THE WALLS BETWEEN WORLDS

by Tasha Lawson

 

Harold Pratt House. 9pm, October 31, 1990.

On this one night, the walls between worlds grow thin and beings from another realm may walk the Earth. Join us for an evening of extravagant food, wine, and revelry…

Catherine smiled as she re-read the description on the party invitation, studying it again to confirm the nature of the gathering.

“It’s a costume party,” Jenny had assured her. “A masquerade. And trust me, masks are required. They won’t let you in without one!”

At the time, Catherine’s bare hint of a smile had hidden her sudden elation.

“Can I bring someone?” she asked finally.

Jenny beamed at her even as her eyes widened with surprise. Her friend had never questioned her about that night after her abduction by the stalker, when Catherine had assured her she would have company while recovering from the ordeal. But in the weeks that followed, curiosity burned in Jenny’s eyes whenever they met.

“Yes!” Jenny exclaimed. “And actually, there’s someone that I want you to meet as well.”

This time, Catherine felt surprised as she. She had no notion that Jenny had been seeing anyone new. Anxious excitement bubbled anew as she contemplated the outing.

And then, an idea occurred to her. It would take some planning, and probably a small fortune, but if she could pull it off…

* * *

Vincent agreed to attend the party more readily than she probably anticipated. Although the risk of exposure would always surround him when he traveled above, on this one night of the year, he could blend in with the costumed throngs of city-goers. On their two prior Halloweens together, no one had really questioned his appearance. On the first year, a jogger had interrupted them in the early morning hours of November 1st. And the year after, an awestruck stranger had stared a little too long, admiring Vincent’s “makeup.” But no one else had given them cause for concern.

“I thought it might be the perfect opportunity for you to finally meet Jenny,” Catherine explained.

He nodded slowly, obviously heavily weighing the opportunity she was offering. He had met none of her friends and had only been introduced to her father on the eve of the man’s death. The risk of revealing his secret to someone outside his community was considerable. But they had discussed the subject at length before and decided that Jenny, one of Catherine’s oldest and closest friends, could be trusted.

“Yes, it is an ideal circumstance.”

Still… he worried.

What would Jenny say to him? What sort of questions would she pose, believing him to be only another masked party attendee? Catherine had her own concerns, he knew, but she did not let those fears reflect in her eyes as they made plans for the evening.

Vincent would meet her on the street near where the party was being held, an older building only a few blocks from the Central Park Zoo. Then they would walk in together, with Catherine on his arm. The guest list numbered in the hundreds, but so many strangers would make blending in for Vincent an easier task than if it were a small, intimate affair.

On this occasion, Catherine wore an elaborate medieval gown. The rich, wine-colored fabric gathered at the waist and flowed into a dozen gores, and gold-laced embroidery highlighted the natural flow of the dress. For a mask, she had hired a professional makeup artist, one well versed in prosthetics. She had asked for feline features and the artist had not disappointed.

When Vincent met her on the street at the prearranged time and place, he froze in sudden surprise.

“What do you think?” Catherine asked, twirling in her gown. But he stared at her now cat-like face.

While her nose could never be disguised to look as flat and natural as his own, the artist had managed to otherwise transform her features. He had even given her a slight cleft to her upper lip, not an easy feat without unnecessarily restricting the movement of her mouth. But in addition, she now sported a layer of fine downy fur along her jawline and in place of her eyebrows.

As Vincent stared at her in shock, he felt Catherine begin to doubt whether she should have gone so far with her “mask.” In her planning for the evening, she had obviously wanted to make his own unique features appear planned to match her own. But she now worried that she should have at least warned him of her intentions.

Before she could apologize, he observed softly, unable to take his eyes off of her, “You look… remarkable.”

Something strange flickered in her eyes and Vincent felt a corresponding surge of emotion through the bond. Love, tinged with desire. Unlike so many times in the past, she did not tamp down on the feeling but let it flow unhindered into the space between them.

There was magic in the air on this night.

