Vincent climbed onto Catherine’s balcony. January had been a cold month, but February was growing even colder. With the wind-chill factored in, the temperature was a ravaging 20 below zero. Although the tunnels were cozy and warm, Vincent rather enjoyed taking brief walks in the crisp, icy snow. At this moment, however, he hoped to get Catherine’s attention and seek an invitation into the warmth of her loft.
Vincent rapped lightly at the window, and waited for Catherine to open the terrace doors to welcome him. However, there was no response. Catherine didn’t appear at the door as she usually did. She did not come out onto the balcony, inviting him into her world.
Vincent lowered the hood of his cloak. He listened carefully to the sounds of the night. Reaching deep into the bond he held now with Catherine, he sensed her safety and sensed that she was, in fact, inside. What else was that he heard? That noise? Music? It was not like any music he had ever heard, but it seemed nevertheless to be music. ‘Blackout, heatwave, .44 caliber homicide.’ What kind of music was this? ‘The bums drop dead and dogs go mad in packs on the West Side.’ The man’s voice in the song was rough around the edges, ‘nothing special,’ Vincent thought. ‘Young girl standing on the ledge looks like another suicide. She wants to hit those bricks cause the news at six gotta stick to a deadline.’ Ok, those lyrics troubled him! Exactly where was Catherine?
Curiously, Vincent peered through a slit in the curtains, to see light coming from the kitchen. His sensitive hearing could discern the sound of running water. Catherine must be doing dishes. The water was running, the music was blaring, no wonder she did not respond. This was a side of Catherine that Vincent hadn’t seen. He laughed. Catherine’s energy, her whimsy, amused him.
The song continued, ‘While the millionaires hide in Beekman Place, the bag ladies throw their bones in my face. I get attacked by a kid with stereo sound. I don’t wanna hear it but he won’t turn it down.’ How true! But was his Catherine one of those kids? Vincent waited for the song to end, then rapped a bit louder at the door. No answer. Finally, the thought crossed his mind to see if the door was locked. To his surprise, it wasn’t. Catherine felt a burst of cold air enter her kitchen. Startled, she peered around the doorway up to discover that the terrace door was ajar. She sighed in relief when a familiar clawed hand was seen at the edge. Catherine ran to her stereo and turned the volume down. “Vincent!” She flung the door open and motioning him in, she beckoned, “Come in here. You must be freezing. How long have you been out here?”
“Long enough,” came his reply, as Vincent followed Catherine into her living room. “What exactly is that. . .noise?” he added.
“I happen to like Billy Joel,” Catherine fired back in defense of her choice in music for the evening.
“Billy who?” Vincent assumed she was referring to the singer of that ‘song’ but hoped she was not referring to a male companion lurking perhaps in another room.
“Billy Joel. And that ‘noise’ is rock and roll, Vincent.” Catherine’s eyes and the smile on her face demonstrated to Vincent that he was about to meet a new side of Catherine. The Catherine he had met nearly a year ago was tough and intelligent, having a love of poetry, literature, and classical music. ‘Or,’ he wondered, ‘was she only indulging me, because I enjoy these things so?’ Seeing the confused expression on Vincent’s face, Catherine handed him the record album cover. “Welcome to the music of the ‘80s!” she exclaimed with a light laugh.
Vincent examined the cardboard square. On it was a photo of a rather odd- looking man in blue jeans and a black leather jacket. He was holding a large rock and appeared as if he were about to throw it through a window of a house made of glass. The cover read, ‘Billy Joel’ and ‘Glass Houses.’ Vincent bent down before the turntable and observed the vinyl circle going ‘round and ‘round. He had heard about records, but had never actually seen them, since electricity was not in abundance in his world.
Catherine stepped up behind him, having finished her dishes. She handed him a cup of hot tea. “I’m glad to see you, Vincent. I’m sorry that you had to wait in the cold.” She removed the Billy Joel album from the stereo and pressed the start button on the cassette player to begin playing Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. “There,” she retorted, “that’s more appropriate for this occasion.”
“Catherine, you do not need to adjust your likes and dislikes in accordance with my own. I will listen to your rock and roll.” Vincent grimaced at the thought, but was genuinely willing to try something new.
“I like this music too, Vincent. And not just because you do.”
