All I Ask Of You



Cathy Trotta



In a luxury apartment eighteen floors above the streets of New York City, a beautiful woman sat at her desk, a wide smile spread across her face.  She was writing in her journal, of memories of the past, and plans for the future.  Her name is Catherine.


Far below the streets of New York City, below the subway lines, a leonine man sat at his desk, the same type of smile crossing his unusual face.  He, too, was writing in his journal.  He wrote of the events of the past few weeks, and of his plans for the future.  His name is Vincent.


They had come back to the city from the Poconos a week ago.  Vincent had expected a cold and terse reception from his family, his community.  What he received was just the opposite.  They were happy to see him, excited for his return, anxious to hear every detail of his trip.


Vincent and Catherine had survived a difficult few months, and now the future that lay ahead was filled with anticipation, excitement, and some trepidation.


In his chamber, Vincent recalled the events of the past month.  Pen poised in hand, he began recounting everything in vivid detail.  He had made notes during his time at Devin’s, but he felt more comfortable writing in his journal, by the glow of candlelight.  Vincent wanted to clarify all his thoughts, before they had a chance to escape his memory.


The trip to Devin and Charles’ cabin was an experience in and of itself.  It was his first trip out of the city, his first taste of fast food, and his first time walking freely in the sunlight.  The trip had been full of many firsts, each one more spectacular than the previous one had been.


Vincent recalled the feeling of a hot shower, how it soothed his sore tense muscles.  Of being able to throw a life’s worth of warnings out the window, and of finally walking in the sunlight.  As long as he lived, he would never forget the warmth of the sun on his face, and of how bright it really was.  Of how things he had only read about in books, or dreamed of as a child had finally come true.


Catherine was also recalling the past months.  Of the breakdowns they both suffered, of her relapse and her fear that she would never be well again.  Not all the events had been unpleasant.  She had a wonderful time visiting Susan in New Mexico, even under the circumstances.  Catherine could talk freely about Vincent, without fear of revealing his existence, or the secret of the Tunnels.


Catherine paused her writing to recall the look on Vincent’s face when she appeared unexpectedly at Devin’s house.  Of the two of them standing wrapped in each other’s arms, admitting their love, one to the other, the full moon providing the perfect backdrop.  Of the days of wonder and discovery that followed, of their return to the Tunnels and their subsequent announcement.  Finally, they were engaged to be married!

As soon as Vincent and Catherine spoke those words, cheers erupted from the Tunnel community.  The couple was hugged and had their hands shaken to within an inch of their lives.


The merriment quickly subsided as Father walked toward the couple.  Not a word was spoken, no one dared to breathe.  Father had originally given the couple his blessing.  Would he now rescind that blessing because Vincent had defied his wishes by going to Devin’s?


Vincent and Catherine had been standing at the top of the steps in Father’s library. Feeling a sense of unity through their bond, with hands joined, they walked down the steps to face their harshest critic.


Since Catherine had relapsed so soon after they became engaged, they had told very few people their news.  On the ride home, they had discussed the possibility of Father once again objecting to their relationship.  Catherine and Vincent decided that regardless of what the Tunnel patriarch said, they would be wed, come hell or high water.


Father stood there, leaning heavily on his cane.  Vincent looked deeply into his eyes.  Father looked tired, anxious, but more importantly, he looked angry.  Just as the couple and the Tunnel community felt as if they couldn’t stand the anticipation any longer, Father spoke.


In his sternest fatherly voice, he began, “Vincent, Catherine, you know that I gave my blessing to your relationship several months ago.  I did it because at the time, Devin and Peter showed me that my way of thinking was wrong, and I believed in your love, one for the other.  You both know that I thought Catherine would abandon you Vincent, just as Margaret had abandoned me.”  Vincent acknowledged Father’s statement by an almost imperceptible nod of his head.


Clearing his throat, causing even more tension in the room, Father once again began to speak.  “On more than one occasion, Catherine has helped this community during times of great danger, in times of need, be it by legal counsel or by helping us to obtain something to make our lives in this community easier.  She was even willing to marry Elliot Burch to keep us safe, our world intact.”  A questioned looked passed not only between the couple, but also by everyone present.  Where is this leading?  Why was he re-hashing the past, not just theirs, but his as well?


Once again Father began to speak, “Vincent, I was very angry when you decided to go to Devin’s without discussing it with me first.  It was extremely rude and irresponsible for you to leave the way you did.  You ignored all my years of warning, and went behind my back and planned your so called adventure.” 


Vincent could feel the hair on the back of his neck rising in anger.  Catherine gave his hand a gentle squeeze, a silent reminder of her support.  The community was in complete disbelief, never had they heard Father speak to Vincent like this, least of all in front of them.


Vincent had told Catherine how upset Father was, not just about him going to Devin’s but also by the fact that he gave him no forewarning of his plans.  He also knew that Devin had called Peter every day to assuage any worries that Father or the community might have.  Unable to contain himself any longer, Vincent began to speak, straining to keep his temper in check while also trying not to be disrespectful to the man who had raised him since birth.


“Father, I know for a fact that Devin telephoned Peter each day to tell him that I was safe and sound.  If you have something to say to me, then it should be discussed privately, not in front of the entire community.  Furthermore, I have just announced that I am to be married, this should be one of the happiest nights of my life, but instead of celebrating with us, your resentment of my actions have spoiled this night for us.  I have only one thing to say to you, Father. I am a grown man, capable of making my own decisions, and if you can’t accept that, then we are at an impasse.” 


Gasps were heard throughout the library.  Everyone knew that Vincent had a temper, some had even seen or heard him while under the influence of Paracelsus’ drugs, or in the midst of his breakdown, but they were shocked at the exchange that had just taken place between the two men.


Looking into Catherine’s eyes, Vincent saw the sadness in them.  Not sadness for him, but sadness that perhaps Father and son would never reconcile their differences.


Vincent composed himself and glaring at Father began to speak.  “Catherine and I would like to thank everyone for all their kind words and good wishes.  It has been a long day, and I’m sure that Catherine is ready to go home.  We will let everyone know the time and date, as soon as we finalize all the details.”  With that statement, people started heading to their respective chambers, whispering to each other about the scene they had just witnessed.


Still holding hands, Vincent began to lead Catherine out of the library and toward her threshold.  The only stop he made was to pick up her luggage.  The walk was a silent one, each lost in their own thoughts, each feeling the tension emitting from the other, but each unwilling to speak the first word.


Catherine, unable to stand the silence any longer, dropped Vincent’s hand, causing him to stop in his tracks.  Looking once again into those eyes, the eyes that showed him that anything was possible even for one such as him, Vincent knew they could not end their vacation this way.


Not wanting to cause him any further distress, Catherine began to speak in a very soft voice.  “Vincent, I am so sorry about the way Father treated you.  I was prepared for him to have some reservations, but I never dreamed that it ran this deep, or that he was still so angry with you for the way you left.”  Bracing herself, afraid of what the answer might be, Catherine asked, “Have you changed your mind about us getting married?”


Dropping her bags gently on the Tunnel floor, Vincent pulled Catherine into his arms, placing her head against his chest.  He held her close, afraid to move, afraid that if he let her go, he might find out that this had all been a dream.  That he would wake up and the past few weeks would be nothing more than a beautiful memory.  Feeling her love gave him the strength to reassure her that no matter what, they would be married.  He would not let Father’s tirade ruin this night.  He would deal with it tomorrow, but for now, they would relive their time together at Devin’s.  Their confidence restored once again, hand in hand, the couple resumed the walk to Catherine’s threshold. 


Catherine opened the door to her apartment.  It was late but she was too angry to sleep.  Picking up the pile of mail the doorman had placed on her table, she began sifting through it, anything to prolong the inevitable, dealing with the blinking light on her answering machine.  Approaching it, she saw that there were over two dozen messages on the machine.  She was already angry; would one of those messages make her even angrier?  “They will still be there tomorrow,” she said aloud.  Her decision made, Catherine took a hot shower and crawled into bed.


Meanwhile, in the Tunnels, Vincent was pacing back and forth.  He wanted to talk to Cullen, but it was too late, Cullen was probably already asleep.  Like Catherine, Vincent was too angry to sleep.  Not only was he not ready to return to his chamber, he certainly wasn’t ready to deal with Father. He needed something calming after Father’s display tonight.  Knowing exactly where he could find that calm, Vincent turned on his heel and headed toward the Mirror Pool.




The next morning found Catherine more rested and less anxious about the difficult tasks that lay before her.  Catherine started her day with a cup of coffee, and the paper.  Being at Susan’s and then at Devin’s had been so relaxing, so peaceful that all the headlines and horror stories were too much for her to handle right now.  It was time to face the music, so to speak. 


Pen and paper in hand, Catherine sat down on her bed and began to listen to the messages on her answering machine.  There were numerous ones from Jenny, wondering where she was, and of course, Jenny had several dreams about Catherine while she was away.  There were a few from Rita, checking to see how she was doing.  While Catherine didn’t doubt that Rita was concerned, she knew that Joe had been the one that prompted her to call.  The last one and the one she was dreading the most was from Joe. 


“Hey Radcliffe, Dr. Alcott told me that you had to go out of town for treatment.  I don’t know what’s going on, or what your plans are, but when you get a minute, how about giving me a call?” 


Catherine had to smile; she could see the expression on Joe’s face while he was making the call.  He was probably twisting a rubber band at the same time.  She and Vincent had discussed her work at the DA’s office, but she was still uncertain which path to take.  She needed to talk things over with Joe, and there was no time like the present.


Vincent had crept into his chamber after his visit to the Mirror Pool.  Although worn out from the trip and the ensuing argument with Father, his mind was wide-awake.  He lay there for what seemed like hours before finally falling asleep.  He was awakened by an odd noise inside his chamber.  He turned his head to find Mouse sitting in his large chair, but not really sitting because Mouse was fidgeting back and forth, waiting for his hero to awake.  Knowing that he could no longer prevent the inevitable, Vincent said in a sharp tone, “Good Morning, Mouse.”


Mouse jumped out of the chair.  He had been watching Vincent sleep for so long that he didn’t realize that he was now awake.  Hopping from one leg to another, the boy was so anxious to ask his questions that it took him a minute to remember what they were.  While waiting for what he knew would be a litany of questions and ramblings, Vincent slid out from under the covers, head in hand, and waited for Mouse to begin.


As is on cue, Mouse began to speak.  “Vincent, did you have fun on your trip?  Did you like your car ride?  Did you get to walk in the sun?  Was it as neat as the Crystal Cavern?”


Even though he had gotten very little sleep, waking up to an exuberant Mouse, with his child-like quality and innocent questions, made Vincent smile.


Vincent had to bow his head to prevent Mouse from hearing the chuckle in his voice.  “Well, Mouse, which question would you like me to answer first?”


Scrunching up his face, Mouse thought about it for a moment, and as if a light bulb went off over his head, he had picked his most important question.  “Was it as neat as the Crystal Cavern?”


Vincent remembered how excited Mouse had been when he returned from the Crystal Cavern, not just with a crystal for Catherine, but some stones for Mouse as well.  Those stones were polished and put in a prominent place in Mouse’s chamber, even though the rest of it was in disarray.


“Well, Mouse,” Vincent began, “In some ways it was as neat as the Crystal Cavern, and in other ways it was much better.  I enjoyed seeing the country and the mountains; I loved my first taste of fast food.  But above all else, Mouse, the thing that I enjoyed the most was walking in the sunshine.”


Mouse emitted a gasp.  Even though he didn’t understand everything about Vincent, he knew that he could only go out at night, never in the daytime.  “What did you think of it, Vincent?”  Mouse asked, excited for the reply.


Recalling the feeling of the sun on his face and looking around at the darkness surrounding him once again, tears formed in his eyes.  It took Vincent a few minutes to compose himself.  The last thing he wanted was for Mouse to think that he had upset him in some way.  “Mouse, it was without a doubt one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen in my life.  I will remember it for the rest of my life.”


Acting as if Vincent had just answered the most important question in the world, Mouse uttered a quick, “thanks, Vincent,” and scurried out of the chamber.  Chuckling once again at his young friend, Vincent arose from his bed to begin his day.  His first order of business was a visit to Cullen.


Vincent was certain that Cullen had heard the news about the engagement, and about the scene that Father made.  He had gone to Cullen for advice before his trip, now he was hoping that he could shed some light as to what may have happened in his absence to provoke such a visceral reaction from Father.


Fortunately, he encountered no one on his way to Cullen’s workshop.  While he might have been in the mood to answer Mouse’s questions, he didn’t want to answer them from the entire community.  Vincent could hear the sound of hammering as he entered the workshop.  Not wanting to interrupt his work, Vincent stood silently, waiting for Cullen to finish.  Cullen looked up a moment later to see Vincent standing in a corner of the room.


Cullen approached Vincent, hand extended.  Vincent took his hand, shaking it a little harder than needed, a clear indication that he had things on his mind, and Cullen knew what those things were.


“Vincent, let’s go into my chamber and have some tea.  You look as if you could use not just the tea, but a friend, and I can offer both,” Cullen remarked.  Vincent nodded his head and gave his friend a slight smile.  Cullen took that as an indication that he could use both those things, and gestured toward his chamber.


The two men sat down and Cullen poured the tea.  Vincent felt better as the warmth of the tea slid down his throat.  It suddenly occurred to him that he hadn’t eaten anything since dinner at Devin’s, last night.  Well, food was the last thing on his mind, at least for now.  They sat in silence for a few moments.  Vincent had so many thoughts, so many questions swirling around in his head, that he now felt like Mouse, not sure of which one to ask first.  Cullen knew that Vincent was gathering his thoughts, so he just sat quietly, waiting for his friend to speak.


“Cullen,” Vincent started, “Do you know what happened while I was gone to provoke such a reaction from Father?  Did someone sustain an injury, a member of the community, a Helper?

Father knew that Catherine and I were engaged before I left.  I know that he was upset that I just sprung the trip on him without any warning, but I thought that he would have calmed down while I was gone, especially since Devin phoned Peter every day to tell him I was safe.  More than just being angry at him, I’m hurt and disappointed that he would ruin our big news that way.”


Cullen knew that when Vincent returned, he would seek him out for answers.  The truth was he really didn’t have many.  He had heard the rumblings, the whispers while Vincent was away, but he had no concrete answers for him.  He hoped it was enough to satisfy at least part of his friend’s concerns.


Cullen rose from his seat to check the tunnel, ensuring that no one would hear their conversation.  Once seated, he took a deep breath and began.  “Vincent, I don’t know what to say.  I know that Father was really upset the night you left, and it continued into the next day.  He was barking at everyone, even Mary.  It got so bad that the community silently agreed to stay out of his way.  I went past the library one night, and saw him limping back and forth on his cane, I watched him for a while, to make sure that he didn’t fall.  Then he took something out of one of his desk drawers.  I couldn’t tell what it was.  Then I could swear I heard him talking to himself. If you ask me Vincent, I think it comes down to one thing.  You proved to him that you are no longer under his thumb, and he doesn’t like it one bit.”


Vincent sat silent, mulling over Cullen’s observations.  The part about him no longer being under Father’s thumb was one conclusion that Vincent had come to last night at the Mirror Pool.  However, the part about him talking aloud to himself, now that had him a little concerned.


“Cullen, are you certain that nothing else happened, no accidents, no tragedies?”  Cullen simply shook his head no.  “I must admit that I had the same thought that you did, that Father might be upset because, as you said, I’m no longer under his thumb.  That still doesn’t explain the outburst, and it certainly doesn’t explain why he felt the need to air his grievances in public.”  Vincent rose from his chair, “Thank you, Cullen, for the tea, the advice, and most importantly, your friendship.” 


“It’s my pleasure, Vincent.” 


With one swift movement, Vincent left the chamber.  Choked up by Vincent’s words, especially the part about the friendship, Cullen blinked back a few tears.  It was amazing what a little forgiveness could do.  He hoped that Father and Vincent could find a way to forgive each other. 


Vincent headed for the kitchen.  Even though it was late morning, there were still quite a few people having coffee, catching up on the news in yesterday’s paper.  William had not been at the announcement last night and greeted Vincent with a hearty handshake.  As soon as William placed a plateful of food on the table, Vincent began to eat.  It was then that he realized just how hungry he was.  Everyone that had been in the kitchen came over to congratulate him on his engagement.  He thanked them, and listened carefully for any whispers that might occur once they left his sight. 


After his breakfast, Vincent once again walked to the Mirror Pool.  He needed solitude to consider what Cullen had said about Father’s actions.  Could he really be that upset about the trip?  Since he became an adult, there had been many disagreements between him and Father.  In recent years, most of those had been about Catherine, but he thought that all those problems had been resolved.  They had always reconciled after a disagreement, even if it took a little work and a little time.  This time the circumstances were different.  This time Father had not only berated and belittled him in front of the community, but in front of the woman he loved.  Vincent sat staring at the Mirror Pool, wondering if he could ever, would ever find a way to forgive Father’s actions.




As Vincent sat at the Mirror Pool, Catherine was standing in the lobby of her office building.  She had been so sure this morning that this was the right time to talk to Joe, but standing here, she began to doubt the wisdom behind those thoughts.  Maybe she should wait another day or two; maybe she could just send him a letter.  After all, it’s not as if she had many personal items at her desk, nothing that couldn’t be sent to her, or maybe Peter could pick them up for her.  Vincent had taught her to be strong, to face her fears.  Squaring her shoulders, she stepped into the elevator and pressed the button for the floor where the District Attorney’s office was located. Arriving at the office door and taking a few deep breaths, she reached for the handle and opened the door.  Catherine had been gone almost three months, but everything, everyone looked the same.  It was still very busy, very loud, and above the din, she heard a very familiar voice, the voice of Joe Maxwell, her boss, her friend.


It took only a moment for people to realize that she was there and everyone came up to say hello or shake her hand.  Rita rushed over, gave her a big hug, and whispered in Catherine’s ear, “Joe won’t admit it, but he really missed you while you were gone.” 


Pulling back to look at her friend, Catherine smiled and said, “Thanks, Rita, it will be our little secret.” 


Catherine saw Joe standing at the entrance to his office, waiting for her to greet him as she had everyone else. Try though he may to hide it, a smile crossed Joe’s face as Catherine walked toward him.  He told himself that he would be stern, stoic even, when he saw her again.  He couldn’t help it, it had been a long time since he had seen that beautiful face, and thankfully, she looked better than she had the last time he saw her.


Without further ado, Catherine walked over to Joe and gave him a big hug.  She had known for a long time that Joe had a crush on her.  Any doubts to the contrary were dispelled by the hug she received in return. 


With a sheepish smile on his face Joe said, “Radcliffe, long time no see.  Are you here for a visit or are you ready to come back to work?” 


Knowing that it was now or never, Catherine said, “Well, Joe, why don’t we go into your office and discuss it?”


Joe immediately went to his desk and sat down in his chair.  As soon as Catherine’s foot touched the threshold of his office, her mind was flooded with memories.  Of the day she applied for a position in this office, of all the long nights, take-out food, and lousy coffee.  Of course there had been a lot of laughter as well, a deep friendship had developed, but now that friendship, that working relationship was about to be tested. 


As usual when confronted with a stressful situation, Joe resorted to his familiar trick, playing with a rubber band.  Catherine, seated on the couch, was nervously twisting the strap of her purse.  The silence hung in the air until neither one of them could stand it any longer, and both began to speak at once.


How familiar this was, how comfortable this felt, was a thought that Joe and Catherine had at the same time.  The curiosity of what had transpired over these last three months was killing him, and he could wait no longer.  Since he was still her boss, Joe decided to take the bull by the horns and start the conversation. 


“So, Cathy, how have you been?  I know that Dr. Alcott said you went out west somewhere for your treatment, how did it go?  Has whatever the illness was, been cured?”


Catherine could see both the curiosity and concern in Joe’s eyes.  She still didn’t have a definitive answer as to whether or not she would come back to work, but she owed it to Joe, her friend, to alleviate some of the pain.


In a soft voice, Catherine began to speak.  “Joe, before I tell you anything, I need your word that what I tell you today, not as my boss but as my friend, does not leave this office.” 


Now she really had piqued his curiosity.  “Of course, Cathy, whatever you say, but I hope you know me well enough to know that I would never betray your trust.  Your secrets are safe with me.  Tell you what; to make sure we’re not interrupted, I’ll have them hold all my calls.”  Joe picked up the phone and told the receptionist not to interrupt him under any circumstance.


Catherine knew that Joe could be trusted, but she had to be sure.  She also felt better knowing that no one would come barging through the door, or that the phone wouldn’t start ringing off the hook.


Taking yet another deep breath, Catherine began to speak.  “Joe, you know that this past year has been really difficult for me.”  Joe nodded his head in agreement.  “I had the 20th anniversary of my mother’s death; then my father died, leaving me all alone in the world.  I was almost drowned by the watcher.  I was almost killed because I happened to be in Elliot Burch’s company on the wrong night.  Then the harassment by those boys, trying to get back at me for doing my job.”  Once again, Joe nodded his head.  “What you don’t know, Joe, is that there were things going on in my personal life as well.  Things that I could never, will never be able to talk about.  Innocent people’s lives depend on my secrecy.” 


Now Joe’s curiosity was really piqued.  Catherine got up from the couch and began to pace back and forth in front of the couch.  Joe had to laugh; he had seen her do this a hundred times before when she had been angry, or frustrated while trying to solve a case.


Catherine resumed her place on the couch and began once again.  “Joe, I didn’t have a typical illness, not a physical one, anyway. I had a mental breakdown; at one point I was in a coma.  I came out of the coma only to relapse a few days later.  As soon as I came out of the second one, and was well enough to travel, that’s when I went to New Mexico.  Peter Alcott’s daughter is a psychologist.  Since my name and face were once splashed all over the society pages, I couldn’t take a chance on anyone obtaining my medical records and leaking the information to the press.  I wasn’t worried about myself, but I didn’t want this office to receive any bad press or be under any scrutiny for hiring me.”


Joe sat at his desk, mouth agape.  He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  Sitting in front of him was one of the strongest, bravest people he had ever met, and now she was telling him that she had just suffered a mental breakdown, and was in not just one, but two comas.  This couldn’t possibly be true.  Of all the things he had imagined in her absence, never in his wildest dreams would he have thought this was the reason for her indefinite leave.


Catherine could see the wheels turning in Joe’s head, trying to process all that she had just told him.  She just sat quietly, waiting for him to respond.  Now it was Joe that was up and pacing the office.


“Cathy, I can’t believe this.  How, when, where, why?  You’re one of the strongest people I know. I thought of a hundred different reasons for your absence, but never did I dream it was anything like what you just described.  I knew that you had been working too much, and that you had something or someone in your personal life, but nothing like this.  Oh God, Cathy, is this my fault?  Did I push you too much, work you too hard, and expect more from you than I do from others?”


Catherine got up and led Joe back to his desk.  Sitting on the edge of it, she tried to find the words to assure him that this was not his fault, not him personally, but some of it was in fact, tied to her work.


The questions Joe had just asked aloud were now written all over the worried look on his face. Not wanting to cause her friend any more anguish, Catherine patted his hand and once again tried to explain things to him, hoping to assuage the guilt he was currently feeling.


“Joe, this is not your fault.  It was a combination of things that happened over the course of the last two years, beginning with my attack.  My father’s death hit me harder than I led you to believe.  I had to get out of the city to handle my grief.  I went to the one place where I knew I would be allowed to grieve without judgment.  Then just as I was recovering from that, and dealing with the fact that I was now an orphan, all the trouble happened with Elliot and those rich kids.  You were right when you said I had someone in my life.  We’ve been through a lot together.  He is the one that gave me the strength to go on with my life after my attack.  It was because of his belief in me that I applied for this job.  He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.  Before my attack, my life was about fashion, parties, dating the right man, and occasionally practicing law at my father’s firm.  On the outside, it looked like my life was perfect, when it was just the opposite. What I didn’t realize until my attack, until I met him, was just how empty my life really was.  He is different from any other man I’ve ever dated before in my life.  He doesn’t have wealth, power, a famous name, but what he does have is integrity, compassion, sympathy.  His life has never been an easy one, but he doesn’t pity himself.  Instead, he gives of himself to others.  He saw me at my worst, when my face was cut and bleeding.  He saw my face stitched and bruised.  His father is a retired doctor and he is the one that took care of me after the attack.  He became very ill shortly before I left the city the first time, and I almost lost him.  That, combined with the other things I just mentioned, contributed to the breakdown, and the subsequent comas.


Joe was still in shock.  “But, Cathy, you said you didn’t know where you had been for those ten days, I read about your case in the paper.  Now you’re telling me that you knew where you were all this time.  Why didn’t you tell anyone, your father, your boyfriend at the time, what’s his name?” 


Catherine just chuckled, leave it to Joe to forget Tom Gunther’s name on purpose.


“Joe, I’ve told you all I’m going to tell you about the man in my life, and my whereabouts for those ten days.  I told you there are secrets that I pledged to keep, and where I recovered during that time is one of them.  Now that you know everything about my absence, do you want to discuss my position here at the office?”


The look of concerned friend disappeared from Joe’s face.  It was quickly replaced with the look of a man in charge, in other words, her boss.  “Radcliffe, are you telling me that you are ready to come back to work, resume all your responsibilities, your previous workload?”  


“Joe, I’m not sure what I want to do yet.  I just got home last night.  I haven’t even unpacked my suitcases, or opened my mail.  I felt so badly about the way I left, that I wasn’t able to tell you in person about my leave, that it had to be done by Peter.  I love this job, most of the time.  I’ve made great friends in you and Rita.  If I do come back to work, it would have to be in another capacity.  No more risk taking for me.  I’ve cheated death one too many times lately and I don’t want to press my luck.  Is there something that I could do that would keep me in the office, but still give me some type of satisfaction?  I’m not talking about the satisfaction of making coffee, doing all the filing, or making sure you have enough rubber bands in your desk.”  They both chuckled at her last remark.


“Cathy, I moved someone into your position.  I had no choice, I had no idea when or if you would be coming back, and you know how busy this place gets.  I’ll tell you what, you go home, unpack, get yourself situated, give me a couple of days to see what I can come up with, and then I’ll give you a call.”


With that last comment, Catherine got up from the corner of Joe’s desk.  She bent down and whispered, “Thank you, Joe, for listening to me, for your concern, for being my friend.”


She grabbed her purse and walked out of the office before Joe could respond.  She stopped at the door to look around one more time.  Did she really want to come back to all this insanity?  She would have to discuss it with her fiancée.  She giggled at the sound of that word.  She was finally going to marry Vincent.  Now it was time to deal with Jenny.


Catherine decided that before she dealt with Jenny, she needed to tell Peter she was home.  Upon further thought, she decided that Peter would feel better if he could examine her himself.  After leaving Joe, she decided to walk for a while.  It had been so long since she had walked around the city.  She enjoyed her time in the Poconos and in New Mexico, but she had really missed the city, the sights, the sounds, and the people.  Before she realized it, she was right in front of Peter’s office.  Opening the door, Catherine was reminded of all the times she had come here first with her mother and then with her father.  How Peter had brought her into this world, cared for her as a child, and continued to treat her even after she became an adult.  Since her father’s death, he had stepped in as a surrogate father, and after Father’s tirade last night, she was in desperate need of fatherly advice.


