We Must Go With Courage

A Classic Mosaic Story

by Alyssa G., JoAnn Baca, and Debbie H. Bluerose


PART ONE

They had been sitting together on the balcony for the past hour with Catherine snuggled against his broad chest listening to Vincent read from the volume of assorted poems.

To Anthea III

AH, my Anthea! Must my heart still break?
(Love makes me write, what shame forbids to speak)
Give me a kiss, and to that kiss a score;
Then to that twenty add a hundred more:
A thousand to that hundred: so kiss on,
To make that thousand up a million.
Treble that million, and when that is done
Let's kiss afresh, as when we first begun.

But yet, though love likes well such scenes as these,
There is an act that will more fully please:
Kissing and glancing, soothing, all make way
But to the acting of this private play:
Name it I would; but, being blushing red,
The rest I'll speak when we meet both in bed.

by Robert Herrick


Catherine's gaze fell upon the rose bush on the other end of the terrace, and her thoughts took her back to that night when Vincent almost kissed her. If it had not been for the two intrusive CIA agents, who knows how the night would have played out. Sensing her shift in attention and mood, Vincent paused in his reading.

"Catherine?" His voice was gentle yet clearly held puzzled concern at the rising frustration he felt in her.

Realizing he must have picked up on her mood if not her thoughts themselves, she blushed slightly, and with a chagrined expression looked up to meet his bright blue eyes. "It's nothing. Please don't stop reading." No sooner had she said the words when she knew in her heart they were a lie. He patiently waited for her to collect her thoughts. Suddenly inexplicably shy, Catherine unconsciously chewed her lower lip.

Tell me," he invited softly as he set the book aside.

She took a deep breath. 'No going back now, Chandler, you got yourself into this,' she chided herself. “Can I ask…” She fumbled for the words. “I mean, I wondered…." Frustrated with her own lack of elegance, Catherine finally found the courage to say what had been spinning inside her mind. "That night with the rose bush – if those men had not knocked on my door…."

Understanding now where her mind had wandered, he lowered his eyes abruptly. There was no question as to what night she spoke of – the night a few weeks prior when he had been brazen enough to kiss her thorn-pricked hand. The hunger in his eyes must have revealed more of his inner demons than he was typically comfortable with her seeing.

“Vincent." Her voice was firm but gentle as she waited till his eyes rose to meet hers once again. This was forbidden territory, it seemed, but Catherine didn't understand why. She had not lived his life nor heard the years' worth of self-condemnation from within in addition to the well-intentioned but damaging cautions from Father. "I can see that this is difficult for you, and I don't mean to make you uncomfortable. I simply want to understand." She reached up with her right hand to cup his face in her palm.

Her compassionate yet earnest plea broke through Vincent's stone walls of resolve. A single tear glided down his face, telling more than the words he choked out. "Catherine, I do not dare." She scooted out of his embrace enough to allow her other hand to wipe away his tear. Taking both his hands in hers, she squeezed softly in silent reassurance of her presence.

“What about us frightens you?" Didn't he know how much she loved him? Didn't he realize she was not going anywhere? She was trying to be patient and give him time to explain when her mind raced with a thousand words she wanted to promise him. A small voice inside whispered to pull back her onslaught of reassurance to allow him to go at his own pace.

“It is not ‘us’ that frightens me." The venomous unspoken disgust hurled at himself was not lost on her.

Attempting to lighten the mood, Catherine retorted, "All right, I promise not to wear so much eye liner next time." The small hint of a smirk that played across his features did little to break the tension. She decided to go for a more direct approach. "Vincent, did you want to kiss me that night?" There was no judgment in her words.

Without meeting her gaze, he whispered, "Yes."

“Do you think I wanted you to kiss me?" Catherine held her breath for what seemed an eternity before he spoke in an even softer whisper.

"Yes." He bristled as if to ward against her correcting his answer.

The phone rang, and he began to pull away. "The machine can get it," she said in a clipped tone, increasing her grip on his hands. There would be no interrupting them tonight. The fire alarm could go off for all she cared at that moment; she was not leaving his side till they had a chance to talk this out.

"Catherine – please!" The hoarse whisper begged her to let this go.

"Vincent, I care too much about you to let you continue to berate yourself over a natural longing." His slight wince told her she had hit the nail on the head. He had been beating himself up ever since that night with all the reasons why he should never cross the line of admiring from afar. Why he should never think of her as his. Why he should never dare let himself completely love her without placing constraints on what that would look like for him, for a beast.

"It is not natural for one such as me." His tone was matter of fact, but beneath the old lie she could hear the despair.

“Why?" she challenged. "Vincent, if you are not ready to kiss me, I can accept that. I love you. Nothing will change that. But why do you think it is so wrong for you to even WANT to kiss me?"

"Because of where such thoughts and desires may lead." He half-growled the words, not angry with her but with himself for allowing a dream so insanely absurd to enter his heart.

‘Where such thoughts may lead?' Catherine battled between being deliriously happy that he was acknowledging, even in a roundabout way, that he had thought about them as a couple, and being so frustrated with whoever had pounded such shame into him that he could not allow the possibility that she found herself wishing for an instant that she had claws and teeth to bring to bear in defense of him.

With a sudden rush that left her stunned as she fell back, he rose – one fluid motion – and stood towering above her. "Enough, Catherine…please. I have learned to accept my limitations. This…is fruitless. I beg you; do not ask these questions of me. Good night."

She was alone. The soft swish of his cloak as he lifted himself to the overhang above her was the only sound she heard.
 
As she gazed in dismay at the point at which he had disappeared from view, Catherine became aware of tears trickling from her eyes. They plopped forlornly on the flagstones upon which she sat.

`What have I done? Stupid move, Catherine,' she silently berated herself. Sometimes her desire for him blinded her. He hadn't even taken the book of poems with him. Forlornly scooping up the collection of poems that had sparked the night's explosion; she closed the French doors, and clinging to the book, flung herself on the couch for a good long cry.

 

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