- VIII. -

 

Hidden in the rooftop shadows outside Diana’s loft, Vincent waited.

 

Despite a full day spent in deep thought, he was riddled with doubt. What would Diana say if - when - he asked her to play a bigger part in his life? What did the fact that he was considering such a thing say about him?

 

He felt an undeniable attraction for this woman who had helped him salvage his life. He knew she had strong feelings for him, too. She dropped her guard when she was with him, allowing him to read her voice, her eyes, her careful touch. He knew how much she loved little Jacob. And the baby needed a mother.

 

As for himself, the simple truth was that he was lonely.

 

To complicate things further, he had seen Catherine last night in a dream. In the dream she wore the plain, warm clothing typical of tunnel dwellers. Her silent dream image stood before him, cradling their son in her arms.

 

In the depths of Vincent’s confusion, only two things were clear: He loved Catherine and he always would. But he could not continue living as he had for the past three months.

 

He tapped again on the window. In a few seconds he heard the soft rasp of the roof access door. Diana appeared around the corner.

 

Vincent stood concealed in the shadows for a few moments. He knew Diana couldn’t see him, but his keen eyes caught every color and curve of her face and body. A cool breeze blew stray tendrils of red hair across her eyes; she brushed the hair away and peered into the darkness. She smiled as Vincent stepped out of the shadows.

 

Tonight his usually reserved friend radiated an aura of conflicting emotions. She grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the door. “You’ve got to come inside, Vincent. Something incredible has happened! You won’t believe…”

 

“Please, Diana. I have something to tell you. It’s important.”

 

“No, wait.” She glanced toward the closed door. “You’ve got to listen to me!”

 

“Diana, please! Don’t make this any more difficult…”

 

“Vincent!” She covered his mouth with her hand. “Will you shut up and listen? It’s about Cathy.” Her hand fell to her side.

 

“Catherine?” Vincent said, confused. “What - why do you speak of her?”

 

“Please listen. Catherine is not dead.”

“Not dead?” Vincent gaped at Diana.

 

“She is not dead. She’s here, inside, waiting for you.”

 

Before Vincent could respond, the door was opened by a small figure whose features were rendered invisible by the backlit glow of the interior lights.

 

Vincent stared, uncomprehending.

 

Cathy rested one hand on the doorframe, seeking support for her quivering legs. She stared at the faint shadow of her body, which hovered on a wall behind Vincent. She reached out with one hand and watched as her shadow did the same.

 

It’s really him. He came to her, but he’ll leave with me.

 

“Vincent.” The word was as soft as moonlight.

 

In that moment everything within Vincent seemed to stop: his breath, his heartbeat, his tenuous grasp on reality. No...it wasn’t supposed to happen like this. It was hard enough enduring these dreams while he slept, but now, while he was awake? “No.” He took one step back.

 

“Vincent!” The apparition came closer. “Vincent, it’s me, Cath…”

 

“NO!” He continued backing away toward the safety of the shadows. “It isn’t fair!” he said to Diana. “I can’t endure these dreams in the daytime! I will not!”

 

A faint buzzing noise sounded from the living room.

 

For a fraction of a second, Cathy and Diana’s attention was diverted. When they looked back, Vincent had disappeared.

 

***

 

Cathy stood in the pool of light spilling from the doorway. The aftermath of her father’s death and the isolation she suffered during her pregnancy did not compare with the cold weight of anguish that now enveloped her. She had expected a strong reaction, but this? This was a nightmare.

 

She swayed for a moment, then shook herself as if emerging from a trance. She stared down at her sock-clad feet. “My shoes.”

 

“What?” Diana asked.

 

“My shoes.” Cathy ran back into the loft.

Diana followed and found Cathy sitting on the couch, pulling on her sneakers. “What are you doing?” Diana asked.

 

“Got to go after him. Make him listen.”

 

“It’s a long way, and you’re not…”

 

“I’ve GOT to!”

 

“O.K., I’ll go with you. You’ll need me to show you the way.”

 

The elevator buzzer sounded again.

 

“What about Joe?” Diana asked.

 

“Take him with us.”

 

“Are you sure?” Diana asked, stuffing her key ring into one pocket and a small flashlight in the other.

 

“Absolutely. It’s long overdue.”

 

Joe paced the small foyer, listening impatiently to the creaking descent of the elevator. It stopped at the ground floor with a dull thump.

