Catherine found herself standing alone in a mist swept plain. Why was her memory so fuzzy? How did she get here? And where was here, anyway?
"Hello?" she called out. "Is there anyone here?" There was no answer. Perplexed, she thought that she should be frightened, but there was a curious sense of peace in her.
Turning around in a circle, she searched the vast expanse for any sign of life. A short distance away a small cubicle of wood and glass panes stood in the swirling haze. It was the only solid thing she could see, and she walked toward it. Circling around the cubicle, she came to a door. Peering through the glass inset in the door, she could see that it looked like nothing more than an office from an indeterminate era. Her curiosity getting the better of her, she opened the door. Entering, she found a large Chippendale desk with an uncluttered top and a lone armchair facing it. Sitting down in the chair, she clasped her hands demurely in her lap prepared to wait for whoever sat behind that desk. Glancing around the room, she noted the ever present mist on the floor, one window, and another door behind the desk. As her eyes swept past the door, it swung open and an elegantly dressed man entered. With his slicked back patent-leather hair, old-fashioned tuxedo, and grey suede spats, he was the epitome of the well-dressed 1920's man. He unobtrusively assessed her as he settled into his chair.
"Ah, my dear, itís good to meet you," he said with a wide, toothy smile, his teeth gleaming whitely in the all pervading glow that surrounded them. Leaning across the desk, he offered his hand. "My name is Jordan. Have you been waiting long?"
Hesitantly, she shook the proffered hand, "I donít know. I donít even know what time it is," she mumbled, confused and feeling out of place.
"Time has no meaning here, but Iím usually very prompt with my appointments," he commented primly. "Iím sorry if I kept you waiting."
"Where is this place?" she asked.
"Itís . . . ah . . . shall we say a sort of a halfway houseĖto use the modern colloquialismĖbetween . . . ah . . . earth and heaven."
"Are you an angel or something?"
"Weeelll," he quirked the corner of his mouth. "Or something. I guess you could call me an assistant counselor to the newly arrived."
Between earth and heaven? Her eyes suddenly widened as she realized what he had said, and she sank back into her chair. "Are you telling me that Iím . . . Iím dead?" Memories flooded back as she remembered that she was Catherine Chandler, attorney-at-law, working in the DAís office in Manhattan, New York and all the details of her life.
"Ah . . . yes," the counselor answered, "you are. Sorry about that." With a sympathetic shrug of his shoulders, he waited for the disbelief and horror to surface.
A sense of great loss overwhelmed her as she remembered dying in Vincentís arms, and she knew, without question, that he was in pain, loving her and feeling that he had failed her when she needed him the most. She surprised Jordan by huddling into a ball of misery in her chair and whispering, "Oh, Vincent." She wasnít worried about herself, which was a good sign for the decision that she had to make.
"Ah yes, Vincent," he said. She gazed warily at him. "Heís the one we are here to talk about."
As a sudden thought penetrated her confusion, her hands abruptly went to her flat abdomen, and she raised tear-laden eyes to his, "I had a baby. Where is he? Is he all right?"
"Yes, Catherine, he is fine, safe in the tunnels," he answered softly and compassionately. "In fact at this very moment, his father in feeding him. Vincent has named him Jacob Charles after both of your fathers."
The radiance that appeared on her face almost outshone that of the sun. "Thank you," she said.
"Donít thank me. Thank Vincent and a woman named Diana Bennett. Theyíre the ones who rescued your son."
"Diana Bennett?" she asked shocked. "I know of her, never met her, but Iíve heard that sheís very good at her job."
"Yes, just as you were, Catherine. But weíre here to talk about Vincent. Diana figures in it but that is up to you."
"How . . ." She was afraid to ask the question, "How long have I been . . . dead?"
"Two years? That long? But it seems like no time at all since I was on the roof top in Vincentís arms."
With a slightly patronizing smile, he said, "As Iíve told you, time has no relevance here. An hour there is but a blink of an eye here and two years nothing more than a deep breath."
"But for Vincent, it has been two years?"
"Yes," he nodded.
"How is he? Is he all right?"
"It depends on your definition of all right."
In a whisper she asked the dreaded question, "Has he learned to live without me or is he still suffering?" She looked up at him, the evidence of her suffering in her eyes. "I promised never to leave him and what do I do? I get myself killed. The ultimate abandonment." She knew that it would take a long time, if ever, for him to be happy again but was unprepared for what Jordan told her.
