(The way it should have gone)
The tunnels were all quiet on this early mid-Autumn night. Only a faint tapping could be heard amongst all the stretches of pipeline that travelled across the tunnel walls. But at the waterfall, Vincent read to Catherine from the writings of Rilke that vividly tell of the beauty of the mountains and the night’s sky. Moved by the exquisite portrait that Rilke portrays, Vincent suddenly stops reading and allows his mind to wander into effortless dreams.
"It was beautiful, why did you stop?" Catherine asked, a bit concerned.
"Sometimes I can see it all too clearly," Vincent replied with a sigh and laid the book down. "I used to come here as a child; wonder about such places. How it would feel to lie in a meadow under the warm sun or see the night’s sky, full of stars…."
Catherine leaned in closer to him. "When I was a girl, we spent our summers out at a lake in Connecticut. I had a secret place too, a glen. I would hide there in the tall grass. I felt like I was the only person on Earth. Safe."
"Yes," Vincent answered, peering into the distance, picturing her every word.
"And if I sat very still, the deer would walk by and not even see me. I could almost reach out and touch them. It seemed enchanted; it seemed so far from the city, like a different world. It was only 2 hours away. I wish you could see it."
"So do I," Vincent said, reopening the book.
"If only we could be there," Catherine continued.
"We are there," Vincent offered. "You are taking me there with your words, showing me."
Catherine’s eyes widened in excited curiosity at her thoughts. "Maybe there is a way."
"Please…Don’t even…" Vincent tried to object so their hearts wouldn’t entertain the dream.
"All we need is a way to get out of the city and get up there safely…a van! We could drive up at night; no one is even up at the lake this time of year! Maybe we could really do it. Vincent, let me try to arrange it. If I can, will you come with me?"
Vincent looked into Catherine’s pleading eyes and felt an excitement inside himself at the thought of being able to be safely alone together. Away from the tunnels, away from the city, away from Father and the others and Catherine’s work…alone, together, unencumbered and ready and able to discover new sides of their relationship.
"It is something that I never dared wish for," Vincent responded breathlessly.
"To go there, to share that with you, it would mean so much," Catherine said sitting up.
"Then, we must try." Vincent and Catherine embraced with such excitement and warmth; it felt like a miracle was happening right before their eyes. Vincent escorted Catherine to a different exit than her apartment so that she could set their plans into motion. With a kiss on the cheek, Catherine whisked away into the night, giddy as a school girl while Vincent headed back to Father’s chamber. As he nears Father’s chamber, he can feel Catherine’s complete joy and happiness, even as she moves miles and miles further into the city via taxicab and Vincent smiles, sharing in that bliss.
Vincent entered Father’s chamber and walked up to Father while he was reading through an old medical journal. Father acknowledged Vincent, "Ah, Vincent. I was just reading about the most amazing breakthrough in removing lesions." Looking at the date on the journal again, "well, it’s at least new to me," Father smiled and noticed a look of seriousness on his son’s face. "Vincent? What is it? Is Catherine well?"
"Yes, she is well." Vincent never beat around the bush, so he got right to the point of his visit to Father’s chamber. "Father, I want to go somewhere, with Catherine. It’s a place that she knows of from her childhood, in the mountains in Connecticut. She is hurriedly finding a van for us and will return as soon as possible to take me with her—tonight. There are no others up there this time of year and I will return in a few days. We will be careful Father."
Father slammed the journal down on his desk and gasped in angered horror, jerking off his reading glasses. "I cannot believe that you could seriously envision something so foolhardy and dangerous!"
"You over-state the risk!" Vincent retorted, not backing down.
"ANY Risk is too great. Surely that is apparent! For Catherine to suggest such a thing!"
"An innocent dream, Father, born of love!"
"An irresponsible dream, born of selfishness!"
"YES! Yes, I know because I have had the same dream for you myself,. over and over again for so many years! Ever since you were young I wanted nothing more than to be able to show you the sun, the mountains, things for which you only have words."