Thankfully, the waiting room was empty.  Catherine was so deeply engrossed in a magazine, that she didn’t hear Peter coming toward her.  He had deliberately been quiet when approaching her, wanting to check her reaction, a test of sorts.  Peter was so glad to see her well and healthy again, that as soon as she stood up, he pulled her into a hug.  When Peter finally let go, both had tears in their eyes.  He had come so close to losing her not once, but twice, and now here she was looking healthy and well rested.  His prayers had been answered.


Brushing back the tears from his eyes, Peter asked in his best fatherly tone, “Cathy, how are you feeling, any problems, any setbacks?  Susan was worried when you left before you finished the full course of treatment.  She made me promise that I would take good care of you and keep her updated on your progress.”


Now it was Catherine’s turn to brush away the tears.  “Peter, I’m so glad to see you.  I had a wonderful time visiting with Susan and Devin, but it’s good to be home.  Do you have time for a chat? There are some things I need to discuss with you, and I would prefer we do them in private.”


Taking her hand, Peter and Catherine walked to the back of the building, to his private office.  From previous experience, she knew that in this room, there was no chance of anyone hearing their conversation.  After she found out that Peter had been a Helper from the beginning, he explained that he had made the room soundproof, a safety measure for his patients in the Tunnel community.


Anxious to hear all the details of her trip, Peter quickly began asking questions, one right after the other.  Catherine laughed aloud.  Here was her doctor, acting as if she had just come back from an exotic locale, instead of having just recovered from a mental breakdown.  Catherine explained the details of her treatment with Susan and the reason she left New Mexico earlier than planned.  She felt through her bond with Vincent that something was wrong, and knew that she must get to him as quickly as possible.  Catherine recounted their adventures at Devin’s and their engagement announcement to the community, and most importantly, Father’s outburst.


Catherine needed answers to Father’s behavior last night, and since Peter had known him since medical school, she was hoping he would be able to shine some light on the subject.  Even though she hated to invade Father’s privacy, Catherine knew that Father’s reaction to their engagement affected Vincent more than he led her to believe.  Vincent was going to be her husband, and she would protect him at all costs, even if that meant protecting him from Father.


With some trepidation, Catherine began to ask the questions that she wasn’t certain she wanted to know the answers to.  “Peter, I want to ask you some questions about Father, and if you could wait to answer them until I’m finished I’d appreciate it.” 


Peter chuckled, not sure where this was leading, “Sure thing Cathy, fire away.”


“Peter, you’ve known Jacob since medical school, so you know all about his marriage to Margaret, and how that fell apart.  You know that he was blacklisted, and the fallout that occurred afterward.  You’ve known about the Tunnels since the beginning, I’m sure you were one of the few people that knew Devin was his son.  You have been students, friends, colleagues, seen each other through life’s ups and downs.  I know he was angry that Vincent left without telling him of his plans, but the way he acted last night was way out of proportion for something as simple as a trip.  When you consider the fact that you were informed each day that Vincent was safe, he had no cause to worry.  Neither Devin nor I would ever let anything happen to Vincent.  If Father doesn’t know that by now, he should.”


Peter waited a moment to make sure that Catherine was done with all her questions before he began to speak.  “Cathy, everything you’ve said about Jacob and I is true.  If I didn’t personally relay Devin’s daily message to Jacob in a note, I made sure that he received it, via another Helper.  I did go down to visit him one night, hoping to distract him during Vincent’s absence.  We had a nice chat about my patients, some work they’re doing in the Tunnels, the usual things.  He didn’t bring up the subject of you or Vincent at all.  Since he seemed to have gotten past his feelings of betrayal, so to speak, I didn’t want to take a chance of agitating him, so I didn’t bring it up either.  I have seen Jacob get angry, but I have never known him to take his anger out in such a public way, especially when it concerns a private matter.  I don’t know if any of that helped, Cathy. Would you like me to speak to him?”


After considering all she had just heard, as well as Peter’s offer, Catherine replied, “Thank you, Peter, but no, I think this is something that he and Vincent will have to work out between them first.  I would hope after all this time Father knows how dedicated I am to his son.  I fear that if Father can’t put aside his anger, it will cause a divide between him and Vincent that is so wide, neither one of them will be able to recover from it.  Thank you, Peter for taking time to talk to me.  I need to get home, I still have to unpack.”  


Peter stood to escort her from his office.  Catherine gathered her jacket and purse and pushing gently on Peter’s shoulder said, “You stay here, Peter, I know the way out.  I’ll talk to you soon.  Give my love to Susan the next time she calls.”  Before he could say a word, the door had closed and Catherine was gone.


Upon leaving Peter’s office, Catherine realized that all the travel, the tension with Father and her meetings with Joe and Peter had left her very tired.  Hailing a taxi, she headed for home and for a nap.


Vincent had stayed at the Mirror Pool longer than he had planned.  It was now early afternoon and he had not unpacked, or checked to see if he was needed for any projects in the Tunnels.  His main objective was to avoid Father.  He wanted to forgive him for all the mean and spiteful things he said last night, but he didn’t know if that was now or would ever be possible.

Vincent decided to head for his chamber, if anyone needed him for anything, that would be the first place they would look.


After her nap, Catherine began to unpack and do her laundry.  She finished sorting the mail and paid some bills.  She needed to respond to all of Jenny’s messages.  Thinking it over, she decided that a pizza and some girl talk would be the best way to handle things.  Dialing the phone, Catherine crossed her fingers, hoping that Jenny would answer.  Earlier in the day, she decided that today everyone’s questions would be answered and Jenny was the last one on that list.


The phone rang only a few times before she heard that unmistakable voice, “Jenny Aronson here.” 


A smile crossed Catherine’s face, “Catherine Chandler here.” 


Jenny became so choked up hearing Catherine’s voice that it took her a moment to respond.  “Cathy, is that really you?  I’ve left you so many messages; so many thoughts have been running through my mind, I’ve been so worried about you.  Are you home?  Do you need me to pick you up somewhere?”


Catherine’s smile was now a chuckle; “Jen, calm down, it’s really me, and no, I don’t need you to pick me up, I’m already at home.  I got in late last night.  I was wondering if you would like to come over tonight for some pizza and conversation.  I want to tell you what’s been going on in my life, and why I didn’t call you sooner.”


All Jenny heard was that Catherine was home safely.  “Are you kidding me, Cathy?  After waiting all this time to hear from you, do you think I’d turn down the chance to catch up, and the pizza is an added bonus.  I’m finishing up here, how about I come over around 6:00?”


Still chuckling Catherine replied, “OK, Jen, 6:00 it is, I’ll order the usual pizza and see you then.”


Catherine now had to decide how much she should tell Jenny and how much she should leave out.  After all, Jenny knew about the watcher even before Catherine did.  That night after she returned home, Catherine told Jenny that she wouldn’t be alone.  With all the dreams that Jenny has about events that have not yet occurred, would she have any ideas about Vincent’s existence?  She was also worried that Vincent and Father might have had another argument.  Catherine wanted desperately to see Vincent, but felt that he might need some time to sort things out on his own.  She called the messenger service that employed Benny, and left a message that she needed something picked up.  Writing Vincent a quick note, she decided that it would be better if the doorman gave Benny the note instead of her.  She knew Benny had probably heard about their engagement and the other events of last night. She would have to explain things to Jenny; she didn’t feel up to explaining it to Benny as well.


Before Catherine knew it, it was six o’clock.  Jenny and the pizza arrived at the same time.  Catherine had just enough time to put the pizza on the table, before Jenny pulled her into a bear hug.  With all the hugs she received last night and today, Catherine was beginning to feel a little sore.


As Peter had done earlier, Jenny just stood there looking at Catherine.  It had been so long since she had seen her, did she dare tell her about the dreams she had since they last spoke?


“Come on Jen, sit down.  I don’t know about you, but I’m starving,” said Catherine as she went to the kitchen for the plates and the beverages.


Between bites of pizza, Jenny brought Catherine up to speed on all the gossip she had missed in her absence.  Jenny told her about her latest dating disasters and about how much more work she was doing since her promotion.  They both knew that this small talk was just a diversion.  Each of them was anxious to hear what the other had to say.


It was Catherine who began, “Jen, there are some things that I’m about to tell you, that can never be repeated, not to anyone, including your family.  If any of this information was to get out, some people’s lives could be in jeopardy and I gave my word that would never happen.”  Catherine wouldn’t tell her about the Tunnels without the Council’s permission, or extreme details about Vincent, but after all these years of friendship; she felt Jenny deserved some answers.  “Do I have your word, Jen?” 


A lump of fear was forming in her throat and it was all Jenny could do to utter, “Sure Cathy, I give you my word.”



For the next several hours, Catherine gave Jenny some of the same details she had given Joe earlier today.  Jenny sat enraptured. Like Joe, she had no idea that Catherine had been in a coma and suffered a breakdown.  Her dreams had shown her that Cathy was in danger, but she associated that with her job, not her health.  Jenny was also shocked to hear about all the dangers that Cathy had dealt with, unbeknownst to her or anyone else, apparently.  Jenny had always thought that Cathy never fully recovered from her father’s death, and Cathy’s comments had just confirmed that.  Jenny jumped on the chance to speak while Cathy was getting a drink of water.


“Gee, Cathy, I had no idea that all this had happened.  I always felt that your father’s death was more emotional than you led us to believe.  I had dreams that you were in trouble, but not in the ways you just described.  What about Vincent and the place where he lives, is he in danger or married, and why can’t you give me more details?  Will I ever meet him?  I’m glad that Susan could help you when I couldn’t.  I’m almost afraid to ask, Cathy, but are you out of the woods, are you cured?”


Catherine gave that question a great deal of comment before she replied.  “Jen, I’ll answer the last question first.  As far as me being cured, for now I would say the answer is yes.  I had let everything build up inside me since the night I was attacked.  Then when Vincent became so ill and I thought I was going to lose him, it was more than I could handle.  We are connected through a bond.  When I fell into the coma, he felt it and fell into one as well. His didn’t last as long as mine and he had no relapse.  Just as he was the one that saved me the night of my attack, he saved me again, this time with his love.  That love brought me out of my coma.”


Catherine continued, “Now to your first question, I made a promise to Vincent, his father, his community that I would keep their location a secret, and I will take that secret to my grave.  His community is like a family, they help each other, look out for each other, offer support, guidance and love to people in need.  If that location were ever discovered, many good people would be hurt or worse yet, homeless.  As for Vincent, no, he’s not in danger, and no, he’s not married.  He is not like Steven Bass or Tom Gunther; he is unlike any man I’ve ever known before.  Vincent cares for me in a way no other man ever has or ever will.  I am the most important person in his life.  He would give his life for me without a second thought, just as I would do the same for him.  Perhaps when the time is right, I’ll be able to introduce the two of you, but for right now, you must remember the promise you made to me tonight.”


Jenny had watched Cathy closely while she had described her breakdown. She was businesslike and calm with her explanation.  When describing Vincent, Cathy’s smile became wider.  Her eyes, which before had been focused and direct, now had a dreamlike quality to them.  Jenny was satisfied that their love was the real thing.  She was convinced that Vincent would protect Cathy just as she said he would.  Jenny hoped all her bad dreams about Cathy would stop, now that she understood all the details about her absence, and her secrets.


Glancing at the clock and realizing how late it was, Jenny announced she had an early meeting in the morning and had to get home.  Both women stood at the same time and embraced once again.  Cathy was wondering if Jenny now understood and if she would keep the secret.  Jenny took Cathy by the shoulder and looked her straight in the eye; her tone was soft but direct. 


“Cathy, I give you my word, I will not tell a soul about the things we discussed here tonight.  As you said earlier, I will take it to my grave.  But will you do me a favor?” 


Intrigued, Catherine asked, “Of course, Jenny, what is it?” 


“Don’t be a stranger,” was Jenny’s reply.  The two friends laughed aloud, relieved that the earlier tension was now gone. 


After assuring Jenny that she wouldn’t be a stranger, Cathy walked Jenny to the door, where they hugged once more before saying goodnight.  Even though she had napped earlier, Catherine felt tired.  Chalking it up to emotional more than physical stress, she turned off the lights and got ready for bed.




Vincent had been dismayed when he received Catherine’s note.  Since his talk with Cullen had gotten him no closer to the truth, he was looking forward to seeing Catherine and discussing things with her.  He understood, however, she had been away from her friends for a long time.  Vincent knew how worried he had been when he couldn’t see Catherine for whatever reason.  Her friends deserved to spend time with her, to ensure that she was well.  After all, once they were married, the visits might be less frequent, depending on where they lived.  Living arrangements were one of the many problems they still had to work out.


Vincent was lying on his bed, eyes closed.  While these thoughts were running through his mind, Father came into his chamber, and sat down at the desk.  Vincent had spent the entire day doing everything in his power to avoid Father, or any confrontations that might arise, and now here he was in his chamber, just as Vincent had predicted.  Vincent sat up, waiting for Father to speak.  Ordinarily, Vincent was a patient man, respectful of his father, but after last night his patience was worn thin. If there was going to be a confrontation, he wanted it to happen sooner than later.  Since Father appeared to be giving him the silent treatment, Vincent started the conversation.


“Father, is there something you need, something you want to say to me, an apology, perhaps.”


“Why on earth do you think I owe you an apology?” Father’s voice filled with anger.  “Everything I said last night was the truth; do you make it a habit to apologize to someone when you speak the truth?” 


Vincent was straining to keep his anger suppressed; he was trying desperately not to raise his voice when replying to Father’s question.  “No Father, I do not make it a habit of apologizing when what I say is the truth.  You are correct that everything you said last night was the truth.  However, if I don’t agree with something you have said or done, I would never embarrass you or ruin an important occasion, as you did last night.” 


Vincent was now seeing red, and felt as if the words he was trying to suppress were choking him.  He had to get out of here, and now.  Grabbing his cloak, he strode out of his chamber, before he said something both of them would regret. 


Father remained in the chair, shocked that Vincent would leave in the middle of a conversation.  “Just another sign of disrespect,” Father mumbled to himself.


The cool fall air felt good on his flushed face.  Vincent had just started walking, unsure of his destination.  Hiding behind the trees, he peered up at Catherine’s building.  She was probably asleep, and since she was still recovering from all the stress of her breakdown, he didn’t want to disturb her.  Soon he found himself at the Romeo and Juliet statue in Central Park.  The park was empty this time of night, so he sat on a bench across from the statue.  The leaves had dried up, so he would hear if anyone was approaching.  Since he was dressed in black, he blended in with the night, unless someone was looking directly at him, no one would see him here.


His mind wandered to the time when he first awoke from his breakdown.  Catherine was at his side, soothing him, and reading to him.  He would have expected nothing less, her devotion was unfailing.  Then their comas happened, and Catherine’s relapse.  He could still feel the knot he had in his stomach, as he watched Catherine pack for her trip to New Mexico.  The beauty in the pictures she had sent him were more than he could bear, he felt as if he was suffocating, so he called Devin.  This caused Father’s first outburst.  Vincent recalled everything that happened during his trip to Devin’s, especially the night Catherine appeared in Devin’s living room.  He thought that she was a figment of his imagination.  He had missed her so much, that she couldn’t be real, but she was.  They had spent Halloween with Devin and Charles.  It was the first time in his life that Vincent had been able to hand out candy to other children, not just those that lived in the Tunnels.  Of the ride home, when he and Catherine sat in the back of the van, holding hands, giggling like teenagers and planning their future.  Had he known how he would be welcomed back, he would have stayed longer at Devin’s.  It was getting late and he was no closer to a solution than when he arrived here earlier.  Vincent checked his surroundings, always watchful, always listening for someone approaching.  When he was certain it was safe, he quickly left the bench, the statue and headed for home, the home beneath the streets of New York City.



One Week Later:


Catherine and Vincent had just returned from a walk in Central Park.  There was a full moon tonight and for the first time since their return home, Catherine had been able to see Vincent in something other than candlelight or city lights.  They were in Vincent’s chamber warming up with a cup of tea.  The past week had been a stressful one.  Vincent and Father spoke to each other, but only when necessary.  The most Catherine received from the patriarch was a cold greeting each time she came to the Tunnels.  Both of them knew they had some major decisions to make about their future, but each of them was a little hesitant to start the conversation, primarily because of Father’s reaction the night they returned home.  Catherine had picked up some bridal magazines, and thought that might be a safe place to start.  Sitting on Vincent’s bed, Catherine motioned for Vincent to sit next to her.  He complied, but was a little confused as to why she would want him to look at a magazine with her.  As Catherine flipped through the pages, Vincent realized that it was a magazine about weddings, they must now face the conversation that each of them had been avoiding.


“Catherine,” Vincent said in that velvety voice, that same voice that soothed and comforted her after her assault.  She hoped, as they got older, that his voice would stay the same.  Life was filled with enough surprises; she wanted one thing to remain the same.  Knowing that Catherine was reminiscing about the past, Vincent gave her a moment before starting to speak again.  “Catherine, why are you looking at these magazines?  I understand that they have wedding gowns in them, but the other things in there are not for us.  I don’t need a tuxedo, and we certainly don’t need a caterer, William will handle all the food.  We don’t need to pick a location either; the only place we can marry is in the Great Hall.”


Catherine had been waiting for an opening and here it was; a smile crossed her lips as she began to speak.  “Vincent, what if there was a place Above where we could marry safely, a place large enough for everyone in the Tunnels as well as all the Helpers?  You have spent all your life in these Tunnels.  I know how freeing your visit to Devin’s was for you.  I know that your life, your safety is interwoven here, but for our wedding, I want to give you a place where you can once again feel that freedom.  If I can find that place, would you agree to it, Vincent?”


Vincent got up and started pacing around his chamber.  Catherine was correct; the freedom he felt at Devin’s was indescribable.  Would it be possible for him to have a wedding like a normal man, in a normal location, instead of the Great Hall?  Father was already angry with both of them, he would never agree to this.  Another question that had been nagging at Vincent, would the tension between them prevent Father from attending the wedding?  If Father did indeed decide not to attend, what impact would that have on the most important day of Vincent’s life?


Catherine watched as he paced back and forth.  Although they had not spoken about it, she also wondered if Father would refuse to attend the wedding, and if he did, how would that effect Vincent?


Returning to her side, Vincent asked, “Catherine, where are you proposing to hold this wedding?  More importantly, we need to decide on a date, first.  Do you have a specific date in mind?  Personally, I do not want to wait until our anniversary to get married, do you?”  Vincent was praying that Catherine’s answer would be no.  He didn’t know how much longer he could wait to make love to her.  Since their engagement, aside from Catherine’s health and well being, that thought had been foremost in his mind.


Catherine had to bow her head to keep Vincent from seeing the smile on her face, the twinkle in her eyes.  When her father died and she came Below to recover, she remembered what it felt like to be wrapped in Vincent’s arms, to have him lie in bed next to her.  No, she definitely didn’t want to wait until April to get married, either.


Raising her head to look in those gorgeous blue eyes, Catherine replied, “No, Vincent, I don’t want to wait until April to get married, either.  I was thinking about New Year’s Eve.  We could bring in the New Year as husband and wife.  After all, this will be the beginning of the last decade of the twentieth century.  What more fitting way to begin our lives together, than on that day?”


Vincent was shocked by the date she had chosen, it was only six weeks away.  How could they possibly put a wedding together in that short amount of time?  He had to make sure he heard her correctly.  “Catherine, you do realize that New Year’s Eve is only six weeks away.  How could we possibly decide on everything for a wedding, especially one to be held Above, in that time?  According to those magazines, you would have to get flowers, a gown, and food; can you do all that before New Year’s Eve?  If you decide on a gown as elegant as some of those pictured, none of my clothes would be formal enough.  What kind of food could we have, more importantly, what about rings, and how expensive would all this be?”


A puzzled look crossed Vincent’s face as Catherine laughed aloud.  Here was the man who had killed to protect her and now he was worrying about clothes and floral arrangements.  The juxtaposition was more than she could take and soon Catherine was sitting on the floor, holding her sides, laughter filling the air.  Now Vincent was more puzzled than he had been before.  He gave Catherine time to finish her laughter before joining her on the floor.


“Catherine, I don’t understand, what is so funny, was it something I said?” 


Catherine reached up and stroked his face with the side of her hand.  Then Catherine did something she had wanted to do all night, she kissed him with so much passion, that it took a moment for both of them to recover, once the kiss had ended. 


“Vincent, I’ve never seen you so worried about material things before.  The look on your face when you were asking me about floral arrangements was just so uncharacteristic of you, that’s why I was laughing.” 


Once Vincent took a moment to think about it, Catherine was right, it was out of character for him.  He loved to hear Catherine laugh, and the laughter had broken some of the tension.


The couple pored over the magazines for the next hour.  Catherine decided to make a list of all the things they wanted for the wedding, and how each of them could contribute.  “Vincent, is one of the Helpers a minister or a judge, by any chance?  While I know that the marriage could never be legally registered, I would like someone other than Father to officiate the service.  Now as far as clothes for you, I can get your measurements and have a suit tailor made to fit you.  I’m sure we agree that the flowers should be red and white roses.  My parents took a trip to Greece for their anniversary shortly before my mother became ill.  They purchased a set of wedding bands and never got the chance to wear them, they are still in the original box.  If you have no objection, I would like those to be our wedding bands.”


All this information was swirling around Vincent’s head, and he wanted to respond before Catherine made another suggestion or asked another question.  


“Catherine, I agree with you that the flowers should be red and white roses.  Although I think a formal suit is something that I will have no use for once the wedding is over, I do like the thought of wearing one, even if it is for just one day.  Regarding the wedding bands, I would be honored to wear something that belonged to your parents.  You do understand, however, that I won’t always be able to wear the band; at times, it will not be practical.  During those times, I will wear it on a chain around my neck, if that is acceptable to you.” 


Catherine was thrilled that Vincent agreed to the wedding bands; finally another couple as deeply in love as her parents had been, would be wearing them.  “Vincent, I understand that you may not be able to wear your wedding ring all the time.  You must understand that when I’m Above, I might not be able to wear mine, either.” 


Although it pained him to admit, Vincent knew the truth in Catherine’s words.  They would know in their hearts that they were married, and that’s all that mattered to each of them.




Catherine was frustrated.  She had been making phone calls, trying to find a caterer, a florist, and all the other minute things that are required for a wedding.  She could make the calls surreptitiously; the gown, however, was another matter.  After looking at all the pictures in the bridal magazines, Catherine wanted to look at different styles, different colors, perhaps even try on a few to see which looked best on her.  The problem was that she didn’t want to take a chance on someone spotting her, asking her questions, or worse, spreading the rumor that she was getting married.  To add to the frustration, Joe had called to tell her he didn’t have any openings that fit her requirements or her skills.  He promised he would keep digging and that he would call her after the first of the year.  Glancing at her watch and realizing she wasn’t going to accomplish anything else tonight, she grabbed her keys and headed for the basement.


Vincent was waiting for her as she descended the stairs.  As soon as she reached the floor, Vincent swept her into his arms and into a very passionate kiss.  In the back of her mind, Catherine was shocked at how bold he was becoming.  In the past, he would never have gone beyond the threshold, not that she was complaining, she was thoroughly enjoying this bolder Vincent.  Both were a little shaky after that kiss, so Vincent took Catherine’s hand and they walked to his chamber.  They discussed what each of them had accomplished on their list of things to do for the wedding.  Arriving at Vincent’s chamber, Catherine was delighted to see a pot of freshly brewed tea and a fire in the brazier, awaiting her arrival.


The couple sat in silence, each enjoying the warmth of the tea, the crackling of the fire, and especially the company.  They didn’t have to speak, each of them felt complete in the other’s company.


Tea finished, they were getting ready to once again start on their respective lists, when they heard a voice call from outside.  Vincent went to the chamber entrance to see who it was.


Following behind Vincent was a young man with curly black hair in his early twenties.  A woman with reddish hair accompanied him, she didn’t seem to be much older than Catherine, but the lines of worry that crossed her face told Catherine that this woman’s life hadn’t been easy, that she was wise beyond her years.


Vincent made the introductions, the young man was Darrell, and the woman, his mother, was Maureen.  Catherine had seen them briefly at her first Winterfest, but never got a chance to speak to them.  Thinking back to that night, the only thing Catherine had on her mind was dancing with Vincent.  A chill ran up her spine when she thought about Paracelsus, and what he had done to poor Narcissa.  Sensing something in their bond, Vincent gave Catherine a puzzling look, as if to say, what’s wrong.  Catherine smiled and shook her head, indicating that everything was fine.  Even though it had caused Vincent a great deal of anguish, she was glad that “The Evil One” would never again touch their lives.


Coming back to the present moment, Catherine watched as a smile formed on Vincent’s lips.  He didn’t smile that often, so these people must be very special to him.  Catherine didn’t know the story of how Darrell and Maureen came to be Helpers, but she was soon hoping to find out.


Their conversation concluded, Vincent offered tea to mother and son.  He then went on to explain to Catherine that Maureen had married Darrell’s father, Dennis, at a very young age.  Unbeknownst to Maureen when she and Dennis married, was the fact that Dennis had a penchant for alcohol.  He dutifully went to work every day, made sure that there were groceries in the house and the bills were paid.  The rest of the money he spent on alcohol.  His alcoholism started interfering with his job as a forklift operator, and soon afterward, Dennis lost his job.  It was then that he started beating Maureen, and in a drunken rage one night, raised his hand to strike Darrell.  Only dumb luck saved them.  When Dennis went to strike Darrell, he was so drunk that he passed out on the floor.  Knowing that they were no longer safe, Maureen quickly packed what little possessions she and Darrell owned and headed for Sam Denton’s apartment.  Sam had been Dennis’ boss, and once at a Christmas party, he saw how frightened Maureen acted around Dennis.  Sam gave her his address and phone number that night; fearing what the future would hold for this couple.  Maureen memorized that address and phone number and then destroyed the evidence.  As soon as they showed up at Sam’s door, he knew that once Dennis sobered up, he would begin looking for them.  He led them through the basement to the Tunnels.  They became part of the community; Darrell was one of Vincent’s best students.  Maureen was always willing to lend a hand, wherever she was needed.  Prior to William’s arrival, she had done most of the cooking.  After William arrived, she became his right hand.  When they learned that Dennis had been killed in a barroom fight, they decided to move Above once again, able to live their lives without fear of retribution.


Due to the variety of classes taught Below, as well as all the books in Father’s library, Darrell’s transition to the public school system and to junior high had been an easy one.  Since he was accustomed to sharing not just his time, but also the rest of his things, Darrell had learned to be a very patient young man.  The lessons instilled by the values of the Tunnel community and especially by Vincent, were things he would carry with him for the rest of his life.  Darrell had a knack for repairing almost anything.  He would spend hours in the workshops watching Winslow and Cullen work.  When Mouse arrived on the scene, the two were almost inseparable.  Darrell was the only one aside from Vincent that Mouse trusted, so the two of them worked side by side to bring Mouse out of the corners where he had been living, and into the Tunnel community.


