Dreams of Thee

Chapter 5

 

“Mouse, may I come in?”

“Sure, fine, come in, Vincent.”

Vincent surveyed the mysterious assortment of projects lying haphazardly around the workroom.  He could not help but smile at the odd items which filled the room to overflowing, nor the fact that Mouse knew where each treasure seemed to belong within that maze.

“I have come to thank you for all you did for Catherine, Father and me.  Your help was of great value.  Pascal said you found Catherine’s necklace when you went above with Jamie and Cullen.”

Mouse moved to one of the benches, reached down and brought up the necklace. “No time to fix yet, but good as new soon,” he said as he laid the broken necklace in Vincent’s large hand.

The fine chain that Mouse had created was broken, several of the links missing, and a tiny chip shimmered on one side of the crystal.  Vincent stared at the crystal for several minutes, and then placed it back in Mouse’s still out-stretched hand. “Do your best to restore it, please.  The necklace means a great deal to Catherine,” he whispered. “And to me,” he added softly.  He turned to go, but Mouse stopped him. “Will Catherine see again?”

“I don’t know. Father and Peter say we must wait until the swelling is gone before we will know; until then we can only hope and pray.”

*******************

Turning into the main tunnel, Vincent spotted Father making his way toward his chamber.  He noticed how slowly he moved, how pronounced was his limp.  His graceful long strides caught up with Father very quickly and he took the medical bag from him.

“Did you sleep well, Father?”  The drawn, tired look on Father’s face bore evidence of the demands of the past seventy-two hours.  He could not recall when he had last seen Father this weary.  Then it hit him; the last time he had seen that look was during the darkest days of his youth, when his body changed and the beast within him threatened to overpower.  Father had stayed with him for weeks on end, reading to him, never leaving his side until he had recovered.  Taking Father’s arm, he offered his strength and support as they walked toward his chamber.

Vincent’s eyes immediately sought Catherine.  He moved across the room to stand beside her, gazing down at her while she slept. Unconsciously, he reached down to touch her, reassuring himself that she was here, with him, and all of this wasn’t a dream—a nightmare conceived in the darker recesses of his mind.

Father opened his bag and removed his stethoscope.  He listened to Catherine’s heart, then took her pulse. The response as he checked her pupils was no different than at the last check.  Carefully, he removed the bandage on her wrist, checking for infection.  Seeing the damage she had done renewed his anger.

Bringing the bag closer, setting it on the floor beside Father, Vincent carefully watched each thing Father did.  This was a habit begun years before, and one which Father had encouraged, because Father had felt it important for more than one person to know how to care for the injured or sick in the community.  Having cleansed the wound and applied an antiseptic, Father quickly re-bandaged her wrist.

“Sleep is the best thing for her.  If she awakens before I return, you may give her one of these.” He placed a bottle of pills in Vincent’s hand. “I wish to keep her as quiet as possible for the next few days.”

Gathering up his equipment, Father prepared to leave. “I’ll be in my study if you should need me.  Vincent, make sure you keep the pills out of reach and hidden.  They could be very dangerous in the wrong hands.”

Silently nodding, Vincent took the pills and placed them in a guarded spot.  He was aware of what it had cost Father to say those words and the reasons which compelled him to speak.

Settling into his chair, he withdrew his journal; it had been nearly eight days since he had written in it.  Taking the antique silver fountain pen in his hand, he quickly began to write in large angular strokes.  He had filled several pages before he looked again at Catherine’s sleeping form; satisfied with the steady rise and fall of her chest, he returned to the journal and began to write.

Catherine

The very writing of her name brings joy. Watching her sleep, assured that she is safe, and no harm can come to her--this I have done...but always, always, a door separated us. Now she sleeps here, in my bed! I never expected such joy could be mine.

She is so fragile, so tiny my bed seems to swallow her. How soft, how vulnerable she is.  When she is well, I must find the courage, the strength, to put aside my fears, and tell her of my love, my longings to do more than just hold her. The softness of her lips is beyond all dreams!

Father is silent. He says nothing, but I know he is distressed that I insist that I, only I, care exclusively for Catherine.  I feel his outrage.

How do I explain that Catherine and I share one soul?  Even I do not understand it.  I simply know that we do. Before Catherine, I went through the motions of living, now I am alive!

His head came up slowly; he heard her calling through their bond and he moved to her side.  Picking up her hand, he held it, softly stroking her palm and fingers, communicating his love. He could feel her relaxing, moving into a deeper sleep as he continued to stroke her hands.  He was content to sit, watching her sleep, as the hours passed.

“Vincent, may I come in? I have something for you and Catherine.”

“Pascal, yes. Please, do come in.”

 

Pascal moved cautiously into the chamber carrying a tray. Releasing Catherine’s hand, Vincent moved to clear a space for him.

“I thought you might like some hot tea. I did not see you at lunch so I felt perhaps you might enjoy it.  There is a sandwich, too.  Mary is making a hearty broth for Catherine for later.”

Vincent poured the tea into two cups, handing one to his friend as they settled back in a relaxed, comfortable silence born of years of friendship.  After a first cup, Vincent picked up the sandwich and began to slowly eat.  He ate with a precise grace which had fascinated Pascal for years.  He could not recall having witnessed Vincent ever drop a bite of food on his plate or on his clothes.  Pascal envied Vincent’s easy manners, unlike his own.  No matter how hard he tried, he ended up wearing some part of his meal!

