WFOL 2024 Challenge

Winterfest Guests


by JRo

Winterfest was in full swing. The feast was finished, and the tables had just been cleared and moved to allow for dancing. Vincent cleaned his hands, then made his way over to Catherine. She was watching as a group of people moved to greet a couple who had just arrived.

“Tricia and Ken had to travel several hundred miles to come tonight. I’m guessing they ran into traffic on their trip.”

Catherine turned to him and smiled. “Well, once they’ve eaten and the crowd dies down, I’d like to meet them. In the meantime, would you like to dance?”

A waltz was starting, so Vincent bowed and kissed her hand.

“It would be an honor.”

After several dances, Vincent was asked to dance by Rebecca, so Catherine took the opportunity to meet Tricia. She introduced herself, then sat down.

“It’s good to meet you, Tricia. Where has your husband gone?”

Tricia laughed. “Ken finished his food and went to talk with William. He said it was to discuss what we could contribute to the community, but I think it was also an excuse to get some of William’s hard cider that he heard the others talking about.”

“Yes, it does seem to be popular. The community was lucky to have a large enough donation of apples to make it possible this year.”

“Yes. I’m glad to hear that. So, Catherine, how did you come to be a helper?”

Catherine smiled. “How did you know I was a helper and not a member of the community?”

“Well, your clothes and jewelry were my first big clue. But, I keep in close contact with Father, William, Peter, and a few other helpers. Your name has come up a few times. Besides, even though we live out of state, I still get the NY papers to stay current with the city news. You don’t exactly keep a low profile.”

Catherine blushed. “Well, it seems you know quite a bit about me. What about you?”

“Me? Well, compared to you, I’m pretty boring. I grew up Below with my mom and sister. They live down in North Carolina. Ken lived above. His parents were helpers and had a laundromat. His grandparents had a farm upstate, and he used to tell me all about it when he would return from a visit. He learned all about farming and beekeeping, then went to college for Agriculture. He manages a farm in southern Maryland, and we have a dozen acres of our own. We have a large garden, fruit and nut trees, and a decent sized apiary.”

“Do you have children?”

“Yes. Charlotte is almost eight, and Robert is six. They are having a sleep-over weekend with Ken’s sister. Because we’re not local, we haven’t told them about this community yet. It would be hard to explain how special this place is and ensure their secrecy, when they can’t regularly see it for themselves. We’re going to wait until they’re a little older.”

One of the children brought over pie and coffee for Catherine and Tricia, and they continued chatting. Eventually, Vincent made his way over as well.

“I see you two have met. Have you told Catherine about your beekeeping yet?”

Catherine smiled. “Yes she has, and about their gardens and mini-orchard. It sounds like a lot of hard work, but I imagine it’s beautiful as well.”

“It is,” said a voice coming up from behind them. “You must be Catherine. I’m Ken.”

Catherine stood to shake his hand. “It’s so good to meet you.”

“Likewise. Vincent, I already spoke to Father, but I thought you should know as well. There are several crates in Peter’s basement that will need to be brought Below tomorrow. Most go to the kitchen storeroom, but there is a box for Father and a crate of beeswax for Cullen and Rebecca to share.”

Vincent laid his hand on Ken’s shoulder. “We are grateful for your generosity. You already brought us honey and nuts before Christmas.”

“Well, we rescued two colony swarms at the end of the summer. They had such a late start that they didn’t survive the early cold snap we had over New Year’s, but we salvaged what honey and beeswax we could. We also built a greenhouse this summer and Tricia harvested some aloe and a few other homeopathic herbs. Now, if you will excuse us, I was hoping my wife would like to dance.”

Ken held out his hand and they headed off to dance. Vincent likewise offered his hand to Catherine, and they also headed off to the dance floor.

The rest of the Winterfest celebration passed very pleasantly. Ken spoke with Vincent, Father, and Peter about the possibility of hosting one or two interested teenagers at his home for a six-month internship to learn about farming, agriculture, and bee-keeping. When Peter and Father headed off to discuss the possibilities over a game of chess, Vincent and Ken were roped into judging one of the children’s games.

After declaring Geoffrey the winner, Vincent turned his head to look at Catherine, who was across the room and laughing at whatever the ladies were chatting about. She felt his glance and turned for a moment to give him a smile. He allowed her love to fill his heart. Ken also took the opportunity to share a glance with Tricia. The rest of the ladies noticed the distraction, and it prompted some of them to look at their own husbands before returning to their conversations.

“Well Vincent, I think we are two of the luckiest guys in the world. I can’t imagine my life with anyone other than Tricia, and it’s clear that you’ve found your soulmate as well.”

Vincent smiled. “I have.”

“Every day I thank my lucky stars that I have my Tricia. She is the sweetest woman in the world.”

“Sweeter than honey?”

Ken laughed. “Yes. Definitely. I’m guessing you feel the same way about Catherine?”

“I love her with all that I am.”

“I’ll drink to that,” Ken said. “Any chance William has some of that hard cider left?” 


  1. I love how so many details about functioning in the tunnels are so seamlessly slipped into this story, from donated food to honey and beeswax for the candles. You show that sometimes tunnel children leave and return as helpers but still keep up with the tunnel happenings. Also, the lovely underlying threat of Catherine and Vincent’s connection shows through as an inspiration to all.

  2. It’s nice to meet more guests and so many valuable products they bring, they share what they have, you can see that they are very good,kind people…and I like Catherine and Vincent in the background, so happy, living together and exuding radiance and love.

  3. I love the fun spirit filled and heart felt story, beautiful

  4. JRo, I love how you give more depth to the BatB world, expanding it in such realistic, believable ways. Truly an example of “more is more” and so welcome! Thank you for writing this story!

  5. All the details you gave us make this such a real story – the characters’ lives just manifested before me. I love that in a story. Thank you!!


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CABB logo: crystal and rose




CABB logo: crystal and rose







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?”


“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.