Classic Round Robin
gave one dumbfounded look at Vincent’s retreating back and scooted
up to Catherine, offering his arm to her with an apologetic look. She
managed a wan smile for him and took his arm. A few at a time, the
other Tunnel folk and Helpers followed them into the Great Hall.
the time they entered the room, Vincent had reclaimed his hand from
Helen and was coming back to Catherine. Helen seemed not to notice;
she stood in the room, looking around the dimness with the light of
cherished memories in her eyes.
she said, exchanging Mouse’s arm for his after giving Mouse’s a
grateful squeeze. “Later.”
silence, the rest of the Tunnel denizens and Helpers moved past them,
toward the huge table barely visible in the few candles lighted for
safety until the ceremony was complete, when all the candles would be
ablaze. The silence was part of the ceremony, but there was a
different feel to this silence, Catherine thought. The people broke
around Helen as waves break around rocks, giving her a wide berth
with a few annoyed – no, angry – glances.
she doesn’t know, Catherine
wanted to say. She had been hurt and angry when Helen took Vincent’s
hand (and took him away! another voice whispered) but the logical
part of her lawyer’s mind insisted that Helen had no way of knowing
that she had broken the unwritten Winterfest rule that Vincent and
Catherine led the way into the Great Hall, together.
was just a dream.
she’s wearing the same damn dress she had on in the dream!
Vincent said, so low that no one else heard him.
they had made their way to their seats and Catherine had missed half
of the Winterfest speech. She gave him a quick smile and squeezed his
hand to reassure him, and forced herself to pay attention, and when
Vincent tipped his candle to light hers, she saw the love in his
Just a crazy dream. He’s not going to dump you, Radcliffe.
Why did her inner voice suddenly sound like Joe? Catherine bit her
lip to stop the half-hysterical giggle that bubbled up in her throat,
and tipped her candle to light Mouse’s.
sat several seats away, between Cullen and Sebastian, who, Catherine
could tell, was bursting to start telling his wild tales to a
been involved from the beginning. Why doesn’t he remember her?
Father didn’t, either, or only dimly. And Sebastian didn’t live
in the Tunnels. He had a far better excuse for not remembering her
than Father did.
ceremony concluded, and the elder boys cranked the chandeliers high
to cast light over all the room, while younger children scurried
around lighting candelabras and torches. William and his assistants
brought out the steaming dishes, and the party began. And as
Catherine had suspected, Sebastian wasted no time in cornering Helen
so he could start spinning yarns. Helen gave Catherine a good-natured
grin, evidently recognizing that she was had, and settled in to
were miles away during the ceremony,” Vincent said quietly, handing
her a laden plate and a cup of tea.
was listening to the voices arguing with each other,” Catherine
said, smiling up at him. “The logical voice insisting that Helen
didn’t deliberately kidnap you earlier, and the emotional one
demanding my just retribution for such an unforgivable act.”
smiled back, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “Which voice won?”
a standoff,” she said, finding a seat and balancing her plate on
her knees. She was surprisingly hungry, and William’s delicious
cooking was hard to resist at any time, but particularly so at
Winterfest, when he always strove to outdo the previous year’s
apologize that I didn’t –“
she stopped him with a look, “please don’t worry about it. She
caught you by surprise, and I really don’t think it was deliberate.
She was so excited she got carried away, and she doesn’t know …
about us. Besides,” she shook her head, “I’m being very
unreasonable and, well, jealous. Like a seventh-grade girl. Blaming
you for something I dreamed
you did. It’s, well, crazy.”
not,” he said, looking across the room at Narcissa, who was talking
followed his look and frowned. “What are you talking about?”
suspect Narcissa had something to do with the dreams.”
froze with a fork halfway to her mouth. “What? How?”
don’t know … yet.”
looked at Narcissa again, who was smiling and nodding at something
Father was saying. Catherine knew that Vincent believed Narcissa had
a sort of second sight, and she also knew that Father dismissed the
very idea as ridiculous. She herself was keeping an open mind. But to
believe she could control, or even engineer, another’s dreams …
two people’s dreams … that was giving Narcissa a lot of credit.
And it was more than a little frightening to think about.
would she do something like that? Could
she do something like that?”
shook his head. “I intend to talk to her tonight and find out
exactly what is going on.”
had unconsciously let some of his anger at the seer show, and
Catherine was taken aback. Vincent usually looked on Narcissa with
love and respect, both for her age and her wisdom, and she had never
known him to be angry with her.
me,” she demanded.
described the scene in Narcissa’s chamber and told her about
Zurie’s “message” to Narcissa. Catherine listened, forgetting
could need to be ‘set right’?” she asked. “Didn’t Zurie and
Helen leave of their own free will?”
one remembers,” Vincent reminded her. “They barely remember that
they once lived in the Tunnels.”
remember,” Narcissa said behind them, startling them both. They had
been so absorbed they hadn’t seen her approach.
