All That We See or Seem

By Katie A.

This story is a follow-on to the very beautifully written story “The Bridge” by Cynthia Hatch. [To read it online, go to or find it in the zine Kaleidoscope 1.] This is merely my take on what could have happened next, all credit for the idea itself goes to Ms. Hatch, and the dreams her story inspired in me. You will have to have read “The Bridge” for this story to make sense.

It was a long walk back to Catherine’s apartment, but it was wonderful. They talked, and looked at the beauty of the city before them, and found that they had many interests in common.

They had enjoyed their “belated” steak dinner, and were relaxing on one of Catherine’s little couches.

Phillip leaned in and kissed her, and it was wonderful, and exciting, but he pulled away again. “Philip?” she asked, “is something wrong?”

“No, nothing’s wrong at all, Catherine,” he answered. He spoke seriously, yet he caressed her arm gently at the same time, as though to soothe her. “I just think we need to be careful not to rush into intimacy. Not that I don’t want to, I mean, I’m only human!” he said, laughing, “it’s just that we’ve really only just met, and I want you to be certain about us before we do anything physically that implies so much commitment. You see, Catherine, if we become that close, I will probably never want to let you go again.” His eyes were fixed on hers, the blue depths of them so very familiar to her, in a way they really shouldn’t be… they truly had only just met. The speech had a familiar ring to it, too.

“I understand, Philip, believe me. I agree. It’s only wise to be certain about a relationship before things get too involved.“ She smiled and added, “And even though I’d LOVE to explore more possibilities right this minute, I can be patient.” I can be VERY patient, she added to herself, seeing Vincent’s face again before her, just for a moment, surrounding those very compelling eyes.

He laughed and, rising from the sofa, he pulled her up with him, drew her into an embrace that also felt startlingly familiar, and was SO welcome. Did he just kiss my head? she asked herself, Oh, that would be TOO much of a coincidence. I must have imagined it.

She had ceased to be quite so worried about her sudden flashes of her “delusional” world, satisfied that she was healthy now, and could deal with those images rationally.

“I think, on that note, I should depart. By the way, if you wouldn’t find it too stuffy an affair to attend, the university is having a formal faculty dinner on Friday to honor a retiring professor. Jacob’s coming, in fact, he’s going to stay over at my place that night because he’ll be up rather late, and I worry less if he lets me take him to the store on days after a night like that. Perhaps you’d like to stay also, I have two guest rooms, and you’d have all the privacy you want. Also, you know Jacob will be a good chaperone.”

“Hmm. It’s been awhile since I attended a very formal affair, but I do have experience with things like that, you know.” She quirked an eyebrow at him. “However, you’d have to pick me up from work, because given the hours I have to make up, I’ll be there too late on Friday to have time to come home and change. I can take my evening clothes with me and change there. Would that work?”

He agreed that it would, and they agreed upon a time on Friday late afternoon when he would arrive to collect her.

I’ll get to see where he lives, she thought to herself. That will reveal quite a lot about the man.

Oh, and he’ll probably get to meet Joe. THAT should be interesting…

She went to sleep with many possibilities dancing in her head.

The entire following week was hectic, and the way things were going, Catherine was afraid she’d miss her plans with Phillip. She decided to tell Joe that she needed to leave by 5:30 on Friday, and it was NOT negotiable.

He responded in typical fashion, “What’s up, Radcliffe? Got a really hot date?”

“As a matter of fact, I do.” She grinned at him.

He looked a little surprised, but he laughed, and said, “Good for you, Cathy, I just hope he’s worthy of you.”

“You’ll get a chance to see for yourself, Big Brother, “ she couldn’t resist teasing him back “he’s picking me up here tomorrow afternoon. We’re going straight from here to a formal dinner at Columbia.”

“The university?” Joe asked.

“Yes. He’s a professor of literature there, and a very distinguished colleague of his is retiring, and they are having a formal dinner,” Catherine told him.

“Oh, well, I look forward meeting him,” Joe replied, and he sounded sincere.

