A Kind of Magic
She sat on her bed, every part of her body held tense, hoping and praying that she wouldn’t be wanted tonight, that she’d be left alone. Time passed, and she thought that perhaps, for once, her prayers had been answered. But it was not to be, as suddenly her bedroom door was flung open, and he was there.
"Come on Sarah, time to go. I want you to be especially nice to this guy."
"Please Steve, not tonight, I don’t feel so good."
He was across the room in an instant, and grabbed hold of her and pulled her roughly to her feet.
"I don’t care how you feel Sarah, you are ‘entertaining’ Mr. Smith tonight."
"Please Steve…" she began, but he silenced her by slapping her hard across the face.
"Now stop whining and come on."
He took hold of her arm and started to lead her out of the room, but she pulled back.
"No, I’m not gonna do this anymore, I’ve had enough. You can’t make me, you don’t own me."
He was stunned for a moment at her audacity. But only for a moment…and then he turned on her, and his temper knew no bounds.
"You stupid, useless, bitch," he screamed, punctuating each word with a slap, "of course I own you. You’d still be on the streets if it wasn’t for me."
"I’d rather be on the streets than with you you bastard," she screamed back at him, her fear of him momentarily held at bay. Then she realised what she had said, and started backing away trying to apologise as she saw the look of madness in his eyes.
"P…please Steve….I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it."
But her words went unheeded as he advanced on her, and for the next ten minutes he laid into her with his feet and fists.
He looked down at her, breathing heavily.
"Let that be a lesson to you bitch. I’ll never let you go. Do you understand?"
She didn’t answer straight away so he kicked her again.
"Do you understand?"
She nodded her head.
He was just about to leave when he saw that her skirt was hitched well up on her thighs…and he could see the v of hair through the flimsy panties she was wearing, and despite the state she was in he was instantly aroused.
Although her face was swollen, and one of her eyes half closed, she saw it.
"Please Steve…no, I beg you, please don’t."
But her plea fell on deaf ears, and when he’d finally finished with her she was all but unconscious, totally unable to move.
"Let that be a lesson to you bitch, I hope I haven’t got to repeat it."
And with that he left the room, leaving her lying on the floor.
Several hours later she had worked up enough energy to get up off the floor.
It was a very slow process because of her injuries, and when she finally did get up she nearly fainted from the pain, but all she could think about was getting to the bathroom to clean herself up. She made her way very slowly, having to stop several times, but eventually she got there. She got herself undressed with trembling hands, and when she’d taken everything off she looked in the full length mirror that was in there…and gasped in horror at what she saw.
There wasn’t an inch of skin that wasn’t bruised, and there was blood on her thighs. She filled the bath with water as hot as she could bear, and got in and lowered herself very carefully into it. When she’d lain for a while, letting the water soothe her aches, she washed herself. She felt like scrubbing her body to get his filth off her, but everywhere was too tender. When she’d finished she got out and dried herself, then got dressed in her ‘normal’ clothes, having decided that there was no way on Earth that she was ever going to wear her ‘working’ clothes again.
She had also decided that she was going to get the hell out of there. She seriously thought about taking some clothes with her, but then decided that there was nothing she wanted. Everything she owned belonged to him.
She went back into the bedroom and went to the door, opened it very carefully and looked out and stood listening for any sounds that would indicate that he was in the house, but all was silent. She was just about to leave when she realised that she was bleeding, but thinking that it was just her monthly come early, she just got a pad as normal, and put some more into a small bag. But unknown to her he had caused some serious damage when he’d raped her.
She got to the front door and opened it, and was just about to leave when she saw him coming along the street, so she went out of the back door instead, hoping that he wouldn’t go to her room and discover that she wasn’t there. Her luck held and she got safely away, but she hadn’t gone far when she knew that she was bleeding a lot, but once again put it down to the fact that it was just her monthly.
Finding a public toilet she went in and went into a cubicle, and discovered that the pad she had on was soaked, and for the first time she faced the possibility that perhaps it wasn’t her monthly. But she knew that she couldn’t do anything about it until she was further away, so she just put some extra pads on and left, knowing that she had to find some place to stay.
