had been placed all around the bathroom. Crystal, glass, porcelain, plastic,
modern and ones from times long past.
Scented, tapered and floating candles cast flickers of red and gold light
across the small space. A candelabra
stood in a place of pride at the top of the bath tub. Eight beeswax candles burned softly, their
honeyed fragrance mixing perfectly with the fragrance of long stemmed red
roses, which were nestled in a Wedgewood vase nearby.
The lady had
shivered, sitting on the edge of the tub, waiting for the water to turn
warm. Rose scented bubble bath had been
added, along with some French lavender bath salts. When all was ready, she stood, removed her
jewelry - a simple gold chain with a crystal pendant attached, small green
earrings. Next came the unzipping of the
emerald evening dress, the pinning up of her golden hair. At last she removed her lingerie and took her
first step into the water.
A smile graced
her lips, and she gave a soft sigh.
Getting used to the temperature, she lay back and rested her head on a
folded towel. The lady was relaxed; felt
happy. She idly moved her hands through
the water, creating small currants. It
was a beautiful setting; her eyes travelled around the room, admiring the
candlelight, delighting in the scent of roses and the feeling of lightness in
her body as she floated.
She closed her
eyes and breathed deeply, inhaling the steam and relaxing as she exhaled. What a magical night this had been. In a cavern, miles below her bathroom floor,
she had spent her second Winterfest. A
celebration and Thanksgiving for family, friends, community. A time to say thank you to those individuals
who contributed to a very special, very unique group of people. Until recently, she had never known there
was a vast network of tunnels beneath her feet.
Men, women and children lived together in these warm caverns. They worked and made their homes in safety,
hope and peace. Two years ago - one
dark, chilly night, only a few blocks away - the life that she had been living
ended and a new chapter had begun.
Thanks to a special person, she was, in a way, re-born.
turned to this man…his name was Vincent.
How could she describe him? Were
there even words to do this? Dearest
friend, guardian, companion, leader, protector, teacher, her North Star and
guiding light. And her love…yes, he was
definitely, wondrously, her love. Their
bodies had not yet joined together, but in every other way they were one - two
lives, one heart, sharing an inseparable bond.
She was still getting acquainted with this bond, knew that he felt it
strongly. Whenever she needed him, he
would always answer the call. Many times
there had been moments of danger, of hurt, happiness and despair. Each and every time, whether she silently
called him in thought or by heart, when she wasn‘t consciously seeking him,
suddenly he would be beside her…offering his arms to embrace her, a shoulder to
cry on, a hand to slip her small hand into, defending her, being a pillar of
strength. Time faded when they were
those sapphire blue eyes, that haunting, wonderful voice…she adored him. When he spoke her name, formally, it was like
a prayer, a benediction. Longing, love
and devotion all rolled into one…Catherine.
Closing her eyes, she thought of his hands as she took some rose bath
gel and began massaging it into her skin…slow, leisurely strokes starting at
her neck, down one arm, then the other.
She looked at her décolletage, took in the sight of her breasts, the
nipples peeking just above the water line.
A small amount was applied to each one, swirling the moisture there,
before continuing her journey south. Her
slim, shapely legs were next, calves, then ankles. When her feet came into view, she took a
washer and stroked the fabric between each of her toes. She couldn’t forget her bottom, so she raised
herself partly out of the water to lather there. Another face washer placed gently between her
legs completed the cleansing ritual.
should wash her hair. She could almost
imagine Vincent here with her now, imagined his hands, not her own, un-clipping
the barrettes that held her hair, shaking it out, asking her to lean back. The water was still warm. She tossed her head gently to each side,
loved the feeling as the strands floated around her. Only a small amount of shampoo was needed,
she knew he would be gentle, kneading her scalp, scooping the hair into his
fingers and rinsing it out. Conditioner
next. It had to be left in for a few
minutes, so after applying the liquid, perhaps a shoulder and neck rub might be
an idea. His breath blew softly against
her ear as he whispered, “relax”. Not
realising she’d been holding it in; she now let her breath escape quietly. Across the base of her neck, caressing her
shoulders, starting off lightly, then administering firmer strokes. His hands found their way down the sides of
her arms, tickling her as he caressed them.
