Vincentís First Winterfest

Kathy DeNormandie

 

Father sat in his comfortable chair reading aloud to an enthralled group of children ranging in ages from five to ten.

With a smile to the group, he slowly turned the page he had just finished reading and gasped in surprise. In the margins, someone had drawn pictures and written measurements with an ink pen.

He scowled but continued to read the story. An observant Pascal caught his look of anger and looked over towards Winslow.


Winslowís head was down and he was engrossed with trying to get a knot out of the lace of his shoe. Pascal elbowed him and Winslow looked up curiously. Pascal nodded towards Father and Winslow followed his gaze.

He looked at Father and frowned. He too noticed the anger in Fatherís face and could hear it carried over into in his voice. He looked back at Pascal and shrugged indifferently then went back to struggling with the knot.

Father ended the chapter abruptly. "Thatís all for today children perhaps we will be able to finish tomorrow."

Surprised at having reading hour cut short, the children looked around at one another in confusion.


Father held up the book. "Can anyone tell me who read this book last?"

Ike was picking at a scab on his arm and answered distractedly. "Devin and Vincent were reading it yesterday."

Father nodded and looked at the rest of the children. "You may all go now and I believe there is a snack waiting for you in the dining chamber."

The children rushed excitedly from the room. Home-baked cookies and milk were a favorite bedtime snack and if they got there quickly the cookies would still be warm.

Winslow and Pascal lagged behind. Pascal gave Winslow a shove and nodded towards Father. Winslow slapped at Pascalís arm then tentatively took a step forward.

"Father?"

Father looked up in surprise at Winslowís voice. "Winslow?" He looked around the tall boy to see Pascal cowering behind him. "Pascal...what are you boys still doing here?"

Winslow faltered but took a deep breath. "We were just wondering why story hour was cut short..."

Father looked at him then Pascal who nodded to show he was in agreement with Winslow. "Well, a problem arose that I feel I need to deal with immediately."

Winslow nodded. "Is it something we can help with?"

Father opened to the defaced page and showed it to the boys. Winslowís and Pascalís mouths dropped open simultaneously. In the world Below, books were considered a treasured item, and from an early age the children were taught to treat them with great respect.

Father looked from one to the other. "Do either one of you know who could have written in this book?"

Winslow and Pascal exchanged worried glances. Pascal shook his head while Winslow pretended to ponder the question.

He looked up hopefully. "Maybe Mitch did it?"

Father rolled his eyes and then fixed Winslow with a level stare. "I am well aware of Mitchís shortcomings, but do you honestly mean to tell me that you think that Mitch borrowed a book from the library and was so excited about the story that he left notes in the margin?"

Pascal snorted with laughter but lowered his head when Winslow shot him an angry look.

Winslow shook his head solemnly. "I guess not."

Father shook his head and sighed. "I believe young Ike told me all I need to know. You boys should run off and get your snack."

The two boys turned around and hurried towards the door but stopped at the sound of Fatherís voice.

"Oh, by the way, boys...I thought I should tell you that Iím heading next door immediately, so you may want to go directly to the dining chamber and not stop off to talk to anyone."

Winslow grimaced and Pascal gasped in wonder that Father knew that it was exactly what they had been planning on doing.

Winslow dejectedly grabbed Pascalís arm. "Címon we may as well have our snack."

The two left and Father sighed then stood up and walked to see his sons.

***

Father walked in to see a pajama clad Vincent standing in front of a tall mirror. He chuckled and shook his head in wonder as he observed that once again the feet in Vincentís pajamas seemed too tight. Vincent was growing in leaps and bounds, and this last growth spurt made all his clothes virtually unusable. Mary was working on altering some items for him, and Father wondered if they would get done soon enough.

Vincent was looking at his reflection in a mirror. He was patiently trying to untangle the knots in his still damp hair.

He noticed Father coming in and turned around and smiled. "Hi, Father!"

Father smiled. "Hello, Vincent. You look squeaky clean!"

Vincent giggled and turned back to the mirror. Father frowned and looked around the room. "Do you know where your brother is?"

"In the bathing chamber."

Devin normally couldnít tolerate being in the bath more than was absolutely necessary, and Father raised his brows in surprise. "Still?"

Vincent nodded. "Uh, huh! Mary came to check on me, and I washeded really good. Then she said Devin has so much dirt behind his ears he could grow potatoes!" He turned to look at Father and he laughed hysterically at the thought of Devin walking around with potatoes growing out of his ears. He stopped then puffed out his little chest importantly. "Mary said I was a big boy and did a very good job and that I could get out of the bath and get ready for bed."

Father smiled indulgently as he picked up Vincentís wet towel from the floor. "Well, Iím sure, if Mary said so, then you did a verrry good job. Iím proud of you, son."

Vincent turned back and started to work again at the tangles in his hair. Father frowned. "Shouldnít you wait for Mary to comb your hair?"

Vincent shook his head. "Nuh, uh! Only baaabbies get their hair combed. Iím a big boy now!" Vincent turned around and held up three fingers. "Iím four years old!" He noticed he held up the wrong amount of fingers and quickly changed it then showed his hand to Father.

Father grinned ruefully at him and Vincent blushed, knowing he had been caught. He turned back to the mirror and started working on the tangles again.

