Chapter 9

-1-

Friday, January 12, 1990

 

A sense of excitement and anticipation filled the tunnel world as the day began. It had been a long time since a wedding was held Below, and the fact that it was Vincent and Catherine’s wedding made the day even more special.

 

Catherine’s day began in the bathroom as she gripped the rim of a basin and threw up her breakfast while Mary held her head. The nurse had heard the retching sounds while passing by and came to help. Catherine sat on a bench and leaned against the wall while Mary bathed her face with a cool wet cloth. “Not the best way to begin your wedding day, is it?” Mary asked.

 

Catherine managed a weak smile. “Not really.”

 

“Well, don’t worry. It’s bound to get better.” Mary sat beside her. “Have you told Vincent?”

 

“I never got a chance. There was too much going on last night.” She gave Mary a tired look. “Do I tell him now, or wait ‘til later? I don’t know...”

 

“Do you want my advice?”

 

“Please.”

 

“If I were you, I’d wait until after the wedding. One blessed event at a time!” She smiled at the bemused look on Catherine’s face. “A wedding is a wonderful thing, but this...” She placed a gentle hand on Catherine’s stomach. “This is the most important thing in the world.”

 

Catherine placed her hand over Mary’s and returned the older woman’s fond gaze. “It is, isn’t it?”

 

”Indeed.” Mary stood. “I’ll leave you now. I know you have a lot to do today.”

 

Catherine stood and hugged Mary. “Thanks...for everything.”

 

“You’re welcome, dear.” With one last smile, Mary left the bathroom.

 

Catherine turned to look at herself in a small cracked mirror over the sink; she groaned. “Oh, God help me!” She stepped away from the mirror and prepared for her bath.

 

In his chamber, Vincent grew increasingly nervous. Little Jacob sat crying in his cradle, caught in the miserable throes of teething. For the first time in the baby’s life, Vincent felt irritation at his son’s cries, but instantly he was contrite. Cutting four teeth at once couldn’t be pleasant. He picked up his son and walked around the chamber with him, patting him and talking to him in a soft voice until he finally calmed down.

 

“Vincent, may I come in?”

 

Vincent turned towards the entrance. “Please, Father.”

 

The old man pushed aside the drapes and stepped in. He looked at his son. “So many things have changed.”

 

“For the better.”

 

“How’s our young man doing?”

 

Vincent sighed. “He has four teeth coming in. It hasn’t been easy.”

 

“For any of you, I would imagine.” Father sat at the table, leaning his cane against his chair. “Come, Vincent, sit down.”

 

Still holding the baby, Vincent sat beside Father and gave him a questioning look.

 

Father hesitated a moment before speaking. “This is a very special day, Vincent, and as your father I feel I should say something...I don’t know, profound or terribly wise. Unfortunately, I can’t think of a thing.” He smiled.

 

“Say what is in your heart, Father.”

 

Father nodded, gazing at Vincent. “I want you to know that this is one of the proudest days of my life. So many things have happened for you, Vincent; things I never dared to dream might be possible. You’ve had a long, painful journey to reach this place in time, but I think the problems you’ve endured will make you appreciate all the more what you have.” He sighed. “What I mean to say is that I love you and Catherine and my grandson very much, and I wish you all the joy and happiness that life can possibly bring.”

 

Vincent reached across the table to grip his father’s hand. “Thank you, Father.” He blinked back tears, unable to say more.

 

Father patted his hand. “I know you’re busy. I will see you later.” He left the chamber.

 

Vincent sat with his son on his lap, gazing at the chair where Father had been sitting. How fortunate I am, he thought. I can ask for no greater gift in my life than the love I’ve received from my family and friends.

 

 

 

-2-

 

Diana prepared for the wedding to the accompaniment of Joe and Sybil arguing in the living room. She smiled at her reflection in the bathroom mirror as Sybil’s voice escalated.

 

“What the hell do you mean, not buying them a wedding gift?” Sybil’s Arkie accent was in top form, and Diana could tell by Joe’s responses that he was trying too hard not to laugh to keep up his end of the mock confrontation.

 

“I can’t help it. I couldn’t think of anything to get them,” Joe said.

