- II. -

 

-1-

 

 
November 20. 1989

 
Catherine awoke in Vincent’s arms. “Where am I?”

 

“You’re home,” Vincent whispered. He held her closer. “You’re with Jacob, and me.” She closed her eyes and rested her head against his broad chest, lulled by the sound of his voice and his heartbeat. “What happened? I was holding Jacob…”

 

“You fell asleep. Jacob is fine; he’s sleeping in his cradle.”

 

“Vincent.”

 

“Yes?”

 

She nestled closer to him, trying to fill every space between them. She opened her eyes and saw that they were sitting in the middle of Vincent’s bed. She closed her eyes. “I don’t want to go to sleep yet.”

 

“Catherine, you must sleep. You’re exhausted.”

 

“Talk to me some more,” she murmured. “Tell me something.”

 

“What shall I tell you?”

 

She heard a smile in his voice. “Tell me this is really happening...that it’s not a dream. When I wake up, you’ll be here. Jacob, Father, Mary...you’ll all be here.”

 

“We will be here.”

 

“You...” Her voice drifted into silence.

 

“I will always be here.”

 

Vincent pressed his lips to Catherine’s soft hair. Her breathing was slow and regular, her body relaxed. He pulled aside the covers and carefully lifted her into bed. He covered her with blankets and quilts, then stood for a moment, staring down at her tired face. The last time I saw you lying this still. I thought you were dead. Now I know it wasn’t you at all. It was just a dream…a nightmare.

 

As he continued watching, she turned over on her left side, toward the stained glass window. He undressed and put on his nightshirt. He left one candle burning, in case she woke during the night.

 

He climbed into bed, careful not to disturb her. He shivered and pulled the covers up to his chin. Within minutes the warmth of her body reached him. He moved closer and started to touch her but hesitated. She solved his dilemma by turning over and rolling into his arms.

 

She breathed his name in her sleep as she pushed the length of her body against him. He wrapped himself around her, enfolding her in his own heat. He shut his eyes, and the tears came. He couldn’t stop them. His body shook as relief and sorrow flowed out of him. After a little while he became quiet, and soon his deep breathing matched Catherine’s.

 

 

 

-2-

 

Catherine awoke the next morning to the sound of frantic messages clanging over the pipes mingling with Jacob’s hungry cries. Groggy-eyed, she sat up and stared at Mary, who was changing the baby’s diaper. Mary smiled as she carried Jacob to the bed.

 

“Good morning,” Catherine said.

 

“Good morning.” Mary placed the baby in Catherine’s arms. “I believe your son is calling you.”

 

Catherine’s eyes widened. “Thank God!” She lifted her shirt and placed Jacob’s mouth to her right breast. As the baby began nursing, she closed her eyes and breathed a deep sigh. “My breasts feel as if they’re full of rocks!”

 

“That’s a good sign. You should have no trouble nursing him.”

 

“I hope not. I started him on the left side last night - was it the left? Then I finished on the right, so that means I should start him on the right this morning. Which I did. Is that right? Or is it the other way around? Oh…” She flushed at Mary’s amused expression. “I just want to do this right. It’s important to me.”

 

“You’re doing fine and remember, if you have any problems, you can always ask me.” Mary picked up the dark blue shawl she had loaned Catherine the night before and draped it over her shoulders. “Why don’t you keep this? You may need it.”

 

“Thanks, Mary.”

 

“You’re welcome.” Mary held Catherine’s chin in her hand and kissed her forehead. “It’s so good to have you here! You are staying, aren’t you?”

 

“Oh, yes! Where else could I go?” Catherine looked at her son, then at Mary. “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

 

Mary smiled at her. “Vincent will be back soon with your breakfast.”

 

Catherine cocked her head and listened to the pipes. “What are they saying? There are so many messages; I can’t understand any of them.”

 

“It’s all about you, my dear. You’re probably going to have visitors all day long. Are you up to it?”

 

“I think so.”