* * *

Across the crowded venue, Catherine spotted Jenny in a back corner. She wore a tight-fitting yellow jumpsuit with a plunging neckline and white boots. She also sported a red ribbon around her eyes in lieu of a more traditional mask. As they approached her, Catherine witnessed the transformation of her friend’s face as she finally recognized her.

“Oh my goodness, Cathy! You look amazing!”

Jenny reached for her hands and gave the entire look a close examination, beginning with Catherine’s facial makeup and prosthetics and then down across the medieval gown. Finally, she spared a glance at Vincent, and she almost started at how much more realistic his own ‘mask’ appeared in comparison to Catherine’s.

“Wow,” Jenny managed.

With a chuckle, Catherine said, “Jenny, this is Vincent.”

While she had never spoken the name to her friend before, Jenny seemed to start at the tone of her voice, as though reading between unspoken lines and recognizing the supreme import of this introduction.

“It’s so wonderful to meet you,” Jenny said, her mouth pulled into a delighted smile. But instead of reaching to shake his hand, she moved to embrace Vincent.

If her impulse to hug him in greeting surprised Vincent, he showed no sign of it, accepting the gesture and returning it with a gentle squeeze of his arms around her.

“And you,” he said as she pulled away. “Catherine has told me much about you.”

“Has she?” Jenny asked, letting loose an awkward chuckle. “She hasn’t said a word about you.”

Taking the opportunity to switch the subject and distract her friend, Catherine asked, “What is your costume from? I don’t recognize it.”

Glancing down at herself, Jenny explained, “I’m April from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” Then she reached up and touched the red band around her eyes. “Of course, I borrowed this from Donatello.”

Smirking, Vincent offered, “I believe Raphael wears red. Donatello is the one in purple.”

Jenny grinned at him in wonder and even Catherine gave him a look of amazement. Under the weight of both of their gazes, he lowered his eyes to the floor and murmured, “I have heard many stories from the children. Identification of the turtles and their assigned colors seems very important.”

Picking up on this detail, Jenny questioned, “Do you have children, Vincent?”

The inquiry startled him, but Catherine stepped in as he paused, searching for an accurate and truthful response.

“Vincent is a teacher,” she explained simply.

Before Jenny could pursue that line of questioning, her eyes drifted past the two of them to some point in the distance, and the way that her face lit up with a smile of recognition, Catherine turned to see who she had spotted.

Slowly, a figure moved through the crowd and as the man drew close, she recognized the weapon-sporting turtle which likely matched Jenny’s costume from the children’s show they had just been discussing. But in contrast to Jenny’s more professional costume, this one seemed manufactured in bulk, the kind of thing designed for kids. The turtle shell was made of cheap cloth and the mask itself was pre-formed plastic. But the turtle mask had the characteristic red band across the eyes matching Jenny’s.

“You must be Raphael,” Catherine said in amusement, holding out her hand to meet Jenny’s date.

But rather than shake her hand, the man pulled his mask off.

“Joe!”

She blinked in surprise at the appearance of her boss and then she glanced at Jenny, who had not mentioned that he would be in attendance. Then she thought of Vincent standing beside her, not having expected to have to make this particular introduction on this night. As a lawyer with investigative skills, Joe would be much more curious about Vincent and less willing to accept vague answers about his background than Jenny.

But even as Catherine’s mind worked its way back around to ask why Joe was attending the function with her friend, Jenny joined his side and slid an arm around the assistant district attorney’s waist.

“We thought this would be a good time to tell you,” she informed Catherine. “Joe and I are dating.”

Shock coursed through her, and Catherine swayed. Vincent reached out a hand to steady her, placing it on the small of her back in a manner similar to how Jenny had just touched Joe. And she did not notice as her boss’ eyes flicked down, noting the intimate gesture.

“You’re dating?” Catherine repeated, pleased but surprised as her smile widened into a grin. “When did this happen?”

Looking a little embarrassed, Joe shrugged his shoulders vaguely.

“Remember when that guy across from your apartment… Well, you remember,” he muttered with a glance at Vincent. “After that, Jenny would call me from time to time. We were both still a little worried about you, you know? So, we got coffee. And then coffee turned into dinner…”

“And more,” Jenny giggled.

