CATHERINE'S LEAP


By ChicagoTunnelKid

This story is written by inspiration from Chan’s art piece titled ‘The Tunnel Hop” that Ron Koslow purchased; the only piece of fan art he owns.

 

 

With a sinking heart, Catherine watched her dress and cape drip into her lap from Vincent’s hand. It was time. She was going home. A place she thought 10 days ago she might never see and so badly wanted to be. Now, she hesitated. This place – this safe place was like a cocoon, wrapping her in tender care and concern, and even love. Not that kind of love, but love of a group of people who looked out for others and accepted her need for help and gave it. Especially Vincent. Incredibly, Vincent.

 

She hardly knew what to think about him. His voice, her only contact for so long, was so soothing, so rich, like her favorite liqueur. She couldn’t forget, would never forget her first sighting. Between her own stitched up face, and Vincent’s sudden appearance and unexpected countenance, she didn’t know what startled her more. Frightened? She sighed, looking at her lap. Yes, she was frightened momentarily. Shamed of it immediately, she strove to right her wrong when she folded back his hood, to look directly at him with trusting and accepting eyes. And now she would leave.

 

I’ll never see him again, this incredibly gentle person who has awakened something in me. I feel so off-balance for so many reasons that I can’t understand. I owe him my life. All I can give him in return is to promise I will look within myself to discover those lost parts of me that will make me whole again. No, not just whole, even better.

 

Vincent returned when she finished dressing and they began the trip back. Catherine kept her hood about her face, clutched in one hand as she used the other to steady herself. Vincent set a slow pace in deference to her weakness. They passed residents in the tunnels going about their business. They all either smiled in her direction, or gave a brief nod. Never minding her hidden face. How remarkable. These people had so little; they did not seem to find it incongruous that a woman in such a fine dress and cape would be walking through their tunnels hiding her face from them. But she was with Vincent. She suspected that was all that was needed to silence doubts about her presence.

 

The way back (and up) was no small trip; it was quite challenging, especially for someone who was not physically healed. But she persevered. She could not imagine making the reverse trip carrying her, as Vincent must have done. They turned left and she saw before her a large pipe running along one side of the tunnel with a space (a rather large one) before the path on the other side.

 

Catherine abruptly halted. She swallowed once, then again. How was she supposed to cross this? Vincent leapt over with hardly a thought. “Wait!,” she cried. So many thoughts spun through her mind. This barrier she confronted – was this her first test of her new resolve? Or was this an excuse she could use to stay? She was surprised how much she wished it were the latter.

 

Vincent turned. “You can do it. Give me your hand.” He extended his hand to help her leap across. This was the first time she touched him. When her hand met his spooning soup for her, he had jerked back so fast she barely registered the amount of hair. Now, she clasped his hand with hers, with no thought to his differences. She held her high heels in the other to give her the best sure-footed chance.

 

As she leapt, she considered whether she was taking a leap of faith, for as their hands met, she swore she felt something, just then, electricity or a tingle, something that had never happened for her before. She raised her eyes to his, and he looked back at her, never wavering his gaze. Blue eyes practically bored into hers. Her breath evaporated. Her world axis tilted once again; first her attack, and now – him. She knew she would never be the same.

 

Her breathing returned, and she followed him. Somehow she knew her time with him was quickly running out. Never had she felt so alone, so on her own, as she did now. She straightened her shoulders, walking ahead to her future, wondering what all she might be leaving behind.

 

 

Vincent’s Catch

 

Vincent’s hope for possibilities flowed out with her dress as it fell to her lap. Her time for leaving had come, albeit somewhat abruptly. She had seen him, and not at his best. It was better that she leave and resume her life, a life very different from his, one that could never be his.

 

As she dressed, he paced the outer tunnel. How could you forget? he chastised himself. He had heard her anguished cry and come into the chamber to see her head unwrapped, and the sight of her face as reason for her cry. Before he had thought to hood himself, he stepped closer to check on her and she caught sight of him in her makeshift mirror. She screamed, and threw it at him. He had thought she would be different. No, he knew she was different, just unprepared and horribly raw in feelings from her experience. Still, it hurt because his hopes had been raised.

 

She was ready. They began the walk back. He led; she followed. He tried to set a pace that would not tire her. If he were honest, he might admit he walked slower to prolong their parting. His thoughts focused on this woman and what he felt for her. He never had experienced the degree of connectedness he had with her. He felt her confusion and apprehension the further they walked. He hardly registered the other residents they passed, so focused was he on his own thoughts. He mind searched for some excuse to see her again, but he could think of none.

 

He leapt across the large pipe with nary a thought. Her cry of ‘Wait!’ caught his attention and he looked back. She stood, uncertainly, on the other side. Slowly her head was shaking no. She was afraid of making the leap. Something he and others did often was totally new to her, throwing her off her even keel, or at least as even a keel as one has after her 10 day experience.

 

“You can do it, give me your hand,” he encouraged. And before thinking, he extended his hand. She removed her shoes, leaned forward to grasp his hand, and jumped. She looked up at him, her eyes shining with accomplishment and gratitude. He was mesmerized. He finally broke the contact. He turned and continued guiding her out.

 

One moment. That was all it took for him to realize she was everything to him. And he was helping her leave. What kind of fool does that? The kind that knows his place and that hers is not in it. He would cherish the time he had with her and set her free.

 

At the edge of his mind, the memory of an expression tickled. ‘If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, you know that love is returned.’ Maybe, just maybe, this could be true for him. Granted, she had no way to return to him before becoming hopelessly lost in the tunnels. But if he waited a while, let some time go by, he could check on her to know for certain that she was okay. And maybe, just maybe, she’d ask him to stay a while.