brow creased – he was still angry – but he moved over on the
settee to make room for Narcissa. She sat down and turned her face up
to him. Catherine always marveled at how Narcissa managed to give the
impression she could see perfectly.
do you remember?” Catherine asked. “Tell us. I don’t understand
why you would send such a terrifying dream.”
leaned forward and patted Catherine’s hand. “Child, I am sorry
you were frightened. Zurie’s message was to gain your attention –
and Helen’s – in a way that would make certain you both
responded.” She raised her wrinkled face and beckoned and, looking
behind her, Catherine saw Helen nod and come their way. “You must
both hear,” Narcissa said to Catherine.
did Narcissa know where Helen was?
pulled a chair up close to Catherine and sat down, and Vincent
reached a hand to Catherine. The feel of his warm hand squeezing hers
steadied her. Helen saw this gesture and the loving look that passed
between them and began to understand what she’d missed seeing
Zurie left us,” Narcissa began, “it wasn’t by her own choice.
She would have stayed if she could. Your mother, child,” she said
to Helen, “had the Gift.”
opened her mouth to ask, and Narcissa raised a hand.
me tell it my way.”
nodded and Narcissa continued.
could see the fates of anyone she loved, and she loved us here Below
very much. It became too difficult for her, knowing who would fall
ill, who would die, whose heart would be broken, while living so
close as we do, here where one cannot go far enough away for some
peace from the constant impressions of others’ thoughts and
that why you live apart, Narcissa?” Vincent asked quietly, suddenly
seeing something he had not fully considered before.
child. It is not far enough to completely shield me from those with
strong power, like you, Vincent, but gives me some peace from the
others. Zurie,” she added, “had much greater powers than mine. So
… she went away, because it was too hard to stay. And she left only
dim memories behind for that reason. Those left behind, if they
remembered, would continue to appear in her dreams. She could not
control her powers,” Narcissa said to Vincent, “as you and I
Vincent was stunned.
are not the same,” she said. “You sense only strong emotion at
the moment your loved one feels it, and most of your power is
concentrated in this one,” she touched Catherine’s knee with a
smile, “though you sense others at times as well.
Zurie’s mother passed over, and told Zurie on the other side that
Helen had shown no sign of having the power, though it is usually
passed from mother to daughter, Zurie let me know I must find a way
to lead Helen home to us, for this is her home,” Narcissa said
gently, now patting Helen’s arm. “Helen has no other family. We
are her family, though we have been apart. I knew that if both dreamt
of each other in a way that would frighten them into action, they
would find one another, and eventually Catherine would bring Helen
home. I knew of no other way,” she concluded regretfully. “I am
sorry, my children, that I have caused you anguish.”
you have this power, Helen?” Vincent asked.
shook her head. “Sometimes I can guess when a friend is sad, or
wants someone to talk to, but nothing like what Narcissa described.”
was so young when she left here, that she wouldn’t remember the
Tunnels or know how to find this world again, unless someone brought
her here,” Catherine guessed.
Narcissa,” Vincent said, puzzled, “you almost never get involved
in such things. What prompted you to this time?”
was my dearest friend, Vincent,” Narcissa said. “Death did not
three of them were silent for a moment. A friendship that transcended
death? Power that allowed that friend to contact Narcissa from beyond
the grave to see that her daughter was reunited with her family
a little pale, Helen asked, “Why did it take so long? Mom died when
I was very little, and my grandmother died four years ago.”
grandmother sent you here, to the city, to make this possible,
child,” Narcissa said. “But the passing of the years means
nothing on the other side, so … it was some time before Zurie could
reach me and make me understand what must be done.”
what?” Helen directed this to Vincent.
you are one of us,” he said. “You always were. If you should need
refuge, you will find it here. You become a Helper, and assist when
and if you can, and we will do anything for you that we can. We are
I,” Catherine said, with a warm smile for Helen, “have a dear,
new friend with whom I can gush about Vincent.”
reddened, and both Catherine and Helen laughed.
musicians began tuning up, now that most people had finished eating,
and Catherine turned to Vincent. “You owe me a waltz.”
I do,” he said.
Vincent,” she added, “if you want to dance with Helen, too, I
promise not to behave like a seventh-grade girl.”
laughed heartily, and when Helen looked confused, he said, “I shall
let Catherine explain that to you while I tell Father what we have
learned … and tell the musicians that we must have two
wickedly as he rose and walked away.
and Catherine had their waltz as she had wished, in front of the
entire community, who tried to pretend they weren’t watching them
dance, and he also had one with Helen. In her blue dress, she did
look just as Catherine had dreamed, but this was a happy occasion,
and Catherine felt not a twinge of jealousy. There was no reason at
all for that.
the revelry was over, Vincent walked her back to the threshold –
Helen had left early, because she had to work the next day, and was
escorted home by Peter – and as they paused there with the light
spill coming from the sub-basement door, Vincent pulled her close ...
and kissed her.
a happy ending after all,” he said softly into her hair.