Catherine looked from her back to Joe and then at Vincent, as though needing confirmation that she had not just imagined this new turn of events. But the motion attracted Joe’s attention, and he also looked at the man beside her.

“Sorry, we haven’t been introduced. Joe Maxwell.”

As Joe stuck out his hand, Vincent only let a heartbeat pass before taking it, his own hand covered in a black leather glove. The handshake was firm and neither man seemed willing to let go first, as though each were assessing the other.

Catherine said finally, “Joe, this is Vincent.”

“Vincent.” He said the name thoughtfully, as though searching his memory for any past mention. But without breaking eye contact, he said, “Nice costume, Vincent.”

“And you, Mister Maxwell.”

The handshake finally ended, and Joe chuckled in his typical self-deprecating manner.

“Yeah, just Joe’s fine.” Then, remembering his mask, he brought the plastic down over his face. “And tonight, I’m Raphael.”

He made a flurry of movements mirroring some martial arts display, causing Jenny to laugh at his antics. Amid her nervous amusement, Catherine asked, “Just what is this show about? Mutant turtles who know karate?”

Joe shrugged. “My sister’s kids love ‘em. They’re like turtles that fell in toxic sludge and became superheroes.”

Jenny added, “And I’m dressed as April, the reporter they befriended.”

The velvety richness of his voice startling everyone, Vincent added, “They live in the sewers beneath the city to avoid those who would do them harm.”

Catherine’s eyes sparkled as she looked at him, something which did not go unnoticed by her friends. Joe raised an eyebrow at Jenny before turning back to study them.

“So, how did you two cats meet?”

His irreverence earned a renewed laugh from Jenny, and even Catherine enjoyed the easy, blunt humor of her boss. Taking a deep breath, she began to give the answer they had already rehearsed half a dozen times. But she locked her gaze with the man beside her even as she spoke. Realizing that she could not be vague on this point, she abandoned their agreed explanation of ‘meeting through friends’ and decided to tell her friends the truth.

“Vincent was there for me after the attack. I don’t think I’d have gotten through it without him.”

Vincent showed no outward reaction to her words, but Catherine knew he would recognize her emotions through the bond. Being able to admit her feelings for him to the people in her life was such a relief.

Playing dumb, Joe spoke up. “So, you guys are… you know?”

Jenny nudged him firmly in the ribs at the question, and he murmured a complaint followed swiftly by justification for the question. “I’m just asking!”

Before Catherine could answer, Vincent said simply, “Yes. We are.”

Joe’s eyebrows shot up at the firm answer, but then he nodded slowly, his mind obviously working hard to reconcile this news about Catherine’s private life.

To Jenny, Catherine added, “I thought today would be a good opportunity to introduce you and Vincent.” But to Joe, she said, “I wasn’t expecting you to be here, but I’m glad you’re able to meet as well.”

While Catherine noted an array of questions in the eyes of her boss, she let out a sign of relief when he only gave a stiff nod, content to let the interrogation wait for a later time.

Breaking the tension, Jenny’s bubbly voice inquired, “Can I get anyone something to drink?”

A chorus of voices answered her, but before Catherine could protest, her friend had enlisted her in the search for refreshments, leaving Vincent and Joe to fend for themselves.

Jenny had barely gotten her across the room to the punch table before grabbing Catherine’s hands and squeezing them tightly.

“I can’t believe you’ve been seeing someone all this time and are just now telling me!”

Sheepishly, Catherine admitted, “It’s complicated.”

With a huff, her friend muttered, “I’ve heard that before.”

“Jenny…”

The way she said her friend’s name, the gentle import she put into the syllables, failed to catch Jenny’s attention at first. But then as she looked back at Catherine, Jenny stopped, noticing the faint smile on her friend’s face and the gleam in her eyes.

“He’s the one?” she asked.

Catherine nodded.

While she had never counted Jenny as a fool, she also had not told her friend the entire truth. Not since the attack. Not since Vincent. And they both knew it.