 

“We don’t want to wear you out. You need your rest.”

 

Mary left just as Vincent entered the chamber carrying a tray of food.   He and Catherine exchanged a tentative smile.

 

“Good morning,” she said. Impossible, she thought. I’m sitting in his bed, nursing our  son, watching him bring me breakfast. I can’t believe it.

 

Vincent started to speak, but stopped. He carried the tray to the bed and sat next to her. With a trembling hand he reached out to touch her, then gathered her in a swift, awkward embrace.

 

She hugged him with her free arm as sudden tears trickled down her cheeks. He gently brushed them away.

 

“Ssh,” he murmured. “Please, don’t cry.”

 

“I’m so glad to be here, Vincent. I feel...I’m so happy to be here with you both.”

 

“You’re safe now, Catherine. Nothing can hurt you here.”

 

“No. Of course not.” She gazed down at Jacob, then looked at Vincent, her eyes bright.

 

“This is something I never thought I would see.” Vincent stroked his son’s back for a moment, then looked at Catherine. “I have something to give you...again.”

 

Curiosity played across her features as she watched him open the small leather pouch he wore containing the rose she had given him on their first anniversary. With hands that were none too steady, he withdrew her crystal necklace, his anniversary gift to her.

 

“Oh…” Catherine breathed a soft exclamation as she watched the shimmering crystal and the fine gold chain reflect the candlelight. She looked at Vincent with a tremulous smile. “This is something I thought I would never see again.”

He lifted the necklace and placed it around her neck. He stared at it for a moment, then nodded as if satisfied.

 

Catherine fingered the fiery gem. “Where did you find it? I tried, but I never could remember where I lost it.”

 

“I found it in the cave,” he replied. “The cave where…” He stopped.

 

She touched his cheek. “It’s O.K.”

 

“I’ve carried it with me all these months,” he continued.  “I...many times I started to put it away. But I couldn’t. It was impossible to forget you.”

 

“Thank you.” She inclined her head toward his, but they were interrupted by voices outside the chamber.

 

“Can we come in?”

 

Vincent looked at Catherine. She smiled and called, “Come in, Jamie.”

 

Jamie entered the chamber, followed by Mouse, who nearly ran over her in his haste. Mouse knelt by the bed and stared as Jamie hugged Catherine.

 

“I can’t believe you’re really alive!” Jamie’s round face glowed with happiness. “The messages on the pipes woke me up this morning. How, Catherine...what happened?”

 

Catherine started to respond, but Mouse interrupted her. “Yeah,” he said, narrowing his eyes. “Been where, Catherine?”

 

Catherine laughed. “It’s a long story. Maybe I’d better wait and tell everyone at once. Sound 0.K?” She raised her eyebrows at Mouse.

 

“O.K. good, O.K. fine! Mouse can wait.”

 

The next few hours were filled with a non-stop stream of visitors and well wishers, with a short break so that Catherine could bathe and dress in clean clothes that Mary left for her in the bathroom. The baby seemed unfazed by the noise and confusion. He nursed for some time, completely emptying his mother’s breasts, then went right back to sleep.

 

Everyone came to see Catherine: Pascal; William, who had prepared her breakfast and promised to “fatten you up”; Brooke, sleepy-eyed from guard duty, but not too tired to give Catherine a big hug; Olivia and little Luke.

 

The children gathered around Catherine, uneasy and silent at first. But their shyness was short lived, and soon they let loose a barrage of questions. Vincent intervened and told them an open meeting would be held that evening and all their questions would be answered then.

 

After the children left, Father visited Catherine. His happiness was tempered by his professional demeanor as he examined her with a physician’s eyes. “How do you feel this morning, Catherine?” he asked. “That’s not a polite question; I really need to know.”

 

Catherine considered for a moment. “I feel happy, confused, excited...overwhelmed.” She shrugged.

 

Father nodded. “To be expected. And physically?” He glanced at Vincent, who sat close to her on the bed.