Calming down for a moment, Vincent reiterated one of his points. "This is not merely for myself, Father, but for Catherine as well. This is a chance for US. No more than a moment, the briefest moment, free from the perils and urgency of the time we share."
"Vincent, your love for Catherine and hers for you is something that warms us all. But you have a responsibility beyond that! A duty to those down here in this community who depend on you. Who look to you for truth and strength…for hope and protection. Without you their world would be a very dark place," Father insisted, digging deep into Vincent’s heart.
"And what of my responsibility to Catherine? Who gives so much and asks for so little? How can I deny her Father? Am I unable to fulfill even her slightest wish? Tell me Father! Are we forever bound to accept a poem for a sunset?!" Vincent pounded his fist onto the desk between them.
Unwilling to relent in this discussion, Father continued, "Vincent, you cannot do this!"
At that, Vincent stormed out of Father’s chamber, leaving Father’s insistent pleas ringing in his ears. Vincent shook away Father’s guilt trips and warnings from his mind as he began to pack a small suitcase for his new journey. A journey he was taking with the woman he loved. So many thoughts flooded Vincent’s mind that he suddenly didn’t know where to begin after packing two shirts and a pair of pants. He smiles remembering certain poems Catherine enjoyed in the past and grabs a book of poetry page-marked by a dried rose in-between the pages. Someone entering Vincent’s chamber stirs him from his thoughts.
Vincent didn’t expect to see Pascal before he left but was curious and glad none-the-less.
"Pascal…What is it?"
Pascal looks at Vincent’s packed suitcase. "Then it’s true. You’re leaving."
A little irritated that word spreads so fast in the tunnels, Vincent questioned, "Who told you this?"
"There’s been talk, rumors on the pipes. Mouse…he overheard you arguing with Father, it scared him."
Vincent continues to pack. "Mouse has no reason to be frightened."
Abruptly, Jamie and Mouse entered with synonymous worried looks on their faces.
"Jamie. Mouse," Vincent greeted with expectation.
Jamie bravely stepped forward first, "We heard you and Catherine were going away, forever."
"Forever?!" Vincent surprisingly replies. "It’s not true."
"Then why are you packing?" Jamie pressed.
"Don’t go away Vincent!" Mouse worriedly said.
"This is my home, you are my family. I’ll only be gone a very short time." Vincent reassured.
"But where are you going?" Pascal insisted.
"To a place. A very special place that Catherine wants me to see. It’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. It’s a lake, in the mountains, a place from her childhood. I want to go…to be there with her. Do you understand?"
For a moment it seemed that Vincent had eased their fears and there was a clear understanding between all four of them.
"What if something happens to you?" Jamie exclaims.
"What if you get caught above?" added Pascal.
"Like Mouse." Mouse alarmingly reminded.
"This is a quiet place, a safe place. Please don’t worry yourselves. I’ll be back, I promise."
Vincent placed another book into his suitcase as the others started to exit his chamber.
"Just be careful Vincent, we need you," says Jamie as she looked back at Vincent over her shoulder.
"I’ll be careful," Vincent replied, smiling up at her.
"Come back quick!" Mouse sent down to him as he followed Jamie out into the tunnels.
Vincent sighed and returned to packing. Pascal’s continued presence passively aggressively begged for Vincent to ask him his thoughts.
"Tell me what you think," Vincent finally asked.
"It sounds dangerous," Pascal responded.
Vincent stopped his searching and turned to face Pascal. "But to live as fully as we can, there are risks we must take."
"This is a risk for all of us…" Pascal says sullenly. "And if anything should happen to you, I don’t know…I don’t want to think about it but, it would be awful. Vincent, you are an important part of us."
With that, Pascal left the chamber; and Vincent thought deeply about what Pascal and Father had said, weighing out all the factors of this decision and the possible consequences. When it all came down to it though, the freedom, the exhilaration of being free with Catherine outweighed all other considerations. With Vincent’s mind made up, he shut his suitcase and went to wait for Catherine’s return. As Vincent sat there and waited beneath Catherine’s apartment, so many ideas floated through his mind. Not only could Vincent already feel the cool of the night air all around him but the warmth of Catherine’s body lying next to him, holding him tight. A shiver of excitement ran through his body as he felt Catherine’s presence getting nearer.