Father hadnít meant to embarrass his son. "Iím sorry, Vincent. I keep forgetting how much youíve grown."

Vincent shrugged indifferently. "Iíll be bigger than Devin soon!"

Father nodded then looked down at the book in his hand. "Vincent, were you by any chance reading Mark Twainís Life on the Mississippi?"

"Uh, uh...me and Devin were."

Father corrected his grammar. "Devin and I..."

Vincent smiled. "Youíre reading it too?"

Father sighed then continued. "Did you like it?"

Vincent was working on a particularly knotted area of his hair. "Uh, huh." He looked at Father through the mirror. "Me and Devin are gonna build a raft!"

Father tried again to correct his grammar. "Devin and I are going to build a raft."

Vincentís head cocked again as he looked up in the reflection. "Father, if you and Devin are gonna build a raft and me and Devin are gonna build a raft, why donít we all work on the same one?"

Father hung his head in defeat and smiled as he shook his head. "Good idea, Vincent. We should probably start with some plans..."

"We gotted some already!"

"You do?"

"Uh, huh. We writeded them down."

Devin, fresh from the bath and still wrapped in his towel, walked into the room and stopped when he saw Father talking to Vincent.

"You wrote them down."

Vincent nodded. "Thatís what I said. We even had to get a second sheet of paper!"

Father cocked his head thoughtfully. "Where is the first sheet?"

Devin moaned as he realized what was happening. He stepped forward to stop the conversation, but Vincent was wincing as he pulled out a particularly large snarled area of hair and answered Father distractedly, "In the book."

Devin gasped and Father noticed him standing there. Devinís heart beat wildly as he looked into Fatherís angry eyes. He knew he was in for a severe punishment and turned to look at Vincent with a scowl on his face.

With tears of pain in his eyes, Vincent held the snarl in his hand and noticed Devinís look. He slowly realized what he had just said and looked down at the floor.

Devin began to get dressed when Father stood up. "Vincent, did you brush your teeth?"

"No," Vincent whispered his reply.

Father nodded. "Go do so now, and take Devinís and your wet towels to Mary."


"Yes, sir." Vincent scuffed his feet as he walked toward Devin. He offered Devin an apologetic look, but Devin refused to look at him as he angrily handed him his towel.

Vincent left, and Father looked at his son. "Devin, get dressed immediately and see me in the library!"

Devin pulled his slippers on and looked up defiantly. "Iím done. Iíll follow you now..."

Father left and Devin lagged behind him.

In the tunnel way Father passed Winslow and Pascal and nodded to each of them. "Goodnight, boys. Donít forget to brush your teeth."

Winslow answered. "We wonít. Goodnight, Father."

Pascal nodded. "Night, Father."

Devin lagged further behind, and Winslow slowed his walk. "Good luck," he whispered as he passed Devin.

"Thanks," Devin whispered back.

Pascal looked at him sympathetically. "Sorry, man!"

Devin grinned. "It wonít be that bad!"

Winslow raised his brows in surprise. "Father was pretty mad..."

Devin shrugged. "Whatís the worst he can do?"

A shout came from around the corner of the tunnel. "Devin!"

Winslow and Pascal took off running as Devin grimaced and took a deep breath then continued on.

***

Devin walked into the library to see Father standing in front of his desk.

The book was opened to the defaced page as Father shook it angrily. "This is your work?"

Devin thought briefly about lying, but knew he would be punished more severely. He nodded. "Yes."

"You forgot our rules?!"

Devin shook his head. "No...Vincent and I were so excited...I guess I just didnít think about it. I grabbed a pen and started writing..."

Devin hoped by admitting his mistake Father would go easy on him; however, Fatherís blood was boiling.

"And what punishment do you think you should receive for ruining a prized possession?"

Devin frowned. "It was only one page! You can still read the book!"

Fatherís face grew red with anger at Devinís insolence. "The punishment?!"

Devin shrugged. "Two weeks kitchen duty?!"

Devin had issued the standard punishment for children, but Father shook his head. "No! That punishment clearly does not fit the crime."


Devin looked up worriedly. "What is it then?"

Father looked at him angrily. "For one month you will not be able to go Above with the other children."

Devinís eyes grew round. "A month! I wrote in a book! I didnít kill anyone!"

Father grew angry at Devinís lack of remorse. "Thatís the punishment! Now, please go to bed."

Devin stormed angrily from the room.

A distraught Father sat down heavily. The punishment he issued was especially severe, but he needed to make Devin understand that what he did was wrong. He held his head as he realized that he wished he had only given Devin two weeks punishment instead of a month.

Devin was such a free spirit and often did things before thinking about the consequences. His favorite thing in the world to do was to go Above and play. Father hoped Devinís inability to do so wouldnít break his spirit.


Father comforted himself with the knowledge that it was winter in the world Above and the children went up less often. He also realized with Winterfest coming the festivities would help to keep Devinís spirits up.

With a sigh, he turned to go to his sleeping chamber.

***

Vincent was sitting on the edge of the bed when an angry Devin stormed into the room.

He looked up at his older brother. "Dev, Iím..."

"Shut up, Vincent!"

"I just wanted to..."

