The Jacob Chronicles
THOUGH COLDNESS REIGNS ABOVE
by Vincent Peters
Winterfest Eve – 2009
Throughout the length and breadth of Central Park, the cold night wind lashed at the trees without mercy, ice and snow falling from the weather battered limbs, the welcoming warmth of summer a long distant memory. People remained indoors, venturing out only if they absolutely had to and even then they rushed about as safely as they could, their heads drawn down into their coats like turtles.
In the half light of the basement tunnel, Jacob stood watch over an opening in the wall. Like a caged animal, he was pacing to and fro, partly from excitement and also in worry. She was out there in this storm. He could sense her determination to get to him, but with her arrival now an hour past due, he was doing his honest best to not let his worries get the better of him. Try as he might, it was proving to be a task easier said than done.
Jacob continued his pacing. The sound of his footfalls echoing off the walls around him only served to further remind him that he was alone in this space. He stopped dead in his tracks when he heard the welcome sound of the hatch opening in the wall of the basement level above him.
Running as fast as his legs would carry him, he arrived at the opening in the brick wall in time to see a garment bag fall to the ground. Following close behind it, climbing down the ladder, was its owner. She was here. She was safe. Their wait was over once again.
“Sarah! I’m so glad you’re safe.” He rushed forward, through the opening in the brick wall and took her into his arms. They lingering in that moment for some time before he broke the silence. “You’re half frozen — here.” Jacob wrapped his cloak around her. “When I heard how bad this storm had become, I was afraid you wouldn’t be able to make it. I should have known that a mere blizzard would never deter you.”
There, beneath his heavy, winter cloak, any chill Sarah may have felt melted away. “I can now officially take Human Popsicle off my bucket list, but it was worth every frostbitten second to be with you again, Teddy.”
“It wouldn’t be Winterfest if Old Man Winter didn’t show himself in grand style.”
“I’m all for snow and Hallmark movie-esque scenery, but I was kind of hoping Old Man Winter wasn’t going to RSVP for this gathering.”
They both enjoyed a good chuckle at her assessment of the weather above, as Jacob grabbed her bag and escorted her into the tunnels beyond the basement. “I thought we might take a slight detour and go by way of the steam tunnel. It’s not quite as romantic as the hot pools but it should help take the chill off.”
They walked arm in arm down the brick lined tunnels until one opened up into a large, concrete space containing several large steam pipes. Although they were well insulated, they still filled the space with a very welcome warmth. Jacob set the bag down and the couple stood side by side, cuddling in the warmth of the pipes. “Just what the doctor ordered, Teddy. I can feel my toes again.”
“I like to come here at the end of my top side patrols this time of year to warm myself.”
“I can see why.” Sarah giggled for no apparent reason.
Jacob raised an eyebrow when he sensed a hint of mischief cross her mind. “Dare I ask?”
“I always knew our relationship had the potential to eventually become steamy. I just never imagined it being this soon and, not to mention, literal.”
Jacob chuckled.” I’m quite relieved to know that my mind isn’t the only one to wander into unexpected lands from time to time.”
“Well, Teddy, you couldn’t call yourself a Teenager and not have your mind wander from time to time. Besides, I take that as a complement.”
“As do I.”
* * *
Mary looked up from a myriad of Winterfest preparation lists and smiled. Her attention had been drawn away from them by the sounds of footsteps and familiar voices in the passage beyond. She quickly made her way to the entrance of the library and stopped when she reached the passage. She held her arms wide, taking Sarah into a hug. “Oh, thank heavens, you made it here in one piece! We’ve been hearing some absolute horror stories about the weather up top from our helpers and I was starting to fear the worst.”
“It’s pretty nasty up there, that’s for sure. From my experience up there tonight, I’d have to say that Jack Frost isn’t nipping at noses anymore, he’s opted to switch to a weed-wacker.”
“Well, I’m not sure what that is, but it doesn’t sound pleasant at all, dear.” Mary turned and led the couple back into the library. “No matter… you’re here and safe and that’s what’s important.”
Father called out from across the chamber. “I second that motion.”
“There she is!”, Catherine said with a warm and welcoming smile, as she and Vincent descended the spiral stairs from the upper gallery.
Sarah made her way over to greet her extended family. “Hi Gang! I made it at long last!” She made her hug rounds starting with Father.
“I trust you will be staying for at least a few days after Winterfest to recover from your travels”, Vincent said after receiving one of Sarah renowned bear hugs.
“Oh, my, yes. According to the weather reports I saw, it should blow over a day or two after Winterfest, but honestly, I planned on dragging my anchor anyway, storm or no storm.” She looked over at Jacob in time to see his already wide smile, widen all the more.
“Won’t hear me complain.” he said, setting her bag down and joining the group.
In the midst of the group’s casual conversation, Jacob looked over his shoulder when he sensed the approach of a very familiar presence. “Brace yourself, Sarah.”
She gave him a puzzled look.” For what?”
The Library was pierced by a voice unfamiliar to Sarah’s ears which heralded a rather unique, one word greeting. “Dooooork!”
“For that”, he said turning to walk across the library toward the individual who had the audacity to address him with that word. “Neeerrrrrrrd!”, he taunted back.
Sarah wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this but soon, all was revealed when the two seeming adversaries hugged warmly. “Love you baby brother.”
“Love you too, sis.”
The two returned to the group all smiles, their exchange of words having been nothing more than a friendly and long-standing tradition.” Sarah, I would like to introduce my Sister, Cathy. She was able to get away from college long enough to join us for Winterfest this year.” With no shortage of affection in his voice, he continued the introduction. “Cathy, it is my honor and pleasure to introduce Miss Sarah Hancock.”
