Chapter 2

 

-1-

 

Diana Bennett awoke to the sound of a truck horn blaring up from the street below. She shook her head to clear it...bad mistake. Her skull felt as if someone had tried to pound away all its exterior bumps from the inside out.

 

Too much coffee and too little sleep. She squinted at her watch in the watery grey light streaming through the kitchen windows: seven-thirty. She was lying on her back on the living room couch, fully clothed, covered with an old pink blanket that did little to ward off the room’s cold. Her eyes wandered to a small black tape recorder on the kitchen table. She stared at the recorder as memories of the night before flooded through her, propelling her off the couch and into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. As she passed the kitchen table, she flipped the tape over and pressed the rewind button.

 

The ringing phone interrupted her first sip of coffee. She grabbed the receiver. “Yeah?” The sound of her own voice made her head throb.

 

“It’s me, Diana.”

 

“Joe.” She sat down at her desk. “You busy?”

 

“No. Need me to come over?”

 

“Yeah, come on over. I’ll make breakfast.”

 

“Have you listened to it yet?”

 

She hesitated. “Not yet.”

 

“I’ll be right there.”

 

An hour later Joe and Diana were finishing breakfast as they listened to the last portion of the tape. Joe winced as the sound of his own voice yelling “Shit!” issued from the tape recorder. He gave Diana a grim look and shook his head.

 

“My sentiments exactly,” she said, pushing scraps of a cold fried egg around her plate with a fork.

 

“You don’t eat much,” Joe said, his coffee cup held before his lips.

 

“I bet I eat a hell of a lot more than she does,” Diana answered, gesturing at the recorder with her fork.

 

Joe started to speak, then took a drink of coffee.

“What?” Diana asked.

 

“I was gonna say ‘poor thing,’ but it’s too early in the morning to get yelled at.”

 

Diana put down her fork. “I feel sorry for her too, Joe. She’s been through...” She broke off and looked out the window. “I’m sorry for her, and I’m angry at her. Now what am I supposed to do?”

 

“I think we’re supposed to tell Vincent and Cathy. They need to know.”

 

Diana nodded, still gazing out the window.

 

“And the package, Diana. You’re gonna give it to him, aren’t you?”

 

She sighed. “Yeah, I’ll give it to him.” She glanced over her shoulder at her work area. “I guess it’s time…” She threw her napkin on the table and stood. “Come on.”

 

“Come on where?” He followed her to the door.

 

“We need to send a...message.” She stopped short next to Cathy’s rosebush. She stared at the plant, and her feet wouldn’t budge.

 

”What’s the matter?” Joe asked.

 

“Nothing.” She tore her eyes from the plant. “Let’s go.” She opened the elevator door and they started down to the basement, leaving behind the tape, the breakfast remains and a blooming rosebush that had been barren only one day before.

 

 

 

 

-2-

 

Vincent carried Jacob in one arm and a small torch in his other hand as he led Catherine into the new chambers. “Wait,” he said, setting the torch into a wall notch. “Now you can look.”

 

She walked around him, then stopped. For a moment she said nothing, simply letting her eyes adjust to the light and the unbelievable sight before her. Finally she turned to Vincent, her eyes bright. “This is wonderful.”

 

“You’re pleased?

 

“Oh, yes!” Catherine took a few steps into the room, stopping in the middle. “It’s...incredible! I never expected it to be so big.” She turned back to Vincent. “So much work, Vincent!”

 

He shrugged, but she saw the shy pride in his face. “If you are pleased, it was worth it.”

 

She answered him with a radiant smile, and they began a slow circuit throughout the chambers. The first room was as large as their old chamber and almost perfectly round. Through a tall opening in the wall to their left, they entered a slightly smaller room. This room in turn led onto another room, bigger than the first room and with a large portion of the stone wall cut out on one side.

 

“This will be our chamber,” Vincent explained when they stopped in the largest room.      “The middle room is... it belongs to the children.”

 

She gave him a slow smile before slipping her arm through his and leaning against him. “And the first room is...an everything room?”

 

“Yes.” Vincent hugged the baby, rubbing his chin across little Jake’s silky hair. “Jacob will have plenty of room to grow.” The baby seemed to sense the attention being directed his way. He smiled and reached out one plump hand, which Catherine nuzzled against her lips.

 

She turned to Vincent. “This is fantastic. I doubt even Kanin could have done a better job.”

 

“There were many times when I longed for his counsel.” Vincent gazed at the finished walls, which were punctuated with recesses for torches, books and other belongings.

 

They stood in silence for a few minutes. Catherine tried to absorb what was happening. Home…this was to be their new home. What would she do with it? How would she…decorate didn’t seem to be an appropriate word. She shook her head.

 

“What is it?” Vincent looked down at her. His arm tightened around her as he gave her a gentle shake.

