- IV. -

 

Vincent’s Journal -- December 3, 1989 -- 5:30 a.m.

 

Catherine has been here almost two weeks. Two weeks...it seems like a lifetime. I never dared hope that we would have so much time together. Now each day is a blessing. I long for nothing more than the time I spend with her and our son. I watch her nurse him; he grows stronger and more beautiful each day. The resemblance Jacob bears his mother is remarkable, and her own sweet spirit shines from his face. She has made both our lives complete.

 

I must leave soon. I hate to leave before Catherine awakens, but my work can’t wait. I have found a perfect series of chambers. With a little work, they will provide more than enough room for the three of us. Catherine may not want to leave at first, but I am determined to make the new chambers so comfortable that she will not be able to resist. I will move the window over my bed; I don’t know how, but I will do it for her. It matters not to me. We could live in the deepest, darkest corner of these tunnels and her love would pour out and light my world with the radiance of the sun.

 

We fall asleep in each other’s arms every night, but it goes no further than that. Catherine is still exhausted at the end of each day. She has not broached the subject of a more intimate relationship, and I will not do so. I will leave that up to her, and we will deal with it then.

 

 

 

-2-

 

When Catherine woke up, Vincent was gone. This had happened several days in a row, and she was curious rather than concerned. She knew he was up to something - he watched her with a gleam in his eye - but she decided to wait until he was ready to tell her. She changed Jacob and dressed herself, then carried the baby to the kitchen. It took her a little while to reach her destination, since everyone she met wanted to chat and exclaim over the baby. He is beautiful, she thought. I’m so lucky.

 

Catherine entered the kitchen. “Good morning, William,” she called to the cook, who was stirring an enormous pot of something.

 

“Catherine!” He nodded to her. “How are you?”

 

“Hungry,” she answered. “Both of us.” She sat on a bench at a table near the stove and

began nursing Jacob. She pulled the blue shawl around her; she felt it appropriate when she was outside her chamber.

 

“I have just the thing.” William lifted a plate from the back of the stove and set it in front of Catherine with a flourish. “Bacon, eggs and hash browns.” He set a steaming cup to her right. “And the best coffee in the world!”

 

“Oh, boy,” Catherine sighed. With her free hand, she grabbed a fork and dug in.

 

William’s kitchen was one of her favorite places Below. She and the genial cook had a special deal: every morning he prepared a high-calorie breakfast for her and kept it warm until she arrived with Jacob. Then she would spend a leisurely half hour or so feeding herself, nursing Jacob and breathing in the warmth and the mouth-watering smells of whatever William was cooking.

 

Catherine glanced around the chamber as she ate. A huge old eight-burner gas stove, salvaged from another era in restaurants, was the focal point of the room. Floor-to-ceiling wooden cabinets were built in around two walls of the room.   An ancient refrigerator sat chugging and wheezing against the wall behind Catherine.   All of Mouse’s considerable mechanical skills were needed to keep it in working order.

 

“How is it?” William asked.

 

“Wonderful,” Catherine mumbled, her mouth full. She swallowed. “If you keep feeding me like this, I’m going to be enormous!”

 

William sat across the table from her and laughed. “Doctor’s orders. Besides, you have a ways to go. You’re just a little bit of a thing.” He nodded toward the baby. “That son of yours looks better every day.”

 

“Talk about healthy appetites.” She rolled her eyes. “He nurses every three or four hours.”

 

“Seems like babies that age don’t do anything but eat and sleep.”

 

“At least he only wakes me up once a night.”

 

“Maybe it’s time he started on something a little more solid.”

 

“You mean...regular food?” A frown appeared between her eyes.

 

“Sure. Just a little cooked apple or some banana before he goes to bed. Make him sleep right through.” He raised his eyebrows. “Want to try it?”

 

“It sounds like a wonderful idea. But let me check with Father first, O.K.? I don’t know that much about a baby’s diet.” She sipped the scalding coffee.

 

“Sure thing.” William stood. “Guess I better get back to this stew. Don’t want to disappoint my fans.” He grinned at her, and she smiled back.

 

“Catherine!” Kipper came bounding into the kitchen.

