A Time to Choose
This is it! You’ve made your decision, Chandler, so…do it!
Catherine held out her arms. "I believe it’s time for that traditional waltz, Vincent."
As Vincent’s arms came around her she felt his hesitation and…yes, reluctance. She stopped all movement, looking up into his face with assumed astonishment. She knew why he was reluctant, but he had to say it. "You don’t want to waltz with me." The statement was flat, unemotional.
"Catherine, yes of course I want to. But…"
"…But I…" He couldn’t bring himself to say it.
"Tell, me, Vincent." Her hand dropped from his shoulder, but she didn’t move out of his embrace, or turn her eyes away from his. She wasn’t letting him get away with anything! Not this time!
He stared down at her, and she saw a flicker of amusement pass over his face. "You know why."
Then her eyes did leave his, and she looked around the great room, seeing the tapestries lost in the shadows, the long tables, now cleared of food. The great chandeliers were dark, the empty hall was lit by only two torches. The yearly celebration was over, and it was once again time for their waltz.
"How many years is it, Vincent? How many times have we been the last celebrants at Winterfest? How many waltzes?"
"I think…three. That is, including this year…" He stopped.
"But this year, you don’t want to waltz with me."
"Don’t make excuses. Tell me why."
Once again, the swift amused look crossed his face. "Catherine, you know why, yet you push me to say it. Why do you do that?"
"Because I want to hear you say it." There was no amusement in her face. She looked only determined.
Now his amusement was replaced by discomfort. . "It’s difficult for me to make this more immediate by talking about it."
Her face didn’t soften. He wasn’t going to get away with appealing to her sympathy this time.
"You know that…I find it increasingly more difficult to… hold you…"
"Why?" She was relentless.
"Catherine, will you drive me to say it?"
"Yes." Her face didn’t change. She wanted an answer.
He dropped his hands from their dance posture on her shoulder and waist and turned his back, leaning on the table behind him, his hair falling over his shoulders to screen his face. His voice was hoarse and so soft she had to lean closer to hear him.
"Because I love you. Because I want you. Because I dream of holding you, not in the waltz, but…naked against me…soft and fragrant and desirable…and so willing! You’re so willing! God! How I want you!" He straightened and threw his head back, his fists clenched, his whole body flexed with his desire.
"I’m here. Take me."
He wheeled, on his face a look of desperation. "Catherine, don’t!"
New that she’d heard the whole truth at last, her face and her voice softened. "But Vincent, why not? Why don’t you just let go? What is it that makes you so certain that this…this hunger that we have for each other is not right?"
He flinched at her last words. "Why are you doing this? I can’t..." He stopped, shaking his head.
"Can’t? Are you saying that you…can’t…that there is some physical…that you can’t?"
He stiffened. "No! Of course I can! But…Catherine, there are so many reasons. I…I‘m not even sure that it is…physically possible…you’re so small…and I…"
"Vincent, excuse me, but that’s nonsense. Small women marry big men all the time. I’ve never heard of anyone ‘not fitting’."
"Don’t quote Father to me, Vincent! We both know that on this subject he’s not quite rational!"
That brought forth a small snort of laughter. "I can’t argue with that."
"Please, don’t argue at all. Just…just…well, you could start by…kissing me."
He looked down at her with what was almost anger. "Catherine. You make me…hurt…I can’t do this, and I…won’t."
That did it. Determination turned to fury, and its red haze clouded all thought of consequences. "Well. Now at least we’ve come to the truth of the matter. You won’t. All right, Vincent, if you won’t, then I won’t. Dance with you, visit you…talk to you…see you." She turned and walked across the floor to the huge doors of the Great Hall. When she arrived, she realized that her dramatic exit was somewhat imperfect; there was no way she could open the doors. Well, she wasn’t going to ask. She stood, quietly on the surface but with anger raging below, waiting.
Vincent was angry also. His anger spoke to him, telling him that she knew that he couldn’t do this; she was taking advantage of his love for her to try to push him into it. He moved quietly across the floor, not stopping when he came up to her, but going directly to the doors, which he opened effortlessly.
She flinched at the blast of wind that drove her back a step, but she moved forward and out of the doors without looking at him. She kept walking and started up the stairs. She heard the doors close and waited for the sound of the bar falling which would tell her that he had followed her out. She didn’t hear it. He had stayed in the Great Hall.
Her first thought was God! What have I done? But her anger drove her to continue up the stairs and kept her moving until she was at the entrance to her apartment building. There, at the extreme edge of his world, her anger deserted her. She leaned heavily against the wall by the entrance, the same wall that they had leaned against when she was shown the entrance for the first time. She stared sightlessly at the wall opposite. It’s over. I’ve spoiled it. Oh, God, I love him so! What will I do now?
As the full significance of what she had done crashed down on her, she was driven to the floor. She huddled in a moaning heap, too grief stricken to cry, only holding her stomach and swaying back and forth, while pain struck at her vitals
She didn’t hear him coming. The first she knew of his presence was when he drew her to her feet almost roughly, slid an arm around her while the other hand felt for her chin to turn her face up to his. She resisted, but his hand was insistent, and when she turned her face up at last, his mouth came down on hers instantly, hot and searching. A moment’s shock and then she returned his kiss with all of the passion pent up for years.
When he raised his mouth at last, he spoke in a rough whisper, "I can’t let you go, I’ll die without you, I need you so, my love, my love. Kiss me...hold me, I love you, please, love me, please…"
She stood on her toes to kiss his face, cheeks nose chin, whatever she could reach. "Vincent, Vincent, I’ve wanted this so much, for so long, oh, kiss me, love me..."
"I will love you. I will make love to you as I should have long ago." He lifted her into his arms and turning, strode down the tunnel, heading for his chamber and their future life together.