hand, she noticed her answering machine flashing. She continued to sip her tea, then reluctantly went to see who called.

The first two messages were advertisements, so she deleted those. The third was Jenny, asking about lunch tomorrow. I’d better call her back, Catherine reasoned to herself. I’ve put her off twice already. Poor Jenny. The last message was Joe. He never calls me on Sundays.

“Radcliffe, it’s Joe…”

No kidding. Catherine smiled to herself. Who else could it be?

“Got a call from the hospital about our shooting victim. Sorry to tell you, he’s gone… passed away Saturday night, never came out of the coma. It’s a dead end, Cathy. Case closed. No evidence, no witness. You’ll have some paperwork to file with the court at 9 tomorrow, but that’s about it. See you bright and early, Radcliffe. Bye.”

Well, I’m going to have another crazy day tomorrow, I guess. I’ll finish my tea and call Jenny. Relax while you can, she reminded herself, it’s not Monday yet… Thank God.

Cathy took a hot shower, put on her blue silk pajamas, made another cup of tea, and phoned Jenny. It was now 1:30 in the afternoon.

“Hello, Jenny, it’s Cathy. How are you?… Yeah, I’m fine, sorry I missed your call. …Yes, very busy with my caseload. …Lunch? Sure, I’d love to. What time? … I’ll be able to squeeze it in around 2 tomorrow. Great Jenny, see you then.”

 

Monday morning was crazy, as usual. Too much paperwork, cold coffees, and a frustrated Joe Maxwell.

Catherine was arm deep in paperwork and phone calls when Joe stood in front of her desk. “Well, Cathy, is the paperwork filled out for the court? Judge Hursh is expecting it by 9am, so we can close the file on this one.”

“I’m working on it. It’s almost ready, Joe. I’ll be in court on time.”

Joe rolled his eyes while stretching the elastic band he was holding when stressed.

Catherine put some finishing touches on the files and walked to the elevators, pushing the button to the 4th floor, which led to the courtrooms. She arrived with minutes to spare. With the papers filed and signed by Judge Hursh, the case was officially closed.

Returning to the office, she continued work on her other paperwork and made headway.

Happily, Jenny arrived for lunch. “Hi, Cathy, are you ready for lunch?”

It was 2:15 and Cathy was hungry, having not eaten all day.

“Sure, give me two minutes.” Then she grabbed her purse and left with Jen.

 

The rest of the month went quickly enough and went to July, then August. Work had its slow, long days; others went quickly. The summer was hot and sticky, and on those days, Catherine couldn’t wait to go Below with Vincent, spending time swimming and wedding planning.

She also made a point to let Joe know she was quitting. The startled look and his “Are you sure, Radcliffe?”’ led to a resigned expression of acceptance.

“I’m going to miss you, Cathy.” Joe smiled. “Be happy, and don’t be a stranger, okay?”

She smiled and hugged him, then slowly walked away.

 

The next few weeks went quickly. Catherine’s apartment was sold to Peter’s niece, which pleased her, knowing it went to someone responsible.

Catherine was staying Below now, slowly bringing her personal things with her. Her books, some clothes, because she would be wearing tunnel clothing most of the time, except for work. Her trinkets, Vincent’s letters and her parent’s photos. The furniture stayed with the apartment. She would have no need for it. She was decluttering her life and starting fresh.

She had told Vincent of the brownstone she had bought, which surprised him. “It’s somewhere for the two of us if we need privacy and access to the tunnels. We can come and go in private. I’m having it renovated. It won’t be ready for us until after our wedding.” She also told Vincent, “I’m taking time off to spend it with you, a new beginning for both of us. Joe has my resignation as of August 10th. After that, I’m all yours, all day, every day, and forever.”

 

Catherine and Vincent’s Joining Ceremony had arrived.

Vincent dressed in his grey-black pants and white frilled, long-sleeved shirt, with a cummerbund around his waist. He was wearing the leather pouch with the white rose Catherine had given him on their first anniversary.

Catherine was in a cream-coloured gown with lace around the neck, and long sleeves with the same lace trim on the ends of the sleeves and on the gown’s hemline. She also wore the crystal with a gold chain Vincent had given her on that first anniversary. Her hair, long by then, was partially up, with red and white roses pinned on one side. She looked breathtakingly beautiful, and Vincent couldn’t take his eyes off her.

Father performed the ceremony. Catherine knew her marriage to Vincent wouldn’t be legal in the state of New York, but she didn’t care. She would have lived with Vincent without a ceremony, if need be, but despite that, Vincent was very traditional in that regard. She loved that about him.

The entire Tunnel Community was there, including Jamie and Mouse, Pascal, Kanin and Olivia, Cullen, Booke, Devin and Charles. Catherine’s godfather was there, as well. Mouse stood with Vincent, and Peter was standing with Catherine in place of family from her world Above.