Catherine had given Vincent so much. The strength to acknowledge what he was feeling, the ability to admit his humanity. Until she had come into his life, Vincent did not truly know the value of laughter, and he had never known the miracle of love as only a man and woman could share. He had let his guard down and even allowed himself to play as he had not played since childhood.
Catherine welcomed him with a kiss on the cheek, an unusual greeting. Something was different tonight. Catherine’s attitude and appearance were far more casual, almost teasing.
Returning to the kitchen, Catherine poured herself a cup of tea. “Is it too warm in here for you, Vincent?” she asked. A once cold Vincent had noticeably grown flush and sweat glistened on his brow.
“I am quite comfortable, Catherine,” he fibbed.
“Uh-huh.” She returned from the kitchen and sat beside him on the couch.
“I’m sorry, Vincent. I don’t know what’s come over me. I just feel so...happy. I’ve had a really good day, the city is so beautiful in the snow, and I’m very happy to see you. I just can’t hold it back. So, what brings you out in the cold tonight?”
“You shouldn’t have to hold it back, Catherine. Not around me of all people. Knowing you are happy gives me great joy.” As odd as it seemed to him as well as to Catherine, he was comfortable with her, in her apartment, drinking tea. Although this new side of Catherine surprised him, it aroused his curiosity as well. “I have not been above in a while and I like the snow. It is cold, but it is so beautiful.”
“Yes, it is,” Catherine conceded. “But there is a lot to be said for curling up under a warm blanket too, with a good book or a little rock and roll!”
“I’ll agree with the book and warm blanket, Catherine,” Vincent kidded, “but as for the rock and roll . . .well, I can only assume it is an acquired taste.”
“I’m a child of the ‘70s, Vincent. Here, I’ll show you.” Catherine got up and opened the door of her entertainment center. She removed more of the cardboard squares and handed them to Vincent. “You mean you have never heard ‘Aquarius’ or ‘Hotel California?’ ”
Vincent looked at her, puzzled, and shook his head.
“How about the ‘50s?” Catherine asked. “The Chiffons?” He shook his head again. “One Fine Day?” Another shake of his head caused Catherine to announce, “That’s it!” She was on a mission now. She would start with the ‘50s and give Vincent a lesson in rock music. At first she wondered if doing so would corrupt him. He was such a romantically refined creature, and Catherine did not want to spoil his sophistication. But, after all, Rock and Roll had not changed her love of classical music. Perhaps Vincent too shared her duality and had both a sophisticated, classical side and a less traditional, yet more adventurous side. If he did, she was going to find it.
Making her decision, Catherine located an old 45 of ‘One Fine Day.’ Setting the needle to the vinyl she advised her pupil, “if you hate it tell me and I’ll turn it off.”
Vincent resigned himself to listen, and surprisingly he did not hate what he heard. ‘One fine day, you’ll look at me. And then you’ll know our love was meant to be. One fine day, you’re gonna want me for your girl.’ No, Vincent liked this song.
The song ended and Catherine returned the aged record to its cover. Vincent sat motionless and quiet on her couch. His blue eyes found Catherine’s green from across the room. “I like it,” he said softly. Rising, he informed her, “I liked it too much, Catherine, and I should go.”
It took Catherine a few seconds for his words to sink in. She really hadn’t thought about the words of that song until she had begun to play it. By then it was too late to turn it off. She, too, liked this song. “Please don’t go, Vincent, not yet.”
Vincent pulled his cloak around his shoulders, and smiled shyly. “It is better that I do. Find your blanket, Catherine, and stay warm!” Vincent smiled and headed out onto the balcony.
Quietly Catherine followed. She slipped into her boots and grabbed her coat off the back of the nearby chair. She didn’t want him to leave because of a song. “Vincent, wait. I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” she hollered to him, as she took her gloves from her pocket and put them on. “I played that song without thinking. I didn’t plan it.” She followed him onto the balcony. “Really, I didn’t.”
Vincent stopped, turning to face her. “I know that, Catherine. My leaving has little to do with your song, and much more to do with me.”
“I don’t understand, Vincent. Is something wrong?”
“No,” he answered. Seeing the concerned look on her face he added, “everything is too right.”
“Explain?” Catherine’s one word query was as brisk as the cold winter air. She crossed her arms for warmth and leaned against the brick wall of the apartment. When he didn’t respond, she asked again, “Vincent, what it is?”
