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Classic Round Robin

Chapter 9

Olivia K. Goode

 

 

 

“Yes,” Catherine sighed, “about that dream, Jenny…”

 

Whatever excuses Catherine was about to fabricate would have to wait, however, because just then, Catherine’s telephone rang. It was the District Attorney’s office advising her that they had arrested Aaron MacRonald’s girlfriend and freed the real John MacRonald, a fact which relieved Jenny greatly.

 

Nonetheless, she would not be dissuaded regarding her dream. “Now, Cath, I’m not letting you off the hook about this dream! Not this time!”

 

There was a knock at Catherine’s door.  Catherine was more than a little relieved by this latest interruption, as it would give her a few more minutes to concoct some kind of a convincing story to explain away that dream to Jenny.

 

Looking through the peephole, she saw Nancy in the hallway and readily opened the door for her. “Nancy! How wonderful to see you!” She stepped back to allow her to enter. “Look who’s here!” She motioned to Jenny, who promptly leaped off the tiny couch and hugged Nancy. Much kissing of cheeks and compliments on outfits ensued.

 

Before she could close her door, Catherine saw Devin and Rebecca come down the short hallway holding hands. Just as this cozy pair reached the doorway, Nancy exclaimed, “Are you here to meet Vincent, too, Jenny?!”

 

Upon hearing Nancy mention Vincent’s name, Catherine’s head swung around to glare at Devin like a medusa. He raised both his hands in a gesture of surrender and opened his mouth in an attempt to explain.

 

“Jeff? Is that you?” Jenny asked before he could utter a word.

 

“Jeff?” Nancy inquired, confused. “I thought you said your name was Devin?”

 

“No, Nancy,” insisted Jenny. “He’s Jeff. Jeff Radler. He used to work with Cathy. For a little while, anyway.”

 

Nancy looks at him suspiciously. “He told me his name was Devin.”

 

“Please excuse us just one minute!” Catherine planted a hand in the center of Devin’s chest and hastily pushed him back out into the hallway. “What is going on here?!”

 

“Father authorized us to introduce Nancy to Vincent, so Rebecca and I went to.…”

 

Comprehension dawned on Catherine’s face, and she launched herself into his arms. “Really?! Devin, that’s wonderful!” Then a shadow crossed Catherine’s face. “Jenny, too?”

 

Devin hesitated. “No, not Jenny. We thought we would have a better chance of getting the green light if we just asked for one of them to be let in on the secret.”

 

“And we picked Nancy,” Rebecca concluded.

 

Catherine pursed her lips, thinking about her friend’s precognitive dreams. She knew how much Vincent valued Jenny’s sixth sense, particularly where Catherine’s safety was concerned. While she was elated at the prospect of being able to share her secret with Nancy, she also longed to tell Jenny so that she would finally be able to make sense of her own dreams.

 

“But you know…” Devin began, easily reading the expression on Catherine’s face, “now that you mention it, Father didn’t specify who we could tell. He said he would leave it to our judgment.” Devin and Rebecca shared a look and Rebecca nodded. “Chandler, if you give Jenny the thumbs up, I’ll trust your judgment!”

 

Times Square itself couldn’t light up brighter than did Catherine’s face in that moment. “Thank you, Devin!” She hugged them both and they all returned to her apartment.

 

***

 

Devin and Rebecca repeated for Jenny’s benefit the story that they had told Nancy just a short while ago. For Nancy, the tale seemed to go down far easier during this second telling, with Catherine present to back up their assertions and to reassure her that Devin and Rebecca were not certifiable fruitcakes. Jenny seemed surprisingly predisposed to accept this outrageous narrative because it reinforced so much of what she had already seen in her dreams.

 

When Nancy and Jenny were both sworn to secrecy and braced for Vincent’s appearance, the group began their walk into Central Park, it having been decided that the threshold in Catherine’s basement was too risky, since it was still an active crime scene. Entering the culvert, Devin flipped the secret latch and led them in. He tapped a message for Vincent to wait for them in his chamber, and Rebecca took a turn-off to gather Pascal and Olivia.

 

Devin let Catherine lead the way, since this was really her show. Nancy and Jenny were understandably amazed by the tunnels, and Catherine recounted the first time that Vincent had lead her home through these tunnels.

 

“I feel like Alice down the rabbit’s hole!” Jenny marveled.