Cathy narrowed her eyes at him “Don’t you give him the third degree, Maxwell! He’s a good guy, and he’s bringing his mentor along also, the older gentleman who runs that little bookshop where I found your History of Baseball for you.”

“Hey, Cathy, I’ll be good, I promise. I just want you to be happy. Now, let’s get back to work, or you’ll never get loose from here on time tomorrow!”

Friday was every bit as hectic as Cathy had feared it would be but, promptly at 5, she shut the last file, straightened her desk, and picked up the garment bag and makeup case she had brought up with her that morning. She went to the ladies’ lounge and set about making herself into the socialite she had once been. Well, almost, she thought, looking at herself in the mirror. Not as much superior attitude, not as much makeup, and a whole lot more heart! She decided she would do, and headed back toward her desk.

As she approached her desk, she heard voices, and saw Joe talking with Jacob and Phillip. The topic appeared to be baseball. Good. That will keep Joe from being too nosy for his own good, she thought with a smile as she gathered her things, making sure her work clothes and shoes were in the garment bag, and putting a few things into the evening bag she had brought so she could leave her purse in the trunk of the car with her luggage. It was then that she felt a shiver go down her spine. Someone was watching her. She looked up and met Philip’s eyes. The look in them was SO much like the look Vincent turned upon her when he couldn’t believe she was real and really there to be with HIM. She smiled at him and, moving to join the little group outside Joe’s office, she asked “I take it I’ll pass muster at the retirement dinner?”

Before Philip could answer, Jacob said, “My dear, you are absolutely STUNNING!! They won’t know what hit them when you walk into the room!” He extended an arm to her. “Shall we go?” Looking over his shoulder, he said, “Phillip, you can get her bags, can’t you?”

Catherine laughed and, turning her head to look over her shoulder at Phillip, she said, “I appear to have been commandeered. I only have the duffle, garment bag, my briefcase and the large purse. Can I leave those in your trunk until after the dinner?”

“Certainly, Catherine,” Philip said, “and you DO look wonderful tonight. “

“Thanks,” she answered. Then she addressed Joe. “Thanks for entertaining my dates until I could get back out here, Joe. I left the Gordon file in my out basket for you, and I’ll see you Monday!”

“Good night, Cath. Have a great time!” Joe answered. “Philip, Jacob, it was really nice to meet you. Now I don’t have to worry that Radcliffe here is hanging out with a shady crowd after hours!”

“It was our pleasure, Joe,” Philip answered, easily carrying Catherine’s bags. “I know Jacob ALWAYS enjoys talking baseball, and it was very nice to meet someone who is such a good friend of Catherine’s.”

“Indeed, Joe,” Jacob added, “it was a distinct pleasure. There are a few other books I believe I have in stock that you may be interested in. You should stop by and take a look at them.”

“Thanks, Jacob, I believe I just might!” Joe answered with a smile, heading back into his office.

Catherine was greatly relieved. At least the meeting between Joe, Philip, and Jacob had gone well. Now to get through this formal dinner…

True to form, Philip found a parking space right near the entrance to the hall where the dinner was being held. “It’s truly amazing how you do that,” Catherine said to him with a smile

“Do what?” he asked with a sly grin.

“You know perfectly well what! “ Jacob added from the back seat. “The way you ALWAYS find the absolutely perfect parking place without even TRYING is just plain astounding to us mere mortals who have to circle the block three times and then settle for a place a long walk away from our destination.”

“It really annoys him that you always seem to get a good space, doesn’t it?” Catherine asked Philip with a sly grin of her own.

“Yes, it would appear so,” Philip answered, a twinkle in his eye.

This is going to be a very interesting evening. Catherine turned her attention to the hall they were entering. It did not look familiar to her, therefore it wasn’t someplace she ever spent much time in during law school. Jacob had relented and let Philip escort Catherine into the dinner. He saw her trying to figure out if she knew the building and said, “This is one of the School of Arts buildings. I doubt you would have seen much of it when you were at the law school.”