As he whirled around the room angrily gathering items into a bag, Devin interrupted him again. "What? Apologize? Because of you I canít go Above for a month!"

Vincentís mouth opened. "Wow! A whole month!"

"Yes, because of you!"

Vincent looked at him thoughtfully. "I wrote in the book too, maybe I canít go Above either and we could..."

Devin rolled his eyes in disgust. "You canít go Above cause youíre a freak!"

Devin had never spoken so cruelly to Vincent before. He watched as Vincent immediately had tears spring up in his eyes.

He balked for a second at the hurt on Vincentís face but he was still so angry he made it even worse. "You were standing in front of the mirror combing that stupid freaky hair of yours, like it would make a difference! How can you stand to look at yourself?!"


Vincent hung his head as the tears flowed freely down his cheeks. Devin was still so mad, he went in for the kill. "Good! Take your freaky hair and hide your freaky face!"

He whirled with his bag in his hand and headed towards the door. "Iím going to sleep with the normal boys."

Devinís parting shot over his shoulder was like a knife in Vincentís heart.

Vincent cried then grew angry at himself. He stood in front of the mirror and lashed out at it, knocking it over. It smashed to the floor and broke into pieces. Then he walked to his desk and found a pair of scissors and started hacking at his hair. He cut huge chunks off from all over his head then flung himself on the bed as deep racking sobs tore through him.

Alone, he cried himself to sleep.

***

Devin and the other boys had a wonderful time. Two hours later, Devin was thinking about how much fun Vincent would have had with them and he guiltily stood up. "Iím heading back to my chamber."

Winslow was still laughing over the latest joke. "Just stay here for tonight."

Devin shook his head. "Naw, Vincent doesnít like to be alone at night."

Pascal shrugged. "Heís probably already sleeping."

Mitch walked in from the bathroom and grinned. "Yeah, let the freak sleep."

Devin was so angry Mitch called Vincent a name, he balled up his fist and swung out. His punch connected with Mitchís nose. Mitch fell to the ground and within seconds blood was seeping from his nose.

Devin hovered over him angrily. "Donít ever let me hear you say that about my brother again!"

Mitch nodded and crawled to his bed where he pushed Kleenex against his nose to stop the flow of blood.


Devin angrily stormed from the room.

***

Vincent was asleep in bed when Devin walked into their room.

He stopped in his tracks when he noticed the broken mirror on the floor. He walked forward and noticed the hunks of hair on the ground and the scissors on top of the desk.

He whirled around and stepped over towards his brother. He could tell that Vincent had been crying, and he gasped when he noticed the chop job he did on his hair.

Devinís face fell as he stepped back and sat heavily in his chair. For the first time in his young life, he realized the power of his words. He looked over at his little brother and tears sprang to his eyes.

His mind wandered back to the first time he saw Vincent....

 

Devin awakened from a bad dream and got up to search for Father. He padded through the tunnel way and found Father sitting in a chair in the library. His head had fallen forward when he dozed off; and Devin stood patiently in front of him, waiting for him to wake up.

The night air was cold, and Devin sniffled then wiped his nose on his shirt sleeve.


Father blinked and woke to find Devin standing in front of him. He shook his head trying to wake himself then smiled at Devin. "What is it, son?"

Devin shrugged but remained silent. Father smiled knowingly. "Did you have a bad dream?"

Devin nodded, and Father opened his arms. Devin climbed onto his lap and snuggled against him. Father drew his arms around his son and laid his cheek against his head.

Devin placed his hands on top of Fatherís. "Are you coming to bed?"


After losing Devinís mother in child birth, no one questioned why Father insisted on being responsible for the childís well being. Since then, Devin and Father had shared the same living chamber.

Father pointed at the small bassinet and whispered. "No, I canít. Mary needed a break so Iím sitting and keeping watch over Vincent tonight."

Devin nodded. "The new kid?"

"Yes, Devin, but Vincentís only a baby."

"Oh." After a pause, Devin continued. "Is that why you gotta watch him?"

Father shook his head. "Normally, no. Babies are usually okay on their own, but Vincent is quite sick."

Devin looked at him curiously. "Is he frowing up like I did?"

Father grinned and patted Devinís stomach. "No, heís not throwing up, but he is quite weak."

"So you gotta watch him all the time?"

Father sighed. "For now."

Devin looked at the bassinet. "Is he gonna get better soon?"

"I hope so!"

Devin turned around at the unusual tone in Fatherís voice. "Is he gonna get worse like Old Marvin did?"

Father frowned and decided to tell him the truth. "I...just donít know, Devin."

"I thought only old people died. Kids canít die, can they?"

Father expelled a long breath. "I wish it wasnít true, but sadly, yes, sometimes they can."

"Is Vincent gonna die?"

Father shook his head. "If he doesnít show some sign of improvement soon, Iím afraid he might."

A small noise came from across the room. Father stood Devin up on his feet then got up and walked over to the bassinet.

The covers were moving and Father reached to open them up to look in on his new charge.

Devin walked up next to him and looked up at Father. "Heís awake?"

"Yes."

"Can I see him?"


Father looked at Devin. "Son, you may see him, but I need to tell you that Vincent is a very special little boy. Youíve never seen anyone that looks like him before."