Maureen, on the other hand, had a more difficult job readjusting to the world Above.  Her dream had always been to have her own catering company, but since she had no job experience, and couldn’t account for the missing time on her applications, she had to settle for working as a short order cook, or a waitress in a local restaurant.  Even though they scraped by paycheck-to-paycheck, neither mother or son complained.  They knew how lucky they were to be alive.  The thing that Maureen was most proud of was that Darrell’s grades and community work had won him a scholarship to a local trade school.  Darrell’s certification was in Commercial and Industrial Maintenance, but the thing he enjoyed the most was landscaping.


After the explanation about how Darrell and Maureen became part of the Tunnels, the conversation turned to Catherine and Vincent’s engagement.  Maureen noticed the sparkle in Vincent’s eyes as he talked about his upcoming nuptials.  Having heard the rumors of the incident with Lisa, Maureen knew that Vincent had resigned himself to spending his life alone, and loveless, except from the love given to him by the community.  She always knew that if he found the right woman, a woman who could look past his outward features, and see the man that existed underneath those leonine features, if she could see his heart, then that would be the perfect woman for Vincent.  Just being in their company, Maureen could feel the love between Vincent and Catherine.  It was now Maureen’s turn to come back to the present moment, and to find out what news she had missed while reminiscing about the past.


Maureen listened as Catherine explained to Darrell that since Vincent had gone to Devin’s, and returned home safely and without being discovered, she wanted to have the wedding in a secluded place Above.  It must be a very secure location, not far from the city.  They were planning to inform everyone of the final details at Winterfest.  However, until they could reserve a location, none of their plans could move forward, and they were running out of time.


Now it was Darrell’s turn to smile.  “Vincent, Catherine, I’ve been working at a place in Yonkers, Alder Manor.  It now belongs to Iona College.  I know that in the past, The Manor has been rented for weddings and a movie was shot there a few years ago.  The Manor house is not used for anything else.  Years ago, Seton College promised twelve elderly nuns they could live out the rest of their lives in the Manor.  They live on the third floor, and from what I’ve been told, never leave there, that is the only drawback I see.  Other than that, it has everything you need.  It sits way off the road; it’s secluded, and has gates that can keep people either in or out.  It has an enormous library that Father would love, a ballroom, a dining room, and a beautiful staircase.  It also has a pipe organ and a swimming pool on the second floor.  I’ve never been farther than the first floor, but I can see a balcony coming out of one of the rooms on the second floor.  I have no idea what they would charge to rent it, but if you are interested, I can give you all the contact information.” 


Vincent could feel Catherine’s excitement through the bond.  He turned to see a Cheshire cat like grin on her face.  She turned to look at Vincent; he too was excited, but dared not get his hopes up prematurely, so he just shook his head in agreement.


“Maureen,” Catherine began, “you said that you always wanted to own your own catering company.  Since you work in the city, and the restaurant business, I’m sure you have plenty of contacts in the catering industry, as well as food and beverage suppliers, kitchen supply places, and florists.” 


A little uncertain where Catherine was going with these questions, Maureen said, “Yes, Catherine, over the years, I have made an ample amount of contacts; I’ve even helped cater and serve many events, some of them to the wealthiest people in New York.”  Maureen chided herself for that last remark.  She knew that Catherine was a very wealthy woman in her own right, and she hoped she had not offended her.


Bubbling with excitement, Catherine asked, “Maureen, would you be willing to cater the wedding?  I can ask William to assist you for a change, and I’m sure we would have no shortage of servers.  In addition, you could plan a preliminary menu, nothing fancy, just regular food that isn’t often served here in the Tunnels.  Vincent and I would review it and make any necessary changes.  I’m sure the Manor has glassware, dinnerware, serving pieces, etc. if not; those items could be rented, or purchased to be used here in the Tunnels or when you start that catering business.  I have no doubt that everything will be perfect, and once the wedding is over, I will help you start that catering company, and pass your name along to all those wealthy people.”


Maureen couldn’t believe what she was hearing.  “Catherine, you don’t know for sure that the Manor is available or that the location would be right, aren’t you jumping the gun just a bit?”


Catherine chuckled, “Maureen, I can be very persistent when I want something, just ask Vincent.  I will drive up to the Manor tomorrow and make all the arrangements.  We want the wedding to take place on New Year’s Eve.  Yonkers would be a perfect location; everyone will be heading into the city, and we would be heading out of it.  Let’s plan to meet up the day after tomorrow, to finalize things.” 


Catherine had some old business cards, so she took one out of her purse and wrote her contact information on it and handed it to Maureen.  “Darrell, please put the address and phone number in this notebook for the Manor, and numbers where I can reach you and your mom.  If this all works out, perhaps your landscaping company would consider decorating the outside of the Manor with lights, or whatever else I may dream up?”


Now Darrell couldn’t believe his ears.  “Catherine, even if my company doesn’t want to do the decorating, I would be happy to do it, free of charge.” 


Shaking her head, Catherine said, “Absolutely not, Darrell, you would be doing a job, and you deserve to be paid for your time, just as you do, Maureen.”


The four of them hugged and Maureen agreed to call Catherine to schedule a time and place to meet her.  After they left, Vincent just shook his head and smiled.  He knew his fiancée, would do whatever was necessary to pull off this wedding.


Realizing how late it was, and that she had a big day ahead of her tomorrow, Catherine asked Vincent to walk her back to her apartment.  In whispered tones, the couple talked about their upcoming wedding, and that the Happy Life that both had long dreamed of, would soon become a reality.


Upon his return to the Tunnels, Vincent went to Father’s library.  He remembered reading a book many years ago about William Boyce Thompson, the original owner of Alder Manor.  He hoped that the book contained pictures of his home.  As he was sorting through the mounds of books, Father came into the library and sat down at his desk.  Vincent continued his search, and Father sat there watching him, as if daring Vincent to speak first.  Vincent had played this game too many times, and refused to give Father the satisfaction of speaking first.  Father had been outwitted.  He considered Maureen an ally, surely, she would have convinced Vincent to call off this debacle of an engagement and make him see that this could never work. 


Father could stand the silence no longer. “Vincent, what are you looking for in those books?  Perhaps it’s something I can help you with.” 


Without turning to look at him, Vincent simply replied, “No, thank you, Father, I don’t need any assistance.” 


Father had hoped that at some point, they could sit down and discuss the reasons to dissolve the engagement, but it appeared that Vincent was not in the mood for conversation.  Very well, he thought to himself.  I am the father, so I will make the first move.


“Vincent, why the sudden interest in these books, surely you have plenty in your chamber to read.  Since your return from Devin’s, you have shown no interest in anything contained in this library, not the books, and certainly not my well being.”


Vincent was seething; he could barely speak.  Book in hand, he whirled around and glared at Father.  “For your information, Father, your well being is no longer my concern, just as mine is no longer yours.  I will soon be married, and then my well being will be Catherine’s concern, not yours.” 


Father couldn’t believe his ears.  Vincent would soon be married, had they set a date?  Father was hoping for a long engagement while exploring various ways to talk him out of the marriage altogether.  “Vincent, what do you mean, you will soon be married?  Have you set a date?” 


A look of smugness replaced the previous glare on Vincent’s face.  “For your information, Father, Catherine and I will be married on New Year’s Eve and if all goes well, it will be in a secluded mansion Above.” 


Father was faltering with his reply, “Vincent, you can’t be serious, a New Year’s Eve wedding, and Above.  No, it’s too soon, it’s too risky, I won’t allow it.” 


Vincent turned to leave the library and with the glare once again upon his face replied, “Father, I don’t need your permission, I am a grown man.  With or without your blessing and whether or not you choose to attend the ceremony, Catherine and I will be married on New Year’s Eve.”




The next morning Catherine was up early and ready for her trip to Yonkers.  She didn’t tell Vincent that she was going to take pictures so that he could see the Manor for himself.  Digging around in her closet, she found a Polaroid camera that she had kept, for some inexplicable reason.  Gathering a few other items, she stuffed everything into a tote bag and headed to the nearest drugstore.  She needed film and flash bars for the camera, as well as a new map.  When Catherine opened her car door, she realized just how long it had been since she had driven it, and crossed her fingers that it would start.  After reviewing the map, and making some notes, she headed out of the garage and with any luck, to the location where her wedding would take place.


As typical for a weekday morning, the traffic in Manhattan was heavy.  Catherine had left a message for the director with a receptionist this morning.  She sincerely hoped the director received the message and that he would be able to meet with her on such short notice.  Once on the Henry Hudson Parkway, she started to feel nervous about meeting the director of the Manor. 


This was odd for Catherine, considering she had interviewed criminals, had her life threatened and now she was nervous about a casual meeting.  It was entirely possible that it wasn’t nerves at all, but excitement and fear.  Fear that the Manor wouldn’t be available, fear that they would have to change the date, but most of her fears centered on one thing, actually one person, Father.


She had told Vincent about her talk with Peter, and they had discussed the matter at great lengths, but still had no idea why Father had changed his mind about their engagement.  Her mind then wandered to Maureen and Darrell.  She couldn’t imagine the nightmares that Maureen had endured in her marriage.  Unfortunately, Catherine was all too familiar with the abuse women suffered, she had seen it too many times during her time at the District Attorney’s office, and heard it too many times while working on the Crisis Hotline.  Maybe that was her calling in life, to help victims of abuse.  Coming out of her reverie, Catherine realized that she was almost to Yonkers.  Catherine shook her head, as if to clear the cobwebs, exited onto Executive Blvd., and approximately 500 feet later arrived at 1097 North Broadway, the address of Alder Manor.


Catherine felt like a child at Christmas as she pulled up to the front door of Alder Manor.  Taking in all the details of the exterior, she tried to imagine what this house had looked like in its glory days.  It was still in relatively good shape, but one could see where the signs of age were beginning to show.  Catherine opened the door, and looked around at all the wood and marble surrounding her.  She was completely lost in thought when she heard a voice behind her.


“Ms. Chandler?  I’m Amy Whitney, one of the volunteers that work here in the office, and I’m the one that spoke to you this morning.  Brother Driscoll is unavailable to meet with you, but his secretary, Miss Dorothy Wells, is available to help you.  Please follow me.” 


Amy led Catherine into an anteroom, which had been set up as offices.  Looking around, Catherine noticed that this room lacked the grandeur of the rest of the house.  The furnishings were sparse, only the bare necessities.  It reminded her of the District Attorney’s office in that respect.  Amy pointed at a chair and before Catherine could thank her, Amy was gone.


Catherine tried to calm the butterflies in her stomach while she waited for Miss Wells.  Catherine chuckled, wondering if Miss Wells could be a relative of Father’s, since they shared the same last name.  Now she felt a little less nervous, and hoped that Miss Wells would soon return.  The sooner they got started, the sooner Catherine would know if the Manor was indeed available.


Within a few minutes, Miss Wells walked into the room.  With one quick glance, Catherine knew that the woman in front of her was a no nonsense type of woman.  She was in her late fifties or early sixties; wore her hair in a very tight style, and she was impeccably dressed.  Her jewelry was minimal, vintage, but a good quality vintage.  Perhaps Catherine had been premature in letting go of some of her nerves.  This woman reminded her of a teacher she had in high school, and that teacher and Catherine never saw eye to eye on anything.


Catherine stood, making sure her posture was perfect and extended her hand.  “Good morning, Miss Wells, I’m Catherine Chandler, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” 


Miss Wells scrutinized Catherine from head to toe, before extending her hand.  “Good morning, Ms. Chandler, it’s a pleasure to meet you as well, please have a seat.  I understand from your message this morning that you want to rent the Manor for a wedding which will take place on New Year’s Eve, is that correct?” 


In her most lawyer-like voice Catherine responded, “Yes, Miss Wells, that is correct.  Is the Manor available at that time?” 


“Before I answer your question, Ms. Chandler, there are some particulars that we must discuss first,” said Miss Wells in a very authoritative voice. 


Clearing her throat to cover her nervousness, Catherine replied, “I’ll be happy to discuss any particulars you like, Miss Wells.  However, I must first have your reassurance that my visit here today as well as any subsequent wedding details will be held in the strictest confidence.  Please understand I don’t mean to be disrespectful, however, at one time I was in the society pages almost every week.  I’ve left that life behind, and now my privacy is of the utmost importance to me, I hope you can understand.”


Miss Wells had to modify her opinion of Catherine Chandler.  On several occasions, Miss Wells remembered seeing Ms. Chandler in the society pages, but she didn’t remember seeing anything for the past several years.  She knew that Ms. Chandler was wealthy, and expected her to act like most of the wealthy people she had encountered over the years.  The self entitled ones who felt as if they should be treated differently because of their last name, or the size of their bank accounts.  The woman seated before her was different, and Miss Wells felt the sincerity in her voice when Ms. Chandler asked that all her information be kept confidential.  Miss Wells had always been a very private person, thus allowing her to appreciate Ms. Chandler’s request. 


Catherine sat quietly, certain that she had just seen Miss Wells’ perception of her change, and prayed that now Miss Wells’ attitude toward her would be less rigid, more pliant and that together these two women could work together to give Catherine and Vincent the wedding of their dreams.


For the next hour, the two women discussed all the fine points of the rental contract, including the use of the pipe organ, the kitchen, preferred caterers, and the areas that were off limits.  Finally, Catherine was instructed on the proper way to attach flowers to the woodwork, if the situation arose.  Miss Wells told Catherine about the nuns, and assured her that they would be going on a retreat for the holidays.  Catherine was grateful that Miss Wells brought up the subject of the nuns.  She didn’t want to be the one to broach the subject or cause any trouble for Darrell.  Having read a multitude of various contracts in her career, Catherine searched the contract for any hidden clauses, and found none.  Now the only two things left to confirm were the date and the price.


Catherine was hoping that since both women felt more comfortable with each other after spending some time together, this would be the perfect time to finalize the last details.


“Miss Wells, it seems to me that all that is needed to complete this contract is a price and a date.  Can you tell me definitively that the Manor is available and that you will allow me to rent it?” 


Miss Wells could no longer maintain her tough façade.  “Ms Chandler, we would be honored if you would have your wedding here at the Manor.” 


Catherine was so happy, she almost jumped out of her seat. 


“Ms. Chandler, since this is a privately run college, we adjust the price according to the event.  For example, we charge more to rent the Manor to a movie company, than we would for a wedding or a corporate luncheon.  I’ve penciled in an amount, I hope you find it satisfactory.” 


Catherine knew that whatever the cost, it was worth it to give Vincent a wedding in a secure location.  Catherine looked at the penciled amount, took out her checkbook, and wrote a check for double that amount. 


Miss Wells took a cursory glance at the check, and was stunned to see that the amount far exceeded the price on the contract.  Miss Wells was pleased that she had changed her opinion of Miss Chandler, for she was certainly unlike any other person, wealthy or otherwise she had ever come across in her years of service.


Still shocked at the amount, Miss Wells said, “Ms. Chandler, I can’t thank you enough for your generosity, the additional funds will go a long way toward much needed improvements, not just in the Manor, but in the school as well.”


Catherine smiled, grateful that she had the means to make a larger contribution.  “Miss Wells, I’m happy that the extra money will make things a little easier around here, and please, call me Catherine.  Now, if it’s all right with you, I am dying to take a tour of this beautiful place, and I hope you won’t object to me taking pictures.  I’m going to surprise my fiancée with them later tonight.” 


“Catherine it is, and please, call me Dorothy.  I have no objection whatsoever, take as many pictures as you like.”  Taking Catherine by the arm Dorothy asked, “Shall we begin our tour?” 


Catherine was so eager to start the tour that all she could do was shake her head in agreement.  The two women walked from room to room.  Catherine was grateful that she had purchased plenty of film and flash bars.  She took pictures from every conceivable angle, this would give Vincent the chance to see the entire property and be familiar with it before the wedding.


Once the tour was completed, Dorothy walked Catherine to the door and did something completely out of character; she hugged Catherine.  “Catherine, I know that your wedding will be a beautiful event.  I wish you and your fiancée nothing but happiness.  If you need anything else before we close for winter break, please don’t hesitate to call.  Feel free to walk around the property and take as many pictures as you like.” 


Catherine reciprocated the hug and said to Dorothy, “Thank you so much for everything, Dorothy, especially your good wishes.  My fiancée’s father is having trouble with our engagement, so we can use all the good wishes we can get.” 


Catherine turned to walk out the door, but Dorothy stopped her.  “One more thing, Catherine, you have my word that no one on this staff will ever divulge any of your personal information.  In fact, to guarantee your privacy, I’m going to lock your contract in my private safe.  I am the only one who has the combination.  If anyone questions the check, I will say that you rented the Manor for a New Year’s Eve party.” 


Tears filled Catherine’s eyes.  Never would she have dreamt that the stern woman she met just a few short hours ago would turn into such a compassionate person.  Catherine, so choked with emotion, hugged Dorothy and whispered, “Thank you, Dorothy.”


It was now Dorothy’s turn to choke back the tears.  She watched Catherine take pictures until she was out of her line of vision.  Walking back to her desk, Dorothy felt lighter, something she hadn’t felt in a very long time.


Catherine took pictures of every area she could access.  It was just after one o’clock when she saw Darrell in the distance.  Catherine walked up to him, hoping that she could talk to his boss about the outdoor lighting for the wedding. 


Darrell smiled when he saw her approach, “So, Catherine, were you able to rent the Manor?” 


Unable to contain her excitement any longer she practically shouted, “Yes, Darrell, we’ve got it for an entire week.  I want to ask your boss if he is willing to do the lighting.” 


Darrell called his boss, Jerry, over and made the introductions, then walked away.  Prices were none of his business.  Out of the corner of his eye, Darrell watched Catherine and Jerry walk around the house, and saw Catherine indicate where she wanted the lights placed. 


Jerry was a New York guy, and he was used to negotiating.  Checking Catherine out, Jerry knew she had some bucks, so he decided to inflate the cost, figuring she would haggle about the price. 


Darrell didn’t know Catherine very well, but he could tell just by the way she was standing, that Jerry wasn’t going to pull anything over on her.  Catherine and Jerry shook hands, and Catherine got into her car and left.  Jerry walked back to where Darrell was working. 


Darrell was too curious to wait for Jerry to tell him what had happened.  “So, Jerry, how’d it go, did we get the job?” 


Shaking his head in disbelief Jerry said, “Yeah, kid, we got the job.  Not only did she agree to the price, she added a little extra on one condition.” 


Darrell was really confused, “One condition, what is it?”  


Jerry seemed a little pained by what he was about to say.  “The condition is that you take the lead on the job, and if it all works out, I’ll get the extra once the job is done and we remove all the lights after the wedding.” 


“I promise I won’t let you down, Jerry.”  Turning his back so Jerry wouldn’t see the smile on his face, Darrell walked back to where he had been working and whispered to himself, “Thank you, Catherine.”


Driving back to Manhattan, Catherine recalled what she had said to Vincent after Eric and Ellie were reunited.  She told him that she had been all over the world, lived in luxury most people could never imagine and that she couldn’t remember a time when she felt as good or complete as she did that night.  This was the second time in her life she felt that good and that complete, and sincerely hoped she would have those feelings on a more regular basis, once she and Vincent were married.  




Catherine realized that in her zeal to get to the Manor, she had completely forgotten to eat breakfast.  She decided to grab something to take back to her apartment.  She was anxious to organize all the pictures she had taken to show Vincent later that evening.  Finding a deli, she ordered a sandwich and salad to go.  While she was waiting, she looked around the neighborhood.  On the opposite side of the street was a stationery store.  Catherine paid for her lunch and headed for the store.  Glancing around, Catherine couldn’t believe the various items that were available for a wedding.  The store not only carried the invitations, but also banners, party favors, paper bells, anything one could possibly want.  She knew that engraved invitations were out of the question, but since Vincent had such beautiful handwriting, an idea came to mind.  Selecting three styles of blank invitations, Catherine now had to decide which one she liked and hoped that Vincent would approve of her decision.  It was a tough choice, but she decided for one with a more elegant look.  Just as she picked up the box, another thought crossed her mind, she had no idea how many people would be attending the wedding.  Thinking it would be better to have too many than too few, she put several more boxes on the counter, paid for her purchases and left, a smile on her face.


Trying to eat her lunch and put the pictures in the proper order was proving more than she could handle.  Deciding that lunch was more important, Catherine took her food out to the balcony.  Seated at the table, Catherine looked at everything surrounding her.  This balcony was a bridge between their two worlds.  They had celebrated two anniversaries here, the second one almost didn’t occur, thanks to the watcher.  She thought about the messages that Vincent had left for her, and about the night he came back into her life.  The joys and the sadness they had experienced here.  She knew that Vincent would miss it as much as she would, but they would share a home of their own, not of her world or his world, but of a world they created together.  One more thought popped into her mind, they needed to decide where they were going to live.


Lunch finished and pictures organized, Catherine decided to take a nap before Vincent’s arrival.  Since it got darker earlier this time of year, Vincent would be here in the early evening.  That was the last thought she had before succumbing to sleep.


Vincent was a little alarmed when he arrived on the balcony and saw no lights on in the apartment.  The street light was shining just enough for him to see that Catherine was asleep.  Since he was no longer afraid to enter her apartment, he opened and closed the door very quietly, walked over to the bed, and gave her a kiss on the cheek. 


A smile appeared on her face, as soon as she felt the kiss.  Looking at the clock, Catherine was shocked that she had been asleep for over two hours.  Not only was it dark outside, but in the apartment as well.  Catherine turned on the bedside lamp, and there was Vincent, sitting on the edge of her bed. 


Reaching over, she placed her hands on his cheeks and looking him directly in the eye said, “What a wonderful way to wake up,” and proceeded to give him a very passionate kiss. 


Both afraid of what might happen next, Catherine took Vincent’s hand and led him into the living room; she couldn’t wait to show him the pictures of the Manor.


Catherine had taken so many pictures that the only place large enough to display them all was on the floor.  She barely gave Vincent time to take off his cloak, and to sit down before she started telling him about the Manor, and Miss Wells.  Vincent couldn’t believe the pictures in front of him.  When Catherine told him that she had traveled all over the world and lived in luxury that most people could only imagine, these were the type of places he envisioned her staying.  To think that they would be married in such a grand place was almost too much for him to handle.  Darrell was correct in the description of the library; Father would love it.  The fireplaces, the floors, the furnishings, the art, he had only ever seen such opulence in books.  It almost didn’t seem real.


Catherine had been talking so much, it took her a minute to realize that Vincent wasn’t making any comments about the pictures or the Manor.  Turning to look at him, the expression on his face was odd, and she began to worry.  Should she have just taken the pictures and then brought them back to get Vincent’s opinion on the location?  Did she jump the gun; make a mistake in picking the location without his input?


“Vincent, what’s wrong?  Are you all right?  Do you not like the location?  Did I make a mistake?”  Catherine had asked these questions so quickly, that Vincent couldn’t get a word in edgewise.


Vincent wanted to tell Catherine how much this meant to him, how he didn’t feel worthy of such a place, but his speech was faltering.  Catherine suddenly understood the look on his face.  She was all too familiar with this look.  He had previously given her the same look each time the subject of them having a life together came up.  It appeared when he felt ashamed or unworthy.  It had been there when the effects of Paracelsus drugs wore off.  The look was even more apparent after he dealt with the Tong and the Outsiders when they invaded the Tunnels.


In a voice barely above that of a whisper, Catherine said, “Vincent, I think I know what’s wrong.  You think that you’re not worthy of this type of place, that you don’t deserve to be married in such a lavish setting.” 


Vincent nodded his head in agreement.  Catherine knew him better than anyone else did, of course she would understand what he was feeling. 


“Vincent, you are the best man I have ever known.  You deserve this and so much more.  You deserve everything, and I will do whatever it takes to prove to you how deserving, how worthy you are, until the day I die.”


His confidence bolstered by Catherine’s words, Vincent now felt he could express to her, how much this generous gift meant to him.  “Catherine, you have already given me the greatest gift I could ever receive, your love, and you willingness to spend the rest of your life with me.”


“To be married in such a lavish place must be very expensive.  When you take into account the clothes, the food, and other things shown in those bridal magazines, it’s just too much, Catherine.  I would marry you under a tree in Central Park, by the Mirror Pool, by the waterfall, I don’t need a mansion, or a tuxedo, all I need is you.”

Now Catherine’s speech was faltering.  “Vincent, I feel the same way, I would marry you anywhere.  The truth is that for me, money is not an issue.  I received a large sum of money after my father died, not just from his estate, but from his share of the law firm as well.  There is enough to pay for this wedding, and have plenty left over.  If I never worked another day in my life, we would be just fine.  In addition, once we are married, I’m hoping you will allow me to contribute more to the Tunnel community.  I don’t want to see anyone struggle or do without any necessities when I have the financial means to make their lives easier.  Please, Vincent, allow me to give you this wedding.  Once we are married, you won’t be coming to see me, so your time Above will be limited.  I want you to be completely free to enjoy this wedding, and the Manor will provide that for you, for us.  The gates lock from the inside, so there is no chance of anyone getting in once the gates are locked.” 


Deep down, Vincent really wanted to be married in the Manor and to have a real wedding.  The weddings held in the Tunnels weren’t anything fancy, due to their limited resources.  Catherine was right that once they were married, he wouldn’t be Above as often.  He longed to have that feeling of freedom one last time.  He might never again sit in the sun, hear the birds singing, or take a walk without fear of being seen or worse, captured.  If he had any other qualms about the wedding venue, they disappeared as soon as he looked into Catherine’s eyes.  In them, he saw the love she felt for him, the trust she had in him, and knew the truth of her words.  “Alright Catherine, let’s plan the wedding.”  Catherine was so happy that she jumped into his arms, knocking him over.  Several passionate kisses ensued, until clearer heads prevailed.


The problem of the venue solved, they went to work on the other items on their respective lists.  Taking a break to enjoy a cup of tea, it suddenly dawned on Catherine that they had overlooked one very important thing, who would they choose to be their attendants?


Posing this question to Vincent, he replied, “I think that since Devin helped both of us when we had nowhere else to turn, it should be him.” 


Catherine agreed that Devin was the logical choice and he would love being in the Manor.  When Vincent asked who her attendant would be, she had to stop and think about it for a moment.  She had always been very close to Jenny, but she was out of the question.  There was one other person that she had turned to after her relapse, Susan. 


“I think Susan would be a wonderful choice.  She helped me regain my strength and she knows all about you and the Tunnels.”  Looking at the clock and trying to gauge the time difference in New Mexico, Catherine said, “Let’s call them tonight and give them time to work out their schedules, what do you think?” 


Vincent laughed, “The last time I called Devin, I woke him up and got yelled at for disturbing his dream.  I want to see if I can do that again.”


Catherine loved to see Vincent happy.  Grabbing the phone and her address book, she handed both to Vincent.  The phone only rang twice before Devin barked hello into the receiver. 


“Now, is that anyway to answer the phone Devin?  What if I had been Candy calling?”


Devin had struck out with Candy and he didn’t need his little brother to remind him of the fact.  “Vincent, is everything alright, are you sick, did something happen to Chandler again?” 


“No, Devin, both Catherine and I are fine.  We’ve set our wedding date for New Year’s Eve, and I would like you to be my best man, and of course bring Charles with you.”  Pausing for effect, Vincent continued, “Devin, we are not getting married in the Great Hall, we are getting married in a mansion in Yonkers.” 


