Two Blushing Pilgrims, Ready Stand¹
Catherine snuggled closer. The music chamber was chilly, and the night air was damp. She had purchased a vintage dress from a tiny boutique in the village. It was a silk gown with graceful drapery that clung beautifully to her body, but it provided little protection against the moist, cold air. It had seemed perfect at the time, but now… a chill crept into her flesh. She tried to ignore the cold. She let the music draw her into its magic. But, even so, after several minutes, she shivered unconsciously.
Vincent felt her discomfort and saw her shiver. The night was unusually cool after the early evening rain. He looked down at the beautiful woman curled upon his shoulder. Her hair was arranged in soft, loose curls. He nuzzled into the curls and breathed deeply. Vincent loved Catherine’s scent. He placed the lightest of kisses on her tresses. Then, he was drawn to her face. Her eyes were softly closed and her expression was one of contented peace. Again, she shivered. Vincent studied the dress Catherine wore. It was simple, elegant and of the softest silk, which seemed to flow over her body. The deep green cloth was very luxurious and enticingly tempting to touch. He knew that Catherine dressed with as much care for his music chamber concert as she would have for a symphony concert above. But now, her lovely frock provided little warmth.
“Catherine, you are shivering. Please, let me cover you with my cloak”, Vincent said as he removed it. Though he hated to put another barrier of clothing between their bodies, he would protect and shelter her always. His protection was one of the few tokens of love he allowed himself.
“Vincent, then you would be chilled.” She hesitated, and then continued. “We could wrap the cloak around us both.”
“That may prove unwise, Catherine. I will be warm enough.”
“Unwise? How would being wrapped in a cloak be ‘unwise’ unless it would somehow be dangerous, or perhaps lead to danger? Vincent, you almost admitted that sitting closely together under a cover could lead to something. But you’re so wrong, if you think anything dangerous would happen,” she mused. “Please, Vincent? I can’t sit here comfortably warm when you are not.” She smiled impishly. “I’ll behave.”
“But will I?” he thought. “Can I fight off the primal call of her body? Her scent wisps into my head, and I have to battle the urge to take her into my arms; the need to breathe her in; to know her every curve; to taste her…” He handed her the cloak and stood up. He disguised his distancing of her by gently wrapping her up in the cloak.
“Vincent, please, we must share your cloak,” she reminded him. “Please, sit back down and open it. I will sit beside you and pull your cloak over me.”
“What are you thinking? This is the most insensible of plans, but how can I object without explaining my reasoning? Catherine must never know how my mind struggles against the inclination of my heart and body. ” His determination to prevent her from tying herself to him required that she never know the depth of his love, desire and need of her. He would bear the ache of his denial willingly. “To hold her encircled in my cloak --these fleeting blissful moments with Catherine are worth any price I must pay.”
And so, now, he found himself sitting so close to her that he was enveloped by her sweet scent. Her heartbeat, which always played its rhythm in his heart, now tapped its pulse into his flesh. This, and more, he craved and rarely allowed himself. “Torture, sweet torture, oh please, let me endure!”
The beautiful young woman nestled next to him and rested her head on his muscular arm. She carefully reached across him and drew up the edge of his dark cloak. Its patchwork collection of wool, leather, and suede covered her. The extra protection of his cloak and the residual heat from Vincent’s body radiated into her chilled flesh. Catherine’s limbs, so tense from warding off the cool air by shivering, finally relaxed.
He sensed her pleasure as his warmth spread over her and was grateful that he could bring her comfort. The music from the concert drifted down into the music chamber. Rachmaninoff’s Opus 432 added its lovely melody to all the sensations he was experiencing. Vincent rested his head back against the chamber wall. He parted his lips slightly and breathed in deeply. Her scent now became a new sensation as it touched his tongue and he could taste her essence. He closed his eyes, savoring the taste, smell, sound and feel of her. Unbidden, he sighed, quietly.
Catherine had tried to contain her response to him. She loved these rare moments of closeness. Carefully, she tilted her head up to gaze at her beloved, just as he closed his eyes. She watched him breathe in and hungrily taste her. But, it was his almost silent sigh which tore at her control and brought on a quiver of pleasure.
Ever attendant, Vincent noticed her slight movement. “Still chilled, Catherine? Perhaps we should move to a warmer chamber. The concert is wonderful, but not worth injuring your health. We can return when the weather is more seasonable.”
“I’m not cold anymore, Vincent. Your cloak is wonderfully warm. Please, let’s stay.”
Vincent studied her face. He took her hand in his. It was warm and so soft. Her pulse beat under his thumb, steady and strong. His thumb traced light circles on her wrist, an innocent caress.
Catherine smiled. “This is wonderful. All the outdoor concerts in this park and concerts at the symphony hall never affected me as the music experienced here, in this chamber. The music flows into my body. Or perhaps, the experience of us enjoying the music together becomes almost palpable.” She sat up. “Is this something like your contact through our bond? Does our bond become part of your physical sensations?”
He tilted his head to allow his hair to cover his face, like an extension of his cloak, hiding his expression. Gathering his thoughts, he said, “Our bond affects me in many ways. At times, I receive impressions of random emotions…anger, surprise, happiness. Other times I feel pain, or, as in this evening, chill. But when we share something together, as with this concert, my senses are amplified. I feel your experience, how the music affects you. Your pleasure weaves into mine, giving the music more dimension.”