It was time to wash the conditioner out.
Leaning her head back, her hair was soon clean.
Vincent, and he silently left the room.
Saddened by his departure, she re-lived the last few minutes…
The water had
started to cool down when she awoke. She
wasn’t cold; thoughts of Vincent always made her feel warm, especially tonight;
he had looked after so well. Looking at
her fingers - shriveled and shaped like gills, she knew it was time to get out
of the bath. A selection of bath towels
were nearby, her choice being a deep blue - almost, but not quite - the colour
of his eyes. She loved the luxurious
feel of the fabric, wrapped it tightly around her body, just as she had as a
child. A memory came to her then - five
years old, just out of the bath, her mother wrapping her up like a mummy - she
had recently seen the Egyptian exhibition at the Met. Holding her close, her mom taking a comb and
gently teasing out the knots.
Which was what
she was doing now. She had a wide-toothed
comb and took small sections of hair at a time, tugging it gently until it was
smooth, then taking another section until her hair was sleek and straight. After blow-drying her tresses, she went to
the wardrobe, selected a satin nightdress, which was silver - the colour of
moonlight. It was cool outside, but soon
she would be beneath her feather quilt.
The bath had taken some of her make-up off; now she removed the
rest. Returning to the bathroom, she
cleansed, toned and put night cream on, rubbed some body lotion across her
chest, neck and arms. The image
reflected in the mirror showed a serene, relaxed and beautiful woman, green
eyes shining with happiness and, could it be…yes…a look of love.
the candles one by one, she thought of the Tunnels, of the perpetual light that
shone in the darkness. One would think
the Tunnels would be depressing, gloomy and a little scary. Catherine knew better. Below, candles lit up the blackness, chased
the shadows away. She never felt
uneasy, even when there by herself. The
chambers, communal areas and guest rooms were all warm and cosy, lit by
countless candles and a few electric lights.
On entering Vincent’s chamber, her eyes would always travel to the
stained glass window above his bed. The
tunnel dwellers were always kind to her; she cared for them a great deal,
especially the children. They would
always surround her, giving hugs and asking for stories to be read. It was beginning to feel like her second
the quilt, she slid beneath the covers, feeling a small shock as her warm body
touched the cool sheets. She turned her
bedside table light on, selected one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Yet, as much as she loved the Bard’s work,
she was having trouble concentrating.
Remembering the evening, her bath and memories of family, had left her
sleepy. Covering her eyes against the
light, a few moments later she admitted defeat and clicked the lamp off. Once again her room was in darkness and
shadows. She looked toward her balcony,
imagined Vincent landing silently, tapping on her window softly, so as not to
frighten her, but to make her aware of his presence. Beyond those French doors, she would look
tenderly at his dear face and they would take the few steps separating
them. Drawing her to him, he would wrap
his arms around her, holding her waist and shoulder. Come closer…
He was dreaming
of Catherine. What a wonderful night it
had been. Seeing her at the bottom of
the basement stairs, his heart catching as she walked forward and into his
waiting arms. Dinner, waltzing, a small
kiss on his cheek in farewell; he would remember these moments, file them away
for the future, re-live them whenever they were apart. Even in dreams, he was watching over her,
protecting her, loving her. When he
opened his eyes, it was still dark. He
knew she was sleeping. She wasn’t in any
danger, yet he could sense her calling him, her need to look upon him. He was still dressed in formal dinner
clothes, had been too tired to change.
After a moment’s hesitation, he stood and collected his cloak, put on
the heavy boots and began his journey to the world above.