“No running in the kitchen!” William roared.

 

“Oops! Sorry.” Kipper finished the distance to Catherine in an exaggerated tiptoe. “Hi, Catherine. Hi, Jake!”

 

“Good morning, Kipper.” Catherine smiled at the boy. The children had taken to calling the baby Jake, following her lead.

 

“Father says for you and Jake to come to the examination room right after breakfast,” Kipper said.

 

“Did he say why?” Catherine asked.

 

“Nope - just said to come. I’ve got to go, I’m late for lessons. Bye!” Kipper walked to the kitchen entrance, but Catherine heard his feet scrabble into a run outside.

 

She shook her head, smiling, and turned to William.

 

“Someday that’ll be your boy, Catherine.”

 

“Yes.”   She gazed down at her son, who watched her with solemn blue eyes. “Someday.”

 

“We’re here, Father.”

 

“Catherine! Come in.” Father stood and leaned on his cane as Catherine and Jacob entered the examination room. “You look well - both of you.”

 

“We’re doing fine.”

 

“Is William still feeding you?”

 

Catherine laughed. “I feel as if I’m being fattened up for Sunday dinner!”

 

Father smiled. “You certainly look better than you did a few weeks ago. How do you feel?”

 

“I can honestly say I’ve never felt better or happier in my life.”

 

Father nodded. “That’s what I wanted to hear. Now let’s weigh the two of you.”

 

Catherine stepped on the scales while holding Jacob. Father slid the bar until it balanced. “One sixteen and a half.” He raised his eyebrows. “This could be the day.”

 

“After that Thanksgiving feast we had last week, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve gained five pounds.” Catherine handed the baby to Father; still standing on the scales, she adjusted slide bar herself. “Ninety-nine...no, too light.” She smiled at Father as she slid the fifty pound weight aside and used the one hundred-pound weight.

 

It was still a little light... “One hundred one and a half!” she exclaimed. She turned to Father, a triumphant look lighting her face.

 

“Wonderful!” He beamed at her. ”Jacob is the perfect weight, and you will be too in another five or ten pounds.”

 

“That much!” Catherine felt uneasy. Other than during her pregnancy, she had never weighed over a hundred and five pounds in her life.

 

“Come now, Catherine, be realistic. You’re a mother now. Your body has changed. And if you’re going to live down here, you’ll need the warmth a little extra weight can provide.” He touched her shoulder. “Don’t worry; I will tell you if I think you’re getting too fat.” His eyes sparkled.

 

Catherine laughed. “I’m going to hold you to that.” She took Jacob into her arms and hugged him. “You hear that, little Jake? You’re perfect.

 

“Catherine, how strong do you feel today?”

 

She shrugged. “Quite strong. Why?”

 

“Do you think you could carry Jacob as far as the Mirror Pool?”

 

“I think so.” She gave Father a quizzical look. “What’s this all about?”

 

“Well, I have it on good authority that there’s something there you need to see...and someone you need to talk to.”

 

“Sounds mysterious.”

 

“It may or may not be, but at least it will get you out and about. The exercise would do you good.”

 

“I have been feeling a little cooped up...restless.”

 

“Then why don’t you go. If I see Vincent, I’ll tell him what you’re doing.”

 

“Thanks, Father.” Catherine carried Jacob from the room.

 

 

 

-3-

 

By the time they reached the Mirror Pool, Catherine was short of breath and Jacob was asleep on her shoulder. She spread her shawl on the ground well back from the pool’s edge and placed the sleeping baby on his stomach. She stretched and massaged her lower back; in the last fifteen minutes, Jacob’s fifteen pounds seemed to have doubled.

 

After a few seconds of gazing into the pool, Catherine realized what she was seeing. She knelt by the water and stared as if trying to fathom the depth of the incredible vision before her.

 

By some inexplicable alchemy of light, luck and distance, the Mirror Pool reflected the sky Above regardless of the weather or time of day. Now, at mid-morning, the pool revealed a pale blue sky, feathered with wispy gray clouds.

 

Catherine dipped one finger into the still, frigid water, distorting the reflection for an instant. She sat down, glancing over her shoulder to check on her son, then returned her attention to the pool. The sky was so beautiful, and it had been such a long time...