"Catherine?" Vincent anxiously asked into the darkness.
"Vincent! I rented a van; I’ve got everything we’ll need. I’ll come to the 14th St. entrance, that’ll be the safest."
Vincent smiled and held Catherine in front of him. "Alright."
Catherine, out of breath from excitement and running about, hugged Vincent tightly and released him quickly to run back into the darkness and bring the van around.
Vincent, also in anticipation, started to run to the 14th St. entrance, and upon his arrival he saw the rear of the van backing up. Catherine got out of the van and kept a close watch out, and waving him in said, "Vincent, hurry!" Vincent jumped into the back of the van and laid down on the floor as Catherine shut the back doors and climbed into the driver’s seat.
"Oh Vincent! I’m so excited! I can’t believe we’re doing this!"
Vincent sat up on the floor in the back of the van where one of the seats had been taken out.
"Our dream is going to become a reality, Catherine, and we’ll remember these days forever."
"And most importantly Vincent…" Catherine trailed off.
"What?" Vincent questioned.
"We’ll remember love. Our love that brought us here."
Both Catherine and Vincent smiled as she drove them out of the city and onto the main highway, heading toward the mountains of Connecticut. A classical AM station played a beautiful Schubert piece that seemed to fill the dark van with light.
"I forgot to tell you Vincent, these windows are tinted so that you can see out and no one can see in. So don’t be afraid to look out of them."
Vincent was amazed and didn’t waste any time in searching his surroundings. It was incredible; he could see the mountains ahead and watched all the beautiful cottages and farms along the road that were lightly laced with snow.
"Catherine, this is more lovely than I ever dreamed. It looks like a Thomas Kinkade painting."
Catherine laughed. "I always thought that, too, when I came up here."
"When will we be arriving?"
Catherine peered at a sign on the side of the road. "Well from what I could see, we’ve got forty more miles until we’re far enough in the mountains to be close to the entrance to the lake house. So, I would safely assume another hour or so. Are you alright?"
Vincent breathed in a deep, relaxing sigh. "I am wonderful."
While Catherine drove, she regaled Vincent with more stories from her childhood and of beautiful things she wanted to show him when they reached their destination.
"Okay, we’re here Vincent!"
Vincent felt safe enough to sit in the passenger seat next to Catherine as they drove up the half-mile dirt driveway through the forest to the house. Nothing was lit, but the moon sparkled on the snowy house and danced across the top of the lake.
"Let me check around first before you get out of the van. I’ll be back in just a few minutes." Catherine reached into a box in the backseat and pulled out a large flashlight and binoculars. She carefully checked each room in the house, the grounds, and even the forest area around the grounds. When everything appeared to be secluded and safe, they gathered the boxes and suitcases out of the van and walked inside the house. It was completely dark except for Catherine’s flashlight lighting the way through the doorway.
"The house is so old that there’s no electricity, so we need to light the fireplace and lanterns throughout the house so we can see. So what do you think so far?"
Vincent smiled and walked close to her. "It’s more like home than I realized."
Catherine couldn’t help but laugh at the ironic truth of it all. She put her arm around
Vincent and squeezed him tight.
"Let’s get this fireplace started first and then I’ll go and get the lanterns from the kitchen."
Vincent stoked the brick fireplace with old, dried-out logs while Catherine lit some newspapers with matches. A cozy little fire soon started and Catherine lifted the sheets off of the furniture to give Vincent a place to sit.
"I’m going to put some things away in the kitchen. Make yourself at home."
Vincent looked around and saw an eating area across the hall, very simple and sweet, an old wooden table adorned with candles and four chairs. He was standing in the living room and took time to look at the walls of books surrounding him, a small sofa, and rocking chair; all being dimly lit by the fireplace. As Vincent walked around, he saw pictures of Catherine and her parents on the mantle and of her grandparents on the walls. To see Catherine as a child filled his heart with joy. What a beauty she was even then. Catherine walked in holding two oil lamplights and handed one to Vincent.