“Ah, you’re right. I wasn’t anywhere but where I HAD to be in those days, and then only long enough to do my research or hear the lectures, and I was off again!” Catherine replied. “I wasn’t the most steadfast of students in those days. I did well enough, though.”

They had entered the reception and joined those milling around and enjoying a cocktail before dinner. Philip went to the bar to get them each a glass of wine.

A smiling young man came forward. “Ah, Dr Wells! It is so good to see you again!”

“Well, hello, Geoffrey! Lovely to see you, my boy!“ Jacob answered.

Geoffrey and Jacob were chatting and catching up, and Catherine was feeling a bit at a loss. A man came up and introduced himself. “Hello. You seem to have been abandoned by your companions, there. I’m Robert Simons, I’m a professor at the law school and, unless I’m very much mistaken, you are one of our distinguished alumni!”

“How do you do, Professor Simons, I’m Catherine Chandler. I’d hardly call myself distinguished, but I DID graduate from the law school here!”

“Miss Chandler, your work with the District Attorneys’ Office is quite well known!” Professor Simons responded. “No need to be modest!”

He stood a little closer, crowding her space, making Catherine feel ill at ease. She was just about to step back and excuse herself when she felt a presence at her elbow, and saw Professor Simons look up in surprise.

“Here’s your wine, Catherine,” Philip said. “Hello, Simons, isn’t it? From the law school?”

“Yes, Dr. Paxton, that’s who I am. I didn’t realize Ms. Chandler was here as your guest.”

“Obviously,” Philip replied, and turned to Catherine. “Are you ready to go find our seats, Catherine? I believe we will be called to dinner shortly.”

“That sounds lovely. Please excuse me, Professor Simons,” Catherine said as she took the arm Philip offered and they moved away from the startled law professor.

“That was a very timely appearance you just put in, Philip. I was wondering how to politely disengage myself.”

“I am sorry it took me so long to get back to you, Catherine. I’m afraid Professor Simons has a bit of a reputation. You would think he’d know better than to try to crowd an assistant district attorney!”

“Unfortunately, Philip, a lot of men just seem to think that a woman’s a woman, and they have the right to treat us like second class citizens, no matter who we are. He’d have found out firsthand about my training with Isaac Stubbs if he’d gotten much closer. I am a bit defensive and jumpy lately.”

“I’ll try to remember that,” Philip said with a devilish smile.

“Oh, you!” Catherine responded. “You know better. I also have a feeling you would take no for an answer if that’s what you were told. You are a gentleman.”

“That’s what I always endeavor to be, Catherine, but I, too, have my defensive side, especially where you are concerned.” The look in his eyes was too familiar for Catherine’s comfort. She was very relieved when they reached their seats at the table, and found Jacob again, who apologized profusely for “abandoning” her like that.

“No worries, Jacob,” she said with a smile. “It’s a party, and you are supposed to be able to enjoy conversations with friends old and new! I take it young Geoffrey is one of your bookstore protégés?”

“Yes, yes, he is! I think you may have seen him there on one occasion. He’s a very bright young man, so very creative. He’s in the creative writing program here, a Humanities major!” Jacob said with pride.

Philip smiled indulgently. “One of Jacob’s many successes!”

The rest of the dinner passed pleasantly enough. When they took their leave of the festivities, Philip drove them back to his house, which was very near the university.

After they removed their bags from the trunk of Philip’s car, Catherine looked up at the house. It was a large, older three storey house. It had an Arts and Crafts feel to it, though she wasn’t sure about the actual style. It WAS dark out, after all. Philip led the way up the path, carrying the larger of Catherine’s bags, and Jacob’s satchel. He unlocked the door and led them into the foyer. There, standing near the stairwell that was open to the floors above, was a tall statue of Blind Justice. Catherine’s head was spinning just a bit, her certainties no longer so certain. Something about this “reality” of hers was very, very off. Something was nagging at her, just beyond her ability to grasp it.