Vincent swore he heard a thud on the other end of the line.  He had written Devin, telling him of Father’s outburst when they returned.  “Devin, are you there, can you hear me?” 


“I’m here, Vincent, I’m just a little shocked by the location.  How did the old man take the news?” 


Catherine had no idea what Vincent was about to say.  “I told him last night that we were getting married Above.  He raised his voice and said he forbids it.  My response was that he could either give us his blessing or be left out completely and that Catherine and I are getting married on New Year’s Eve, regardless of his feelings.”  


Catherine was stunned to hear that once again Father had objected to their plans.  She also wished that Vincent had told her about it earlier this evening, rather than hearing it at the same time Devin did.  Vincent had to hold the phone away from his ear, because Devin was cheering so loudly. 


Catherine and Vincent both laughed, it was nice to have one family member as an ally.  Vincent handed the phone to Catherine so she could give Devin the rest of the details.  While she was on the phone, he walked out onto the balcony for some fresh air.  Her call completed, she went out to join him. 


“I’m sorry, Vincent, that you had another argument with Father.  Do you want me to have Peter speak to him?” 


Vincent said in a slightly agitated voice, “No, Catherine, Father is a grown man, and if he chooses not to be a part of the most important day of my life, then it will be his loss, not ours.  We will have others there to celebrate with us.  It pains me that he feels this way, but he must deal with the consequences of his actions, just like the rest of us, now let’s go call Susan.”


“Vincent, I can call Susan tomorrow.  I was thinking earlier of all the time we’ve spent on this balcony.  Can we just sit here and enjoy it a little bit more before it’s time for you to leave?” 


“An excellent idea, my Catherine,” Vincent said as he pulled her close to him.  With some of the stress temporarily relieved, the couple stood looking out at the lights of the city, wrapped in the warmth of their memories. 



Catherine decided to sleep in the next morning.  Taking her coffee and toast to the table, she sat down to read the paper.  The only time Catherine had ever looked at real estate was when she bought this apartment, and even then, one of her father’s associates had recommended it.  They would have to live in an area close enough to the Tunnels.  What type of house would be best?  In this part of the city, not too many single-family homes existed, most of them were brownstones.  Continuing with her musings, Catherine decided to look at some listings.  This would give her an idea of location and cost.  If she could look at one, it would give her a better indication if a brownstone was a feasible idea. 


Checking to see if any were hosting open houses, Catherine chuckled to herself, “As if I don’t have enough on my plate.  It’s a good thing I’m not working right now.  I would never be able to do all this and carry the workload I had at the DA’s office.” 


She had lounged around long enough; there was a lot to do today.  She had to call Susan and see if she was available, and Maureen would be calling to go over menu ideas.  Glancing at the clock, she put her dishes in the sink, and headed for the shower.


Susan was in with a patient, so all Catherine could do was leave a message.  While she waited, Catherine once again organized the Manor photos.  She had a few ideas about the best way to utilize the layout, but she needed someone with whom she could share her ideas.  Catherine had hosted a few parties for her father, but never in such a large setting.  What she really needed was someone that she trusted to handle the things she couldn’t handle herself.  Someone that could order the flowers, a tuxedo for Vincent and possibly Father, choose a cake, all the things that a typical bride and groom do together. 


The pictures organized, she sat down and started looking at the pages she had marked in the various bridal magazines.  All the advertisers’ listings were in the back of the magazines.  Catherine recognized the name of one of the bridal shops.  She had purchased gowns there in the past, and had developed a rapport with the owner.  Could he be trusted to do her wedding gown?  It took several weeks to make a wedding gown, she remembered that from when Nancy got married, and she was running out of time.  Making a note of the address, she tucked that and the address of a tuxedo shop in her purse. 


The phone rang, it was Maureen.  She had just gotten off work and asked Catherine where she wanted to meet.  Catherine gave her directions to her apartment, and then called down to tell the doorman she was expecting company.  Maybe a solution to her problem was closer than she realized.


Maureen was a nervous wreck during her walk to Catherine’s.  The bus would have been quicker, but she needed the time to walk off her nervousness.  Never before had she planned a wedding menu by herself.  She wasn’t just worried about the menu, it was the fact that this menu was for someone very wealthy.  Would Catherine really keep her promise to help her start her own catering company?  Arriving at Catherine’s building, Maureen took a deep breath and headed inside.  This might turn out to be the best or the worst day of her life, she was truly hoping it would be the former.


Catherine greeted Maureen with a hug, and told her to make herself comfortable.  Looking around, Maureen wondered how Catherine would adjust to being in the Tunnels.  How could she leave this beautiful apartment behind?  Everything was of the finest quality, the furniture, the artwork, and the collectibles on display.  After talking to Catherine the other night, she realized that she would be at home in the Tunnels.  Catherine’s life wasn’t about possessions, it was about love.


Maureen didn’t want to be the first one to broach the subject of the Manor.  After all, if the wedding wasn’t taking place there, her menu was unnecessary.  That meant that her future as a caterer would remain a distant dream.


The beauty of the Manor stunned Maureen.  She was sure that the pictures Catherine had taken did not do it justice.  Even though she had catered for wealthy clients before, she had been limited to the kitchen, dining room, and an occasional living area.  To think that she would be able to walk through the Manor, without restriction, was something that would take some getting used to.


Maureen had made two different menus.  As per Catherine’s request, one included items that are not available to the Tunnel community.  The second was more casual; adults as well as children would enjoy the items offered.  After reviewing them both, Catherine decided to pick several items from each menu, shocking Maureen.  They agreed that buffet style would be the best way to go, except for the bridal party, and Maureen agreed with Catherine’s placement of the tables. 


The kitchen at the Manor only had the basic necessities.  The rest would have to be rented or purchased, and Catherine was leaning toward purchasing everything.  The less traffic in and out of the Manor reduced any chance of Vincent being seen.  Catherine and Vincent agreed that the amount of alcohol should be limited to champagne and wine.  Hopefully, they would consume all of it; alcohol was the one thing that Catherine didn’t want sent back to the Tunnels.  Now that the menu and table placement were finalized, all they had to do was find out how many people would be attending the wedding and/or reception.


While glancing through the bridal magazines earlier today, Catherine came to a decision about who she could trust as her wedding liaison, it was Maureen.  Now all she had to do was ask her, and pray that she agreed to the job.


“Maureen, I know that catering this wedding will be a big job for you.  We still have to talk William into helping you, but after Winterfest, I’m sure he’ll be glad to have a break.  Earlier today it occurred to me that I need someone I can trust to run errands, handle the things that I can’t for obvious reasons.  If you’re not too busy, I want to hire you for the job.”


Maureen couldn’t believe what she was hearing.  She would be paid for the catering, but to be paid for running errands, that was incredible.  She and Darrell needed so many things, and between their salaries, they barely made ends meet each month.  Maureen was so ecstatic about the offer that she said yes in a very loud voice.  Both women laughed at her response.


“Maureen, I’ve made a list of things that I need to have for the wedding.  The obvious things are a gown, tuxedos, flowers and I’m sure a million other things I have yet to think of.  What I’m about to ask you is above running errands, it requires lying about whose wedding it really is,” Catherine said with some hesitation in her voice. 


Maureen looked puzzled and Catherine continued.  “It’s nothing illegal.  If you’re willing, we are going to say that it’s your wedding, not mine.  I have a shop that I’ve used before, and I hope I can trust them to make my gown and keep it a secret.  When it comes to the tuxedos and the flowers, we would go together, and you would pretend to be the bride.  Once we settle on where to purchase everything, then I will give you the money to pay for it all.  If that makes you uncomfortable, I understand completely, it is asking a lot of you.  I give you my word that if the answer is no, there will be no ill feelings on my part.”


Catherine’s face held a myriad of emotions: excitement, fear, anticipation.  Here was a woman who could buy anything she wanted, but when it came to her own wedding, because of the man she was marrying, she had to keep everything a secret.  Maureen had always wondered what it would be like to be wealthy, if this was what it meant, then she was grateful to be just an ordinary person.  Even though Maureen hadn’t known Catherine very long, and wasn’t much older than her, she felt protective of her, and wanted to see her happy.  Without realizing she was doing it, Catherine was holding her breath waiting for Maureen’s answer. 


“Catherine, let’s go shopping for a wedding,”


Catherine pulled her into another hug and whispered, “Thank you, Maureen.  If you have no plans for this afternoon, why don’t we get started?” 


All the nervousness that Maureen had felt when she first arrived had dissipated.  “I’m ready when you are Catherine, let’s go.”  Within minutes, the women were out the door, their goal, the perfect wedding.


Seated in the back of the taxi, Catherine showed Maureen the photos she had taken from the magazines.  Their first stop was JLM Couture on 37th Street.  As soon as she walked in, the owner of the store, Jim, greeted Catherine.  Jim commented on how long it had been since Catherine had needed a gown.  Asking if they could talk in private, Jim led the women into his office.  Catherine explained that her wedding was a secret, and wanted a guarantee that he would not disclose any information about her gown or wedding to anyone. 


Jim knew Cathy Chandler had many influential friends, and if any of this leaked out, she had the power to ruin his career.  Jim genuinely liked Cathy, and would do whatever necessary to keep her secrets, including doing all the fittings at her apartment.  Breathing a sigh of relief, Catherine introduced Maureen and explained that if anyone asked, it was her gown.  With assurances in place, Catherine took from her purse the pictures of the gowns she liked, hoping that the three of them could find the most flattering one for her.  Most of the gowns were very full and puffy, and Catherine felt she was too old to wear such a gown.  She wanted something that would be comfortable for dancing, but also something that would be formal enough to match the venue.  Preliminary sketches begun, Catherine and Maureen left to finish their other errands.


The next stop was Jack Silver’s Tuxedos on 49th street.  They had made most of the tuxedos for Catherine’s father over the years.  Catherine knew exactly what kind of tuxedo she wanted the men to wear.  Maureen, pretending to be the bride, explained that her fiancée lived in a rural area, and there were no tuxedo shops close to him.  She asked the proper way to measure for a tuxedo, Catherine was frantically making notes.  This would help when either Mary or one of the seamstresses measured Vincent for his tuxedo.  Devin could have his tuxedo fitting at a shop closer to his home.  The only other question was if Father would be in need of one.


To finish off their errands, they went to a floral shop whose name was appropriate for the flowers they had chosen.  The name of the shop was “Roses Only.”  They inquired about flowers for Catherine and hopefully Susan.  Catherine asked if they could make garlands to wrap around columns.  The answer was yes.  The women decided they had made a great start for today.  This called for a piece of pie and coffee at a local diner.  The women chatted as if they had been lifelong friends, instead of recent acquaintances.  After three cups of coffee, the women decided to call it a day.  Catherine hailed a cab, had them drop Maureen off at her apartment, and then headed back to hers, anxious to see if Susan had returned her call.


Catherine was thrilled when she arrived home and found her answering machine light blinking.  The message was from Susan.  Catherine quickly dialed Susan’s number and waited for her to answer.  The moment Catherine heard Susan’s voice, she began to speak very quickly.  Once Catherine explained everything to Susan, she took a deep breath, hoping Susan’s answer would be yes.  At first, all Catherine heard was laughing on the other end of the phone.  It then occurred to her that she didn’t even ask if Susan had a patient waiting or perhaps she was interrupting a meal.  Susan finally stopped laughing and began to respond to the news that Catherine had just given her. 


“Well, I can tell by the excitement in your voice that you are feeling like your old self.” 


Catherine quickly said, “yes,” nervous about Susan’s reply. 


“Cathy, if it means moving Heaven and Earth, I wouldn’t miss this wedding for the world.  I have to go, but I’ll call you next week for more definite details.” 


With tears welling up in her eyes, all Catherine could say was “Thank you, Susan.” 


Since everything regarding the wedding had transpired so quickly, Catherine realized that Peter hadn’t been told about her impending nuptials.  She was also hoping he would walk her down the aisle.  Once more, Catherine quickly dialed Peter’s familiar number.  This time she remembered to ask if he was busy before she said anything.  When his answer was no, Catherine began to relate all the wedding details to him.  Then hoping her luck would hold, she asked Peter to walk her down the aisle. 


His response, “It would be an honor, Cathy.”


Knowing Catherine would be busy all day, Vincent took the opportunity to visit Narcissa.  He tried to recall all the details of his last visit with her.  At that time, Vincent had no idea that Paracelsus was impersonating Father, and the information he was filling Vincent’s head with, eventually led to his death.  Not before the damage was done, not before he had ingrained so many doubts and fears into Vincent, that Catherine was afraid of him that night.  How did he not see the subtle nuances that belonged only to Father?  Vincent had spent every day of his life with the man, why did he not recognize that the man he called Father was actually the man that tried to destroy their world?  The man that profited from people’s weakness with the drugs he manufactured, the same drug that he used on Vincent, to keep him from following him out of the Tunnels.  Paracelsus did a masterful impersonation of Lou at Winterfest; he had fooled everyone, even those who had known Lou the longest. 


Vincent could still see the blood on his hands and the words spewing from Paracelsus’ mouth after he ripped him open with his claws, “At last you are my son.” 


Even in death, Paracelsus had some control over Vincent, the bitter lies, forcing Vincent to kill him.  That was the start of Vincent’s breakdown, which ultimately led to Catherine’s breakdown.  He regretted having to kill people to protect those he loved.  However, Paracelsus’ death was one he did not regret. 


Vincent had walked this path so many times, he could do it on autopilot, which he had just done.  So caught up recalling a very bleak time in his life that Vincent suddenly became conscious of where he was, at the entrance to Narcissa’s chamber.  She had probably seen his visit in the water, or perhaps in the shells.  He needed to be sure that his intimacy with Catherine would bring her no physical harm.  The only one that could tell him that, the only one he would believe, was Narcissa.


“Vincent, how are you, child?  I’ve been expecting you.  The last time I saw you, you were trying to raise Anna’s spirit.  I know that the evil one is dead.  This time you come with good news.  Sit; tell this crazy old lady why you are so worried.”


Vincent always said that Narcissa saw things that were hidden from everyone else.  Even with her impaired eyesight, she saw what others couldn’t see.  Her warnings about Catherine when Paracelsus kidnapped her, and when she was under the influence of voodoo, were so accurate, that if Vincent previously had any doubts about her abilities, they had had disappeared after those incidents.


 “Narcissa, quite a bit has happened since I last saw you, but I’m sure you already know that, don’t you?”  Narcissa sat quietly, a smile upon her face; no response was necessary.  “Narcissa, Catherine and I are to be married on New Year’s Eve.  We are getting married Above, in a beautiful mansion.  Catherine wants to give me this gift of freedom.  I went to visit my brother, Devin, and for the first time, I was able to walk in the sunshine, without fear.  I want to have this wedding Above, not just to please Catherine, but for myself as well.  Just once in my life, I want to have something different from anyone else.  New clothes made just for me, not pieced together from remnants of others’ clothes, or something found in the trash.”  Vincent was embarrassed to ask the next question, but knowing Narcissa, she would provide an answer, even if he didn’t ask the question.  “Narcissa, I’m also worried about being intimate with Catherine, I’m still afraid that I might hurt her in some way.  Tell me, can the shells, the spirits, or the water answer my question?”


“Vincent, there is also something else you are not telling Narcissa.  It’s about the Father.  He does not approve of this marriage; he is against the location as well.  Will you let his fears become yours, Vincent?”


“You’re right, Narcissa, Father no longer approves of the marriage.  Something happened while I was away to change his mind.  Catherine would never do anything to put me in danger; she has risked her life to help me, this community.  The wedding will proceed with or without Father’s blessing.  Catherine is everything to me, and I can’t wait to marry her, and start a life with her.  Of those things I’m sure; it’s the intimacy that still has me worried.”


“Vincent, the spirits told me of your fears, I asked them for guidance, to show me what is in the future for you and your Catherine.”  The suspense was killing him.  Ever since they became engaged, this was the only thing that still worried him.  Now that Narcissa had an answer for him, he couldn’t be patient and wait for her to respond, he needed to know, now!  “What did they say, Narcissa, will everything be alright?  Will I hurt her?  Please, I must know.”


With a smile, Narcissa began to answer his questions.  “Vincent, you have risked your life many times to save your Catherine.  You continued to search for her even after I told you the way was dangerous.  She has seen you kill right in front of her.  If you did not hurt her when all your eyes could see was blood, your love will not hurt her.”


Vincent held his breath waiting for an answer.  He felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders.  “Thank you, Narcissa; I knew you would have the answers.  I must be getting back, but I brought you some supplies.  Will you be attending Winterfest this year?”



With her mysterious laugh Narcissa replied, “We will see, Vincent.  Vincent, before you go, there is one more thing I must say to you.  Talk to the Father, he is keeping something from you, you must find out what it is.  It’s nothing bad, just something he has to tell you.” 


Vincent’s curiosity was thoroughly piqued.  Leaning down to kiss the old woman on the cheek he said, “Thank you, Narcissa, for listening to me, answering my questions.  If you do not come to Winterfest, perhaps Catherine and I will come for a visit after the New Year.” 


“Vincent, you and your Catherine can come see me anytime.”


Vincent felt lighter walking back to the main Tunnel area.  He had asked and received an answer about his greatest fear, injuring Catherine.  What did Narcissa mean, that Father had something to tell him?  He had been home long enough, Father had many opportunities to talk to him; however, each time they spoke, it resulted in yet another argument.  Thanksgiving was next week, Catherine and Vincent were going to announce the date and place of their wedding.


Vincent would not tolerate another public outburst from Father.  If they needed to talk, Vincent would make sure they did it before Thanksgiving.




The night before Thanksgiving, Vincent and Catherine invited Maureen and Darrell to the Tunnels to review some of the wedding particulars. 


Vincent asked if Maureen and Darrell would mind sitting in on a meeting they were going to have with Father.  They wanted to show him the location, so he could see for himself how secure it was.  Having never seen the second floor of the Manor, Darrell was impressed, just as Vincent and Maureen had been.  While they were talking about the security, Darrell thanked Catherine for making him the lead on the outside lighting job. 


With a sly smile and a wink, Catherine said to Darrell, “There’s something else I’m going to ask you to do for me, but for now, it’s a secret.”  Knowing that Maureen was helping Catherine with all the wedding plans, neither she nor Vincent had any idea of what that surprise might be.  Vincent knew that with Catherine involved, the surprise would be a good one.


Gathering all the photos, the four of them went to Father’s library to assuage his fears about holding the wedding Above.  Father had been in the hospital chamber, and didn’t know that Maureen and Darrell had arrived.  He was seated at his desk reading a medical journal, when they entered the library. 


“Ah, Maureen, Darrell, I didn’t know that you were coming down this evening.  Is there a reason for your visit, or did you just come to wish us a Happy Thanksgiving?”  Out of the corner of his eye, Father spotted Vincent holding a large amount of papers, probably about that damn wedding, he thought.


Maureen was the first to speak.  “Well, Father, we do want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, but that’s not the reason for our visit.”  She didn’t want to be the one to tell Father what the purpose of their visit was really about, so she stepped out of the way and let Vincent and Catherine lead the way. 


“Father, Catherine and I want to talk to you about the wedding plans, and would appreciate it if you would join us at the table.” 


Looking at the four faces standing before him, Father knew for the time being, he was outnumbered.  He would appease them and listen to what they had to say; after all, he couldn’t appear discourteous in front of their guests.  Under no circumstances whatsoever, would he give his blessing to this wedding.


The tension hung in the air, everyone hoping that Father would be reasonable, but expecting the worst.  Since Darrell was most familiar with the grounds, he decided to start the conversation. 


“Father, the Manor sits back 600 feet from the road.  It is on 21 acres of ground, the closet thing is the Lenoir Nature Preserve, and that has 39 acres.  As you can see, the gates lock from the inside.  The rest of the Manor is surrounded by landscaping, terraces, and a sculpture garden.  It is 300 feet above the Hudson River.  Look, Father, it even has its own outdoor theatre.  If I remember my studies correctly, that is a replica of the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens.”  Continuing before he lost his nerve, “As you can see, it is completely safe for Vincent.  Since its winter, the drapes will be closed, further decreasing his chances of being seen.  I wouldn’t have suggested it if it wasn’t.”  As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Darrell knew that he had said too much.  Father wasn’t going to be happy that he suggested it, and it didn’t take long for him to comment.


Taking off his glasses, Father gave Darrell the look that was reserved for when someone had really gotten themselves into trouble, or when he had run out of patience.  Darrell wasn’t sure which one it was, but from previous experience, he knew either way, it was bad.


With a very severe tone in his voice, Father began to speak.  “So, Darrell, you are the one that suggested this foolishness?  Did all of you plot this behind my back, thinking that if all of you approached me at once, that I would give in and change my mind?”  Putting all the photos into a pile, he continued.  “Maureen, I thought I could count on you to support my decision.  Now I find that you’re in on this conspiracy as well.  You above all others know how stressful marriage can be, and what life Above is really like.  Well, you were all wrong, all you’ve done is waste my time, and try my patience.”


All four of them were dumbstruck by Father’s comment.  How could he even begin to compare Catherine and Vincent to Dennis and Maureen?  So taken aback by Father’s accusations, Maureen could barely speak.  She had always thought of Father as a kind, caring man. He had just shattered that image with his words.  Now Maureen was angry, and she was going to make sure Father knew just how angry she was. 


“Father, what gave you the idea that I would be your ally?  I didn’t meet Catherine until a few nights ago.  Until then, I only vaguely knew her, and that was from what the other Helpers and some of the residents here had told me.  I knew that she and Vincent were in love, and after being around them, even for a short time, you can tell how deeply in love they are.  You can feel it in the air when they are together.  How could you even compare their marriage to mine?  I was young, naïve; I knew nothing about the world.  If you remember, Dennis kept his drinking a secret until after we were married.  Catherine and Vincent are adults, free to make their own choices.  I always hoped that Vincent would find someone to love him for who he really is, and he has found that in Catherine.”


Catherine, Vincent and Darrell all had tears in their eyes, for two reasons.  Not only had Father’s words angered them, but never had they heard anyone describe Vincent and Catherine’s love the way Maureen had.  Darrell was proud of his mother; she usually shied away from conflict, a self-preservation method.  Catherine and Vincent were thankful to have such a supportive friend.


Vincent was trying to stay composed, he didn’t want to upset Maureen or Darrell any further.  Vincent pulled himself up to his full height, before leaning over to whisper in Father’s ear.  “This has gone far enough, Father.  Catherine and I are going to announce the wedding date at Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.  You have made your opinions perfectly clear.  I have only two things to say to you.  If you cause another scene like the one at our engagement party, or do anything to poison anyone against our marriage, I guarantee you, I will no longer consider you my father!”  Vincent picked up the photos and said to the three still seated, “Come, let’s go to the kitchen, and discuss things with William.”


Father sat back in his chair, aghast at the way Vincent had just spoken to him.  His tone had been one that Father had heard in the past, but the threat, now that was something else.  Was his threat sincere?  Could Vincent, would Vincent, stop thinking of him as his father?  No, he’s just angry that I’m not going along with these wedding plans.  He’ll come to his senses; he’ll forgive me, won’t he?


For the past few weeks, Mary had limited her interactions with Jacob.  She had been there the night Vincent and Catherine announced their engagement, and was appalled at Jacob’s reaction.  The rage in his voice reminded her of how angry he had been when Vincent went to Devin’s.  While Vincent was away, Jacob had been pleasant enough; perhaps that was all a ruse.  Was it possible that Jacob had been saving all that hostility for Vincent’s return?  She had been listening to the wedding discussion from behind a wall.  She didn’t want to eavesdrop, but she was worried that Jacob wouldn’t change his stance on the marriage, and from the sound of it, his response had been the same.  Her last resort was to ask Peter to intercede, Mary feared that it might make matters worse, but with the wedding date fast approaching, she felt she had no other recourse.


In the kitchen, Vincent, Catherine, Darrell, and Maureen were trying to calm down after Father’s latest tirade.  Since William was getting ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow, there were apple pies fresh from the oven.  Along with a freshly brewed pot of coffee, William joined the others at the table.  He knew they had just come from a meeting with Father, and from the looks on their faces, his opinion about the wedding hadn’t changed.


Trying to salvage the evening, Catherine, in an upbeat voice, said, “William, we have something important to ask you.  Since you do so much work preparing everything for Winterfest, and since that is only a few weeks before our wedding, we’ve asked Maureen to do the catering.”


“We would be grateful if you would agree to be her right hand for a change.” 


At first, William was a little hurt that he wouldn’t be the one cooking for the wedding.  Catherine was right, between Thanksgiving and Winterfest; he put in some long hours in front of the stove.  The fact was that he wasn’t a spring chicken anymore; it took him awhile to recover from those events.  It would be nice to be the second fiddle for a change. 


He couldn’t let anyone know that he was excited to be in a fancy kitchen, so with a big humph William said, “Well, I guess just this once I could play second fiddle to you, Maureen.  It would be my pleasure to help with the wedding.”


Everyone around the table laughed at William, always brusque on the outside, but very caring on the inside.  Maureen reviewed the menus with William, hoping that he could help her calculate how much of each item would be required.  They decided that they wouldn’t have the final headcount until Winterfest, and agreed to meet afterwards to make the final preparations.


Vincent apologized profusely to Maureen and Darrell, as they were getting ready to leave.  “Maureen, Darrell, I must tell you how guilty Catherine and I feel for putting you in the middle of all this tension with Father.  We thought if he could see how secure the location is, and how committed we are to having this wedding regardless of his attendance, that he would change his mind.  I’m sorry for the horrible things he said to you both.” 


Not wanting Vincent to assume all the blame, Catherine tried to relay how upset she was as well.  “Maureen, Darrell, you two have been so helpful, I’m mortified by the way Father spoke to you.  I feel like this is entirely my fault.  Can you ever forgive me?” 


Maureen wasn’t accustomed to people apologizing to her; usually she did the apologizing, whether or not she was to blame.  She had done it as a defense mechanism, enabling her to survive in her marriage.  Over the years, Maureen had tried to stand up for herself, but the scars of abuse take a long time to heal.  Eventually, she just resorted back to assuming all the blame, that way she avoided any future conflict.


The couple in front of her had already endured so much in their relationship.  Maureen needed to convey to them that in no way was Father’s behavior their fault.  “Catherine, Vincent, Darrell and I know that you are not responsible for Father’s words or actions.  Did it hurt, yes; will it change our minds about helping you, absolutely not.  By asking us to help with your wedding, you are giving Darrell and I chances that we might never have had.  We will never be able to repay your kindness, or the trust you’re placing in us.  As far as Father is concerned, it’s his problem, not ours, not yours.  It will be his loss if he chooses not to be present at your wedding.”


Catherine and Vincent exchanged a look.  Without a word, Catherine hugged Darrell, and Vincent hugged Maureen.  In voices filled with emotion, Vincent and Catherine simply said “Thank you.” 


Maureen and Darrell did not respond, they couldn’t, they were both afraid they would start to cry, so they simply turned and headed for home.