"Come; let me show you around the house."
Vincent took her hand and allowed Catherine to lead him through the darkness. As Catherine explained each room and its significance, Vincent was filled with wonder. How full her life has been, what an imaginative place to come and visit, and how breathtaking Catherine looked by candlelight. Catherine showed Vincent the dining area, which was even smaller than she remembered, the kitchen and the pantry, and the sitting porch in the back of the house that faced the meadow that she had spoke of.
"Catherine? Is that the tall grass you would hide in?"
Smilingly Catherine replied, "Yes, I was a bit further out though. It’s a little cold to go lying down in it this time of year, but we’ll see what weather tomorrow brings."
Catherine led Vincent upstairs and showed him the rooms with such excitement.
"This was the room my grandparents would stay in when they came up here, see how nothing is touched or moved? As hard as it is to imagine, this is how this room has always looked. They didn’t like to move things around that much. I used to hide under their bed though when I played hide and seek with grandpa."
Vincent lifted Catherine’s hand up to his lips and kissed it gently. Already they both felt the difference in being alone at the lake house and being alone in the city.
Catherine blushed and led Vincent into the next room over.
"This was my parents’ room. I used to sit on the edge of their bed in the mornings and watch my mom brush her hair. I remember thinking that she was the most beautiful woman on Earth, and for some reason I loved to watch her comb through her hair and I loved it even more when she would comb mine."
Catherine walked over to the dresser and picked up a thick bristled wooden brush and held it against her lips. She breathed in the smell deeply.
"I used to be able to smell my mother’s scent on her things. It’s been a long time though."
Vincent squeezed her hand supportively as they traveled back into the hallway and into the last bedroom on the second floor. The wallpaper was white with vines of purple flowers and baby’s breath. There was a matching bed and dresser set—white, wooden, and fit for a delighted eight-year-old girl. As Catherine described playing amongst these things in her old room, Vincent could picture it, and at some moments, even hear it. The intense intimacy of being shown around someone’s home and sharing in their memories was an entirely new feeling for Vincent. There were moments when he had felt it in small amounts with Catherine, but there was an overwhelming, unhindered rush of it here.
They left the bedroom and before heading down the staircase, Catherine stopped.
"Oh, and there’s the one and only bathroom. And it only has an old, iron bath tub, no shower."
Vincent smiled and he followed Catherine down the stairs and into the kitchen.
"Vincent, are you hungry?" Catherine asked, removing groceries from the boxes.
"You cook?" Vincent questioned playfully.
Catherine grinned from ear to ear; there was something so beautifully different about Vincent when he wasn’t in the tunnels. He was more playful, flirtatious, trusting of himself. It almost seemed like living in the tunnels kept him more apprehensive, more worrisome, and perhaps even more beast-like. He was never more like a man than at this very moment; helping her with groceries and flirting in the kitchen.
"How about I make us some dinner and you can light all the rest of the rooms down here? I left all the lanterns and candles out, ready to be lit."
"As you wish," Vincent replied.
"Vincent? Shall we sit and eat in front of the fireplace?"
Vincent turned to look over his shoulder at the now comfortable-looking living room.
With that simple answer, Catherine busied herself with making pasta as Vincent prepared the living room for her arrival.
He picked out a book that had a very worn spine, laid the blanket Catherine had brought in on the floor, and lit candles all around the room. When the pasta was done, Catherine poured them each a glass of wine, and put everything on a try that she carried in to an awaiting Vincent, standing to greet her.
"Vincent, the room looks so beautiful."
"Ah well, it cannot compare to your beauty, Catherine."
Catherine carefully places the tray down on the blanket and sat.
"I found this book that I believe must have been read a hundred times in this room," Vincent said, revealing the book he had plucked off the wall.
"Oh Vincent! More like a thousand! We took turns reading the stories and poems in this book. It was my grandfather’s favorite. The Selected Works of Mr. Edgar Allen Poe. I had forgotten that it ever existed…until you found it. Thank you, Vincent, for reminding me."
As they ate, they spoke of their favorite childhood games and friends; of the bad things they did as children and the lessons they learned. Before they knew it, the clock struck 2.