It all became clear that night in her apartment after she’d almost drowned in the trunk of a kidnapper’s car.

“I won’t be alone,” Catherine had told her that night, making the pieces fall into place but bringing with them a cascade of questions.

Grinning despite herself at finally being let in on the secret, Jenny asked coyly, “So what’s all the fuss about, then? He seems wonderful. And whoever did his makeup is amazing. I mean, yours looks fantastic, but his… You said he’s a teacher? He must have a friend on Broadway or something-”

Speaking very quietly, Catherine interrupted her. “Jenny,” she said, leaning very close. “Vincent isn’t wearing makeup.”

“Well, prosthetics. You know what I mean.”

Slowly, Catherine shook her head. “No prosthetics.”

“No prosthetics…”

Slowly, Jenny’s eyebrows rose into her hairline, and then she swept her gaze back across the room to Vincent. After a moment, her mouth slowly fell open in shock.

“You mean…” she began.

“Yes.”

“That’s not…”

“No.”

“Then he’s really…?”

“Yes, Jenny,” Catherine affirmed patiently.

Turning back to her friend, Jenny’s face had morphed into a combined expression of surprise and complete curiosity. “But how-?” she began again.

Catherine shook her head.

“No one knows. He was abandoned as a baby and taken in. His adopted family has given him shelter and hidden him from the world.”

She waited as her friend processed all that she had related, knowing it was difficult to reconcile the reality of Vincent, especially in the middle of a Halloween party.

“Does Joe know?” Jenny asked finally.

Shaking her head, Catherine said, “No, and I don’t think we should tell him. I’m afraid it would put him in a difficult position.”

Jenny’s eyes furrowed in confusion. “Difficult – how exactly?”

“It’s complicated,” she reiterated. “But I wouldn’t want Joe to feel like he had to compromise his ethics in some way.”

While Catherine felt certain Jenny’s eyebrows could not have raised any further, they seemed to defy physics and the natural world by raising even higher at her comment.

With a sigh, she added, “There have been people who have tried to capture Vincent… to study him. I’d rather not have to get into that with Joe. Please, Jenny. This is a secret I’ve been keeping for a long time. I trust you to keep it as well, to help make sure Vincent stays safe from a world that doesn’t understand.”

Jenny looked back again to where Vincent and Joe stood conversing, and for a long time, she simply took in the sight of them. Catherine did not need to wonder when it truly struck her friend how different Vincent was from the costumed people around. She saw it immediately in Jenny’s eyes. Not only did he look different, but his life had to be different as well. He could not exist in the same world in which he lived, and because of that, he had to be very careful with who knew the truth about him.

“No, I… I understand,” she said slowly but with conviction. Looking back at her friend, Jenny vowed, “I’ll keep your secret, Cathy.”

First secret among many, Catherine thought to herself. But now was not the time to explain Vincent’s living situation. She tried not to smile at the irony of explaining the tunnels to someone dressed up as a friend to mutant ninja turtles living in New York City’s sewer system.

“We should probably get back before Joe gives Vincent the third degree,” Catherine suggested.

* * *

“So, Vincent…” Joe said, letting his Italian accent echo into a deep drawl. “Got a last name?”

Sounding amused, Vincent stated, “No.”

“No last name, huh?” the assistant district attorney muttered.

He took the answer as a blatant refusal to give Joe enough information to utilize his professional resources for background check of the man.

Trying another tactic, Joe asked, “What school do you work at?”

“I don’t work at a school,” Vincent told him. “I teach the children who have fallen through the cracks, those whom society has failed.”

“So, a tutor then?”

Vincent looked amused.

“Of sorts.”

With an uncertain nod, Joe simply stared at the man. His makeup was impeccable. While Cathy’s looked professionally done, Vincent’s was on an entirely different level. Joe truly could not tell where the prosthetics and fake fur ended and the real person underneath began. But Vincent’s deep blue eyes and hypnotic voice were enough to betray an attractiveness Joe knew would have drawn Cathy. But a seemingly anonymous children’s tutor was a far cry from the construction mogul Elliot Burch she had dated before.