 

“It’s about time!” he exclaimed. “Where the hell have you two been?”

 

“Shut up, Maxwell,” Diana snapped. Joe stumbled as she grabbed his arm and yanked him through the door and into the elevator. He watched her hit a button labeled “B.”

 

“Wait a second. Where are we going?” he asked. He felt Cathy’s warm hand on his arm.

 

“To see Vincent,” Cathy said.

 

“Well...O.K.” Joe blinked in astonishment. “Bout time, Radcliffe,” he muttered to Cathy. He felt her hand creep into his as the elevator descended to the basement.

 

***

 

Vincent ran from Diana’s building, and he didn’t slow down until he neared the inhabited tunnels. He tried to catch his breath and regain his composure. He didn’t want to frighten anyone.

 

He attempted to think logically about what had happened. Surely it was a dream. What else could it be? Maybe he was dreaming even as these thoughts filtered through his consciousness. The line between dreams and reality had been blurred many times before in his life. Perhaps he no longer could trust any of his senses.

 

The idea that Catherine was alive was an impossible notion. She had died in his arms on that wind-swept rooftop three months ago. He had carried her to her apartment and stayed with her all night, unwilling to leave her side.

 

But finally he had to leave. After kissing Catherine’s still lips, he had gone in search of the man who killed her and stole their son.

 

He knew Diana well enough to know that she would never play such a cruel joke. That was it, then...a dream. It had to be.

 

But then Vincent recalled the small voice that had spoken his name. He stopped and leaned against the rough tunnel wall. Tears streamed down his face. He could only deny so much. It had been her voice, of that there was no question. And it had seemed so real.

 

It was unbelievable that his wounded heart could be broken again, but he felt it, knew the pain as well as he knew his own name.

 

Stumbling through the dimly lit tunnels, almost blinded by his tears, he didn’t realize he was home until he heard Father’s voice.

 

“Vincent? Is that you?” Father emerged from his study, carrying a candle. “Dear God, Vincent! Are you all right?”

 

Vincent couldn’t answer. He had no words, no strength to speak.

 

“You’re still worried about Jacob, aren’t you?” Father continued.

 

The baby...Jacob. Oh, God, he had forgotten! He fought to control his voice. “Where is he?”

 

“He’s in your chamber. Mary is with him.”

 

”Is he all right, Father? Has there been any change?”

 

Father led the way into his study. He lit a few more candles before sitting beside Vincent. “I wish I had better news for you. Little Jacob started throwing up about an hour ago, right after his last feeding. He’s refusing every form of sustenance, even plain water. I feel as if he’s testing us, waiting for us to supply his needs. If only we knew how.” The old man sighed.

 

...testing us. waiting for us to supply his needs.

 

Vincent’s own thoughts clamored in his head. He needs Catherine. He needs his mother. So he had told Diana. So he still believed.

“Am I going to lose him, Father?”

 

“What?”

 

“Tell me the truth. He’s going to die, isn’t he? And when he’s gone, everything I have left of Catherine will die with him.”

 

“Good God, Vincent, you’re talking nonsense! The child is not going to die. We’ve sent a message Above. Peter will be here tomorrow. Surely he can find a way to help your son.”

 

Vincent stood. Father’s words were hollow consolation.

 

“Where are you going?” Father asked.

 

“To the Chamber of the Falls. Send for me if there’s any change.”

 

***

 

Joe Maxwell had never been so bewildered. Half an hour ago he was waiting for Diana and Cathy. Now the three of them were clambering through a dark maze of abandoned sewer pipes. Sewers...he couldn’t believe it!

 

They travelled as fast as possible, stopping frequently to allow Cathy to catch her breath. As they hurried through one narrow, twisting passage after another, Cathy filled him in on the tunnel history.

 

“Let’s see if I’ve got this straight,” he said, trying not to trip over his own feet or a giant rat or God knows what else. “There’s a big group of people living down here, below the city.”

 

“Right,” Cathy said.

 

Joe felt Cathy’s hand clutch the loose material at the base of his shirt. “And your friend Vincent is one of them.”

 

“Yes. Actually, he’s more than a friend.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“He’s the father of my child.”

 

“Oh. I see?

 

“You’re in for a real surprise, Joe. He’s a very special man.”

 

They fell silent as the way became more difficult.

