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A Winterfest to Remember

by Lara Hoyle

 
It was the coldest day of the year. Vincent bundled up as he normally did, and just before he could finish putting on his left boot, a knock happened at the doorway of his chamber.

He could hear the normal sounds of a regular day Below starting. The endless tapping of Pascal and the Helpers, the sounds of people walking and talking and running here and there to get things done. He could also barely hear whispers and giggles coming from somewhere, but he knew the children were almost always making those noises.

"Vincent, you come? Kids want you to come see them." Mouse poked his head in the door. "Okay good okay fine?"

"Yes, I'll be there in a little." The lanky lion-faced man rose from the bed and began searching for his cape, which somehow was not in the room. He remembered that he had placed it on the top of his bedside chair the night before, having visited Catherine on her balcony. She had made hot chocolate for the two, and they had spent an hour in the cold looking up at the meteor shower in the winter skies.

After that she had invited him inside to warm up before he went home. She sent him with a backpack loaded with gloves and hats for the children, which he was going to deliver to the children today.

He walked out of his room, one backpack strap over his shoulder. Looking around and tilting his head he heard a message start and suddenly stop.

"Catherine is sending down some st...." The tapper saw him and put her stick down.

"Hi Vincent."

"Jamie what's with stopping the message? You know better than to stop. Catherine is sending what?"

"I know. It was supposed to be a Winterfest surprise for you. She's sending down some things for William. I saw her this morning when I went to help Mr. Chang with getting William some breakfast items at his bakery."

Jamie turned and tapped out the rest of her message on the pipe. Pascal heard and spread the word around to the other adults. Jamie also had the bags and was getting some of the older children to carry some of the load to William's kitchen, where pots of tea were beginning to whistle with the hot water boiling inside them.

Vincent then went into the dining chamber where the children were. His cape was splayed out lying on a table, flattened by several childish hands. They were carefully holding something in a circle and bunched close together sewing.

Mary was overseeing them.

"I thought you were going to sleep late Vincent."

"I remember that a couple days ago you asked me to come read to the children in the creche before the festivities began for Winterfest this afternoon."

"So I did...What book will you read?"

"I'll go get it. I think I will read something fun."

Mary looked at the children, the oldest being five years old. "Are you done, Chan?"

"Think so. That material is hard to push the needle through. Wish we had Mrs. Lopez's sewin'sheen." The blonde girl with the short hair smiled and then pushed her needle down through the cloth.

Mary finished off the crowd of children's stitches for the new black cloak they had sneakily done, made from black velvet and some midnight blue silky lining. Father had done well, sneaking into the room each night just to borrow the cape. Mary had the children work on the stitches from a pattern and then on the real cape, or at least Vincent's second best cape he wore when his first and most favorite cape was in the laundry. She knotted and snipped the threads quickly and then hid the new cape under one of her quilts that she had in a basket.

Vincent returned and read to the children as William and his army of helpers brought out breakfast. Oatmeal, biscuits, bacon, sausage...eggs, anything the hungry denizens from Below wanted, and it was on the buffet table.

Smells of meat roasting piqued many a curious head peeking into the kitchen, only to be chased out with a, "Shoo, or you'll have to help peel potatoes."

Catherine had sent some Helpers down with some beef ribs a recipe for barbecue for William so that he could give Vincent a Midwestern themed meal for the Winterfest feast. Others kept Vincent busy doing things so he couldn't find out what was going on in the Great Hall.

When Vincent finally went to collect Catherine and escort her Below, he found her dressed in a deep green gown that practically had her blonde hair glowing in the light of her candle when she greeted him on her Balcony.

"I'll meet you at the Threshold, Vincent." She beamed as he gave her a hug.

He went down the outside of her building, and what seemed like an eternity later they were wending their way to the Great Hall, followed by other Helpers and residents from Below. 

"Will you follow me through the dark Catherine?" He rasped, holding out his hand to her.

"There is no darkness, when you are with me."

Some of them knew of the surprise for Vincent; they smiled as they entered and he realized that the Great Hall was decorated to look like a wild western town from one of the paintings in one of the books from Father's library.

Catherine opened up a small box and placed a simple star, which said Sheriff, on Vincent's vest. "If I'm the sheriff, that must make Mary the school marm, and Father is the Mayor... What does that make you?"

"Hmmm… I think I must be one of the ladies that loves you Vincent." The whole group laughed, including the lanky lion man.

Father tapped his fork on his glass and got everyone's attention. He toasted the new year that had come, and they all remembered those Helpers and residents that were no longer with them, or were far away. 

William himself brought out the first huge chunk of ribs, causing oohs and ahhs of surprise from the hungry audience. Some of the older children sang or acted out short skits that went along with the theme of Wild West for Vincent.

At the end of the evening, many of the children had been whisked off to bed and many of the adults had gone away to their own beds as well. The only ones left in the chamber were Catherine and Vincent. One of the Helpers had left a battery operated, compact disk playing boombox with several CD’s of different music, western and not. Catherine found one CD with some violin and flute instrumentals mixed with nature sounds.

Catherine and Vincent danced until the last song on the cd ended...

 
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