Chapter 8

 
-1-

 

 

Thursday, January 11, 1990

 

Catherine awoke with a question nagging at the back of her mind and an intense need to see a calendar. She had grown a little fuzzy on days and dates. Without the differences of light and dark to which she had grown accustomed in the world Above, she had had to readjust her attitudes toward time.

 

After breakfast, Vincent left to put the finishing touches on their new chambers, which he promised would be ready for habitation no more than a week after the wedding. Catherine went searching and found a calendar in, of all places, Mouse’s chamber. He peered over her shoulder as she studied January and the December gone by. “Where did you get this calendar, Mouse?” she asked, puzzled at its appearance. The dates were printed in Roman numerals, and most of the wording was in an oriental script.

 

“Helper in Chinatown. Gives Mouse a new one every year.” He grabbed Arthur, who was trying to climb on top of his head, and set the raccoon on the one bare spot on a nearby table. “Need help, Catherine?”

 

“No, I just - oh, damn!” She handed the calendar back to Mouse. “Here, Mouse. This is getting me nowhere.”

 

“Can’t read?” the young man asked, holding the calendar sideways as he craned his head and squinted his eyes at the mysterious figures.

 

“I can read it; I just can’t get the numbers to come out right. Thanks anyway.” She left Mouse sitting on his bed, still trying to decipher the calendar with Arthur’s help.

 

A bewildering combination of trepidation and joy propelled Catherine through the tunnels to find Jamie. She and the younger woman had grown close over the past weeks, and Catherine was sure she could count on Jamie not only to run an important errand but also to keep a confidence.

 

She finally found Jamie in the kitchen, helping William prepare lunch.

 

“Hi, Catherine,” Jamie called. She was washing an enormous sink full of dishes, and the steam from the hot water curled the hair around her flushed face.

 

“Good morning,” Catherine said, including William in her greeting.

 

“Not hungry already?” William asked in mock consternation. He took a closer look. “My God, what’s happened to you? All that trouble I took to put some meat on your bones, and you’re starting to look scrawny again!”

 

“Just ignore him,” Jamie advised, wiping her hands on a towel. “He’s got this thing about statuesque women.”

 

“Ha, ha,” William responded.

 

“William, can I borrow Jamie for a minute if I promise to clean my plate at lunch?”

 

He rolled his eyes heavenward and sighed. “I suppose.”

 

“Thanks.” Catherine tugged Jamie out of the kitchen and into a quiet corner of the dining hall.

 

“Can you do something for me?” Catherine whispered, even though no one else was in sight.

 

“Sure. Why are we whispering?” Jamie asked.

 

Catherine gave the large room an anxious glance. “I need you to get something for me, from up top.” She placed a twenty dollar bill and a scrap of paper in Jamie’s outstretched hand.

 

Jamie read the writing on the note, and her eyes grew round. “Does this mean you’re…?”

 

“SSHHH!” Catherine hissed, clapping her hand over the girl’s mouth. “You can’t tell anyone, not even Brooke or Rebecca or Mary. O.K.?” Jamie nodded, eyes wide above Catherine’s hand. Catherine realized what she was doing and dropped her hand, a little embarrassed. “Sorry about that.”

 

“It’s O.K. Do you want this today?”

 

“If possible, I really would appreciate it.”

 

“No problem. I’ll go after I finish up here. I’ll signal you when I get back, and you can pick it up in my chamber.”

 

“I’d rather just leave it in your chamber, as long as you can hide it.”

 

“Sure!” Jamie’s voice rose above a whisper, and she hastily looked around. She returned to a whisper: “I’ll get back as soon as I can.”

 

“Thanks, Jamie.” Catherine smiled at the girl, who obviously was thrilled to be in on a secret.

 

“Jamie!” William yelled from the kitchen.

“Just a minute!” Jamie’s expression turned serious. “This is some timing, isn’t it, with your wedding tomorrow.”

 

Catherine sighed. “Tell me about it. I’ll see you later.”

 

Jamie threw her a smile as she dashed back into the kitchen. Catherine’s smile faded.    She found herself standing alone in the hollow silence of the room, and for a moment she didn’t know what to do next.