 

“I feel completely exhausted. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this tired in my life.”

 

“Have you had any problems nursing?”

 

“So far, it’s been easy.”

 

“No sign of colic?” Father asked Vincent.

 

“None,” Vincent replied.

 

“I’ll send word to Peter Alcott that he doesn’t need to come today.” Father turned back to Catherine. “Did you sleep well?”

 

Yes.”

 

“Any bad dreams?”

 

“None. No dreams at all that I remember.”

 

Father held her face between his hands and studied her. The paleness of her skin was accentuated by dark circles below her eyes. “All right, then,” he said, releasing her. “What I want you do to now is sleep. In fact, besides eating as much as you can and nursing your son, that’s all I want you to do for the next few days. Later today, after you’ve rested, I’ll give you a full examination.”

 

Catherine nodded. “Whatever you say.”

 

“It’s just a precaution. I want to make sure you’re well. I think rest and time will take care of any physical problems you may have.” He stood and grasped his cane. “If you need anything at all...” He glanced at Vincent. “I’m sure Vincent will take good care of you.”

 

“Thank you, Father.”

Father leaned over and kissed her cheek. “Thank you...just for being alive.” He left the chamber.

 

Catherine looked at Vincent. She raised her eyebrows and he shrugged.

 

“Well,” she said. “Doctor’s orders.” She burrowed beneath the covers, settling against the pillows as Vincent leaned over her. He traced the outline of her face with one finger.

 

“I’m probably going to be very dull company for the next few days,” she said, covering her mouth as she yawned.

 

“I could sit beside you for hours, watching you sleep, and I would never be bored.”

 

She placed her hand over his. “What do you see, Vincent? What do you see when you look at me?”

 

“I see my life...my heart.” He bent down and kissed her forehead. “Sleep now. I’ll be near.”

 

“You promise?” she said, closing her eyes.

 

“Yes,” he whispered.

 

 

 

-3-

 

Joe Maxwell stopped and checked his watch outside a small coffee shop near the D.A.’s office: seven forty-five a.m. He sighed and rubbed his eyes before pushing through the glass door.

 

Once inside the crowded, busy shop, Joe spotted Diana at a back booth. He slid into the seat across from her. “What happened to you?” he asked as he signaled a waitress.

 

“What do you mean?” She stirred her coffee and gave him a weary look.

 

“Just coffee,” Joe said to the waitress. He returned his attention to Diana. “You look terrible.”

 

“Oh, thanks.”

 

“Did you sleep last night?”

 

“Sure. A whole two hours.”

 

That was some night, huh?”

 

“Yeah.” She sipped her coffee.

 

The waitress brought Joe’s coffee, and he stirred cream into his cup.

 

“So?” Diana said.

 

“So, what?”

 

“You wanted to meet me here. What’s on your mind?”

 

“The same thing that was on my mind when I came to see you last night.”

 

Diana leaned forward slightly, studied him. “I figured you just couldn’t wait to see Cathy again.”

 

“Partly. But I really wanted to ask you about that old Lincoln parked in front of your building.”

 

His remark caught Diana in mid-sip, and she almost choked on a mouthful of coffee.

 

“Hey! Are you all right?”

 

“Yeah, I’m O.K.,” she said, catching her breath. She studied the table a few seconds before meeting Joe’s eyes.

 

“O.K., Bennett, what gives here? What are you not telling me?”

 

“First you tell me what you saw.”

 

“Last night when I got to your place I saw an old brown Lincoln parked across the street.”

 

“So?”

 

“So, two out of the last three times I’ve been to your place, I’ve seen that car.”

 

“Did you see the driver?”

 

“Yeah, sort of. I think it was a woman. She was all hunched down behind the steering wheel.” He watched as Diana continued stirring her coffee. “You better drink that before it gets cold.”

 

She pushed the cup away and stared at him.

 

“You’re not going to eat?” he said.

