These Are The Days by Aliset

 

 


The pain rose and twisted, a terrible clenching of muscle that ricocheted through him, leaving them both panting. How could Catherine stand it? Her face flushed red as the contractions peaked. “Coming ... too fast,” she managed.

One part of his mind agreed, burdened with the weight of old, ancient fears. But something else – an inner, inborn awareness he could neither define nor explain – surfaced to reassure him. “It's not,” Vincent said softly, willing her to use his voice as an anchor even as the echoes of her contractions flooded their bond. “Listen to me, Catherine. Breathe. Everything is just fine.”

The pain lessened somewhat as she shifted position. Her arms were clasped around his neck and she squatted to relieve the aching pressure in her lower back. Catherine scowled up at him, a look that would have been comic in other circumstances. “Really?”

He kissed her sweaty forehead. “Really. And soon we'll meet our child. Do you feel the need to push?”

She nodded, her eyes far distant as she listened to some inner voice.

“All right, then,” he murmured. “When you feel ready, push.”

***

The kittenish wail – a cry both insistent and demanding – echoed in the cavern. The sound of new life. It should have been drowned out by the roar of the waterfall but Vincent had ears only for the cry of his child.  Vincent wrapped the baby in the warmest thing he had – his chambray shirt, which he’d hastily pulled off as soon as he realized Catherine’s labor was progressing far too fast for them to return to the hospital chamber in time – and handed her to Catherine. “It's a girl,” he said.

“Our miracle,” Catherine said, eyes brimming. “Vincent, look. She's beautiful.”

Seeing his features mirrored so delicately in the small scrunched-up face should have been a shock. There were no pictures of himself as an infant, save for the few painted on Elizabeth's walls, and he'd spent a near lifetime avoiding the sight of his own reflection. But this was his child, their daughter, and she was beautiful. “No more so than you,” he murmured to his wife. The image of Catherine holding their daughter blurred, and distantly, he heard the messages on the pipes heralding Father and Mary's imminent arrival.

Catherine leaned against him and he gathered them near. His family. “Are you all right?” she asked softly.

“I think that's my line,” he replied, kissing her on top of her head as he wiped her tears away, then his own. “I'm fine.”

One finger gently traced the delicate lines of their daughter’s features: the faint line of down alongside her nose, the cleft lip. “I'm fine too. I could sleep for weeks but ... I don't want to miss a thing.”

Vincent pulled the length of his cloak around them both, his greatest treasures. “Rest now. Father will be here soon and then we can go home.”

***

All around them, the pipes rang out, a carillon of celebration and joy. Catherine and Vincent have a baby girl! Vincent looked across at his wife where she rested in their bed.  “How did they … I didn’t say a thing.”

“Well, I obviously didn’t,” Catherine replied with a wry, if wan, smile. “You might not have noticed, but I was a bit busy.” Their daughter yawned in her mother’s arms. Vincent reached out a cautious finger to his daughter and felt her grasp hard and hang on.  So strong … so small … for such a great miracle.

“News travels fast,” Mary said on the other side of the bed. “Always has, and this is wonderful news. Father probably sent word to Pascal; I’ll let everyone know to stay away for a bit so you three can get to know each other.” She rose gracefully in a swish of skirts. “Is there anything you all need?”

Catherine shook her head. “I think … we’re all right for now.”

Mary nodded. “Father will be here soon, but if there’s anything you need, just bang on the pipes.”

***

“You’re exhausted,” Vincent said after Mary left, after Father had completed his exam and concluded that despite the speed of her labor, both Catherine and the baby were perfectly healthy. The baby had been fed and diapered and was wriggling her arms and legs as Catherine dressed her in a flannel nightgown against the January chill. “You should rest.”

Catherine smiled through a bone-deep weariness. Her labor had come on so sudden and fierce that she felt totally drained in the aftermath.  And yet … “I can sleep later. Vincent, would you look at her. She’s gorgeous.”

“She is … just like her mother.”

She laughed and smiled a private smile, secretly delighted their child resembled her father so much. “Those aren’t my eyes she has, nor my hair. She’s the very image of you.” 

“What shall we call her?” Vincent asked, gently taking the child from her as Catherine relaced her sleep shirt – one of his own, which she’d appropriated as her pregnancy advanced.

“There’s a poem by Yeats … do you know the one?” Catherine asked as he sat next to her on the bed.

Many of her favorite poems were his as well. “A Prayer for My Daughter? Is that the one you’re thinking of?”

Catherine nodded. “There’s a line from it … O may she live like some green laurel, rooted in one dear perpetual place. What do you think of the name Laurel?”

Vincent gazed down at their child, no doubt seeing – as he had at the moment she’d entered this world – how strongly his features were echoed in his daughter’s. “Laurel. Yes. She’ll never have any other home but this.”

“Fool to say never,” Catherine reproached him lightly. “You never thought you’d find me, or that we’d wed, or that we’d have a child of our own. And yet, here we are.” She paused, struck by the kaleidoscope of feelings swirling in their bond. “What do you see when you look at her?” Catherine asked gently. “Tell me.” Tell me you’re no longer haunted by Paracelsus’ foul lies. Tell me all is joy and wonder for you. Over the year of their marriage, and then the months of her pregnancy, she would have sworn they’d achieved victory over that most vicious of ghosts, but if they had not … if they had not …

Laurel’s tiny feet kicked free of her blankets and pushed against her father’s chest as he studied her … as she studied him. She’s focusing, Catherine noticed in amazement.Vincent is sitting on the floor, holding out his newborn in his arms, and gazing lovingly on the baby

“I wonder … how can this be?”

“Oh, love,” Catherine murmured, “don’t ask ‘how.’ Just … accept that her life … like yours, and mine, was meant to be. And that you were meant to be her father.”

“It's a miracle,” Vincent said, voice hushed as Laurel's tiny fists clenched and unclenched.

“It's love,” Catherine answered. “And there's no greater miracle in this world than that.”

 

contact Aliset: lady_rainey(at)yahoo(dot)com

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