She walked for what seemed to her hours, and eventually reached Central Park not caring that it was dark now, and the park had a bad reputation for attacks on lone women. She was simply past caring. But she knew that she must find some shelter because it was starting to get cold and in her now weakened state she knew that she’d never survive.
She carried on walking and had just about given up on finding anywhere, when she saw the storm drain. Knowing it wasn’t ideal it was better than nothing…at least she’d be sheltered. By now she could barely put one foot in front of the other, but she eventually reached it and went inside…and collapsed.
A short while later, if she’d been conscious, she would have seen a section of the wall open, and a tall cloaked figure emerge. He saw her immediately and went to her side and knelt down, keeping his hood well down over his face, but he realised that she was unconscious, and judging by the bruises on her face he knew she’d been beaten. Then his sensitive nostrils twitched as he smelt blood…a lot of blood, and knew that he must get her as quickly as possible to Father. Also knowing that he’d get a lecture about ‘bringing strangers Below.’ But what could he do, she was badly injured…possibly dying… wasn’t she?
He lifted her very gently into his arms and got to his feet, and was appalled when he saw how much blood was on the floor. What in God’s name had happened to her? Was it a miscarriage? All he knew was that if he didn’t get to her to Father as soon as possible she would die. He got the panel open and stepped inside, shut it behind him and started walking as quickly as he dared.
Not far in he met one of the sentries.
"Vincent, who is she, what happened?"
"I don’t know Philip, I found her just inside the storm drain. All I do know is that she is badly injured. Could you please send a message on the pipes for Father to meet me in the Hospital Chamber?"
"Of course I will. Will I tell him why?"
"Yes…no, just that I’m bringing someone. I’ll face the music when I get there."
Philip grinned because he knew what Vincent meant, then he ran off to the nearest pipe and Vincent continued on his way, and the way had never seemed so long before. As he was walking his mind went back to when he’d found Catherine. An act of violence had brought her to him, and it was the same with this young woman. But looking at her more closely he realised that she was only a child, so it couldn’t be a miscarriage. Could it?
Meanwhile Father had received Vincent’s message and had gone to the Hospital Chamber, not knowing quite what to expect. Only that Vincent was ‘bringing someone.’
He sighed deeply. When would his errant son realise that he couldn’t, shouldn’t just bring strangers Below? But he wouldn’t do so unless it was something serious. So what could it be this time? And was it a man or…
His speculation came to an abrupt end as Vincent entered.
"Vincent, how many times must I tell you…" he began, but Vincent stopped him.
"Father, may we please have this conversation later? I think this child is bleeding to death."
Father switched to ‘doctor’ mode instantly.
"Well don’t just stand there, put her on the bed."
Vincent crossed the chamber and laid her gently down.
"I thought she might be having a miscarriage, but she’s only a child."
Father took one look at her.
"Vincent will you please fetch Mary?"
"Yes of course I will." He left the chamber and Father turned back to the bed.
As soon as Mary arrived Father put some screens round the bed, and they started undressing Sarah. When her body was finally revealed and they saw the bruising, they were both horrified.
"My God," Father whispered. "Who could have done this?"
Mary couldn’t answer him, she was too choked up.
Father examined Sarah intimately, and knew that she was haemorrhaging and that if he didn’t stop the bleeding she would bleed to death.
"We must stop this bleeding Mary, otherwise…"
For the next half hour they both worked silently, and then finally,
"I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ve managed to stop it," Father said. "But if it starts again…" he didn’t finish his sentence.
Next Father checked out the rest of her body, and despite the severity of the beating she had received, there appeared to be no broken bones. Of course he couldn’t tell if there were any internal injuries.
Mary came from behind the screens, and came upon a familiar sight. Vincent was pacing. He stopped as soon as he saw her.
"How is she Mary? Is she going to be alright?"
"We think so. We managed to stop the bleeding."
"Yes, I heard you say that. Was it a miscarriage? Only she seems too young to be pregnant."
"No, it wasn’t, she was haemorrhaging."
"But what would cause that?"
Mary didn’t answer; she merely stood looking at him.