 

“Not hungry.”

 

“What’s going on, Diana? Just tell me.”

 

She sighed. “I’ve seen that car before.”

 

“When?”

 

“It’s been parked on my block a couple of nights a week for the past two weeks.” She leaned back in her seat, didn’t meet his eyes.

 

“My God, Diana!”

 

”All right!” He lowered his voice, glanced around, then looked at Diana. ”Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

 

“So you could do what?”

 

“I could…” He lifted one hand; let it fall back to the table. “Hell, I don’t know. So I could come over to your place every night and hide and wait for it. Something stupid like that.” He gave her an embarrassed smile.

 

“Right. That’s what I thought.”

 

“What have you done?”

 

She rolled her eyes, disgusted. “I’ve tried a couple of times to catch her, or whoever, but my timing stinks. The minute I walk out of my building, that car pulls away from the curb like a bat out of hell.”

 

“Who do you think it is?”

 

“Well...call me paranoid…”

 

“No way, lady, not with your instincts.”

 

“I think it’s someone connected with Gabriel. But what they want with me now…” She shook her head.

 

“You feel like you’re in any danger?”

 

She shrugged. “I don’t know.”

 

“How about Cathy?”

“Right now, I’d say Cathy’s just about the safest person we know.”

 

“Yeah.” Now it was Joe’s turn to stare at the table. “He’s really something, isn’t he?” he whispered.

 

“Vincent?”

 

Joe nodded.

 

“Yes,” Diana agreed. “Something else.”

 

 

 

-4-

 

Catherine awoke from her morning nap long enough to nurse Jacob, eat lunch and visit the bathroom. She was alarmed at how tired she felt, but Vincent’s reassuring voice and touch soothed her and she was able to drift off to sleep once again.

 

After Catherine woke up that afternoon Vincent guided her to Father’s examination room and left her in Father and Mary’s capable hands. Vincent then returned to his chamber, where he stood by Jacob’s cradle for a few minutes and watched his son sleep. So many thoughts crowded through his head...how would he ever make sense of it all?

 

He sat on the bed and buried his face in the shawl Catherine had been wearing, inhaling her scent. Every sense he owned insisted that she was here. He had awakened with her in his arms that morning. He had talked to her, brought her her meals, watched her sleeping. But still he felt a sense of unreality, as if he were sleepwalking open-eyed through a dazzling dream.

 

He looked across the room at his son’s cradle; a frown creased his forehead. What was happening to him now, to the intense bond he had shared with his son from shortly  before the child’s birth until last night? From the first moment he saw Catherine the night before, he felt as if his sense of Jacob’s presence had altered.

 

Vincent shook his head. He didn’t understand it, and maybe it wasn’t important anyway. Perhaps the normal mother-child bond was being established between Catherine and the baby, changing his own bond with his son. He had mentioned this to no one, and it didn’t matter. Whatever he had to lose in terms of his own inner feelings, he would gladly give it up in order to have his family together. To have Jacob healthy, to have Catherine near, alive -- he would give up everything he owned to keep things this way.

 

In Father’s examination room, Catherine submitted to a gentle but thorough check-up. When Father was through, he and Mary left the room so Catherine could dress. A few minutes later they returned.

“Well,” Catherine said. She sat on the edge of the exam table. “How am I?”

 

“I’m happy to say you’re amazingly healthy,” Father answered. “You’re somewhat anemic and you’re suffering from exhaustion. But these are things that can be corrected through rest and the proper diet.” He smiled at her. “As long as you don’t overdo anything, your health should be completely restored in just a few weeks.”

 

“What about this cavity?” Catherine gestured toward her mouth.

 

“We’ll have to wait until I get a new supply of Novocain. But it doesn’t look serious.”

 

“That’s good,” Catherine replied. She chewed her lower lip as a thoughtful expression stole across her face.

 

“Something you need to ask me?” Father said.

