Catherine and Vincent have endured much in their first year together. The Bond between them has deepened, and has gained such strength, that they seem to love and cherish each other more with every passing day! And although the ways of love and romance are all new to Vincent, he manages to make Catherine happier than she has ever been. Valentine's Day is approaching, and it will serve them well as a wonderful day to celebrate their love!
by Sharon Holtz
Romeo: Ah Juliet if the measure of thy joy be heap'd like mine...
Juliet: My true love is grown to such excess, I cannot sum up half my sum of wealth!
"Be careful Catherine, take my hand."
Vincent held out a strong protective hand, reaching for Catherine's, to guide her from the drainage pipe she was standing on, across the chasm to the one he had just jumped to.
She looked at him, her eyes sparkling with excitement, then placed a trusting hand in his and took the daring leap. Catherine remembered the last time they had taken this seldom used route, when Vincent was leading her back home to re-enter her world above. The feelings she'd experienced that day, the fear, the uncertainty, washed over her again, as if it were yesterday. She remembered thinking how safe she felt here, below. She remembered the first sensations of not wanting to leave Vincent - this man who had saved her, fed and read to her. This man who had helped her become the strong woman she was today. He had helped her grow in spirit too, and she had not look at the world the same way since.
Vincent held on to Catherine's hand as they traveled down the rocky passage to the falls. In some places she had to walk behind him because the passage-way was so narrow. She found herself enjoying these times, when she was free to look at him (from behind!) with out him being aware. So cute, she thought to herself, yes Vincent definitely had some cute buns!
Once they'd arrived at the falls, they settled down for rest in a favorite spot. Vincent sat down first, leaning against the rocky surfaced wall, pulling Catherine close to him. He looked down at her, stealing just a moment to admire her beauty. It's wonderful having her this close, he thought.
Catherine was overwhelmed by the majestic grandeur of this magical cavern! She giggled as she looked up at him. " Oh Vincent I feel as if I am in another world! I'm so lucky to be able to come here with you! Your world is breathtaking!"
He held her closer, thinking, No, my Catherine, you are breathtaking! His Catherine! He loved the way she at times looked at life, so excitedly, much as a child would. Although he tried, he couldn't remember ever seeing life in that way.
Vincent was anxious to read a few passages from an old favorite book he'd re-discovered that morning as he was looking through his extensive library. The old favorite was Joseph (John) Merrick's Autobiography. The telling of this remarkable man's life, in his own words, beguiled Vincent so. This man had had such a loving, forgiving nature. Vincent felt he needed to be held up and admired for all to emulate. It ended with a beautiful poem, and it moved Vincent so, perhaps partly because of his own plighted fate, but mostly because the words and the sentiment were so beautiful. Now, in his deep, velvety voice, he read it beautifully to Catherine.
|"'Tis true my form is something odd |
But blaming me is blaming God
Could I create myself anew?
I would not fail in pleasing you
If I could reach from pole to pole
Or grasp the ocean with a span
I would be measured by the soul
The minds the standard of the man
"Oh Vincent, I know Joseph Merrick's story, and I've always thought of him as possessing a soul so advanced beyond the ordinary human spirit! Vincent, how do you suppose he was able to endure so much pain and cruelty from the unkind people around him, and yet sustain a childlike perspective about the things he loved?"
He looked out over the falls for a moment before answering, "By not focusing on the cruelty, Catherine, but rather on the beauty. He had some wonderful people in his life as well."
Hearing his words, Catherine wondered if that simple truth was what had sustained Vincent throughout his life.
And there they sat contentedly for a time, reading to each other until Vincent said, " It's time we head for the dining hall and our potluck dinner. It's not often William allows other cooks a chance. What have you brought us, Catherine?"
"Mmmmm," he smiled. "Then let's go!"***There were shouts of hello to the popular couple as they entered the dining hall. The smaller children especially, loved Catherine. Vincent noticed how she greeted them all with genuine love and affection, and it warmed him so.
The teenage girls loved and admired Catherine, too. Marveling at her beauty, they watched how she acted when she was with Vincent. They knew that she, being who she was, could have any man in the whole wide world, but her love had led her here to Vincent. They knew this was a tremendous example for them - a lesson to love purely, and without reservation. The girls would often discuss the relationship between Vincent and Catherine, and they always wondered whether they had kissed or not! In their romantic teenage heart's they hoped they had.
Father made his usual, rounds, greeting everyone before dinner. "Ah, good evening Catherine! I trust you have enjoyed your day here with us?"