 

“Here we are. This is Vincent’s chamber.” Catherine paused outside, knowing that he would know that they were near. As they entered, they saw that there was a pot of tea on the table next to a plate of fresh scones. Nancy and Jenny gaped open-mouthed as they looked about the chamber, taking in the half-moon amber window, the statues, the endless books, and the exotic and eclectic assortment of possessions smattered across all the surfaces of the chamber.

 

“It’s beautiful!” exclaimed Nancy appreciatively as she paused to touch the tiny golden statue of the Egyptian goddess Selkhet.

 

“Your guy’s got great taste in literature,” Jenny whistled, picking up a first edition of Tennyson.

 

Vincent, wearing his cloak with the hood up, stood off to the left of the door, hidden in the shadows under the outcropping of rock that formed the upper level of his chamber. Although she could not see him any more than could Nancy or Jenny, Catherine sensed his presence there, somehow more feeling than seeing him there, and she turned her radiant face in his direction.

 

 “I’m very pleased to make your acquaintance, Nancy, Jenny. I feel like I know you already; Catherine has told me so much about each of you.”

 

As soon as he began speaking, Nancy’s grin began to spread across her face. She always had had a thing for men with delicious voices, and this man’s was positively scrumptious.

 

He raised his hands to his hood, and both women stood mesmerized. Catherine crossed to stand beside him as he lowered it, her adoration of this man radiating from her. When his hood was down, Nancy did, despite her best efforts, stare somewhat.

 

Jenny’s reaction was to squeal with abject delight. “Now I get it!” She clapped her hands in front of her mouth before spreading her arms wide and sweeping over to Vincent. “I cannot tell you how happy I am to see you!” And with that she engulfed his broad shoulders in a bear hug.

 

This was a reaction the likes of which Vincent had never imagined. Catherine clasped her hands in front of her stomach, nearly overcome with emotion at Jenny’s warm acceptance of Vincent.

 

Nancy, now recovered herself from her momentary shock, came to stand by Catherine, waiting her turn to greet Vincent. “You didn’t mention he was gorgeous!” she whispered to a beaming Catherine.

 

 

***

 

The tea served and the scones eaten, Nancy reached into her purse and removed a small photo album. “Vincent, Devin said you wanted to hear about when Cathy, Jenny and I were in college together, so I brought some pictures.” She began to take the photos out of their little plastic sleeves so that she could pass them around the group, which now included Rebecca, Olivia and Pascal. “These are of a trip we took to New Orleans.”

 

Catherine’s eyebrows rose with something between surprise and concern. “You mean, spring break junior year? I thought you said you burned all the pictures of that trip!”

 

“Oh, I did!” Nancy laughed. “But Sheri didn’t burn hers, and she sent me that album last year as a gag, and sent it addressed to Paul to make sure that I didn’t pitch it right in the trash as soon as I opened it. He loved it, of course, and then I couldn’t very well throw it away. So these all came from her camera - that’s why there are so many of the three of us and so few of her.”

 

The first photos she passed to Vincent and Catherine showed the group of fresh-faced young co-eds mugging for the camera at an airport, bags slung over their shoulders and clearly ready to set off on a grand adventure.

 

Jenny whooped out a laugh as she took a picture from Cathy. “Oh, that was a trip I’ll never forget! Despite the fact that I can’t remember most of it!”

 

Devin’s rueful chuckle and nod in Jenny’s direction as he passed the picture on to the rest of the group told that he’d had more than a few such times himself. “Mardi Gras is a pretty wild party. I always suspected that Chandler had it in her!”

 

Nancy’s next photos showed the friends wearing floor-length ball gowns, glamorous and sophisticated, completely transformed from the silly girls in the first pictures. Cathy narrated for an appreciative Vincent, “This was one of the Mardi Gras Balls! Sheri’s father was one of the organizers of a Mardi Gras krewe, and she got us the invitations. They’re very hard to come by! We felt so excited and felt so grown up attending!”

 

Rebecca and Olivia cooed over the breathtaking ball gowns. “Our own personal PhD of fashion,” Nancy pointed to Cathy, “picked out all our gowns! She didn’t trust us to shop for ourselves!”

 

Cathy blushed and hid her face in Vincent’s shoulder.  “I was only trying to help!” She laughed lamely.