“Catherine, dear, are you feeling all right?” Jacob asked, seeing her somewhat befuddled look.

“Oh, yes, Jacob,” she answered “I just have the strangest feeling that I’ve seen that statue before, and not in a courthouse, but in someone’s home.”

“Ah.“ he said with understanding. “Someone in a dream, perhaps?”

“Something like that,” she answered, knowing that Jacob knew she was talking about her “imaginary” world.

Before she could say anything else, Philip returned with the rest of Catherine’s bags, and Jacob said, “Well, children, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to turn in. I assume I’m in the usual guest room, Philip?”

“Yes, Jacob. You’re in the room right next to mine, as always. Sleep well,” Philip replied. “Here, Catherine, you’re tired after such a long day. Let me show you to the upstairs guest room.”

As he led her up the stairs, she had a very strong feeling of déjà vu. That last bit of conversation could have come straight from Vincent. In fact, something pretty close to that did, on several occasions.

Philip led her to a lovely room, decorated in an eclectic mix of antiques, which, of course, also felt far too familiar. She was beginning to feel a bit rattled, as though she might be having a relapse.

No, no I’m not. I know this is happening right here right now, and that I really am in Philip’s house, not Below. I’m just tired. She told herself.

“This room has an en suite bath, Catherine. I thought that would make it more comfortable for you. “ Phillip said, sounding just as gentlemanly and caring as ever.

“Thank you,” she answered, “I hope I am not putting you to too much trouble.”

“Oh, no,” he answered, “this truly is a guest room. My own suite downstairs is quite luxurious, I assure you.” His eyes twinkled.

“Well, then, I’ll let you go and enjoy it, after you check on Jacob. Good night Phillip. Sleep well.” Her eyes twinkled, too.

“Good night, Catherine. Sleep well.” He hugged her before he left her there to settle in.

Oh, my, I really need some rest. I could swear I felt him kiss my head again, the way Vincent always did.

She set about taking a shower and getting ready for bed. It really was a lovely room, and she fell asleep almost as soon as her head touched the pillow.

The dreams started almost as suddenly, too. She heard something beeping, like the machines her father was hooked up to when he was in the hospital before he died. She didn’t hear any other “hospital” sounds, though. She was just starting to process that, when the image of falling rocks, and the sound of Vincent screaming her name ran through her mind. She was reeling from that image when she felt herself being rocked in someone’s arms, and heard a very familiar voice pleading “Wake up, Catherine. Please wake up. Please come back to me.”

She opened her eyes, and realized she WAS awake. She was no longer dreaming. She also was not in Philip’s house. She recognized the wallpaper. She was in PETER’S house.

Of course, Peter was the one person that I SHOULD have gone to for help when I couldn’t find my way Below, and Peter was nowhere to be found. I didn’t even have a recollection of his involvement with Below, nor did I have a reason for him not to be in town. How odd. So, then, the “reality” I’ve just been in was obviously the dream.

Slowly, the rocking and the voice entered her consciousness, and the strong arms that held her, the beloved voice entreating her to come back, the wonderful scent of him, the luxurious fall of his hair.

“Oh, Vincent,” she said, astounded at how weak her own voice sounded to her.

“Catherine!” Vincent said. “Oh, Catherine, you DID come back. I’ve missed you so.”

“What happened?” she asked him.

Before he could answer, a familiar smiling face appeared. “You just rest a minute until we get you unhooked from some of this machinery, and get Peter and Father in here to see you.”

“Jana!” Catherine said. “So, you are helping Peter in our little Above Hospital Chamber!”

“Yep,” she answered as she worked. “Linda and I help out whenever Peter needs us and we have time. Thank goodness we haven’t been needed too much until you decided to get yourself buried in a rockslide.”

“Well, I’m very glad Peter has two such fine nurses available who are also Helpers,” Vincent stated.

“You get your gorgeous self back in the other bed, mister, or Father will have my hide!” Jana told him.

Vincent blushed, but did as he was told.

“You were injured too?” Catherine asked him.