 

She sighed. “I’m just trying to take it all in. It’s lovely,” she hastened to add, seeing the expression of concern on his face. “It’s just…” She broke off, laughing a little. “Everything is happening so fast. Do you know what I mean?”

 

He gave a thoughtful nod. “I know. Our lives have changed. We...have changed.” He kissed the top of Jacob’s head. “More than anything.”

 

“How does it feel, Vincent?” Catherine moved so that she was facing him, and leaning slightly against the baby, who immediately launched himself into her arms.

 

“You and I?”  He raised his eyebrows, and she nodded.  He hesitated, searching the air for words. “It is the most...Catherine…making love to you, awakening with you in the morning, sharing a life together with our son…” He hesitated a moment. “I can think of nothing more wondrous, more...sacred than what we have.”

 

She touched his face; her smile faltered. “But do you feel awkward?”

 

“Awkward?”

 

She gestured toward the entryway. “In a few minutes we’ll be walking into a crowded room to have breakfast. Do you think people will know that we’re...do you think they can tell...” She broke off, embarrassed at the heat rising into her face.

 

Comprehension lit Vincent’s face. “I believe they assumed from the moment you returned that we were...intimate.” A hint of a smile tilted one corner of his mouth. “You and I are the only ones who will see a difference.”

 

“And Father.” Catherine sighed and leaned against Vincent, one arm around him and one around the baby. “Sometimes I think he sees everything.”

 

He leaned down and whispered in her ear. “I have had that suspicion since early childhood.”

 

They laughed together. She raised her head and started to kiss him but stopped, her mouth ajar, her eyes staring into his. She reached with one hand; her fingers slightly spread, and lightly covered his mouth.

 

He kissed her hand and pulled it aside. “What is it?”

 

“I can see myself in your eyes.” She frowned and gave her head a brief toss, then returned her gaze to his puzzled face. “I mean, I can see my reflection in your eyes. “For a moment I felt...I felt as if I were inside you, looking out through your eyes. A part of you, Vincent.” She felt one tear fall from her right eye and brushed it away with a small laugh. “Sometimes I say…”

 

“The truth, Catherine. You are a part of me.” He glanced at his son, then at her. “We are all a part of each other.”

 

“Forever.” Her voice held a trace of a question.

 

“Forever.” He gave her a gentle kiss and drew her into his embrace. They stood for several seconds, holding each other, until the baby let out a subdued roar at being pressed between them.

 

Catherine pulled away from Vincent with a laugh. “I suppose we should go on to breakfast.”

 

He nodded his agreement and they left their new home.

The communal dining hall was itself an “everything room.” When not in use at mealtimes, people used it as a reading room, a meeting place, a quiet but familial place to study or do homework.    An informal debating group met there several evenings a week to read and discuss newspapers and magazines that had been gleaned from Above or donated by helpers. In this way the tunnel society was able to keep abreast of the world Above.

 

As they entered the vast dining hall, Vincent and his family were greeted by a score of early risers. They took seats at a table next to Olivia and little Luke and began helping themselves to oatmeal, freshly baked muffins and coffee.    Catherine settled Jake into a comfortable nursing position and sipped orange Juice while Vincent commented to Olivia on how fast Luke was growing.

 

Vincent looked at the people surrounding him as he ate. So many kind faces, so many familiar and loving friends...  He stole a sideways glance at Catherine, who deftly handled the simultaneous chores of feeding herself and nursing their son beneath the discreet cover of her blue shawl.  He looked out across the hall and was startled to see Father appear in the doorway. They were too far apart to exchange words, but the look that passed between them spoke volumes. Vincent felt Father’s love and acceptance settle around his heart as he returned the old man’s smile. Then, as quickly as Father had appeared, he was gone.

 

Vincent turned to speak to Catherine, but he was interrupted when William came up from behind and placed two meaty hands on Catherine’s shoulders. She turned and greeted him with a smile. He spoke to her in a loud, raspy whisper: “I knew we couldn’t go on meeting like this!” She threw her head back and laughed out loud, soon joined in her mirth by Vincent and everyone else within earshot. William patted Vincent and Catherine’s shoulders and, wearing a massive grin, lumbered back into his kitchen realm.

 

“He will miss your mornings together,” Vincent said to Catherine as the laughter faded into normal conversation.

 

“So will I,” Catherine said. She shifted Jake from one breast to the other. “But he’s fattened me up as much as I’m going to let him. I don’t think…” She stopped and stared at the baby, who returned her gaze with wide-eyed innocence. “Vincent.” She turned to him, and he met her gaze. “I need your help.”

 

“Yes?”

 

She leaned toward him. “I need to exercise. I still don’t feel as if I’ve completely recovered from the coma, or even from having Jake. I want to feel stronger.” She kept her voice low, glancing around to make sure they weren’t overhead.