 

Catherine looked at him, then at Mary. “Mary…”

 

“I’ll leave you two alone,” Mary said. “It’s all right.” She patted Catherine’s shoulder and left the room.

 

Father sat in a chair next to the table. “What is it, Catherine?”

 

She hesitated, then fixed him with a direct look. “Father, will I - will Vincent and I be able to have more children?”

 

Father looked away for a moment, then forced himself to meet her eyes. “Physically you’re fine. You should have no trouble bearing another child.”

 

“That’s not the whole truth, is it?”

 

“Catherine.” He gathered her small hands in his own. “I never dreamed that Vincent would, or could, father a child. Especially one so...”

 

“Normal. Human.”

 

“Exactly. God help me, I wouldn’t want Vincent to hear me say that.”

 

“No.”

 

“If you and Vincent want more children, of course that would be your decision. But you must understand, there are no guarantees. Your next child could be...well, it could be like Vincent.”

 

“I understand.” Catherine nodded; she looked tired. “Maybe we were just lucky this time. But I don’t want to rely on luck.”

 

Father studied her face. “I think it best that you not worry about such things right now. The important thing is that you’re alive, you’re among people who love you.”

 

Catherine smiled. “My family.”

 

“Yes.” Father returned her smile.

 

 

 

-5-

 

After eating dinner in their chamber that evening, Vincent helped Catherine prepare for the community meeting.

 

He had tried to hide his amusement as he watched her fuss over her hair and clothing. After much deliberation and discussion, she finally had decided to accept Rebecca’s offer of a dress. “If I wear my regular clothes, I’ll look like a topsider. I want to look as if I belong, Vincent.” He had assured her that she looked fine, and indeed he thought she had never looked lovelier, despite the fact that Rebecca’s dress was one or two sizes too large. With Jacob in one arm and the other arm around Catherine, he had escorted his family to Father’s study.

 

Welcoming cheers and applause echoed throughout the cavernous chamber as the three entered. Except for the people on sentry duty, the whole tunnel community had gathered to hear Catherine’s story.

 

Vincent stood to one side, holding his son, and listened as Catherine related her miraculous tale. The light from smoking candles and wall torches flickered across curious faces as everyone listened in respectful silence. Even the children were quiet and attentive.

 

Catherine chose her words with care as she spoke to the people surrounding her. She omitted the fact that during her coma she had been allowed to watch one of Vincent’s dreams and to see Vincent and Diana together. These were things she had not yet told Vincent himself.

 

When she finished, no one spoke for a few moments. Then Samantha said, “Catherine, are you going to live here from now on?”

 

“Yes, Samantha,” Catherine replied. “I have to. It could be dangerous for me to live Above.” She glanced at Vincent, who cradled Jacob in his arms, then continued. “But that’s not the main reason I’m staying. This is where I belong now. This is where my family is.” A murmur of approval began, soon swelling into appreciative laughter and chatter.

Catherine stayed a little longer, talking and exchanging hugs with her many friends, until Vincent insisted they leave. He made his way through the crowd and helped her out of her chair, then took her back to their chamber.

 

A worn-out Catherine collapsed on the bed, too tired to sit up. Jacob began crying; Vincent brought him to the bed. “Can you nurse him lying down?”

 

“Yes, I think so.” She began unlacing the front of her dress. As she positioned the baby at her breast, Vincent draped the blue shawl over her. She looked at him. “You don’t have to cover me when I’m nursing. Not with just the three of us here.”

 

He started to speak, then hesitated.

 

She stared at him. “Vincent? What is it?”

 

“I don’t - I’m not …” he stopped.

 

“Does this embarrass you?”

 

He turned back to look at her. “It makes me...uncomfortable.” He hung his head.

 

“Oh, Vincent. I’m sorry.” She held out her free hand. He grasped it and sat next to her on the bed. “Everything has happened so fast. Does it seem strange to have me here? Sleeping in your bed?” Her eyes widened. “Would it be better if I stayed somewhere else? Just until you…”

 

“No!” Vincent said. In a calmer tone, he continued, “I want both of you here. It’s just that…less than a week ago, I was mourning you. And now...you’re here.” He pressed his lips to her hand.