Comprehension dawned on his face, and in a very quiet voice he asked,
"Was it rape?"
"It looks that way."
Vincent took a deep breath, his hands fisted, and he growled deep in his throat.
"If I ever find out who did that to her…"
Mary shivered. She wouldn’t like to be in the shoes of that person if Vincent found him.
"I’m going to get cleaned up and fetch a nightgown for her," she told him. "Are you going to stay here?"
"Yes I am, until I know how she is."
Mary left the chamber and a few minutes later Father came from behind the screens, looking very worried.
"Tell me," Vincent asked.
"She’s lost a lot of blood, so the next few hours will be critical. And she’s very young so the rape must have been brutal, and I don’t know what damage has been caused. What we need is a gynaecologist to examine her. I wonder if Peter knows anyone?"
"Is it possible to tell how old she is?"
Father shook his head. "Not with any accuracy, but no more than fifteen."
Vincent dropped his head and struggled to bring his rising temper against the person responsible under control, and Father laid a calming hand on his arm.
"Vincent, I know that it’s terrible, but there is nothing you can do."
"I know that, and it makes me feel so helpless. To think that a man could do that to a child…it’s beyond belief."
Just then Mary came back with a nightgown.
"I think this should fit her."
She went behind the screens and then she popped her head back round.
"Father, could you give me a hand to lift her please?"
"Of course I can."
He went behind the screens to help her, and then suddenly Sarah woke up.
Because she was so weak from the loss of blood she was slightly delirious, and all she saw when she opened her eyes was Father bending over her. Of course she didn’t know who he was, or where she was, and she started screaming. Father and Mary nearly jumped out of their skins at the suddenness of it, and Mary realised at once what was wrong. Raising her voice to make herself heard, she told Father to leave.
He too realised what was wrong, and cursed himself.
‘Of course she’ll be afraid, after what she’s been through.’
As soon as he left she stopped screaming.
He went round the screens and Vincent asked,
"What just happened Father? Why did she start screaming?"
"All she saw when she opened her eyes was a man, and given the circumstances…"
Vincent nodded in understanding. "Of course she’ll be afraid."
And behind the screens Mary was comforting her.
"It’s alright now honey, he’s gone."
"You won’t let him come back will you?" Sarah asked worriedly.
"Of course not, but he’s a doctor…" Mary began, but Sarah stopped her.
"I don’t care; I don’t want any man touching me again. Not after…" she couldn’t continue.
"I understand. Now, shall we get you into this nightie?"
Sarah nodded. "Yes please." Then she asked, "Where am I?"
"In a safe place, where no-one can ever hurt you again. Will you tell me your name?"
"How old are you Sarah?"
"Fifteen… well nearly sixteen."
Mary could have wept, and on the other side of the screens Vincent and Father could hear everything. Vincent growled very softly, and Father put his hand on Vincent’s arm.
"I think you had better leave now. If she sees you…"
"She’ll be even more afraid."
"I know. You’ll let me know how she is?"
Mary came from behind the screens.
"She’s calmer now, but it would be best if you both left."
"Yes, that would be best," Father said. "I’ll get in touch with Peter and see if he knows of a female gynaecologist, she needs to be examined properly."
Both men left, and Mary took the screens away. Sarah looked all round the chamber.
"I like this place; I’d like to stay please."
"You can stay here as long as you want."
She settled her head on the pillow, closed her eyes…and was asleep.
Mary stood watching her for a few moments, then left to send a message on the pipes asking if anyone could take a turn watching Sarah through the night.
Within minutes several women had turned up. Mary told them about Sarah, and explained that she had to be watched in case she started bleeding again. All the women were horrified at what had happened to Sarah, and they made a rota to watch her.
Meanwhile in Father’s chamber Vincent and Father were having a cup of tea.
"Father, Sarah will be alright won’t she?"
"It’s difficult to say right now Vincent. I need to get in touch with Peter, but it’s too late to do anything now. I’ll sort it out first thing in the morning. But now I think it’s bed time."
"Yes it is late."
Vincent stood up and then leaned forward and kissed Father on the brow.
