Things That Are Not ...


Chapter 10

by Janet Rivenbark


“There are more?” Diana asked as Vincent shifted a canvas tarp and uncovered what looked like more paintings.

“Looks like it,” he said as he turned the next one.

It was in the same vein, but it appeared to be a family portrait. It had Isolde and Tristan sitting on a bench and smiling down at two children playing on the floor in front of them. All members of the family had the bright red somewhere in their clothing.

He turned the next one to find Othello and Desdemona smiling at each other over the dark curls of a little girl of about five years. Both mother and daughter wore white and Othello wore the same white shirt from the first portrait of him.

Anxious to see the next one, Diana reached past Vincent and turned it around herself. It was Romeo and Juliet, both dressed in the same clothing that they’d worn in the previous paintings. Juliet was holding a small bundle wrapped in blue; both young parents smiled lovingly down on it.

There were two more paintings facing the wall. One had to be the happily ever after that Abelard and Héloise had been denied. The other? She was afraid to speculate.

She turned the painting and there were Abelard and Héloise surrounded by several children, two boys, a girl and Héloise was holding a chubby toddler on her knee. Everyone in the painting was wearing brown and smiling happily.  

Diana reached for the last painting, but Vincent beat her to it, preventing her from turning it.

“You don’t want to see?” she asked anxiously.

“What do you want it to be?” he asked as he shifted the painting so he could turn it easily.

“What do you want it to be?” she countered.

“That’s not fair, I asked first.”

“Life isn’t fair, Vincent,” she told him, seriously. “You of all people should know that.”

“I have no expectations,” he told her in a flat sounding tone.

“Are you referring to your life or the painting?” she asked before she took control of the situation. She gently pulled the painting from his hand and turned it.

It was similar to the other happy family paintings. She was there in the same lush green velvet gown she’d worn in the previous painting of her. She was sitting on a rough wooden bench. A very recognizable, but slightly older Jacob sat next to her. He wore short pants and jacket in the same fabric as her dress. Vincent, in what appeared to be the same clothing he’d worn in the other painting was down on one knee in front of them. He held Diana’s hand in his right hand as he offered a toy to Jacob with the other. His back was to the viewer so his face wasn’t visible.

But this painting was different. Even though he was interacting with Diana and Jacob in the picture, Vincent didn’t appear to be looking at them; he was looking up toward an almost transparent figure in deep wine red that was standing behind Jacob. The figure had one hand on Jacob’s shoulder and the other on Diana’s.  And the Diana in this painting was a very pregnant Diana. The dress had been adjusted to accommodate what looked like at least seven month’s worth of pregnancy, and she had cleavage that she’d never dreamed of having.

Diana gasped and Vincent groaned. He pulled the painting away from her and turned it to the wall.

“What does it mean?” she asked. Then it hit her and she answered her own question, “things that are not and that should be.

Vincent readjusted the tarp to cover the paintings then picked up the last one and headed back toward the door.

“Where are you going?” she called after him.

“Back Below,” he answered. “My son is waiting for me.”

She hadn’t even gotten a good look at his face, but she knew that the painting had really upset him. She’d be lucky if he ever spoke to her again.

She followed him, stopping only long enough to relock the warehouse door.

“Vincent, wait up, please,” she called after him as he headed toward the man hole. “We have to talk.”

She reached the man hole and was angry when she found he’d shifted the cover back into place. The damn things weighed close to three hundred pounds, she didn’t have a prayer of moving it. She was a good sixteen blocks from Central Park, but she headed off in that direction at a trot.

When she reached the tunnel entrance she was breathing hard, but she didn’t let it slow her down. She was halfway up the tunnel when she heard the sentry announce her arrival. She should have stopped and asked him not to, now Vincent would have time to take off.

She was surprised to find him in his chamber when she arrived. The painting wasn’t in sight, but he was sitting at his writing table staring blankly at the armoire across the chamber.

“I’m surprised to find you here,” she panted as she entered and took off her coat. She’d worked up a sweat running.

“You should be careful,” Vincent warned. “You’ve been sick and you don’t want to get chilled again.” He rose and went to put a couple pieces of wood on the fire in the brazier. When he was done, he picked the afghan off the end of the bed and held it out to her.

She took it and sat down on the side of the bed as he went back to his chair.

“What is wrong?” she asked.

“You were wrong. It should be a paraphrasing of Wilde: things that are not and that can’t be,” he said without looking at her.

“Why can’t it be?” she asked.

“Because I can’t,” he told her.

Diana decided that it was time that she told him the whole story of her conversation with Kristopher.

“You can’t what?” she asked. “Allow yourself to be happy? You know, Catherine wouldn’t have wanted that for you.”

“How do you know what Catherine would want?” he snapped, but at least he looked at her.

She took a deep breath and dove in. “Because Kristopher told me.”

“He told you? What?”

“That Catherine is worried about you; she wants you to be happy. I think that is what he was trying to tell you with that painting.”

“He’s talked to Catherine?” Vincent asked incredulously. 