 

“It must seem like a dream sometimes.”

 

“Yes.” He caressed her fingers. “Last night...I’m sorry, Catherine. I was so frightened…confused. My life has been in turmoil since you died. I tried…” His voice became choked. “I tried to be strong, to put you out of my mind; but I couldn’t. Every time I looked at Jacob, it was as if I were looking at you.”

 

“Vincent.” Catherine sat up, holding Jacob to her breast and pulling the shawl with her. “I’m so sorry. I know it’s been terrible for you.”

 

He nodded.

 

“It’s been a long, bad dream,” Catherine continued. “But now the dream is over. Now it’s time to start over.”

 

“But what if…”

 

“No. No what if’s. From now on we deal with what is. O.K.?” She took his chin in one hand and turned his face to hers.

 

“Yes,” he agreed. “We must go forward.” He gave her a gentle smile.

 

Catherine returned his smile, but she saw what was happening in his eyes. He’s afraid, and he looks GUILTY. I wonder how much of this has to do with Diana. I wonder why he came to her that night...what he had to tell her.

 

Vincent stood and released Catherine’s hand as she sat the baby on her lap and held him up to burp him. She gave him a questioning look. “I’ll be back soon,” he said. “Will you be all right?”

 

“We’ll be fine,” she said. “Don’t worry.

 

It was late, but Vincent knew Father would still be awake, reading in his study.

 

He was partly right. Father was sitting at his desk, gazing into the wavering light of a tall candle.

 

“Father?” Vincent softly called.

 

“Come in, Vincent,” Father replied.

 

“You’ve been expecting me.”

 

“I thought you might have some questions.” Father watched as Vincent sat next to him.

 

“Is Catherine well?”

 

“Yes, she’s fine. With enough rest and nourishment, she will be her old self in no time. She’s young and strong...she has a lot to live for.”

 

“Yes.” Vincent spread his hand on the table and studied it.

 

“Tell me, Vincent, if you can.”

 

Vincent looked at Father.

 

“I can only imagine what must be going through your mind right now,” Father continued.

 

Vincent waited a few seconds before speaking. ”In my mind, I understand everything that happened to Catherine; that she didn’t die, that she was alive all this time...” His voice trailed off.

“But in your heart?”

 

“I have never been so confused. I feel a great sense of...there are no words to describe how I feel. It’s as if my whole reason for living has been restored to me. I watch her, listen to her voice...and I feel as if I’m living in a dream.”

 

“The only thing you can do is look at the situation in a realistic light,” Father said. “Catherine is here, and she’s alive - that is an absolute fact. One of the reasons she is here is the same reason you are here.”

 

Vincent nodded. “There is no safe place for either of us in the world Above.” A half smile twisted his lips. “That is not something I had ever hoped to share with her.”

 

Father leaned forward. “You share something far stronger and more important than that. Catherine is here because she wants to be here, because she loves you and little Jacob. This is her home, we are her family. That is what you must remember.”

 

“She is here of her own free will.”

 

“Yes. And the time has come for you to accept what you, what all of us, never thought would be possible.”

 

“That she could be a permanent part of my life.”

 

“And that you would be able to fully accept each other...love each other.”

 

Vincent shook his head.

 

“What is it, Vincent?”

 

Vincent stood and leaned against his chair. “It’s not that simple, Father. I wish it were.”

 

“Well, of course it will take some time. But I think everything will…”

 

“It’s more than a question of time. I have so much...guilt, so much shame in my heart.”

 

Father wrinkled his brow. “Guilt? Shame? What are you talking about?”

 

“Diana.” Vincent’s voice was barely audible.

