By JoAnn Baca



“Love is the opposite of good sense.”

Marjane Satrapi


The late-spring snowstorm, howling wind and low visibility adding to the trouble of navigating through massive drifts, made New York City a nightmare for traffic and pedestrians. Anyone with a modicum of sense was staying inside on this frigid April evening.

She had been unsure of how to dress when she got out of the shower, so she threw on a pair of well-worn sweatpants and a Radcliffe College sweatshirt that had seen better days. Heavy cotton socks kept her feet warm enough that she decided not to put on shoes. Her hair was clean but she hadn’t bothered to do anything but towel dry it, as she wasn’t yet sure what she would be doing tonight.

Sense and Sensibility, Catherine thought, ruminating that the title of the novel she had been reading seemed to be mocking her from her nightstand. This was April 12th, and her anniversary with Vincent would be celebrated, terrible weather notwithstanding. She was adamant. If she had good sense 364 days of the year, today she had to be excused. But…how?

She wandered from her bedroom into her living room, and stared glumly at the raft of candles awaiting their annual trip to the balcony. They would not be traveling beyond the boxes she had brought up from her storage room in the basement this year.

As she drifted into her kitchen, she sighed. Instead of the repast she had planned, she gazed dejectedly into the nearly empty refrigerator. The order she had placed weeks ago with the caterer had been canceled with apologies by the owner, who had called personally to explain that, even if he had been able to get to her apartment building, there had been no deliveries due to the storm, so his own cupboards were bare.

Even her gift for Vincent – a visit from his brother, paid for by her and arranged to accommodate Devin’s complicated schedule – was a no-go. Devin, in medical school and working to pay for it, had called to advise her that his flight from Calgary had been canceled due to the weather, and the short vacation he had managed to carve out between classes and work would be over before the airline could re-book him.

Going Below was always a possibility. She considered it as she entered her living room and poked desultorily at the meager fire in the fireplace. The log delivery she had been expecting had not arrived, and since, in anticipation, she had already lit the few logs she’d had left, they would be nothing but smoldering coals in another hour.

So…Below. She could go Below to celebrate with Vincent. And everyone would be happy to see her. So happy that they would continually interrupt her and Vincent as they attempted to have a quiet evening “at home” in his chamber. And they were all so sweet and loving, it would really be impossible to deny them entry. At least, Vincent never seemed to be able to ask for the privacy they might want. He didn’t even have a lantern to place, unlit, beside his entry, much less a curtain to drop over the entrance. Hmmmm…maybe that would be a good idea for a future Winterfest gift, she mused. Still, that wouldn’t solve tonight’s problem.

As she poked at the burning logs, there was a knock on her door. Assuming it was a neighbor, she put down the poker and went to her door. It would take her some time to unlatch the locks, all of which she had latched earlier in the day, in anticipation of a visit from Vincent via their balcony. She called out, “Just a minute, the locks….”

A familiar and unexpected voice replied quietly, “Quickly, Catherine.”

Catherine unlocked the latches in record time and flung the door open. There, standing in front of her, was Vincent, the hood of his cape nearly – but not completely – obscuring his features. He stepped into her apartment with no hesitation, fear of discovery overcoming his usual reluctance to step over her threshold.

She didn’t let her astonishment get the better of her. With alacrity, Catherine shut the door and rebolted all the locks. Then, turning, she gaped at Vincent. “What were you thinking?” she asked, contemplating the considerable risk he had just taken.

“I was thinking that this is our anniversary and, despite the weather, we must celebrate it, here, as planned. Common sense and I have definitely had a parting of the ways, I know.” He reached up to throw the hood back and shook his head, releasing a mass of golden hair.

Catherine, still working to contain her surprise, watched as he removed his cloak. He stood before her dressed in his most elegant clothes. As she took in the sight of him, she became all too aware of what a sight she presented. “Oh, Vincent! I’m sorry, I….”

Vincent gazed at her as if she were wearing an exquisite outfit. In fact, it was the way he always gazed at her, no matter what she was wearing. Catherine forgot about her apology, knowing his love for her transcended her outward appearance, and instead she smiled as she said, “Make yourself at home. I’ll just go slip into something a little less comfortable!”