 

“What do you see, child?”

 

Catherine whirled in the direction of the voice. She saw no one.

 

“I am here,” the voice said in a lilting cadence. Catherine watched as Narcissa stepped from the shadows.

 

“Narcissa!” Catherine’s eyes widened in surprise. She hurried over to the old woman, whose hands were extended in front of her. Catherine grasped the warm, leathery hands and stared into Narcissa’s clouded eyes. “How are you?”

 

“I am well, Catherine. And you - you are alive.” The old woman laughed, and even her laughter held traces of her exotic accent.

 

“Yes, I am.” Catherine smiled at Narcissa. Why is she here? She’s so far from home.  

 

Narcissa released Catherine’s hands and walked over to the sleeping baby. “Vincent’s son.”

 

“Yes.”

 

Narcissa examined him for a few seconds, then looked at Catherine. “A fine boy!”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“It is good you came here, child. It will be even better if you stay.”

 

Catherine frowned. “If I stay? What do you mean?”

 

Narcissa pointed to the Mirror Pool. “I ask you again: what do you see?”

 

Catherine scanned the pool’s reflected images. “I see...a blue sky, a few clouds. The sun is shining, but it looks cold. The wind would be sharp...fresh.” She stopped and lowered her gaze.

 

“And do you want to be there, in your world?”

 

“This is my world now.”

 

“Look at me, child.”

 

Catherine raised her head and met Narcissa’s firm gaze.

 

“You are right. This is now your world. But if it is to be your home, there are things you must do.”

 

“What things?” Jacob’s cries distracted Catherine. She picked him up and cradled him, then returned her attention to Narcissa.

 

“You must find your place in this world. You have much to offer here, and you must regret nothing. Do you understand?”

 

“I think so.” Catherine stared at the old woman, trying hard to comprehend.

 

“You must have more children, so this child will not be alone.” Narcissa patted Jacob’s back with one gnarled hand. She looked at Catherine. “You want more children?”

 

“Yes.” Sudden tears welled in Catherine’s eyes. She blinked them away. “Very much.”

 

“But you are afraid...of many things.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“So is Vincent. You can help him not to fear. And to do this, you must help him see that whatever else he may be, he is a man.” She gave an eloquent shrug, her head cocked to one side. “He is a man. You understand?”

 

“Yes, I understand. Thank you, Narcissa.”

 

“You will come to see me, when you are stronger?” The old woman backed away.

 

“Yes.” Catherine glanced at the baby. ”We both will.”

 

“Another look before you leave,” Narcissa said, pointing to the water.

 

Catherine turned and looked. The scene had altered: the thready clouds had grown solid and heavy, and light flurries of snow swirled in graceful patterns.

 

“It’s snowing! Look, Narcissa, it’s…” She spun around, but the old woman had disappeared into the shadows.

 

Catherine turned back to the pool. For a few moments she watched as the silent storm grew stronger. She held her son so that he could see. “Look, little Jake, it’s snowing. Up there in the cold world Above...it’s snowing.”

 

 

 

-4-

 

Father sat at the desk in his study, sipping hot tea and studying his chessboard. His game with Zach had been interrupted by Pascal, who was handing down his knowledge of the pipes to his young apprentice.

 

A good thing, too, Father thought. Zach was beating me badly. He smiled as he thought of all the chess lessons he had given to children over the years. He was a good teacher, too good perhaps; eventually, all of his students were able to best him.

 

Lately a sense of his own mortality had begun to plague him. Although he was getting on in years, his health was quite good. Good enough to allow me to see my grandson grow up...dear God. That’s all I can ask for.

 

It wasn’t just awareness of his age that troubled him. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. As he had done frequently during the past few weeks, he let his mind drift back to the night Catherine came home...the night he saw Margaret.

 

His recollection of that night and his response to the miraculous events grew stronger with each passing day. Never mind the improbability of what had happened. The sight of her...so young, so beautiful, as if the years had never touched her...