 

You’re in for a real surprise. Cathy mulled over her words, her eyes stinging with unshed tears. Joe wasn’t the only one. What would the others do when they saw her: Father, Mary, Jamie, Mouse, Pascal? Would they react as Vincent had, or would they welcome her? Vincent’s response had knocked her off balance. She had expected shock, surprise, joy, anything but the horrified disbelief he had displayed.

 

And what about her baby? Would he remember her at all, or was that too much to hope for? Her breasts began to ache. She felt as if she could nurse an army of hungry babies.

 

“We’re getting close,” Diana said. She clicked off the flashlight.

 

Cathy saw an orange-yellow glow ahead. They had reached the guarded border. Sentries soon would note their passage. In minutes the news of their arrival would flash through the tunnel community with the speed of a dry brushfire.

 

“Diana,” Cathy called. “Wait a minute.” She leaned against the tunnel wall, holding one hand to her side. Her breath came in ragged gasps.

 

“You all right?” Diana asked.

 

Cathy felt a warm hand on her shoulder as Diana stood beside her.

 

“Maybe we should slow down,” Joe said to Diana. “She’s really overdoing it.”

 

“No.” Cathy held one hand to her side. “I’m all right, I just need a moment.” She peered into the dimly lit passage ahead, then turned to Diana. “I need your flashlight.”

 

“Sure.” Diana handed her the flashlight.

 

“Stay close,” Cathy said. She led Joe and Diana through the tunnel, shining the light on both sides where the wall met the floor. “Sentry!” she called. “This is Catherine. I’m with Diana Bennett and another friend. Is anyone there?”

 

“Catherine?” A young girl’s voice rang out. Is that you? Is it really you?”

 

The flashlight illuminated a small, pale hand jutting through a grate to Cathy’s left. Cathy knelt and grabbed the hand. “Who is this?”

 

“It’s Brooke.” Cathy shone her light near the grate; she could just see Brooke’s face. The pretty young girl wore an incredulous smile. Her curly brown hair picked up glints of burnished light.

 

“Brooke!” Cathy dropped the flashlight and grasped Brooke’s hand in both her own. “It’s so good to see you!”

“Catherine, what are you doing here? I thought - I mean, we all thought…”

 

“It’s O.K.” Cathy squeezed the girl’s hand. ”I’ll explain later. Right now I need a favor.

 

“Anything.”

 

Cathy smiled at the stunned look etched on the girl’s face. “Send a message to Pascal. Tell him to notify all the sentries that the three of us are on our way in. After that, he should issue an all clear on the pipes. I don’t want a crowd waiting for us.”

 

“I’ll tell Pascal, but it shouldn’t be a problem,” Brooke replied. “There’s been a break in a big water main on one of the lower levels. Almost everyone is down there working on it.”

 

“Better send it anyway, just in case.”

 

“Don’t worry, Catherine, I’ll take care of it.”

 

Cathy released Brooke’s hand and immediately the girl began relaying the message.

 

Cathy retrieved the flashlight and turned to Joe and Diana. “We need to go straight to Vincent’s chamber. Somebody will have stayed with the baby.”

 

“Are you sure?” Diana said. “I mean, are you sure you want Joe and me to come with you.”

 

“Yes,” Cathy answered. She glanced at Joe, then returned her attention to Diana. “It’s important that he sees us together...that he sees me with other people. Maybe it’ll make it easier for him to…”

 

“I know what you mean.” Diana nodded.

 

Cathy looked at Joe. “You ready, Maxwell?”

 

“Do I have a choice?” he smiled.

 

“Nope.” Cathy smiled back. “Let’s go.”

 

***

 

Father leaned over the cradle and studied his grandson’s candle-lit features. The baby whimpered in his sleep, his small body twitching with each sound he made.

 

Father turned from the cradle and sat heavily in a chair next to Mary. He looked at her and she returned his weary gaze, but they didn’t speak. They had run out of things to say or do.

 

The old man ran a hand over his tired eyes. Golden light shone through the stained glass window over Vincent’s bed, lending a soft glow to the rough-hewn chamber. No messages clanged over the pipes; no voices rang in the hallways. The only sounds were little Jacob’s moans.

 

Sudden footsteps outside the chamber disturbed the silence. Father stood, leaning heavily on his walking stick. He watched as Diana Bennett entered the chamber, followed by...Joe Maxwell!

 

“What’s the meaning of this?” Father demanded. He heard Mary gasp as she rose from her chair to stand beside him.