It was Thanksgiving Day, and New York was experiencing a major snowstorm.  Blanketed in snow, a hush fell over the city and the streets Above were silent.  In the Tunnels Below, the noise was almost deafening.  All members of the community attended Thanksgiving dinner.  Not everyone would be present at Winterfest, so this allowed people to visit with others they didn’t see on a regular basis.  Hearing about the engagement, and wanting to congratulate the couple, Elizabeth put down her paints for the day.  Today she would dine with the rest of the community.


As she was getting ready to go Below, Catherine was once again hearing Father’s angry words in her head.  She thought that when Vincent got sick, they had crossed the final hurdle.  She then remembered that at the beginning of Vincent’s breakdown, she was dealing with Paracelsus. 


Devin and Charles were going to come back for Thanksgiving, but the weather prevented it.  Devin called Catherine this morning to tell her they weren’t coming.  Knowing that Vincent would still be upset, she decided not to mention Devin’s call.  Catherine wanted to do something to cheer up Vincent.  Checking to make sure the item was in her purse, Catherine locked the door and headed to the elevator.


Catherine asked that the sentries not reveal she was in the Tunnels.  She wanted to surprise Vincent.  Walking quietly into Vincent’s chamber, the scene before her was just what she anticipated it would be.  Vincent was sitting in his large red chair, hands under his chin, gazing into space, lost in his thoughts.  Catherine approached him and placed a kiss on top of his head. 


A smile crossed Vincent’s face; he then admonished himself for not meeting Catherine at her threshold.  Completely aware of what he was thinking, Catherine removed her coat, and sat down on the arm of the chair. 


“Vincent, stop blaming yourself for not greeting me.  I wanted to surprise you, and I asked the sentries not to tap out my arrival on the pipes.  I know that you are still just as upset about last night as I am.  We can’t do anything about Father; what we can do is focus on our future.  To that end, I brought something to show you.” 


From her purse, Catherine took a ring box.  Lifting the lid, it contained two gold Greek key wedding bands.  The man’s ring was wider than the woman’s.  Vincent had no real knowledge of jewelry.  When a couple married in the Tunnels, the rings were usually plain bands.  Depending on the financial situation of the couple, sometimes only the bride received a ring.  It was still hard for him to accept all the riches Catherine was bestowing on him.  First the big wedding, and now these beautiful rings.  Catherine took the man’s ring out of the box, lifted Vincent’s hand, and placed it on his ring finger.  His fingers were much larger than her Father’s had been, so it only came to his first knuckle.  Suddenly Vincent became upset, thinking that there was no way to correct the size.  Once again, Catherine’s words soothed his troubled mind. 


“Vincent, I didn’t expect it to fit you, your hands are larger than my father’s.”  Placing the other band on her finger, she continued.  “See, this one is too small for me as well.  We need a piece of paper to wrap around your finger.  That way, Maureen can take them to the jeweler’s and have them sized properly.  Vincent, you haven’t said anything, do you like the rings?” 


The words caught in Vincent’s throat as attempted to answer her question.  Now Catherine was the one that need reassurance, so in his velvety voice, Vincent replied, “Catherine, they’re beautiful.  I would be honored to wear one of these rings.” 


Pleased that he liked the rings, Catherine returned them to their box, they could do the sizing later. 

Not wanting to become more emotional, Vincent stood up and taking Catherine’s hand said, “Catherine, may I escort you to dinner?” 


Catherine was beaming when she replied, “It would be my honor, Vincent.”


The moment that Vincent and Catherine walked into the dining hall, everyone started applauding.  The couple started blushing at all the attention.  All those that had not yet congratulated them, took the opportunity to do so now.  Once everyone had settled down, Father announced that it was time for the prayer.  All around the room, the young, the old, the healthy, and the feeble, joined hands.  The majority of the time, they barely had enough to feed everybody, but not today.  Today, everyone went out of their way to ensure a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner.


It had been a long time, since Catherine had a chance to catch up with the Tunnel residents.  Luke and little Cathy were refusing to eat their dinner.  Jamie was trying to keep Mouse out of trouble.  Despite Father’s opinion about their wedding, Catherine couldn’t wait to become a permanent member of this community.  At last, she would be part of a family once again.


Vincent decided to make the wedding announcement before the crowd began to disperse.  Vincent whispered in Catherine’s ear, as they prepared themselves for the onslaught of noise, once the details became public knowledge.  Seeing the couple standing, everyone quieted down.  Glaring at Father, as if daring him to interrupt, Vincent began to speak.


“Before we begin, let’s give William and his helpers, a round of applause for that delicious and satisfying meal.”  The crowd obeyed, but the applause subsided quickly, everyone anticipating what Vincent had to say.


Vincent wanted to ensure that he was heard above the murmurs in the crowd, and began to speak in his most authoritative voice.  “Everyone, please allow me to finish speaking, before anyone asks any questions.  As you all know, Catherine and I are getting married.  As my wedding gift, Catherine has arranged for us to be married Above.  It will be in a secure location, a mansion in Yonkers.  We will have buses for anyone wishing to attend.  We ask that you not give us any gifts.  Instead, we prefer the gift of your presence, and of any help you can provide, either setting up for the wedding, or helping to dismantle, once it is over.  I am entrusting William with the list of names, and any help you are willing to give.  Our helper, Maureen, with William’s assistance, will be catering the wedding.  I’ll let Catherine give you the rest of the information.”


Father sat there, fuming to himself, but after Vincent’s threat last night, he dared not say a word.  Everyone in the room would glance toward Father when they thought he wasn’t looking.  They were waiting for him to protest this news, as he had done with the news of their engagement.


Catherine also looked at Father.  She could tell that he was very uncomfortable, but dared not utter a word after last night.  “The wedding will take place at 6:00 o’clock, New Year’s Eve.”


“It will take place at Alder Manor in Yonkers.  I’m going to pass around some pictures, so that you have an idea of where it is located.  We need anyone that has a valid driver’s license and can drive a bus, or large van.  To lessen the traffic in and out of the Manor, any supplies purchased for the wedding will be brought down here afterward.  Since this all started with a song from ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, the music for the wedding march and the first dance has been decided.  We would love to have the musicians play, and the children sing.  If anyone needs sheet music, or an instrument repaired, please let me know.  As many of you are aware, I used to be part of the society and club scenes, so I can’t do all the shopping for this wedding myself.”


“Maureen has graciously offered to be my wedding assistant.  If I’m not available, please feel free to give either her or Vincent the information.  I’ve rented the Manor for a week, beginning on December 27th.  That will give us enough time to prepare the Manor for the wedding.  Since it is New Year’s Eve, I’m hoping that everyone will want to stay until midnight.  We want you all there as we start the New Year as husband and wife.  Finally, we will send out invitations with the Winterfest candles.  That way, we will have a final count on the day of Winterfest.”


Father, blinded by rage, thought, “How dare they infringe on my Winterfest candles with their invitations.  He had kept his promise, and not spoken a word.  He was, however, unable to endure more of this nonsense.  Shakily he rose from the table.  Everyone in the community, along with Vincent and Catherine, noticed the gesture. 


“Please excuse me, I’ve been sitting too long, and the walk back to my library will do me good.  William, another splendid meal, thank you all for coming, it was good to see everyone together.”  As he left, he felt eyes burning into his back.  “Let them do what they will, I won’t be a part of this charade.”


Vincent and Catherine took their seats.  Hoping to lighten the mood, William barked, “Anyone want more pie?”


A few people took William up on his offer.  One by one, as they prepared to leave, people stopped to wish the couple well.  A few asked questions, many commented on the beauty of the mansion.  They all knew how stubborn Father could be, and how hurt the couple was by his actions. 


One of the last people to approach them was Elizabeth.  Both Vincent and Catherine stood to give the elderly woman a hug.  First, she touched Vincent’s cheek, and then Catherine’s.  She had known Vincent a long time.  Never in all those years, did she think that he would ever marry, and then Catherine came along.  Elizabeth had very little interaction with anyone.  Occasionally Mary stopped by for a visit, and Mouse, the dear boy, brought her paints.  When the Burch tower threatened to destroy their world, she knew that Catherine stepped in to ensure their world would continue.  This couple deserved respect, not Father’s ranting, foolish old man. 


Vincent and Catherine began to worry when Elizabeth just stood there looking at them, not saying a word.  Vincent, concerned that she was ill, asked, “Elizabeth, are you alright?  Do you need a drink of water, or to sit down?” 


Elizabeth’s eyes were twinkling.  She touched Vincent’s cheek once again before speaking.  “Child, stop worrying about me, I’m fine.  I just want you to know how happy I am for the two of you.  I won’t be able to share in your special day, and I know you don’t want presents.  Would you forgive an old woman if she broke that rule and made you one anyway?” 


Tears were running down both Catherine and Vincent’s cheeks.  Vincent was the first to react to her question. 


“Elizabeth, I will forgive you for breaking the rule, and we would be grateful for any present you make.” 


It was now Catherine’s turn to answer the question.  “Elizabeth, I wish you would reconsider and spend the day with us.  I’m sure you would have a lovely time.  I understand if you don’t want to, and I agree with Vincent.  We will forgive you and graciously accept your gift, on one condition.” 


Elizabeth wasn’t used to conditions.  “Child, what condition is that?” 


Catherine laughed, “That you allow us to send a piece of cake home for you, and that you promise to enjoy it.” 


The three of them laughed. “Catherine, that’s one condition I promise I’ll keep,” and with that she left the dining hall.


Back in Vincent’s chamber, the couple talked about their announcement and the subsequent reactions.  Catherine took a sheet of paper from Vincent’s tablet, and made paper rings for each of them.  Vincent was curious about the invitations that the Helpers would receive.  They had discussed sending notes with the Winterfest candles, but nothing about formal invitations.  He assumed Catherine wouldn’t take a chance and have them printed, but he might be wrong. 


“Catherine, the invitations you mentioned earlier, where are they coming from?  Are you having something printed?”


When Vincent came to visit her after she reserved the Manor, she had forgotten to ask if he would fill out the invitations.  She had wanted to mention it last night, but after yet another run in with Father, she thought it better to wait until today. 


“Vincent, I’m sorry I didn’t ask you about the invitations before I said anything about it today.  I forgot to mention it to you when you came to my apartment the other night.  I wanted to ask you last night, but after Father’s accusations, I knew neither of us was in the mood to discuss anything.”  Reaching into her purse, she took out one of the boxes of blank invitations, and showed them to Vincent.  “I was hoping that with your beautiful handwriting, you would write out the invitations.  We can decide what wording to use, then you can do the invitations, and I’ll do the envelopes.  I hope you can find a way to forgive me.” 


Catherine had that cat that swallowed the canary look on her face, and Vincent knew that he would do whatever she asked of him.  “I’ll forgive you this time, Catherine, but don’t make a habit of it, or I’ll have to punish you.” 


With an ear-to-ear smile on her face she asked, “What type of punishment did you have in mind, Vincent?” 


Grabbing her and pulling her into his lap, his lips were scant inches away from hers. “This type,” he said as he kissed her lips with great ardor. 


Not since Devin’s had they spent a night under the same roof.  They had done nothing more than kiss, both agreeing to wait until their wedding night.  The past few weeks had been filled with a multitude of emotions, and wedding details.  Deciding that they needed some time to relax, Vincent walked over to his bed and motioned for Catherine to follow.  It seemed like ages since he had read any poetry to her.  Picking up the volume of Tennyson Catherine had given him as a gift; he began to read ‘Idylls of the King.’ 


Vincent’s voice always had a calming effect on Catherine, and before long, she had fallen asleep.  Vincent, not wanting to wake Catherine, moved her to the other side of the bed, and placed a quilt over her.  Looking down at her filled him with so much love.  Realizing it had been a long day, Vincent lay down on the other side of the bed under a separate quilt and soon joined her in sleep.


Father had managed to calm down after that fiasco in the dinner hall.  As he was preparing for bed, he realized that he had not asked Vincent about the supply inventory he had asked him to do.  Unaware that Catherine was still Below, Father walked into Vincent’s chamber, expecting to find him alone.  When he saw the two of them asleep together in Vincent’s bed, his fury returned.  Not wanting a confrontation, he quietly crept out of the room.  “Another way they disrespect me,” he mumbled to himself as he headed for his bedchamber. 


Even though they had gone to sleep on opposite sides of the bed, and under separate covers, during the night, they ended up under one blanket, Catherine’s head on Vincent’s shoulder, his arm wrapped protectively around her.  Catherine was the first one to wake.  She could hear the tapping on the pipes.  Looking at her watch, she couldn’t believe it was morning; she hadn’t planned to spend the night Below.  As soon as she moved, it woke Vincent.  She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and hurried off to the bathroom.  Vincent smiled, looking at the covers.  He had tried to keep them apart, but fate prevailed, and they ended up together, once again. 


Catherine soon returned from the bathroom.  She had washed her face, and brushed her teeth, now she was searching for her shoes and her purse.


“Why are you in such a hurry to leave, Catherine?” 


“Vincent, I don’t want to upset Father any more than he already is.  I need to go home, shower, and change my clothes.  Then I thought I would come back down in the afternoon, and we could start on the invitations.  The city will be crowded with Black Friday shoppers and I don’t want to go out unless it’s necessary.  Winterfest is in two weeks and I want to make sure the invitations are ready when the candles are delivered.  Also, I’m sure Father will know that I spent the night here, and I’m not ready to see him this early in the day.”


Since they had been at Devin’s and spent so much uninterrupted time together, Vincent smiled and laughed more than he had in his entire life.  Catherine looked over to see him sitting up on the bed, shaking his head, and heard him chuckling.


Catherine knew that he was laughing at her.  Once again, she had talked non-stop, not allowing Vincent to get a word in edgewise.  She would fix him.  Going over to the bed, she knocked him back onto the bed.  Lying on top of him, she looked him in the eye and asked, “Vincent, do you find my chatter amusing?  I want you to know that I’m not a morning person.  I just want to make a quick exit, and hope that Father doesn’t see me.  Is this afternoon a good time for you as well?” 


Vincent was pinned; all he could do was shake his head.  “Good, I’ll see you then.  This will give you something to think about until I return.”  Catherine brought her lips close to his, closing her eyes.  Vincent was expecting a deep, passionate kiss, so he closed his eyes as well.  What he received was a quick peck on the cheek.  He was so stunned, that it took him a moment to react.  When he did, Catherine was gone from the chamber.


“So, she’s going to tease me, is she?  I’ll just have to figure out some sort of retaliation for when she returns.”  Those thoughts foremost in his mind, Vincent gathered his things; a long bath was just what he needed to think.  Catherine’s payback wasn’t the only thing on his mind.  How he would handle another confrontation with Father was the main thing on his mind.


Catherine was walking up from the basement, when she ran into Brian.  Since Brian had discovered the Tunnel world and knew he had friends to turn to if he was in trouble, things had gotten better between Brian and his father.  Even though he hadn’t returned, he knew he was always welcome.  A thought struck Catherine, maybe he would like to come to the wedding.  That way he could visit with Mouse and Vincent, and not have to worry about anyone looking for him.  Catherine needed someone to play music, when the musicians weren’t playing.  She had been wondering whom she could ask to handle this task.  She thought of asking Darrell, but with the lights, and her secret, he had enough on his hands.  Brian was still very shy around Catherine, so she took the lead. 


“Hi, Brian, how was your Thanksgiving?” 


“It was OK, just me and my dad.  I’m supposed to go to my mom’s during Christmas break, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.  Ever since the night I went missing, my father has been overly protective of me, doesn’t want me to go too far away.  I guess he thinks I won’t come back.” 


“Brian, I have an idea that might make your Christmas break a little more interesting.  If you have the time, why don’t you come with me to my apartment, and we can talk about it?” 


“Sure, Miss Chandler, I have the time.”  The elevator ride was quiet, Brian was too nervous to speak.


When they entered Catherine’s apartment, Brian’s first thought was how girly everything looked, too much pink and too many flowers for him.  Taking off her coat, Catherine motioned for him to sit on the couch.  “Brian, I know that you have kept the secret of the Tunnels, and I’m very proud of you for that.  I know it’s a lot to ask, but would you mind keeping another secret?” 


Brian was confused, so he just shook his head yes. 


“Brian, Vincent and I are getting married on New Year’s Eve.  We’re not getting married in the Tunnels; we are getting married in a mansion in Yonkers.  If you don’t have any other plans, and your father approves, I would like you to come to the wedding.  I also have a job that needs to be done, and I think you would be the perfect one to handle it.  I need someone to play the wedding music, as well as other types of music.  The mansion has a music room, so I plan to have a stereo set up in there and speakers in other rooms.  We will also have musicians and singers from the Tunnels, but they won’t be playing or singing all the time.  That’s when you take over, and act as DJ.  Does it sound like something you would be interested in doing?  I’ll be happy to pay you for your time.  Remember, all age ranges will be attending, from the young to the old.  You will need to come up with a list of music that appeals to everyone, from classical to rock, and some music for dancing.  Then we could review it, and if I don’t have the music, I’ll give you the money to buy the CD’s.  One more thing, Brian, if your dad asks what type of event I’m having, you must not tell him it’s a wedding.  Everyone that is not included in the Tunnel secret is being told that I’m having a New Year’s Eve party.  What do you think, does the job appeal to you at all?”


 Brian loved music and was thrilled that he would be able to hang out with the people from the Tunnels once again; except Father; he made Brian nervous.  Plus, he would be paid to play music, how cool was that? 


“Sure, Miss Chandler, I’d love to do it.  I’ll ask my father and let you know later today.  Could you talk to you him, if he has any questions?” 


“Of course I can, Brian.  You can tell him that buses will be provided for everyone attending.  You can go to the Manor with me before the wedding, and figure out the best places for the speakers.  I think the Manor already has everything we need, but that way we can be sure.  Brian, I would really appreciate it if you called me Cathy instead of Miss Chandler.  Vincent and I have some wedding details to work on, so I’m not sure when I’ll be home.”  On a piece of paper, she wrote her number and handed it to Brian.  “You can always leave a message on my machine, and I’ll call you back, or come to your apartment, will that work?” 


Anxious to start on the music list, Brian jumped off the couch.  “That’ll be great, Miss Chandler, I mean Cathy.  I’ll call you as soon as I can.”  Catherine was going to walk him to the door, but he beat her to it.  Just as the door was about to close behind him, he stuck his head in and said, “Thanks, Miss Chandler.”  Catherine laughed; teenagers.


After a long hot bath and a good breakfast, Vincent headed to Father’s library.  He had a feeling that Father had been waiting for him.  The way Father looked at him when he entered the library confirmed his suspicions.  Vincent promised himself that under no circumstances would he lose his temper.  However, Narcissa had told him he needed to talk to Father, and that’s what he was going to do. 


“Good morning, Father, I want to thank you for not objecting during our announcement yesterday.” 


Taking off his glasses, Father looked at him with a defiant stare.  “It’s not as if I had a choice, Vincent, after all, you did threaten me the night before.  Now that we’re on the subject; who gave you permission to send out your invitations with the Winterfest candles?  Winterfest is unique to us, to our Helpers.  Those candles symbolize what we have endured throughout the years.  They hold a place of reverence to the people that receive them.  Now, you’re going to spoil not only the significance of the candles, but the entire celebration as well.  I don’t know how you and Catherine could be so selfish.  You could have at least asked if I had any objections, and not assume I would have no issue with your decision.  Of course, you thought nothing of spending the night in the same bed with Catherine either, another sign of disrespect.”


Vincent was losing the battle when it came to his temper, but he was determined to be civilized, even if Father wasn’t.  “Father, I didn’t know that I needed permission to include something with the Winterfest candles.  Since we don’t have complete addresses for the Helpers, we thought this would be the best way.  It ensures that no one feels they are being overlooked, even if they can’t attend the wedding.  Just like the candles, the invitations will be a keepsake as well.  Tell me, Father, what happened while I was at Devin’s to change your mind about the wedding?”


“I’ve heard that you were angry and brusque with everyone that crossed your path.  You told me what it was like when you fell in love with Margaret.  Even if it lasted only a short time, you have those memories; you got the chance to have your love reciprocated.  You know the feeling of making love to a woman, of sharing your life with someone.  Am I not entitled to the same thing?  Catherine has witnessed me killing, roaring, and in a drug induced state.  I even raised my hand to strike her before I collapsed in that cave.  You can’t possibly believe that after all that she’s seen, she would leave me once we’re married.  As far as us sleeping in the same bed, we were both completely clothed, not that it’s any of your business, even if we weren’t.  I’m trying to have this conversation, man to man, not as father and son.  I will ask you this question just once more, and I will never ask it again.  What is it that has you so angry, what are you really afraid of?”


Father knew that word of his behavior in Vincent’s absence would find its way to Vincent’s ears.  He had tried very hard to conceal his anger, but obviously, it didn’t work.  The wedding was fast approaching, and the rationale for his disapproval was wearing thin.  How much longer could he keep this up?  He couldn’t take the chance of letting down his guard, or that anyone would find out his true motivation for opposing the wedding. 


“Vincent, I have no idea what you’re talking about.  I have given you very valid points as to why this wedding should not take place.  To make things worse, it’s taking place Above.  Do you want to be captured or tortured again, to what end, to have the wedding of your dreams?  It’s utter nonsense, and I have nothing further to say on this subject.  Now if you will excuse me, I promised Peter that I would pay him a visit today.”  Father then bowed his head, an indication that Vincent was being dismissed.


Vincent shook his head for the second time that morning, but for entirely different reasons.  Earlier, he was happy listening to Catherine’s chatter, now it was because he was angry, and even more confused.  Vincent had failed in his attempt to find the root of Father’s hostility, but he had kept his promise to Narcissa.  In spite of this, Vincent would not let Father have the final say.  To ensure there was no confusion, and that his words would have the desired impact, Vincent waited until Father raised his head, and direct eye contact was made. 


“Father, Catherine is coming down here later today.  Until the wedding, expect to see her quite a bit.  I will leave you with these parting words.  If you do anything to upset her, or endeavor to ruin our wedding in any way, you will answer to me.”  His position clarified, Vincent bounded up the steps and out of the library, leaving Father more than a little shaken.


On his way to Peter’s, Father kept thinking about his latest conversation with Vincent.  He had seen Vincent’s temper firsthand on numerous occasions.  He also remembered the blood not only on his hands, but also in his eyes after Vincent killed Paracelsus.  Father didn’t know that Vincent had almost struck Catherine while in the cave.  Would his mission to stop the wedding push Vincent past the point of no return?  Father didn’t want to know the answer to that question.


 It had snowed yesterday, but the walkway to Peter’s door was clear.  It had been a long time since he had been outside when there was snow on the ground.  Peter answered the door, shortly after Father rang the bell. 


“Jacob, come in, let me take your coat.  Isn’t it a beautiful winter day today?  Sit down by the fire and warm up.  I just finished heating the water for tea.” 


As Jacob Wells sat in his friend’s living room, he was struck by pangs of jealousy.  They had gone to medical school together; both were deeply in love with the women they married; their lives were headed in the same direction.  That all changed when Jacob was black listed, and subsequently lost his wife, because of the shame it caused his father in law.  Jacob was proud of the life he had built for everyone in the Tunnels; it was a great achievement.  He was also a firm believer that everything in life happened for a reason.  Looking around at all Peter’s possessions made him, just for a moment, yearn for the finer things in life.


Jacob was surprised to hear another voice in the kitchen with Peter, it sounded too old to be Susan.  He was caught completely off guard when he looked up and saw Mary carrying a tray laden with tea and scones.  It was now apparent why Peter had invited him here today; they wanted to ambush him about the wedding.  Well no one was going to change his mind, and he stood to leave. 


Since both Peter and Mary knew this would happen, they said in unison, “Sit down, Jacob.”


In the last three days, his son had threatened him, not once but twice.  He was in no mood to listen to advice from his friends, regardless of how well intentioned it may be.  He refused to be bullied anymore.  His ire had been building since his conversation with Vincent earlier; this was the icing on the cake. 


Leaning on his cane, Jacob looked at Peter and Mary, and with venom in his voice said, “I am not a child, and I will not be treated like one, and I will not be seated.  Peter, how dare you invite me up here under false pretenses?  Mary, wherever did you get the idea to meddle into my relationship with my son?  I have my reasons for wanting to stop this wedding, and they don’t concern either one of you!” 


With that last sentence, Jacob grabbed his coat and headed for the door, leaving Peter and Mary dumbfounded.  They knew he would be angry that they tried to interfere, but they had no idea to what extent.  Both sat there speechless, knowing that the worst was yet to come.




Catherine was gathering up items to take Below, when the phone rang.  It was Maureen.  While out shopping, Maureen found out that the B. Altman store on 5th Avenue was going out of business.  She suggested that this would be the perfect place to buy the linens and kitchen items needed for the wedding.  They could have everything sent to Catherine’s apartment after Christmas, and take it to the Manor themselves.  That would mean fewer people delivering things directly to the Manor.  Catherine thought it was a wonderful idea.  She didn’t want Vincent to worry, so she called Henry Pei and asked if he would relay the message to Vincent.  Henry assured her he would send the message, and told Catherine they would see her at Winterfest.


Maureen was waiting for Catherine outside the store.  Since the store sold top of the line products, Catherine knew the quality here was much better than that of any warehouse supply store.  Certain she would be buying a large quantity of merchandise, Catherine asked to speak to the store manager.  Catherine explained that she would be purchasing goods from various departments in large quantity and asked if they could wait until after Christmas to deliver them.  The manager explained that the exact closing date was uncertain, and if Catherine wanted items delivered, it would have to be within the next week.  Knowing that space in her apartment was limited, Catherine used a store phone to call Peter.  After explaining the situation, Catherine asked Peter if everything could be delivered and stored at his house until the wedding, Peter agreed without hesitation.  The delivery problem solved, Maureen and Catherine began to shop.


It was almost dinnertime when Catherine finally made it Below.  Vincent was sitting at his desk writing something, then crumbling up the paper, and throwing it away.  Hearing Catherine’s approach, Vincent helped her with her bags.  Once settled, she could see that Vincent was once again upset. 


“Vincent, when I left this morning, you were in a good mood, what happened?  I know it’s not because I was late getting here, it’s more than that.  Did you have another run in with Father?  Before you answer, I didn’t tell you something yesterday.  I knew how upset you were about Father’s treatment of Maureen and Darrell and I didn’t want to add to that.  Devin was trying to surprise you, and had planned to come home for Thanksgiving.  He knew that you were angry with Father, and wanted to help, but they had even more snow in the Poconos.  I’m sorry I didn’t tell you yesterday, I hope you’re not too angry with me.”


Vincent looked at Catherine, sitting there with a concerned look on her face, concern for him.  Catherine always tried to make things easier for him, for everyone.  It was time that he started to make things easier for her, but had no idea where to start.  He promised himself after they awoke from their comas that he would never again conceal the truth from her.  It had caused both of them too much pain in the past.  Father’s anger was directed toward Catherine as well as himself, and she should be prepared, just in case Father decided to ignore Vincent’s warning.


“Catherine, the snowstorm was no one’s fault.  I would have enjoyed a visit with Devin, but I also understand why you didn’t tell me yesterday.  You always try to make things easier for me by carrying the burden yourself.  I don’t want you to do that anymore.  We will soon be sharing a home, a bed, a life.  I want to know everything, whether it’s good news or bad.  After all, isn’t that what being married is all about?” 


