A LITTLE SURPRISE

Debbie Ristick

 

Resting against the tunnel wall, Vincent sighed. The work here was almost finished; soon he could return to the hub and get some well-earned rest. He knew Jacob was cranky, giving Mary a hard time, for he was impatient for his daddy to return to him. He knew also that the other children missed his presence in their English classes. His life had changed in oh so many ways in the last several months, but still, responsibilities to the community were sometimes a priority.

He frowned. The water main he had spent the better part of the day working on was in one of the main tunnels and was in terrible trouble. The repairs needed to be made immediately if they were going to avoid possible detection by those living in the world above.

However, he sighed again, he was not really concentrating on what he needed to be doing. His mind and heart were filled with anxiety - a feeling he did not enjoy. He was trying to sort through those feelings, but the problem weighed heavily on him.

In the years he had known Catherine, their life together had been both blessed with happiness and cursed with adversity and pain. But in all that time, he knew there wasn't anything he wouldn't do for her. Certainly, after enduring all life had thrown at them, she had to know this simple truth as well...

Yet, though she tried to hide it from him, he felt her holding something back from him, something important to her. He couldn't help but be hurt by her apparent unwillingness to share it with him.

Shrugging his shoulders, he knew for now there was nothing he could do about it; he must complete this work soon. Evening would come soon enough for talk. When the time came for her to come home, he would be there to greet her and walk with her through the tunnels. He would guide her past the chamber they had shared for so many months now and direct her to their special place behind the triple waterfalls. There he would ask her what it was bothering her, and insist she tell him if need be. Then he would know what it was. Then he could deal with myriad feelings inside him.

Resigned at last to his course of action, he returned to his work, finally allowing himself to concentrate as he needed to.

Hours, it seemed, had passed, and he pushed himself back from the pipe before him, knowing this was the best he could do alone.

"Vincent?"

The voice from behind startled him and he whirled, shocked to be looking into her eyes. She seemed pleased with herself for some reason, and though he smiled at her in welcome, he paused. Why had he not known she was coming?

An enigmatic smile graced Catherine's face, but there was something else about her. She must have been purposely blocking the bond, blocking the bond in order to surprise him with her presence.

Then he knew: she was ready to talk - ready to explain everything.

"Catherine," he started, reaching out to take her hand and guide her around the work site. "I thought to meet you at the usual time. I thought you would still be at the office...or in court."

"Well, Vincent," she grinned as she reached for his hand. "I did have one case in court today and I did accomplish a lot of things. But the case was over quickly and I had to leave early today. You see, I had an appointment with my lawyer, then I met Diana and Jenny for lunch. After that, I went over to see Peter, and then I did a little shopping."

"I see," he said softly, not seeing anything out of the ordinary in her explanation. "Tell me," he requested gently, "how are Diana and Jenny?"

"They're both just fine," she answered, watching him intently. "Diana had to leave - she's working on a new case - but she promised to come below to see everyone as soon as she can."

Then the feeling of incredulity struck him. "What is it?" he asked, unable to keep himself from worrying. Something inside of her was bursting to get out - some bit of news or revelation. "Tell me, Catherine. Is something wrong?"

"No," she replied gently with a shake of her head. "Everything is just perfect. I've never been happier."

"But I feel something in you...have felt it for days. Tell me what it is," he asked, his voice moderate but insistent. "Please..."

"Well," she started, moving closer to him. "Since I came home to the tunnels a few months ago, you and I have gotten much closer than we ever had before, right?"

At his suddenly shy nod, she kissed him, holding him tightly.

"What I said a moment ago is true: I've never been happier, Vincent," she added, "that I promise you. Since you and Diana brought me home and I've moved below with you and Jacob, my life has taken on a new meaning. I want to continue to work above, but this is my home now. I want to help here more than I've ever been allowed to before. I want to do things for this place and these people; I want to give of myself more than I've ever been able to do. Sometimes we need medicine or supplies; I want to make sure that no one has to scavenge for these things above when there's a blizzard up there. I never want any child to go without immunizations because Father was out of the drug. I want to support my family."

"But you do," he started, only to have her silence him quickly with a shake of her head.

"I only try," she corrected. "There is so much more I could do. So much more I will do. Today I got some good news from my lawyer. I signed some papers, then I visited my bank. There I made some arrangements to put aside money for the tunnels, money that can be used for whatever is needed. Peter will be able to access it. So will Michael and Laura. I want Father and Mary to come above with me one day so I can add their names as well. And," she added, "I will never miss it. I don't really even need it..."

"I'm sure the council will appreciate your generosity, Catherine. You're right, of course. There are times when we are dangerously low on certain necessities, and the weather above does not alter itself to benefit us. I shudder to think of Sarah or Opal running out of fabrics and having to scrounge above in the snow - I don't even like to think of Jamie or Brooke going up in that kind of weather to pick up supplies from Peter."

"This will put a stop to all of that. I promise you."

Relaxing, Vincent held her tenderly for a moment, then felt a sense of excitement build inside her again. "This was not all of your news, was it?"

"Not all of it," she admitted tentatively.

"Then what else?"

Looking into her husband's gaze, Catherine shivered. "The rest of my news is for you alone, my love. Something wonderful has happened to me; it's something I didn't want to share with anyone for a while, not even you. I think you're going to be surprised. You see," she started, meeting his eyes, "I haven't been feeling like myself for the past couple of weeks; Peter took a test today, and told me I'm going to have another baby."

Vincent felt the jolt of emotion that passed along the bond from her as she gave him her news. Tightening his grip on her, he pulled her closer to him. "Catherine, I don't know what to say. Does this make you happy?"

"As I said before, Vincent, I've never been happier," she answered, her voice cracking with the strength of her passion. "This time it will be different. When I found out about Jacob, I was afraid. I was afraid for you because of all you'd just been through. I was afraid of what news like that might do to you. But now it's different. Now it's wonderful; nothing could be better."

"For both of us," he admitted. "I was shocked to learn of Jacob - shocked and more than just a little frightened. But now," he sighed, with a shake of his head, "that has changed. You're right, Catherine. It is wonderful and I couldn't be happier. You bring so much joy into my life; another child will be welcomed with all the love I can give."

"I'm so glad," she said, lying her head against his chest. "I was a little worried about what your reaction would be."

"Well," he began, turning toward the tunnel that would lead them home. "There are a couple of others who will have to know soon."

"Jacob?"

"Mmmm," he nodded. "And Father..."

"Well, Vincent," Catherine smiled. "Father will be easy, but how do we tell a baby who is used to having everything his own way that he has to share us with someone new?"

"With love," he reminded her, "nothing is impossible."

"You're right about that, my love," she nodded contentedly. "You're right about that."