Sarah, fortunately, didn’t start bleeding again, and had a peaceful night. Mary had the last watch and she was there when Sarah woke up. At first she was disorientated, but then she remembered where she was.
"Good morning Sarah, how do you feel?"
"A bit woozy."
"You will do, you lost quite a lot of blood."
Sarah frowned, remembering.
"Father is going to arrange for another doctor to see you. You must be examined properly Sarah, to see what that man did to you."
"I won’t let a man doctor touch me, I’m never gonna let a man touch me again. Not ever," Sarah said determinedly.
"You won’t have to if you don’t want to, but you’ll change your mind when you’re a bit older."
Sarah shook her head, not convinced. Then she asked,
"Who is Father?"
"Of course you don’t know, Father is the doctor who attended to you last night. His real name is Jacob Wells, but everyone down here calls him Father."
"Oh I see, I think."
"Never mind, don’t worry about it."
As soon as Father had had his breakfast he got a message sent to Peter, and within an hour Peter had arranged for a friend of his, a leading gynaecologist, to visit Sarah. Jane Philips wasn’t a regular Helper, but she knew about the Tunnels and she was completely trustworthy. A pickup point and time was arranged, and at the appointed place and time Jane was met and escorted Below.
Mary met her and explained what had happened.
"Oh that poor child. If that guy is ever caught, the bastard should be castrated," Jane said vehemently.
Mary knew that she meant it. They went to the Hospital Chamber and Mary asked Jane if she’d mind waiting outside while she spoke to Sarah.
"Of course I don’t mind. She’s bound to be wary of strangers."
Mary went in and told Sarah that Jane had come.
"She’s a very good doctor Sarah; will you let her examine you?"
Sarah seemed a bit reluctant, and then she asked,
"Will you stay with me please Mary? I’m scared."
"Of course I’ll stay."
Mary called Jane in and introduced her to Sarah.
"Mary has told me what happened Sarah, and I need to examine you. I promise I’ll be very gentle. If you want me to stop at any time just tell me. Is that okay?"
Sarah looked at Mary, who nodded her head reassuringly.
Jane examined her very thoroughly, and right throughout it Mary held Sarah’s hand. When she’d finished she said,
"Well done Sarah, you were a very brave girl. I’ll go and see Father now, and have a talk to him."
"Why talk to Father, is anything wrong?" Sarah asked worriedly.
Jane smiled at her, but inside she was crying. In all probability, because of the damage done, it was highly unlikely that Sarah would ever be able to have a child. She would heal, but that was all, and Jane saw no reason to burden her with that knowledge when she was so young. There was plenty of time for that.
"No there’s nothing wrong, I just need to tell Father what medication you need to help you get better, and get your strength back. You’ll have to stay in bed for at least two weeks, but you’ll have plenty of company."
Jane left the chamber, and Mary told Sarah that she’d send for some warm water so that she could have a wash.
"Can I get out of bed to wash Mary?"
"No, it’s best not to just now. But thinking about it I think a bed bath might be in order."
Despite everything Sarah thought that was funny and she said to Mary, trying to keep her face straight,
"But why do you want to bath the bed as well Mary?"
Mary smiled, pleased that Sarah could joke about something.
"No you silly child, I bath you, not the bed. Now I’m just going to send a message for the water."
Sarah was intrigued.
"How can you send a message?"
"We tap on a pipe and other people can hear it. Someone will bring some water for me."
"It’s sorta like Morse Code then?"
"Something like that."
Mary left the chamber, but was back within minutes.
"All done; now all we have to do is wait."
Back at Father’s chamber Jane had just finished telling Father and Vincent what she had found when she had examined Sarah. Both men were appalled.
"That poor child…never able to have a child of her own," Father said.
Vincent however, was silent. Father glanced across at him and saw that he had his head lowered, and knew what he was thinking.
"Vincent, you can’t do anything about it. I know it’s terrible, but…"
"There is something I can do. If Catherine has enough information she might be able to track this man down, and have him arrested. When Sarah is well enough I’ll ask Catherine if she can visit her, and then she can question her."
"Vincent, I don’t think that that’s a good idea. She may be afraid of anyone in authority. Perhaps Mary…?"