Devin nodded that he understood, and Father uncovered the baby and picked him up. He walked over and sat down in the chair and held Vincent on his lap.

Devin walked over and stared at the baby. "Whatís so special about him?"

Fatherís eyebrows rose in surprise. "What?" he asked incredulously.

Devin shrugged. "Heís got eyes and a nose and mouth and arms and legs. Just like everyone else."

Father shook his head. "Yes, but..."

Vincent was moving his arm when Devin reached out and touched his hand. Vincent quickly grabbed onto Devinís finger and held onto it tightly.

Devin studied the babyís little hand closely. Father watched as his son counted then looked over at Vincentís other hand. Devin stepped back and looked up again. "Heís got ten fingers...does he got ten toes?"

Father grinned. "Yes."

Devin rolled his eyes. "Told you! Heís not so special." He looked down at the baby and moved his face in closer. "Youíre not so special, are you?"


Vincent squealed with delight and kicked his arms as his face broke out into a huge grin.


Father gasped in wonder. "He smiled!"

Devin shrugged again. "So what? Everyone smiles."

Father hugged the young baby then looked at his son. "Devin, Vincent hasnít shown any reaction to anyone since he was found and brought Below. And now with you...he smiled! Thatís quite an accomplishment."

Vincent started to fuss and Father reached into the pan of hot water for his bottle. Vincent opened his mouth and latched on then sucked hungrily at the bottle. Father stared at him in wonder.

Devin stepped forward and watched as milk dripped out of the babyís mouth. "He sure is hungry!"

This whole time, Vincent had barely shown any interest in food. It took them days to get him interested in a bottle. This was the first time he ate with any appetite.

Father had tears of relief in his eyes as he looked up and smiled. "He sure is."

Father stopped and placed Vincent over his shoulder then patted his back.

Devin laughed as the baby let out a small burp. He stepped back and proceeded to burp loudly. "See, I can show him how to do it louder."

Father rolled his eyes. "Yes, well that would be a fine thing to teach him."

He had turned Vincent around and sat him on his lap. Vincent looked at Devin again and grinned then waved his arms wildly. He latched onto the bottle again and drank down the rest of his milk.

Father stood and Devin watched as he changed Vincentís diaper.

"Father, heís got a lot of hair on him, just like Mickey."

Father knew Devin referred to another man in the tunnels who had a particularly hairy chest. He smiled. "Yes, he does."

Devin nodded. "Heís lucky. Itíll help keep him warm."

Father was awed that Devin was always able to look at the bright side of things and overlook the babyís differences. "Yes, it will."

Father walked to the bassinet to place an already sleeping Vincent back down.

Devin came over again. "Why canít he stay in our room?"

Father stood up in surprise. It seemed like such an easy solution, he wondered why he didnít think of it.

Devin tugged his pant leg. "Father?"

Father blinked. "Um...well..." He looked down at Devin. "I donít know. I guess he could. You wouldnít mind sharing a chamber with Vincent?"

Devin thought for a moment. "Will you come to bed then?"

Father smiled and nodded. "I will."

Devin nodded. "Then I donít mind if he lives with us."

Father chuckled. "Then Iíll carry the bassinet into our chamber."

Devin led the way as Father wheeled the bassinet through the tunnel way.

The next morning, Devin was sitting on the floor playing with his cars when Vincent gurgled happily. Devin walked over and looked inside the bassinet and Vincent smiled at him.

Devin looked over and saw Father lying in bed still, snoring quite loudly. He frowned then turned back and carefully picked up Vincent then carried him over to the chair.

He noticed a bottle sitting in warm water and reached over for it. Vincent latched on and hungrily drank down his bottle.

Mary walked in at the exact moment Vincent finished. She quickly realized what was going on and came to help Devin.

She smiled and ruffled his hair. "You fed Vincent yourself?" she quietly asked.

Devin smiled. "Uh, huh."

"Did you burp him?"

Devinís face fell. "He ate so quickly I forgot."

Mary placed Vincent against her shoulder and patted his back. He let out a large burp.

Devin covered his mouth as he giggled. "That was better than the one Father got last night. Iím glad the kid can burp. Now I wonít hafta teach him how."

Vincent smiled at Mary who gasped. "Heís smiling!"

Devin nodded. "Yeah. I guess itís a big deal, Ďcause Father was pretty excited about it too."

Mary giggled and stood to leave. "Tell Father when he wakes that I took Vincent to the nursery."

Devin looked at her in confusion. "But Vincent lives here now; heís my brother."

Maryís eyebrows rose in surprise, and she shook her head trying to clear up the confusion. "Devin..."

Father had awakened and sat up in bed. "Heís right, Mary. Iíll keep the child with me."

Mary nodded. "Of course," she smiled broadly. "Heís better now...Will he..."

Father nodded and smiled. "I think heís going to make it. Iím going to send for Peter for a second opinion, but I think heíll concur."

He stood and kissed Vincent on top of the head. "Mary, will you take Vincent for the day while I tend to my duties?"

"Of course." She looked down at Devin. "You need to get dressed for breakfast soon."

Devin nodded as Mary left the room with Vincent. Father ruffled his sonís hair. "Thank you for your help with Vincent today."