“Yes, but not as seriously as you. Father wanted to get some x-rays, so I came up here. “

“HA!” Jana said. “They brought you up here because they knew you’d be here anyway. The x-ray was a bonus.” Her eyes twinkled wonderfully at them both. “Now, you two behave while I go get Peter and call for Father.”

“Yes, Jana,” Vincent answered with mock docility, and Catherine actually giggled.

“I never thought I would be using this hospital suite when I insisted on helping Peter set it up. I thought maybe Father, or Old Sam, or maybe one of the expectant mothers who was having a difficult time, or, God forbid, you, might need it someday,” Catherine said.

“Your generosity was never more appreciated, Catherine,” Vincent answered. “How would we have explained your injuries when you had walked safely away from the area where the gas explosion occurred, just ten minutes before it happened?”

“So, we got out BEFORE the explosion… I remember!! I was so afraid when I heard about the explosion, I told Joe I had to go home early and check on a friend who lived nearby,” Catherine said. “But how did we get hurt?”

“You were coming from your threshold, Catherine, when a tremor hit. I was on my way to you, I actually ran through part of the rockslide in order to get to you. My left leg was badly bruised. I got us both out, with help from our friends,” he answered.

Before she could ask another question, a very friendly and efficient presence bustled her way into the room. “Well, hello there, Sleepyhead!” said Linda, a cheerful smile on her face. “Glad to see Jana’s rumor is true! Peter’s on his way up, and Jana’s gone to get Father.”

“Wow, TWO doctors. I really rate!” Catherine said.

“Well, technically, Father is coming to check on Vincent, too, since he’s been having such awful nightmares lately. “ She glanced meaningfully at him.

“Really?” Catherine asked. “I’ve had a few myself.”

“Hmm.” Linda hmmed non-committally. “I’ll let you discuss that amongst yourselves or with your doctors.” The twinkle in her eyes was back.

Just then, the door opened again and Peter walked in. “Well now, what’s all this I hear about you finally being awake?”

“Hello, Peter,” Catherine said. “It is absolutely wonderful to see you!”

“Wow. That must have been SOME nightmare you were having, because I rarely get that response!” Peter responded.

“It was indeed quite a nightmare. First, I dreamed I was in the basement when it exploded, only on top of that, I had thought I was Below, initially, and that Vincent and I had been crossing a bridge, but he had leapt to the other side and left me behind.”

“Catherine!” Vincent exclaimed, “I would NEVER...”

“I know that, Vincent.” Catherine interjected. “That’s why the whole thing felt awful from the beginning. After I ‘woke up’ in the hospital, I went home the next day, and could find no trace of you. My crystal was gone, the Sonnets were gone, I tried to get Below, but both my access and the park were blocked, no trace of ever having been there.”

“I felt that!”Vincent said, “a rising panic, a desperation calling to me through the bond, and I couldn’t reach you. It woke me from a sound sleep, and I have been unable to wake you from your coma until you woke today.”

“How long have I been unconscious?” Catherine asked.

“Only two days, Honey,“ Peter said, examining Catherine as they spoke. “ I told Vincent that with the crack on the head you got, even though there was no apparent serious damage, you would likely be out a while, and that you might well have some doozies of nightmares.”

“Well, this one sure was. I dreamed that I had imagined Vincent and the world Below as a way to deal with my attack. I had superimposed the ‘fantasies’ of Below and Vincent over ‘actual’ events in order to deal with them. I even dreamed up what became the basis for Father, Vincent, the sound of the messages on the pipes… all kinds of things. There were logical explanations for most things.”

“But Catherine,“ Vincent said. “I felt your feelings of, well, happiness and …desire”, here he blushed beautifully, “during this time, and I thought it was for me…”

“It was, in a way.” Catherine smiled at him. “The person I dreamed I had based you on was a professor of literature at Columbia, and he had your eyes. I found that enchanting, but something was still missing, still nagging at me the whole time, as though I was missing the deeper truth.”