At least he had known about Burch. This Vincent guy was a complete mystery.

Pushing his luck, Joe stated, “You know, Cathy’s never mentioned you before.”

“I’m not surprised. But she has spoken of you. She is very fond of you and her position in the District Attorney’s Office.”

Joe raised his eyebrows in surprise at the comment, particularly that Cathy had talked about him with her… friend? The word seemed inadequate to describe whatever relationship the two of them obviously shared. They were involved, obviously, but how serious could they be if Cathy had never mentioned him before? But she said he had been around since the attack, over three years, and now they even had matching prosthetics and professional level makeup.

Joe knew the costumes were an extravagant splurge of the rich. Cathy had the money, certainly, but she rarely threw it around.

So it must be Vincent, Joe decided, who had enough independent wealth to get ridiculously done up for a simple Halloween party. It explained how he could be a “tutor” and still live in the city. Joe wondered if the makeup was actually a way to appear in public without giving away his true identity. Maybe Vincent was not even his real name.

“You from New York?” Joe asked conversationally.

“Yes.”

“Your family, too?”

Here, the man paused. “I was abandoned as a child, and my father took me in. He was originally from England, I believe.”

“That’s a long way.”

“He came here for medical school,” Vincent elaborated.

“Oh, your dad’s a doctor.” That explained things, Joe decided. Some doctors were insanely rich. “And you didn’t follow in his line of work?”

At this question, Vincent looked away, obviously affected by the question.

“Medical school was not an option for me,” he said simply.

But rather than feeling triumphant at the admission, Joe found himself commiserating with the man. There was something very thoughtful and sympathetic about Vincent, he realized, as though he had a tragic backstory or abusive childhood. But he had clearly survived it, whatever it was. And rather than allowing misfortune to turn his heart cold, he seemed intent upon helping others.

“Yeah, I had a hard time with education myself,” Joe found himself saying. “I wasn’t exactly a star student. Then I worked for years at a pizza joint in Queens while I put myself through school. Money was tight, you know.”

As Vincent gave a nod of understanding, Joe had to admit that something about him that was a little mesmerizing. Almost magical. Joe supposed the makeup had a lot to do with it, and he wondered anew what Cathy’s boyfriend looked like in real life.

“Those who seek out knowledge should be celebrated, ” Vincent stated, his deep voice melodious and intensely passionate. “Those who had to work hard and fight to attain it even more so. And now you use your hard-won knowledge and experience to help others.”

Joe had never quite looked at his job that way. He was putting criminals away, certainly. But to him, it had always been a job. Maybe a career, he decided, when the DA had given him a supervisor position. But helping people? He supposed Vincent was right. He knew Cathy looked at it that way. Why else would she quit her cushy job in the corporate world to work with rank-and-file government lawyers like him?

“The guys who go into private practice make the real money,” Joe said, feeling a little embarrassed. Vincent had to know that, especially considering that Cathy had come from a corporate law firm.

“But they don’t make the same difference in people’s lives as you and Catherine,” Vincent pointed out.

Before either of them could say more, Jenny and Cathy rejoined them. They handed the men cups with punch and each of them but Vincent drank. Instead, he looked at Cathy, his entire attention focused on her, as though she were all the sustenance he might need.

The weight of the man’s gaze was not lost on Joe, nor was Cathy’s reaction to his expression. She looked at Vincent with an open intensity Joe had never seen from her before. He opened his mouth to ask them a question, maybe to have them elaborate on how they met, but before he could speak, Jenny caught his attention.

Her eyes flashed at him in warning, and Joe knew she wanted him to keep things light.

“So, Vincent,” Jenny said, projecting a casualness none of them really believed. “What do you do for fun?”

Cathy’s boyfriend looked at her with deep, soulful eyes and Joe worried that Jenny might melt into a pile of jello right there. It seemed that Vincent had an unusual effect on everyone he met.

“I read, mostly,” Vincent stated.