Devin stripped off his pajamas and put on a shirt. "Itís okay. Heís my little brother...I gotta watch out for him, right?"

Father smiled. "Right!"

Devin let those words flow through him as he looked at Vincent. He ached inside to know he had caused his little brother such pain.

He gingerly stepped over and cleaned up the broken pieces of mirror then bent over and picked up the hunks of Vincentís hair. He threw everything in the pail then walked to put it in the garbage chamber.

He came back and climbed into bed next to Vincent. Vincent whimpered in his sleep and Devin patted his back. Vincent calmed down and Devin laid his head on the pillow next to his and fell asleep.

***

The next morning, a dejected Vincent sat alone at their table. Devin blinked as he woke up and looked over at Vincent.

His brotherís head hung in shame, and Devin grimaced when he looked at the devastation Vincent had wreaked on his hair.

He sat up in bed and swung his legs around. "Hey, Vin."

Vincent looked up in surprise then down again. "Hey, Dev."

Devin sighed. "Iím hungry, how about you?"

"No."

"Come on, youíre always hungry first thing in the morning! Wanna race to the dining chamber?"

"No."

Devin groaned that Vincent was still hurting. "Hey...um...Vincent, look...I owe you an apology for last night. I was wrong to take out my anger on you. It wasnít your fault."

Vincent looked up, and his eyes softened. "I didnít mean to tell."

"I know...and I didnít mean anything I said."

Vincent shrugged and Devin came forward tentatively. "You have a problem with the scissors last night?"

Vincent knew Devin was trying to coax him out of a bad mood. "No!"

Devin laughed aloud at his brotherís joke.

Vincent looked up and grinned. "Maybe a wittle..."

Devin laughed harder. He went inside his dresser and got out his favorite baseball cap. He threw it towards Vincent. "Put this on."

Vincent gasped. "This is your Mets cap!"

Devin knew it was his most prized possession. "Yeah, so? Wear it...weíll sneak to Connieís and see if she can fix your hair."

Vincent looked relieved. He didnít relish the thought of Father finding out he had been playing with scissors. "Okay!"

The two boys quickly dressed and headed towards the girlís dormitories.

Connie was coming back from the bathroom as they walked through the tunnel way. They broke into a run and caught up to her.

Connie jumped sideways. "You idiots; you scared me!"


Devin didnít look apologetic as he grinned. "Sorry, but we need your help!"

She looked at them curiously. "With what?"

Devin reached over and reclaimed his Mets cap. Connieís eyes grew large as she gasped. "Oh, no! Vincent, what did you do?"

Vincent looked down in embarrassment and Devin elbowed Connie.

Connie nodded and smiled brightly. "Come on, I can fix it!"

Vincent looked up hopefully as Connie grabbed his hand and led him to the girlís bathrooms.

The room was brightly lit and Connie motioned for Vincent to sit on a stool. Devin wondered what a stool was doing in the bathroom, then looked around and realized there were all kinds of neat things in there. He shook his head in disbelief.

Connie grabbed scissors and a comb and looked down at Vincentís hair. She sighed and went to work. After she cut off all the uneven hunks she spent her time shaping it.

Devin was impressed that she was able to accomplish so much. "Connie, it looks great!"

She smiled proudly. "It does, doesnít it?"

She grabbed a mirror and held it to Vincent. "Wanna see?"

Vincent looked away. "No."

Connie frowned and pushed the mirror at him. "It looks good, honest!"

Vincent stood up. "No! I wonít ever look in a mirror again!" He left the room then stepped back inside. "Fank you for fixing my hair."

Devin had lowered his head in shame. He knew this was all his fault and he felt horrible.

Connie shrugged. "Whatís gotten into him?"

Devin mumbled sadly. "I did. I said some mean things to him, and I hurt him."

Connie frowned, but when she noticed his sincerity, she touched his arm. "Vincentís a pretty forgiving kid. Find a way to make it up to him."

Devin shrugged. "It will have to be a pretty big thing to make up for what I said!" He started to leave when he turned back. "Thanks, Connie."

Connie took his hand. "Come on, letís get something to eat."

***

Devin and Connie headed to the dining chamber. They quickly made trays and sat down with the other kids. Vincent came in wearing a large winter hat on his head. He went and made a tray and was making his way to the kids table.

Father watched him and his eyes narrowed thoughtfully.

Suddenly Mary called out to him. "Vincent, can you come here a second please?"

Vincent nodded and stood in front of the table where Mary and Father sat. "Yes, Mary."

Mary looked into his eyes. "Vincent, are you sick?"

"No."

Father laughed. "Then why on earth are you wearing that ridiculous hat!"

Devin and Connie came forward. Connie put her hands on Vincentís shoulders. "Itís a surprise. Vincent let me cut his hair for him!"

Father groaned aloud as Mary gasped then waved her hand. "All right, letís get this over with. Let us see."

Connie slowly took off Vincentís hat.

Mary clasped her hands together delightedly. "Why he looks quite handsome!"

Father had covered his eyes, but now he slowly opened them. "Sheís right son, you look quite good!"

Mary nodded and fussed with his hair. "Now we can see your beautiful little face." She looked at Connie. "You did a wonderful job. Maybe you should take lessons with Sara and you can start cutting everyoneís hair."

