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


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