Vincent thought for a minute.
"You’re right of course." He smiled. "As usual."
Father smiled too. "Not always, only most of the time."
He became serious again.
"Now Jane, what do you recommend for Sarah’s treatment? I don’t know if you are aware that we don’t have many drugs down here. If she needs anything in particular I’ll have to contact Peter."
Jane hastened to reassure him. "She won’t need any drugs, apart from aspirin for the pain. If you can’t get them I’ll be only too happy to help."
"That won’t be necessary thank you Jane, aspirin is one thing that we have plenty of."
"Good. All she really needs is plenty of rest and good food…and of course TLC."
"She’ll get all of those in abundance down here," Father assured her.
She smiled. "I have absolutely no doubt about it." She looked at her watch.
"Well, as much as I’d like to stay and visit for a while, I have to get going."
"Of course. I’ll send for one of the children to take you back Above. Thank you for your help. If you’d like to come back sometime for a longer visit just get in touch with Peter, and he’ll arrange it. You’ll be very welcome."
"I’d like that very much. I’ll have to make time to do that, although with my busy workload…"
"I know what you mean, but please do try and come again."
Vincent meanwhile had sent a message on the pipes, and Kipper came to the chamber. Father introduced them and then asked Kipper if he could take Jane back Above.
"Of course I can. Are you ready Jane?"
"Yes I am."
She said her goodbyes and left.
"I like that young woman," Father said.
"Yes, me too. She seems like a very caring person. Perhaps we can ask her if she’d like to come here sometimes, and sort out the women’s ‘problems.’ I’m sure some of the older ones would prefer a female doctor."
"Not that you’re not a good doctor, it’s just that…" Vincent began.
Father stopped him by raising his hand.
"I should put that shovel down now Vincent…before you dig yourself any deeper."
Vincent graced Father with one of his rare smiles, and Father was struck anew at the beauty of his unique son.
"And now my son, it’s time we got on with some work."
"Yes Father, it is."
Vincent left Father’s chamber and went off to the work detail he was assigned to, and Father got some maps to study. Space was always needed Below because of the seemingly endless amount of people who sought refuge, and Father was trying to figure out where new chambers could be made. It wasn’t an easy task.
Meanwhile in the Hospital Chamber Mary had given Sarah her bed bath, and they’d both had their elevenses. Hot chocolate for Sarah, which she declared was the best she’d ever drunk, and coffee for Mary. And of course some of William’s cookies. Just as they’d finished Samantha came into the chamber and introduced herself.
"Hi Sarah, I’m Samantha. I’ve come to keep you company for a while, if that’s alright Mary?"
"Of course it is Samantha; I have some chores to attend to." She left the chamber.
Sarah was clearly puzzled. "How do you know my name?"
"Philippa told me."
"She was one of the people who sat with you last night."
"I guess you must have been sleeping when they were there."
"But why did they do that, they don’t know me?"
"You were quite poorly, and we always take care of people down here, whether we know them or not."
"Even people like me?" She stared hard at Samantha. "Well?"
"Oh you mean…I didn’t know…no-one said," she stammered, and then blushed.
"So now you know. Perhaps you’ll want to leave now."
Samantha looked at her steadily. "It makes no difference…you were hurt. Vin…someone brought you here."
"You were going to say Vincent, why did you change it?"
"Because Vincent is…different, and even if I told you what he looks like, you wouldn’t believe me. And besides, people are usually scared when they first see him. Now can we change the subject please?"
Knowing by the look on Samantha’s face that she wouldn’t get any more out of her, Sarah concurred. But she was determined that she would find out about this Vincent, even though he was a man. He wouldn’t scare her, no matter what he looked like. And if he as much as tried to touch her… if any man tried to touch her…
They talked about general things after that, and Samantha told Sarah of all the wonderful things Below.
"There are some real neat places Sarah, when you’re better I’ll take you to see them."
"I can hardly wait, it all sounds so wonderful…but will I be allowed to stay?"
"There’ll have to be a Council Meeting…that’s when things are decided…but I can’t see why you shouldn’t stay, that’s if you want to of course."