"Well, I suppose we should get to bed. There’s so much to do tomorrow. We want to get an early start," Catherine said, picking up the tray and placing it in the kitchen.
"Where shall I sleep?" Vincent asked at her return.
"Well, why don’t you get comfortable here, by the fire, and I’ll read to you?"
Catherine picked up the Poe book, sat Vincent down in front of her, laying his head
on her lap and covering him with the corner of the blanket, she started:
"Take this kiss upon this brow, and in parting from you now, thus much let me avow.
You are not wrong who deem, that my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away, in a night or in a day,
In a vision or in none, is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream…"
Catherine awoke in the morning to find Vincent gone from her arms. She stood up and stretched a bit and called out, "Vincent?" She walked around the house, looking for him. He wasn’t on the first floor. Now her heart started to race as she bolted up the stairs.
"Vincent?!" All the doors to all the rooms were open, including the bathroom. Catherine raced downstairs and flung the front door open. "Vincent!!" She ran barefoot around the house to the back; and as she started to yell, almost in panic, once more "VIN…" she spotted him, lying in the tall grass, just breathing. Catherine suddenly felt a little foolish for almost becoming hysterical. She walked over and lay in the grass next to Vincent.
"Catherine…I never…I feel so…there are no words."
Catherine smiled putting her arm over his chest. "Blessed?"
"Miraculous." Vincent said with tears falling from his eyes.
After a few minutes, Catherine’s shivering became very apparent to Vincent and he looked at her bare feet and arms. Being 45 %F, even with no wind, was frigid.
"Catherine!" Vincent immediately picked her up and carried her back into the house.
Vincent rubbed her feet and hands in front of the fireplace until she was warm again.
"I figured that if you’re going to lie in the freezing cold, than I am too."
Catherine put on some boots and a jacket and together they headed back outside, to walk hand in hand in the sunlight around the lake. It was Catherine’s joy to show Vincent the deer running, and the cranes fishing, all the different trees in the forests surrounding them. They went on until dusk, Vincent asking questions about all the things around them and Catherine gladly answering. Upon their return to the house, Vincent started the fire in the fireplace again and lit all the candles in the dining room for their supper. Catherine made Rosemary Chicken and new baby potatoes with buttered green beans. Catherine had never heard Vincent be so inquisitive and ask so many questions before; it was wonderful. It felt like there was truly something that she could give him. As dusk turned to evening, Vincent and Catherine retired in the living room once again to roast marshmallows in the fireplace and read some more of Poe, but Vincent also brought one of their favorite books of poetry and took the time to read Rilke to her as she snuggled close by his side. Catherine suddenly felt something in her hair, very light and relaxing, and the feeling reminded her of her childhood. A few tears of happiness and remembrance filtered through her eyes as Vincent brushed through her hair with her mother’s brush.
Before Catherine was lulled to sleep by Vincent’s voice, she whispered, "I love you Vincent."
Vincent sets the book down, wraps his arms around his lady love and whispered back, "And I, you."
The next morning Catherine awoke before Vincent, bathed, cleaned up and made him breakfast. The smell of fresh coffee and bacon frying stirred Vincent into consciousness.
"Good morning Catherine. Did you sleep well?"
Catherine smiled brightly as she put his breakfast on the table.
"I slept very well. I hope that you like bacon and eggs and coffee."
Vincent came to the table and pulled out Catherine’s chair for her.
"And I readied your bath for you upstairs, so when you’re done with breakfast, your bath awaits."
Vincent just peered down at his plate.
"Vincent, is something wrong?" Catherine wondered.
"No," he replied. "I’ve never had someone prepare a bath for me before. Thank you."
Catherine hid her smile by sipping her coffee.
"Well, it’s our last day up here. Is there anything special that you’d like to do or see?"
Vincent thought for a moment as he ate his breakfast with great enjoyment.
"I would like to drive further up into the mountains, to see more."
Without a second thought, Catherine responded, "Then that’s what we’ll do."