Connie shrugged. "Okay, it was kind of fun."

Vincent remained strangely quiet. Father lifted his chin and looked into his eyes. "Vincent, donít you like it?"

"Will my hair grow back?"

Father chuckled. "Well of course it will."

Mary laughed. "I donít know why you would want it to. You look quite good with it short. Now your hair doesnít hide your face."


Vincent shrugged indifferently. Father frowned and looked at Devin. Devin shrugged innocently.

"Well, Vincent. You may go and eat now."

Vincent left and the other children gathered around and told him how good he looked.

***

Despite the compliments he received, Vincent remained in a quiet mood. Only Devin knew the true reason, and each day he felt a little worse about it. He searched frantically for ways to cheer Vincent up; and although his methods worked for a short amount of time, Vincent always went back to his dark mood.

The day before Winterfest Devin had an idea and headed to Fatherís library.

He stood in the doorway and looked in. "Father?"

Father looked up and motioned with his hand. "Yes, Devin. Come in."

He was reading from a ledger, and Devin waited patiently for his attention.

Finally, Father set his glasses down. "Yes, Devin."

Devin nervously cleared his throat. "I was wondering if it would be possible for Vincent to go to Winterfest this year."

Fatherís brows shot up with surprise. Of all things he expected his son to ask, this was not one of them. He sat back in his chair as he thought about the question.

Devin cleared his throat. "Sir?"

Father frowned. "Well, Devin you know that normally the youngest children are left here so they get their proper rest."

Devinís frown mimicked his fatherís. "I know, but Vincent can stay up lateÖand heís never crabby..."

Father nodded in agreement. "Thatís all true, but Winterfest is about thanking our helpers. If I allowed it...you would be solely responsible for your little brother. It would mean giving up your time with your friends."

Devin nodded. "I know. Itís not a problem. Everyone likes Vincent. He can hang out with me."

Father narrowed his eyes. "I donít want you pushing off the responsibility on anyone else, especially Mary."

Devin shook his head eagerly. He knew Father was softening. "I wonít. I promise."

Father blew out a long breath. "Okay." He held up his finger in warning. "But...if Vincent gets tired or cranky, YOU will have to give up your night and bring him back and stay with him. Do you understand?"

"Yep!"

Father was satisfied at his sonís eagerness, and he smiled. "Devin, itís quite nice of you. Vincent could use some cheering up." His face fell as he looked at his son. "I donít suppose you know why Vincentís been so quiet lately?"

Devin blushed and looked down as he shook his head. Father grimaced and realized that Devin did in fact know but wouldnít tell him.

"Devin, which helper were you to lead to the Great Hall?"

"Dr. Peter."

Father nodded. "Good. Iíll lead him myself, and you will be free to help Vincent."

Devin smiled. "Thank you, Father."

He turned to leave when Father called him back.

"Vincent, will need something suitable to wear. His dress pants are fine but I fear heís outgrown his dress shirt."

Devin nodded. "Iíll find him something."

Devin ran excitedly from the room.

***

Devin ran into his chamber, saw it was empty, then ran through the tunnels searching for Vincent.

Dejected when that he couldnít find him, he headed back to his chamber.

Vincent was sitting at the table coloring in his book.

Devin walked in and gasped in surprise. "Whereíve you been, Vin? Iíve been searching for you for an hour!"

Vincent didnít look up as he concentrated on staying inside of the lines. Devin grinned at his brotherís face which was wrinkled up in intense concentration.

"Hey, Vin, quit coloring Iíve got some good news."

Vincent looked over at Devin and seemed to be deciding if he should trust him.

"Come on," Devin prompted.

Vincent set his crayon down and waited. Devin rolled his eyes and took a seat next to him. "You can go to Winterfest this year."

Vincent tried to hide his excitement but his eyes sparkled. He thought for a second then looked back at Devin. "Who says?"

Devin chuckled. "I got permission from Father."

Vincent broke out into a huge grin. Devin smiled that the happiness was finally back in his brotherís face again.

"Thereís a catch though..."

Vincent felt his stomach flop, and he sighed warily. "What?"

Devin was still unsure how Vincent would react. Two weeks ago, Vincent would have jumped at the chance to be with him and now, after the cruel things he had said to him, he wasnít so sure. "Father says Iím responsible for you."

Vincent looked confused. "Whatís sponsible mean?"

"It means you hafta hang out with me the whole time."

Vincent smiled. "I can do that!"

"You canít cry or go to Mary or anyone else if you need something...you have to ask me."

"I can do that!"

"Youíll have to stay by my side; you canít go by Father or ..."

Vincent stood up angrily. "I said I can do that!"

Devin laughed and held up his hands in defeat. "Okay, okay. Now we gotta get you something nice to wear. Whereís your dress shirt?"

Vincent ran to his clothing drawer and pulled out a shirt. Devin nodded. "Put it on."

Vincent tried to tug it over his thermal shirt.

Devin took it from him disgustedly. "You dope, take off your shirt first!"

Vincent started to take it off then remembered the comments Devin had made. He stopped and looked down at the ground.

