Falling in Love Again
By Pat King
Falling in love again,
Never wanted to.
What am I to do?
I can't help it
Fredrich Hollander, "Falling in Love Again"
It's funny how in one moment, one instant, something can happen that changes your life forever. It happened four years ago when, fed up with Tom's insensitivity and materialistic nature, I fled a party and found myself abducted, attacked and left for dead. Most would consider that a horrible experience, and a low point in my life. Horrible? I agree -- no one should have to endure the terror and pain I went through, but the low point in my life? No, it was the beginning of my life.
With the exception of my Mother's death, I'd had a happy, privileged existence. I missed her terribly, especially during my teenage years, that time when a girl needs a female role-model, someone to show her what it means to be a woman. There were women in my life: Mrs. Morgan, our housekeeper, who cared for me, helped me through adolescence, and taught me how to cook; and Marilyn, my father's secretary, who took me shopping, let me confide in her, and was a shoulder to cry on when Bobby Forrest didn't invite me to the prom. I loved them both dearly, but there was a hole that could only be filled by that special bond between mother and daughter.
Dad became my world, trying his best to be both father and mother. He had his work and friends to help him through the years, but his love focused on me. I was his princess, and he showed me the world, and the world, me. We spent holidays and vacations in exotic places -- Europe, Hawaii, Japan, Bermuda -- which I thought exciting, but realize now was just an attempt to escape from the pain of a house without Mother. It wasn't until years after her death that we put up a Christmas tree, and stayed home to celebrate. Now, having loved as an adult, I truly understand the pain he suffered during that time, my admiration for him even greater than it was.
I became a lawyer because of my father. I don't remember ever making a conscious decision to study law, it was just something always assumed, and because I was the loving, dutiful daughter, it was the path I took to make him happy and proud.
I did well in school, but even my friends could tell my heart wasn't in it. I'm embarrassed now when I look back on those days. There were so many students with burning desires to become attorneys, students who slaved over their books, late into the night and on weekends, just to get by, while I did well without really trying, and without really caring. Nancy told me recently that my friends all joked I'd eventually end up in 'fashion law' which, though it pains me now, was probably more on the mark than they realized.
I didn't graduate at the top of my class, but I was in the top five-percent which, at Columbia Law School, is no small feat. Dad was so proud. My graduation gifts were a trip to Europe and a condo on the Upper West Side, as well as a position in his law firm -- nothing like nepotism to get your foot in the door. His dream was for me to become a partner and eventually take over the reins, but I quickly discovered corporate law and Cathy Chandler didn't click.
No one, not even my detractors, could fault my work; the problem was the amount I did was so small. If my heart wasn't into it at Columbia, I cared even less about corporate law. The only reason I wasn't fired the first week was because of Dad, a fact that didn't endear me to the other junior attorneys who worked long hours to get ahead, whilst I waltzed in late, took long lunches, and was normally the first to leave.
What a self-centered jerk I was, although perhaps that's too strong a statement. It wasn't that I was self-centered so much as apathetic, lacking any passion for my profession, and instead immersed myself in distractions to avoid acknowledging that fact.
But everything changed on that fateful night in April when, tired of just being an ornament on Tom Gunther's arm, of being told who I could and couldn't talk to, I walked out of an oh-so-important party and smack-dab into terror.
The experience resulted in physical and emotional scars that took a long time to heal, the physical ones being the quickest to disappear. Because of Vincent, I found the strength inside myself to take control of my life and, eventually, the emotional scars faded.
The next several years were, as Dickens so aptly put it, 'the best of times, they were the worst of times.'
The best in that I found passion in my life. I changed jobs, leaving the cushy position in Dad's firm to do grunt work for the District Attorney's office. There was little pay, long hours, frustration, and danger, but I loved it -- every backbreaking minute of it. We didn't always win, there were bad guys still on the streets, but we tried, and we made a difference. My friends would laugh if I told them my days at the DA's office were part of the best of times.
Also in the best of times was my growing relationship with Vincent. In him I found a soul mate, someone who loved me for me -- not Cathy Chandler, Charles Chandler's daughter; not Cathy Chandler, debutante; not Cathy Chandler, heiress -- just Catherine Chandler, woman who works hard and cares about people. Through him I discovered parts of myself that had been buried through years of self-indulgence, and I learned to really like myself. Being together, enjoying literature, music, it was an ember of caring that was stoked slowly and carefully to produce a blazing, eternal flame of love.
During these best of times I also made new friends Above and Below, people from walks of life I'd never known until then, and people who I could really count on to be there if I needed help. There were old friends who went by the wayside, friends I realize now who were just good acquaintances. I run into them occasionally and we chat, catching up on life, but my new life is foreign to them and theirs seems frivolous to me, so we smile and pledge to get together someday, knowing we won't, then part to return to our different worlds. A few old friends, however, are still just as true -- these are my extended family, and I'm richer for maintaining that bond.
Now, the worst of times. These can be counted on the fingers of one hand and summarized by 1) danger, 2) secrets, 3) fathers, 4) Vincent and 5) the breakdown.
