“The Fires of Fall”


(Part 4 of The Guest)



By Joanne Grier



They wheeled Bree into her room following surgery and Devin settled into the chair beside her bed, resigned to stay there until she awakened, no matter when that might happen. To hell with visitor hours and rules, he wasn’t leaving!


She looked so pale and delicate beneath the blankets. The stark white of the bandage contrasted sharply against her dark hair making her appear more fragile. The sling that suspended her leg dwarfed her with its size.


Devin sat in silence, holding her hand and praying that his beloved Bree would indeed be fine as the surgeon had stated. He tried to replay the scene from the morning in his mind to clearly see how this senseless accident had happened.





They had all been in the backyard enjoying Catherine’s surprise visit. She had been in Bangor obtaining a deposition and had called saying she was near and asked if it was all right to come for a visit. The past two hours had been spent in laughter as Catherine shared her travel adventures, recounting how she hadn’t been able to get a direct flight and had made two stops before arriving in Bangor. Bree had only been without her cast for less than forty-eight hours and was using her crutches for support, as her ankle and leg were still weak.  She had just begun therapy to strengthen her leg that morning.


Charles had gone inside to get the iced tea and cup cakes when they heard a loud thrashing coming from the woods. It wasn’t unusual for forest animals to come near the cabin, for there was lush vegetation surrounding it. Neither Devin nor Charles ever bothered the animals if they were outside; they just stood quietly until the animals moved away. Both of them enjoyed the picturesque beauty of the wild creatures and over the years many of the animals sensed they had nothing to fear from these humans.


From the dense growth, a young buck appeared. He bounded ahead, then stopped in fright. Catherine jumped up in alarm and the red dress she was wearing fluttered in the breeze. The buck charged toward her then, suddenly frightened, turned and frantically sought an escape from the tangle of chairs and people.  Bree had been seated on a ledge near the edge of the rock garden, between the buck and the safety of the woods. She stood just as the buck started toward her. Her ankle caught between two stones and she pitched forward. In his fear-crazed flight to freedom, the fleeing buck struck Bree's head. She screamed as she fell.


Devin had started running as the terrified animal charged and he clearly heard the bone snap as Bree hit the ground. He yelled for Catherine to call 911 as he reached Bree’s side. Her ankle was still pinned between the two rocks. Stretched out on the ground beside her, he pressed his handkerchief against the bleeding wound on her head. He knew better than to move her.


“Bring me some towels,” he shouted, “and keep Charles inside.  He doesn’t need to see this.”


Catherine raced back outside, handing him the towels and gasped as she saw the blood soaked handkerchief Devin pressed against her head.  “The ambulance is on the way.  They estimated ten minutes.”


“Keep Charles inside, in his bedroom and stay with him. Don’t let him out here. And call Dr. Edmonds to come over immediately. If you can’t get him, call Ed. His number's by the phone, you’re likely to need some help with Charles.”


Ed, Devin’s supervisor and friend, and the ambulance arrived together and Ed went immediately into the house. Charles was overwrought and frightened. He wanted to be with Bree, yet he was terrified by all the strangers and the red flashing lights that filled the yard. Catherine softly spoke to him, reassuring him that Devin was with Bree and he was taking care of her. Ed spoke gently but stood firmly against the bedroom door prepared to block Charles from leaving.


They heard the back door slam and then Dr. Edmonds calling to Charles. Ed eased away and opened the door. “The medics are getting ready to load Bree into the ambulance and Devin is going to ride with them. I told Devin I would stay with Charles.”  He stared at Catherine, only just then realizing that she was in the room.  “Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t know you. I’m Lincoln Edmonds. Are you a family friend?”


Catherine introduced herself and just sort of helplessly stood next to Charles, uncertain as to what more she could say to soothe him.  Dr. Edmonds stepped forward and took Charles by the hand.  “Charles, why don’t you sit down while I explain what is going on outside and how they are helping Angel Bree.” Gently, he tugged and Charles took a step away from the wall where he had clung in refuge.


Charles sat in his recliner and Dr. Edmonds took a seat on the bed next to Catherine. In very simple terms, Dr. Edmonds explained all the paramedics had done and how they had bandaged Bree’s head to keep the wound clean and free of germs.


He told Charles very forthrightly that he didn’t know about Bree’s leg, but the paramedics were treating her like it could have been broken. “Charles, would you allow me to give you a shot, to help you relax and make you feel better?  I have my medical bag with me and I think it would be wise. It will be hours before we know anything and high anxiety and stress aren’t good for you.  Would you consider this?”


From his very first meeting with him, Dr. Edmonds realized that Charles was intelligent and he never talked down to him. He kept his words simple but didn’t sugar coat things nor lie, as he knew Charles would know the difference.


Charles looked at Catherine for support and guidance just as he would have looked to Vincent for support. “It would be a good idea, I think.  Anxiety makes difficult situations harder to handle and we need to be very supportive of both Bree and Devin. We don’t want Devin to be worried and concerned about you, do we?”


“If you think Dev would want me to do this, OK. But I don’t have to look, do I?”


“No, of course, you don’t have to look. I never look either,” she offered with a tender, loving smile.






Devin stepped out of Bree’s room and used the phone at the nurse’s station to call home. He briefly explained about the surgery and her head injury. After being assured that Charles was okay, he hung up and returned to Bree. All through the night, the nursing staff monitored Bree and as soon as they finished, Devin again took up his position huddled against the bed, his arms wrapped around her. Seeing that he was only wearing a thin shirt, one of the nurses draped a folded sheet over his shoulder. “Let me know if you’d like a blanket.”


