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Classic Round Robin

Chapter 2
Michelle Kempenich

“Are you gonna tell me, or what?”

Catherine shook her head, and with a grin too wide to hide her weakening resolve, she flicked open the menu and hid her face behind it.

“Nice try, Chandler. But I know you better than that.” Jenny pulled the menu down until Catherine could see her eyes over the top. “Now tell me about this dream before I do something really embarrassing…”

The menu collapsed to the table and Catherine rubbed her eyes. “You’re incorrigible!”

Jenny brightened. “Yup.”

It was useless to avoid it. Jenny had known her too long. From the moment Catherine had arrived at the diner, Jenny had been staring, reading her with the efficiency of her editorial mind. And she’d seen past Catherine’s professional mask, her false bravado, her exaggerated smile, to the true discomfort that resided beneath.

Discomfort, when she allowed herself to dwell on the word, hardly came close to describing the chaotic flood of emotion Catherine had experienced since the night before. She’d assured Vincent – both last night and this morning – that she was all right. And for awhile, she’d even believed it. But the dream kept winding its way into her thoughts … the dark haired woman appearing on the page of her brief, on the seat next to her in Moreno’s office, even in her coffee mug, which despite the ludicrous nature of such a hallucination, had left Catherine feeling anything but amused.

The truth was, she was…disconcerted. Alarmed. And the more she tried to protect herself…and Vincent…from the strength of her feelings, the more persistent they became. If only she knew what it meant!

She sighed and began a long recounting of the dream, not deigning to hide her exasperation from Jenny that her friend had, once again, managed to extract the truth. It was becoming more and more difficult to keep Jenny in the dark. But that was beside the point now, and Catherine knew it. Jenny’s face was changing erratically, punctuated by her fear and anxiety. It was obvious that Jenny was recalling her own disturbing dream of some months ago, and its terrifying aftermath.

“I’m sure it’s nothing,” she finished.

“You were murdered, Cathy. How can you say it’s nothing?”

“Because it is nothing!” The words burst forth more loudly than she intended, and Catherine, seizing her frustration, pressed it down, deep into the pit of her stomach, beyond reach. She gulped down her water and, finding her control once again, offered an apologetic smile.

“Not all dreams are prophetic, okay? I’m probably just wound up about work. I’ve had some nasty cases cross my desk lately, and this latest…”

Jenny reached out and took her hand. “I know you think I’m crazy sometimes, Cath. I know. But this dream…after what happened last time…? You shouldn’t treat it so lightly.”

“I’m not. I promise.”

Her friend considered her a moment. “You promise?”

“Jenn…”  Catherine met Jenny’s eyes with a plea in her own. “Don’t worry.”

Jenny snorted. “Yeah, right.”

But she didn’t say more about it, graciously allowing Catherine to shift the conversation to Jenny’s latest beau and her plans for the holidays.

***

Hours later, long after the work day ended, Catherine found herself hunched over her kitchen table, neck and shoulders tight. Her eyes were bleary, and the words of the Brewster case swam in circles before her, as though miniature wings lifted the letters from the page and cast them about to flutter and float in the air. 

Finally she gave up, and began clearing the papers strewn about the table like scattered remnants of snow.  To her right, on the chair, was the file folder, filled with photos she’d purposely set aside, avoided, erased from existence…if only for tonight.  Now, she lifted the file gingerly between two fingers, and gathering the stack of papers, slid everything into her briefcase to be dealt with in the morning.

And there it was. Inside the inner pocket, hiding…almost forgotten. She’d picked it up on her way back from lunch, and now, her eyes grazing its soft edges, she pulled it from the briefcase, the dream once again foremost in her mind.

Dreams and Symbolism: Understanding Nocturnal Visions. She flipped through the pages, only half-heartedly searching, unable to admit to herself that she really was rattled…despite her assurances to Jenny…and to Vincent…that she was fine.

Fine.  What an odd word.  Odder still was the sense she had in repeating it, which she did now…over and over. Fine. Fine. I’m fine.

But was she? That dark haired woman haunted her thoughts, popping up when she least expected it. She couldn’t deny it. If Jenny and Vincent had both experienced dreams…nightmares that led to terrifying results for Catherine herself…could this dream, too, be an omen?

She shook her head. No. Dreams are merely answers to questions we’re afraid to ask. She skimmed the pages until her eyes fell on the word death. Here, she stopped and read more carefully. To dream of your own death indicates

A tapping at the window pulled her from her chair, the book momentarily forgotten as weariness rushed through her limbs, propelled her forward, pushed the doors wide, and pressed her into his arms.

“Vincent,” she sighed.

“I felt your unrest. Are you all right?”

His hands were firm at her back, and she leaned into them to meet his eyes.

“I’m…“ An ironic chuckle loosed from her throat. Fine. “Yes. Just tired.”

He tilted his head, his features tightening as he searched her face. She could see it – the concentration, the determination to read her as much with his heart as with his eyes. He delved deeply, penetrating her barriers with little effort.

“You’re not all right.”

Catherine sighed. It was impossible to keep anything from him. Why did she even try? Her shoulders sagged and she laid her cheek to his chest. His heart beat softly beneath her ear, its steady rhythm lulling her into a gentle catharsis.