Catherine sat in Vincent’s lap, her head on his chest, the sound of his heart beating in her ear.  “You are absolutely right, Vincent, that is indeed what married life is all about.” 


Catherine remained in Vincent’s lap while he told her about his visit to Narcissa and the promise he made to her.  Vincent told Catherine about his conversation with Father earlier today.  He told her how angry Father was that they were including their wedding invitations with the Winterfest candles, and that they had spent the night in the same bed.  Vincent was angry with himself for not being able to discover the underlying cause of Father’s objections. 


While Vincent had been speaking, Catherine remained silent.  Now it was her turn to say something. 


“Vincent, in my opinion you have two choices.  Either you can continue to battle it out with Father and keep upsetting yourself, or you can do what we originally said we would do and ignore him.  I want this time before the wedding to be filled with happiness and excitement, not anger and regret.  I hope you’ll think about what I said, now let’s go get some dinner.  We need to build up our strength to tackle those invitations.” 


Vincent picked Catherine up and carried her to the doorway, until she insisted he put her down.  Their moods lightened, the couple headed for the dining room.


The weeks leading up to Winterfest were especially hectic.  Vincent was trying to handle all his Winterfest duties, and help Catherine with the wedding details as much as time would allow.




The day of the Winterfest candle deliveries, Vincent arrived at Rebecca’s candle chamber before Father.  He took each bag that contained the names of the Helpers that would be receiving the candles and put the corresponding invitations in with the candles.  As the children arrived, Vincent reminded them to give the Helper an invitation as well as a candle.  Father entered the chamber, just as Samantha was about to leave.  Everyone knew about, and felt, the tension between not only Father and Vincent, but between Father and most of the Tunnel community as well.  As Vincent handed Samantha her bag, Father started to speak.  Vincent glared at him, defying him to object to the inclusion of the invitations with the candles. 


Father pasted a smile on his face and told Samantha, “Now remember to be careful, and make certain that you make all your deliveries.”  Samantha just smiled and ran out of the chamber, and Father quickly followed, leaving Rebecca and Vincent alone.  Rebecca had seen Vincent struggle with his differences, his limitations since they were children.  She wanted him to be happy, and she knew in her heart that Catherine made him happy.  Vincent looked a little saddened by what had silently transpired between him and Father. 


Placing her hand on Vincent’s arm, Rebecca said, “Vincent, I’m sorry that things are so strained between you and Father, just know that I’m on your side.” 


Vincent knew that most of the community was on his side, but it felt good to hear it from someone he trusted.  Reaching down to give Rebecca a hug, in his husky voice, Vincent whispered, “Thank you, Rebecca,” and exited the chamber, leaving Rebecca all alone.  She whispered a silent prayer that Vincent would have his wedding Above, and if possible, that he and Father would make amends.


Finally, it was the day of Winterfest.  Since this was the coldest December since 1917, Catherine decided to wear something warmer to the celebration.  She chose an Emerald green cashmere sweater, a winter white gored skirt, and winter white boots.  This was one of the rare occasions that she could wear her crystal on the outside of her clothes.  She had taken the time to polish it the night before.  Holding it to the light, Catherine could see all the facets and colors swirling inside it, a pair of gold hoops completed the outfit.


Vincent was anxiously awaiting Catherine’s arrival at her threshold.  In the past several weeks, it seemed as if everything conspired to keep them apart for any length of time.  Vincent watched Catherine descend the stairs, and walk through the beam of light emitting from her basement.  She took his breath away each time he saw her and he hoped he would feel that way even after they were married.


As soon as Catherine crossed the threshold, Vincent pulled her into his arms for a long embrace.  He wanted to stay here in the quiet with his arms around Catherine for as long as possible.  Tonight they would make the final announcement about the wedding, another opportunity for Father to object.  Catherine could tell by the way that Vincent was holding her that he was worried about Father.  Knowing that they couldn’t start Winterfest without him, Catherine pulled away and looked into Vincent’s eyes. 


“Vincent, do you remember the promise you made in my apartment after you woke up from your delirium?” 


Vincent whispered, “So much of that time is a blur, Catherine. I think I know the answer, but please, repeat it for me.” 


“Vincent, you promised that whatever happened, you would let me be a part of it.  Vincent, I am a part of it.  You are not alone, whatever comes our way, we will face it together.  Now we have got to get going; after all, no one else but my fiancée can open that door.”


The gusts of wind on the stairs leading to the Great Hall seemed stronger than usual.  Vincent opened the door, and led Catherine into the darkness.  Seated around the table, Father, Vincent and Mary took turns describing the beginnings of the Tunnel World.  With the candles lit, and the chandeliers raised, Winterfest had officially begun.  It seemed as if more Helpers were here than had been in the past few years.  Vincent suspected that they had questions about the wedding, and wanted to ask him in person.  Vincent made sure that he knew where Father was at all times.  No one was going to spoil this final announcement, not even Father.  Vincent and Catherine took the floor for the first waltz. 


Then Peter asked, “May I have the next dance, Cathy?” 


“It would be my pleasure, Peter.” 


As they were dancing, Peter told Cathy that he and Mary tried to talk some sense into Jacob, but that Jacob wouldn’t listen to a word they had to say.  The news didn’t shock Catherine.  Father obviously didn’t want anyone to know about it, and since he was interacting very little with the community, it made perfect sense that no one else knew what happened.


As Catherine and Vincent mingled, Vincent spotted the judge who was going to marry them. 


“Come, Catherine, there is someone I want you to meet.” 


The judge’s back was to the couple as they approached.  Vincent tapped him on the shoulder. 


The judge turned around and said, “Vincent, how are you? Lovely party, isn’t it?” 


Vincent replied that it was a wonderful party and turned to Catherine, “Catherine, I would like you to meet the man that will marry us,” he was interrupted mid sentence by Catherine. 


“Judge Samuel Dalton, I haven’t seen you in years.  I didn’t know that you were a Helper.”  A bewildered expression crossed her face.  “Did my father know that you were a Helper, or anything about the Tunnels?” 


Catherine would have been dismayed to find that her father knew about this world, but never told her. 


Judge Dalton could see that Catherine was upset.  “No, Cathy, Charles knew nothing about my involvement.  I’ve been a Helper for the past fifteen years.  I got involved after getting someone out of a scrape they were in.  I was concerned that this man was homeless, and when he told me he wasn’t, I had him show me where he lived.  I was flabbergasted when I found out this place existed.  When I saw how everyone looked out for each other, I knew I had to be a part of it, so here I am.  I know that you found out about the Tunnels, the hard way, after your attack.”


“Yes, Judge, the worst night of my life, became the best night of my life.  The case of mistaken identity that led to my attack also brought Vincent into my life.  I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I’ve known since the night Vincent rescued me, what that reason was.” 


Vincent just stood there listening to the exchange between Judge Dalton and Catherine.  Only a remarkable person could take such a tragedy and make it into something positive, and Catherine fit that description perfectly.


They had danced, they had eaten, and they had mingled.  Vincent knew the weather outside was getting colder and  he wanted to make the announcement so any questions could be answered, and the Helpers could return to their homes, before the weather got any worse.


Vincent and Catherine stood at the top of the stairs in front of the tapestries.  Vincent motioned to the musicians to stop playing.  Once the room was quiet, he began to speak. 


“I hope that everyone received a wedding invitation with their Winterfest candle.”  People began to nod their heads in agreement.  Checking Father’s location, he continued.  “As you know, this wedding will be held Above, instead of Below.  I would like to tell our Helpers the same thing that Catherine and I told the community.  Your invitation tells you the date and location.  I know many of you don’t own a vehicle, so buses will be provided.  We’ve finalized the menu, but we can’t purchase the food and beverages, until we know exactly how many will be attending.  The only gift Catherine and I are requesting is your presence.  We would be grateful for any help you can offer with the set-up, serving the food, and dismantling everything once the reception is over.  Maureen is doing the catering, and William is assisting her.  Cullen has the list of names.  Please, before you leave, tell him whether or not you will be attending the wedding.”


Catherine was the next one to speak.  “I realize that having the wedding Above is inconvenient for some of you.  That’s why we will have buses to transport everyone to and from the wedding.  In addition, if anyone has a license and can drive a bus, that would be a great help as well.  Vincent and I hope to see all of you there, and that you will stay to ring in our first New Year’s as a married couple.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.”


Applause erupted throughout the Great Hall; everyone was excited about the wedding.  Many of them would never see the inside of a mansion, and they thought it would be a wonderful experience.


Mary approached Catherine; it was the first time the women had seen each other all evening.  Mary asked if she could speak to Catherine privately. 


“Catherine, did Peter tell you that we tried to talk to Jacob, and that he completely ignored us?” 


“Yes Mary, he did.  Thank you so much for trying to help, but I’m afraid in the end, Jacob will regret his decision.” 


“Catherine, there is something else I wanted to tell you.  Most of the Tunnel residents want to attend the wedding, but think that their pied clothes aren’t dressy enough for such a fancy place.” 


“Mary, you tell them, we are interested in them, not their clothes.  If it would make things easier, I would be happy to buy new things for everyone.  I don’t want anyone to feel excluded, so if you can give me an idea of sizes and quantity, I’ll make sure that everyone has a new outfit for the wedding.  Mary, if you would spread the word to those that were hesitant on coming, I would appreciate it.” 


Mary hugged Catherine, “Thank you so much, Catherine, I will check with everyone and have the list for you in a few days.  I’m off to spread the word.”  Catherine laughed as Mary walked away.


In years past, as a sign of respect, everyone went out of their way to speak to Father, even if it was only a brief greeting.  This Winterfest was different, everyone was angry with him because of the way he had been treating Vincent and Catherine.  Never in all the years of Winterfest, had he felt so abandoned, not just by his community, but also by those he considered friends.  Jacob Wells had a choice to make, and he had to make it before everyone started to leave.  Either he could hold on to his jealousy, his anger, his false sense of betrayal, or he could do what he promised to do, and give his blessing to Vincent and Catherine.  The anger and bitterness was eating him up inside, and he wanted things to return to normal, not only between Father and son, but with his entire community as well.


Standing up, Father banged on a cup, causing all the noise to cease and for everybody to turn and face him.  Their faces said it all; they despised him.  If he had any doubts about what he needed to do, they were all erased after seeing the expressions on everyone’s faces. 


Catherine took Vincent’s hand, when she heard all the noise, and felt every muscle in his body tense, as he watched Father trying to get everyone’s attention.


Jacob was very nervous, more so than he had been in a very long time.  Clearing his throat, he began his speech.  “If I can have everyone’s attention for a moment, I have something to say.  Even if you weren’t a witness, I’m certain you heard about my reaction when Vincent and Catherine announced their engagement.”  Father took notice when every head in the crowd nodded in unison.


“Since my outburst had been public, I wanted my explanation to be, as well. Many of you know about my life before I came to the Tunnels, and that I was married for a brief time.  My wife was a member of society, just like Catherine.  When Catherine first came into Vincent’s life, I worried that she would abandon him, the same way that Margaret abandoned me.  I didn’t want Vincent to suffer the same devastation that I had.  Then, Catherine became part of this community, and I saw how deeply she loved my son.  She has always been generous with her time, and saved more than one member of this community from a jail sentence, myself included.  Last summer, I gave my blessing to their engagement, but I was so angry that Vincent went against my wishes and went to Devin’s, I rescinded it.  Logically, I know that Vincent is a grown man, capable of making his own decisions, and suffering the consequences, if the decision proves to be wrong.  While Vincent was away, it occurred to me that he might want more than these Tunnels, the only place I was convinced that he would truly be safe.  For the first time since he came to us as a baby, Vincent wasn’t physically in the Tunnels, or even in New York.  On the nights that he ventured Above, I worried, but I also took comfort in the fact that he would indeed be returning to the Tunnels.  During his absence, I became aware of just how much I rely on him, not just for his wisdom, and his ability to handle any crisis that comes along, but also for his companionship.  In my muddled way of thinking, if Vincent and Catherine married, I would lose him altogether, that he would no longer be available any time the community or I needed him.  That was when I decided to protest the wedding, and in order for it to be believable, it had to be done in public.  I know it was a selfish thing to do, and I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me.  Vincent, Catherine, you have my blessing.  Now, everyone, join me in a toast.”


There wasn’t a dry eye in the hall after Father finished speaking.  Even William, who never showed any emotions, was wiping away the tears.  The cups raised and everyone toasted the couple.  Vincent and Catherine moved quickly to reach Father’s side.  Everyone in attendance moved away to give the three of them some privacy. 


When Mary looked back, tears were streaming down all three of their faces.  She whispered a prayer of thanks and then said under her breath, “It’s about time you came to your senses, Jacob Wells.”


Once Father composed himself, he said, “Vincent, Catherine, I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive an old fool.  I know that I am not losing a son, but gaining a daughter.  If it’s not too late, I would love to be a part of the wedding, but if you object, I completely understand.”


Together Vincent and Catherine reassured him that they wanted him to be part of the wedding. 


Once his tears were dry, Vincent needed an answer.  “Father, when I came to you and asked you what was bothering you, why didn’t you just tell me then?” 


“Because, Vincent, there’s no fool like an old fool, now let’s get back to the festivities.” 


Everyone from the community and all the Helpers came up to shake Father’s hand, and to tell him how glad they were that he changed his mind. 


Peter waited until everyone had left Jacob before he approached him.  “Jacob, I wish you would have confided in me, it would have saved you and everyone else a lot of heartache.” 


“You’re absolutely right Peter, but pride goeth before the fall.  It’s time to end this celebration.  If I might have everyone’s attention, please join hands, and form a circle. The darkness…almost engulfed us this year, but our unity…gave us strength.  Our shared light…showed us the truth.  As we part for another year, let us remember that darkness is only the absence of light…and all winters end.”  Everyone raised their joined hands to the sky, a symbol of unity, a symbol that no matter the battle, they would survive.


Because of the cold weather and all the additional shopping she had to do, Catherine spent very little time Below, and insisted that her balcony was too dangerous for Vincent to climb.  Since the wedding was less than a week away, Catherine and Vincent decided to spend Christmas day by the waterfall.  The only gift they wanted was to spend the day together.  At last, it was just the two of them, no distractions, and no wedding details needing their immediate attention.  The sound of the rushing water was so relaxing that they fell asleep.  Once awake, they both laughed at how tired they truly were, and as much as they were looking forward to the wedding, they would be glad when it was over.


Vincent was the first to speak.  “Catherine, why have there been numerous bags of clothes, all with the tags still on, being sent to the Tunnels?  At first I thought they were things that pertained to the wedding, but when the note was addressed only to Mary, I got suspicious.” 


“Mary told me the night of Winterfest that a lot of the community wanted to attend the wedding, but were worried their clothes weren’t dressy enough.  Since I couldn’t buy just outfits for those attending the wedding, I made sure that everyone got something new, even if it was just a shirt or a pair of pants.  I told you, Vincent, that I want to contribute more to the community, and I want everyone to enjoy themselves at the wedding.  Speaking of clothes, did the suits arrive for you and Father?”    


“Yes, Catherine, they did.  Father cried when he saw his suit.  He was amazed that after everything he’s put us through, you would order him a suit as well.”


“I decided to go with suits rather than tuxedos, that way they could be worn again.  Did you and Father try on your suits, did they fit?”


“Yes, Catherine, we tried on the suits and the shirts.  I’ve never had anything fit me so well, even the shirt.”


“That’s because they were custom made with your measurements.  Now, I don’t want to talk about the wedding, anymore.”


“What would you like to discuss instead, Catherine?”


“I don’t want to discuss anything. I just want you to kiss me.”


“I will happily grant your request, Catherine.”




At last, it was December 27th, the day the rental on the Manor started.  Catherine had rented a large van to haul all the wedding supplies to the Manor.  Darrell and Maureen met her at Peter’s and the three of them loaded the van.  They then drove to the loading dock, and picked up William, Father, and Vincent.  Catherine drove, and the passenger seat remained empty.  The moment they turned onto Broadway, Vincent got into the front seat.  As soon as they were inside the gates, Darrell got out to lock them, and walked the rest of the way to the Manor.  The beauty of the house captivated Vincent, Father, William, and Maureen, the minute they turned onto the driveway.  Miss Wells had given Darrell a set of keys, knowing that he was working for Catherine.  Waiting until everyone was out of the van, he handed the keys to Catherine. 


She took Vincent’s hand and said, “Vincent, are you ready to see where our wedding will take place?” 


Vincent was still in a daze, and it took him a moment to answer.  “Catherine, I feel like a child awaiting a surprise, please lead the way.” 


It took Catherine a moment to find the right key, but soon the door was open, and light illuminated the entryway.


The rest of the crowd filed in behind the couple.  When everyone was inside, they all stood there, admiring the majestic sights before them.  Their mouths were agape with wonder and awe.  Catherine had moved forward to turn on other lights, when she realized no one was behind her. 


“Why don’t we start at the top and work our way down?  Father, be careful, these steps are slippery, you might want to let Vincent help you.”


On the second floor, the light from the stained glass window shimmered on the water in the pool.  Catherine now had the opportunity to examine everything, and the pipes to the organ were the first thing she wanted to investigate.  The pipes were so large they went to the top of the house and were arranged in the shape of a window frame.  No one dared to touch the organ itself, they were all afraid of breaking it.  Catherine walked up to the other story, to ensure that the nuns had indeed left for their retreat.  They looked through the bedrooms, and the administrative rooms, before heading back downstairs.  The first thing Catherine wanted Vincent and Father to see was the library.  Catherine explained that she and Susan would walk down the staircase and into the library.  Looking at the entrance hall, Maureen couldn’t believe that it was almost the same size as her apartment. Catherine had Father and Vincent close their eyes, while she turned on the library lights. 


Overwhelmed was the only word that came to Father’s mind when he saw all the books.  Not only did they line the shelves, but they went over the doorframes as well.  Catherine told Vincent that the ceremony would take place in front of the fireplace, and that it would be covered with roses.


The group then headed to the ballroom, dining room, and the music room. Catherine explained how the tables and food would be laid out.  Maureen and William were anxious to see the kitchen, and Darrell already knew what the grounds looked like, so they went their separate ways.


Catherine led Vincent and Father back to the entrance way and out the terrace doors.  Everything was covered in snow, but with the lights from the sky, and the outdoor lamps, they could imagine how spectacular the grounds were.  It was too cold to stay outside any longer, so the trio stepped back into the warmth of the Manor.


Father and Vincent immediately headed for the library.  Catherine gave herself an imaginary pat on the back before she asked the two men her questions. 


“Father, after seeing the house and the grounds, do you still have any misgivings about Vincent’s safety?” 


Father had taken the opportunity to sit down, and admire the library from a different viewpoint. 


“Catherine, I must admit, everything Darrell said about the security is true.  After seeing it for myself, I have no doubt that Vincent will be completely safe here.  Now run along, and let me peruse this library.”


Darrell had already driven the van to the service entrance to be unloaded.  Catherine took Vincent’s hand, and they headed for the kitchen.  Before they entered the kitchen, Catherine pulled on Vincent’s hand, forcing him to stop.  Gazing up at him, she knew that she had made the right decision about the Manor, but she wanted his reassurance as well. 


“Vincent, what do you think?  Do you like the Manor?  Did I pick a great spot for our wedding?” 


Vincent was still in shock that he was in a mansion, and that in a few days he would be married here.  “I was just thinking that this place has a ‘Great Expectations’ feel to it.  Catherine, the answer to all your questions is a resounding yes,” and confirmed his response with a kiss.  They walked into the kitchen, to see what assistance they could offer.


The next day Catherine and Maureen ventured out once again to finish their shopping.  Brian and Catherine had put together a music list, but she still had to pick up two cd’s.  The idea to personalize their wedding music prompted a call to Gina in California.  Gina still had connections in New York, and after explaining what she wanted, Gina pointed her in the right direction.  It had required some maneuvering on Catherine’s part, but she knew the end result would be worth all the trouble, including a visit to the Majestic Theatre. 


Catherine had given Darrell the money to pick up not just the surprise she had planned, but gave him instructions to buy every party hat and noisemaker he could find.  After all, you couldn’t ring in the New Year without them.  They had finalized the details and delivery times with everyone else.  The buses were rented, as well as the limousine that Devin would drive.  He would transport Vincent and Father, further ensuring Vincent’s safety.  All the linens and kitchen items were already at the Manor.  The food and beverage orders would arrive at the Manor tomorrow.  After picking up the cd’s, their final stop was to rent the casserole dishes, warming trays, and the other kitchen items the Manor was lacking.


Maureen had picked out the items, but since this was her first catering job, she wanted Catherine to see exactly what was involved.  Under no circumstances did she want Catherine to think that she was taking advantage of her generosity.  As they were walking through the store, Catherine realized just how out of her element she was; she could barely make toast without burning it.


Catherine could tell that Maureen was nervous, as she pointed out all the items required for the catering.  “Maureen, I trust you completely.  Is this equipment top of the line?  Is there something else that you need or want, that you’re afraid to tell me about?”


“Yes, Catherine, this is the very best this store has to offer.  The coffee pot at the Manor looks like it’s seen better days, and I’m afraid it might cause us problems.”


“Maureen, grab the coffee pot that you want, and I’ll start filling out all the forms.”


Unbeknownst to Maureen, Catherine was not renting the equipment; she was purchasing it for Maureen.  This would help her start her catering business.  Maureen brought the coffee pot to the counter, and it was added to the bill.  Maureen was afraid to look at the total, and went to do some more browsing.  After hearing Catherine arrange the delivery, she joined Catherine at the counter. 


It was lunchtime, and Catherine was starving.  Catherine chose a more upscale restaurant, one Maureen wouldn’t ordinarily frequent.  They had successfully planned a wedding and Catherine felt they deserved to celebrate.  Catherine ordered a split of champagne for each of them. 


“Maureen, do you have a catering outfit, or do you just ordinarily wear your regular clothes?”


“Usually they require black pants and a white blouse when catering an event, and yes, I do wear my own clothes.”


“Well, after we finish here, why don’t we go buy you a catering uniform?  Before I forget, all that kitchen merchandise is not rented.  I purchased it all, and once the wedding is over, you will have everything you need to start your own catering company.  The plates and glassware will be sent to the Tunnels.” 


Maureen was taken aback by Catherine’s generosity.  Too choked up to speak, all Maureen could do was whisper a thank you, and give Catherine a hug.  Maybe, Maureen thought, my life is finally turning around.


Catherine’s day began very early on Friday.  After picking up William and his helpers, she headed for the Manor.  As they drove to the rear entrance, Darrell was reviewing the outdoor lighting plan with the crew.  Catherine wanted everyone, especially Vincent, to have the full effect of the Manor, especially since there would only be a waxing crescent moon on New Year’s Eve.  They placed lanterns on the front steps, around the fountain, and lined both sides of the driveway with them.  The lanterns on the terrace would illuminate the back of the house.  They positioned the rest of the lanterns throughout the garden areas.  Catherine asked Darrell to leave several lanterns on the second floor balcony.  Since there would be so much running back and forth between the city and the Manor, Catherine had given Darrell her car to use, freeing up time for her to spend with Vincent later.


The food, beverages, and kitchen items were delivered shortly after Catherine arrived.  Darrell had brought Maureen to work with him, in case the deliveries arrived earlier than planned.  Soon Maureen and William had everything organized and the cooking had begun.  Less than an hour later, the tables and chairs arrived.  After they were set up, Catherine and William’s helpers began to set the tables and arrange everything according to her original layout.  Catherine had only briefly met the two helpers William brought with him today.  Their names were Karen and Marsha, twin girls who had spent quite a bit of their childhood in the Tunnels.  They lived there at the same time that Maureen and Darrell did, so when they found out Maureen was doing the catering, they were happy to volunteer.  They were both attending culinary school and thought this event would be a great reference for their resumes.




While Catherine was preparing the Manor Above, Vincent was Below, preparing a chamber for Devin and Charles.  Vincent and Catherine had discussed where they should spend their wedding night.  Since the day after their wedding was a holiday, they decided to spend it Below. 

Those who had been unable to attend the wedding would want to hear all the details from the bride and groom.  They would spend their first night as husband and wife in the chamber where Catherine had come to grieve after her Father’s death. 


Since Vincent and Catherine had asked for no presents, the chamber was being set up by some of the women of the community, with Mary in charge of the project.  Vincent’s mind wandered off to that time, remembering how difficult it was to have Catherine Below, and even more difficult to lay next to her in bed.  A noise in the doorway brought him out of his reverie.


It was Rebecca, standing there with a box of candles in her hands.  “Vincent, I know that you didn’t want any presents, but I made these candles for your wedding night.  I made the candles white, and put black and white ribbons around them, to match your wedding colors.  I also infused them with rose oil, because I know how much roses mean to you and Catherine.” 


Vincent took the box from Rebecca’s hands, and holding one of the candles to his nose, inhaled the scent.  “Rebecca, it smells like a freshly picked rose.  Thank you for thinking of us, Rebecca.”


He reached down and gave his old friend a hug, and before she began crying, Rebecca left the room.


Vincent began to tidy up his chamber, and each item he touched filled him with a variety of emotions.  When he was at Devin’s they told Charles the story of the carousel, and promised to show it to him on his next visit.  It sat waiting on top of the armoire.  There was the jukebox, his large red chair, the bed where Catherine recovered from her attack. 


Closing his eyes, he could see that April night as if it were yesterday.  He felt the wet grass beneath his feet, the weight of her body as he carried her down the stairs.  The first sight of her face, cut and bleeding, the first time she woke up, and started asking him questions.  The way she had thrown the headlight at him, and finally, the way she moved the hood away from his face.  He knew from the first moment he saw her, that he was deeply in love with her.  Never in a million years did he dream she would return his affection, and that in two short days, they would be married.  He chided himself for daydreaming once again, and hurried to finish his chamber before Devin and Charles arrived.




Peter was standing in LaGuardia airport, waiting for Susan’s plane to land.  It had been over a year since he had seen his daughter.  He spotted her the moment she walked off the jet way, and ran up to give her a hug. 


“Susan, I’m so glad to see you, how was your flight?” 


Susan thought to herself, some things never change.  “It was fine, Dad, although I will admit, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in cold weather; it will take some getting used to.  Let’s go grab my bags, and then, I’ll let you buy me lunch.”  It was so good to have Susan home again.


“Anything you say, sweetheart.”




Devin and Charles appeared earlier than planned.  Devin had worked extra hours at the resort, so that he could take time off for the wedding.  After all, it was ski season, and he did work at a place that did a great deal of business during ski season.  Once the sentries knew it was Devin, they made no announcement on the pipes.  In the library, Father was seated at his desk, and Vincent was leaning over him, his back to the stairs.  Devin had made sneaking up on Vincent an art form. 


Telling Charles to wait a moment for him, he quietly crept down the steps, leaned down and whispered in Vincent’s ear, “So, little brother, are you ready for the big day?” 


Father and Vincent had been so involved in the plans for the day after the wedding, that neither heard him approach.  Whirling around, Vincent lifted Devin off the floor.  Devin always forgot how strong Vincent was, and that he was no longer the little brother. 


While Devin’s feet were dangling in the air, Vincent replied, “Yes, Devin, I am ready for the wedding, are you?”