Part of the worst was the continual danger in which I placed myself, and therefore Vincent. When I'm threatened, the darker side of Vincent emerges to protect me. He fears this side of himself, struggling to maintain control over these violent feelings, and each time they're loosed it's harder for him to regain his emotional balance. I feel this was one of the main causes of his eventual breakdown, and I'm ashamed at my role in it.
Keeping the secret of Vincent and the tunnel world's existence was difficult. First, because I wanted to tell everyone about the terrific guy I was in love with, and who loved me. I wanted to shout it to the skies. Second, because there were times I'd disappear without a trace, and I know my friends were worried. Joe still doesn't believe there are people in this day and age that don't have telephones.
Fathers. My father and I remained close, but things were never the same after I joined the DA's office. My leaving hurt him, but he understood and accepted my decision, and I believe he was proud of the work I was doing. There were long periods of time when we didn't see one another, a drastic change from seeing each other every day, and our lives diverged. I became my own woman and not so much his little girl. Also, there was a big part of my life I had to hide from him -- there I am back at secrets again. When he had the stroke, I finally told him everything, and I think he heard and understood. When he came to me in the tunnels after his death, I believe it was his love for me that allowed him to give me closure. Still his death hit me hard and even after all this time I still mourn.
Now to Vincent's father. Father and I care deeply about each other now, but the road to this point was rarely smooth, with the majority of bumps and roadblocks placed there by Jacob himself. His love for his son, and his recognition of his differences, caused him to be over-protective, to put it mildly. I can understand instilling in a child with Vincent's differences a sense of caution, but the constant harping on the danger to Vincent by anything and everything non-tunnel went too far. When I entered the picture, the warnings became more intense and dire. In Father's eyes, I could never love his son as he did and would bring nothing but pain, suffering and destruction (pretty awesome for five-foot-four little me.) He was right in one regard, I don't love his son as he does, I love Vincent as a woman loves a man, as Vincent deserves to be loved. I know that part of his fear came from his own experience with Margaret, but the walls of fear he built around Vincent's heart took me a long time to pull down.
And last, but never least, was Vincent. Well, not Vincent himself, rather our relationship and the frustrating nature it took on. He had this noble vision of my glorious destiny that included a life Above with a home, children and husband with whom I can walk in the sunshine (he has an obsession with sunshine.) Even though I loved him with my whole heart, I was supposed to just forget all about him and marry someone who could give me 'things'. I finally convinced him that this grand vision of his was really insulting, that it seemed I was so shallow and materialistic to need money and 'things' rather than someone who loved me unconditionally and who I loved the same.
Vincent was also afraid of harming me physically, a paranoia begun by the incident with Lisa and fed by Father's continual, dire warnings (and we're back to fathers!) It took me months to convince him he'd never hurt me. If he couldn't harm me while under the influence of Paracelsus' drug and during his breakdown in the cave, the bond would never let him hurt me ever, especially during lovemaking. And, unlike Lisa, I would never pull away from him, far from it.
Slowly, carefully, I chipped away at the wall of fears surrounding him, a task which became easier when Father finally accepted me and quit sabotaging my efforts. Vincent told me once, after Dimitri's death, that one either moves toward love or away from it, that there is no other direction. There may be no other direction, but the option he took was to stand still and not move at all. The tiny, careful steps I instigated finally budged him, and he decided on 'toward love'.
Vincent's emotional breakdown was the darkest period of the past few years, and had he died, I know I would have too. But that's behind us -- it took a long time, but he's well now, and I don't think we'll ever have to go through anything like that again. It was the final reassurance to him -- that I didn't fear him, that I loved him, that he wouldn't hurt me --a reassurance that allowed him to move toward love, and our love has healed the rift in his psyche.
Since the breakdown it's been the best of times. We finally consummated our love and began a life together. Our friends and family Below rejoiced with us and welcomed me into their world. I still have a position at the District Attorney's office, but it's not doing investigations anymore, it's assisting in the trial end of the process. I'm safer, and everyone, including Joe, I think, is happier. I moved out of my apartment and into a brownstone in the Village. Actually, I live Below and only use the house as access and an occasional weekend retreat with my hunky husband.
The day I stood before the tunnel community and their Helpers and pledged myself to Vincent was the happiest day of my life. The love I felt for him consumed me. I thought that only one love, such as the one I had with Vincent, was possible in a lifetime.
But yesterday I found out I was wrong; I fell in love again. I looked into another pair of azure eyes and was lost. There was no slow, careful build-up, no time to get to know one another, just one look, and my heart was his, forever. I'm planning a note to Joe, to resign my position at work. I need to be with my new love as much as possible, to get to know and enjoy him without the distraction of work.
I lay beside him on the bed, watching him sleep, and wonder how Vincent feels about my new consuming love. As these thoughts filter through my mind, I look up to see Vincent standing in the doorway. He smiles. His eyes soften as he beholds us together in the middle of his wide bed, and I know he understands, because that same all-powerful love has consumed him too. My heart calls to him, my eyes issuing an invitation, and he joins us.
My heart swells at the tears that fill his eyes, his love and awe enveloping me. I tenderly stroke his cheek in understanding. My gaze returns to the new man in my life, a perfect miniature of his beautiful father, and I know the life I had thought perfect has changed for the better. Money, position, career -- those are fleeting, nothing is as important as this, and I know my mother is smiling, for now I truly have a happy life.