 

Diana smiled at Joe, who was staring around the chamber. Finally he blinked and turned to Father.

 

“Jacob Wells.” Joe walked over to Father and extended his right hand. “We’ve never been properly introduced. I’m Joe Maxwell. A friend and admirer of Cathy...and Diana.”

 

There was nothing Father could do but accept Joe’s handshake. “Mr. Maxwell,” he said. “It’s good to see you under less trying circumstances.” He gave Joe a quick smile, then returned his attention to Diana. “I suppose you have an explanation for all this?”

 

“I do, Father.” A voice drifted from the shadows behind Diana. Father drew a sharp breath as he watched Cathy step into the light and smile at him. “I thought it was time.”

 

Father knew her voice, her smile. He recognized her face, beautiful despite the shadows and lines of fatigue. He heard her footsteps and the soft rustle of clothing as she moved toward him across the chamber. Now she stood so close to him that he could hear her breathing, almost feel the trembling that shook her fragile body.

 

Father blinked his eyes, expecting her to disappear. No...it was really her. Catherine...alive and standing right in front of him!

 

He opened his arms and Cathy nestled against his chest, her arms around his neck. He held her tightly, close enough to feel her heart beat. It was really happening. He didn’t know how or why, but she was here. “Thank God,” he said through his tears. He stepped back to look at Cathy. “Thank God, dear child, you are back with us.” He embraced her once again.

 

Cathy said nothing, only smiled through her own tears. She turned to Mary and hugged the older woman.

 

“It’s a miracle!” Mary breathed. She stood back to stare at Cathy, whose smile had grown even wider.

Cathy drank in the sight of Father and Mary. The shock they felt at her appearance was evident in their faces, but their love and acceptance outweighed everything. Cathy felt her fears subside.

 

“It’s so good to see you both.” She wiped away her tears with the back of her hand. “I hope I didn’t…”

 

She was interrupted by a cry. She turned toward the sound and saw her baby, lying in his cradle. He was awake, and the look of distress on his face was unmistakable.

 

Cathy leaned over the cradle. With one gentle finger, she traced the outline of the baby’s mouth, nose and brow. Tears streamed from her eyes. She looked at Diana and Joe, who immediately joined her. Cathy smiled at Diana, whose face was also tear streaked.

 

“This is your baby?” Joe whispered.

 

Cathy nodded, unable to look away from her sleeping son.

 

“He’s beautiful.” Joe touched Cathy’s face. ”Just like you, Cath.”

 

Cathy smiled. She reached into the cradle and scooped Jacob into her arms. For a moment the rest of the world faded as she held her son close, inhaling his baby fragrance and feeling his soft breathing.

 

She surveyed the people around her. Father and Mary’s faces were shining with happiness; Joe looked awestruck; Diana was still crying.

 

Little Jacob began fussing in her arms. Cathy looked at Mary. “I need to nurse him. Can you help me?”

 

Mary’s eyes widened. “Of course, I’ll help you! Come, sit down.”

 

Cathy sat on the edge of Vincent’s bed. Mary removed her shawl and draped it around Cathy’s shoulders. Holding the baby in one steady arm, Cathy unbuttoned her shirt.

 

“Do you want us to leave, Catherine?” Father asked.

 

She smiled and shook her head. He returned her smile.

 

Cathy mentally reviewed the La Leche League pamphlet as she placed little Jacob’s mouth to her left breast. The baby quickly responded to the proffered nipple. He suckled her, tentatively at first, then with a vigor that almost made Cathy cry out.

 

As he suckled her, she felt the milk let down in her breasts. She sighed with relief and pleasure. Her nipple was sore, but it was a small price to pay for the look on her son’s face as he enjoyed the first compatible nourishment he had taken in his short life.

 

She smoothed the hair away from his forehead, her eyes never leaving his. Where are  you, Vincent? she thought. I need you now. I want you to see us...together.  

 

***

 

Vincent crouched on a narrow ledge overlooking the falls. The constant crashing of the rushing water blocked out all other sounds. He desperately wished that it could erase the thoughts crowding through his own mind.

 

I could stop breathing, he thought. I could end it all here and now. One misstep...I would plunge into these turbulent waters, and my body would drift away through the deepest streams that honeycomb the lowest levels. No one would ever find me.

 

Coward! an inner voice hissed.