Cathy immediately hugged Sarah with the same warmth and sincerity that she had come to expect from the Wells Family. “Hi, Sarah! It’s so good to finally meet you. Jake’s told me so much about you.” After which, Cathy added,” and I can’t wait to tell you stories about my tiny baby bwuder.”
The look of indignation on Jacob’s face lent a comical air to his reply. “Imagine my joy.” To add emphasis to his next statement, Jacob leaned down to come face to face with Cathy who stood all of five and a half feet tall. “Who are you calling tiny — tiny.”
“I look forward to hearing all about Teddy’s younger exploits, actually.”
“Teddy?” Cathy replied, looking up at her brother.
Sarah hugged him around his arm. “Yup. Your dork, my Teddy.”
“It’s a badge of distinction I wear with pride, sis”
“And you wear it well, Jake.”
The timing pipe chimed 11PM. Cathy looked up and noted the time along with the others. “Well, that’s my cue to hit the sack. Before I do though, Thomas and Rebecca wanted me to let you know The Great Hall is all ready to go for tomorrow, Papa. All we have to do is lite the candles and we are off and running.”
“Excellent! Thank you , my dear. I’m quite sure they were both grateful for the opportunity to make use your decorating expertise once again. ”
“Any time, Papa!” Cathy kissed her Grandfather on the cheek followed by her Nana Mary. She then made her way to her parents and did the same. Last, but not least in her heart, she came to her Brother, “ Nite, Dork.”
Jacob hugged his sister and nuzzled her cheek. “Nite,Nerd. Good to have you back with us again.”
Cathy turned to Sarah and placed her hand on Jacob’s shoulder. “Don’t let our banter fool you, Sarah. Jacob and I are thick as thieves and always have been.” She looked over at her Grandfather. “You see the gray hairs on Papa’s head? Yeah, we are responsible for most of them. Fun times!”
“Yes, yes you are. The gray in my beard, however, was courtesy of Vincent and your Uncle Devin.”
Vincent smiled. “We did have our moments.”
* * *
Jacob and Sarah bid good night to everyone and made their way down to the second level of the residential tunnels. With helpers coming in from above for Winterfest, all the guest chambers were now occupied. As a result, Jacob took no end in delight at the fact that Sarah would be staying with him.
Jacob disappeared into a small alcove off his main chamber and set her bag down. “I cleared out some space for your things in the wardrobe, Sarah.” He returned to the main portion of his chamber still smiling from ear to ear and gave her a very brief tour. “There are fresh sheets and pillow cases on the bed, extra hand towels at ye old wash basin and you already know about the other facilities down the passage from your last visit so, please, make yourself at home.”
They stood there looking at one another for a moment in an awkward silence, neither certain where to go from here. Finally, Sarah broke the silence. “You’re nervous too aren’t you.”
“Oh, you have no idea.” Jacob’s confident posture evaporated to show his true feelings. “I’ve hosted sleep overs in the past, but never with the one I love”, he said with almost palpable shyness.
Sarah walked over and took his hands in hers.
“I’m sorry about that steamy joke earlier. I didn’t mean to insinuate anything about these next few nights together. I was trying to calm my nerves and my mouth outran my common sense.”
“I know you didn’t. That’s one nice thing about being empathic; misunderstandings are very rare.”
“That’s good to know.”
“Besides, I know that’s not who you really are at heart, Sarah.”
She smiled up at him, losing herself in his eyes for a moment. “What did I do to deserve someone like you, Jacob?”
He gently cupped the back of her head with his hand and drew their foreheads together, never once breaking from her gaze.” You were born. Destiny did the rest.”
* * *
Jacob had changed into his night clothes and began to close down his chamber for the night. While Sarah made use of the wardrobe alcove, Jacob polished his fangs, as he liked to call it, and had doused all the candles but two. When she stepped out from the alcove in her flannel night gown, Sarah looked around at the dancing light from the remaining two candles as it played with the quartz in the walls and ceiling. Jacob turned the lantern outside the entrance to his chamber to the ‘I am sleeping’ position before he drew the curtain across its opening.
“There, all good to go for the night.” Jacob joined Sarah at the step that connected to his bed alcove. “There’s only one thing left to take care of.”
“And that would be?”
“That would be the — sleeping arrangements. I will leave it up to you. I can join you in the alcove or I have procured a camping cot for myself if you prefer. Whichever you feel the most comfortable with.”
“Let me see if I understand this correctly. You’d willingly give up your warm, soft bed to sleep on the cold, hard floor in a cot that probability isn’t even close to being big enough for you all for my comfort? That’s very chivalrous of you but what is your heart telling you, Teddy?”
“It’s telling me that sleeping on the cot would be one of the dumbest, not to mention impractical things I have ever done in all my nineteen years.”
“I’d go with your heart.”
“So would I.”
Jacob climbed into bed alcove and took his place along the wooden walls that lined it. Sarah entered close behind him, pulling up the comforter over them both as she settled in beside him, snuggling up against Jacob with a contented sigh. He brushed the stray hairs from her face and smiled as he tucked the thick comforter about her shoulders. “Are you going to be warm enough?”
She drew in a little closer, resting her head on his chest.” It’s just like I said in the park last year. Warm Teddy is warm.”
“You know, it’s still amazing to me, that this moment, and everything that has come to pass before it, we owe to a simple, discarded sheet of yellow paper that the wind deposited at my feet going on two years ago.”
“Destiny does know what it’s doing after all.” She pointed out.
Jacob rested his head beside hers, breathing in the floral fragrance of her hair that mingled with her scent. “So it would seem, Sarah.”
Though coldness reigned above, its harsh judgments unleashed upon the park and the city beyond, below, two candles stood watch. Their soft, amber glow adding to the warmth and security that Jacob and Sarah found in each other’s arms as they drifted off to slumber.