Interlude with a Cloak

Midnight Rose and Tunnelmom

July 2002

Entering Vincentís chamber one evening, Catherine found the darkened room void of its inhabitant but not empty of his presence. In the burnished light, she saw a familiar black cloak gracing the back of a carved wood and leather chair announcing that Vincent was home, but elsewhere in the tunnel hub. The beloved leonine man did not stray far, even Below, without his signature garment, his almost constant companion.   

The waterfall of dusty black fabric beckoned Catherineís small hands to caress its multiple textures of soft wool, supple suede and sheen of leather. The cloak seemed out of place in the otherwise neat chamber, appearing to be carelessly laid aside rather then properly hung up on a peg or stored in a wardrobe.  No, it was in its rightful place, folded and draped, ready to be gathered up at a momentís notice.  

The ebony mantle reminded Catherine of a gallant soldier, tired and worn from battle, resting until he was called upon to resume his duty. How great a task had been given this tattered knight of cloth: to keep its wearer safe and warm within its midnight folds.  The cloak was Vincentís protector when he ventured into the world Above.  The mantle and hood were his cover of darkness, of shadow, shielding his unique features and presence from the prying eyes of those who would not understand, from those who would hate him, or harm him. Below, the cloak kept Vincent warm against the constant tunnel chill as he prowled the maze of tunnels and outer passageways that were his territory to protect and beyond to the unknown reaches of the underground that only Vincent had ever traversed.  But here in the heart of the Home chambers, the mighty garment was laid aside to rest and wait, its concealment and protection not needed when Vincent was safe among family and friends.  
Catherine respectfully lifted the heavy garment.  It was much lighter then the last time she had handled Vincentís cloak, sodden with rainwater from a downpour during a walk in the park. She held the voluminous mantle before her in the soft amber light, lifting it to the height of Vincentís shoulders, her tiny hands supporting the garmentís hooded bulk. How proudly the midnight cloak graced his lofty broad shoulders and concealed his powerful body. Her heart skipped a beat each time she saw the familiar and dear hooded silhouette waiting for her at the threshold or filling the corner of her balcony, an enormous three-dimensional shadow.   

She waltzed in a tight circle watching the ebony, slate, and chocolate patchwork cloak fan out around her. Thoughts of being Sleeping Beauty dancing with the Princeís cape touched the corner of her mind, making her smile as she sashayed across the tiny chamber with her phantom partner.  She envisioned Vincent striding down the tunnels, his sable cloak swaying seductively with his powerful strides, the hem swirling about his ankles. Back-lit by the amber glow of stained glass, Catherine could see that the wool garment was worn and almost threadbare in places, many rips and tears had been carefully mended and the hem was tattered and torn.  This old soldier had survived many battles in its years of faithful service.  How many times had she seen that billowing black flag whipping behind him as Vincent ran to her aid, dark angel wings carrying her to safety?  

Catherine swung the heavy cloak around and let its weight fall on her own narrow shoulders.  She held the garment closed with two fists of leather.  The black mantle had the physical essence of Vincentís embrace, powerful arms closing around her, and holding her close in the heavy, concealing folds.  The scent of earth, smoke, and beeswax permeated the textured fabrics and she buried her nose in the soft wool to capture the faint scent of the beloved man himself.  The garment was warm with his spirit.   

The first time Catherine remembered having worn the cloak was on Halloween night when she and Vincent had walked the streets of New York City until dawn in the October chill.  His cloak that night had been the embrace that he could not yet give, but conveyed the promise that he would always keep her safe and warm.   

There were countless times during Vincentís visits to her balcony that he would drape her in his dark mantle and she would snuggle into its warmth while they sat side by side reading to each other.  When Catherine hugged Vincent, she loved to wrap her arms around his middle within the edges of the cloak and the garment would surround her as Vincentís arms held her firmly against his muscled strength.   

The night the Watcher tried to drown her, the first memory Catherine had after being locked in the car trunk was of Vincent wrapping her soaked body in his cloak. That night the ebony mantle became the embodiment of Vincent himself and of his love, its dark wrap embracing her, protecting her, and warming her when he could not physically be at her side.   

Catherine put her arms through the sleeves; the right side with the thick roll of leather across the shoulder fell to her elbow.  The voluminous left sleeve hung to her knees and she pulled at the soft, gray suede and leather patchwork trimmed in long fringe and a band of brown leather to free her hand. Reaching behind her head, Catherine pulled up the deep hood edged in black leather. Many times had she beheld the beloved, leonine face half concealed in the depths of this hood. His expressive eyes all but lost in the deep shadows and golden locks; save for a glint of burning embers that glittered, staring lovingly into her eyes, saying all that needed to be said.   

Looking down, Catherine had to chuckle, the hem of the black mantle pooled at her feet and holding the edges closed she was completely engulfed in the heavy garment and immobile as well. A few strands of spun gold caught in the leather edging demanded her attention and she plucked them free and wrapped the long flax around her index finger. As Catherine straightened, the deep hood fell forward and covered her face, plunging her into darkness.   

From within the inky blackness, Catherine let her other senses discover the magic of Vincentís cloak.  She detected the mild woodsy herb fragrance that clung to Vincentís golden tumble of mane and a fainter, wild hint of musk, his own unique scent infused in the threads along with the smell of earth and candle smoke.  She let the aromas enfold her, each breath drawing the very essence of Vincent deep within herself. Her roaming hands caressed and kneaded handfuls of the varied textures of leather and cloth, contrasting sensations of soft comfort over harden panes whispering of the man the garment embodied.  She buried her face in the soft warm wool and imagined that the worn nap against her skin was the velvet on Vincentís cheek and if she moved her head just right her lips might find his.   

Suddenly it struck her; she was standing in Vincentís most personal safe place.  This heavy garment of patched wool and worn leather was his only protection, his own shadow guardian.  It had been made with love by his family members to keep him safe and warm when they were not there to protect him themselves. Catherine fervently wished that she could be his cloak, to wrap herself around him, to be his companion always, her love keeping him safe from harm.   

Wrapped in the warm midnight cocoon, Catherine silently whispered her thanks to the battered, worn cloth soldier that protected the one that she loved.  She blessed it with her love, imagining her essence weaving itself into the fibers to hold Vincent close and safe always.  Perhaps, the next time he donned his cloak Vincent would know that she was there.   

A moment more and Catherine removed the dusty black knight and reverently refolded the massive fabric, laying the tattered garment across the back of the carved chair, its place of honor.  Her slender fingers lingered, caressing, straightening, and soaking in Vincentís strength and gentleness that emanated from the black cascade of cloth bathed in the gilded light.  

Keep him safe for me, her heart whispered.  One last caress and she left the twilight chamber in search of the cloakís beloved counterpart.   

In the stillness breathed the wisp of a silent answer.  I will.