He looked out over the city. “If my mood tonight has frightened you, I’m sorry.”
“I enjoy being with you, Catherine.” Vincent moved to stand in front of her, so as to shelter her from the cold, winter wind. “Being here with you is what I long for. I wanted to see you tonight. But, seeing you as you are tonight, so happy...reminded me that that happiness is something I can never be a part of.”
“Says who?” Catherine’s question was non-confrontational and honest. “You are a part of it, Vincent. Like it or not.”
“I do like it. I’m just not sure I’m ready for it.” He lightly brushed her hair from her face, and took her gloved hands in his. “It’s cold,” he said, squeezing her hands, “you should go in.”
Catherine nodded. She knew he would be away for awhile. Whenever he questioned himself or them in the slightest, he would retreat to his world, often for weeks. Deep down, Catherine knew it was the kiss and not the music that sent him away tonight. She had placed herself too far into his space when the walls were down.
“When will I see you again?” With a smile, she added, “I promise, no more rock and roll.”
“Soon,” he promised as he prepared to slip over the balcony wall.
Catherine stepped away from the wall and turned toward the warmth waiting for her inside, when she slipped on a patch of ice and slid to sit on the balcony.
A startled Vincent rushed to her side. “Are you alright, Catherine?” he asked, extending his hand to help her to her feet.
Catherine took his hand and tried to stand, but she slipped again, causing Vincent to lose his balance and slip as well. He joined her in sitting upon the icy balcony floor. “Sure,” Catherine laughed. “I’m fine, Vincent. And you?” Catherine lay back on the ice, laughing uncontrollably, feeling both cold and wet from the fall.
Catherine’s laughter was contagious. Her openness with him, and her childlike playfulness caused Vincent to join in her laughter. He just sat there on the ice, relaxed, in awe of Catherine’s spirit. “You’re going to catch cold lying on the ice,” he cautioned as he finally pulled himself back to his feet.
“Nah,” Catherine informed him. “I used to lie in the snow and make snow angels. I didn’t get sick then.”
“Yes, but you were a child then,” Vincent reminded.
“Are you implying I’m old, Vincent?” Catherine detected a bit of delightful sarcasm in his voice. I need to fall down more often, she thought to herself, if that’s what it takes to loosen him up a bit, it’s worth it. “It was only last year!” she quipped, and then watched the expression of surprise light his face. Feeling a bit devious, she suddenly sat up, and scooped up a mound of snow from the crevice by the wall. “Jenny and I were goofing off in the snow in the park one day, and we had a good old-fashioned snowball fight.” And with that Vincent received a snowball blast to the shoulder.
A still laughing Catherine, wondered how he’d react to that. To her surprise, Vincent returned her fire, hitting her on the top of the head with a soft mound of snow. He joined in her laughter again. “Oh, you’re in trouble now!” Catherine squealed, struggling to get to her feet without falling. She proceeded to let him have it again, aiming for his head but missing him completely as he ducked.
“And you are too slow!” Vincent nailed her again, this time in the back as she tried to escape.
“Yeah, well take that,” she screamed, succeeding in landing one on his arm.
“And that!” She finally got him on the top of the head.
Vincent quickly grew quiet. His laughing ceased, and he turned away from her, leaning on the ledge and looking down at the city beneath. His sudden change in demeanor told Catherine that something was wrong. Slowly she approached him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Vincent, what is it?” Genuine concern filled her voice. She knew that their game was over and he would soon leave. Had she taken it too far? “Did I do or say something wrong?”
Slowly Vincent turned to face her. “No,” he said quietly, both hands behind him. “Take that!” he exclaimed as he dumped a huge ball of snow over her head.
“Ahhh!” she squealed as she felt the cold run down her face and back.
“That’s it...this is war.” She fired one, two, three hand fulls of snow at him, and then slipping again on the ice, she fell to the ground. “Ouch!” Catherine let out a painful cry. “My ankle!”
“You’re bluffing,” Vincent replied.
“No, Vincent, really. It hurts". Catherine covered her face. "I think I twisted it. Please help me inside.”
Her voice was shaky and she grabbed at her foot. Cautiously Vincent walked over to her and leaned down beside her. He could see drops of water running down her cheeks and knew she was telling him the truth. He squatted down and placed his arms beneath her preparing to lift her into his arms. “Gotcha!” she hollered as she smashed snow on the back of his neck. “Two can play at that game!” Catherine had not been hurt and the water running down her face was left-over from the snow melting through her hair.