“Not if you don’t put me down, I won’t be.  Charles, come on in.” 


Charles had let out his trademark snort when Vincent lifted Devin off the ground.  The moment he entered the library, Charles walked over and hugged Vincent.  “Vincent, I told Dev that he wouldn’t be able to sneak up on you, but he said that he could.  Are you excited about the wedding?” 


Charles looked at Vincent in his characteristic child like way.  Could Charles fully comprehend how much the simple joys of his life had helped both he and Catherine?  Vincent was doubtful that he ever would, but Vincent would be eternally grateful for the introduction Charles gave him on the wonders of nature.


Only a moment had passed, but it seemed longer to Charles.  “Vincent, are you OK, is everything alright?”


“Charles, I’m fine, I was just thinking about the time we spent outdoors when I visited you and Devin.”


“It was great, wasn’t it, Vincent?  You know the cabin is warmer because of the repairs you and Dev did.”


“I’m glad to hear that, Charles.”


No one had said a word to Father, so he cleared his throat, his way of telling the men they were ignoring him.  “Hello, Charles, Devin, did you have a good trip?” 


Father still scared Charles, so he just returned a quick “Hello, Father.” 


Devin, on the other hand, had plenty to say.  “Hello Father, we did have a good trip.  I’m glad that I was able to leave work early.  I hear that you are attending the wedding?”


Father knew the look in Devin’s eyes.  He had seen it from the time he was a small boy.  It was the look of contempt, and that contempt was directed at him.


“Yes, Devin, I am attending the wedding; in fact, Catherine took us to see the Manor a few nights ago.  It’s really quite impressive, and very safe for Vincent.”


Turning away from Father, Devin said to Vincent.  “Little brother, I need to hang up my suit.  Are Charles and I using the same chamber we did before?”


“Yes, Devin, it is the same chamber.  I thought that while you unpack and settle in, I might take Charles to the Whispering Gallery.”  So his words had the full impact, he directed his response toward Father.  “We left so abruptly after your last trip home; I promised him we would go the next time you visited.” 


Devin was impressed with the way Vincent handled Father, especially after the last few weeks.  “Sounds good Vincent, I’ll be here when you get back.”


As Vincent and Charles walked to the Whispering Gallery, Charles kept asking Vincent questions about the wedding and the Tunnel World.  When they reached the Gallery, they could only hear a few voices.  Vincent explained that the voices weren’t always the same every day. 


“I remember this place, Vincent.  This is the bridge that Dev wanted me to cross the first night we came here.  I was scared till I saw you on the other side.” 


Always patient, Vincent answered, “Yes, Charles, it is the same place.  When I was younger and the other children would go Above, I would come in here and listen for their voices.  After Devin left, I would come in here, hoping that I would hear his voice and be able to find him again.” 


The two men, both considered freaks by the outside world, sat in silence, each lost in their thoughts.  Although Vincent’s childhood had been lonely at times, he had always felt loved.  Everyone, especially Devin, made sure that Vincent was safe and protected at all times.


The only love given to Charles ended the day his parents died.  After that, he spent his life in a cage as a sideshow display, given only the basic of necessities and whipped into submission whenever he dared do something that Eddie didn’t like.  It never bothered Eddie that he profited from Charles’ disfigurement.  All Eddie cared about was his next drink.  He desperately wanted to forget that Charles existed, and more than anything else, he wanted to forget they were brothers.


Devin was glad that Vincent and Charles were not around, because he was ready to give the old man an ear full.  Father was still at his desk when Devin returned to the library.  Devin had been holding this anger in, ever since he received Vincent’s first letter and Chandler’s subsequent phone calls.  Just as he had done last summer when Chandler and Vincent were in their comas, Devin walked around to the front of the desk, rested his hands on the desk, and leaned toward Father.  Father knew that Devin would confront him about the events that had transpired in the past few months.  Father straightened up in his chair, and prepared himself for the onslaught.


His face red, and the veins in his throat straining to contain his anger, Devin began, “Not too long ago, old man, you and I were in these same positions.  Here you are, the Tunnel patriarch, sitting behind your desk, all self righteous with your holier-than-thou attitude, thinking you know what’s best for everyone.  Have you forgotten everything Vincent and Chandler have been through these last two years?  I don’t know why I thought you would live up to your word.  It came as no shock when you reneged on your blessing, because it meant you wouldn’t be number one in Vincent’s life any more.  I got news for you, old man, you haven’t been number one in his life since Chandler came along.  A parent is supposed to want what’s best for their child, not try and hold them back.  Chandler is the best thing that ever happened to Vincent.  She is absolutely devoted to Vincent and he is absolutely devoted to her.  Even if you didn’t believe that, how else do you explain their bond?  Vincent has never experienced that with anyone else.  Did that public apology ease your mind?  Was that show for their benefit, or to make you look less evil in everyone else’s eyes.  In two days, they are getting married, and if you have any plans to sabotage that wedding, you had better forget it, here and now.  I will tell you this once and only once.  If I ever find out that you caused them any more grief like you have for these past few months, you will never see or hear from me again.  It wouldn’t surprise me, if Vincent felt the same way.  For your sake, you had better pray that we never have this conversation again.”  Still seething, Devin quickly left the library, leaving a stunned Father behind.


Vincent and Charles had just returned from the Whispering Gallery, as Peter and Susan were entering Father’s library.  The fear of someone calling him a freak caused Charles to retreat to a corridor.  Vincent and Susan hadn’t seen each other in a very long time.  The two friends approached each other, and a long hug followed.  Vincent was about to ask Susan the question he had been waiting months to ask her, but it would have to wait. 


Devin had calmed down and was approaching the library.  “I thought I heard voices.  Susan Alcott, you certainly are a sight for sore eyes.  I’m glad you could make it for the wedding.”


Susan just laughed. Devin, always the flirt.  “Devin, it’s good to see you as well.  As I told Cathy, I would move Heaven and Earth to attend this wedding.  After the last few months, I think a celebration is definitely in order.” 


Devin, glaring at Father, replied, “I couldn’t agree with you more, Susan.”


Charles was still in hiding, listening to everyone talking about the wedding.  He told Vincent while they were at the Whispering Gallery that he wouldn’t be attending the wedding.  Too many people made him nervous, and he didn’t want to take a chance on frightening anyone.


Vincent told him about the party taking place on New Year’s Day Below, and convinced Charles that he must attend.  With a smile on his face, Charles happily agreed.


Charles had been thinking about the party, and didn’t hear Devin approach.  “Charles, come out of there, I want you to meet some very dear friends of ours.”


“Dev, what if they think I’m a freak, and scream when they see me?”


“Don’t worry, Charles, they are both doctors and they know about your condition.”


Charles stayed behind Devin, afraid to make eye contact with Susan and Peter.  Sensing his fear, Vincent took Charles’ arm, and gently brought him out into the open.  “Susan, Peter, I would like to introduce you to a very special man.  He was a great help to both Catherine and I when we stayed with him and Devin.  Charles, this is Dr. Peter Alcott, and his daughter, Susan.” 


Susan was the first one to extend her hand.  “Hello, Charles, Cathy told me so much about you when she came to visit.  I’m very pleased to meet you.”  Susan was the psychologist, so she watched his emotional reactions. 


Peter, being the medical doctor, was trying to look at Charles’ condition, without being too obvious.  Peter offered his hand and said, “Charles, it’s nice to finally meet you.  I also want to thank you for everything you did to help Cathy and Vincent get well.”


After all the years of being caged like an animal, Charles wasn’t used to strangers being kind to him.  Since he had come to live with Dev, people had treated him differently.  He took each of their hands and said in his most dignified voice, “I’m pleased to meet both of you.  I had a lot of fun with Vincent and Catherine.  I even helped when they were sick.”  Still a little leery of strangers, Charles decided he had said enough.


Vincent smiled, knowing how much it had taken for Charles to come out of the shadows and to meet new people.  Vincent patted him on the shoulder, and was rewarded with one of Charles famous smiles.


Vincent was searching his mind, wondering if Catherine had told him that Susan would be coming Below tonight.  He didn’t recall anything, and a slight panic set in.  He had been so busy with his own preparations, was Catherine in trouble and he didn’t know it? 


Trying to keep the anxiety out of his voice, Vincent asked, “Susan, I’m very happy to see you, but Catherine didn’t mention that you would be coming Below tonight.  Has some sort of problem arisen with the wedding, that I’m not aware of?”


Susan knew that Vincent would be worried when she arrived early, and didn’t want to cause him any more distress.  “No, Vincent, I just talked to Cathy, everything’s fine.  She is still at the Manor, and wants us to join her for some pizza and beer.  Cathy wants to ensure that Devin knows the way to the Manor before the wedding.  Devin, she asked if we could take your van.  That includes you as well, Charles.”


Devin was glad not just for the test run, but to get away from the Tunnels and Father.  Rubbing his hands together, with a big smile on his face Devin said, “Hey, if Chandler is treating, I’m there.  Let me grab my keys and our coats, and then we can leave.”  Within a few moments, Vincent, Charles, Susan, and Devin were in the van, heading for Yonkers.


Father was more than a little miffed that Susan had not even acknowledged him.  Peter knew that Susan was angry with Father for the way he treated Vincent and Catherine.  Peter had promised Susan that he would visit with Father, to soothe any ruffled feathers.


Peter looked at Jacob Wells sitting behind his desk.  Here was the leader of the Tunnel community, all alone, no wife, and his other son was getting married.  Instead of being happy for them, Jacob had almost ruined Catherine and Vincent’s wedding, and for what?  Fear of being alone.  Suddenly, Jacob looked much older than his years.  Peter hadn’t seen Jacob look this despondent, since he came to live Below.  Peter was his oldest friend, and even though he didn’t always agree with him, friends don’t give up on friends.  Hoping to cheer up Jacob, Peter walked down the library steps, a new medical journal in hand.


The drive to the Manor was uneventful.  Hearing the car come up the driveway, Catherine went to the van to greet everyone.  Devin and Susan were impressed by the outside of the mansion, and couldn’t wait to see more.  Vincent took Charles inside, and began to show him around.  Catherine asked Devin to pay for the pizza, and then lock the gates once the deliveryman was gone.


Susan didn’t know where to look first, it was impressive indeed.  Catherine had sent her a few pictures, but none of them did it justice.  Soon the pizza and beer arrived, and everyone gathered in the library in front of the fire.  It was the only space open; the rental chairs filled the rest of the room.  Catherine described where everyone and everything would be the day of the wedding.


Laughter filled the room as Devin, Vincent and Susan recounted stories of their youth.  Charles was more relaxed and joined in the laughter as well. 


Looking around the library, replete with its intricate ceiling and wall-to-wall books, Devin let out a long whistle.  “You know, Chandler, this is a pretty fancy place.  But did you really have to pick Yonkers of all places?  You couldn’t have picked a place in Manhattan, something with a better address?” 


Knowing that he was kidding, Catherine threw a pillow at him.  “Well, Devin, if the location is not to your liking, you can forfeit your best man duties.  I’m sure we can find someone who will be more than happy to stand by Vincent’s side, without complaints.”


“That may be true, Chandler, but I have the suit, and they don’t.  If you think after everything that I went through with the two of you, I would miss seeing my little brother get married, you’re crazy.  Now show me around the rest of this place.”  Catherine obliged and led Devin and Charles to the second floor.  Knowing that Vincent wanted to ask her something, Susan told Catherine that she would catch up with them shortly.


“Susan, would you like to go outside for a breath of fresh air?”


“That sounds great, Vincent, let me get my coat.”  The air outside was crisp, a slight wind blowing off the river.  “Catherine certainly picked a lovely spot for our wedding.”


“It certainly is lovely, Vincent.  I know how much having this wedding Above meant to Cathy.  Vincent, from the time I arrived in the Tunnels tonight, I had a feeling that you wanted to ask me something.  We’re old friends; you know there’s nothing you can’t say to me.”  Leave it to Susan to see right through him, she always could. 


“Yes, Susan, there is something I’ve wanted to ask you since you agreed to be in the wedding.”  He hesitated before asking the question that might affect his life with Catherine.


“Susan, be honest with me.  Is Catherine completely recovered, is there a chance that she will have another breakdown?” 


Susan turned to face Vincent.  “Yes, Vincent, she is completely recovered.  The traumatic events that caused her breakdown are no longer a factor.  She is finally happy, for the first time since her mother died.  I can’t guarantee that she will never have another breakdown, but each day that goes by without any symptoms, her chances decrease.  Cathy has the best medicine that money can’t buy, she has your love.” 


Tears were forming in Vincent’s eyes as he reached down to hug his friend.  As he did, he whispered in her ear,  “Thank you, Susan, not just for your reassurance, but also for making her well.  Without her, I would be lost.”


Everyone agreed that it had been a long day, and decided to call it a night.  Catherine would drive Susan home, and Devin would take the guys back to the Tunnels.  Catherine shooed everyone outside, so she could have a moment alone with Vincent.  That moment turned into several moments, and soon Devin was blowing the horn.  Catherine and Vincent laughed, with one final kiss, the couple headed their separate ways.


Saturday was a flurry of activities both Above and Below.  Catherine had her final dress fitting with Jim, and finally got to see the dress Susan would wear.  Jim agreed that it was the perfect complement to Catherine’s dress.  After a quick lunch, they headed to the Manor, now Susan would finally be able to get a tour of the mansion.


Below, Vincent was going over everyone’s duties.  Brooke and Samantha would handle the guest book.  Aside from keeping an eye on Mouse, Jamie would assist where needed.  Zach and Geoffrey would pass out Polaroid cameras, and make sure everyone understood how they worked.  Marsha and Karen were already at the Manor, helping with the food.  Those that were not attending the wedding had their duties as well.  Vincent went down his lists, making sure that he hadn’t missed anything, or anyone.  Devin was in the background watching, a smile on his face.  When he left the hole in the ground called home twenty years ago, he never planned on returning.  Now he was glad that he changed his mind.  His brother and his biological father were a part of his life, but like Chandler, he now had the one thing that had eluded him for years, love.


Charles had been waiting in Vincent’s chamber for Vincent and Devin to return.  He looked at all the things in Vincent’s chamber, but didn’t touch anything, especially the carousel.  He didn’t want to break anything.  Soon Vincent and Devin returned, and they told him the story of how they protected each other the night of Vincent’s one and only carousel ride.  Charles decided to go back to his chamber and take a nap, leaving the two brothers alone, for the first time since Devin’s arrival.


Vincent returned the carousel to the safety of the trunk.  As he had done yesterday, he walked around the room, looking at the rock walls and all the things that for many years comprised his entire life.  All that would change tomorrow night and he still had mixed feelings about leaving his old life behind and starting a new one with Catherine.


Devin knew by the way Vincent was walking around the chamber that something was wrong.  “Vincent, you’re not having second thoughts about this marriage, are you?”


“No, Devin, I have no qualms about marrying Catherine, it’s something I’ve dreamt of for the last two years.”


“What is it, Vincent, what’s bothering you?”  Devin had been sitting on the bed, and Vincent walked over and sat down next to him.  “Devin, from the time I was a child, this chamber and everything in it has been my world, my safe place.  I never thought that I would ever leave it, and after tomorrow night, when I return here, my life will be completely different.  To be honest, Devin, I don’t know how to handle that.” 


Devin just shook his head.  “Vincent, life is full of change, some good, and some bad.  The first time I came back here, I had mixed emotions.  I left as a boy, and came back a man, someone who has traveled the world, pretending to be anyone else but Devin Wells.  There were many times when I missed this place, and everyone here, especially you.  When I left, I felt I had no other choice, I couldn’t take the old man always picking on me, I thought anywhere had to be better than here.  While I was gone, I always wondered if the Tunnels would still be here if I ever returned.  When that gate opened, and I saw you standing there, I felt as if I had gone back in time, for as much as things changed, a lot of things stayed the same.  What I’m trying to say, Vincent, is this.  Yes, your life will be different once you’re married.  You’ll have to adapt to a new way of life, but I promise you, it will be a good life.  Don’t let your doubts and insecurities ruin what is going to be the best day of your life.  If the world ended tomorrow, wouldn’t you rather be with Catherine, than alone in these Tunnels?  Take it from me, Vincent, if they didn’t vanish after twenty years, they won’t disappear just because you’re not living here full time anymore.” 


Vincent reached over and embraced his brother.  “Devin, you always could relieve even my deepest fears.  Thank you for listening, for being here for my wedding, but most importantly, for being my big brother.”



Vincent and Catherine decided that for their last night as single people, they would spend it on Catherine’s balcony.  They would meet earlier than usual, since tomorrow would be such a busy day.  Vincent left earlier than he needed to, and walked to Catherine’s threshold.  As he walked, memories came flooding back.  Of the first time, he showed her how to get back to her apartment, and the way, she hugged him, and laid her head on his shoulder. Of the night he waited for her to come Below, and then, the unthinkable happened, the watcher kidnapped her.  He remembered every detail of the kiss she gave him when she went back to her world, after her father’s death.  Vincent had wanted so desperately to ask her not to go, but he didn’t have the courage.  By this time tomorrow night, they would be married, and he would never again be lonely.


The night was cold, but no wind was blowing, so Catherine lit candles all around the balcony.  She had done this for their first anniversary.  A smile crossed her lips, as she wondered how they would spend their first wedding anniversary next year.  She was suddenly aware of Vincent’s presence.  He had been standing there watching her as he had done so many times before.  Now he crossed the balcony and pulled her into his arms.  He had promised himself that he wouldn’t kiss her until he left her for the night.  Catherine felt some mischief coming from Vincent, and wondered what he had up his sleeve.  Without a word between them, the hug ended, and they turned to look out at the city, wrapped in each other’s arms.


Vincent was the first one to speak, “Catherine, all the candle light reminds me of our first anniversary.  You looked so beautiful that night, you took my breath away.”  Each of them reached for their keepsakes from that night, his rose, and her crystal. 

“I remember, Vincent, how beautiful you looked.  I wanted so desperately for you to kiss me, but I didn’t want to pressure you.”


“Catherine, I wanted to kiss you, but feared you would reject me.  I knew that we loved each other, but I couldn’t take the chance.  I felt it was better that our love be of a courtly nature, rather than an intimate one.  I was still under the impression that you should find someone else to love, someone that could give you the things that I was unable to give.  Looking back, I realize how much my fears and insecurities influenced our lives, how much time I wasted trying to protect not just you but myself as well.  Perhaps if I would have been more open with my feelings, neither one of us would have had our breakdowns.” 


“Vincent, that’s all in the past, we have our entire lives ahead of us.  Maybe all the obstacles that were placed in our way were a test.  Perhaps it was a way to ensure that we could break through any barriers, as long as we did it together.  Now, I don’t want to spend any more time on negative thoughts, I want this last night to be filled with good memories.  After all, this is the bridge between our worlds.”


The couple continued to look out at the city and reminisce about all the time they had spent on this balcony, times filled with both laughter and tears.  Too soon, it was time for their night to end.  “Catherine, it is time for me to leave, we both need some sleep.  In less than twenty-four hours, we will be husband and wife.  In that spirit, I want to leave you with something to think about, until I see you for the first time tomorrow.” 


Catherine’s curiosity was piqued.  “Vincent, you’ve been mischievous since you got here, what are you going to leave me with?”


“This,” was all Vincent said before grabbing Catherine and giving her a long,, searing kiss.  So overwhelmed by the kiss Catherine barely had time to respond when Vincent said, “Until tomorrow night, my Catherine, be well.”


“Be well, Vincent, I love you.” 


She heard him whisper back, “I love you, Catherine” and once again he became part of the darkness. 


Catherine shook her head as she blew out the candles and carried them inside.  Everything was packed and ready to go for the wedding and for the wedding night.  She quickly changed and crawled into bed, hoping against hope that she might be able to get at least a few hours sleep. 


Vincent took a walk through the park before heading to the Tunnels.  The talk with Devin and his time spent with Catherine, had bolstered his mood.  He took his time walking back to his chamber, he wanted to savor this quiet time, because tomorrow would be anything but quiet.  Soon he was back at his chamber, writing his thoughts in his journal.  As the candlelight bounced off the rock walls, he no longer had any trepidation about leaving his old life behind.  He was ready to begin his new life with Catherine.  Soon he was under the covers, hoping to get at least a little sleep before the big day.



December 31st, 1989


Neither Vincent nor Catherine got much sleep the night before.  Catherine was already awake when the sun rose.  Pulling on her robe, she went out onto the balcony.  The city was just beginning to wake up, a light fog still visible.  Catherine felt like a child at Christmas, it had been a long time since she had been this excited.  She was anxious for the wedding, but she also didn’t want to rush the day, she wanted to savor as many moments as possible.  After all, this was her last day as a single lady, and for that, she was extremely grateful.


The tapping on the pipes was heavier than a typical Sunday morning.  Last minute messages being sent back and forth about the wedding.  Vincent lay in his bed just listening, not just to the pipes, but also to the stillness in his chamber.  That stillness had been his worst enemy and his best friend.  He would leave these tunnels today and return tonight with his wife.  How strange that sounded, his wife.  Vincent made a silent vow to himself, never again would he let his fears and insecurities rule his life.  Finally he would have a partner to share them with, and for that he was extremely grateful.


Vincent, Devin, Charles, and Father enjoyed a quiet breakfast in Father’s library.  Once again, they went over all the travel arrangements.  Father’s chief concern was that the older Helpers and Tunnel residents knew the time and locations for the buses.  He didn’t want to take a chance on overlooking anyone.  Pascal had the lists, and would pass those on to the drivers, Devin assured him.


Catherine showered, and gathered everything she had packed.  She was picking Susan up at Peter’s.  An old friend of Susan’s was originally from Yonkers.  Her mother was a hairdresser, and had promised to open her shop early so that Susan and Catherine could have their hair done.


Catherine had decided to wear her hair pulled away from her face; she didn’t want anything distracting from her dress.  Susan’s dress was sleek and elegant, and that’s exactly the way she wanted her hair to look.  Since they looked out of place, having formal hairstyles before noon, the ladies grabbed some breakfast to go.  The florists would soon be arriving, and they needed to make sure there were no mistakes with the delivery, or placement of the flowers.


When Catherine and Susan walked through the front door, a variety of aromas wafting from the kitchen greeted them.  Maureen was a nervous wreck and William was laughing at her.  Marsha and Karen would arrive later with the rest of the Helpers.  Maureen offered Catherine and Susan fresh coffee.  Grabbing their coffee and breakfast, they went to sit at one of the tables in the ballroom.  Catherine had wanted everyone to fit into the dining room, but since it seemed that every Helper and Tunnel resident was attending this wedding, the dining room was too small to accommodate everyone.


Susan insisted that Cathy eat her breakfast slowly.  It would be a long time before she had dinner.  Susan had debated on telling Cathy about her conversation with Vincent.  However, she felt an obligation not only as her doctor, but also as her friend not to keep any secrets from her.  Susan also wanted to ensure that she had not given Vincent any false information.  Cathy sat there, looking at the tables, lost in her thoughts.  It took her a moment to realize that Susan was speaking to her. 


“Cathy, I want to tell you about a discussion that Vincent and I had.  He asked me if you were completely cured, and if there was a chance that you could have another breakdown.” 


Cathy was intrigued.  When Susan and Vincent didn’t join the tour, Cathy assumed Vincent had wanted to speak to Susan privately about her health.


“What did you tell him, Susan?”


“I gave him my word that you were completely recovered, and what the chances are that you would have another breakdown.  I also told him that the traumatic factors that caused your breakdown were no longer an issue.  No one can predict if you will ever have another breakdown, but each day that passes without symptoms, your chances decrease.  Vincent was relieved to hear all this, but what I said next meant the most to him.”  Catherine was afraid to breathe, waiting for Susan to finish.  “I said that you haven’t been this happy since your mother died, and that his love was the best possible medicine, that no money could buy.” 


Catherine leaned over and hugged her friend.  “Thank you, Susan, not just for reassuring Vincent, but for telling me as well.  We talked about the past last night, and he felt that his fears and insecurities were a contributing factor to the breakdowns.  I’m glad he knows the truth.  Susan, I will never be able to thank you enough for all the help you gave me after my relapse.  Without your counsel and friendship, I don’t think I would have recovered as quickly as I did.”


Both women had tears in their eyes.  Even though they had been apart for years, their friendship never diminished.  “Cathy, no thanks are necessary.  To see you happy and healthy is all the payment I need.”


Before either of them could say another word, the doorbell rang.  It was the florists.  Susan laughed when she saw the entire van filled with flowers for just this wedding, nothing else.  Cathy shot her a look, one that said I want everything to be perfect.  It took over an hour for the florists to place all the flowers; after all, there was a lot of space to cover.  Since it was New Year’s Eve, Cathy rewarded everyone with a generous tip.


It was then time to put the finishing touches on the tables.  Covering the tables were white tablecloths, with black runners.  The bridal party had black charger plates under their white plates.  Everyone else attending would have a white plate, their silverware wrapped in a white napkin, tied with a black and white bow.  Marsha and Karen had insisted on the bows.


Catherine had decided that since candles were the standard lighting in the Tunnels, that the use of candles would be limited.  They were only on the bridal table, white tapers with black and white bows, once again, courtesy of Marsha and Karen.


Catherine and Susan went into the kitchen to see how everything was progressing.  Of course, they had to sample some of the appetizers.  Maureen gave both of them a mild slap on the hand, for ruining the layout on one of the platters. 


Darrell was coming though the back door, when he saw Catherine and Susan getting their hands slapped.  Not wanting to feel left out, he decided to have some appetizers as well, and he too received a slap on the hand by his mother.


Once they stopped laughing, Catherine said to Darrell, “Did you bring all the party favors, and the surprise items?”


“Catherine, do you think I would let you down?  I got exactly what you asked for.  I also want to double check and make sure that all the lanterns are working.”


“Good, now let me grab my coat, and we’ll set up that surprise.”  Turning to face the others, Catherine said, “No peeking from any of you.”


Darrell had gotten Catherine and Susan’s bags from the car and carried them upstairs.  He put all the party favors in a closet, out of reach from any of the children.  He didn’t want anything to be ruined before it’s time.  He then went around to all the lanterns, that task complete, he set up the surprise.


Catherine and Susan headed upstairs to freshen up and to start the make-up process.  Suddenly Catherine felt a little nervous.  “Susan, I know that my parents deeply loved each other, as did yours.  My mother died before I knew what marriage was all about.  I’ve never been around anyone that’s been married for a long time.  I don’t know the secrets to a long and happy marriage, do you have any tips?”


“Cathy, you know that I’ve never been married, so I can’t speak from personal experience.  I can only tell you what I’ve learned from my parents and my patients.  You and Vincent have an edge over everyone else with your bond, I never heard of a bond, until you told me about yours.  Whenever I’ve asked a patient, what the secret is to a good marriage they tell me the same things.  Honesty, loyalty, laughter and love, and you and Vincent have an abundance of all those things.”  Catherine gave Susan another hug, and once again thanked her for all her kindness.