 

Catherine spent the rest of the day in fevered anticipation. She tried to give Vincent and little Jake and her tiny students the attention they needed, but despite her efforts she felt as if she shortchanged everyone. Vincent seemed oblivious to her mood, which Catherine interpreted as either wedding jitters on his part or good acting on hers.

 

For one infinitesimal moment, she allowed herself to yearn for the days when he could read her feelings and state of mind, even when they were far apart. She rarely permitted herself to indulge in such thoughts. She had meant what she said when she told Vincent they had a new bond, a stronger bond, and she was determined not to let the past cloud the joy of the present moment.

 

After lunch (at which she dutifully cleaned her plate as promised because she knew William would check, and he did), Catherine heard Jamie’s message come through on the pipes. Leaving Jake with Olivia, grateful as always for the miniature babysitting collective the two women had established, Catherine rushed to Jamie’s chamber.    She nearly collided with Father, who was leaving his study just as she hurried by.

 

“Slow down, Catherine!   My goodness, you look as if you’re running away from something.”

 

“Sorry, Father.” She leaned against the wall for a moment to catch her breath.

 

“How’s the running progressing?”

 

“Much better. At least I’m not throwing up anymore.”

 

“And your strength?”

 

She gave him a happy, slightly wicked smile. “I feel strong enough to wrestle Vincent!”

 

Her statement seemed to fluster the old man. “Well...that’s just...I’m glad everything is going so well. I’ll let you go now. You must be busy preparing for the wedding.”

 

Catherine closed her eyes and sighed. “Would it be terrible of me to say that I’m looking forward to it being over?””

 

“No, my dear.” Father patted her cheek. “I think most brides-to-be feel that way.” He smiled and walked away.

 

Catherine headed off in the other direction, her mind reeling. I wonder how many nervous brides-to-be find themselves entering marriage with a nearlv_five-month-old baby and possibly another one on the way?  

 

 

 

 

-2-

 

Catherine and Jamie huddled in a corner of Jamie’s chamber, poring over the instructions from the box of an early pregnancy test.

 

“God, this is complicated,” Catherine said, frowning at the tiny print on a lengthy brochure.

 

“It’s supposed to be the most accurate one,” Jamie said, examining a collection of little vials and tablets.

 

“’Urine sample used must be collected first thing in the morning,’” Catherine read aloud from the instructions. She looked up and stared at Jamie.

 

“Great!” Jamie said. ”You wake up on your wedding day and what’s the first thing you do? Pee in a bottle and do a pregnancy test.” She shook her head.

 

“I can’t wait that long.” Catherine swept the testing equipment into a paper bag.

 

“But the instructions say…”

 

”I don’t care. I have to find out today. I’ll be a raving lunatic if I have to wait ‘til tomorrow.”

 

Jamie watched as Catherine finished. “Catherine...are you going to tell Vincent?”

 

Catherine froze. Finally she found her voice, but it wasn’t too steady. “Of course. I have to.”

 

“When?”

 

“As soon as I find out.”

 

“You think he’ll be happy?”

 

“He better be,” Catherine muttered, then laughed at herself. “What am I saying...of course, he will! I hope.”

 

“What about you?”

 

“Me.” Catherine stared at the wall, barely seeing a poster of a field of wildflowers Jamie had pinned over her bed. “I haven’t figured that out yet. Come on, let’s go to the bathroom. You can run interference for me.”

 

An hour later Father and Catherine met again, but this time it was a subdued Catherine who entered his study. He looked up from his book and saw her standing at the entrance, a hesitant look on her face. He set his book on the table and stood. “Come in, Catherine.”

 

“Thanks.”  She descended the stairs, walking with slow steps until she reached his desk.

 

Father watched her as she moved, trying to decide if she were ill or if she had just suffered a shock. It was clear that something was not right. “Are you all right, Catherine?” he asked, regaining his seat as soon as she sat down.

 

“Well,” she began, then stopped. A gamut of emotions swept over her features: confusion, happiness, uncertainty. ”That’s a good question.” She looked at Father. “Are you busy right now?”

 

“No, not really. Is there something I can do for you?”

 

She leaned across his desk, holding her forefinger in front of her closed lips. He raised his eyebrows in anticipation of her words.