 

“I am not a coward,” he whispered. “I simply cannot go on like this. Never in my wildest dreams…”

 

A sudden brilliance caught his eye, as if a shaft of purest sunlight had lanced through the sheer cliff walls and stony ceiling surrounding the falls. What could it mean? Was this yet another dream?

 

“Wildest dreams,” he said again. He stood, leaning his weight against the solid rock wall, and stared out over the frothing pool of water. That phrase meant something but he couldn’t remember its source. Father would know, or maybe…

 

“Maybe.” He narrowed his eyes. It was Tennyson, wasn’t it? Maybe wildest dreams...close, but where was the rest - ah!

 

He left the Chamber of the Falls, his long legs marking powerful strides. He had it now. He didn’t understand it, but he would ask Father. It had to mean something.

 

Maybe wildest dreams are but the needful preludes of the truth.

 

Vincent broke into a run.

 

***

 

Cathy had shifted Jacob to her right breast after thumping a hearty burp from the nearly satiated baby. She laughed and the others joined in. Diana sat to her left, Mary to her right. Father and Joe stood nearby. They were all transfixed by the sight of the nursing baby.

 

Cathy was experiencing the deepest sense of completeness she had ever known. Her son had discovered her face, and as he nursed, he would reach up to touch her nose or run a tiny hand over her mouth. She smiled and whispered to him, and he listened with rapt attention.

 

Suddenly Cathy felt a warm, dry rush of air behind her. She turned so quickly that her nipple popped out of the baby’s mouth. Jacob cried out, but Cathy and the others were too stunned to notice.

 

A bright glow emanated from the window behind Vincent’s bed, as if a fire had begun inside the glass itself and was burning through into the chamber. Just as the light grew to painful dimensions, it vanished, leaving a white-clad figure standing in the middle of Vincent’s bed.

 

“Oh, my,” the woman said, observing the frightened faces staring at her. She looked over her shoulder at the stained glass window, then spoke directly to Cathy. “You know, this is a bit much, even for me!”

 

“Maggie!” Cathy cried. She held up one hand to grasp her guardian’s arm.

 

“Cathy, love!” Maggie said. “You’re looking well.” She ruffled Cathy’s short hair. “Interesting haircut.” She glanced at Diana, then back to Cathy. “I see you found your friend.”

 

Cathy smiled at Diana and fought the urge to laugh. Diana, along with everyone else in the room, wore an open-mouthed look of astonishment.

 

“She’s been wonderful to me,” Cathy said to Maggie.

 

Maggie knelt beside Cathy and examined the baby, who was beginning to howl. “Cathy, do finish what you’ve started or this child may become very unhappy with you.”

 

Cathy grinned and returned Jacob to the nipple.

 

Maggie surveyed the room’s other occupants. Her gaze passed each one, lingering only a moment, until she came to Father. A dazzling smile brightened her countenance.

 

“Jacob.” Maggie furrowed her brow. “Are you all right, love? You’re looking a bit pale.” Maggie saw Cathy’s eyes dart back and forth between her guardian and Father.

 

“Margaret.” Father’s voice was flat. “What on earth are you doing here?”

 

Maggie felt Cathy’s stare intensify.

 

“Maggie?” Cathy asked.

 

“Short for Margaret. You do remember me now, don’t you?”

“Oh, yes!” Cathy said, her eyes wide with amazement. ”You were Father’s lost love. How could I ever forget?”

 

“Thanks to you and Vincent, Jacob and I were given a memory that would last a lifetime.” Maggie gazed down on Father, whose eyes were shining.

 

The old man reached behind him, searching for a chair. He found it and sat down, still staring at Maggie. “Margaret!” He shook his head. “I don’t believe it.” He stared from Joe to Cathy and back to Maggie. “This has been a day for wonders.”

 

“Are you really so surprised, Jacob? Don’t you feel me with you every day?”

 

“Well, yes, I do, but I can’t - I don’t see you, or hear your voice, or…”

 

“It’s enough that you feel me near.” Maggie raised her voice to include everyone. “I had a choice after I died, and I chose to become a guardian. All of my charges except one are here in this room. I apologize if my presence has frightened or upset any of you, but I wanted to see all of you in the same place at the same time. Especially...” She glanced at the door. “Especially Vincent, who will be here soon.”

 

“You watch over him, too?” Cathy’s eyes were bright with wonder.

 

“Oh, yes, my love. Over him especially. For as much as he protects all of you, that is how much he needs your love and my protection.