"It has been more than difficult for him; it has been almost impossible. If not for the child, he would have joined you by now. He mourns you by day and dreams of you at night."
"My poor love," she sobbed as tears flowed down her cheeks. "Is there nothing we can do?"
She had asked the question he had hoped she would. "There is nothing we can do, but you can do something."
"There is a woman . . ."
"Diana," she interjected.
He nodded as he continued, "Who loves him as deeply as you do."
She couldnít stop it. A wave of jealousy roiled through her and her eyes blazed with green-eyed fire. "Well, she canít have him," she grated.
He smiled sympathetically at her; she had such a difficult decision awaiting her. "Wait for the entire story, my dear. Yes, Diana loves him, but he is so lost in his sorrow that he neither notices it nor wants it. But his constant sorrow is affecting his life, his health, his sanity, . . ."
Her head snapped up as she gasped, "No! Not again. Heíll die this time and leave Jacob alone."
" . . . the tunnels, and Jacob," he plowed on. "All are suffering, but Vincent and Jacob suffer more than anyone."
"Isnít there someway we can help them?" she inquired again. She was unaware that he was gently guiding her to the moment where she had to make a decision.
"Not we, Catherine . . . you."
Shrugging, she spread her hands out, palms up, "But . . . what can I do? Iím here; Iím . . . dead." She still had trouble with that thought. She certainly didnít feel dead.
Jordan seemed to go off on a tangent, and if she had not been so preoccupied, her training as a lawyer would have told her that he was making a point. "You and Vincent are soul mates?"
"You can set him free to find another soul mate."
"What are you talking about?" She surged upright in her chair, her tears all but forgotten.
"You and Vincent have been soul mates since he found you in the park and will be forever unless you renounce the bond."
"I could never do that," she whispered, aghast at the thought.
"Not even to spare him the anguish and misery of your loss for the rest of his life?" Seeing her shake her head violently, he played his trump car, "And the blight of that anguish on your small sonís life."
"It will affect Jacob, too?" she whispered.
"Yes, watch." He waved at the window on his right and a picture appeared there.. It showed Vincent in the Chamber of the Falls, staring fixedly at the falling water, rigidly trying to control his feelings but failing miserably as the tears streamed down his cheeks. "It is the anniversary of your death. He couldnít go to your grave, afraid of what he might do," Jordan said.
A woman materialized at his side and rested a consoling hand on his arm, comforting him as best she could.
"Oh Diana, how can I continue to live without her? I am slowly dying of loneliness."
"Let me help you, Vincent."
"There is no help," he cried, turning away from Dianaís comfort.
"Turn if off, please," Catherine begged, bowing her head into her hands.
"There is one more scene you must see to aid you in your decision."
The scene shifted to Vincentís chamber. Mary was walking up and down with a wailing, agitated infant in her arms, trying to comfort him. Father stood off to the side, a disconsolate look on his face.
"Is there nothing you can do, Father?" she asked.
"No, not while Vincent is in the state heís in. You know how it affects the child. I was hoping that Diana could calm Vincent down and comfort him, but it seems that my hopes were in vain."
"Please, no more. I canít stand to see them suffer like this." Catherine closed her eyes and turned her head, extremely distressed at her sonís and her loverís reactions to her death. Incapable of holding the tears back, silently she began once again to weep into her hands.
"Only you can help them," Jordan said sympathetically.
"If I free him, what will happen? Will he forget me?"
"No, my dear, he will remember you as his first and most perfect love. The kind of love that never lasts. His friendship with Diana will evolve into a deep love, and she will become his soul mate."
Looking at him through red-rimmed eyes, she asked, "And me, will I forget?"
"No, child, you will remember everything. In future lives you will search for but never find love."
"He will always find his soul mate."
"But it wonít be me. Oh god," she quietly wailed, twisting her hands, "I donít know if I can do it."
"You once said that you would sacrifice everything for him," he reminded her.
She glared at him. "Hoisting me with my own petard, Jordan?" she said bitterly. "I remember what I said . . . and I meant every word of it."
Silence descended in the small office broken only by the soft sound of Catherineís sobs as she wrestled with her demons. To spare Vincent the pain and unhappiness of her death, she must give him up forever. She didnít know if she had the courage to do that. Then she heard Vincentís voice telling her that she had the courage in her all the time. But to face a future that didnít hold him made her quail in her seat. The thought was almost beyond bearing, but he and Jacob were in such pain, and it was in her power to prevent that. At last, she raised her head, her cheeks wet with her tears. A fierce, unhappy determination shone in her eyes and a tight, grim smile spread over her face. "All right, I free him. He is at liberty to find another soul mate. I donít want him to live a miserably unhappy life. I love him too much for that."