 

“Can we go to the hospital chamber?” she whispered. “I need you to give me a pelvic exam. I think I may be pregnant.”

 

“PREGNANT?!” He was halfway out of his seat before her frantic arm motions encouraged him back into his chair. “Pregnant?” he continued, in an alarmed whisper. “Are you sure?”

 

“No. That’s why I came to you.”

 

“Does Vincent know?” Father struggled to keep his voice low.

 

“I don’t want to tell him until I know for sure. Can we find out now?”

 

Father sighed. “I suppose now is as good a time as any and better than most.”  He stood, leaning on his cane and gaping at Catherine in disbelief. “Come with me. We’ll have to bring Mary in on this, you know.”

 

“That’s fine,” Catherine said as they left the study. “I know I can trust you both to keep a secret.”

Father raised his eyebrows.    “Believe me; down here it won’t remain a secret for long.”

 

 

 

 

-3-

 

The evening did not go as Catherine planned.

 

Dinner came and went, and by seven o’clock she had Jacob settled on the floor with his favorite toys, and she and Vincent were seated across the table from each other. She knew she had his full attention; her words to him before the evening meal had made sure of that. She had told him she had something important to discuss with him after dinner.

 

Seated at the table in their chamber, he reached over to touch her hand. “I am listening, Catherine.”

 

“I’m not sure where to start, Vincent.”

 

“At the beginning.”

 

She smiled as a sudden memory of the first time they made love really made love - ran through her mind. She was convinced that she conceived that night. “Do you remember…?”

 

“Vincent!” A man’s voice outside the chamber interrupted them. Vincent swung around in his chair, staring at the draped chamber entrance. He looked back at Catherine. “Could it be...?”

 

The voice sounded again, and this time they could see a pair of boot tips peeking beneath the hem of the drapes. “Hey, Vincent! Do you have a moment to spare for your long lost brother?”

 

“Devin!” Vincent leapt from his chair and swept aside the drapes to find Devin standing there, smiling. The two men stared at each before falling into a huge embrace.

 

Catherine smiled at them from the table, her heart full of happiness for Vincent. She heard him say, “I knew you would come.”

 

The two men separated, and Devin gave Vincent a careful look. “I got the news from Father a week ago. I was in Hong Kong, and I wasn’t sure I’d make it back in time. I’m glad I did.”

 

“So am I, Devin.” Vincent’s voice brimmed with joy.

 

Devin’s gaze turned to Catherine, who stood beside the table, smiling. “Catherine!” He walked over to her and hugged her.

 

“Devin, it’s so good to see you again!” She pulled away from him and smiled. “Thank you so much for coming.”

 

“I wouldn’t have missed it for anything,” he said. “My God, you look beautiful. Living with this brother of mine must agree with you.”

 

“It does.”

 

A sudden movement caught her eye, and she looked down. Devin followed her glance and seemed startled at the sight of little Jacob, who was sitting on a quilt on the floor playing with a stuffed bear. Devin looked first at Catherine, then at Vincent. He knelt on the floor and gazed at the baby, shaking his head as if awestruck. “Your son.” Once again, he looked at Vincent. “Father’s message said you had a son, but I couldn’t believe it. Now I guess I have to. May I?” He reached toward the baby.

 

“Please,” Vincent replied.

 

Devin picked up Jake and stood again. The baby, still clutching his bear in one chubby fist, stared at this stranger with open curiosity.

 

“How are you doing, little one?” Devin asked in a soft voice. Behind him Catherine and Vincent exchanged an amused glance. “I’m your Uncle Devin. And you’re a sight I never thought I’d see.” He spoke to Jacob’s parents. “He’s a beautiful baby.”

 

“Thank you,” Catherine said.

 

Devin sat at the table, still holding the baby, and Catherine and Vincent sat beside him.

 

“We were sorry to hear about your friend, Charles,” Vincent said.

 

Devin nodded and sighed. ”I was sad to see him go. But I like to think that the end of his life was a lot happier than the beginning.”

 

Vincent clasped Devin’s shoulder. “How long can you stay?”

 

Devin shrugged. “I’m not on any schedule. I’ll stay at least a few weeks. That is, if Father and I can keep the peace between us.”

 

Catherine smiled. “Father is so busy with wedding arrangements, I doubt he’ll have enough time to disagree with you about anything.”