Sarah looked wistfully at Samantha. "I’d love to stay."
"Then I’ll ask Father if you can."
"You’d do that for me?"
"Course I will. I like you Sarah, and I think we’ll be friends."
"It makes no never mind what happened before," Samantha assured her.
The rest of the day sped by, and Sarah had quite a lot of visitors, and everyone seemed to like her. She had never felt so wanted before, so accepted…despite everything. Finally when it was bedtime and all the children had gone, Mary came back to settle her.
"I should think you’re worn out Sarah, with all the visitors you’ve had," Mary said with a smile.
"Yes I am a little bit," Sarah admitted, "but I’ve had a wonderful day. Everyone is so friendly, even though they don’t know me."
"You’ll find that people are like that down here. They never condemn."
"Not even when…you know?"
"Not even then," Mary assured her. "It wasn’t your fault Sarah…you were the victim."
Sarah started to cry and Mary sat on the bed and took her into her arms. "Hush child, don’t cry, you’re safe now."
Sarah gradually stopped crying and just sat quietly enjoying the sensation of being held so tenderly. Finally Mary released her and asked, "Do you feel better now?"
"Yes thank you Mary."
"Right then, it’s time you were settled. I don’t think you’ll need watching tonight, but there’s always someone close by if you need anything, all you have to do is call out. I’ll leave a night light burning."
Sarah lay down and Mary tucked her in and then leaned over and kissed her forehead.
"Goodnight Mary. Thank you for everything."
Mary started towards the chamber entrance and then turned back round as she reached it.
"Are you sure you’ll be alright?"
Mary left and Sarah lay for a little while, still unable to believe her good fortune. She fell asleep wondering what Vincent looked like.
Several hours later Vincent entered the chamber, and went across to the bed. He was struck by how young and vulnerable she looked, and he gently stroked her head.
"Sleep well little one, you’re safe now. No-one will ever hurt you again."
She stirred slightly and he stepped back, ready to take flight if necessary, but she settled again. He turned and left the chamber and went to his own.
Thanks to the care and good food that Sarah was given, the day finally arrived when she was able to get up. Samantha was there to give her encouragement, because understandably she was a bit wobbly on her legs and a little bit apprehensive too.
"Come on Sarah, you’ll be fine. You’ll soon get your legs back."
Sarah giggled, and the sound warmed Mary’s heart.
"I’ve brought you some clothes Sarah, I hope you like them."
She showed Sarah the Tunnel clothes and Sarah was enchanted.
"Wow, these things are really neat…sorta like somethin’ out of a story book. Do I get to keep them…or…?"
"I’m glad you like them Sarah, and yes you can keep them," Mary assured her.
Mary smiled. "Right young lady, let’s get you dressed."
Sarah started to protest that she could dress herself, and then stopped as she saw the determined look on Mary’s face.
"Okay Mary," she said meekly, and Mary smiled again.
When Sarah was finally dressed she realised that she had needed Mary’s help.
"Mary…" she began.
It had been decided that Sarah was to be taken to Father’s chamber to be introduced to the community, and people would pop by in two’s and three’s so as not to overwhelm her. Mary told Sarah, and then asked,
"It’s quite a way, do you think you’re up to walking, or should I send for someone to carry you?"
"No thanks, I’ll manage."
"If you’re sure…"
They made their way very slowly, and when they finally reached Father’s chamber Sarah was glad to sit down. Cushions had been put on Vincent’s big chair for her, and she settled back with a contented sigh.
"Wow this chair is so comfy, whose chair is it?"
Samantha opened her mouth to tell her, but Mary shook her head slightly.
"It doesn’t belong to anyone in particular Sarah."
But Sarah had seen Mary shake her head.
"It’s Vincent’s chair, isn’t it? It’s all right, Samantha told me about him. Well… sort of."
Mary knew there was no point in a denial.
"Yes it is."
"So will I get to meet him?"
"Not just yet, his appearance might frighten you. He’s not like other men."
"Samantha said that I wouldn’t believe her if she told me what he looked like."
"So…is he deformed or what?"
"No, not deformed."
Suddenly a velvety voice came from the shadows at the back of the chamber.