Jordan settled back in his chair and, staring sadly at her, said softly, "Do you know what you have done?"
Frightened by his sudden change in demeanor, she stammered, "N - No, w - what have I done?" Maybe this had been a test and she had failed. What more would they possibly do to her?
"You have condemned yourself to an eter . . ." He stopped and his eyes widened. Nodding distractedly, he stared at the invisible ceiling as he listened to a voice that only he could hear. Then he brought his eyes sharply back to the alarmed young woman sitting by his desk. Inhaling deeply, he said in awe, his voice quivering, "Do you know . . . ?"
"What?" she demanded. "What?"
"You are only one of a few people in the course of history to be allowed to choose your own future."
"I am? How?" she asked. Suspiciously, she glared at him. All of this was moving way too fast for her, and her thoughts were in a whirl.
"Yes, you can either allow events to unfold as you have already declared or you and Vincent can remain soul mates and have an eternal love."
Her eyes brightened then dulled in pain. "But I donít want him to live a miserable, unhappy life."
"He wonít. You will return."
"But Iím dead."
"Yes, you are, but thatís no problem for the higher powers. You will be returned to a point in time of your own choosing."
"Wait a minute, let me get this straight. I can return to any time I choose, and the last two years wonít have happened?" she asked suspiciously. "Why the big change?"
"My dear young woman," he said disdainfully, "I am not privy to the whys and wherefores of my superiors. They must have decided that your sacrifice is too great to be allowed." He shrugged. "I donít know." Then commandingly he told her. "Choose a time."
"Boy, when you change your mind, you donít give a girl much time to reflect, do you?" She was almost giddy with relief and joy. She remembered vividly every moment she had ever spent with Vincent and suddenly knew the perfect time. "Return me to the night I went to tell him about the baby. Will I remember thi . . . ?" The last thing she saw was Jordan shaking his head no, and then she was in the corridor outside of Vincentís chamber, shaking her head. Wow, what a dizzy feeling. She had the oddest sensation of having been somewhere else, but it quickly passed. It must have something to do with her excitement about telling Vincent about the baby.
When she entered his chamber, he was seated in his large reading chair waiting for her. She could tell that he was upset about something, and she asked him what was wrong. He shook his head.
"Are you all right?"
"Yes," he said in his whispery gravel over satin voice.
"I need to talk to you."
"I can see that you do," he said, with an unhappy glance at her over his shoulder. "There was a time when I would have come to you."
"What do you mean? I donít expect you . . ."
He interrupted, "Catherine, I look in your face, and I can see your unrest. There was a time I would have felt it here." Rising, he placed his hand over his heart. "Feel what you were feeling, everything, across the city, across the continent. Now I have to wait for you to tell me." Slowly pacing, he turned to look at her. "There was a time I could feel you coming to me. Feel you near in the tunnels, a source of great joy radiating from you, filling me with joy. Tonight I waited till the sentries sent me a message you were here."
"Whatís different now?"
"The connection, our connection, our bond."
"Itíll return," she assured him with a half-smile.
"No," he breathed in a sigh, shaking his head slightly, "I donít think so."
"Have faith that it will."
"Itís lost to me; I know."
"How do you know? Why do you say that?"
"Because it is the price, the price I must pay for this new peace, this contentment. But, Catherine, what have I lost?"
"I donít think that it is lost," she confidently asserted. "And even if it is, Vincent, it was a gift. That power was a gift. It came to you in a life when it was needed. And you used it and perhaps it is no longer needed."
"More than once it saved your life."
"Maybe the gift will return to you in another form. Something you never ever dreamed of. Vincent, your power was extraordinary, but . . . it has nothing to do with what we are together, what we feel for each other. That is our connection. And if one gift is lost, there are other gifts waiting to be found. Believe me. Vincent, there are so many gifts waiting for you. All you have to do is open your arms to receive them."
"I believe you."
"Just open your arms," she asked softly.
Slowly he held his arms open to the side, and with a relieved sigh, she stepped into them. "Now tell me. Tell me whatís troubling you," he asked as his arms folded around her and her head came to rest against his shoulder. *
She was silent for a few minutes, debating with herself as to whether she should tell him. Then the thought came to her that telling him would be the proof of all that she had said to him. It was a gift. One he never dreamed of, never even had the presumption to wish for. She raised her shining eyes to his and, taking a deep breath, said, "I have a gift for you, Vincent. One that I hope will prove to you how much I love you and is only one of the many gifts that will come to you."