 

He took a deep breath, tried to calm his racing heart. He had spoken to no one of his feelings, not even Vincent and Catherine, who would understand better than anyone else. He hid the cold emptiness that often haunted him despite Margaret’s promise that they would meet again someday. Someday...what did that mean? Should he wish for death now, or be patient and enjoy each new day of life?

 

He sat up in his chair, irritated. Enough of these foolish thoughts! I thought Vincent displayed suicidal tendencies after Catherine’s death. At least now I understand how he felt.

 

He heard footsteps outside his study, followed by Catherine’s hurried entrance. Her appearance surprised him: she was short of breath, red-faced and agitated. “Catherine, are you all right?”

 

“Yes, Father, I’m…” She fell into a chair beside Father and sat for a few seconds, trying to catch her breath. “I’m all right.”

 

“Where is Jacob?”

 

“Asleep. Jamie is watching him.”

 

Father studied her. “Perhaps the trip to the Mirror Pool was too much for you. You look exhausted.”

 

“I saw Narcissa there. She said some things…” Catherine leaned forward in her chair, and Father felt her eyes burning into him. “I need to ask you a question, Father, and I need a straight answer.”

 

“I’ll try.”

 

Catherine opened her mouth, then stopped. She bounded out of her chair and paced the room, wringing her hands. Finally she stood before Father. “Do you remember when Margaret came back to you, right before she died?”

 

“Yes, of course.”

 

“I helped get you out of jail, and before you returned Below we talked about Vincent. I told you I would never hurt him, that I loved him. Do you remember what you said to me?”

 

He frowned, trying to recall...what had he said?  “I’m sorry...I can’t seem to remember…”

 

“You told me that whatever else Vincent is, he is also a man.” Catherine returned to her chair. “Is that true, Father? Is he a man?”

 

Father sighed. He looked directly at Catherine. “Yes, I believe he is a man. Unlike any other, obviously, but at his very core...he is a man.”

 

“Jacob is proof of that.”

 

“He should be.”

 

“Proof enough for Vincent?”

 

“Catherine, what is your point?”

 

“Narcissa told me that I have to make Vincent believe that he is a man. She also told me that...that we should have more children.” Her voice faded to a whisper on the last word as tears filled her eyes.

 

Father’s eyes widened. “Oh! Now...yes, now I think I understand.” He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and gave it to Catherine. “I don’t mean to pry…”

 

Catherine blew her nose. “You’re not.”

 

“Vincent still has no memory of the night Jacob was conceived?”

 

“I don’t think so. I don’t know; we haven’t discussed it.”

 

“I see.” Father tapped a knuckle against his chin. “I don’t know what to tell you. You do know about his experience with Lisa, when he was a boy?”

 

“Yes, yes, I know. Ancient history.”

 

“Not for Vincent.”

 

Catherine stood, twisting the handkerchief in her hands. “We’ll see about that.” With one last glance at Father, she left the room.

 

 

 

-5-

 

I am such an idiot!

 

Catherine paced her chamber, trying to calm down. Several hours had passed since her talk with Father. She had not seen Vincent all day, and for once she hoped he would take his time returning from wherever he was. She had to get herself under control, figure out what she was going to do.

 

Dinner was over. Jacob was fed, bathed and fast asleep in his cradle. Catherine had forgotten to discuss a change in the baby’s diet with Father; she had forgotten nearly everything in her distress.

 

She forced herself to sit on the bed and take deep breaths. “Concentrate,” she whispered, her eyes squeezed shut. “Think. Just think.”

 

How could she have been such a fool? She and Vincent had been sleeping in the same bed for the last two weeks. They had shared one heartfelt kiss the night she returned, but since that night - nothing. It wasn’t as if they danced around the subject of sex with their eyes closed. No, even worse, they had ignored it altogether, mutually choosing the safe route of silence.

 

Safety. Catherine opened her eyes and stared at Jacob’s cradle. Vincent might try to use her safety as an excuse, recalling his unfortunate incident with Lisa. But Catherine wouldn’t accept that Vincent had been young, and Lisa had been a flirt. Ancient history, she’d told Father.

 

Catherine had a different perspective on things. She had her son; she had knowledge of one of Vincent’s dreams, which, despite a painful ending, convinced her of his desire; and most important, she had her memories of the night Jacob was conceived.