 

“Men!” Sybil’s voice rose a notch for Diana’s benefit. “MEN! No imagination!”

 

“Well, what did you get them?” Joe asked.

 

“Towels, of course,” Sybil answered as Diana walked into the room. Diana and Joe looked at each other. Joe burst into laughter and Diana rolled her eyes. “What?” Sybil asked, turning her head from one to the other. “I don’t know what you’re laughing at, Maxwell, you cheapskate.”

 

“Nothing.” Joe collapsed on the couch, wiping his hand across his face. “I just wanna be there when they open their towels.”

 

Sybil ignored him and turned to Diana. “You still haven’t told me what you’re bringing.”

 

“I’m in charge of the flowers.” Diana walked to the refrigerator, returning with a small bouquet of red and white roses. The stems had been de-thorned and tied together with red and white ribbons.

 

“Ooooh!” Sybil breathed. “Very nice. From Catherine’s rosebush?” Diana nodded. “Perfect, Diana. She’ll love them.”

 

“They came into full bloom yesterday. I thought it was a...a romantic touch.” Diana opened her mouth as if to continue, but instead she returned to the kitchen and put flowers back in the refrigerator.

 

Sybil watched her friend closely. A marked change had come over Diana since Christmas Day when Lang had been murdered. Sybil tried not to analyze Diana, but it was difficult.    She was a trained observer and therefore even her close friends were not immune to her analyses, although she rarely shared her thoughts and conclusions.

 

Sybil turned and gazed out the window, her hand unconsciously, stealing over her abdomen. She could see guards on each corner. To the average observer, the guards would look like street people, utility repairmen, anything but heavily armed men whose sole purpose in being there was to protect the slender redheaded woman who was her friend.

 

Diana joined Sybil at the window; Joe had gone into the bathroom. Sybil checked her watch: five-thirty p.m. It had been quite a trick, getting the three of them together and away from work this early in the day, although, of course, Diana’s workplace was also her home. And running that gauntlet of hard-eyed men in the street below... Sybil understood the necessity of their presence, but they still made her nervous. As for Diana’s feelings, Sybil knew she hated being trapped in her own home.

 

“Look at them,” Diana said. “I look at them every day and hope Joe picked the right ones.”

 

“What do you mean?” Sybil asked.

 

“Remember, Gabriel had people working for him everywhere, including the D.A.’s office and the police department. Joe handpicked these guys, and I trust his judgment, but still...”

 

“He’s a good guy, Diana. He really cares about you.”

 

“Yeah, I know.” A smile brightened Diana’s face.

 

Diana returned her attention to the street below, and Sybil continued her covert scrutiny of her friend. Diana seemed happier lately; Joe obviously was good for her. Sybil smiled to herself as she remembered their visit to Catherine and Vincent the night before. What an act the two of them had put on: clowning around, behaving as if everything were perfectly normal. She dreaded telling the newlyweds about what had happened to Lang. She remembered how she had felt when Diana told her and warned her to be careful, and she hadn’t even known this woman.

 

She became aware of her name being spoken and turned to Diana. “I’m sorry, did you say something?”

 

“You’re standing there sighing with your hand on your stomach and a faraway look in your eyes. Are you O.K.?”

 

SHE’S worried about ME? Sybil glanced down at her abdomen and patted the growing bulge. “Oh, yeah, we’re just fine, me and little whatever this is. Just four more months, God willing, and I’ll have a baby and maybe even a husband.”

 

Diana smiled. “You’re gonna be a great mom.”

 

“I should be, after practicing on you all this time!” Sybil laughed, and Diana joined her.

 

Joe walked back into the room. “Don’t tell me, you’re talking about me.”

 

“Hey, man, we’re not that desperate for conversation,” Sybil retorted, grinning at the dirty look he gave her.

 

“We better get going,” Diana said. They started toward the elevator, Sybil carrying her gift, when Diana stopped. “The roses!” She rushed back to the refrigerator and got the bouquet. “I know twenty people who’d kill me if I forgot these.”

 

The three of them entered the waiting elevator and began their long journey Below.