“Sometimes we go to concerts in the park,” Cathy noted, and he nodded in agreement.

“Seen any good movies lately?” Joe asked, feeling a little too average and ordinary for the conversation.

He watched as Vincent inclined his head slightly in thought. Somehow, the motion made Joe wonder if the man had ever even seen a movie. But before he could answer, Jenny lit up at the question.

“Cathy, we rent Ghost when it comes out on video,” she said excitedly. “With Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze. Joe and I saw it a few months ago and there’s this scene with a pottery wheel and… It was just so romantic.” She paused, looking from Joe to Cathy. “Sad, but romantic.”

Joe felt the heavy weight of Cathy’s attention and suddenly felt the uncomfortable burden of proving that he was an appropriate match for her friend.

“It was. Romantic, I mean. But usually I’m more of an action movie fan,” he volunteered. “Die Hard. Now that was a good movie. Right, Vincent?”

The other man looked at him with quizzical eyes but did not seem perturbed by the question.

“I have not seen either film,” Vincent offered unhelpfully, his voice rich like chocolate. From anyone else, Joe would have thought the answer pretentious. But from Vincent, it sounded more apologetic and curious.

“Maybe we can dinner sometime and pick up some videos,” Joe offered. “Sort of a double date thing.”

This suggestion did have an effect, Joe noticed, as Vincent looked pensively at Cathy. She stated quickly, “That sounds great. We’ll have to see when our schedules line up.”

From the tone of her voice, Joe knew their schedules would never align. With a more appraising eye, he looked back at Vincent. And this time, he really looked.

The makeup really was amazing. But something about it pulled at Joe’s subconscious, especially when he looked from Cathy to Vincent and took in the subtle differences. But try as he might, he could not put his finger on what was wrong, on what tickled the instincts long honed by a career in the judicial system.

Before he could say more, Jenny had spotted a friend and had tugged him away to make introductions. But as he let his girlfriend lead him into the crowd, he noticed Cathy’s eyes following him. And he knew without a doubt they would be gone from the party by the time he and Jenny returned.

* * *

They slipped out a side door into the night, pausing in the shadows so Vincent could collect himself. He pressed up against the brick wall of the building, as though he might be absorbed completely into the darkness. And for a handful of minutes, Catherine waited patiently as he regained his composure. Spending so much time among strangers had begun to take a toll on him, despite the calm veneer he had projected for Catherine’s sake.

Finally, Vincent observed softly, “So that is the man you work for.”

“Usually he’s in a rumpled suit and not dressed up like a ninja turtle. But yes,” Catherine said, the bond relaying to him a touch of amusement.

“And your friend, Jenny,” he added softly. “She was as you described her.”

Her eyes snapped up to his face, and she confessed, “I told Jenny. About you.”

“What did she say?”

“She’ll keep the secret.”

“Are you surprised?” he asked, wondering at the strange array of emotions coming from her.

“I guess I didn’t expect it to be so easy. After so long…”

He sighed deeply, knowing how difficult it had been for Catherine to carry this burden in her life, alone and lonely with a secret essential to not only his existence, but the entire community below.

“Perhaps in having someone to confide in, you will find some measure of peace,” he suggested, hoping by saying the words he could speak them into reality.

“I always have peace – when I’m with you.”

It was the kind of thing she often said, a ready assurance. But Vincent knew it was untrue. For all that he tried to give her, he could not help but upend her life and cause turmoil.

But Vincent had begun to suspect that she preferred it that way.

Changing the subject, he asked, “Do you wish to return home?”

“Let’s just walk for a while.”

* * *

Halloween was her favorite night.

The city transformed itself regularly, but never so thoroughly as on All Hollow’s Eve, when the walls between worlds faded away and spirits from the underworld walked among denizens of the city.

Children in costumes hurried past them on the sidewalk with pillowcases and plastic pumpkins weighed down with candy. Others were like them, bedecked in some extravagant attire, hurrying along to some party or event. Many ignored the holiday and costumed masses altogether, moving purposely to and from their homes.