 

“Diana?” Father looked startled. “Dear God, don’t tell me…”

 

“Last night, before Catherine returned, I visited Diana. To tell her...” He shut his eyes, opened them. “To ask her to...be with me, with Jacob. To be more than just a friend.” He blinked as tears filled his eyes.

“Ah, Vincent.” Father shook his head. “Come, sit down.” Vincent complied. “You feel as if you’ve betrayed Catherine?”

 

“Father, what if she had returned just one day later? What would I have done?” He shook his head. “What was I thinking of? It made sense then, but now...”

 

“Have you discussed this with Catherine?”

 

“No! She must never know this. It would only hurt her.”

 

“What would hurt Catherine more than this admission would be your silence. Your guilt can be more of a barrier than anything you have to tell her.”

 

“I can’t, Father. It’s impossible.”

 

Father stood and leaned on his cane. “You must give this careful thought, Vincent. Don’t underestimate Catherine. Beneath her frail exterior lives a strong woman, a woman who loves you and will forgive you anything. She may surprise you.”

 

Vincent said nothing.

 

Father patted his shoulder. “I’m going to bed now. I suggest you do the same. You may see things differently in the morning.” Father left the room.

 

Vincent sat alone for a few moments. He closed his eyes; let his mind roam free, and the first thing he saw was Diana as she had looked the evening before: the breeze blowing her hair across her face, the smile with which she greeted him.

 

No! He bolted from the chair and started back toward his chamber. He would put these thoughts out of his mind; he would forget them altogether and eliminate the necessity of revealing his shame to Catherine. He owed her at least that much.

 

He reached the entrance to his chamber but didn’t go inside. He stood for a moment, undecided, then turned and headed off in another direction.

 

 

 

-6-

 

Diana stood on the rooftop of her building. She leaned against a ledge and stared down at the street below. She shivered in the cold air, pulling the thick black sweater she wore tighter around her body.

 

Through the traffic sounds and the shifting breeze, she heard a faint rustle behind her. She closed her eyes. “Hello, Vincent,” she said without turning around.

“Diana.”

 

“Don’t come any closer.” She heard his footsteps stop. “There’s a woman in a car parked in front of my building. She’s been watching me for weeks. I don’t want her to see you.”

 

“Who is she?”

 

Diana bowed her head as hot, helpless tears rolled down her cheeks. Is this the way it’s going to be from now on? Am I going to fall apart every time I hear his voice?

 

She took a deep breath and pushed her hand across her face. “I don’t know.” She turned to look at him. “And I’m supposed to be so good at figuring people out. Maybe I’m losing my touch.” She walked over to where Vincent stood half concealed in the shadowy planes and angles of the roof.

 

“You’ve pushed yourself too hard for far too long,” Vincent said. “You need to rest.”

 

“Can’t do that. I started a new case today.”

 

“What is it?”

 

“It’s a bad one. Some crazy guy going around raping pregnant women.” She leaned against the cold brick wall and hugged her arms across her chest. “How is Catherine?”

 

“She is well. She needs rest, too.”

 

“Why are you here, Vincent? You should be with her. She needs you.”

 

He looked away from her, casting his glance over the distant lights of Manhattan. “I’m not sure why I came. I only know…”

 

Sudden comprehension flashed in her eyes. “I know. You came to take back what you didn’t tell me last night.”

 

If she had wanted to hurt him, she succeeded. The look of pain on his face almost made her flinch. He leaned against a wall near the entrance to her loft.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said after a few seconds. “I...I don’t know what else to say. I would never hurt you. If Catherine had not returned…”

 

“No.” She held both hands in front of her, fingers spread. “Don’t say it, don’t even think it. You have Catherine and your son. That’s all that counts right now.”

 

She watched him absorb her words. He nodded and started to turn away. A sudden impulse made her seize his arms and pull him back to face her. “I’m in love with you, Vincent. I know that doesn’t make much difference now, but...I had to let you know.” She started to release him, but he held onto her hands.