“I thought you were really hurt. Catherine, don’t scare me like that.” Vincent sounded angry. Was he? Or was this another trick? He proceeded to lift her into his arms and set her onto her feet again.
“I’m sorry, Vincent.” Catherine truly felt bad. “I guess I got carried away with the game.”
Vincent, however, was bluffing again. A hand full of soft snow was dropped down the front of her neck. The water ran into her coat and shirt. “Now we are even!” He averred. “I, too, have had practice at these games!” He and Devin used to stage snow wars in the park late at night, as children.
Catherine was the one shivering now. “That’s it! I’m going in. I surrender! Why don’t you join me for another cup of tea. You should warm up before you try to walk all the way home.”
Warily, expecting another trick, Vincent approached her door. There were no more tricks, however. Catherine’s cheeks and ears were red and she was cursing at not having put on her hat and scarf. But such moments with Vincent were so rare, and she had managed to use play to lure him into staying.
Noticing her discomfort, both visibly and through their connection, Vincent the doctor spoke up, “You’re going to have frost bite if you stay out here any longer. Let’s get you inside with your blanket.”
Vincent escorted Catherine inside, shaking the water from his hair and cloak. He removed his boots and cloak, leaving them by the door to dry. “I will make the tea this time. You go and change into some dry clothes.” Catherine followed his instructions and soon returned in a long robe and socks. She plugged in an electric blanket and curled beneath it on the couch. Vincent managed to make tea, after having struggled with her electric stove. He was learning a lot about electricity this evening. Proud of his accomplishment, he joined her on the couch.
“Aren’t you cold?” Catherine asked. Handing him a towel she had brought back with her from her bedroom.
Vincent took the towel and dried some of the water from his hair, face and clothes. “Yes, thanks to you,” he retorted.
“Here,” Catherine said, handing him a pair of large sweat pants and a thermal shirt, from a care package she was preparing for her tunnel family. “You can probably wear these.”
Vincent felt odd about changing his clothes in her apartment. He did, however, long to get out of the wet clothes he wore. Reluctantly, he took the dry articles from her and entered her bedroom to change. Minutes later a drier, warmer Vincent emerged.
In these clothes, he looked different than Catherine had ever recalled seeing him look. The clothes fit him well, and she smiled up at him. “Here,” she said, lifting the edge of the electric blanket, inviting him to share in her warmth. “I promise I won’t bite, and I don’t have any more snow!”
“No tricks?” Vincent asked. Moving in to join her beneath the blanket.
“No tricks.” Catherine curled up next to him and leaned her head on his shoulder. “Just keep me warm.”
Vincent wrapped his arm around Catherine. He
had never been this close to her physically, and while he was somewhat alarmed
by the entire evening, he felt at ease beside her. She had opened her
home and her heart to him, and was willing to take only what he was willing
to offer. Vincent smiled, closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep. Moments later sleep overcame Catherine,
and the pair settled into the warmth of each other’s arms.
A few hours later, Vincent opened his eyes. It took him a few minutes to orient himself to his surroundings and to realize that the sun had risen and he could not go home.
Catherine felt the form beside her stir and stretch, and then felt the tension rising within him. She, too, opened her eyes and was stunned at the fact that Vincent was beside her at 6:45 a.m. “Good morning,” she muttered, trying to make light of the situation.
“Morning it is, Catherine.” Vincent’s tone was unsure. He could not spend the entire day alone in her apartment while she went to work. “I cannot stay here. How did this happen?” He was obviously very uptight. “Father must be frantic. And you must be getting to work.”
“Vincent. . .relax.” Catherine tossed the electric blanket off of them and slowly got up and began to move around. “It’s Saturday. . .I’m not going anywhere” A day with Vincent! This could be fun!
Vincent sat back, calming down slightly. “Still, Catherine. . .” he began, before she ended his thought for him.
“You’re over-reacting! I’ll go and tell Father what happened. . .and what didn’t happen. . .while you have breakfast, take a shower, listen to some music. . . relax. . .okay?” Catherine smiled reassuringly, understanding Vincent’s nervousness. Catherine touched his shoulder softly, and felt him relax a little. She left to use the bathroom, brush her hair and teeth, then threw on some jeans and a sweater and bundled up in her winter garb. “I’ll be back in an hour or so. You want anything?”
