Catherine Elizabeth Ainsley
Catherine and Vincent got their happy life. Vincent learned what the power of Catherine's love could do. They married and had two beautiful children, a son and a daughter. They now lived in a brownstone in the village.
It has an entrance to the tunnels in the basement and a walled in back yard. The best part was the library. That room became a monument to their life together. Everything in it was a symbol of a memory they shared. Now, standing in the middle of the room, Catherine wrapped herself in those warm memories. The children were gone now. Each had their own lives to lead, and their parents were extremely proud of them.
Victoria had taken after her Uncle Devin. She traveled constantly, always in a new place. Now the shelves in the library were lined with books she had written telling of her many adventures, written mainly for her father. Over his lifetime everyone he loved had done everything they could to expand his world. Victoria had joined in that tradition. Catherine ran her fingers over each volume reverently, memories of each one’s arrival passing through her mind. Victoria had always made a point of bringing Vincent the first edition of each of her books. Catherine's touch lingered on the copy of Victoria’s first book. She had been 22 years old then. Catherine and Vincent had not seen their daughter in a year. Suddenly she was there at the door with a vibrantly wrapped package. She took so much pride in presenting it to her father. Vincent’s face had brightened when he saw his daughter but the meaning of her gift had touched him deeply as was evident by the look he gave Victoria. Ever since then Victoria came back with each of her books as they were published. Always the first edition and always before they hit the shelves of bookstores. Now there were twelve lined up neatly on the shelf devoted to Victoria’s work.
Catherine silently moved from the bookcase to Vincent’s desk. There were pictures of their children all over the house, but here the most special of them were gathered. Catherine picked up one and lovingly ran her fingers over the face of the child there. Only in this picture Jacob was no longer a child. He was a grown man proudly displaying his medical degree. From a very early age he had insisted he wanted to be a doctor. Just like Grandpapa he would say. Upon his grandfather's death, a mere five year's after graduation, Jacob had taken over as the tunnel’s only physician.
Catherine remembered it all now. The joys of her wedding. Vincent’s face the first time he held each of his children. Neither of them had ever expected any of the many joys their lives now held. Shaking off the thick mantle of memories now surrounding her.
Catherine made her way out of the library and downstairs. She paused when she reached the kitchen. Even after years of marriage she still had to do a double take when she saw Vincent, moving about the kitchen with practiced ease preparing tea for them both. He had only recently returned from Below, as was evident by the tunnel clothing and voluminous black cloak he still wore. As he turned to her and smiled, Catherine came to stand beside him, grabbing the tray and setting it on the counter as she went.
"Vincent, do you remember the first time you made tea in this kitchen?"
"Yes. I remember." Vincent held back the peal of laughter in his throat. Arranging the tea things on the tray as he spoke Vincent continued.
"You were ill and I thought you would feel better if you had some of William’s tea."
"Yes. You tried so hard but the tea ended up tasting like an old shoe. Finally you called Jenny to come and help while I slept."
They both laughed as the memory poured over them. At the time Vincent had been embarrassed that he could not make a simple cup of tea in Catherine’s kitchen. He had always made tea for himself and Father Below. What could be so difficult in a kitchen Above? Once their laughter had died down Vincent spoke.
"Catherine, it is a beautiful clear night out tonight. Would you like to have our tea outside where we could watch the stars?"
Catherine smiled at his request. They had made a habit of sitting on the porch swing on summer nights when the vines and bushes had grown enough along the high retaining wall in back to conceal the space from the prying eyes of curious neighbors. Vincent, however, still insisted on formally asking her to sit with him. She answered the same way every time. The question and the answer had become part of the tradition.
"That sounds like a wonderful idea, Vincent. I would love to."
They grabbed their tea and Catherine wrapped her arm around Vincent’s waist. Pulling her closer to him he led her through the French doors and across the back enclosure to where the swing was situated against the back wall. Vincent waited until Catherine was comfortably seated before sitting beside her and wrapping his arm around her shoulders as she snuggled into him lying her head on his chest. They sat thus for several minutes before Catherine spoke again.
"Yes, my Catherine."
"Do you remember when I brought home this swing?"
"Yes, my love. I remember."
"I had such a time convincing Mouse that didn't need any 'modification'."
They laughed together. Mouse didn't understand, at the time, why they wanted just a plain ordinary porch swing. But he had finally acquiesced with his customary "Ok good, Ok fine". Jamie had eventually curbed his liking for reinventing the wheel. The swing itself had been a gift for Vincent. Catherine wanted him to be able to sit in the corner, shaded by the growth of the vines and enjoy a warm summer day, with the sunshine beaming on his face. It had been the best gift he had ever received. The gift of light. Only to be surpassed by the gift of his children.
"Hmmm…You were right Vincent. Tonight is perfect. The stars seem so bright."
"Yes," was Vincent's whispered reply.
They watched the stars in silence enjoying the night. Each had their own memories of the sixty years past that they had been married. Vincent was jarred from his reverie with Catherine's exclamation.
"Oh, Vincent, look! A shooting star! Quick! Close your eyes and make a wish. It will come true."
Vincent watched his wife close her eyes to make her wish. Unable to resist he bent forward and gently placed a kiss upon her lips.
"Don't you know, my Catherine. There is no need. I have all my wishes."
The belief in his words shown in his eyes and Catherine smiled. Then without a word they stood and retired to their room for the night.
Several hours later, Vincent awoke with a start. Glancing to his side he saw Catherine sleeping peacefully. He couldn't help but think that even at their advanced age she was never more beautiful to him. Tears gathered in his eyes and a large knot formed in his throat. Vincent now knew what had woken him. His love had drifted past this life and into another. A gentle breeze whispered through the room from the open balcony doors, and on it came the soft dulcimer tones of his wife's voice.
"Close your eyes and make a wish. It will come true."
Earlier that night he had told her there was no need. Now he realized he had one wish left. Squeezing his eyes tight Vincent sent his wish to the very stars themselves. Then gently he pulled his love closer to him, holding her as he had a thousand times over the years. He tried his best not to let the tears flow. But there was no holding them back. When his tears were spent Vincent breathed in his wife's scent and said his final good-byes. Before the dawn stretched its fingers across the sky that night, Vincent slipped into eternal sleep to join with his wife, his dear Catherine, forever.