 

“Diana,” he said. “You must know how I feel about you. You must feel…”

 

She flung her arms around him and he returned her embrace, holding her close. She felt the warmth of his words next to her ear: “One day you’ll find someone as special as you are, Diana. I know it.”

 

For a second she tightened her hold on him, then abruptly pulled away. “I guess anything’s possible. You’re proof of that, Vincent.” She held his gaze for a moment, then hurried past him into her loft, locking the door behind her.

 

Once inside she slumped on the living room couch, her slender body racked with sobs. She wrapped her arms around herself and held in the sounds she wanted to make, pushed them deep inside where she’d pushed all her pain and hopeless desire. If he heard her, he might stay; and as much as she wanted him, she knew she had to make a clean break now.

 

She waited until she was sure he was gone. Then she lay on the couch and cried herself to sleep.

 

Vincent returned to his chamber to find Jacob asleep in his cradle and Catherine asleep in the middle of the bed. She slept so soundly that she didn’t stir when Vincent lifted her out of the way and lay down beside her. Thinking only to warm her, he held her close before drifting off to sleep.


-7-

 

Diana’s Journal -- November 22, 1989 -- 12:45 a.m.

 

He’s gone. He left hours ago, and I’m still crying. Either I’m crazy, or I’m the biggest fool that ever lived.

 

I keep thinking about what Vincent told me the night he saved my life in the drainage tunnel below the park. He told me to forget him, and I told him I couldn’t. Then he told me to remember him as if he were a dream.

 

But I can’t do that. My life seems more real to me now than it ever has, in spite of or even because of all the strange things that have happened. In some ways I’m more alone than I’ve ever been. I don’t even have Mark...but when did I ever truly have him? He was right. Every time he came too close, I backed away; I practically ran and hid.

 

Now I’m stuck loving Vincent, and it’s HOPELESS. God, I don’t know what to do. All those weeks, months, of searching through Cathy’s life, seeing things through her eyes, trying to find Vincent – it’s left more of a mark on me than any case I’ve ever worked on. What case, it stopped being a case a long time ago.

 

In my heart, I know that all the people Below, including Vincent, are my friends. And I know I’m lucky. But I also feel angry - cheated and angry. If Cathy had not come back, maybe Vincent and I could have worked something out. Maybe I could have found out what it’s like to be loved the way he loved - LOVES - her. And maybe, just maybe, I could have loved him the same way. I just wanted to know...I wanted to believe I could.

 

I can’t not see Vincent, or Cathy. I’m a Helper. I need to start taking Cathy some of her things, and I want to see the baby. I miss him. But they all have each other now, and that’s the way it is and the way it should be. I’ll butt out. I’ll try.

 

 

 

- 8-

 
Gabriel was close now. so close she could smell his expensive cologne, feel his cruel  eyes boring, into her. Her back was shoved against a cold stone wall, her hands were bound in front of her, and he was right there too close, no room to breathe...

 

“NO!!” Catherine sat up in bed, shaking, cold sweat drenching her body.

 

Instantly Vincent encircled her in his arms, pulling her back down into the warm bed. “Catherine,” he whispered, holding her tight. “It’s all right. It was only a dream.”

 

“It was him,” she whimpered, curling against him. “Gabriel...”

 

“It was just a dream.” He smoothed her hair away from her moist forehead. “Don’t worry, I’m here.”

 

She began crying, and he held her as she cried herself to sleep. He lay awake for a long time, unmoving; until he felt her body completely relax. Just a bad dream, he thought. He kissed her forehead and pulled her even closer. In doing so, his hand slipped from her arm and touched her breast.

 

His breath stopped in his throat. He was paralyzed. He told his hand to move, but it would not obey. His hand felt heavier, her breast felt warmer, hotter, almost too hot to touch; and he took a shuddering breath as her nipple grew taut beneath his tentative fingers…

 

No. He jerked his hand away. THIS is not a dream. Not anymore. This is my  reality. My God, what am I going to do?

 
 

Chapter 3