“No.” Vincent was amazed at how together she was. She was not the least bit upset by this turn of events. She treated him as he imagined she would treat a ‘normal’ man. Settling back on the couch, he stared at the ceiling and smiled.
“Hurry back!” he said with uncertainty as Catherine closed the door.
Catherine was gone only 10 minutes when her phone rang. “Catherine, it’s Joe.” The voice on the answering machine startled Vincent, and he knew it to be that of Joe Maxwell, Catherine’s boss. “Listen. . .call me back. . .I know you don’t want to work this weekend, but I have a lead on this new case. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll call you later. Bye.”
The call unnerved Vincent, and he got up and went to the kitchen, deciding some tea might soothe his rising inhibitions. He was not as afraid of spending an entire day with Catherine, but the threat of getting discovered reminded him of the dangers in her world.
Vincent drank his tea, and decided to try out the shower. Vincent took special care to lock the door behind him, before shedding his borrowed clothing and stepping beneath the steamy water. The warm water massaged his lightly furred skin and all tension was drained from his body. At first he felt insecure about using Catherine’s towels, shampoo and soap. However, this insecurity soon vanished as he caught the scent of her there. Turning off the water, he dried himself as best he could and put on his own shirt and pants. He was still barefoot and his hair was damp as he heard her keys in the door. Vincent caught a glimpse of himself in the bathroom mirror and he froze. He could not let her see him like this!
“Vincent?” Catherine’s voice call to him. She threw her coat on the couch and sat the box of bagels she carried on the table. Looking around for Vincent, she noticed the bathroom door was closed.
Catherine heard the lock on the door click open and a damp Vincent stepped barefoot into her view. He tried to hide his feet from her as he informed her, “Joe called.” He couldn’t bring himself to say anything else, and was embarrassed by his appearance. He simply pointed to the answering machine, drawing this woman’s attention away from him.
Catherine nodded and then asked, “Do you like bagels?” She did not even approach the machine.
A perplexed Vincent affirmed that he did, and found himself directed to the dining area for breakfast. Sharing this food with Catherine eased his apprehension a little more, as Catherine treated him as she would any houseguest.
After breakfast, Vincent headed for the balcony, intent that the winter breeze would dry him faster. “Would you prefer a blow dryer, Vincent?” Catherine asked. “It’s warmer. You’ll freeze solid out there. Then how will I explain that to Father?” The old man had taken Vincent’s absence this day with amazing ease, as Catherine assured him his son would be safe and would return when it got dark enough for him to slip safely back into the tunnel world.
Vincent had never seen a blow dryer, but assumed it was another intriguing electrical appliance. He nodded and quietly followed her into the bathroom. Catherine retrieved the hand-held hair dryer from the cabinet and plugged it in. Demonstrating its operation she informed him, “push the switch up for on and down for off and that’s it. . .easy, huh?”
Vincent made a face and took the appliance from her. It sounded simple enough. ‘Up for on,’ he thought as he flipped the switch while staring directly into the end of the dryer. Hot air blew in his face, and Catherine howled in laughter. A somewhat discouraged Vincent placed the dryer on the sink and headed for the door. “I’ll be outside,” he told her.
Catherine grabbed him as he tried to leave the bathroom. “No, wait,” she said smiling sweetly at him. “Don’t give up so easily. Let me help.” Catherine pulled Vincent back into the room and turned the dryer on, pointing it in the proper direction. She placed it firmly in his hand and directed, “Now dry!”
Vincent complied, but not before turning the device toward her blowing the hot air in her face. He caught on all too well, and Catherine provided him with a brush and a comb. Once the drying was completed, he replaced the appliance in the cabinet from which Catherine had gotten it earlier. He stood silent again, staring into the mirror. Mirrors amazed him, and he had always shied away from placing one in his chamber. Seeing his reflection there now was startling.
Catherine, who had returned to the kitchen, leaving Vincent to his solitary grooming, was conscious of the fact that the hair dryer was no longer running. The apartment was quiet, but Vincent did not join her. Searching him out, she walked curiously back towards the bathroom. She stopped just outside his line of vision, leaning on the door so that her reflection could not be seen in the mirror. He did not notice her and he did not move. He just stood there staring in the mirror, staring at himself, wondering how she could be so at ease, so welcoming to such a creature. For the first time in hours, Vincent felt oddly out of place in Catherine’s company .