Catherine smiled at Father and was taken back a little by the fact that he'd addressed only her, without including Vincent. Their relationship was improving, but she still didn't feel fuzzy warm about Father yet. Though she admire him immensely, she just couldn't seem to let her guard down when she was around him.
"Oh yes! Thank you Father, I did."
Jacob nodded. "Good, good. Very well then, shall we all be seated?" Father too couldn't seem to loosen up with Catherine. He tried in his own way, and things were getting better each time that they met, but still. . .
Catherine glanced at Vincent, and was met by an understanding look and a raised eyebrow, as if to imply, What can I say, that's my Father!
Father presided over the evening meal, and after he prayed his prayer of thanks, he gave everyone the okay to queue up for dinner. The entire community lined up for the buffet.
Catherine made sure that Vincent got a big square of her lasagne, and he assured her of how much he liked and enjoyed it!
He likes my cooking! she thought.
"Here Vincent ,give me your plate, I'll go get you some more!"
But as she started to rise he called out, "No, uh no, that's all right, Catherine. We need to save enough for everyone to sample!"
Catherine nodded in agreement, "Of course, you're right Vincent." But as she watched the progress of the food line it seemed as if no one was digging into her dish, or if they started to they would suddenly put the serving spoon back and walk onto the next offering. Looking over at Vincent she caught him trying to give what was left of his portion to Arthur, Mouse's racoon! "Vincent! Is there something wrong with my lasagne?"
"Well, ah . . ." he hesitated.
Deciding she'd better taste for herself, she took a bite of the lasagne from his plate. She swallowed hard and looked embarrassingly at Vincent. "Oregano . . . too much Oregano . . ."
Vincent put a loving arm around her shoulder. "Oh Catherine, don't think of yourself as a bad cook, but rather as an advocate for Oregano! Catherine, your efforts are so much appreciated, please don't let this concern you. I've offered Arthur a few of William's dishes in the past as well!"
"You have?" She looked up at him, a cute pout on her lips.
"Yes," he nodded in the affirmative, resting his head atop hers for one sweet moment.
They shared a laugh between them and continued to enjoy the fellowship of everyone at their table. After dinner, they, along with everyone else helped with the clean up.
Sadly, it wasn't long after their meal when Vincent told Catherine they should go. He wanted to walk her back home, not just to her apartment's basement entry, but rather he longed to take a walk with her through the park, and then he planned to meet her up on her balcony to bid her one last goodnight.
As they waved and said their goodnights to everyone, Mary approached, handing them them with a special invitation. "Vincent, Catherine, you must attend. Some of the older children came up with this idea. It should be lovely. Anyway, have a good evening you two. Goodnight."
Vincent had read the invitation, then refolded it without telling Catherine what it said. Her curiosity was about to burst, but she held back asking. She knew when Vincent put up his barriers, that it was for a reason, and she decided not to pushed it.
Catherine laced her arm through his as the walked silently through the park. Though she was troubled by his mood change, she tried to act as if she didn't notice. Parting at the back of her building, where Vincent was to begin his climb, she smiled and said, "I'll be waiting on the balcony," and then she entered.
Catherine ran through her apartment to the balcony doors, where she flung them open, and stepped out into the night's darkness, and to Vincent's side. He was gazing over the landscape, and seemed very deep in thought. She let out a shiver on this cold chilly February night, and thought to her self how nice it would be if Vincent would finally consent to enter her apartment! Asking in a way that would be hard to refuse, she said, "Vincent, it is so cold out tonight, perhaps it would be nice if we went inside and built a fire in the fireplace to sit by."
Vincent turned to look at Catherine and then past her into her softly lit apartment. Yes, he thought, tonight I'm ready! He made a hesitant step forward.
Grabbing his hand before he changed his mind, Catherine walked backward and playfully pulled him inside the threshold.
He did not fight her this night. Vincent often worried about Catherine catching a cold out on the balcony during his visits. He knew that it was time to finally make this concession.
Catherine wanted to cry out she was so happy. Vincent was finally comfortable enough with her to come inside. "Let me take your cloak, Vincent."
He felt a bit uneasy. "Catherine, perhaps I shouldn't stay since it is the eve of a work day, you need your sleep."
She held his hand tightly. "Vincent, don't you know that I would gladly give up a bit of sleep to spend time with you!"
He sighed and slowly untied his cloak his cloak, looking at Catherine in a way that sent her hormones through the roof.
Yes, he had this sweet insecure look that would cross his face when he felt uncertain. Catherine loved it, and every other look that crossed his face for that matter. She loved everything about him. "Vincent, come and help me light a fire," she said innocently.
