by Linda Mooney
...and while there is still the problem of electrical Leakage being detected from Above. Mouse has assured us that he will convert as much as he can to battery power. Father fears that someone will discover the tap placed on the wires...
“Oh, good! You're here!”
Vincent looked up from the letter he was writing to see Rebecca walk into his chamber, looking frazzled and bearing an armload of clothing. Rising from his seat, he asked her, “Can I be of help?”
The woman dumped the load in the middle of his bed before turning to face him. ‘Sure can. Mary, Patricia, and Janet are still getting over the flu, so we're rather short-handed down at the hot springs. I got two sets of your laundry cleaned and dried,” she gestured to the pile on the bed, “but it would help me a lot If you'd fold it and put it away yourself."
"Of course,” Vincent readily agreed.
Rebecca gave him a quick smile. "Thanks!” And rushed out the doorway to deliver her next load.
Vincent placed the letter inside the cover of his journal with the intent of finishing it later before he stepped over to the two wooden chests on the floor near the wardrobe and lifted the lids.
I haven't had to do laundry duty since I was eighteen, he mused, picking up a shirt from the top of the stack and carefully hanging it inside his wardrobe by the bed. Two sweaters and a pair of pants followed, folded and laid inside the larger of the two chests. When he grabbed the next item and disentangled it from the rest of the group Vincent saw it was one of Catherine's slips... and he stopped short.
A sweet mixture of embarrassment and surprise rippled through him as he held the length of white nylon in his hands, rubbing his fingers over the smooth texture. From the corner of his eye, he spotted a bit of creamy lace half-hidden by a pair of Jeans and he slowly drew it out, recognizing one of Catherine's bras, all sheer lace and wispy pale-blue silk.
An indescribable feeling came over him--part trepidation, part delight, and part curiosity, at holding such an intimate piece of material that only he had seen her wear. Spreading it over his fingers, Vincent noticed how delicate the article was, he marveled at how Catherine's body could fill out such a piece of clothing so that it fit like a second skin.
The room seemed much to get much warmer. Folding the underwear as best he could, Vincent placed the slip and bra in the smaller chest and tried to concentrate and finish the rest of the laundry done as quickly as possible.
But the memory of Catherine. how she looked when she undressed the other evening until she was down to that white sip and pastel bra... how it felt to unhook the clasp.., to drag the elastic waistband down over her slender hips...
Vincent gave himself a good shake and mentally slapped himself back to the present. He knew he exhibited all the signs of an over newly discovering the joys of a sexual relationship with the woman he loved, but the fringe benefits were rather... startling.
A few days before Catherine had come to live Below, to share his life and his bed, Father had tried to briefly explain to Vincent how things would change for him, for all of them. How the next few weeks would be a time of constant exploration and discovery, of a closeness never before experienced, and of a hundred and one awkward moments they would have to work out on their own with love and patience.
Holding a black lace something in his hand, Vincent figured he was halfway between a discovery and an awkward moment.
He'd never really paid attention to what Catherine wore, only aware of how nice she looked, how her clothes accentuated her beauty rather than covered it. Later, in the semi-darkness late at night in their chamber, her undergarments were merely objects in the way of their desires, pieces of cloth that would find their way to the floor as quickly as possible. He had never stopped to examine what they looked like--that is, until now.
Three pairs of his socks and a short cotton blouse of Catherine's were quickly folded when Vincent picked up the royal red lace panties and gingerly held them up to his chest. A pattern of roses was all that made up the impossibly thin bikinis, and a small smile spread over his face as Vincent stared at them.
I remember these. I remember that night... behind the falls... Catherine had these on under a pair of jeans... I remember...
"Vincent? May I speak to you for a moment?”
Whirling around, Vincent hastily stuffed the panties in his pocket as Father entered the room. "Yes, Father?”
Father glanced up from the newspaper he had brought with him to notice a certain figetiness in his son's usually calm demeanor. “Are you all right, Vincent? You look... a bit peaked.?"
“I'm fine, Father," Vincent hastily assured him, and moved slightly to the side to block his parent's view of the clothing still unfolded.
Father instantly realized his son was trying to hide something. "Did I catch you at a bad time? This isn't important,” the older man gestured to the paper. “I could come back later.”
"That would be fine, Father. I'll be only a few more minutes, then I'll Join you in your chamber.”
Father caught the inflection on the word your and relented. He didn't quite understand why Vincent was suddenly so secretive, but knew it more than likely had something to do with Catherine. Nodding, he replied, “Very well. I'll go make us a pot of tea.”
When Father had gone, Vincent turned back to his original task and quickly finished putting away the rest of the items.
Later that evening after supper, Vincent and Catherine settled down in their chamber, hoping to spend a quiet hour or two together. Outlining a few briefs with folders and papers fanned out before her on the bed, Catherine worked intently until Vincent got up from his writing table. Distracted, she glanced up to see him lick and seal the envelope.
“Your letter to Ron Baxter?" she asked.
Vincent nodded. “With these last relays installed, and a little luck, the small amount of electricity we need to bleed off the main lines won't be detected.”
Grinning, Catherine teased, “No wonder my electric bill has been so high. I've been paying for Mouse's lava lamps!”
Smiling back, Vincent turned to snag his cloak before leaving. “I should be no more than a couple of hours..."
He looked up to see Catherine pointing to a spot near his midriff, her other hand cupped over her mouth to stifle her shout of surprise, and he felt her laughter echo inside of him as she rocked gently on the bed.
A quick examination of his waistline, and he saw what she was referring to. Slowly, he pulled the pair of glowing red lace panties from his pants pocket and tossed them at Catherine.
“How long,” she gasped between giggles. “how long have you walked around with these sticking out of your pocket like that?”
Aware of how long he had carried them around brought a sudden rush of warmth to his face, and Vincent hung his head. Instantly. Catherine scooted off the bed and rushed over to him.
"I'm only teasing, Vincent. I didn't mean to embarrass or humiliate you.”
“I am neither, Catherine, unless I have shamed or embarrassed you in front of others because of my forgetfulness.”
“Forgetfulness?" Her eyes twinkled with gentle Joy. "Tell me, my love, how did my underwear come to be in your pocket?”
Sensing her playfulness, and knowing no harm was committed by his carelessness, Vincent clasped her hand that lay on his arm and replied. “If I tell you the whole story, do you promise not to laugh at me again?”
Father was in his chamber, attempting to translate and read a first edition of Les Miserables, when the sparkling sound of Catherine's laughter floated to him. Its musical quality broke his concentration--and brought a warm, envious smile to his face.