Carefully, slowly, Catherine moved in behind him. Not wanting to frighten him, but sensing his turmoil and needing to comfort him, she wrapped her arms around his waist from behind and rested her chin on his shoulder, staring with him into the mirror. Such close physical contact had been taboo until they slept curled together on her couch.
“What is it, Vincent?” Catherine’s voice was soft, barely a whisper.
Vincent did not move, and he made no attempt to leave the security of her embrace. He simply answered, “Look.”
“I’m looking,” came her response. “And I love what I see.” She smiled ear- to-ear at his reflection, staring deeply into his eyes in the mirror.
“What do you see, Catherine?” Came his reply. Still he did not move. His breathing quickened, and Catherine was unsure if it was due to her touch or because of the vision before him.
“I see a man and a woman. . .” she began, “. . .who have become great friends . . .who have shared a lot of pain, but a lot of joy as well. . .in a very short time.” Catherine wanted to tell Vincent how much she loved him. She wanted to shout it at the top of her lungs, but she knew she couldn’t, not yet. He was far too fragile, and this was all too new to him. Her arms still around him, she clasped her hands together at his stomach and pressed herself tightly to him, hugging him from behind. He allowed this contact, and little did she know, how much he craved it. She returned his question. ”What do you see, Vincent?”
A slight uncertain smile adorned Vincent’s face, and he exhaled a breath he had been holding for quite some time. It struck him finally that Catherine was not appalled or disgusted by what she saw. “We are good friends, Catherine. . .but what I see scares me. For I see the woman, but cannot see the man. I see two friends, the same as you. The woman is strong, and daring, and even a bit devilish at times. She is tough and throws a mighty snowball. She is honest, and also frightened, although she would never admit it. The other, Catherine, is not a man. I don’t know what it is.”
Vincent broke free from her embrace and left the tiny room, needing the open space that her apartment provided. Catherine followed.
“I know what it is. . .want me to tell you?” Catherine perched on the back of the couch, watching him intently as he stared out the terrace window.
“Not really. I may not like what I hear.”
“Tough. . .” Catherine snapped back, with all the determination that had brought her this far. “You’re like a snowman, Vincent.” He turned his head to look at her. “You’re safe in the cold, but when things heat up you begin to melt. Your certainties disappear the minute anything goes contrary to your plan. As long as you’re alone, you stay frozen and solid and safe. And you’re wrong, Vincent, this woman admits to being frightened.”
Vincent cut her off. “I’m not made of snow, Catherine. Sometimes I wish I were.”
“I’m glad you’re not, Vincent. When the sun came out, you’d be gone. Then who would I love? Who would I talk to and laugh with? Who would listen to rock and roll music and smash snowballs over my head?” Catherine touched Vincent’s hair, soft and dry now. He leaned into her touch, and did not pull away.
“I don’t know who that was, Catherine. . .don’t you see? I have never. . . never. . . behaved in such a manner. . .with. . .” Vincent did not finish this phrase. He didn’t need to. Catherine knew exactly what he was saying. He had never behaved in this manner with Catherine, or with anyone for that matter, other than the children.
Catherine looked down and saw that his feet were still
bare. With one stockinged foot, she brushed the top of his foot.
This time, he did pull away. He moved his foot away from her and turned
to face her. Their eyes met, blue on green, and a mixture of emotions
surrounded them. Vincent wanted to run, wanted to hide, wanted to go home. He wanted to take her
in his arms and never let her go. He thought back on how in just ten
short days, he had known that his destiny was linked to Catherine. In
just ten short days, he knew that he loved her. They were linked.
He was learning to live, to love, to play. Most importantly, he was
learning to accept her love and to accept himself. He recalled the image
he had seen just moments ago in the bathroom mirror. Catherine, the
woman, standing beside Vincent, the man? ‘Perhaps,’ he thought.