He looked at her with a perplexed look and tentatively smiled. Looking around, he saw no package in her hand. Of course, he reasoned she could have left it in the corridor. "What is it?" he asked quizzically.
"Sit down, Vincent, then Iíll tell you. I donít want you to fall down." She led him back to his chair and gently pushed him into it.
Her actions were getting more puzzling all the time, and he was on tenterhooks waiting for her to tell him of her gift.
She thought it best to begin with a little explanation. "I know you donít remember what happened in the cave, but Vincent, we made love."
He gasped in horror, almost leaping from his chair. "No! Did I force you? Did I hurt you?"*
"No!" she stated vehemently as she tried to calm him. "You were as gentle with me as you are with Little Cathy. We loved, Vincent! Oh, donít you know what that means? It means that it was the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me." She dropped to her knees in front of him and, leaning on his knees, took his hands in hers. "Oh, I wish you could remember. Then you would know why I am so happy that it happened."
"Truly, Catherine, I didnít hurt you in any way?"
"Well, to be honest, itís been a long time for me, and there was a little discomfort until I adjusted to your size, but other than that, no."
He bowed his head and wept. "Iíve been so afraid that I would hurt you."
She gathered his massive form in her arms. "I knew that you never could."
"You knew more than I did," he said ruefully.
"Now there is more to this gift than just the fact that we made love." She sat back on her heels and, holding tightly to his hands, said, "Vincent . . . love, weíre going to have a baby."
He sat there frozen, unable to move. Had he heard right? A baby? Catherine was carrying his child? Finally he was able to speak. "A child? But what kind of child?" His fear of passing on his genes overwhelmed the astounded joy he felt.
Doggedly, she replied, "An extraordinary child. Yours and mine."
"Yes, when I gave blood for Joe, they ran a pregnancy test. As a routine test, I guess, and Iím definitely pregnant. Oh Vincent, can you be happy about this? I am. Iíve wanted your child for a long time. Iíve dreamed of it and now my dream has come true."
"You kept your dreams hidden from me very well, Catherine. I never had an inkling. But I think that once I get used to the idea of being a father, I will be more than glad; I will be ecstatic." He pulled her into his lap and crushed her to his chest. "I love you, Catherine, more than you know."
"And I love you." Leaning back in his arms, she asked, "So, what do you think of my gift?" she asked with a sly grin.
"I - I really think itís quite magnificent; itís going to take some getting used to."
"I know." She squeezed him affectionately. "We have much to talk about, love."
"Yes, we do." He nodded happily, shaking his head in wonder. "A child. My child. Itís unbelievable. I can hardly believe it."
"Believe it, Vincent. Revel in it. Youíre going to be a father, and what a father you will make. How lucky our child is."
"Catherine, you must move Below. We donít know what the child will look like. And Iím sure Father will want to keep an eye on you . . . all the time."
Catherine gaily laughed. "Iím sure he will. After the explosion, of course." They both chuckled at the thought of Fatherís reaction to their announcement of a new addition to the Wells family. "As soon as I learned that I was pregnant, I began to make plans."
"Hand in your resignation tomorrow, Catherine, please. I have a feeling that if you donít I will lose you." The fright in his eyes scared her and she readily agreed. She was so happy she would have agreed to almost anything he proposed.
The next day she gave her resignation and the black book to Moreno--he wasnít at all happy about her abrupt departure--gathered her stuff together, said goodbye to her co-workers and friends, and prepared to move Below. She never looked back, and the following seven months were the happiest in her life. Vincentís life was completely turned upside down, for which he thanked his lucky stars daily.
At last, the big day arrived and Catherine was delivered of a healthy baby boy. Vincent was eternally grateful that his son was completely human in form. The child had his blue eyes and golden hair but resembled his mother. Catherine had never known a more intense feeling of happiness than she did as she watched the man she loved tenderly holding his firstborn son. Oh yes, she was determined that there would be more children. And Vincent had never known such a feeling of completeness as he did looking into the clear, innocent blue eyes of his son.
In the office above the clouds, Jordan smiled as he watched the birth of Catherine and Vincentís son. It seemed that the higher powers knew what they were doing. He didnít always agree with what they decreed, but this time they were right. Oh well, time for his next case to arrive. He swiveled his chair around when he heard the door open. . .
*Lines quoted from 'Though Lovers Be Lost'