Joan Stephens

 I well remember the day my components and I were assembled.  All my dreams of residing in a sunny, opulently spacious bedroom embraced by silken sheets; warmed by natural-fiber, soft woolen blankets; and covered by a designer duvet were shattered when I was manhandled into the tunnels beneath the city and into a small, cramped cave.  Indignantly and I must confess a little fearfully, I wondered what kind of person would use me as a resting place.  I shrank with shame when a middle-aged woman named Mary covered me with patched, scratchy cotton sheets and a couple of old thin blankets.  The final affront was the hand-sewn quilt of odd pieces of cotton and leather that she threw over me.  No, I take that back.  The final insult was the old, mismatched and misshapen pillows that were piled at my head.


Well, it could have been worse, I thought, but mortified, I waited to see who would sleep in my comforting softness.  I dearly hoped that it would be someone like the woman, Mary.  She, at least, had been gentle, not like the men who had brought me here.  Imagine my relief when a bearded man of medium height, dressed in strange clothing like that of the woman, entered, holding the hand of a five-year-old dark-haired boy.  “Is that my bed, Father?” the child asked excitedly.


“Yes, Devin, for now.  When Vincent is older, do you think you would mind sharing it with him?”


The little boy bounced up on me and, kneeling in the middle, considered the idea.  “I guess not.  He’s just a baby and needs to sleep with me.  If he’s alone, he might get scared.”


“Yes, that’s right.  Thank you for your thoughtfulness.”  The man ruffled the boy’s hair.  “I’ll bring Vincent’s cot in here and place it close to your bed.”


The boy laid back and stretched his arms above his head, wiggling in pleasure at the praise he had been given.  I would learn in future years that there was little of that praise to be had for him from the man he called Father.  The man returned carrying a small bed and followed by the strangest child I have ever seen.  He had the face of a lion cub, and later that evening when the boys were getting ready for bed, I found out that he was covered with a fine golden pelt.  I expected a tail but there wasn’t one, and I shivered when I thought of the claws on his hands and feet lying on me, possibly ripping my covers.  It was a concern of mine until he actually came to sleep on me.  Then I discovered how careful and gentle he could be, and I welcomed him into my softness and warmth.  The man, Father, tried to give him all the love and coddling he needed, but sometimes, it just wasn’t enough.  It was at those times that he would throw himself on me and cuddle into me, and I would make myself as soft and as warm as I could.  I couldn’t take the place of the mother he never knew, but I did try.


After Vincent was deemed old enough for Devin to share me with him, they would spend hours and hours snuggled happily under my covers, planning voyages and expeditions to exotic places all over the world.  But disaster happened one night after an argument between Devin and Father over a pocket knife and then between Vincent and Devin.  After he accused Vincent of squealing on him and then socking the innocent child in the nose, Vincent unthinkingly took a swipe at Devin and cut his cheek with his claws.  That night Devin left without a word, breaking Vincent’s heart, for he blamed himself for Devin’s disappearance.  He spent many hours crying in the middle of my softness.  I did my best to ease his pain and often lulled him to sleep while he was crying.


Finally, he accepted his solitary presence in my gentle warmth and for a few more years we lived in relative peace and happiness.  I had come to realize that I was involved in the day to day activities of a most extraordinary life, and I never again mourned my lost luxurious and possibly decadent life.


Then I witnessed the darkest time of his life after he had accidentally harmed and then lost his first adolescent love.  Blaming himself, he sank into a deep depression that released a side of him I had never witnessed.  He became, at times, violent and uncontrollable, but he never once shredded my mattress as if somehow he knew I was his friend.  Eventually Father had to restrain him.  If I had been able, I would have writhed in shame as they tied him to my frame.  I can tell you right now that I was never so happy in all my existence as I was the day they released him.  I believe I literally plumped up with relief when he was able to turn onto his side.  He had actually died for a few minutes, and when he returned to life, he had closed off a vital part of him that no one noticed but me.


He lived for many years after that seemingly content and accepting of his lot in life until the night he saved the life of a young socialite.  After he and Father had tended to her wounds, he brought her to me and gently placed her into my comforting care.  During the ten days she remained with us, she unlocked that part of him that he had kept closed off for all these years. Unfortunately, he didn’t know what to do with these newly awakened emotions until she taught him how.  They fell in love and with that love came a miraculous bonding of their hearts and souls.  I actually felt lonely when he returned her Above.


Returning from that unhappy duty, he entered slowly and wandered over to me.  He bent and softly ran his hand over the place where she had lain.  Sighing deeply, he whispered, “Good bye, Catherine.  We will never meet again.”  Then he laid down and curled into the familiar fetal position of his childhood.  Tears trembled on his eyelashes and fell on my pillows.  I did my best to comfort him, but as I did I had the feeling that these two were not finished with each other yet.  Their destinies are inextricably woven together.


He lasted a total of eight months before he went to see her.  I could tell something was up, as the longer the time stretched since he had left her at the threshold to her world the more restless he became, needing to go Above and walk the city streets.  One night he grabbed a book and left in a rush.  It seemed that if he didn’t go right then and there, he never would.  He was gone all night, and I began to worry about him.  When he returned, it was with a lighter step and a dreamy smile.  I knew then that he had seen her.  From then on she visited him often, sitting beside him on the edge of my mattress, sometimes even laying her slight weight on me while she waited for him. I looked forward to those times as they seemed to rejuvenate me with the powerful vibrations of esteem and devotion that hovered in the chamber.  I watched the flowering of their deep love from the tentative first ten days to the present, glorying in the fact that even for him there was a someone.  I am no fortune teller, and I cannot see what the future holds for them, but if the fates are kind, their love will continue to grow and finally culminate in the supreme act of love.  Oh, let it be on me; I think I deserve it.