Catherine moved away from Vincent, deciding it best to allow him some space. He was, after all, faced with spending the entire day with her. “I’m going to call Joe back, okay.” She pointed to the phone. “It’s just across the room, so you’re not rid of me completely.” Catherine picked up her phone and dialed Joe’s number. Perhaps a distraction was needed here. Joe didn’t answer, so Catherine left a message on his machine, informing him she was sick and whatever it was would have to wait 'til Monday. These little games of phone tag were an annoying part of life in the world above.
Catherine did have some work to do, and decided that she would get it done, providing Vincent the space he seemed to need. With some distance between them, Vincent became more at ease. Catherine wanted to be near him, to hold him in her arms again, but did not want to encourage a daylight retreat.
She continued her work, writing feverishly on her legal pad. Vincent read while she worked. Suddenly, he slammed the book shut and returned it to the coffee table. “Catherine,” Vincent looked up at her at last. He left the couch and walked to the dining table where she was working. She looked up at him from her chair, then continued her writing. He stopped behind her and couldn’t help glancing down at the page, to discover that what she had written was not work, but rather a letter to him.
It was too late for Catherine to hide it. Half of her words had been read. Vincent leaned over her shoulder to read the rest, as she lifted her pen and sat back in her chair. No point in fighting it.
This is a letter you will never receive. I have to write it to keep from saying these things to you out loud. I love you. I love your face, your eyes and your smile. I love the way you make me feel. I love being below and being above, as long as you are there. I love how you laugh and how we laugh together. I love concerts and classical music, shared with you beneath the park. I love how you hate Billy Joel. I love losing to you in chess. I love holding you close. I love your voice as you read to me. I love the warmth of you sharing my blanket on a cold night, last night. I love you here in my home, struggling with my hair dryer. I love snow ball fights, even when you win.
I know you feel this is wrong, that it is so
very wrong for us to be together, but, Vincent, I know that you are a man. I know
that you deserve to love and be loved. If it is too much for you, I understand. And, I wish that
you would tell me. I would leave you alone, if
you asked. I know that sometimes I push you too hard. And, in doing so, perhaps I push you away. The more I love you, the farther you slip from my grasp. Perhaps it is I who should stay away for awhile and give you the space you need. I love you, and in the name of love, perhaps I am smothering you. If I have frightened you or let you down, I’m sorry. You are right, I am afraid. I am afraid that you will. . . .
She was caught by Vincent before she could finish the last line. And now she sat frozen. “I will what, Catherine?” came his question.
Catherine took a deep breath, picked up the pen and finished her line, leave and never come back. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I had to get it out. You just weren’t supposed to know. You were supposed to stay over there on your side of the room, and leave me alone with my fears over here!”
“You were supposed to be working.” Vincent’s tone was soft, gentle, even a little cajoling. He could not, however, leave Catherine alone with her fears. Fears that she had successful prevented from reaching him through their bond. “Catherine. . .there is no reason to be sorry. . .and you have nothing to fear. Everything you have written there comes from your heart. It is I who have instilled such fear in you, and I am the one who should be sorry. I was selfish. I ran instead of embracing all that you have offered me, when I should have...when I wanted to accept it. I, too, have an admission to make.”
Sitting down beside her at the table, he took the pen from her hand, turned the paper to a new page and wrote:
“Catherine, I love your face, your eyes and your smile. I love being here with you. I love to hear you laugh. I love snowball fights, and sharing your blanket. I do hate your hair dryer, but I do not hate your Billy Joel. I love you. Vincent.”
Catherine laughed softly. This man, sensitive as he was, had humor. And as long as he could laugh, she knew he’d come through all right. They both would. Catherine wrapped both arms around his neck and rested her head on his shoulder, as a lone tear rolled down her cheek. “I love you, Vincent.” she said aloud for the very first time.
Vincent returned her embrace. Pressing his lips to her ear, Vincent replied. “ I love you too, Catherine. I love you too.”
She held him tighter, her grip telling him all that he needed to know. He was loved. He was cared for, in a way he had never expected to be cared for.
Vincent took her by the hand and got up from the chair, pulling her with him into the bathroom. He pulled her to stand in front of him, looking into the mirror with his arms wrapped around her waist. With Catherine’s acceptance and her friendship, came a new life. And now, for the first time in ever, Vincent saw who he really was. He leaned down and whispered quietly into her ear, “I see the man, Catherine. I see the man.”
Outside, a new blanket of crystal snow fell on the
city. Inside the once frozen Vincent melted in the warmth of Catherine’s