The cloak came
in handy, as it was cold outside. He had
to blow on his hands at one point, to warm them up. Reaching the balcony was difficult at the
best of times, a slip was all it would take for him to fall. Landing softly, he caught his breath and
admired the city spread out below. Was
his lady asleep? Had she sensed his
arrival? Usually the sheer curtains were
drawn, but tonight they were held back, affording him a perfect view of the
bedroom. Her face was turned away, one
arm resting atop a quilt. His eyes
travelled the length of her sleeping form, watched her chest rise and
fall. She was beautiful, both asleep and
awake. A slight turn of her head, and
there was her face. He should go; she
was fine, he wasn’t needed. Still, he
remained outside, looking through the glass.
So close, yet so far away from her.
He was here; she
knew it before she opened her eyes. His
cloak was the first thing she saw, his magnificent mane falling in waves down
his back. What was he thinking about as he stood gazing at the stars? She rose and put her dressing gown on. So as not to startle him, she softly tapped
on the window and opened the French doors. A gust of wind greeted her and she
wrapped the robe’s belt tighter.
“You must be
freezing. Please, come inside.” She took
his hand and led him into her room.
Usually he would protest, but the cold must have made him re-think his
choice. Once they were in the warmth,
she smiled and embraced him. “I was
dreaming of you.” She enjoyed this
surprise visit, enjoyed resting her head on his chest even more.
“And I was thinking of you. Did you enjoy the celebrations tonight?”
She looked at him, eyes shining,
“It was perfect. I know I have thanked
you already, but I want to let you know again how much I loved this
evening. From start to finish, it was
wonderful. Is everyone sleeping? Did it take long to put everything away?”
Vincent smiled, saying, “The
children were so excited. Mary, Father
and I had to read to them for over an hour.
I know Mary will sleep well tonight.
We shall begin clean-up duty tomorrow.”
“Would you like a cup of tea?”
“No, thank you. I should go.
It is late. Now that I have seen
that you are well, I shall leave you to your rest.”
She looked unhappy. He was here.
Now he was going to leave her again so soon?
“Please, don‘t go. I’m so happy you are here. I have some ginger cookies. Would you like to help me eat some? I could maybe make some hot chocolate to go
Dear Catherine. She was so thoughtful. He had felt her sadness when he spoke of
leaving her. If he could, he would love
to stay in this apartment forever, seeing her sweet face every morning, kissing
her good night each evening. The thought
of going out into the cold, dark evening, only to return to the darkness and
cold of his chamber…his mind was made up.
“Thank you. That would be
lovely.” It would do no harm to stay a
few minutes longer with her.
Vincent remained in the bedroom
while she made them refreshments. There
had only been a few times when he had entered her chamber. Now, he took a look around. It was a beautiful room. The bed was smaller than his, but was
modern. What would it be like, to rest
his head there? He knew the plush carpet
would be soft under his feet. There were
many treasures on the dressing table - perfume, make-up, treasured photos of
her parents and friends. How he would
love a photo of Catherine; would she want a photo of him? Inside the wardrobe he would find beautiful
dresses, practical work clothes, coats, hats and shoes. She was a vision in every item she wore. Not only was she physically beautiful, but
her spirit shone from within. His gaze
travelled to the bathroom entrance.
Quickly looking inside, he saw her shower, vanity and commode. The bath had been surrounded by candle
holders; it reminded him of his chamber, below.
Smiling, he saw the roses he had given her tonight. She had thanked him for the gift, wrapping
her arms around him. The bath was still
full…should he let the water out? In a
few moments he had removed the plug, watched as the whirlpool took the water
“Oh, I can’t believe I didn’t
empty the bath. Thank you. At least I blew the candles out.” She handed him a mug and a plate of the
“I can smell roses…and
lavender. My two favourite scents.”
“I love them, too. I used rose scented bubble bath, and a friend
of mine gave me some lavender bath salts, so I thought I’d see what they were
like.” She remembered her bath, her
thoughts of Vincent, the warm, inviting water, the intoxicating scent of
candles. Just like her dream, he was
here in the bathroom now. They were
standing close together. What would happen
if she raised her hand to his head, stroked that beautiful hair back from his
eyes, ran a finger down his majestic face?
