- IX. -

 

December 16, 1989

 

Diana rounded the corner without slowing down, her breath preceding her in great puffs of steam. Joe was seconds behind, struggling to keep pace.

 

“Diana,” he gasped. He reached out and grabbed the tail of her pea coat, then jerked hard enough to make her stop. “Stop. Will you please stop?”

 

She whirled around to face him, slapping his arm away. “Don’t talk to me!” she hissed. She pulled away and resumed walking.

 

Joe followed. “I still don’t see why you’re upset. The movie wasn’t that bad.”

 

“Romantic drivel. Garbage!”

 

“What?” He shot her a sidelong glance. “Don’t you like happy endings? Fairy tales? Happily ever after?”

 

She snorted.

 

“Well,” he said, “I liked it.”

 

“God, Joe, how can you be so dense?”

 

He seized her arm and forced her to stop. “I’m sick of this, Diana. Now I want you to look at me and tell me what your problem is.”

 

She huddled into her old blue coat and stared down at the sidewalk, her hands shoved deep into her pockets. It was late and there wasn’t much traffic. The wind was cold, and the slate grey sky was spitting snow. “Look, I’m sorry. I just overreacted or something. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on with me anymore.”

 

They began walking at a normal pace. Joe linked his arm with hers. One more block and they would turn the corner to Diana’s street.

 

“I thought getting you out for awhile would help. Dinner, a movie - something to distract you.”

 

“I should have gone on that trip.”

 

“Yup. You need to get away from here.”

 

“Too many memories.”

 

“Too many reminders, you mean. You still have all that stuff from your investigation Cathy, don’t you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“It’s all over, Diana. Why can’t you let it go?”

 

She said nothing. They walked in silence as they turned the corner onto her street.

 

Diana saw it first. “Oh, shit!” She grabbed Joe and yanked him into a crouch.

 

“What the…” Diana pointed. His eyes followed her finger and there it was: the old brown  Lincoln, parked right in front of her building. “I don’t believe it,” he said.

 

“Come on, Joe, we can’t blow this. Let’s find out who the hell she is.”

 

“Maybe we can sneak up on her.”

 

“You got it. I’ll take the left side.”

 

Half-crawling, half-walking, they approached the car as silently as possible. Diana, with gun in hand, came up under the driver’s side and peered through the window into the front seat. Joe repeated her action on the opposite side.

 

The streetlight illuminated Diana’s amazed expression. “You!” She looked at the woman in the front seat, who was asleep with her head leaning over to one side. Diana stood and spoke to Joe. “It’s her.”

 

“Her who?”

 

Diana opened the car door, then reached in and shook the woman’s shoulder. “Hey. Wake up!”

 

The woman straightened up. From the way she held her head, Diana could tell she had been there for hours. Her glossy black hair was straggling from its neat bun. Her dark, tilted eyes blinked first in surprise, then in fear, at the sight of Diana and the gun she held.

 

For a few moments the two women simply stared at each other. Then Diana spoke: “What are you doing here?”

 

The woman spoke in a stilted accent, but her words were precise. “I have been waiting for you.”

 

“You’ve been spying on me for weeks!” Diana felt Joe come up beside her.

 

“Who is she?” he asked.

 

“She worked for Gabriel,” Diana said, still staring at the small woman at the wheel of the big car. “She was the nurse who took care of Jacob.” She knelt, bringing herself to eye level with the woman. “What’s your name?”

 

“My name is Lang.” She pronounced it somewhere between “lung” and “long.” “I do not mean to cause you trouble. I came for many reasons. To give you something. To tell you things.”

 

“What things?” Joe peered into the car, his face close to Diana’s.

 

“What I know about him - Gabriel. And…”

 

“And what?” Diana’s voice was harsh. “What else?”

 

“To ask about the child.” Lang stared at her brown-gloved hands gripping the steering wheel, then looked at Diana. “I have thought about him. I was there at his birth. I took care of him. I...have much to answer for.”

 

“I’ll say you do.” Diana pulled the tiny woman out of the car.

 

“Hang on a minute.” Joe held up one hand; he spoke to Lang. “You said you have something to give her. What is it?”

 

“Something belonging to the woman named Catherine.”

 

For a moment the three stood silent, shivering in the thickening snow and bitter wind.

 

Diana considered the woman. “O.K. Come inside...Lang. We’ll listen to your story.” She led Joe and the strange woman into her building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epilogue - December 16, 1989

 

 

In their warmly lit home far beneath the city streets, Catherine and her family were bonded together in a perfect symmetry of love. Vincent lay asleep against her back, curved around her. His body heat permeated her and through her to their son, who was nursing at his mother’s breast.

 

Catherine was almost asleep when she realized Jacob had finished and was himself asleep. Smiling down at him, she pulled him away from her nipple. Slowly, carefully, she disengaged herself from Vincent’s embrace and carried Jacob to his cradle. She placed a kiss on his forehead, wiped a few drops of milk from his chin, then returned to bed.

 

She curled up to Vincent, her head beneath his chin. She pulled into her lungs the warm smell of him, nuzzling her face against the thick hair curling from his chest. Closer and closer, she tried to fuse her body to his, taking his shape, breathing in rhythm, willing her heart to beat no slower and no faster than the steady pounding beneath her hand.

 

He pulled her nearer. He was not asleep, as she thought. He kissed the top of her head and murmured her name.

 

She kissed the base of his throat. “I wish I could be inside you.”

 

“You are, my love. You always will be.”

 

How could he hold her any closer? Somehow he did. She nestled deeper into the harbor of his body, the safe haven of his love, and slept.

 

To be continued...

Restoration Trilogy index