 

 

 

 

-3-

 

In the tunnel world, Father found himself in the middle of a frenzy of activity. Murphy’s Law was in full swing and the old man was rushing around trying to fix each new catastrophe before another could take its place.

 

First word had come that Alain Toussaint, the helper Catherine and Vincent had asked to perform the ceremony, had sprained his ankle and would be delayed. Then a grim-faced William told Father that one of the overly excited children had crashed into Cullen, who at the time was carrying a tray of pastries that William had just taken out of the oven. Fortunately no one was hurt, but William was frustrated at the ruin of his hard work and Samantha, the perpetrator of the mess, was sobbing in her chamber.

 

To complicate matters further, the children’s recital group had sounded completely out of sync and out of tune at their afternoon practice. Father prayed that somehow everyone would be in place at the proper time and in the right frame of mind, ready to enjoy what hopefully would turn out to be a joyous occasion.

 

Vincent was enjoying a rare moment of calm in his chamber. Mary had commandeered little Jacob for the evening and the next day. The baby was drinking regular formula in addition to breast milk and a little solid food, much to the relief of his often bitten mother, and he wasn’t likely to have any trouble spending the night away from his parents.

 

Vincent sat on the edge of the bed, waiting for Catherine to return from the bathroom. He was already dressed and ready for the ceremony in a starched ruffled white shirt and dress pants. Although he was not vain about his hair - indeed, for him vanity did not exist

- nevertheless he had washed it with great care, and now his golden mane lay shining brightly about his shoulders.

 

He and Catherine had discussed whether or not he should see her before the ceremony.     Catherine thought this old tradition superstition, she called it - of the groom not seeing the bride before the wedding was silly, and Vincent was willing to acquiesce to her wishes whatever they might be. She had seemed somewhat irritable all day, and at this point he would have agreed to an elopement had that been a feasible option.

 

They had decided to enter the Great Hall arm in arm with Father, who would then give Catherine away. Vincent stared around his chamber, thinking about the hours ahead.    Even these familiar and cherished surroundings had acquired a surreal feeling; in fact, he had to constantly remind himself that what was about to happen was real: he and Catherine...married.

 

In all the fantasies he had entertained about a life with Catherine - and these dreams had been many and varied - the possibility of marriage had rarely ever intruded. He simply had tried to live each day as it came, all the while believing in some deep recess of his soul that eventually the day would come when Catherine would weary of the lack of fulfillment in their relationship and would seek a life with a man in her world who could give her the things she longed for: children, a home, a family.

 

And now, he thought. Now she has these things, and I am the one providing them. He shook his head, amazed at the serendipity of life. The fact that things rarely turned out the way one imagined was, for him, a true blessing.

 

He stood and began pacing, wondering what was taking Catherine so long. He reminded himself to be patient. This was an important day, and he knew Catherine would want to look her best. He returned to the bed to sit and wait.

 

In the bathroom Catherine, who was dressed in a borrowed ivory satin gown and lace veil, and whose hair was intricately wound with tiny pink and white flowers, was bending over a basin, throwing up for the third time that day.

 

Keeping anything on her stomach had been impossible. She didn’t know if the nausea was due to the impending marriage or her pregnancy or the prospect of telling Vincent about the pregnancy or…

 

Suddenly she jerked upright, staring at her ashen face in the mirror. What on earth was the matter with her? This was Vincent she was thinking about, the man she loved, her best friend in the world. Why was she so nervous about telling him what, to him, probably would be wonderful news?

 

She shook her head, giving her reflection a wry look. Brush your teeth and pull yourself together, she thought. She did the former and concentrated on the latter as she tried to imagine what Vincent was doing right now: sitting on the bed, staring around the chamber, standing to pace the floor for a moment, only to return to sit once again on the s--

 

She nearly choked on a mouth full of foam. She spat in the sink, rinsed her mouth out and dried her face. Once again she stared at the mirror as a tiny beam of hope and bewilderment shot through her. I could feel him. For a moment. I really thought I could feel him...

 

She cleaned out the basin and threw her towel into a nearby hamper. Then she left the bathroom, chastising herself for her foolishness at indulging in wishful thinking on the eve of what was already a momentous occasion.