“Yes, it’s as if I have more senses, or perhaps, heightened abilities for my senses.”
She leaned against him once again. He carefully placed an arm across her shoulders. Happily, she rested her head in the bow of his arm. The music continued to cast its spell over them.
Catherine remembered his words and wondered, “If sharing music through the bond feels this powerful… could I survive his kiss? Oh, please, Vincent!” The barest of touches he had used to trace circles onto her wrist still tingled from the almost fiery path left behind. Catherine closed her eyes and savored his touch. Her hand reached for his hand hanging down from her shoulder. She traced a similar pattern on his wrist stroking the soft hairs there.
From her very first touch, Catherine’s caress affected Vincent. In the beginning, he never expected her to even consider touching him, yet she seemed to seek ways to make some type of contact with him. Each touch was a gift. He would relish the sensation and recall the memory of it, late at night in the quiet solitude of his chamber or when he journeyed alone to the nameless river.
The tender circles she wove into the silky hairs on his wrist wordlessly spoke of her acceptance of his differences. “Catherine, your touch is innocent and tender, yet it is a lover’s touch.” Not only acceptance, she loved him and his differences. Such a simple action, but it stunned him. Though she had tried many times to convince him, it was this tiny gesture which finally assured him of her love for all of him. He sighed again, completely happy.
“Vincent, are you alright?” She looked worried. “If your arm is uncomfortable or numb from my weight on it…”
He turned toward her, bending his face down close to hers. The look of love in his eyes stilled her words. Vincent rarely allowed her to see how much he loved her. Her lips had parted slightly with her last syllable still on her lips, and she smiled happily at him.
He tilted his head, amazed at her. His efforts at disguising his love and desire for Catherine never deterred her. She had never given up. Catherine’s love was always with him, waiting only for him to accept it and fulfill the dream. Her lips were so close, so tempting, so inviting. Only once had he felt them on his. After her father’s death, he had convinced himself that her kiss had been one of gratitude, nothing more. But now, he reconsidered that kiss. “My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand…” He leaned closer, so near that her gentle breathing blew over the delicate hairs on his face.
“Will he kiss me?” she wondered. She sat very still, afraid to break the spell and crush whatever impulse brought his lips so close to hers. She longed for his kiss and had dreamt of it, in many variations.
Vincent felt her desire. Kissing Catherine was one of his dearest secret dreams. Slowly, he placed his left hand behind her head, weaving his fingers into her curls.
She was afraid to frighten him away. So many times, they had come achingly close to kissing, only to be thwarted by someone or something. Ever so slightly, she leaned her head into his hand enjoying the feel of it upon her.
“Catherine, I love you.” His voice was husky and full of passion. He lowered his head, and this time, his lips lightly touched hers. They lay still on hers for a moment. “Joy!” The feeling flowed over both of them. Reassured by her reaction, Vincent slowly moved his lips over hers in a tender, searching caress. She could no longer hold herself still, and she threw her arms around him, burying her hands in his long golden hair.
A tiny voice, suspiciously sounding like Father, urged him to pull away. Instead, he drew her even closer. Lightly, his tongue tasted her lips. A happy sigh parted them. This tempted him further. His tongue paused for a moment, and then slowly entered her mouth, tasting and caressing her. He felt her shudder and the thrill of having caused it delighted him. They kissed passionately, lips, hearts, and souls blissfully united. Slowly, regretfully, he withdrew his tongue, lightly brushing his lips over hers one last time before ending the kiss.
She curled her fingers in his hair, not wanting to release him. Catherine had finally fulfilled her longing to run her fingers through his golden locks. She held him close and they both enjoyed the simple contact.
His kiss had been so unexpected. She had begun to despair that he would ever kiss her. But even more surprising was the way he kissed her. She had assumed that this was his first kiss. “That was no inexperienced, tentative kiss. It was tender, passionate, and almost possessive!” Its effect on her was powerful and wonderfully fulfilling. Just the memory of it caused her to tremble in renewed pleasure.
“Vincent, that was magical and worth every second of the longing and waiting.”
“I have dreamed of kissing you for an eternity of lonely nights. The reality of your lips joined with mine far surpassed my heated imagination.”
“I felt your love and desire blended with mine.”
“Catherine… I am still haunted by the thought of hurting you. But perhaps, with small steps, we can reach toward our dream.”
“Vincent, yes, oh, yes! Your love, your touch, could never hurt me.” She smiled brightly. “I will wait and hope for more steps toward our dream.”
“‘With love and patience, nothing is impossible.’ Though, having tasted your lips, I fear that I will want to drink from them often.”
“Our first kiss was amazing. I hope that you frequently find yourself…thirsty. ”
He whispered into her ear. “I am often…thirsty. And though a novice at kissing, I hope to prove a fast learner and perhaps…with much practice…hope to…amaze you further?”
For the second time that evening, Vincent had stunned her into silence. His rough whisper had teased and tickled her into shivers of delight and his words promised more kissing and pleasures to come. Sensing her excitement and happiness, Vincent gently pulled her to him. His warm body cradled hers in a warm, loving embrace. As the music continued, Vincent drank deeply and often.
1William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act I Scene v, 95,
Romeo to Juliet
(taking JULIET’s hand) If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
2Sergie Rachmaninoff, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Opus 43, Variation 18