When she emerged from her bedroom a few minutes later, clad in the outfit she had planned to wear for their now-aborted balcony celebration, with her hair brushed and left down in a simple style, she noticed that Vincent had begun taking the candles and their hurricane lamp holders out of the boxes in which they had been stored.

She helped him as he began to array the candles around the living room, filling the mantel and other flat surfaces with the bounty of pillars. The fire was mere coals now, so lighting the candles was a wonderful alternative to fill the room with soft flickering light.

As they worked, Vincent said, “I apologize for appearing so unexpectedly. Knowing how unsafe the rooftop ledge would be in this weather, I took a chance that most people would not be using the stairs to go to the parking garage tonight. It was a calculated risk, but one I was determined to take.”

Catherine smiled. “We could have met Below,” she said, acknowledging the more sensible option.

He shook his head. “We would have had no peace…and no privacy,” he replied, unconsciously echoing her thoughts of just minutes before. “Tonight is too important, Catherine.”

Her smile collapsed as reality hit. “Oh, I hope you ate before you came! The caterer canceled, so I have nothing to offer you.”

“I doubt that’s true,” Vincent said, but from the twinkle in his eyes as he said it, Catherine wasn’t entirely sure he was still talking about food. Nevertheless, she tried to think if she had anything that could pass for dinner, or their grumbling stomachs would interrupt them as much as anyone Below might have.

“Shall we check the larder?” Vincent took the lead, striding to the kitchen as Catherine lagged behind just far enough to watch him walk away. It was a view she never tired of, and got to enjoy too little.

A search of the kitchen revealed that Catherine did not spend much time cooking. They found a can of tomato soup in a cupboard, two bottles of red wine on the counter, a package of cheese and a stick of butter in the refrigerator, and a bag of whole wheat bread in the freezer. Vincent nodded. “We have the makings of a lovely dinner here, Catherine.” He eyed her outfit and added, “I’ll cook. Why don’t you uncork one of the bottles of wine and set the table.”

She did as instructed, first putting the soup on to heat up while watching Vincent quickly and efficiently slice the cheese, butter the bread, and begin to make grilled cheese sandwiches. She had just enough time to pour the wine and set the table with her best linens, silver and china before he called out that dinner was ready.

The simple act of eating together was something to be treasured, especially as there was no one else to interrupt their conversation. And their food was appreciated all the more because it was something they had worked on together. Catherine swore it was the best grilled cheese sandwich ever made, while Vincent admired the vintage of the merlot.

Clean-up became a game, their joy at doing such an everyday domestic chore like any other couple giving it special meaning. Then, replete and slightly tipsy, they retreated to the living room, sitting in front of the now-cooling fireplace, the light from dozens of candles casting dancing shadows over their happy faces.

Catherine sighed and leaned against Vincent’s shoulder. He lifted his arm to pull her closer beside him. “I don’t have a gift for you,” she began to explain, saddened that her surprise hadn’t panned out.

Surprising her, Vincent replied, “I know. Devin felt bad so he sent a message through Peter, letting me know you had tried to fly him home for a visit, and apologizing that his schedule made re-booking impossible. He wanted you to get full credit, he said.”

Catherine smiled and shook her head. “He was the one who had to make all the arrangements to get the time off. I was just paying for his ticket.”

“You had the generosity of heart to think of such a gift. And it would have been wonderful. But….” He turned to gaze deeply into her eyes as he said, “If he had arrived tonight, we would not have had our full evening together.”

“I know, but I thought, under the circumstances….” Yet she felt a thrill run through her at the thought that Vincent preferred her company to even that of his beloved brother.

These are the circumstances I prefer,” he said, once again echoing a thought of hers. Catherine was beginning to wonder if their Bond was opening a little wider on her part these days…or if they now were so in synch that they thought much the same way.

But contemplation like that had to wait. For Catherine found herself in Vincent’s arms, and his mouth descending upon hers, with no time to consider anything but a brief, delighted anticipation before her dreams began to come true.

It turned out that Vincent’s gift didn’t come in a package this year either. And it was a circumstance they both preferred. Which was very sensible, when you think about it!