“And YOU were nowhere to be found in the entire dream, Peter!” Catherine exclaimed. “How could I have accepted it as reality without my godfather being there worrying over me?”

“Our psyches are strange and intricate things, Cathy,” Peter said. “Perhaps a part of you was trying to find a way to reconcile Above and Below, and the ‘fantasy’ aspect of it was one way to try that out.”

Catherine saw the look on Vincent’s face, and promptly replied, “Well, I much prefer our reality, complicated though it may sometimes be. I think I may have an idea or two that would make it less so, but those will need to be discussed.” She looked directly at Vincent as she said this, though she was supposedly speaking to Peter.

“Ah, my dear Catherine, it is so good to hear your voice again at last!” Father said as he came into the room with Linda and Jana.

“Hello, Father!” Catherine said, and he came and took her hands and leaned over to kiss her cheek. “I feel a bit like Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz,” Catherine said.

“Oh?” Father asked. “How so?”

“Well, I was having this dream that seemed really real, and most of you were there, but you weren’t, not really, and YOU, Father, in my dream were a retired literature professor who ran a small used bookshop in the Village, and you were a sports fan, baseball in particular.”

“That’s astounding!” Father replied. “Though a good game of baseball is perhaps the purest form of art in American culture.”

Catherine giggled. “I must have heard that comment from you at some point in the past, Father, for the bookseller in my dream said just about the same thing.”

“Well, my dear, you seem to be fully in possession of your faculties now, and Peter’s exam must agree with my informal assessment, judging from his expression.” Father smiled at her. “Now that you have regained consciousness, you will no doubt need some real rest, and perhaps my overwrought son will finally rest easy himself.”

“Father...” Vincent began.

“Now, Vincent, I am NOT laying blame, I am merely stating the obvious. For the two of you, together and safe is the best medicine. Now, let me look at your leg, and we will see about getting the two of you Below and into your chamber to recuperate for a day or two.”

They both looked at him with wide eyes.

“Don’t be so shocked. I know what’s best for my patients when it’s under my nose. You two are the best medicine for each other, and neither one will rest easy unless the other is within arm’s reach.”

“I agree,” Peter stated.

“It’s unanimous,” Linda said, backed up by an emphatic nod from Jana.

“However, we will miss seeing you every day,” Jana added. “And it would have been more fun with Cathy awake to help us tease you, Big Guy,” She said to Vincent with a wicked smile.

“Now, girls,” Catherine said, “We wouldn’t have teased him THAT much, and you know it!” She giggled, and so did Jana and Linda, just a little.

Father finished his checking on Vincent’s leg, pronounced it well enough for him to get home on, and left with Peter to make arrangements for getting Catherine and Vincent Below, and proper excuses made, etc.

Linda and Jana visited with their patients for awhile, making sure they had everything they needed, then left them alone.

“Alone at last!” Catherine said, smiling at Vincent, who had moved to stand next to her bed.

“Catherine,” he said softly, as he took her hands in his, “what things would you propose to make our reality more workable?”

“Are you sure you want to know, Vincent?”

“Yes. When you were unconscious and dreaming, I felt the terror in your heart when you thought we were lost to one another. I felt the same terror in my own heart. Catherine, what you felt in that dream, that I am part of you, that is true. You are also part of me. This bond of ours touches us both at the deepest levels. We NEED to find a way to be together, and I will no longer stand in the way of that.”

Catherine was a bit stunned by this, but she believed him. “I believe you do mean to try, Vincent. And you’re right. We need to be together, the bond is proof enough of that, and I was absolutely unhinged when I thought I had lost you, the asylum was no surprise at all. I would need to be watched if anything happened to you, but I doubt medicine could save me. Without my heart, I’d be dead anyway.”

Vincent sat on the side of the bed, and took Catherine in his arms. “I have put this off for the last time. In your dreams, I felt the possibility of kissing you. I must see for myself.” And he did.

As he pulled back a bit later, Catherine looked up at him and said, “Oh, Vincent. It’s like a dream.”

“Only BETTER,” he added.