JUST AN ORDINARY MAN
At about the midway point between the Tunnel Hub and Vincent's chamber, a sudden surge in the bond brought Catherine up short, nearly causing her to stumble. What in the name of God was that? she wondered.
Standing still for a moment and tilting her head slightly, she listened to sounds only she could hear. The sensations rippling through her were those of utter vexation. Oh, oh. Something was amiss with “her significant other.” At the moment, Vincent was not happy.
After probing their connection one more time, she relaxed. Whatever was distressing him was not causing him any danger, this she knew. She hoped all was well, but he did seem very upset.
Quickening her pace, Catherine focused on reaching their chamber before he realized how near she was and felt “compelled” to meet her. Pausing just at the chamber’s threshold, she smiled at the beautiful being who sat, hands folded under his chin, lost in thought. Vincent looked remarkable sitting there in a massive antique chair; almost . . . imperial. He seemed to be preoccupied, perplexed, and he looked ravishing. Which was exactly what she'd like to do - ravage him.
“Vincent?'' Catherine whispered, almost fearful of disturbing his quietitude.
Jolted from his reverie, the one she loved looked up, smiled faintly, and then leapt to his feet. His fierce expression calmed, changing to one of love as he greeted her. “You're early this evening. Please accept my apology for not meeting you, but I was...”
She'd probably never know what he'd been about to say, for instead of finishing his sentence, Vincent scowled, then held out his left hand towards her, palm up. “Do you see this?”
At first, Catherine didn't "see" anything, except his callused, leathery palm. Peering closer, she touched a silvery thread he was holding. Or was it a strand of hair? “A hair?” she asked. “Is that what this is?”
“Hmmm”, he replied, snarling in annoyance. “My hair!”
“Oh, I see...” Clamping down on the inside of her jaw and keeping a very straight face, Catherine shed her jacket, sat down on the edge of the bed, and slipped out of her topside shoes. Reaching for the comfortable, ratty old pair of sneakers she kept stashed under their bed, she swallowed the fit of giggles threatening to well up and explode from within.
Tying her shoes, Catherine kept her head down so that Vincent couldn't see her face. Oh Lord, it was the end of life as they knew it! The “protector of the tunnels” had found a gray hair! Contact Pascal, sound the general alarm!! There'd be no dancing tonight!
Sitting down next to her, looking morose, Vincent cast her a pained look. “I shall never understand about follicles.''
“What don't you understand about them,” She barely managed to choke out without completely losing her mind.
“What I don't comprehend is what held this particular piece of hair in yesterday?"
That said, Vincent then proceeded to wave the bit of hair so close to her face that Catherine nearly went cross-eyed trying to focus on it. Sounding like the very portend of doom, he observed, “Perhaps soon I shall look like Methuselah . . . Or Father!” All at once, he looked as though an even more horrific thought had struck him. “Or perhaps I shall be snatched completely bald!”
That did it!
Bunching the end of her shirt into a ball, Catherine flopped backwards on the bed. Shrieking until her ribs hurt, she lost her breath, and then very nearly wet her pants.
Casting her a look of consummate displeasure, a wounded-looking Vincent leaned over her until they were nose to nose. Narrowing his eyes, he growled, “I find nothing amusing in this, Madam.”
With one end of her shirt still stuffed between her teeth, Catherine's eyes met his, but she didn't speak. She couldn't. He looked ready to annihilate her as it was. Clamping her teeth together rigidly, “Mfff . . .”| was all that she was capable of by way of a response.
It was not the response he'd wanted - nor expected. What was the matter with her? Vincent eyed his lady testily. Didn't she understand that this was a somber moment? Drawing himself up to his full height, which was considerable, he peered down that magnificent, fuzzy nose of his at the woman he loved, but didn't like very much at the moment.
''Whenever you are quite through reveling at my discomfort, perhaps then you'll be able to hold an intelligent conversation.”
Oh yeah, he was ticked off all right.
Putting one finger to his lips, Catherine lay her other hand against Vincent's tensed back. Rubbing gently up and down she tried to soothe him, remarking, “Love, it's only a gray hair. We all get them.”
“I find little comfort in that knowledge at this moment.” Giving the bit of himself that had been attached to his head yesterday one last sneer of disgust, he brushed it from his hand into a nearby wicker container. “It was bad enough to discover that I had a 'touch', as Father called it, of arthritis last month. This was not necessary to remind me.”
Looking into that face, that woebegone, exquisite face, Catherine brushed Vincent's long hair away from his ears. "To remind you that you're getting older, just like an ordinary man? she asked gently, smiling at him; loving him so much it hurt.
Having no reply to that, at least not one that he could conjure up at the moment, a delicious rumbling sound welled up from his chest as he wrapped his arms around her. At last seeing the ridiculous way he'd been behaving, he began to chuckle heartily.“Yes, perhaps I am getting older, just like any ordinary man, my Catherine; but I'm one who is loved by such an extraordinary woman.”