Devinís heart sank that things hadnít gone back to normal. "Come on, Iíve seen you naked a hundred times! Weíve got to see if this shirt fits, or you wonít be able to go."

Vincent sighed and ripped his shirt off over his head. Devin helped him into his dress shirt. The sleeves were too short but Devin managed to button the cuffs closed. Vincent fumbled with the front but it wouldnít close. Devin tried but was just as unsuccessful.

"Let me try again," Devin said hopefully.

Vincent reached up to help and his elbows ripped through both sleeves of the shirt.

Devin laughed. "Well, I guess we donít have to worry about it closing."

Vincent put on his thermal shirt again while Devin looked around. "My shirts will be too big for you."

"Ask Mary," Vincent offered.

Devin shook his head. "Sheíll be too busy getting ready for tomorrow." He sighed as he tried to think of a solution. His face suddenly brightened. "Letís go see the girls, maybe they can help."

Devin ran out of the room while Vincent feverishly tried to keep up with him.

They stood outside the girlís dorms and called out. "Itís Devin and Vincent."

Scrambling could be heard before Rebecca called out. "Come in."

The boys walked in to find Rebecca, Olivia, Connie and Sara mending dresses for tomorrow. They smiled and greeted each other when they came in.

Devin looked at them hopefully. "I need a dress shirt for Vincent for tomorrow."

Rebecca looked excited. "Are you going, Vincent?"

"Uh, huh. Devin asked Father, and he said I could as long as I stayed with Devin."

Rebecca squealed. "He said I could go but I hafta stay with Connie."

Vincent smiled and nodded. "I grewed and my shirt donít fit no more."

Devin rolled his eyes. "You grew and your shirt doesnít fit anymore."

Rebecca pointed at her dress. "Sara and Olivia are putting a lace hem on my dress so my old shoes donít show."

Devin smiled indulgently then looked at the older girls. ĎCan you help us?"

Sara came and stood next to Vincent. "Heís about the size Matthew was a few months ago. Go see if Matthew has his old dress shirt."

Devin took off and ran to the boyís dorms. He stopped inside and tried to catch his breath. "Matt, do you still have your old dress shirt?"

"Nope. I gave it to Pascal."

Devin ran to Pascalís family chamber. Pascal was there alone and smiled when Devin called from the tunnel way. "Why didnít ya use the pipes?"

Devin shrugged. "Father said itís only for emergencies. Do you still have the shirt Matt gave you?"

Pascal nodded "Itís over there," he pointed. "Itís way too big for me."

"Pascal, can I have it for Vincent?"

Pascalís mom walked in and overheard the conversation. "Yes you may, Devin"

Devin grinned as she handed it to him. "Thanks, Mrs. M."

Devin took off running and made it back to the girlís dorms in record time. He threw it at Vincent. "Put it on!"

Vincent looked over at the girlís fearfully then back at Devin and shook his head.

Connie smiled. "Vincent, we see you with no shirt on every time we go swimming," she reminded him.

Vincent grinned. "Oh, yeah!"

He whipped off his shirt and scrambled into the new one. The sleeves billowed out from his tiny arms but the body fit him perfectly. He buttoned it up but the last two buttons on top were missing.

He looked at Devin dejectedly. "I canít wear it!"

Sara grimaced. "Maryís is completely out of buttons."

Devin frowned. "Well, we have to find a way to close it....a pin!"

Connie shook her head. "No. Maybe a tie?"

Devin rolled his eyes. "Where do I get that from?"

Rebecca took a strip of cloth and held it up. "How about ruffles?"

Connie cocked her head. "Like a cravat?"

Sara smiled. "Yeah!"

Devin and Vincent looked at one another uncertainly. Sara bustled around the room and came up with material. She fashioned what she wanted then pinned it in place. "Howís that?"

Devin stepped back. It actually wasnít as bad as he thought it would be. He smiled. "I kind like it!"

Connie nodded. "Me too."

Rebecca nodded and grinned while Sara helped Vincent out of his shirt. "Dev, come back tonight and Iíll sew it on better."

Vincent put on his thermal as Devin dragged him out. "Thanks, I will."

***

Devin was grateful that Winterfestís spirit had gotten through to Vincentís sour mood. Vincent could hardly contain himself at dinner, and all through their bath time he asked Devin questions.

Two hours later they were lying in bed, and the barrage of questions continued.

Devin was fed up. "Oh, my God, Vincent! Shut up!"

Vincent grew silent and Devin was immediately contrite. "Iím sorry but youíre driving me crazy. Get some sleep and tomorrow will come quicker."

Vincent closed his eyes and exhaustion overtook him.

The next day, he woke early. "Dev? Is it time?"

"For what," Devin grumpily answered.

The tunnels were a buzz of activity as everyone handled the extra work Winterfest brought.

Soon enough they were able to get ready and Devin led Vincent down the Windy stair case. Vincent had never been this far in the tunnels before and was intrigued about exploring this new world.

They watched as two of the men removed a heavy board from the doorway. Vincent was swept along with the crowd as everyone entered the massive chamber.

It was dark and Vincent was breathing heavily. He was nervous and scared, and he could feel people around him but could see nothing. Devin thought back to his first Winterfest, and he knew that Vincent was afraid. He reached over and took his hand and squeezed it reassuringly.