 

“I do remember getting all dolled up and ready for the ball!” Jenny piped in. “There were thousands of people there! I never saw anything like it. We danced for hours and had a marvelous time! They really know how to throw a party in N’Awlins! ”

 

The next several pictures showed yet another side of these three: they were laughing and marching through overcrowded streets full of other merrymakers, all of whom were wearing outrageous Mardi Gras costumes. Cathy, Jenny and Nancy were all dressed in pirate costumes, complete with short skirts, corsets, plastic swords, feathered caps, and eye patches.

 

“Sexiest pirates I’ve ever seen!” Devin whispered to Pascal in an aside.

 

“Takes one to know one, Dev!” Rebecca countered, earning her laughs from around the room.

 

“Did you just call me sexy?” he asked her rakishly.

 

“No, Devin, I called you a pirate!” Rebecca retorted, making everyone laugh. She and Devin snuggled closer together as they teased one another.

 

Catherine and Vincent shared a knowing look, observing this new couple. Clearly, these two seemed to be on the verge of beginning a whole new story of their own.

 

Pascal smiled at Nancy. “You certainly were devoted to staying in character, Nancy. You’re wearing your eye patch in every single photo!”

 

Nancy blushed as Catherine and Jenny burst into laughter. “That wasn’t so much devotion, Pascal, as desperation!” Catherine tried to explain.

 

Jenny picked up that story. “Coming home from the Mardi Gras Ball, we were walking through Jackson Square, when Nancy spotted some guys dressed as hula dancers cavorting in the fountain, belting out Singin’ in the Rain at the tops of their lungs. And she decided one of them was going to be the love of her life, so…”

 

“He was really cute!” Nancy attempted a half-hearted self defense to Olivia.

 

“So the next thing Jenny and I knew,” Catherine picked up the account at that point, “Nancy kicked off her shoes, hiked up her gown and jumped into the fountain with them!”

 

“Then my Gene Kelly wannabe slipped, tripped and fell right on top of me! I took a header into the fountain’s basin and came back up with a huge black eye!”

 

“She looked like she went a round with Rocky! She wore her pirate eye patch most of the rest of the trip to hide her shiner!”

 

Devin took one of the pictures as it came to him and examined it. “Jenny, is that a tattoo on your back?”

 

A rather confused Jenny looked over his shoulder at the picture in question. “Tattoo? Oh, no! That’s my treasure map!” That phrase set the threesome off into peals of laughter again.

 

Vincent and the others waited patiently for one of them to regain sufficient control to tell that tale. It was Catherine who first managed to begin to explain.

 

“There was a girl named Gretchen Johnson, also from Radcliffe, who unfortunately also picked New Orleans for spring break that year. Gretchen disliked Jenny because Jenny beat her out for an editorial position on the school literary magazine, and she had been holding a grudge about it for at least three semesters. Just our bad luck to run into her there. One afternoon, Jenny fell asleep by the pool…”

 

“Passed out is more like it,” Jenny confided to Devin.

 

“…and Gretchen found her there like that. She took a permanent marker and wrote ‘Tramp’ across Jenny’s shoulders!”

 

“How awful!” Rebecca exclaimed, truly mortified, although Devin was chuckling. Seeing Rebecca’s reaction, he tried to stop. He failed.

 

“We tried to scrub it off, but that stuff doesn’t come off, you know. You just have to let it wear off over time, and we didn’t have much of that. So we did our best to make lemonade.” Cathy shrugged.

 

“With a little creativity, we turned the word ‘Tramp’ into the words ‘Treasure Map’ and drew a dotted line leading down her back to an X on her bikini bottom! We figured it fit in with the pirate theme!”

 

Jenny sighed with remembrance. “And I loved it! That ended up being one of the best parts of the whole trip! After that I got more cute boys offering to help me buckle my swash…. “

 

Olivia and Pascal, shy tunnel-dwellers that they were, proceeded to have an informal blushing competition.

 

Rebecca responded with embarrassed laughter. “Well, as long as it all worked out for the best…”

 

“Besides,” Nancy began with a glint in her eye, “Cathy really made sure that that awful girl got what she had coming to her!”

 

“No, Nancy!” Catherine exclaimed, holding up her hands to prevent what she knows will be the next words out of Nancy’s mouth.

 

“Cathy stole Gretchen’s car!”

 

That bombshell scandalized the group, except for Devin, who flipped a jaunty salute in her direction. “Grand theft auto, Chandler! Nice!”

 

“Catherine!” Vincent stared at her in genuine shock as Cathy hid her face in her hands.