If only she would take a few small steps…
“You’re trembling. Are you cold?” Vincent asked with concern.
No! The moment had been broken. She tentatively smiled. “I’m fine.”
The trembling continued, though; she couldn’t help it…desire and
sadness, polar opposites, both contributing to the shivers that ran through her
He had seen the look on her face;
had seen it before. She wanted him to
kiss her, not just hold her closely, but give her more intimate attentions,
wanted him to adore her; ravish her. He
could never give her these things. It
broke his heart to deny her, but knew it was best for both of them. Catherine was a woman, he was a beast. As much as he loved her, as much as they
loved each other, that could never happen.
In dreams, oh yes, in beautiful dreams they would join together, many
nights he would lie
awake thinking of her body lying close against him. He would close his eyes, and there she was
again. He would have to be content with
those visions, hoped she would understand why their dream was simply that.
Catherine saw the look of sadness
that swept across his face. Why did they
make each other so unhappy, sometimes?
They were so close, connected in a way she couldn’t describe. There was that boundary that separated
them…the barrier which stopped them from being together. He was in her thoughts often and had a
feeling he thought of her, also. She
brought him great joy and loved him without measure. This was why she was willing to wait for
Vincent to overcome his fear of their becoming intimate. She knew when the time came, it would be a
beautiful, very special moment - a night to remember.
For now, though, he was here,
drinking tea and eating cookies. Such a
simple pleasure this was, having him in her home.
She couldn’t bear the thought of
him leaving her - especially tonight. It
was cold and blowing a gale, it scared her thinking of him making his way ,
slipping on the ice…falling…
“Stay here tonight, Vincent.”
His heart stopped. What did she mean? “Thank you for the offer, but unfortunately I
“If you go outside, you’ll
freeze. I won’t be able to sleep,
knowing you’re out there. Please, don’t
do this. You’re more than welcome to
sleep on the sofa.” When she saw him
hesitate, she added “or we could go Below, together. I could stay the night in the tunnels.” He had a choice now, she would happily accept
Stay here, or have her stay
below….how could he decide? He had to
choose soon, she was looking at him, eager to hear his answer.
“Would you like to stay with us
tonight? You are most welcome to sleep
in the guest chamber. Only a few of the
Helpers are Below.”
She smiled and touched his
arm. “I’d love to. I’ll just get my coat.”
There was no risk of Vincent
being seen at this hour of the evening.
He took the fire escape stairs and she met him in the basement. Arm-in-arm they took a leisurely walk to the
home tunnels. Words weren’t needed
between them. When they arrived at the
guest chamber, she finally spoke.
“I’d prefer to sleep in your
chamber. If you don’t mind, that is.”
For the second time in an hour,
his heart stopped. “Of course, you’re
welcome. I’ll stay in here tonight.”
“No, I wouldn’t dream of taking
your bed…there’s plenty of room for both of us.
Besides, I’m getting a little tired.
If I don’t lie down soon, I might sit on the floor and fall asleep.”
Strong arms picked her up and
carried her the short distance to a candlelit chamber. It was her favourite place in the world. He laid her gently on the bed, while she
watched him light more candles. They
both removed their shoes, Catherine getting under the covers first. When he was settled, she curled up beside him
and laid her head on his chest.
It was a wonderful feeling,
holding her close. Already her eyes were
“Sleep well. Happy Winterfest.”
She draped an arm across his body,
and he held her, delighting in the feel of her warmth, the feel of her
cheek. Kissing her softly on the head, a
scent of roses drifted up to him. It
stirred emotions; brought back memories of family and home, of Central Park in Spring, of waltzes, gifts of poetry and
love letters. It reminded him of her
lips, of the deep and abiding love they shared.
Whenever he looked at roses - especially white buds - he thought of
her. As his eyes closed, a thought came
to him that made him smile -
We have a dance, a song, and now
we have a flower. A Winterfest rose.