“Pascal, could you sit with Catherine for a moment before you return to the pipes?  I shall only be gone for a short time. I wish to check on Father.  He seems very tired.”

“Of course, I will.”

Vincent quickly traveled the short distance to Father’s study. He found Father asleep in his chair, a book on his chest.  He put the book back on the desk, slipped his arms under Father’s sleeping form, carried him to his bed and covered him.  He knew Father must be exhausted since he didn’t awaken as he carried him.

Leaving the study, Vincent went to the kitchen facilities he shared with Father, got a kettle of hot water and returned to his own chamber.  A short time later, Pascal left to return to his pipes after extracting a promise from Vincent that he would send for him if his help was needed.

He poured the scalding water into the basin to cool, and then moved about the chamber gathering things to bathe Catherine.  He knew within his mind that he should call Mary to ask her to do this, but he was unable to allow Mary to do even this.  He warred with his conscience, but knew in advance the battle was lost.  Moving the basin to the floor along with the towels, he quickly set about his task.

The large bruises which had covered her left breast and hip were beginning to show signs of yellowing, but the sight of them still caused his breath to catch.   Silent tears slid down his face as he saw the vivid black and purple bruises which covered the hollow beneath her hip bone.  Slowly he lowered his head to that spot, kissing the darkest bruise.  Her waist seemed smaller to him as he finished drying her skin and slipped a clean shirt on her sleeping body.

She stirred slightly as he cleared away the towels.  She called softly and he was instantly at her side. “How are you feeling?”  His voice was warm, softly gentle as he caressed her cheek.

“I’m so sleepy.  My shoulder hurts.”

“Your shoulder hurts because it was wrenched from the socket when you were attacked. Father and Peter had to put it back in place.  The pain will subside soon.  You are sleepy because of the head injury; and Father wishes you to sleep, so he gave you a mild sleeping medication.”

“Will you hold me for a while?”

He turned back the blankets, and then slid in beside her, sliding his arms under her body.  He began to lightly massage her back, kneading the tight knot of pain there, drawing it away as her muscles melted into submission. “Feels good.” Her voice was soft and dreamy as sleep claimed her.

***********

He was still holding her hours later when Father entered the chamber.

“Why do you smile?” Vincent asked.

“Old men and fools are entitled to smile without explanation.”

“You are neither of those, Father.”

“I have come to ask if you will leave Catherine long enough to have a light supper with me?  Mary is finishing putting the children to bed and has volunteered to stay with Catherine, if you would care to eat.”  He smiled at his son, noticing the dark circles under his startling blue eyes.

“I would enjoy that, Father.”

A short time later Mary arrived, and they left to return to Father’s chamber.  The aroma of the soup Mary had left in the kitchen filled the chamber. “You rest and I’ll bring the soup,” Vincent said as he headed toward the kitchen.

He returned shortly with steaming bowls of soup, the freshly baked crusty bread which he adored, and mugs of tea. Carrying them to the table, Vincent realized he was famished.

“Will you tell me now, Father, why you were smiling so mysteriously in my chamber?”  They had finished their meal and were enjoying the tea.

Father looked at Vincent across his mug, and slowly he began to speak.  “When Catherine first came to our world, I could envision only problems for the community and heartbreak for you.  There was nothing I wouldn’t have done to prevent her involvement in our world. I have, so it seems, fought you and Catherine at every turn.”

Vincent rested his chin in his hands as Father continued to speak, his eyes never leaving Father’s face.

“The second night we spent in the surgery watching over Catherine, I realized what a fool I have been.  Seeing Catherine so injured, I realize I, too, have come to love her.” A slight smile played at the corners of Vincent’s mouth as he listened.

“Then, as I watched over you both, I remembered how much I had loved Margaret, the passion I felt for her, the warmth of her love; and I knew I could want nothing less for you.  To deny you this ardor, this joy, and this passion for the woman you love and who worships you . . . I realized I was wishing you less than a total commitment to life and living it to the fullest possible measure.  Catherine has brought you all of that and more.  For this, I shall be ever grateful to her.”

Vincent thought for a moment. “You still have not forgiven her, though, for what she attempted to do.” There was no condemnation in his voice, just the calm acceptance which was so much a part of who he was.

“No, I haven’t forgiven her that!  Be patient, Vincent. It will take time for me to work through my feelings on this subject. Life is too sacred to find compassion for those who would throw it away!”

Vincent rose, placed a hand on Father’s shoulder, and bent to kiss is head.  Father reached up to hold him for a long moment. “Time is kind to old men and fools, Father, allowing them space for growth and compassion.”  There was a smile in his voice as well as on his face.

Walking back to his chamber, Vincent thought of all Father had said as he entered quietly, thanked Mary for watching over Catherine again, and told her how delicious the soup had been. They talked for a few minutes before Mary left.

Sitting in his chair, he realized how exhausted he was. He pulled off is boots and socks, and as he rose, he removed his vest and sweater, leaving on the light shirt he wore underneath. He was aware of his own need to feel the complete, total peace he knew only with Catherine in his arms. He needed this tonight more than ever.

He pulled back the blankets, eased his large frame into the small space Catherine had left him, smiled, gathered her sleeping body close to his, and was instantly asleep.

 

Chapter 6

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