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After Winterfest

by SandyX


Catherine carefully placed the dress on a hanger in preparation for sending it out with the rest of her dry cleaning.  Her fingers glided over the silky fabric, lingering on the delicate cloth rose attached to the bodice.  She noticed the familiar and comforting scent of candles and smoke. The aroma flooded her senses and filled her mind with memories of their evening together … the rustle of silk … a smoky scent … his voice … and the fiery warmth of his touch.  Opening her eyes and taking a deep, calming breath, she straightened the dress on the hanger.  


She settled on one of her sofas and glanced at the clock.  9:00.  Too early to go to bed.  Her eyes slowly drifted to the bulging briefcase resting on the other small sofa.  Too late to get into any of that, she thought.  Her eyes shifted to the balcony doors.  She didn’t really expect him to come to her tonight.  He had responsibilities Below.  There were tasks to be taken care of in the aftermath of this year’s Winterfest.  Yet, she allowed herself to hope.    


Not ready to give up on the evening, and not willing to engage in any more productive activity, Catherine tucked her feet under her robe and lost herself in memories of the night before.  Her thoughts drifted to the journey to the Great Hall.  Surrounded by friends and helpers, they had followed the path down the stone stairs, winding a graceful descent to their destination.  They had gathered at the entrance and paused to watch as Vincent removed the barrier barring the door.  She shifted her position on the sofa as she remembered the sight of him – standing before her with outstretched hand.


She leaned back into the cushions and closed her eyes as she thought of the words he had spoken.  May I lead you through the darkness? 


Catherine swung her feet to the floor and raised herself from the sofa.  Finding herself standing, without knowing exactly why, she began to pace slowly across the room.  Her apartment was fairly small and didn’t provide much space for her anxious movements.  She found herself longing to be Below, where things were less restricted.  Funny, she thought, that a world buried deep beneath the city should seem less confining than her world Above.  


She stopped by the door, near where the beautiful dress she had worn to Winterfest hung.   She reached out and ran her hand over the filmy fabric of the shawl that had covered her shoulders.  Her eyes gazed at the garmentfocused on a memory.  Who is this man what is this man who has so thoroughly consumed my heart?   With the hint of a smile playing at the corners of her mouth, she released a small sigh.  Her smile broadened as she turned away, with one last lingering touch of the silky fabric.  He is love


A sudden quickening of her heart brought her out of her reverie.  Vincent.  


Crossing the short distance to the balcony doors, she placed her hands on the levered handles and paused briefly, savoring the anticipation of his presence.  With a familiar motion, the balcony doors were opened and she found him standing before her. 


“I’m here.”


He gathered her hands into his own and their warmth stirred memories of the night before, eliciting a sigh.


“Are you remembering ...” she asked.


“Our waltz …” he interjected with a smile.


“You can hear it if you try …” she had told him.


The hall filled with the strains of a beautifully haunting tune playing only for their ears.  They glided slowly around the room lost in the magic of the moment … moving as one to the rhythm of their hearts.  Catherine gazed up into Vincent’s eyes … and stepped on his foot.  


The sound of his laughter echoed across the empty hall.  A grin flashed across Catherine’s face as he wrapped his arms around her, tucking her head beneath his chin. She pulled herself closer and his pulse quickened as he felt her heart beating against his chest.


She lifted her head … he smelled the scent of her hair as it brushed past his face.  He saw the brilliant flash of green eyes as they captured his.  She was so close so close that he could feel her warm breath against his face.  For a moment, he couldn’t move ... frozen … then a shift … of perception … of his heart … of his being.  His lips met hers ... his hand cradled the back of her head, drawing her into a deeper embrace.   Im yours. 


The evening was quiet.  The city may never sleep, but on this night – it did seem to be resting.  Catherine stared out into the night.  A breeze blew her bangs across her face and she reached up and pushed the offending strands neatly behind one ear. The sound of Vincent’s voice returned her attention to her companion as she turned to find him watching her.


“Tell me.”


“Do you remember what you said about the tapestries?”


“Yes.  That I once imagined that they were magic windows that might open and allow me to pass through to another world …” 


“And now?”  


“Now … they are just beautiful pieces of woven cloth  ... I’m no longer in need of magic windows, Catherine.  I have you.  You are my window to another worlda worldfull of possibilities.”


She stepped forward, closing the short distance between them, stretching her arms up and around his neck.  


“Can you hear it tonight, Catherine?  The music?”   


“No,” she shook her head slowly, smiling.  “I’m afraid that tonight, I can’t hear anything over the sound of my heart beating …” 


Placing his hand on her shoulder, he pulled her towards him, gently placing her head against his chest. 


“Now I can hear your heart.”


“Mine? Not your own?” he asked. 


She could feel the movement of his lips against the crown of her head as he spoke and nuzzled her in a comforting embrace.  “No, I hear yours … its very strong and steady … stronger than mine …”


“My heart, without yours Catherine, in no stronger than any other you give me strength … what you hear is our heartmy heart is no longer mine alone…


“Vincent …” she said, raising her head from his chest.


 “I love you,” he whispered.


“I love you,” she replied as their lips met.