 

“You used to run when you lived Above...”

 

“Yes. It kept me in good shape and helped with the stress of my...well.” She gave him a rueful smile. “I guess I don’t need to worry about job stress anymore.”

 

“Catherine, being a mother can be stressful as well. There are places that would be suitable for running. Let me find them for you.”

 

“Thank you.” She touched his cheek. “I knew I could…”

 

“Vincent! Catherine!” Mouse skidded up at Vincent’s elbow, barely braking in time to avoid a collision. The young man stood for a moment trying to catch his breath, his face flushed and damp.

 

”What is it, Mouse?” Vincent asked.

 

“Message, Vincent. For you.” Mouse handed Vincent a much-folded piece of paper. “Rebecca said bring right away. Important.”

 

Vincent started to open the note, then gave Mouse a shrewd, teasing look. “Did you read this?”

 

Mouse’s expression changed to pained horror.   “No!  Mouse promises. Didn’t read this time.”

 

Vincent stifled a smile, noticing that Catherine did the same. He opened the note and read.

 

“Vincent –

Joe and I need to talk to you and Cathy. It’s

important. We’ll meet you in your chamber

at seven this evening.

Diana”

 

Vincent handed the note to Catherine. She finished reading and gave him a curious look. “Maybe they’ve found out something about Gabriel.”

 

Vincent nodded. “Perhaps. We will see tonight.”

 

“Mouse likes Diana.” Vincent turned a startled face to Mouse. “Maybe Diana and Joe can come for dinner…”

 

“Mouse!” Vincent said.

 

Mouse’s eyes were huge. “Uh...oh!” He backed away. “Gotta go...help Father do...something!” He nearly crashed into two people who had just risen from a nearby table, then he turned and ran from the hall.

 

Vincent chuckled and turned to Catherine. He grew silent at her worried expression. “What is it?”

 

She shook her head. “I don’t know. Suddenly I have a feeling...something is going to happen. But I don’t know what it is.” Her face relaxed. “I’m starting to sound as enigmatic as Narcissa.”

 

Vincent put his arm around her. “They may have good news, Catherine. Try not to worry.”

 

“It’s silly to worry when I’m sitting with you.” She accepted his kiss on her forehead with a glowing smile, and they continued with their meal.

 

If Catherine and Vincent had been more outwardly aware, they might have been discomfited by the covert attention paid to them by their fellow diners. Many happy looks and soft whispers were exchanged as their friends noted the comfort and ease with which the two lovers talked and touched. Vincent was mistaken: the change in his and Catherine’s relationship was a palpable force that carried joy into the hearts of all who witnessed their love.

 

After breakfast, Vincent headed off to work on the new chambers, and Catherine carried Jake back to their chamber. She hummed to herself as she went about her usual morning chores: making the bed, changing Jake’s diaper and settling him for a nap. She tried to identify the song she was humming. Her eyes lighted on the compact disc player Sybil had left behind the night before. Now she remembered...it was one of the songs the doctor had played during Vincent’s hypnosis sessions.

 

Catherine began gathering the doctor’s possessions into the sturdy briefcase. The last thing she packed was the legal pad on which Sybil had written during their sessions, sometimes jotting a few notes, sometimes scribbling furiously. She’ll need these; I hope she comes back soon. She absently flipped through the pages. Instantly she realized her error and started to put the pad in the briefcase, but she hesitated at one comment Sybil had written in her early notes. Sybil’s words referred to Vincent: “And that poses a question I’m unable to answer: IS he a man? He and Catherine have produced a child who looks perfectly normal.”

 

Catherine smiled and shook her head. She placed the legal pad inside the case and then shut it, carefully securing the locks before lugging it over to a spot beside the door. She returned to the table and sat down.

 

To Catherine, questions of Vincent’s identity and origin were unimportant. A discussion of his human-ness, his manhood, was, for her, just so much useless semantics. When she looked at him, she saw the beautiful face and body of the man she loved. The way he looked at her, touched her, spoke to her outweighed any other considerations and told her everything she needed to know about who and what he was.

 

She gazed at her baby, asleep on his stomach in his cradle. Sybil was right: Jake looked perfectly normal. He was somewhat larger and stronger than most children his age, according to Father, but that didn’t seem to be a cause for concern.

 

And what about the future? The question produced a small frown between her eyes. She couldn’t think that far ahead. She was happy to be in the here and now. She was young and healthy, she had a beautiful child, her life was full and rich, and Vincent...they were together.

 

She blinked away her thoughts and picked up her pen to write in her journal. I can’t know what will happen next year, or even next month. But is that really important? I have everything I need. I can’t imagine ever wanting more.

 

She set aside the journal and started working her way through a pile of mending, once again humming to herself as a contented smile stole across her features.

Chapter 3