 

Catherine buried her face in Vincent’s arm. “I didn’t really steal her car!”

 

“No, you just took it without her knowledge.”

 

“Or permission.”

 

“Does the District Attorney’s office know about this?” Vincent actually teased Catherine, much to her delight, as she began to explain.

 

“She left her keys on a table by the pool the next day. I… borrowed… them and went to the hotel parking lot and…. moved her car to a better, more convenient, location! I was only trying to help!”

 

“How very altruistic of you, Catherine.” Pascal shyly added.

 

“The ‘better location’ being around the corner outside a bar! I heard Gretchen saying later when we were all back at school that she had no memory about moving her car there!”

 

As Jenny watched Catherine elaborating on that story to the group, she experienced a strong sense of déjà vu. It suddenly dawned on her that this scene right here was her dream. Here was Catherine, sitting next to this lion figure, touching his hand or arm as she was telling stories to a group of people who had all grown up down here together as children.

 

The warmest smile crossed Jenny’s face, infused with the feeling that it all seemed beautifully prophetic; she was sure that someday the group of people hearing such a story would in fact be Catherine & Vincent’s own children.

 

Nancy looked appraisingly at Vincent for a moment. “Vincent, maybe you’ll be able to get the best story of all out of Catherine! There’s one that we’ve been trying to wheedle out of her for years, and she simply won’t tell us!” She winked at Catherine, waiting to see if she would figure out which story she was referring to.

 

“What story is that?” Vincent prompted.

 

“The story about how Cathy managed to get one of the Zulu Coconuts!”

 

“Yes!” Jenny concurred.

 

“Oh, no! Not this again!” Catherine groaned. “Will you two never let that rest?!”

 

“Never!” they replied in unison.

 

“What’s a Zulu coconut?” Olivia asked.

 

“That’s only the most coveted throw in all of Mardi Gras!” Devin replied.

 

“Throw?” Pascal inquired.

 

Vincent’s extensive reading about all things Above allowed him to answer Olivia’s question a bit more thoroughly. “I have heard of them. The people riding on the floats throw trinkets to the audience. The Zulu float gives out hand-carved coconuts. They are very rare and prized, are they not?” Catherine nodded. “And you received one of these coconuts, Catherine?”

 

“I did, Vincent. I’ll show it to you sometime.” She smiled at him.

 

“Of course,” Jenny said teasingly, “even though we didn’t catch her doing it, I still think she flashed someone to get that coconut!” 

 

Catherine threw half a scone at Jenny for that one, “Jenny!”

 

Vincent and Catherine shyly glanced at each other, both blushing.

 

***

 

Hours later, Nancy left to stay the night at Jenny’s apartment, and Vincent came to say goodnight at Catherine’s balcony.

 

“It was truly wonderful seeing you so happy tonight, Catherine, listening to you share your stories with us.”  He looked down and then back up mischievously. “Even if you didn’t share the one about how you got that Zulu coconut…”

 

Cats that have swallowed canaries had nothing on Catherine at that moment. “Those two and their dirty minds! They’ve come up with much better stories than I ever could to explain that coconut! And after all this time, I kind of hate to disillusion them by telling them the truth.”

 

“The truth, Catherine?”

 

“Yes. The truth, Vincent.” Catherine laughed knowingly and motioned him closer to her as if she were about to share a State secret with him. “The truth is… that in order to get the coconut, I….”

 

“Yes?”

 

“I asked for it.”

 

“You asked?”

 

“Yes. There was a young man on the float whose costume was covered with French flags. On a whim, I asked him, in French, ‘S'il vous plaît donnez-moi une noix de coco’ He smiled and laughed, and then he handed me one! Nancy and Jenny were a few feet away at the time and in all the chaos, never saw me ask. They were so impressed and jealous, and they concocted such wonderful tales, I thought it would be anticlimactic to tell them the boring old truth!”

 

Vincent smiled at her laughter. “Well, that just goes to prove the old axiom that it never hurts to ask.”

 

Catherine smiled with a scheme behind her pale jade eyes. “No, it never hurts to ask, does it?” She paused. “Vincent?”

 

“Yes?”

 

S'il vous plaît donnez-moi… un baiser?

 

Un baiser? That’s French for.…”

 

“A kiss.”

 

Catherine’s request hung in the air for several elongated moments. She waited, her patience boundless. And Vincent soon proved another axiom; that good things come to those who wait.

 

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