We Must Go With Courage

A Classic Mosaic Story

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


PART THREE

Catherine finally fell into a restless, exhausted sleep and awoke to her alarm a few hours later. As tempting as it was to call in sick, she dragged herself out of bed. No matter what chaos the office threw at her, it would be better than sitting at home blaming herself. At her desk she tried to force her brain to focus on the brief in front of her, but her mind kept drifting.

"Chandler." Joe stood in front of her desk with a stack of folders. "Radcliffe?" He switched to a more familiar reference with increased tone and slight concern in his voice at her not reacting to his presence.

She blinked and looked up, half-dazed.

"You OK?" Joe furrowed his brow. 

"Yeah, I'm fine." Catherine sat up a little straighter. "Are those for me?"

He hesitated a beat, as he didn't quite believe her story that she was 'fine,' but he pushed it aside for now. "All ten of them," he confirmed as he plopped them down on a bare spot on her desk. He turned and took a couple of steps then looked back. "Make sure you take a lunch break...get some fresh air or something, OK?"

She responded with a small but genuine smile and a slight nod.

Satisfied, Joe resumed his brisk walk back to his office.

"Tell me you at least got the license plate."

"What?" Catherine looked up to see Edie staring down at her with a worried look on her face.

"Of the truck that hit you."

Catherine shook her head at that, grinning in spite of her rotten mood. Somehow Edie always seemed to have that effect on her. "I'm fine, really." She managed to fake a smile and gestured at her newly filled desk. "I'm just swamped with work, courtesy of our resident tyrant. You give a guy a title and a little power, and suddenly he thinks you work for him!" She tried out another  grin, but judging from Edie's expression, it wasn't working.

Edie leaned over and studied her friend's face carefully then shook her head sadly and sighed. "I knew it. Man trouble." Edie pulled over a chair, sat down, grabbed the phone off of Catherine's desk and proceeded to put the receiver to her ear. "Remember, all calls to the Miss Lovelorn hotline will be kept strictly confidential."

For a moment, every wall that Catherine had constructed to get through the day fell, and her face in that moment clearly showed her anguish. She managed to put her defenses back up as she ducked her head, as Vincent had so often done, to allow her hair to mask her expression.

Edie put the phone back on the hook, and in a softened voice instructed her friend, "Come on, we need to split to somewhere we can talk."

Catherine was on the verge of a refusal. After all, how much could she really tell Edie, but Edie persisted. "I'm not taking `no' for an answer, girlfriend."

The little café was ideal for private conversations, with the low light, ample room between tables, and hushed atmosphere. Edie half-cajoled and half-led Catherine to a corner booth. Catherine nervously stared at her hands, trying to avoid Edie's gaze.

"Out with it, girl." Edie's tone was concerned but firm.

"It's complicated," Catherine finally admitted.

"Ain't it always? Child, there is no such thing as simple when you’re talking about the heart. I don't see no bruises on ya, so I'm guessing it's your heart that is taking the beating. Am I right?" Edie nodded to herself.

"He would never hurt me physically!" Catherine quietly exclaimed in response to Edie's observations.  "But…"

That there were things that Catherine didn't want to say was all too obvious, however Edie was not going to let this go.

"Look, it's really all my fault. I pushed some boundaries that he wasn't ready to explore." The small shrug and shaking of Catherine's head with the faked smile were her best attempt to minimize the damage.

"Boundaries, huh? As in emotional, ‘do you love me?’ kinds of boundaries?"

Catherine shook her head, smiling sadly. "That's never really been a problem for us. Even when everything else about our relationship was a mess, the one thing we were both sure of was the way we each felt about the other." She sighed and shook her head again. "Not that we always knew what to do about those feelings, or what role they should play in our lives..."

"So, it's a commitment thing, then? Tell me he's not one of those guys who thinks he never has to put a ring on your finger, that he can just string you along until someone better pops into his life!" Edie gave her a look that suggested she'd better hear the right answer to her question or Vincent was going to be looking at an extended hospital stay.

"Easy, Edie! It's not like that either! He's not looking for another girl, I promise."

A sad smile touched Edie's face as she gently took her friend's hand. "He's looking for a guy then, isn't he? Cathy, it's not healthy to hold out your heart to someone who isn't going to take it."

"It's not that either, I promise. Look, it's just..."

"Complicated, I know! So, he loves you, he's not a commitment-phobe, it's not a question of his sexuality…” Edie was brought up short by the fact that Catherine had ducked her head in a unsuccessful attempt to hide her beet-red face. "But you said...Cathy, what is it? You know you can tell me; it's not like I'm gonna tell him you told. I don't even know his full name!"

"It's nothing, really." One look at the exasperated expression on Edie's face told her she wasn't getting away from this table without being at least somewhat honest. "He was badly hurt emotionally by something that happened to him in a previous relationship. It wasn't anyone's fault, but things happened that couldn't be undone, and it's left him scarred. He's just not sure about the idea of getting that close to someone again."

"And now you're stuck with the consequences." Edie crumpled up the napkin in front of her and shook her head ruefully. "Wouldn't it be nice if, just once, the girl who messed with the guy's head had to be the one to straighten him out, instead leaving all the repair work to the next girlfriend? Not that the guy would listen, because you know that there's not a man alive who'll listen to a woman when she starts saying that he needs to change." Edie smiled then, convinced she had the perfect solution. "Doesn't he have any guys in his life who could set him straight? A big brother, a best friend, maybe someone who was there when all this went down who can help him put it behind him?"

For a moment hope flashed across Catherine's face. Devin! Then a moment later Catherine's face fell back into the vestige of misery that had been there all morning. She didn't even know where Devin was right now. Out in the back woods of who knows where, most likely pretending to be a gorilla tamer or ostrich farmer. Who knew with him! And the one person she could ask was the one person who couldn't know in advance that his big brother was coming home. Catherine scrunched up her face, thinking hard of how she could get contact information for Devin without Vincent knowing; and if she did, would Vincent ever forgive her for calling in the big guns?
"That better be an idea hatching in that face, `cause if some alien comes popping out of your forehead, I'm out of here, girlfriend." Edie had pulled back a few inches as Catherine obliviously sought an answer.

"Edie, you're a genius." Catherine's eyes burned with determination.

"Heck, girl, I already knew that !" A grin spread across from one dangly gold earring to another as Edie flipped her hand, waving aside the obvious.

"Do you think you can stall Joe off my tracks for a bit this afternoon?" A plan was forming in Catherine's mind, but she would have to act fast before Vincent returned from his afternoon teaching assignment.

"Run interference with the boss?” Edie's eyebrows rose. The look on Catherine's face was nothing short of a puppy dog plea. "Sure. Now, what are you still doing here? Go on!"

Catherine hugged Edie and dashed out into the street. If she hurried she was sure to catch Father in his study, and with a little luck, she wouldn't run into anyone else in a clean escape back up top after collecting vital contact information for Devin.

 

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