The Lesson

Joan Stephens

"Catherine," Vincent said softly as she came to stand by his side.

"Vincent," she answered in kind, staring out into the night. She was hesitant to look at him, afraid of the disappointment she would see in his eyes.

The dark, moonless night echoed the feelings roiling in Catherine as she stood tensely by Vincentís side. Once again she had failed him: failed to listen to his advice, failed to heed his warnings, chose to believe Stephen but not him.

She had not expected to see him tonight, aware that she had hurt him; but he had come to her as a moth to a flame, knowing that she was in pain for doubting him.

"Have you seen him?" he asked quietly, looking away from her out into the night.

Oh god, he couldnít even bear to look at her, Catherine thought with a cold shiver running down her spine.

"They wouldnít let me," she answered, turning to Vincent. "Donít be ashamed, Vincent. You only did what you had to do."

"I know that," he said calmly, still looking into the night.

"I was the one who was unfair," she said with a deep sigh. "I just thought that you were feeling betrayed. I forgot for a moment how you trust me. I should have trusted you." Gusting a sigh, she continued, "How did you know?"

"I knew because . . . somehow . . . somewhere deep within you, you must have known."

Finally . . . finally he looked at her, not at the dark night. Still she couldnít bear to see the disappointment in his eyes, and she looked away, grimacing. Then a few tears began to trail down her cheeks.

"Catherine?" He turned her into his embrace and pulled her head to rest over his heart, knowing that it always gave her great comfort to be held this way. "Donít cry. This is part of learning to know each other."

"Oh, Vincent, Iím so sorry. Can you ever forgive me? Iíve failed you once again." She wrapped her arms around his waist and held on tightly, vowing never to let go of this man who was slowly coming to mean more to her anyone else in the world.

"You havenít failed me, Catherine, not in the important ways. I know your compassion overcame your reservations about Stephen. I know that deep down you trust me and care for me. Nothing has been lost, but a valuable lesson has been learned. We must never doubt each other."

Those words only made her cry even harder. He was the most wonderful man she had ever met. She would not doubt him again.

Gently he wiped her face with a handkerchief he had removed from his pocket. "Now stop crying and get that Robert Frost book you told me about." He turned her around and, with a gentle shove, propelled her into her apartment. She returned, book in hand, and handed it to him. "Read to me," she asked, smiling.