 

“And what about me, Margaret?” Father stood and moved closer to the bed. “Did you weigh my feelings? Can you imagine how it makes me feel to see you here, as breathtaking and lovely as the first time I saw you?”

 

Maggie’s expression grew serious. “Jacob, I know this is painful for you, and I’m truly sorry. Please take comfort in this: we will see each other again...later.” Her smile was gentle, and a slow smile spread across Father’s face as well.

 

Suddenly Maggie’s attention was drawn to the chamber entrance. “He’s almost here.” She stepped off the bed and stood in the shadows near the doorway.

 

“Vincent?” Cathy asked.

 

“Yes,” Maggie said. She tucked herself against the wall. “He must not see me. It is not yet his time.”

 

“But what…”

 

“Shhh!” Maggie looked at Cathy. “Do as I say!” She watched as Cathy and the others turned toward the door.

***

 

Vincent was stopped in mid-stride by a dizzying sensation. He stood for a moment, his chest heaving, his eyes casting around him. He saw no one, but he felt...what was this feeling?

 

Of course...it was Jacob, his son. Through the bond they shared, Vincent felt a surge of joy followed by a deep sense of contentment. He had never felt anything like this from the baby and couldn’t imagine the source of such pleasure.

 

He began running again until he reached the entrance to his chamber. He heard muted voices from within, underscored by one small voice singing a lullaby.

 

Vincent extended a shaking hand toward the entrance. He held it for a moment, then pulled back. That voice...he knew that voice. He hesitated a second longer before turning the corner into his chamber.

 

Instantly he was gripped by confusion. So many people were crowded inside. They all gazed at him: Father, Mary, Diana...

 

He whirled to his right. For a moment he thought he saw someone standing there, someone dressed in white. But no, there was no one.

 

He turned and sought Diana again. She was standing close to the wall with a man, someone he didn’t know. The stranger stared at Vincent.

 

Joe dug his fingers into Diana’s arm, his eyes never leaving Vincent’s face. “Don’t tell me...let me guess.” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Diana nod. Joe relaxed his grip and slowly exhaled.

 

Diana stared at Vincent’s excited face, and knew her own face was ghostly pale behind the dried streaks of tears. She was grateful for the slight pressure of Joe’s hand on her arm; it was the only thing keeping her away from Vincent.

 

Vincent glanced toward Jacob’s cradle. It was empty. He started toward the cradle, and as he moved Mary and Father stepped aside to reveal Catherine, sitting on the edge of the bed, nursing Jacob.

 

He pressed one hand against the chamber wall. A voice chanted inside his head: This is not a dream. This is real. This is not a dream. This is…

 

“Catherine.” He spoke her name, but no words followed. He watched in speechless wonder as she lifted Jacob to her shoulder, covering the baby and her half-exposed breasts with Mary’s shawl. She gazed at him, expressionless except for her eyes. Huge eyes...eyes filled with love and hope and...

He was aware of people flowing past as if they were swimming in a river that rushed by but left him untouched.

 

They were alone.

 

Vincent stood by the cradle, unable to move or blink or speak.

 

“He was hungry.” Catherine’s voice cut through the miasma of his tangled emotions.

 

“He’s needed you for a long time,” Vincent replied. He edged closer to the bed, close enough to see the tears in her eyes. He didn’t register the drastic change in her appearance. He was mesmerized by the sound of her voice, the voice he’d heard in his dreams for so many nights.

 

“I needed him, too,” Cathy said. Her voice was an urgent whisper. “I need YOU.”

 

In an instant he crossed the room and knelt before her. With one hesitant hand he traced her lips, her eyes, the soft skin of her face and neck. She closed her eyes and sighed.

 

He held her face in both hands. There was no reason for this moment to be, but it was. He accepted it as a miracle, for it was the only explanation he could understand.

 

He moved closer and kissed her. He intended a gentle kiss, but her warm mouth responded to his touch with a passion he could not resist. He felt her small hand on his face and knew one moment of perfect certainty: she was real and this was not another of his tortured dreams.

 

Finally he released her. “Catherine.” He hesitated. “I’m sorry…”

 

She placed a finger against his lips. “No, no, it’s all right. I understand.” She brushed away his tears and smiled. “Everything is going to be all right.”

 

He kissed her hand and held it tightly. As the baby drifted into a satisfied sleep, his parents held each other. Their tears mingled with their soft voices, as if they were one...again.

 

Chapter 9