Vincent finished breakfast and excused himself to get ready for the day. As Catherine did the dishes she couldn’t help but picture Vincent upstairs. Although their love was very pure up to this point, Catherine has always had desires for more. She wondered at this very instant if he was thinking the same thing she was.
Vincent returned about ten minutes later, dressed and completely packed.
"Whew! I don’t think I’ve ever been able to get ready that fast in my life!" Catherine remarked.
"I was anxious about our day abroad…and to have more time with you." Vincent said so sweetly.
"Okay, then let’s not waste any time. We’ll close up shop here and hit the road. We can even picnic this afternoon while we’re out and about." Catherine put her arm around Vincent’s back and they went to each and every room, putting the sheets back on the furniture and putting the candles away. After the van was reloaded, they took one last long look at the lake house, taking a mental picture and soaking in all the memories.
"I can’t thank you enough Catherine. For everything." Vincent said wrapping her in his cloak.
"We’d better get going."
Catherine drove them up further into the mountains. The crystallized lakes and icicles were a glorious sight to behold, especially for Vincent. It appeared as a winter kingdom spread out before them. Catherine and Vincent left the safety of the warm van and walked up a snowy mountain path toward a peak. It overlooked numerous other mountains and they could see the lake where the lake house was resting until they visited again.
"Catherine this is the most precious moment of my life…" Vincent trailed off.
"I’m so happy I could share this with you." Catherine responded, holding him tight.
They walked and talked about simple things through lunch and then through dinner. Vincent dreamed of coming back in the spring with Catherine, and Catherine dreamed of all the other places she might be able to get him to. It was a day to dream and a day to live. And as the sun started to set into golden pink hues over the stretch of mountains before them, Vincent looked at Catherine and felt all the love in his heart beg him to do something. To give Catherine something that she had been longing for. His piercing blue eyes asked the question and Catherine’s gave the answer. Vincent leaned down to Catherine as she lifted up on her toes and their lips met in a beautiful, thrilling kiss that let each other know, ‘It is possible. This is possible. Anything is possible.’ Their kiss went from beautifully simple to exquisitely passionate in a matter of seconds, and in shock, Vincent pulled away. Catherine understood and kissed Vincent’s cheek.
"Well, we’d better eat and start heading back to the city."
The journey home felt too fast and it seemed that they were at the 14th St. entrance to the tunnels much sooner than two hours should allow. Catherine checked around the entrance to be sure that no one was watching when she let Vincent out the back.
"I wish I could stay but I’ll have to hurry to get this out of here before anyone notices. I had the most wonderful time Vincent," Catherine said, walking into Vincent’s arms.
"So did I Catherine. You showed another part of your world to me that I would never have seen without you. And you showed me another part of yourself that was equally amazing. Thank you, mere words, that aren’t even close to…"
Catherine quickly placed two fingers over Vincent’s lips. "I know Vincent. I know…"
Catherine and Vincent came together for one final kiss goodbye as an interrupted cry sounded.
"Vincent! Catherine! They’re back! They made it back!"
Mouse came running up to them with Jamie not far behind. Hugging Vincent, Mouse said, "Followed you out this tunnel…waited here for your return…So glad Vincent."
"As am I, Mouse. Thank you," Vincent reassured.
As Jamie and Mouse escorted Vincent further into the tunnels, Catherine smiled and started up the van.
"So how was it Vincent?! Was it beautiful there?" Jamie asked.
"Oh yes, very beautiful Jamie. With such snowy mountains and frozen lakes that no picture has ever captured or sonnet has ever personified."
Vincent headed toward Father’s chamber and entered to a relieved Jacob, who hustled to greet him.
"Vincent! Oh Vincent, thank God you’re home!"
"Father," Vincent replied as they embraced.
"How was….Did everything go…alright?" Father fumbled his words, almost embarrassed at what he almost insinuated at asking.
Vincent smiled, "Father, everything was perfect."
"Good," Father remarked. "But just because this journey was successful does not mean that every journey will end that way and…"
"Father…" Vincent interjected.
Father simply smiled, taking the hint, and put his arm around his son. "It’s so good to have you home again."