Joan Stephens

With slow, easy grace, she walks away from me, and, my heart soaring, I watch her disappear into the luminous blue-white stream of light that hides the threshold to her world Above. But my mind refuses to accept what my heart knows is true. It cannot be! She cannot mean literally what she said.

I close my eyes and painted on the back of my eyelids is Catherine as she had been mere minutes ago. Dusty, disheveled, her dear face smudged with dirt and softly glowing, she says with deep conviction, "It wasnít courage, Vincent. It was love." Then she smiles shyly, ducking her head, and walks toward the light.

My angel, my deliverer has used her hands, her brains, her influence to save not only me but my beloved father from a painful, suffocating death in a collapsed cave. The second she arrived I could feel her on the other side of the stony wall that separated us. Over the months, our bond has quietly grown in depth and strength. She knew I needed her and responded immediately, without hesitation. If I had not loved her then I would surely have succumbed to that emotion when I saw her small form scrambling over broken rock as she approached me, the gleam of fear in her eyes quickly changing to joy as she sees me rise from the rubble. And we came together in a joyous, ardent embrace tinged with relief and a remnant of the fear that we would never see each other again. Oh, how I want to tell her how much I love her.

"It was love," she said.

But surely, I have misinterpreted her words, misread her emotions. I sigh with relief as I realize my mistake. Of course, she loves me but it must be the love of a dear friend. Thatís it! Thatís what she meant. But, if I would only admit it, I wish she could love me as I love her. But that can never be. She is a woman of the light and I . . . a creature of the dark. Holding her loving words close to my heart, I turn and begin my long, lonely trek back to my silent chamber.