 

“Good,” Devin said. ”I’m glad to hear that, since I’m supposed to see him in about...” He checked his wristwatch. “…one minute.” He passed Jacob over to Catherine and stood. “Since I’m playing a part in this wedding, I imagine I’ll get the full story.”

 

“It will mean a great deal to have you stand beside me tomorrow, Devin,” Vincent said, clasping Devin’s shoulder.

 

“To me as well, brother.” Devin’s gaze softened as he spoke to Vincent. ”I’ll say goodnight now. We’ll talk more tomorrow.” With one last smile, he left the room.

 

Jacob began crying, and Catherine nursed him, watching Vincent as they sat in silence.

 

“Do you think they’ll get along all right?” she asked.

 

“I think they will make an extra effort on our behalf.” He smiled at her, then his forehead wrinkled. “You were about to tell me something, Catherine.”

 

She raised her eyebrows. “Oh, yes. Before Devin came.” She looked down at her son. “I guess I couldn’t have picked a better setting in which to tell you. Vincent, I found out today that I’m…”

 

“Catherine? Vincent? Are you there?” This time the voice belonged to a woman.

 

Catherine stared at the entrance. “Now what?”

 

Vincent shook his head. He walked to the entrance and pulled aside the drapes, admitting Diana and Sybil into the chamber.

 

“I hope we’re not interrupting,” Diana said.

 

“Not it all,” Catherine said, suppressing a sigh.

 

“Please, sit down,” Vincent said. They all took seats around the table, except Sybil, who opted to sit on the edge of the bed.

 

“My God, Catherine, how much food do you have to eat to nurse that kid?” Sybil asked, peering over Catherine’s shoulder at the baby.

 

“A lot.”

 

“Glad to hear it, because I finally decided to nurse and I intend to eat everything in sight.”

 

“Shouldn’t be much of a change in your current lifestyle,” was Diana’s dry comment.

 

Sybil rolled her eyes at Diana. “Funny, isn’t she? Aren’t you going to ask us why we’re here?”

 

“Must there be a reason?” Vincent asked.

 

“Yes, Vincent, there must,” Sybil responded, giving him a terribly sober look that invoked a smile. She returned his smile, then spoke to Catherine. “At Father’s request, Diana and I have been doing some underhanded detective work…”

 

“Definite typecasting on Father’s part,” Diana interjected.

 

“And we managed to turn up one more person who wants to crash your wedding tomorrow. As a matter of fact…” Sybil turned innocent eyes to the ceiling “once she got over the initial shock of what we had to tell her, she insisted on being at the wedding.” She spoke to Diana. “The nerve of some people!”

 

“Tell me about it,” Diana countered. She seemed to be enjoying the dialogue as much as Sybil.

 

“Now wait a minute, you two-OUCH!” Catherine winced, then shifted Jacob to her other breast.He’s teething. Now what are you two talking about?” Out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of Vincent, who looked as if he were about to burst into laughter. “Are you in on this, too?”

 

He raised his hands. “I refuse to answer on the grounds--”

 

“Chicken,” Sybil interrupted. “Now, Catherine. Why don’t you hand me that baby...thank you very much. Diana, I’ll take that bottle of Catherine’s breast milk that you just happened to have stored in your freezer, and that should be thawed out by now...”

 

“Oh, my God,” Catherine said, thoroughly bewildered.

 

“As for you,” Diana said to Catherine, and the two women exchanged a smile. “Go to Father’s study. Someone is waiting there to see you.”

 

Catherine closed the front of her dress, examining the three beaming faces around her for clues as to what was happening. The news she had meant to share with Vincent was, for the moment, forgotten. She stood and made one last effort: “Don’t I even get a hint?”

 

“Go!” rang three voices in unison.

 

“I’m going, I’m going.” She took one last look at the three of them - Vincent, whose eyes twinkled; Diana, her face lit by a rare grin; Sybil, feeding little Jake from a forgotten bottle of breast milk - and then she left the chamber.

 

As Catherine approached Father’s study, her mind was a jumble of confusion. Who else was going to show up? The day already had produced enough surprises to last through the end of the year.