A knock on the door prevented any further conversation.  This time it was Michael and Brian.  After Winterfest, Michael contacted Catherine about his contribution to the wedding.  Catherine thought it would was a brilliant idea.  Michael was going to record everything pertaining to the wedding -- the ceremony, the house, the guests; if it was relevant to the wedding, it would be recorded.  Catherine and Michael had met for lunch one day, and together they purchased not just the recorder and tapes, but all the Polaroid cameras and their accessories.  All of that, along with the cd’s, were already at the Manor.  Catherine gave the boys a quick tour of the upstairs.  She then guided them through the downstairs rooms and showed them where she had stored their items.  Darrell had just come in from outside and introductions were made.  Catherine explained to Michael and Brian that Darrell worked at the Manor, and if they needed anything, he was the one to ask.  Catherine made a mental note to give Darrell extra money for all the additional work he had done for her.


Looking at her watch, Catherine knew that if they didn’t start getting ready now, she would be late for her own wedding, and headed back upstairs.


The buses were scheduled to arrive at different times.  The bus containing the Tunnel residents would arrive first.  This would allow the musicians time to set up, and everyone that had volunteered for a task, would know what to do.


The next bus arrived one half hour later.  Those who already knew the layout took the time to show those that had just arrived.


In the Tunnels, Vincent was trying in vain to tie his tie.  Peter, Father, and Devin would wear black bow ties, and Vincent had a regular black tie.  It didn’t help that Vincent’s hands were shaking slightly, he had never before even attempted to tie a tie.  Vincent didn’t realize that Devin was in his chamber until he heard him laugh. 


“What’s the matter, Vincent, having a little problem with that tie?” 


His nerves getting the better of him, Vincent snapped at Devin, “Yes, Devin, as a matter of fact I am having problems with this tie.  I’ve never done this before, and I would really appreciate some help.”


“Turn around, Vincent. I’ll have this tied in no time.”


Charles wanted to see Vincent before they left, and entered the chamber soon after Devin. 


“Vincent, I wanted to come by and tell you good luck, and not to be nervous.  You look real nice in your suit.  So does Dev, but I already told him that.”  Charles always had a soothing effect on Vincent. 


“Thank you, Charles, not just for the luck, but for the compliment as well.  This is one time I wish I had a mirror in this chamber.” 


Devin stepped into the hallway, and came back with a grin on his face, and a full-length mirror.  “I thought you might feel that way, Vincent, so I borrowed this from one of the ladies who’s not going to the wedding.” 


Vincent had to work up the courage to look at himself; it was something he didn’t do often.  The last time was at Devin’s and that was only his face.  Taking a deep breath, Vincent approached the mirror.  Remembering Devin and Catherine’s words, for the first time in his life, his reflection didn’t horrify him.  He looked at himself from all angles, and was surprised to learn that he actually liked the way he looked in the suit. 


“Thank you, Devin.  I must agree with Charles, you look very good in that suit.”


“You don’t look so bad yourself, Vincent.  Chandler does have good taste, and having something custom fitted for you is a real treat.”


“I agree, Devin, but I’m not used to wearing this type of shoes,” Vincent said as he looked down at his fancy black dress shoes.  “Let’s go get Father and Peter.  It’s time for us to leave.”


Once together, all the men complimented each other on their appearance.  Devin had parked the limo outside the freight elevator.  Devin reached the limo before the other men.  He opened the doors and gave instructions to where everyone would sit.  Father was in the front seat, and Vincent and Peter in the back seat.  Devin would drive the couple back to the Tunnels in the limo.  Sliding behind the wheel, the men were soon on their way.  Devin and Father said very little to each other.  Neither of the men wanted to take a chance of saying something they might regret.  Peter reached over and patted Vincent’s hand.  Vincent laid his other hand on top of Peter’s, as a gesture of thanks, no words were needed.


It was foggy and a light rain was falling, not even that would put a damper on this day.  Since he was the last car in, Devin locked the gates behind him, and continued to the Manor.


Catherine had explained to Vincent the arrangement of all the flowers, but never could he have imagined just how many flowers Catherine had ordered.


They didn’t want the significance of the roses to be lost, so they would use them only in certain areas.  Different varieties of flowers adorned not just the rooms, but almost every available surface as well.  The vast amount of flowers wasn’t lost on Father.  Mary had joined him and together they walked around looking at the various types of flowers.  White roses wrapped around the banister, and the columns in the entrance hall.  Some of the flowers were in white or red only, others were in both colors.  The Carnations, Peonies, Magnolias, Narcissus, and Amaryllis were in red and white.  The white only flowers were Calla lilies, Stephanotis and Jasmine.  On each of the dining tables were vases of red Ilex Berries.  Red roses draped the fireplace in the library, a striking contrast to the white mantle-piece.  Vincent had been following behind Father and Mary, wondering if Father would make any comments, and he did.


Father turned to Mary and said, “I can’t believe all these flowers, it makes me realize sometimes what I miss living in the Tunnels.”


“I know what you mean, Jacob, I’ve never seen so many flowers in all my life.  I wonder what will happen to them after the wedding?”  It was then that Vincent made his presence known.


“Mary, everyone will be able to take home a flower or flowers of their choosing.  The rest will be brought Below, for those that couldn’t attend the wedding to enjoy.  Please make sure we save a few of the Narcissus flowers for Narcissa.  I promised her that Catherine and I would visit after the wedding.”


“Of course, Vincent, I’m sure Narcissa will enjoy them.”


Vincent left Father and Mary and stepped outside for some fresh air.  They had seen all the lanterns illuminating the front of the house when they drove up.  He now wanted to see what the back looked like with all the lanterns lit.  They provided a nice glow through the fog and rain. 


He was glad that Catherine had talked him into having their wedding outside of the Tunnels.  A little pride ran through him as he thought about the splendor not just of this place, but of his wedding as well. 


Vincent’s solitude was short lived when Mouse came bounding outside, Brian and Michael on his heels.  “Vincent, this place is neat, Jamie told me not to touch anything.  Darrell told me that he needs my help for something later.” 


Vincent had to chuckle at Mouse.  “I’m glad you think the place is neat, Mouse, and Jamie’s correct that you can’t touch anything.  Just be careful when you help Darrell.” 


Before Vincent could say anything else, Mouse dashed back inside.  Vincent knew that Brian would be handling the music, but Michael had something in his hand that wasn’t familiar to Vincent.  “Michael, what is that you’re holding in your hand?  Is it one of the Polaroid cameras?”


“No, Vincent, all the cameras are inside, Zach and Geoffrey are taking care of them.  This is a video camera.”  A look of concern crossed Vincent’s face.  “I’m taping everything about the wedding; it’s my gift to you and Catherine.  Don’t worry, Vincent, Catherine said the tapes will be kept in the Tunnels, along with any pictures of you.” 


Vincent was relieved to hear this and turned to Brian.  “Brian, is everything ready with the music?  You know when Catherine comes down the stairs, we all have to be in the entrance hall.”


“Everything is ready, Vincent, and before I start the music, I will make the announcement about the entrance hall.”


“Then, gentlemen, it looks like you have everything taken care of, I’ll see you inside.”  Brian and Michael went inside and waited for the wedding to begin.  Before he headed inside, he looked up to the sky and said a little prayer that he would be able to say his vows, without completely breaking down.


The guests had consumed appetizers and beverages.  Cameras were given to anyone that wanted to take pictures, not just of the wedding, but of their friends and family members as well.  Cameras and pictures were a rarity in the Tunnels.


Jamie had gone upstairs to check on Catherine and Susan.  Catherine asked Jamie to tell Peter that they were ready to begin.  When Peter went upstairs, Brian made the announcement, and everyone gathered in the large entrance hall.  Vincent felt that he should give a warning about the music they would be hearing shortly.


If I could have everyone’s attention, please,” the crowd was immediately silent.  “When Catherine comes down the stairs, the music playing will not be a traditional bridal march.  It might be rather loud, and for a moment, this hallway will be dark.  I don’t want anyone to be afraid.  Remember after Catherine and Peter come down the stairs, Devin, myself, Father and Susan will remain outside of the library until everyone is seated.” 


People were even more excited than they had been on their arrival.  No one wanted to miss anything, so murmurs of agreement were heard throughout the crowd.


Vincent couldn’t wait to see Catherine.  Once again, he was nervous.  Soon he would be married, something that still sounded so foreign for him to say not just to himself, but aloud as well.  Devin and Father were in the front of the crowd on either side of Vincent.  Brian and Michael were ready to carry out their duties. 


Upstairs, Peter knocked on the door, and was told to enter.  Susan stood in front of him looking beautiful.  It didn’t seem possible that she was all grown up; she was in a black and white evening suit.  The top was white satin, the midriff was covered with black lace, and a black satin belt adorned with a brooch.  The jacket was white satin with black piping, and the skirt was black crepe.


Catherine was a vision; that was the only way Peter could describe her.  They were making sure that Catherine had the traditional something old, her crystal from Vincent, wrapped around her bouquet.  Something borrowed; a handkerchief Susan had loaned her, that belonged to Susan’s mother.  Something new was a pair of earrings.  The blue, of course, was the garter. 


Peter gave each of the women a hug and a kiss.  He whispered in Cathy’s ear, “I hope you and Vincent have a long and happy marriage.” 


When he pulled back, Catherine had tears in her eyes, and mouthed “Thank you.” 


“Well, if you ladies are ready, there’s a group of people waiting to see you.” 


Susan carried a bouquet of red tea roses.  Catherine’s bouquet consisted of white tea roses, and some of the roses had a black pearl in the center of them, continuing the black and white theme.  A large smile crossed Catherine’s face, “Let’s go get me married, Peter.”


The walk from the bedroom to the stairs, although short, seemed to Catherine to take an eternity.  Peter whistled and Brian started the music.  Susan came down the stairs to the strains of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.  Devin never realized just how attractive Susan was until that moment.  After reaching the bottom of the stairs, she went to stand by Devin, her partner for the evening.


Catherine and Peter were at the top of the stairs, out of everyone’s sight.  Peter whistled once again.  Suddenly, the lights dimmed, but only for a brief moment.  When the lights came back to full brightness, Catherine and Peter started down the steps.  The first chords made a few people jump, Catherine’s entrance music; the overture from ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’


It was during the middle of the overture when Catherine and Peter came into view.  People gasped when they saw Catherine’s dress for the first time.  Vincent felt his heart skip a few beats.


Catherine was always beautiful, but today she was radiant.  He knew that a designer made her gown, but he never expected anything as regal as the gown she was wearing.


The fabric was an Italian duchess silk satin that gave the gown a soft sheen.  The top of the gown had a square neckline and wide straps, and a satin black and white sash.  The embellishment on the bottom of the gown was hand embroidered black French lace.  As Catherine descended the stairs, the embellishments were also on the back of the dress and the chapel length train.  When she and Peter reached the bottom, the skirt on the gown fell into delicate folds.


Everyone was so awestruck that no one moved, not even Vincent.  It wasn’t until Devin cleared his throat that people began filling the seats in the library.


Vincent just stood there staring at Catherine; all she could do was smile.  Through their bond, they each felt a sense of excitement and anticipation.  It seemed to take forever until everyone was seated.  Vincent and Father walked in to the library, followed by Devin and Susan.  Finally, Catherine entered, still on Peter’s arm.  The flames in the fireplace added additional ambiance to the room.


Judge Dalton was already in front of the fireplace when the bridal party entered.  Catherine and Vincent took their places, as did Devin and Susan, and Catherine handed her bouquet to Susan.  Judge Dalton started the service.  Even though it would be a secular service, Vincent and Catherine still wanted some religious aspects as well. 


“Friends and Family, we are gathered here today to witness the marriage of Vincent and Catherine.  If anyone can show just cause why they should not lawfully be joined together, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.”  Of course, there were no objections, but Devin gave the entire room an evil stare, just in case.


“Who gives this woman to be married to this man?” 


Peter placed Catherine’s hand in Vincent’s and tearfully said, “I do, in memory of her parents.” 


Judge Dalton surprised everyone when he asked, “Who gives this man to be married to this woman?” 


Father replied, “His brother and I do.”


Before Peter and Father sat down, Catherine presented Peter with a red rose, while Vincent presented one to Father.  Slight sniffling was heard in various areas of the library.


Vincent and Catherine repeated the traditional wedding vows, promising to be faithful to each other from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and to love and to cherish until parted by death.


As their gift to the couple, a few people asked if they could do a reading.  Again, Catherine and Vincent wanted the readings to be religious in nature.  Pascal was the first one to read.  He was comfortable communicating with his pipes, but not in front of people, so he had chosen a short verse.


It was Mark 10-lines 6-8.  Mary was next and her reading was 1Corinthians 13-lines 1-13. 


The next person who had asked to read was a shock to everyone; it was Sebastian.  His reading was from ‘The Apocrypha’ and his selection was Tobit.


‘Blessed are you, O God of our ancestors,
and blessed is your name in all generations forever.
Let the heavens and the whole creation bless you forever.
6 You made Adam, and for him you made his wife Eve
as a helper and support.
From the two of them the human race has sprung.
You said, “It is not good that the man should be alone;
let us make a helper for him like himself.”
7 I now am taking this kinswoman of mine,
not because of lust,
but with sincerity.
Grant that she and I may find mercy
and that we may grow old together.’



Those three readings deeply touched Vincent and Catherine, and made the ceremony even more emotional than it was already.  It was now time for Vincent and Catherine’s vows.  Vincent was going first, knowing that once Catherine spoke, he would not be able to utter a word.


“Catherine, you brought light into my life where before only darkness existed.  For the first time, I know what it is to be loved unconditionally.  When you asked me after your attack, how I got to be this way, I told you I never regretted what I was, until that moment.  You removed my hood, and looked at my face, and you weren’t afraid, you showed compassion, perhaps even understanding.  Leaving you at that threshold was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life.  Something miraculous happened a few months later.  I had come to say good-bye, but you asked me to stay.  From that moment, our lives have been intertwined, our relationship made stronger by our bond.  At times, I tried to send you away, not wanting you to chain yourself to me, to my limitations.  Thankfully, you never listened to me, and here we are today.  Your love is the most precious gift I have ever received, and I promise never to do anything to damage that gift.”


The sniffling had turned into audible sobs, and the men were trying to brush back the tears when they thought no one was looking.

Catherine herself was trying her best to blink away the tears.  After Vincent’s vows, she didn’t know how she would ever get through hers.


“Vincent, the night you found me in the park, I had walked out on a party filled with people that I didn’t know, and didn’t trust.  As I was recovering Below, your voice was the only thing that kept me calm.  The day you told me that you knew me, that I had the strength, I didn’t believe you.  Over the course of those months without you, I realized just how empty my life was.  The changes I made were because you believed in me, even though I didn’t know if I would ever see you again.  You gave me the foundation with that belief.  No one has ever believed in me the way that you do.  Your arms have always been open to me whether it is in times of joy or sadness.  I told you once that I found a family when I found you, and looking around this room today, I know how lucky I am to be part of this family.  Your love is the most precious gift I have ever received, and I promise never to do anything to damage that gift.”


It was now Judge Dalton’s turn to speak, but he, like everyone else in the room, had been deeply touched by Vincent and Catherine’s vows.  He had to clear his throat several times before he finished the ceremony.  It was time for the ring exchange.  Devin and Susan handed the rings to Judge Dalton.


Judge Dalton used these words for the ring exchange.


We witness the giving of rings as a symbol of these promises made today.
These rings represent a lifelong agreement. 
They are an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual bond, which unites you both.
They are a seal of the vows you have made to one another before family and friends. 
They represent something continuous like the unbroken circle that they are and are a powerful symbol of your relationship, something beautiful and lasting. 
Look at the rings often and as you do remember the promises, you make today


Vincent and Catherine repeated the words that would officially make them husband and wife.


I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow, and with all that I am and all that I have, I honor you.


Judge Dalton then proclaimed, “By the power vested in me by the state of New York, I now pronounce you husband and wife.  You may kiss the bride.”


Vincent didn’t have to be told twice to kiss Catherine, it was only a small kiss, but filled with the promise of bigger and better ones later.


Everyone in the room stood up and applauded, some whistling was also heard.  Devin and Susan walked out of the library arm in arm, followed by the bride and groom.


Devin and Susan both were wiping away tears, as Vincent and Catherine joined them.  The four of them hugged, everyone too choked up for words.  Then they formed the customary receiving line.  Since it would take some time to bring out all the food, this ensured that every guest was greeted.


The congratulations seemed to take forever, and everyone was getting hungry.  A few minutes later, William announced that it was time for dinner.  Most of the guests were already seated by the time the bridal party arrived.  Not wanting to delay things any further, Maureen and her Helpers served the bridal party, and then table by table everyone began getting their food.


The menu items were unfamiliar to quite a few of the guests.  There was prime rib, two types of potatoes, two types of vegetables and two pasta choices.  Various types of salad and fresh fruit were also available as well as several types of breads and rolls.  Secretly William was hoping they would have plenty of leftovers to take back to the Tunnels.  After all the cooking he had done over the past few days, he could use a break.


Before the dinner ended, Devin had to give his best man toast.  Ever since he found out about the wedding, he had been deliberating on what he would say.  He didn’t want it to sound like he had read it in a book, but he didn’t want it to be too sappy either.  The time had come; he could put it off no longer.  Devin stood, and asked for everyone’s attention. 


“When we were younger, Vincent and I used to dream the impossible dreams.  We wanted to be   Huck and Jim, floating down the Mississippi River.  When I came back to the Tunnels and found out about Chandler and how Vincent felt about her, I had to make sure she wouldn’t do anything to hurt him.  She proved to me, the extent she would go to protect him, and the Tunnels, when she told him a stranger had been lurking around the Central Park entrance.  Last summer, Chandler came to me, during a very difficult time in her life.  I got to see a side of her that I’m sure has been hidden for many years.  If I had any doubts about how much Vincent and Chandler love each other, all those doubts faded away in that visit.  Chandler, thank you for loving my brother, and for fulfilling his impossible dream.  Please raise your glasses and join me in a toast.”  To Vincent and Catherine echoed throughout the room.


The wedding vows had deeply affected Father.  It was the first wedding he attended Above since going to the Tunnels.  The flowers, the clothes, all the best that money could buy, reminded him of his marriage to Margaret.  He had said very little to Vincent after his confrontation with Devin.  To hear his own flesh and blood tell him what a horrible person he was made his skin crawl.  Had he really become so cynical and cruel in his old age?  He wanted to propose a toast, once again giving his blessing to this union, but he was afraid of rejection.  Well, there was only one way to find out. 


Now it was Father asking for everyone’s attention as he began to speak.  “As you know, I almost ruined this wedding for my own selfish reasons.  I was overcome with emotion when Vincent asked me if I would give him away at the wedding.  My son has always had a forgiving nature.”


“As I watched Vincent and Catherine exchange their vows, I finally realized just how deeply and truly in love with each other they are.  Looking around this room, I see how much joy their love brings to everyone they touch.  Vincent, Catherine, from the bottom of my heart, I wish you a lifetime of love, happiness, and laughter.”  Father raised his glass and once again To Vincent and Catherine echoed throughout the room.


It was now time to move the food and the tables out of the ballroom.  It was time for the dancing and the party to begin.  Catherine couldn’t wait for their first dance, for she had a surprise for Vincent.


The ballroom floor cleared, Devin had yet another announcement to make before their first dance.  “Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Vincent and Catherine, as they take the floor for their first official dance as husband and wife.”  Thunderous applause resounded throughout the room.


Brian began to play the song that had started it all, ‘All I Ask of You’ another song from ‘The Phantom of The Opera.’


Catherine’s gown brushed back and forth on the floor as the couple danced.  It was one of the reasons she had wanted a dress with a longer train, she wanted to feel the sweeping motion as she danced her first dance with her husband.  People stood looking at the couple, mesmerized not just by the gracefulness of their dancing, but also by the love radiating between the two of them.


Catherine and Vincent’s eyes locked on each other as they danced to the song.  It was Raoul’s last verse, the last line and time for the surprise.  Instead of hearing Steve Barton sing ‘Christine’, Vincent heard his voice say the word Catherine, and Steve Barton finish with ‘that’s all I ask of you’.  It was all Vincent could do to finish the dance; Catherine was filled with merriment, her surprise a hit.  When the song ended, everyone applauded, and then wanted to know how Vincent’s voice had appeared on the song, and so did Vincent.


Once things quieted down, Catherine began to speak.  “I’ve been going to the theatre since I was a little girl.  My father and I saw Phantom when it opened in London.  My father had a friend in the theatre business, so we were able to meet the original cast.  Vincent and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this would be our first song, and I wanted to make it special.  I have a friend in California in the record business.  I asked her what it would take to put Vincent’s voice onto a cd.  Without his knowledge, I taped a conversation we had, and made sure he said my name several times.  I then went to the Majestic and asked the orchestra to record the overture, and I asked Sarah Brightman and Steve Barton to sing this song, for the cd.  Per my friend Gina’s instructions, I took it to a record studio, and they put Vincent’s voice in place of Steve’s.  Now that’s one secret down, and one to go.  Vincent and I don’t want to be alone on this dance floor, so everyone, please join us.” 


Vincent just shook his head, his wife never ceased to amaze him.


Devin and Susan walked onto the floor, and other couples followed.  Father even asked Mary for a dance.  The musicians played a few waltzes so that the bride and groom could dance with the other members of the bridal party.  Peter, Father, and Devin all took turns dancing with Catherine.  Vincent danced with Susan, Mary and pulled a protesting Maureen into a dance.  Susan and Catherine bustled Catherine’s dress, allowing her to move around more freely.


Music from Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Richard Marx, and other artists whose music was suitable for dancing, followed.  The children sang a song, as a gift to the couple.  The younger crowd stood around waiting their turn.


Catherine gave Brian the cue and the music took a decidedly different turn.  Soon Chicago, Poison, Janet Jackson, Bon Jovi, and Earth Wind and Fire, were heard in the ballroom.  Of course, no party was complete without Kool and the Gang’s ‘Celebration.’


The guests gathered in different rooms.  Food and beverages were placed in the dining room.  Catherine and Vincent spent very little time alone. They became part of every conversation, in every room they entered.  People wanted to take pictures, but for obvious reasons, Vincent had to decline and Michael was filming every move they made.  Catherine took pictures as a remembrance for those people that didn’t see each other on a regular basis.


Catherine and Vincent couldn’t believe that the night was almost over.  No one wanted to leave the party early; everyone wanted to ring in the New Year with the newlyweds.


Everyone was asked to once again gather in the ballroom, it was time to toss the bouquet and remove the garter.  Vincent was a little nervous about removing the garter, but Catherine assured him that she had moved it lower on her leg, so that he didn’t have to lift her dress up so high.


Once all the guests were in the ballroom, Catherine asked all the single ladies to stand behind her so that she could toss the bouquet.  She had purchased a separate one for this event.  Catherine went to the middle of the floor, and checked where all the ladies were standing.  She gave Brian

a nod and ‘Ladies Night’ by Kool and the Gang began to play.  With her back to the crowd, Catherine counted to three and tossed the bouquet, right into Susan’s waiting arms.


Next, it was time for all the men to gather.  Devin brought a chair over for them to use.  Vincent’s face began to get red, as he looked at all the men waiting to catch the garter.  Catherine nodded once again, and this time a song reminiscent of a Burlesque stripper song began to play, making Vincent’s face even redder.  Catherine just smiled as Vincent lifted her dress and removed the garter.  Vincent copied what Catherine had done, and turned his back to all the men.  Devin jumped higher than anyone else did, he wasn’t going to let anyone else have that garter, and he wanted another dance with Susan.


Maureen and William carried the wedding cake into the ballroom.  It was a four tier black and white cake, and the design used was a replica of the lace on Catherine’s gown.  Red roses were placed in between the layers, and were also used as the cake topper.  A replica of this cake would be taken to the Tunnels for the party tomorrow.


With Vincent’s hand covering Catherine’s, they cut the cake.  Knowing that they would have to repeat this tomorrow, they fed each other only a small piece of cake.


Midnight was fast approaching, and glasses of champagne and non-alcoholic beverages were being served. Devin whistled, and the room became quiet.  Vincent was the first to speak.  “Catherine and I want to thank each and every one of you for joining us tonight, to celebrate our marriage.  As I look around this room, I am filled with so much gratitude for all the love and support everyone has given us.” 


It was Catherine’s turn to speak.  “I also want to thank all of you for coming, and for lending a hand.  Without your help, none of this would have been possible on such short notice.  A special thanks to our bridal party.  Devin and Susan cleared their schedules to be our attendants.  Peter, thank you for giving me away, and Father…thank you for your blessing.”


“We want to thank Brian for being our DJ; the music was perfect, the musicians for those lovely waltzes, and the children for that beautiful song.  Michael, we will treasure the videos you made.  In years to come, it will be a way for us to remember this special day in vivid detail.  I want to thank Darrell, I know I drove him crazy with all the extras I asked him to do.  To William, Marsha and Karen, thank you for all your hard work.  I’m especially grateful to Maureen, not just for preparing the food, but also for doing the shopping that I couldn’t do myself.  Lastly and most importantly, I want to thank her for her friendship.  Please raise your glasses everyone.” 


Vincent began to speak.  “Family, friends, the New Year will be upon us shortly.  Let us give thanks for this past year, and pray that the New Year is filled with plenty of health, happiness and love.”  The ballroom was filled with the sound of clinking glasses.


Darrell brought out the party hats and favors from their hiding spot.  Brian turned on the radio and listened to Dick Clark countdown to the New Year.  While everyone was kissing or hugging someone, Vincent grabbed his wife, and gave her a kiss that lifted her off the ground.  Neither of them spoke.  Once Auld Lang Syne finished, Catherine had another announcement to make.


“Everyone, Darrell and I have one final surprise.”  People looked around the room, but Darrell and Mouse had disappeared.  “Please grab your coats, and go out the glass doors to the back yard.  I know it’s damp and foggy outside, but I promise, you won’t regret it.”


Mouse had left the doors open so people knew where to go.  The lanterns in the back gave the older ones some reassurance that they wouldn’t fall. 


Vincent took Catherine’s hand and began to follow the rest of the crowd.  “No Vincent, we’re going somewhere else to see this surprise.”


Taking his hand, Catherine led Vincent to the conservatory on the second floor, and out onto the balcony.  Vincent couldn’t believe that lanterns were on this balcony as well.  Catherine had purchased a whistle so Darrell would be able to hear her.  Once the whistle blew, the fireworks began.  Darrell had set them out in the theatre and pool areas of the back yard.  Since it was raining, he had to uncover all of them first.  From their balcony location, Catherine and Vincent could hear the guests enjoying the display.


Wrapping her arms around her husband, Catherine said, “Vincent, my balcony has always been a special place to us.  I thought it was only fitting that we ring in our first New Year as a married couple on a balcony as well.  Vincent, I know that we can’t have parties and fireworks every day.  I do know that whatever comes our way, I promise to be by your side…forever.”


Both Vincent and Catherine had tears running down their cheeks.  “Catherine, I promise to be by your side…forever.”  In unison they said, “That’s ALL I ASK OF YOU.”








I couldn’t have completed the final part of this story without the help of my Little Brother,

Jeff Davis.  To ensure the accuracy of the location I selected, he spent countless hours browsing through web pages and examined hundreds of photos.


Thank you all your hard work, and for believing in me, when I didn’t believe in myself.