But Catherine and Vincent walked slowly, letting the hurried masses slip past them.

Vincent avoided the curious gazes of others, especially as more people than usual looked at him. Typically, New Yorkers kept their eyes to themselves, but the holiday had broken through the typical disinterest as people took in the varied Halloween costumes and decorations. Yet no one challenged him. Rather, they both received wide-eyed looks from children and nods of appreciation from their parents.

Indeed, with Catherine beside him in her own cat makeup, the two of them looked entirely as though they belonged on the city streets.

The only startling part of the night was when a young Asian couple stopped them. A moment of confusion passed as Vincent tried to discern their language without success. Finally, the man held up his camera and gestured with it.

“They want to take a picture of us, Vincent,” Catherine said. But she waited for him to decide whether to grant permission.

He looked at her, uncertain. Vincent had never had his picture taken. At least, not like this, openly on the street. He felt uncomfortable being such a curiosity, but etiquette seemed to dictate acceding to the couple’s request.

With a nod, he froze like a statute while Catherine posed next to him and the man raised his camera. A bright light flashed and the little machine whirled. The man grinned at them.

But then the woman beside him also held up a camera. She smiled brightly at them and made a great effort to pronounce the word, “Cheese.”

This flash seemed even brighter, and Vincent blinked his eyes rapidly to clear them. But as he regained himself, he glanced down to see the woman handing something to Catherine.

The couple said thanks in their own language, offering slight bows before they continued on their way.

“What did she give you?” he asked, a little alarmed at the thought of the couple having paid money for the photographs.

Sounding a little enraptured, Catherine said quietly, “A Polaroid.”

The word meant nothing to him.

He looked down to examine it, but Catherine began to wave it back and forth in the air. She grinned up at him as he watched in confusion.

But after a few moments, Catherine held it out to him and he looked back down at the object, a square slightly larger than his palm. A photograph, he realized instantly. He had no idea there were cameras which could produce them so quickly. And indeed, within less than a minute, an image began to appear on the plastic film.

The subjects of the picture were almost as incredible as the camera technology, and Vincent marveled at how ordinary they looked. They were just another couple dressed up on Halloween.

He glanced down at Catherine. For all that the makeup obscured and changed her usual lovely features, he took solace in the familiarity of her warm green eyes.

“Would you like to keep it?” she offered, holding out the picture. “A memento of the evening?”

He shook his head. “You should hold onto it, Catherine.”

He did not need to explain; she already understood.

She had no pictures of him and none of them together. If such evidence of him were found, it could put his life in jeopardy. But a photograph of them in matching ‘costumes’ would cause no alarm. She could carry the picture freely without fear of others suspecting the truth – that he wasn’t wearing a costume at all.

Once she slipped the Polaroid into her purse, Catherine snaked her arm into the crook of his elbow. He led her down the street and as they neared the closest intersection, he made out the street sign. Vincent smiled despite himself, trying and likely failing to keep his sharp canines hidden. Fate was with them on this night.

“What?” Catherine asked.

“Fifth Avenue,” he said.

Confused, Catherine looked from him to the street sign and then back again. Then the import of the moment finally struck her.

We were walking down Fifth Avenue… 

No one looked twice.

Her eyes beaming, Catherine gazed up at him with an expression full of love. This was a rare moment, a memory in the making, plucked directly from a dream. Around them, people hurried past, no one giving them more than a cursory glance.

“Catherine,” he said tenderly. “May I buy you some ice cream?”

~ Fin ~

 

6 Comments

  1. What a lovely story. I think Jenny found it easier to accept Vincent in such an environment, but Joe needs more preparation. He was a surprise at Jenny’s side and an astute observer….
    At the party I can see this strength of feeling between Catherine and Vincent, in their words and gestures, you portrayed it so nicely. I like how pleasantly they spend another Halloween, a quiet walk, a souvenir photo and finally Catherine’s old dream comes true. Anything is possible for our beloved couple. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Love this to . Jenny accepted Vincent for her best friend. That is how the world should be acceptance. It would be a better place. Love changes everything
    A beautiful story of my 2 favourite people that had me captured in V@C s love

    Reply
  3. An amazing story, Tasha! Heartwarming, real, so amazingly crafted! I love well-written, true-to-character and true-to-batb world stories, which yours always are, and the added treat of a Halloween setting really put this one over the top for me. It made me smile, sigh, and rejoice for our beloved Vincent and Catherine. This story will be one I’ll re-read and continue to enjoy.