 

 

 

 

-4-

 

The crowd gathered in the Great Hall that evening was jubilant but subdued. Their feelings of happiness for Catherine and Vincent were mingled with a lingering astonishment that such a thing had come to pass.

 

This was more true for the adults than for the children, especially for those grown-ups who had known Vincent since childhood. Devin, Pascal, Olivia and others who had been his lifelong friends remembered happy days of laughter and play with Vincent at their sides. Their acceptance of him had been total and unspoken, but still his friends were reminded of his differences every time they were allowed to go Above. They knew Vincent would have assumed the dreariest of their chores and errands for the chance to run in the fresh air and sunshine, unafraid of the reactions of people who did not know, love and appreciate him.

 

William, standing guard over a long table of food (sans pastries) he had spent several days cooking, scanned the throng of people, searching for a face he hoped he wouldn’t find. One of the helpers had confessed to him earlier that Lisa Campbell had been notified of the wedding, and now William literally was crossing his fingers against her arrival. William loved Vincent and had developed a protective fondness for Catherine, and he wanted nothing to mar this day of happiness.

 

The feelings of the tunnel children depended on their ages and the length of their stays in the tunnels. For some, like tiny bespectacled Eric, this was a big party with the promise of lots of good food and a chance to stay up later than usual. For Samantha, older and longer in tunnels than Eric, this was a wonderful but solemn occasion. Although still a little girl in many ways, she was near to crossing the threshold into womanhood and therefore was able to understand a little of the true miracle that had occurred in Vincent’s life when Catherine became a part of it.

 

Nancy Tucker stood in a corner with Rebecca and Brooke, chatting amiably, killing time until the proceedings began. Nancy was armed with two cameras and a shoulder case full of film and equipment. She gazed around the room, marveling at the variety of people. They all had made her feel welcome, and she was eagerly looking forward to shooting a first-class photographic record of the occasion for her dear friend.

 

She smiled to herself as she thought of what Paul would say if he could see her here. She had told her husband that she’d received a last-minute request to photograph a friend’s wedding. She’d had to insert a few fibs into her story to gloss over the facts, and she wasn’t too happy about that. As she rechecked her lenses and flash, she reminded herself to be especially nice to him when she returned home the next day.

 

Poor Father was sitting in a chair in his study, trying to catch his breath and organize his thoughts. By the grace of God, all participants in this extravaganza had pulled themselves together and (he knocked his wooden chair arm) it appeared that all the details were falling into place. Samantha and William had recovered from the pastry fiasco; the child musicians finally had found themselves in tune with one another; and Reverend Toussaint had arrived exactly on time, limping a bit but insisting in his blustering way that he was fine.

 
Father stood and straightened his clothing. He, too, was dressed in his finest in anticipation of giving Catherine away at the ceremony. He basked in the pleasure he still felt, remembering the day she had made this request. It was a terrible shame that Catherine’s own father had not lived to see this day, but Father was honored and more than pleased to stand in Charles Chandler’s place.

 

He was lost in these pleasant thoughts when Catherine and Vincent entered the study. At the sound of his name, he turned and drew a sharp breath. They stood at the top of the stairs, and Father thought he had never seen a finer couple. Vincent looked proud and strong, his habitual reserve tempered by his happiness. Catherine was a vision of loveliness despite her paleness. Father didn’t know whether or not she had shared the news of her pregnancy with Vincent, but he was fairly sure she had not done so yet.

 

“You both look wonderful,” he said, a slight tremor in his voice. He cleared his throat and checked a nearby clock. “I believe it is time...?”

 

“We are ready,” Vincent said. He held out his hand and Catherine did the same. Father joined them, and hand in hand they left the study and headed for the Great Hall.

 

As official photographer, Nancy made it her job to be everywhere, see everything and record it all. The moment a signal was given to the orchestra to begin playing, she started snapping away, silently praying that the twenty rolls of film she had brought would be enough.

 

The music, at Catherine’s request, was Pachelbel’s Canon in D major. As soon as the first notes were sounded, all eyes turned to the huge wooden doors of the hall. Several strong men on either side pulled the doors open just enough to create an entrance. Through the opening walked the wedding party, Catherine on Father’s left, Vincent to his right. Immediately after they entered, the doors were pushed and bolted closed.