Father turned to everyone. “Shall we begin? This is a momentous occasion in our community. Vincent, my beloved son, will you take Catherine as your wife and life partner, to love and cherish as long as you both live?”

Vincent turned to Catherine and said, “I do.”

“Catherine, dearest Catherine, will you take Vincent to be your husband and life partner, to love and cherish as long as you both live?”

Catherine turned to Vincent and, with a loving smile, she replied, “I do.”

Father looked to the crowd and said, “Catherine and Vincent have something to say.”

Vincent responded first. “Catherine, I love you more than my life. I don’t have the words. All I know is you are my everything, my heart, my breath. I can’t exist without you, my Beloved. I will love you forever and always. We will go together into our future with courage and with care…Forever!!” Vincent proceeded to put the gold band on her finger, kissing it.

Catherine responded in turn. “Vincent, you are my life and I love you. I have loved you from the first time I heard you say my name. As I said, you are my life, without you there is nothing. You are my everything, my Beloved. I will love you forever and always, and we will go with courage and we will go with care together into our new future… Forever.” Then Catherine put the gold band on his finger and she kissed his hand.

Vincent looked with awe into her emerald green eyes.

There was silence in the room for long moments, then Father said, “I now pronounce you husband and wife according to the laws of New York and our Community. May you be blessed. You may kiss the bride.”

At that moment, there was thunderous applause and hugs from all in attendance.

Charles hugged Vincent and then Catherine, congratulating them both. Devin did the same, and kissed Catherine on the cheek.

“Well, little bro, I knew you could do it.”

“Thank you, Devin,” replied Vincent. “I’m glad the two of you could make it.”

“I wouldn’t have missed it.” Devin chuckled.

Catherine turned to Father and gave him a huge hug. “Thank you, Father, for everything.”

“My pleasure, Catherine. I am happy to call you my daughter-in-law. You’ve made Vincent very happy. His life is now full. I regret my past with you two, and how I behaved. I apologize, Catherine.”

“There is no need to, Father, you always did what you thought was right. You did it out of love for Vincent.”

They hugged again, and Father turned to Vincent, who smiled at him and said not to worry. “All is well, Father.”

Through the hugs and congratulations, William bellowed through the crowd, “Dinner is served!!”

Again, there was thunderous applause from the crowd. Everyone went to the Dining Hall to eat. They found it with decorative streamers hung in the entranceways and at all the tables and chairs. The children had taken the time to decorate with simple paper streamers and flowers on the tables made of paper, as well. It was beautiful, and Vincent and Catherine were surprised and joyful for such a sweet thought.

Dinner was beef bourguignon and roasted spring vegetables, mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and malt beer. Dessert was a seven-layer vanilla cake with strawberries and buttercream icing… startling everyone there. Catherine and Vincent were, as well as everyone else, in shock when the enormous cake came out on a huge rolling cart. Even Father was speechless.

William held his hand up to get everyone’s attention. As all there were looking in William’s direction, he explained, “This amazing creation is a special gift for Catherine and Vincent, which we will all be sharing tonight. May we all thank Peter for this amazing dessert.”

Everyone looked at Peter and clapped so loud you couldn’t hear William ask Vincent and Catherine to come to the front of the room. Vincent roared for quiet and after the noise lowered, William repeated his request. “Vincent, Catherine, could you come up here, please?”’ and they both did. Handing them a large knife, he said, “First slice for the bride and groom.”

Vincent and Catherine held the knife together, sliced a piece of cake, then gave each other a taste. Once done, William sliced the remainder and, with Rebecca and Brooke’s help, passed the cake around till everyone had a piece. No one was left out, not even the children.

 

It was past midnight. The children had left a few hours before, leaving the adults to enjoy the rest of the evening. Later, the rest of the community left to retire to their chambers, giving their final hugs and congratulations.

Father yawned mightily, kissed the newlyweds, and retired for the night. “Good night, Vincent, Catherine. It’s been quite a day, hasn’t it?”

“Yes, it has, Father, a memorable one,” responded Vincent as he held Catherine around the waist. “Thank you. Good night, sleep well.”

“Thank you, Father, for everything,” responded Catherine in turn. “Sleep well.”

“You, too, Catherine… both of you.”

 

Vincent and Catherine returned to their chamber together as husband and wife.

After changing for bed, they had a cup of herb tea to unwind. They were in their own thoughts for a moment to digest the events of the day, and how they would walk through this new life together.

“I love you, my Catherine, my wife.”

“I love you, too, my husband.”

“It sounds good, doesn’t it, Catherine?”

“Yes, it does, Vincent. The first day of ‘FOREVER.’”

“Yes!! ‘FOREVER’!”’

 

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