Love in the Tunnels

by Alyssa G.

 

That smell…it was getting stronger. Roses? Here? This part of the Tunnels was a fair distance from the main chambers, and several levels below the surface. The smell couldn’t be drifting down from a grate or opening Above, and yet…there it was. Even if someone Below had been given a bouquet by a Helper, the smell wouldn’t have been as strong as it was. Curious, Vincent proceeded down the empty tunnel, letting the fragrant scent guide him.

As he rounded a bend in the passageway, the mystery deepened, for the floor was covered with a trail of rose petals, leading to an area that Vincent knew concealed a secluded cavern. As far as he knew, he and Mouse were the only two tunnel dwellers to have ever found it. The sound of feminine giggling caused Vincent to stop in his tracks. He would never want to intrude on a private interlude, but as he had pointed out to Mouse when they found this section, parts of this area were unstable. As long as you knew where to go you were fine, but if someone new had found the cavern and was unaware of the danger, what started as a romantic escapade could quickly end in tragedy.

Vincent hurried along the passage, trying to make as much noise as possible as he went. He shuffled and stamped his feet, cleared his throat, and even dropped the thermos he was carrying hard upon the ground, all in an effort to give whoever was in the cavern ahead as much notice as possible.

Mouse popped his head out of the cavern entrance, a relieved look on his face. “Just you. Good. Bad if Father. Would have tried to stop us.”

Smiling at the young man, Vincent placed his hand upon Mouse’s arm in greeting. While he secretly agreed that Father might not take well to the idea of Mouse bringing a girl with him to a potentially dangerous part of the Tunnels, he didn’t want him to think that Father would have been overly harsh either.

“Mouse, Father understands about love, truly he does. If you and . . . .” Vincent paused, thinking for a moment about who Mouse might have brought with him. Jamie, perhaps? “and someone who is special to you came here to be alone, I’m sure Father would have understood, though he might have wished you to pick a safer place to be alone.”

“Had to come here. Needed privacy. Too many people near Mouse’s chamber. Might have tried to stop things.”

Vincent smiled shyly at that, not quite able to meet Mouse’s eyes. “Mouse, most people do understand the need for privacy. You could always draw a curtain over your doorway, or . . . .”

Mouse was already shaking his head. “Wouldn’t work. People can’t come in if door blocked.”

“Yes, but that is the point, Mouse. You said you wanted privacy.”

“Only from some. Not from everyone. Have to have door open for guests to come.”

Vincent’s head shot up at that. “Guests? Why would you want guests during a private time?”

“Need witnesses. Jamie said so. Found out.”

Vincent was beginning to feel like he’d missed something, or perhaps several somethings. At least his curiosity had been answered by the mention of Jamie’s name, but witnesses?!

“Mouse, why did Jamie say that you need witnesses?”

“Right way to do it. Proof that did it, that everything done right.”

Vincent couldn’t help thinking that this conversation had to be the oddest one of his adult life. “Mouse, would it be okay if I talked to Jamie about this? Is she inside the cavern?”

Mouse smiled at that and nodded happily. “Come. Talk to Jamie. Be witness, too. Good, fine, better than fine. Know lot about love, because of Catherine.”

Vincent shook his head and followed Mouse inside. The room was covered with more rose petals, and there, at the center of the room, was Charlie Hanover, a Helper who worked as a Justice of the Peace Above. Charlie smiled at Vincent’s bemused expression. “Hello, Vincent. Long time no see. So, here to witness the big event?”

“Charlie, you don’t mean to say that you’re here to perform a wedding?”

The twinkle in Charlie’s eyes grew brighter, as it often did when he had a great joke to tell. “Absolutely! Don’t you think that they make a great couple?”

Vincent’s mouth dropped open at the thought. Yes, Mouse and Jamie had known each other for years, but they were so young, and why did they feel that they had to marry in secret? “Jamie, Mouse, I’m sure you feel very strongly about what you’ve planned for today, but you must realize . . . .”

“I don’t believe you!” Jamie interrupted.

“Mean!” Mouse agreed. ”Didn’t think you’d be mean about love.”

“Mouse, I’m not trying to be mean. I just thought . . . Mouse . . . most people would want their loved ones with them on their wedding day.”

“Have that. Jamie and I here. Arthur loves us best.”

“Arthur?”

Jamie smiled at Vincent, while hugging Mouse’s arm close to her side. “Don’t they make a beautiful couple?”

Vincent followed Jamie’s glance downward, and began to understand Charlie’s good mood.

“Yes, Jamie, they do, it’s just…I never pictured Arthur taking a bride.”

Vincent shook his head, and smiled down at the sight of Mouse’s pet raccoon wearing a bow tie, with another raccoon in a veil by his side.

 

 

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