Catherine was in a terrific mood. Her day had been going perfectly. The case she had been working on had come to a satisfactory conclusion for all concerned and what made that so gratifying was that this time,no one was going to jail.
Tommy Jenkins was twelve and a self-styled businessman. He would sneak into the big hotels and collect the shoes left outside the rooms for the valet service to shine. Rather than leave them for the valet service, Tommy would take them down to a secluded corner in the basement and shine shoes; then return them to the owners and collect the tips. Not a bad little business enterprise, actually, until hotel security caught wind of it. He had finally been apprehended last week by an observant security person. Originally, the hotel was going to press charges, but Catherine had been able to talk them out of it and had, in fact, talked them into giving the resourceful young entrepreneur a job - shining shoes. The only stipulation to his getting and keeping the job was that he must stay in school during the day. If word got back that he was skipping, the boom would be lowered. Everyone was amenable to the arrangements, especially Tommy's mother. She had been very worried about him getting mixed up with drugs or gangs, and was very much relieved with the arrangements.
So Cathy was feeling very pleased with herself, as well as the world in general, and she wanted to share that happiness with the one person who was most important to her'Vincent. But how? Suddenly she had a brainstorm. A big grin spread across her face and a mischievous gleam twinkled in her sea-green eyes.
Catherine knew that there was no possible way for her to dampen her feelings completely in order to hide them from Vincent, but she tried. Sometimes it was downright inconvenient knowing that he could feel everything she was feeling and doing, primarily when she had special plans. It tended to spoil her surprise, but she was determined that it would not happen this time. This was going to be too much fun. She would just have to be very careful not to get too excited.
Her plans were going along well, but it all hinged on getting him out Of his chamber for a period of time, preferably all afternoon. How could she get him occupied without his knowledge'a very difficult proposition at best.
On her lunch hour, that one problem still had not resolved itself, but Catherine had an idea. She walked through the park hoping to come across some of the children from Below and she was successful. Near the carousel, Catherine spied Kipper and Samantha riding two elegant white chargers up and down, up and down. She stood at the gate watching them have so much fun and remembered Devin's story of the time he had snuck Vincent up to the carousel when they were children. It had almost ended in tragedy, but it had given Vincent a memory to cherish. Catherine hoped that what she had planned might also create such a cherished memory.
The children waved when they noticed Catherine watching them and two big smiles greeted her as they hopped from their steeds as the carousel came to a slow stop.
Vincent was an extra-special friend to all the children Below and the love they had for him just naturally included the woman who had touched his heart so deeply'the woman who gave him everything.
'Catherine!' Kipper greeted loudly.
'Hi, Catherine,' smiled Samantha, shyly.
'Hello, Kipper, Samantha. I was hoping that I might find someone up here,' Catherine smiled broadly, and the children instinctively knew that something was afoot. 'I need your help.' Catherine took their hands and they walked off together to sit on a nearby bench as she explained what she was planning for Vincent. Catherine's sense of mischief was infectious and she soon had two co-conspirators eager to help as she explained what she wanted them to do.
'Catherine,' Samantha giggled, 'he'll love it.' Then she and Kipper, smiles ear-to-ear, ran off to put their part of Catherine's plan into action.
Returning to the office, Catherine went into Joe Maxwell's office and found him in an excellent mood. It seemed as if the case he was working on was also going well, so Cathy took the chance, and asked for and received the afternoon off. It was Friday, after all.
'Okay, Radcliffe. You can split early, but let's not make a habit of this, all right?' Joe tried to put across the image of a hard-as-nails D.A., and in court he was, but where Catherine Chandler was concerned, Joe had a soft spot. Cathy had a special place in Joe's heart and he often wished that they could be more than just friends.
'Thanks, Joe. I appreciate this. I need to arrange something for a special friend.'
'Get outta here, Radcliffe, and I'll see you bright and early Monday morning.' Joe shooed her out of his office.
'Right, Joe, and thanks,' Cathy said, giving him a quick kiss on his cheek.
Cathy and Joe's relationship was more than just boss to employee. They were friends and Cathy valued his friendship, but as far as she was concerned, that was all it would ever be'just friendship. She often sensed Joe's feelings for her, but for Cathy Chandler there was only one man in her life' Vincent.
Cathy cleared her desk for the weekend and almost skipped out of the office, so involved was she over her intended surprise for Vincent. She knew the children would succeed in getting him out of his chamber long enough for her to deliver everything. She couldn't wait to see his reaction.
Vincent had been sensing Catherine's jubilant mood and her sense of anticipation all day. He had decided that she was up to something but the emotions he sensed, although intense, were of joy so he wasn't overly concerned.
It took Catherine most of the afternoon to collect her surprise for Vincent. All afternoon, children from Below would meet her in the park and working in shifts, they would take the pieces of her surprise down to Vincent's chamber. Her instructions to the children were very explicit, 'Whatever you do, make sure they are tied down tightly.'
As she took the last 'shipment' Below herself, Catherine couldn't help but chuckle as she thought of the expression on Vincent's face when he walked into his chamber. She delivered the last of her surprise and made sure all was secure, then went to Father's chamber to visit with him until Vincent's return.
Vincent was puzzled. Kipper and Samantha had asked him to show them the Crystal Cavern and he had agreed. During their journey, however, their light conversation was interrupted by a cryptic message on the pipes, 'Kipper, all is ready.' The children immediately changed their minds and they retraced their steps to the Home Chambers.
The children walked in front of him most of the way, talking in whispers and giggling. Sometimes one of them would cast a glance at him over a shoulder and then start to laugh. He could sense in them the same feeling of anticipation and mischief he had been sensing from Catherine all day. Something was definitely going on. As they neared Vincent's chamber, the children thanked him and ran ahead laughing. Vincent could sense Catherine's nearness but decided at the last minute to change first before meeting her, it would only take a few minutes.
Catherine sat with Father in his chamber, trying to maintain a calm facade, and drink a cup of tea. As Kipper and Samantha came bounding into the chamber all smiles and giggles, she placed the cup on the table and rose from her chair. Placing a finger to her lips silencing any inquiry from Father, she offered him her hand and indicated for him to follow.
Halfway to Vincent's chamber they heard a sound. It started softly at first and gradually increased in volume and intensity. Father wasn't sure what he was hearing, but Catherine knew and she was joyous that her gift had had the desired effect. Stepping into the doorway of Vincent's chamber Catherine stopped.
Vincent was standing in the center of his chamber slowly turning around in a circle, looking everywhere and laughing, a full, deep, glorious laugh. For from every available spot in his chamber were tied securely bunches of balloons'red one, green ones, blue ones, yellow ones, pink ones, white ones, even silver ones, all different shapes and sizes'tied to anything that would hold them. The backs and arms of his chairs, the handles on his wardrobe, the rungs of the ladder leading to the upper level of his chamber, the candelabras on his tables, even from the tassels on the pillows on his bed'a veritable forest of balloons. Balloons everywhere!
Catherine stepped into the chamber laughing along with him and as he turned toward her, she slipped into his welcoming embrace.
'Hi Vincent,' she giggled, trying to stifle her glee. 'How was your day?'
That remark only made Vincent laugh more as he hugged her close.
Father left smiling
and chuckling to himself, shaking his head in disbelief. 'Kids!'
was all he could say.
Written June 1990; submitted/published in 'Chamber Cameos', Vol 1, Issue 4, Aug 1990