“Tell me,” he whispered.

“It’s nothing, I…” She pulled herself from his arms and moved to the balcony wall, her palms flattening on the cool stone. “I had a rough day. And that dream last night…”

“It was more than a dream.”

She offered him a quick glance and a smile. “Maybe. I can’t stop thinking about it.”

“Catherine…” Vincent stepped closer and leaned against the wall. “I’m concerned for you. The terror you felt…awakened me from the depths of sleep.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…”

He placed his hand over hers, transmitting warmth through the center of his palm. “You need not apologize.”

She didn’t answer.

“Tell me more about this dream.”

She nodded, leading him to their favourite corner and curling into his arms. She filled him in quickly, leaving nothing out…all too aware how the images she conveyed affected him. It was almost too much, to see the worry in his eyes.

“Could it be this case you’re working on? Is it possible you’re in danger?” he asked, unable to hide the fear from his voice.

“I don’t think so. I’m just doing preliminary work. It’s all routine.”

Vincent sighed. She could hear…feel…his concern, his shoulder tight, the muscle rigid beneath her cheek.

“Vincent…what if it’s not about me at all? What if…”

When she didn’t continue, Vincent took her hand in his own. “What if…?”

“When I saw Jenny today, I remembered the dream she told me about…when…when we were being watched. And you…you had a dream, too, when Stephen…”  She shuddered, unable to recall her response to his dream – his fear for her – without a deep sense of shame…even now.

“What is it, Catherine? What are you thinking?”

She pulled back and met his eyes. What was it Vincent had said then? You must have known.

“You told me…after Stephen…that I must have sensed I was in danger.”

“Yes.”

“What if this dream…isn’t coming from me?” She felt it then, the faint fluttering of alarm in her belly, and quashed it quickly. A dream is an answer to a question you’re afraid to ask.

“You think…” Vincent whispered, “It’s coming from me?”

His own fear tumbled over her own, and she hugged him tightly. “I don’t know. Maybe, but it could mean nothing at all.”

The words of the book came back to her then, and she stood quickly. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.”

She ran into her apartment and grabbed the book from the table, and rushed quickly outside, kneeling beside him. “I bought this book today…” She showed him the cover. “I think…I think it said something about death and change.”

“Change…?”

She glanced up at him quickly, then returned to the book, finding the page and reading the passage aloud. “To dream of your own death indicates that something in your life is about to change. You are entering a transitional phase…”

She felt his fear dissipate at the same moment she squelched her own, and a small, tremulous smile crossed her lips. Transition. Well, that wouldn’t be so far fetched. There had been so many changes lately. In her own life. In his. In theirs.

Transition. Yes, she liked the sound of that.

Vincent pulled her to him and hugged her tightly. “Then I will hope your book is right, Catherine.”

“You can take it with you, if you like.”

He nuzzled the top of her head. “Perhaps. But now, it’s late. You should rest.”

“I know.”

“Before I go, I …” He let go of her and shifted to his hip. Catherine caught a flash of orange, and knew what it was long before he extracted it from the folds of his cloak. “I brought you this…”

It was as beautiful as the one he’d presented her the year before…the hues of orange and gold bright and shocking against the darkness.  She reached her hand to touch it, one finger tracing from the tip of the soft waxy wick, to the lower border of the gold, where Vincent’s hand prevented her moving further. She allowed her finger to linger at his, smiling when he accepted her touch and clasped his hand fully around hers.

“Catherine…” Vincent stood and pulled her to her feet. “What happened…last night…after your dream…”

He paused then, unable to finish his thought. Catherine watched him, waiting…though she knew what troubled him. How could she not? She’d been so surprised at first, to feel that rush of his emotions as he woke, and then suddenly to hear his voice in her head. Last night, she’d accepted it gladly…welcomed it…found comfort in it. His voice had been a beacon, and she sought it out, turning it over and over until finally, she sank once more into sleep.

And it had happened again this morning. She’d just replenished her coffee after that terrible hallucination had sent her running to the kitchen to purge her mug, when his voice sounded in her mind.

It was bewildering…and breathtaking. And while she hoped it would last, she embraced whatever gift it represented, accepting whatever may come.

She set her Winterfest candle aside, and squeezed his hand lightly between both of her own. “Does it trouble you?”

A small smile passed over his lips. “I…no.”  He shook his head. “Not trouble. Just…”

He breathed deeply and stepped back, as though physical distance might loosen the ethereal tendrils of the bond. “Do you…can you…hear me…now?”

Her eyes questioned his, and he focused intently on her face.  Try as she might, Catherine felt only the faint flutterings of a heartbeat not her own.  But there was nothing more.

She shook her head. “No.”

“Nor can I.”  He returned to her side. “It makes no sense.”

“I don’t know what to say, Vincent. I wish I did.”

His arm snaked around her shoulder. “It makes no difference. We will take what comes.”

He hugged her to him, and for many long minutes they stood in companionable silence. Finally, Vincent extracted himself from her embrace.  With a sad smile and an expression of love and promise in his eyes, he disappeared over the balcony wall.