 

And what is my excuse? She lay back on the bed and stared at the high ceiling. I haven’t pushed him about anything because I didn’t want to scare him. I want him - God, how I want him! - But I can’t force him.

 

She closed her eyes, feeling her strength ebb. Too many things to think about, too many problems to wrestle...

 

Vincent returned late that evening to find both Catherine and Jacob asleep. He would have come sooner, but had stopped to clean up first. He had spent the entire day wreathed in stone dust, shaping the new chambers, and his labors left him in need of a thorough bath.

 

He sat next to Catherine. She was sprawled on her back in the middle of the bed; she looked as if she hadn’t moved in hours. He reached out to touch her face, then reconsidered. What do I do with you? he thought. He listened to her breathing, watched the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest.

 

He hurried into his nightclothes, his eyes darting to the bed to make sure she was still asleep. When he finished, he returned to the bed and carefully lifted her into his arms.

 

She blinked her eyes and gave him a sleepy look. “What are you doing?”

 

“Trying to put you to bed.” He smiled at her. “What have you done today?”

 

She snuggled against him, her head beneath his chin. “Jacob and I saw Narcissa at the Mirror Pool. She told me some things.”

 

“What things?”

 

“She said we should have more children.”

 

Vincent’s breath caught in his throat.  He felt her warm breath, her unexpected fingertips curling into the hair on his chest, and he couldn’t speak at all.

 

“Vincent.” Her voice was a whisper.

 

She’s half asleep, he thought. She doesn’t know what she is doing.

“Yes?”

 

“Where have you been all day?” She lifted her head and gave him a mock-suspicious look. “Where do you go every day?”

 

He smiled. “I’ve been working on something...a surprise.”

 

“Tell me.”

 

“This chamber is too small for the three of us. I have discovered a series of chambers not far from here. With a little more work, they will make a good home for us.”

 

“Leave here?” Catherine pulled away from him and stood. She turned in a slow circle, looking at the chamber, then at Vincent. “I can’t imagine...I’ve always connected you with this place.”

 

“We’ll need the room.”

 

“Yes, I suppose we will.” She sat next to him. “Not to mention the privacy. Especially if we have more children.”

 

Several long moments of silence passed.

 

“I hadn’t thought…” He stopped.

 

“No. Don’t tell me you don’t want more children.”

 

“Catherine, we were fortunate with Jacob. Another child...” He shook his head.

 

“The way things are between us now, we’ll never know.”

 

Throughout the conversation Vincent had stared at the floor. Now he met Catherine’s eyes.

 

Her soft hand touched his face. “We have to talk about this. We have to face the fact that we sleep in the same bed every night, but we act more like brother and sister than...”

 

“Lovers.” A whisper.

 

“Is that what we are? Is that even a possibility? I need to know, Vincent. I need to know what I am to you.”

 

“You’re everything to me, Catherine. You’re my life; you’re the woman I love…”

 

“Then love me, Vincent!” She grasped his face in both hands and leaned toward him. “Love me.

 

He pulled away and stood. “You’re asking something that I cannot give you.”

 

She nodded in the direction of the cradle. “That child is proof that you can give me everything I will ever need.”

 

“Our son is a miracle.”

 

“Our son was conceived in a physical act of love.” Her voice shook.

 

“I still cannot remember that night.”

 

“But I remember.” She stood beside him and grasped his arm. “Please, let me tell you…”

 

“No.” He gazed down at her, and the hurt look on her face cut him to the quick. “Not now. Not yet.”

 

“When?”

 

“I don’t know.” He pulled away from her and sat on the edge of the bed. His voice was somber. “But not now.”

 

He watched her leave the chamber. Tears sprang to his eyes, but he willed them away. He climbed into bed and waited. Catherine returned five minutes later. She blew out all the candles but one on the table. Vincent watched her unlace the front of her dress. After a few moments he closed his eyes.

 

He felt her slide beneath the covers, just inches away from him. He knew without looking at her or touching her that she was naked.

 

For the first night in weeks, they did not sleep in each other’s arms.

Chapter 5