 

Nancy snapped away, pausing occasionally to brush away tears. The pictures would be incredible; how could they be otherwise? She’d been to many weddings in her time, but she couldn’t remember photographing a more blissful looking bride and groom.

 

The smile on Catherine’s face was real. So, unfortunately, was the churning in the pit of her stomach. She had managed to surreptitiously pinch her cheeks while standing in the gloom outside the Great Hall, hoping to persuade a little color into her face. Once inside she kept a tight grip on Father’s arm, wishing she were holding onto Vincent’s greater strength instead.

 

She concentrated on holding herself together on the long walk to the altar that had been set up. The music was beautiful; the hall had been decorated to perfection; and the warm, friendly faces of helpers and her tunnel family helped loosen the knot in her stomach. By the time the three ended their long walk, she was beginning to feel almost normal.

 

To Vincent’s right stood Devin and Pascal, both looking serious and handsome in dark suits. Catherine glanced to her left and saw Sybil and Diana smiling at her. They both looked lovely in dark blue dresses. Catherine couldn’t resist returning their smiles. A smile on Diana’s face was a rare thing indeed, and Sybil...well, she looked like a ten-year-old ready to burst into giggles.

 

Then Catherine noticed the flowers in Diana’s hands. Diana handed her the bouquet of roses. Catherine accepted them, giving Diana a look of wonder. To her surprise Diana reached out and gave her a quick hug before stepping back to stand beside Sybil.

 

The music faded away, and Reverend Toussaint cleared his throat for everyone’s attention. The short, stocky man looked at Catherine and Vincent in turn before speaking to the assemblage in a gruff but gentle voice that bore the accents of his native France.     “We are gathered here this evening in the sight of God, family and cherished friends to witness the wedding of Catherine and Vincent. Before I begin, I must know: who gives this woman’s hand in marriage?”

 

Father held up Catherine’s hand. “She gives herself in marriage, with my blessing.”

 

Catherine turned toward Father with an expression of surprise and pleasure. True, at her insistence and with Vincent’s agreement, only the barest details of the ceremony had been rehearsed. She wanted what was said and done to come from the hearts of those involved, rather than being a rote ceremony. She kissed Father on the cheek, whispering “Thank you.”

 

He said nothing, only kissed her hand before placing it in Vincent’s. Then he stepped back and took a seat next to Mary, who was holding his cane.

 

The moment her hand touched Vincent’s, a welcome surge of relief washed over Catherine. She could only see him out of the corner of her eye, but she could feel his warmth, sense the love that poured out of him. She moved closer to him as the minister began speaking again.

 

“Catherine and Vincent, you stand before this community tonight in order to pledge your faith and love in a lifelong commitment to one another. You have chosen to do so publicly, not only to share your joy with the people you love most, but also to bear witness to the precious love you bear one another.

 

“Here, in this safe place Below the city, you live untouched by many of the miseries of the world Above. You dwell in a place of peace and understanding, where love is freely given and accepted; where children are taught to love, to share, to be kind to themselves and to all around them; a place where candles light the darkness of the deepest caverns and love and laughter light the souls of all who belong to this special community.

 

Catherine and Vincent, let this place, this safe place, serve as a metaphor for your love and your lives. Live in peace and strive to understand one another. Let your love be freely given and accepted, spreading outward from your own lives and radiating into the hearts of those around you.  Teach your children to love others as well as wel1. Teach them kindness and a desire to share. Let your years together be filled with joy and laughter as each new day binds you closer together in the gentle mercy of love.”

 

The minister paused for a moment, then turned to Catherine. “It is time for the vows to be spoken. Catherine and Vincent have chosen to make their own vows, with my blessing.” In a low voice, he spoke to the couple. “Please turn and face each other and join hands.” They did so, and Reverend Toussaint nodded to Catherine to begin.

 

Finally Catherine was able to look at Vincent, and what she saw in his eyes rendered her nearly incapable of speech. What had she planned to say and what could she say that would equal the love shining so clearly in his beloved countenance? She would trust her heart to find the right words.