Father stood and spoke and started to tell the story of the beginning of their world. No one spoke, and finally Vincent could see candles being lit. Suddenly, they started to rise, as the men in the group raised antique chandlers, filled with candles, towards the ceiling.

The room was lit up and Vincent gasped in wonder at his surroundings. The first thing he noticed was coverings that hung from the walls. He wanted to see them up close but Devin grabbed his arm and dragged him over by his friends.

Vincent happily spent his time with Devin.

Eventually, Devin showed him how to get upstairs and he sat and explained what the tapestries were. Vincent couldnít take his eyes off them, but Devin pulled him along; and all too soon they were back downstairs with everyone else.

Vincent was called over often by Father and introduced to several people who marveled that he was doing so well. Vincent began to feel like he was on display, and he snuck away and headed to the staircase. He walked up and sat down in front of the first tapestry.

Father saw Vincent sitting in the same position for over 20 minutes. Devin was walking around, and Father could tell he was frantically looking for Vincent.

"Devin!"

Devin grimaced and turned then came over by Father, sweating and clearly out of breath. "Father, Vincent was with you and I went to the bathroom. I swear I was only gone 5 minutes, now I canít find Vincent. Iíve been looking all over for him."

Father grasped his shoulder. "I know, son. I saw." He pointed up at the staircase. Vincent could barely be seen, but he was sitting there staring straight ahead.

Devin sagged in relief. "Iím sorry, Father. Iíll go get him."

Devin turned to walk away and Father grabbed his arm and smiled. "Iíll tend to Vincent. You go get something to drink. I would imagine he gave you quite a scare."

Devin nodded. "I didnít know a little kid could move so fast."

Father chuckled and made his way up the staircase. Vincentís eyes never wavered and Father wondered what he was thinking about. "Vincent?"

Vincent showed no sign he heard as Father sat down. "Vincent!" he said louder.

Vincent blinked in surprise that he was there and pointed at the wall. "Itís a beautiful blanket, Father."

Father nodded, "Yes, but itís called a tapestry. It was made a very long, long time ago."

Vincent cocked his head. "Before you were born?"

Father chuckled. "Yes, they were made even before I was born."

"Wow, they are old!"

Father ruffled his hair. "They certainly have you enthralled."

Vincent look confused. "What?"

"You like them."

Vincent nodded. "They tell a story, like a book."

Father marveled at his thoughts. "Yes, they do, Vincent. Thatís very good that you can see that."

"Devin told me. He said people couldnít always write so they passed on their stories like this."

Father nodded. "Yes, thatís true." He looked at the tapestry in front of them. "What do you think this oneís about?"

Vincent shrugged. "It looks like soldiers?"

"Yes, theyíre probably going to fight."

"Why did they fight?"

Father shrugged. "All sorts of reasons...land, loyalty to oneís king, treasures, women..."

Vincent gasped. They fought over girls! Girls are dumb!"

Father shook his head. "You wonít always feel that way."

Devin came up the steps. "Hey, Vin. Weíre playing a game, come be my partner."

"Okay."

Vincent scrambled to his feet, and Father watched as his two sons walked away. With a smile, he made his way back down the stairs.

He looked over and saw Devin put his arm around Vincent. Vincent smiled and punched Devin in the stomach and Devin grabbed Vincent in a head lock and rubbed his fingers on his head furiously.

Father laughed aloud. Whatever catastrophe had happened between his sons had passed, and Father was grateful that Winterfest had been able to heal their wounds.

He went back to the party and occasionally looked over to see his sons laughing and having a good time. The night went on, and soon they had their parting ceremony.

Vincent swayed on his feet and Devin stood behind him supporting him. The community started to make their way, and Devin prompted an exhausted Vincent forward.

Vincent fell on the steps and started to cry but Devin was right behind him and helped him up. "Donít you cry! You promised me, Vincent, you wouldnít cry, remember?"

Vincent sniffled and nodded. "I rebember..."

Father turned around and saw what happened. He stopped at the top of the stairs and said goodnight as he allowed people to pass him.

Devin and Vincent finally made it up to the top. Father held out his arms. "Come here, Vincent."

Vincent walked forward and Father lifted him easily to his hip. Vincent put his head down on his shoulder and promptly fell asleep.

Feeling like a failure, Devin frowned and looked down at the ground. "I didnít know he was so tired, Father. I should have left earlier with him. Iím sorry."

Father reached out and lifted Devinís chin. "Nonsense, Devin. How could you know that he would suddenly tire so quickly? Adults have had the same thing happen to them since the beginning of time." Father reached and took Devinís hand in his. "Letís head home."

Devin smiled as they followed all the other families back to the home tunnels. They stopped often to say goodnight to people and finally dragged into their chamber.

Father sat Vincent on the bed and Devin ran to get his pajamas. Father changed a still sleeping Vincent as Devin changed into his own sleepwear.

Father tucked Vincent under the covers then turned to Devin. "Come on, you too."

Devin grinned and hopped into bed. Father tucked him in and blew out the brightest candles.

"Goodnight, Father."

"Goodnight, son."

"It was a good Winterfest, wasnít it, Father?"

"Devin, it was a wonderful Winterfest!"

 

THE END