He knew she didn't intend for that to sound so seductive, but the way she was looking at him . . . He followed her like a lovesick boy, who at that moment would have done whatever she asked.
He knelt down to build the fire, then stepped back to gaze at the flames. Catherine had grabbed some pillows to rest on, and was sitting on the floor waiting for Vincent to join her. He looked down at her, sitting there waiting to welcome him into her arms! Yes he knew her thoughts, and how she longed for something more from him, but he couldn't get over his past. This platonic relationship that they shared seemed to be all he could ever give her . . . but he longed for it to be more, so much more that it pained him deep in his soul.
He sat down beside her, stretching his long muscled legs in front of him. Raising a knee he rested an elbow upon it. With his chin in his palm, he contemplated asking Catherine a question. He looked over at her smiling face, deciding to put his heavy thoughts aside for the moment. Instead, he reached over and pulled Catherine into the circle of his embrace.
The fire flickered on his majestic, high cheek-boned features making him look all the more regal and attractive to Catherine. She smiled up at him again, waiting for him to return her gaze, but when he didn't she touched his face and gently turned his chin to look at her. "Vincent, what's wrong? What's on your mind?"
He averted his eyes so Catherine couldn't see into his soul, as she seemed to be able to do. Gathering his thoughts, he finally said, "Catherine, this is very hard for me to ask."
"Vincent, there are very few secrets between us, there is nothing on this earth that I feel that I cannot talk to you about. Don't you feel like that with me too?"
"Well, yes Catherine, it's just that. . ."
She searched his face for a hint of what he was eluding to. "Go on, Vincent."
He couldn't sit still a moment longer. He thought much better when he was on his feet. Standing up, Vincent continued, "Catherine, may I have the privilege of escorting you to a celebration Wednesday night? It's to be in the Great Hall."
Catherine smiled, wondering why that was so hard for Vincent to ask. He had invited her several times below to other functions, and celebrations. "Oh Vincent, I would love that. Let's see that will be . . . oh my . . . that's Valentine's Day! Is it a Valentine's Day Celebration, Vincent? Is that what the invitation from Mary was about?"
"Yes," he answered quietly. "It is, Catherine. The invitation says that it's a . . . a Sweetheart's Dance. "
Confused by his hesitant manner, almost as if he didn't want her to accept, she asked, "Vincent, do you want me to go with you? I feel as if you're not happy about this celebration."
Vincent looked heavenward, releasing a troubled sigh. "Oh Catherine, yes I would love for you to attend with me, but it's just that I'm not sure that I have the right to ask you to bear that title, and to call you. . .well to assume that. . .to say that you are my . . . sweetheart!"
Catherine thought back on the past year, and of the closeness they had worked so hard for. The deep friendship that had developed between them since that first night he rescued her in the park. Yes, it was genuine and strong. Catherine thought she understood Vincent's reservations, and a part of her knew that what he said was true. They still had so many barriers . . . so many to break down. They had yet to share a kiss, or to tell one another I love you! But, she did feel as though he was her boyfriend, a term that seemed so out of place with a man such as Vincent perhaps, but none the less she was in love with him and she had nothing but romantic fantasies about him. "Vincent . . . it would make me feel so wonderful if you would think of me in that way . . . as your sweetheart."
Vincent took her hand in his, saying, "Oh Catherine, how can I make you understand?" Turning away, he began pacing in an effort to sort out his thoughts.
How can I tell her what this term of endearment implies in my mind? Sweetheart. It involves so much more than a hug or a bit of hand holding, but rather being two people in love, and being lovers!
Vincent couldn't shake these feeling that he was letting Catherine down, being stuck in a relationship with him, a relationship full of limitations! "Oh Catherine, you deserve so much, so much more than I can give you. You deserve a life that is free of restrictions, a life without limits!"
With tears in her eyes, Catherine spoke, "There is no life without limits! And Vincent, for me there is no life without you!"
His voice was tearful when he answerd. "Catherine, how I wish that I could tell you how I feel about you, of what I want for us, and of what I know to be true!"
Catherine wanted to hear so badly the things Vincent seemed unable to say to her. Her feelings for him were over-powering, and she longed to know that he felt the same. "Please Vincent, say the words. I need to hear the words."
He looked down at her, his beautiful eyes full of want and desire. "Catherine, Valentine's Day is a day for. . . lovers! A day for people who are in love, a day for exchanging passionate cards, and a day for fantasizing about intimacies that will surely follow a romantic evening together. A day for promises, promises of fulfilling each other's innermost fantasies. Catherine, I do have all these feelings for you, and there is so much that I want to give to you! And words, there are words that I long to say to you. But I can't! I feel as if I have no right."