 

“I pledge myself to you, Vincent, in a bond of everlasting love.” She felt tears spring into her eyes but knew her voice was strong. “I know - we both know - that nothing truly lasts forever. But as long as I live and breathe, as long as I have the strength to touch you, through whatever the future may hold for us both...I promise to stay by your side, sharing the good and the bad, every joy and sorrow, until we are parted by death. I promise you, Vincent...I will always love you.”

 

When Catherine finished speaking, a moment of perfect silence slipped over the gathering like a thin veil of peace. Vincent felt it, sensed it as strongly as the love in Catherine’s words. He blinked hard, pulling her by their joined hands until she was close enough to kiss, and only then did he speak.

 

“My beloved Catherine. Before I met you I lived a life filled with the generous love of my friends and family, sheltered by their kindness and protection. I never dared to hope that I would know the love of a woman, the pleasure of raising a child, or the joy of sharing a life together. You have opened that world to me by offering your love and accepting mine. Know that whatever may happen in our lives, I will be there to share it with you. This I promise you, Catherine...I will always love you.” He pulled slightly away, still holding her hands, and gazed at the only sight that existed in his world: her face...her beautiful, love-filled face.

 

Another moment of silence passed before the minister spoke. “Catherine and Vincent have spoken their vows for all to hear. If anyone present  at this gathering knows of a reason that would prevent these two from  entering the union of marriage, please speak now or forever remain  silent.” He waited a few seconds before continuing, then turned to Devin. “The ring, please.” He accepted the ring from Devin and held  it high over his head. The crystal glittered and sparkled in the light of many candles and torches. “Let this ring be a symbol of the love pledged between this man and this woman. The circle of gold represents the eternal quality of love; the crystal represents the light that shines in the hearts of those who love.” He handed the ring to Vincent, who carefully placed it on Catherine’s ring finger

 

Reverend Toussaint placed his hands over Vincent and Catherine’s hands before intoning: “In the sight of God and the presence of those gathered here tonight, I pronounce you husband and wife. Let no one put asunder what has been joined together in God’s love.” He smiled at the couple. “You may kiss each other.”

 

Vincent pulled Catherine into a tight embrace and they kissed long and deep, until a small child’s weary voice piped up in the silence:  “Mommy, are they going to stay like that all night?” Everyone burst into laughter, even Vincent and Catherine, who were not alone in the tears streaming down their faces. Soon everyone crowded around the couple, and the long evening of kissing, hugging, dancing and feasting had begun.

 

 

 

 

-5-

 

The ubiquitous Nancy, down to her last roll of film, insisted on one more shot of Vincent and Catherine before they left the Great Hall. They cooperated in another pose, despite their evident longing to leave the gathering.

 

After the picture, Nancy pointed to the bouquet of roses that Catherine had held all evening.  “Aren’t you going to toss your bouquet, Cathy?”

 

Catherine stared at the flowers for a moment before answering. “No, Nance,” she said.    “I think I’ll keep these...forever.” She smiled at Vincent; they put their arms around each other and left the hall.

 

Vincent stopped Catherine at the entrance to their chamber. “There is one tradition I would like to observe.” He pushed aside the drapes, swept her into his arms and carried her across the threshold, pulling the drapes closed after he set her on her feet.

 

She stood for a moment, dazed, barely seeing the champagne glasses and an ice-filled bucket containing a chilled bottle of champagne that someone - who? - had left for them. She turned to look at Vincent, who stood a few feet away, watching her. She smiled and shook her head in wonder. ”Married. Vincent...we’re really married.”

 

“Yes,” he said.

 

For one electric moment they gazed at each other, then tremendous smiles lit their faces. With a crow of triumphant delight, she tossed her flowers aside, tore off her veil, and threw herself into his arms. He spun around, holding her tightly, literally sweeping her off her feet as they showered each other with kisses.

 

No more words were spoken as they yielded to the mingled joy and desire flowing through their bodies. By midnight they were entwined in the middle of the bed, making love with a slow, passionate delight that stretched the minutes into hours and the hours into an eternity of pleasure.

 

In the quietest hours before morning she whispered to him the news of her pregnancy, and she held him close as they both cried tears of happiness at the prospect of the new life soon to be born.

 

 Chapter 10