 

She entered the study to find a woman standing in front of Father’s desk, her back to the door. The woman was dressed in blue Jeans, black Reeboks and a dark red sweater. She didn’t seem to hear Catherine’s approach. She leaned over the desk and appeared to study something, her glossy shoulder-length hair falling in a dark curtain over one side of her face.

 

Catherine stood for a moment. As she studied the woman, a hot swell of amazement bloomed and spread throughout her body. She took one step forward, deliberately making a soft noise with her shoe. She uttered a name in a voice of disbelief: “Nancy?”

 

Slowly the woman turned around. She stared at Catherine with shining eyes, a slow smile parting her lips. The tone in her voice was identical to Catherine’s: “Cathy? Is that you? Is it really you?”

 

The sound of Nancy Tucker’s voice loosened Catherine’s limbs into action. “Nancy!” she cried and ran across the room into her friend’s open arms. They hugged each other for a few minutes, crying and laughing.

 

“I can’t believe you’re alive,” Nancy said. Her eyes traveled over Catherine as if trying to convince herself that her friend was really there.

 

“Oh, Nance,” Catherine exclaimed. She dropped into a chair and Nancy joined her. “I can’t believe you’re here. How did you...oh! Diana and Sybil.”

 

“You should have been there, Cath, it was so funny.” Nancy considered. “Well, it’s funny now.  They both showed up on my doorstep a few days ago and tried to tell me you were alive, you were marrying Vincent, and you wanted me to come to your wedding.”

 

“What did you say?”

 

“I didn’t say anything; I threw them out!” They both laughed.

 

“But they convinced you,” Catherine said.

 

“Finally. And then I agreed to let them blindfold me and bring me here.” She touched Catherine’s arm. ”They said you have a child...”

 

Catherine’s face lit up. “We have a beautiful little boy. His name is Jacob.”

 

“And Vincent is his father?”

 

”Yes.”

 

“This is just... incredible. When I think of how upset you were that night at my house, telling me about Vincent and about how impossible everything was...”

 

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, Nance, it’s that practically nothing is impossible.”

 

“I guess that includes Vincent?” Nancy said, lifting one eyebrow.

 

“Yes, including Vincent. Would you like to meet him?”

 

“I thought you’d never ask.”

 

“I’ll go get him.” Catherine stood and started to move, but she stopped when Vincent’s voice drifted in through the chamber entrance.

 

“I am here, Catherine.”

 

Catherine hesitated, looking first toward the sound of Vincent’s voice, then at Nancy.

 

“It’s O.K.,” Nancy whispered. “Your friends told me a little. I’m ready.”

 

Catherine smiled and stepped outside. She reappeared with Vincent, whose face was shrouded by the hood of his cloak. They stopped a few feet from Nancy, who stood in front of the desk, gripping the back of a chair. Sybil and Diana had given her a thorough description of Vincent’s appearance, but she still felt nervous at encountering this mysterious man who meant so much to her friend.

 

“Mrs. Tucker.” Vincent’s voice, warm and deep, issued from the darkness hiding his face.

 

“Please...call me Nancy.” She glanced at Catherine, who seemed perfectly calm. “I’d like to see your face, Vincent.”

 

“If you’re sure...”

 

“It’s O.K. I’m a mother of two, I don’t scare easily.”

 

He drew the cloak away from his face, and for a few seconds they stared at each other. Amazing, she thought. Now so many other things make sense...

 

She said the first thing that came into her mind. “I’m glad I brought my camera.” She tore her eyes away from Vincent to smile at Catherine. “I hope you don’t mind. I decided I would do a better job as official photographer than as matron of honor.”

 

“That’s terrific!” Catherine said. She and Vincent exchanged a smile, and Vincent put one arm around her.

 

Look at them: Nancy thought. They look so perfectly...RIGHT together. I wonder what their son… “When do I get to see the baby?”

 

“You’re welcome to see him now,” Vincent said.  He picked up Nancy’s coat and suitcase, which were stacked on another chair, and gestured to Nancy to follow Catherine.

 

“Thanks,” Nancy said. She hooked her arm through Catherine’s and waited for Vincent to join them. “I can’t wait to see him, Cathy. Who does he look like?”

 

Catherine’s laughter echoed as they left the study.

 

Chapter 9