“Well, not talked to her exactly…” Diana began.

“No, I don’t talk to her…” they both heard the voice before they saw the man who spoke. Suddenly Kristopher was there, standing next to the armoire Vincent had been staring down earlier. He crossed the chamber and sat on the chair across the table from Vincent. “As I told Diana before, it’s not talking, exactly. It doesn’t work like that, like us talking here. I just kind of know something, and I know it came from her. But sometimes you might become aware of something, a presence, a feeling. That’s her, she’s been around more lately, checking on you and her son. She worries about both of you.”

“Why?” Vincent asked the same question that Diana had asked.

“She wants to see you and Jacob happy. She worries that you aren’t letting yourself be happy. She feels that you feel guilty when you are happy. She doesn’t want you to mourn forever. You’ve put in your time; now you should move on, for Jacob’s sake as much as your own. ”

“So that’s why you are here?” Vincent asked. He’d completely forgotten that Diana was there. She watched intently.

Kristopher rolled his eyes and then sighed in frustration.  “Cathy was, still is, a wonderful person, but she’s not real any more. You still carry her in your heart and you are a different man from the one you were before you knew her, but that is all that is real now. That and Jacob and you and Diana. These paintings are a facsimile of what life, real life, could be. You, Jacob, Diana; that’s life. Don’t waste it; it’s not everyone who gets a second chance at a happy life.”

“I have Catherine’s blessing to move on?” Vincent asked, never taking his eyes off the man across the table from him.

“Yes! And as I told Diana, the world’s too cold a place to deny the things that should be.”

Diana watched as the last words left his lips and he just vanished. He didn’t fade away, or shimmer away like someone being transported on Star Trek; he just blinked out. He was there one second and a split second later he wasn’t.

When Diana looked at Vincent, his head was resting in his hands and he was as still as a rock.

She stood and went to stand beside him. She placed her hand on his shoulder.

“You OK, Vincent?” she asked as she rubbed his shoulder.

It always amazed her how quickly Vincent could move. The next thing she knew his arms were around her hips and his head was pressing into her midriff. She instinctively put her arms around him and reached down to rub his back.

“What is it?” she asked. “Is something wrong?”

He hesitated before speaking. “No, nothing is wrong,” he told her before he pulled out of her embrace and sat back to look up at her. “You’ve been very patient with me.”

“Did I have any choice?” she asked. “Would it have helped if I’d jumped your bones and tried to have my way with you?”

He finally broke down and smiled sheepishly as he rose and started to pace. But this pacing was slow, more as if he needed something to keep him occupied than his usual agitated quick pacing. Diana remained standing in the center of the chamber as he moved around her.

“No, it probably wouldn’t have,” he admitted. “It probably would have scared the daylights out of me, and I would have run to the deepest, darkest chambers we have down here.”

“That is exactly what I thought.” She leaned on the table. “So what do you think of what Kristopher told you?”

“About Catherine being worried about me?” he asked, playing for time.

“That and what he said about her being around a lot more lately. You believe him?”

“I believe him,” he said emphatically. “I’ve heard Jacob talking to her.” At her sudden turn toward him, he nodded. “I recently moved his crib into a small chamber off mine. I was keeping him awake at night when I was up late reading or writing. Since he moved, I often hear him talking to someone. At first I thought he was talking in his sleep, but when I went and checked on him, I would find him standing in his crib looking up at someone standing at the end of it. When I asked him who it was, he told me it was Mama. I had my doubts, but then I started seeing movement out of the corner of my eye and sensing a presence that had a feeling similar to Catherine. I was surprised that it didn’t make me miss her more. It made me feel good, as if she was trying to let me know that she was all right. Now, with what Kristopher just told me, I’m sure it was her and that what he was saying is true. She does want me to be happy.”

She stood looking at him for almost a minute before she spoke. “So, where does that take us?” she asked.

“I think my happiness lies with you,” he said earnestly. “Jacob likes you, everyone Below likes you…”

“What about you?” she asked. His statement that his happiness lay with her had set her heart to pounding. “Do you like me?” 

He had to smile at that. “I like you a lot, Diana. I more than like you. In fact, in spite of myself, I’ve fallen in love with you.”

She would have thrown herself into his arms at that point if he hadn’t held up his hand, fending her off.

“There’s a but, isn’t there?” she almost wailed. “There is always a but…what is it?” 

This time he laughed outright. “No, no but…it’s just that you are going to have to get used to being with a parent…possibly being a parent. I have to make sure that Jacob is taken care of for the night before I can think of myself or of you. Give me a few minutes to make sure that it’s all right if Jacob spends the night with his grandfather; then I’ll walk you back to your loft and we can talk.

As he walked past her to the entrance to his chamber, she reached out and grabbed his arm.

“This isn’t all some fever dream, is it?” she asked with trepidation. “I was having some pretty vivid dreams when I had a fever. This isn’t just a continuation, is it?”

Vincent turned and unhesitatingly gathered her into his arms. “If it is, then I must have caught whatever you had,” he said as he lowered his lips to hers.



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