"Would you like to see me Sarah?"
Sarah turned round to face in the direction the voice had come from, but couldn’t see anyone.
"Yes I would…please."
"Are you sure? You won’t be afraid will you?"
"Yes I’m sure, and no I won’t be scared."
Vincent stepped from the shadows but remained hooded with his head bowed, and Sarah was struck by the sheer size of him, and the fact that such a gentle voice had come from such a big man. He stayed where he was because he had decided to let her come to him… given the circumstances.
She got to her feet and slowly crossed the chamber to stand in front of him, and he was even bigger than she had thought.
"Wow you sure are big! Can you sit down or something ‘cos I’m getting a crick in my neck?"
Vincent chuckled softly and obliged her by sitting on a stool that was handy.
"That’s better," she told him. "Now…will you take your hood off please?"
Keeping his head bowed Vincent did as she asked, and she drew in a sharp breath when she saw the mass of golden hair. She put out her hand tentatively to touch it, and then withdrew it sharply.
"Can I see your face now please?"
Vincent slowly raised his head and looked her full in the face, and what he saw there was pure wonderment.
"Oh wow," she whispered. "Samantha was right; I never would have believed her."
She put out her hand as if to touch his face, and then withdrew it, unsure of his reaction.
"You can touch my face if you’d like to."
"You don’t mind?"
He smiled at her and her breath caught in her throat because she had never seen anything more beautiful in all of her life.
"Of course I don’t mind. Go ahead."
But she was unable to move, she just stood as if transfixed.
"Are you all right?"
She shook herself. "Oh yes. It’s just that you’re so…," she hesitated, unsure if you could say that a man was beautiful.
"So…" he prompted.
"Look, you’ll probably think I’m crazy, but you’re…beautiful," she said in rush.
"No I don’t think you’re crazy, but I really don’t think…" he began, but she silenced him by putting her hand to his mouth.
"Don’t even say it," she warned. "You are beautiful."
He glanced across at Mary and Samantha and they smiled at him, and Samantha voiced what they both were thinking.
"We told you so."
He looked back at Sarah and she was smiling too.
"You’re outvoted three to one Vincent."
He sighed deeply. "So it would appear," he said resignedly.
Sarah giggled. "Yes you are, so it’s no good arguing."
"I wouldn’t dream of it," he told her solemnly, but the twinkle in his eyes betrayed him.
"Ooh you fibber," she accused.
"Look here young lady;" he said with mock severity, "you just can’t accuse people of telling fibs."
Sarah giggled again and Mary smiled too. Suddenly she swayed and Vincent put his hand on her arm to steady her.
"Are you alright Sarah?"
"Yes, I just feel a bit wobbly is all."
"You’ve probably stood too long, go and sit back down."
"Yes I think I will."
She turned to go back to her chair and had only taken a few steps when suddenly her legs buckled, but Vincent was up on his feet instantly and caught her before she fell. Mary held her breath remembering how adamant Sarah had been about never letting a man touch her again, but she needn’t have worried, Sarah lay contentedly in Vincent’s arms. He crossed the chamber and was going to put her back in the chair when she totally stunned Mary by asking him, "Will you hold me for a little while please Vincent? It feels so good."
"Of course I will."
He sat down on the chair with her cradled in his arms and Mary smiled. Vincent had worked his magic yet again.
Sarah sighed deeply, contentedly, as she snuggled into him.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Of course you can."
"If the Council says I can stay here, will you…"
"Will I what Sarah?"
"Will you be my Dad?"
When he didn’t answer straight away she thought she had offended him in some way. What she didn’t know was that he couldn’t answer her for the lump in his throat.
"Only if you want to of course…I won’t mind if you say no."
She sat up straight and looked at him… and saw the tears in his eyes.
"Vincent, what’s wrong?" she asked worriedly.
"Nothing’s wrong Sarah," he replied huskily. "I would be honoured to be your Dad, but you’ve only just met me. Are you sure?"
There were tears in her eyes as she put her arms round his neck and hugged him. "Oh I am very sure."
"Then so be it."
She sighed deeply again, and knew that she’d at last come home.