    Reply
  4. Fabulous!!!! An amazingly wonderful story, and well written

    Reply
  5. Such a gorgeous story. I loved visitor couple and the Polaroid! Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply
  6. What a sweet story, Tasha! Thank you for giving us a pleasant time with Vincent and Catherine and for thinking to give them the keepsake Polaroid. I thought you portrayed Joe perfectly – curious, even nosey, but endearingly considerate too. This is a lovely piece.

    Reply

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WATER FUN

by AM

“Local temperature is 89 degrees with a heat index of 102. Stay inside if you can. Drink plenty of water and remember, don’t overdo it. It’s a scorcher out there today, folks”.

Catherine cursed the weatherman as she wiped the sweat off her forehead.  “Great. What a perfect time for the air to go out.”

The thought of going outside made her cringe. It was Sunday, so her office would be locked.

“I need to get out of this heat. I’ve got it!” Catherine giggled as she had a wonderful idea.

She went through recycling looking for something she could use.

“Nothing,” she said, frustrated.

She hurriedly changed into a comfortable t-shirt and jeans and hurried to the nearest store. She would’ve run if it hadn’t been so hot.

She sighed with relief when she stepped foot into the cool store.

She picked up some water guns.

No, too violent, and would be frowned upon, she thought as she put the guns down.

She went searching for safer things.

Balloons? No, leaves a mess to clean up.

Her eyes lit up when she saw them. “Spray bottles!!! Perfect!! Hmmm. There’s 50. That should be plenty.”

She grabbed up all the bottles and headed to pay.

It seemed like forever before she headed back to her apartment with her treasures. Instead of going directly to her apartment, she headed to the tunnels. It wasn’t long before she ran into Eric.

“What’s in the bags?” he asked

“It’s a surprise, and I need you to do me a favor. Could you gather all the kids and bring them here?”

“Okay.”

“Oh, and Eric?”

Eric turned to look at her.

“Bring as many buckets of water as you can.” She winked at him.

He returned in record time with all the tunnel kids, each carrying two buckets full of water. Catherine passed out the spray bottles and helped fill them up. Once all the bottles were filled, boundary lines were drawn, and safe places declared, they were ready.

“On your mark, get set, GO!” Catherine yelled.

The fight began in full force. Laughter, shrieks, and happy screams echoed through the tunnels as the children chased and sprayed each other. Catherine found herself in the crossfire several times, but laughed as hard as the children. When bottles emptied they were quickly refilled, and the fun continued. Soon adults came to find out where the happy noises were coming from. Some smiled, shook their heads and went back to their previous activity. Some helped by refilling empty buckets. Others just couldn’t help joining in the fun. Catherine noticed Vincent walking towards them.

“I need to borrow that,” she said to Kipper.

He smiled and handed her his full bottle. She placed the bottle behind her back, walked calmly up to Vincent, and sprayed him in the face.

His look of shock made Catherine laugh. Vincent calmly watched the children play for a few minutes before casually picking up a bucket that was a quarter full. He turned to Catherine.

“Vincent, you wouldn’t dare.”

“Perhaps, but then how would I return the favor?”

With that, he dumped the bucket over her head. The children erupted with laughter to see Catherine soaked.

A tapping on the pipes made them all stop. Dinner.

Groans quickly spread among the children. They reluctantly started handing the bottles to Catherine.

“Vincent, why don’t you keep them for the next time?”

The children’s eyes danced with glee. Vincent put the bottles in the buckets and handed them to the children to carry.

“Would you join us, Catherine?” Vincent asked.

“I would love to.”

Vincent took her hand and they followed the children to dinner.