Catherine started to cry. She wanted and needed Vincent so badly, and she didn't know how to help him take these steps toward love.
Rising above his own pain Vincent could to see how much he was upsetting Catherine. He picked her up into his arms and settled on the couch with her, holding her to him, trying his best to still her heartbreaking sobs. He could feel her hot heaving breath on his neck, as she wrapped her arms around him, burying her head on his shoulder. His bountiful hair provided a soft pillow for Catherine to hide her face in.
In a voice so rich and full of passion, Vincent's told her, "Oh Catherine, I didn't mean to upset you. Please don't cry. Catherine I want to tell you. . . tell you how much. . . howmuch I love you!"
Hearing the words she had been waiting for, Catherine raised her head from his shoulder and looked up at him, her eyes full of tears. "Vincent . . . oh Vincent, I love you too."
He felt the joy of Catherine's words, and the joy of releasing his own. "Catherine, I love you so deeply and so madly. Sometimes I imagine that we are just like any other man and woman, and I am making love to you. And we are satisfying each other's desires, in ways that only two people who are truly in love can do." He continued, breathlessly, "Ah Catherine, just thinking about you in this way, could send me spiraling upward onto another plain, and I could lose myself. Catherine, it is these wild cravings that I fear. I do not know where it might carry me. . .carry us!"
"Vincent, all these feelings that you have for me, they are the same as I have for you, but they're not to be feared or tamed Vincent. These feeling you describe, they're also known by another name, and that name is passion. All people who are in love feel this way." Catherine shyly looked at him before continuing, "Vincent, even though we have not made love to each other with our physical bodies, there are other unions just as intimate, just as beautiful, and just as powerful. That union, Vincent, is the union of our hearts and of our souls. This kind of relationship between two people qualifies them as lovers too!"
"Catherine, I wish to be your lover in every sense of the word. I know you want this too, I can feel your desires reaching through our bond. But . . . I don't know if we dare . . . Catherine if ever I were to harm you. . ."
She looked at him directly and confidently. "Then we must go slowly, and with great care. I know in my heart that in time, our day will come. Vincent, it's true that I do want and desire you more than I can put into words. More than I've ever felt for any man. But I can wait for you. There would be no joy in rushing you into something that you were uncomfortable with, or unsure about. Vincent, I want you to be fully certain that it's what you want too." Catherine looked at him with a loving gaze before going on. "I don't want you to be afraid. . . afraid to want it, even if only for yourself. And don't think that you don't deserve it. You deserve everything!"
Vincent looked at her, feeling the tears fall softly from his eyes. Her words, words he'd desperately needed to hear, had moved him so. That she could understand him so completely and that she was willing to wait!
With her own tears overflowing, Catherine took Vincent's hand and held it to her cheek. "Oh Vincent, you are everything to me. I have thought of you as my sweetheart for a very long time now. Was that wrong of me, Vincent?"
He held her tightly now. "Wrong? Catherine how could anything as sweet as that possibly be wrong? But I still do not understand how you care for me as you do!"
Shaking her head in wonderment, and asked him, "Vincent, you really don't know how handsome you are, do you? You truly are so beautiful, and I wouldn't change a thing about you! I guess that I just love everything about you!"
Catherine had never spoken to him like that before. He smiled shyly and tried maintain steady breathing. Though found it hard to believe that Catherine could think of him as handsome, he regained enough measure of confidence to ask again, "Catherine, may I call upon you Wednesday? Will you accompany me to the Sweetheart's Dance?"
It all she could do to keep from kissing his tempting mouth, just inches away from her own. In her dreams she would have, and in fact, in her dreams she had, and a whole lot more! But, she wanted this to be a step that Vincent initiated. No, she would wait.
"So? . . . Catherine . . . may I?"
Snapping out of her thoughts of kissing Vincent, she answered, "Oh yes, Vincent I would love to go with you."
Vincent brushed his nose across her silky hair, inhaling that sweet, sweet scent of her. "Catherine, I am still undecided what I should give you as a Valentine's gift."
Catherine looked at him thoughtfully. "Just promise me that it will be something simple and from your heart Vincent, nothing fancy, and I will do the same."
He nodded, "Very well Catherine, I will be giving this some great thought as the day draws near." He sighed, "Well, I will be going now so that you can get some rest. Until Wednesday, Catherine. . ."
"Yes Vincent, until Wednesday."
With that, Vincent bent ever so slightly, as if he were about to kiss her, and for an instant Catherine's heart stood still. But the moment passed . . . and with one last look, he descended her balcony.