Round Robin Story
Catherine looked wistfully at Vincent, wanting nothing more than to keep him there for a quiet evening alone. Present circumstances considered, though, she instead had to find an excuse to send him away so she could deal with the present occupants of her apartment.
What could she say? He would know if she lied to him, so the closest thing to the truth was best.
"On top of all that," she added, "I have to see some unexpected visitors tonight."
"Then I should go. Will I still see you tomorrow night?"
" Seven oíclock at my threshold?" Catherine smiled flirtatiously.
"Iíll be there," Vincent smiled at her. He briefly pulled her into a hug, making it that much harder for Catherine to return to working out the comedic turn of events on the other side of her door.
"Iím sorry. I love you." She rose to her tip-toes to place a light kiss on his cheek.
"Goodnight, Catherine," she heard as he disappeared into the night, then she opened the door to her bedroom.
She took a deep breath. The first order of business was to convince both of her visitors that Vincent was still on the balcony and neither could afford to make a sound. Samantha had chosen to hide under the bed. She had shushed Father and shoved him into the bathroom. Father first. He was closed in the bathroom in his Above clothes, which he had toned down to casual for this visit by wearing his suit pants, shirt and tie and a sweater.
"Youíll need to stay where you are and be quiet for another few minutes. Vincent is still on the balcony," she lied, loud enough for both to hear, but quietly enough to convince them that he was still out there. That would buy her a little time to hustle Father out the front door; then she would have only Samantha and Kanin to worry about.
Opening the door of her bathroom, she motioned to Father to move quietly, which he did, but just as they reached the front door, the bell rang. She looked out the peep hole and spotted Kanin, who, like Samantha, had reached Catherineís apartment way ahead of schedule.
After breathing out a little snort of frustration, she gently shoved Father against the wall behind the door. "Stay here. Iíll get rid of him," she mouthed as she slid the chain lock open and slipped out the door, closing it behind her.
"Kanin, I wasnít expecting you for another hour," she scolded in a whisper. "Someone else from the tunnels is just about to leave. I donít know why you donít want anyone to know that Iím keeping Lukeís gifts for you; but if it has to be a secret, go wait in the stairwell until I call you."
Kanin went to the stairwell, Catherine went back to usher Father to the elevator, and they were almost out the door when Kaninís face appeared from the stairwell.
Catherine unceremoniously shoved Father back into the apartment and with great will power, managed not to bark when she asked, "What?" of an innocent looking Kanin.
Seeing the look on Catherineís face, Kanin decided that discretion might be the better part of valor. He stood for a moment, pointed toward the floor of the stairwell and answered quietly, "Iíll be right here...until you call me."
Catherine watched as the stairwell door eased shut again, turned back toward her apartment and jabbed the elevator button on her way back in.
When the apartment door opened again, Father felt himself taken by the arm and hustled toward the elevator, which had blessedly arrived quickly.
"Iíll explain later," Catherine told him, planting a quick kiss on his cheek and pushing him inside.
As soon as the doors closed and she was sure the elevator was moving, she called Kanin.
"All clear?" he asked sheepishly.
"Thanks for this, Catherine. I brought Livvyís gift, too. Lukeís big enough now that heís into everything. No hiding places left."
"I understand that, but why all the secrecy?"
"Itís just better that way right now," he answered, handing Catherine the packages he had with him. "Iíll be back for them before Winterfest."
"Maybe we should plan for me to bring them to you," she smiled, thinking of the distribution job ahead of her.
ĎTwo down, one to go,í she thought as she entered the apartment and quickly stuffed the packages in her coat closet.
"Samantha. You can come out now. Coast is clear." There was no answer. "Samantha?" Still no answer.
Catherine got down on her hands and knees and looked under the bed. Samantha was nearly asleep. "Either she was really tired or it must be more comfortable under there than it looks," she chuckled to herself before shaking Samantha to wake her up.
"Wake up, Honey. Letís get that project started before youíve been here long enough that our cover is blown."
Samantha wiggled herself out, stretched, and retrieved her box of supplies from under the bed. Catherine brought her milk and cookies and settled her at the dining room table where she happily worked on her gifts for the next hour and a half.
Sitting on the sofa, Catherine watched the little girl work and let her chatter away periodically about what she was doing.
What was going on? These people had successfully managed Winterfest without Catherine Chandlerís help for years. Why was everyone suddenly finding it necessary to keep secrets from everyone else? And why did it seem that she had been chosen as everyoneís accomplice? Ö