At eight in the morning Ed and Catherine quietly slipped into the room. Catherine kissed Devin's cheek and wrapped him in her arms.  She saw the residue of tear stains on his cheeks. They moved to stand near the door and spoke in hushed tones. Devin told them about her injuries; she had several fractures in her foot and two small breaks in her ankle and she had a concussion from where the buck struck her head. They were concerned about her erratic heart rhythm, so they were checking on her hourly.


Catherine indicated she planned to stay for a couple more days, just so that Charles felt surrounded by family. Ed said he would check in daily with Dr. Edmonds, who was now residing at the cabin to be near Charles. Ed handed Devin his truck keys. “It’s in the parking lot for when you’re ready to head home. Ms. Chandler drove it up and I’ll take her back to the house.”


Catherine handed him a bag. “There’s a tooth brush, razor and a change of clothes in here. I brought you two shirts. You might want to change out of that one so you don’t scare Bree when she wakes up.” Startled, Devin looked down at his shirt and realized it was covered in blood.


“Call if there are any changes or if you need anything. Don’t worry about Charles, we’ll take care of him.”  They quickly said their goodbyes and left.  He pulled off the blood stained shirt and slipped on a fresh one from the bag Catherine brought, then returned to his place beside Bree.


Two hours later, he felt Bree’s hand in his hair. Tears streamed down his face as he looked into her eyes. “How ’ya feeling, babe?”  He leaned up and kissed her gently as his tears continued to fall.


She whispered, “I love you” as her eyes fluttered and closed.


Minutes later, the doctor and nurse walked in and Devin told them she had awakened briefly.  The doctor read the chart the nurse carried, then examined Bree.  “It was a long surgery, as we chased several tiny slivers of bone chips from the broken bones.  Her pulse is strong and her heart rate has returned to normal. She’ll drift in and out but should be fully awake very soon. We’ll continue providing nutrition via IV for another twelve hours and then start her on liquids. She’s on antibiotics and those will also continue. I think you have nothing about which you need to worry. The ankle is going to be painful. Did I understand correctly that she had just gotten out of a cast two days ago?”


Devin told the doctor about Bree’s previous injury and that she was just learning to walk again. The doctor shook his head, clasped Devin on the shoulder, and said goodbye. Within seconds, the door opened again and an older nurse slid a tray onto the rolling table.  “Here’s some breakfast for you. Eat up. You gotta have strength if you are gonna stay rooted to that chair.” She grinned and quickly left.


He was only going to drink the coffee, but the food smelled so good he realized he was hunger and dug in. After eating, he grabbed his tooth brush from the bag - his mouth felt like he hadn’t brushed in a year, and he slipped into the bathroom. He splashed water on his face but ignored his beard, and returned to Bree.


Noticing some eye movement beneath her lids, he began talking to her.  He told her Charles was okay, that Catherine was with him and as soon as she felt able, they would call Charles so she could speak to him. His conversation went on; he talked about anything that came to his mind, hoping he was helping to bring her out of the anesthetic. Another hour slipped away and still his beautiful Bree did not awaken. 


The elderly nurse came in to check her vitals. “Keep talking to her.  Talk a little louder and ask her to wake up. Rub her arm. That usually helps.”  He began to rub Bree’s arm and spoke in a firm voice, “Come on Bree, it’s time to wake up.”  The nurse smiled and left them alone.


Slowly, her eyes opened, fluttered and closed again. She tried to respond to Devin’s voice but her eyelids wouldn’t cooperate and she couldn’t keep them open. Devin got a wet cloth and tenderly wiped her eyes, hoping the cool wetness would help. Slowly, they opened and she stared at him. “Where am I and what happened?”  Devin struggled to control his voice as he told her what had happened and about her ankle. “But why does my head hurt so badly?”  He told her she had a mild concussion from where the buck’s head had hit against hers as he had fallen. “The doctors said it could have been worse if the buck hadn’t fallen just before he got to you, so his momentum wasn’t as great.”


“I’m thirsty. Am I allowed water?”


“I don’t know, but let me ring for the nurse and we’ll find out.”  The nurse came, told them no water for another hour, but did give her a couple of ice chips. 


The afternoon passed into evening, then into night and Devin continued to stay beside Bree. The staff encouraged him to go home, but he continuously refused. The furthest he went was to the bathroom, and that was only when his kidneys screamed for relief.  Bree drifted in and out, and Devin’s voice was constant. He talked of his adventures around the world, various jobs he had held and how he missed Vincent so much. He told stories, recited poetry, anything he could to keep her mind stimulated. He was terrified if he stopped talking that his Bree wouldn’t return to him, that he would never be able to look into her beautiful chestnut eyes again. 


Through eyes swimming with tears he looked up to see Bree staring at him, her face full of loving concern. Her hand stroked his face. “Don’t be afraid, I’m won’t leave you. You are my world and I love you. Put your head down and rest, luv, I’m here.” He felt the slight pressure on her hand and he slowly lowered his head. Her hand stayed in his hair, stroking him as she whispered again of her love.  Her voice shattered the iron control that had held him for the past forty-eight hours and he sobbed, repeating her name as his tears fell.


Just before he reached full consciousness he felt Bree’s hand still in his hair and soft fluttery movement as she touched him. He opened his eyes, seeking her, and she offered a tiny smile of welcome. He gathered her lightly in his arms, kissing her beloved face before his mouth claimed hers.


It was another twelve hours before Bree convinced him to go home, get some sleep and to check on Charles. Twice as he was leaving, he turned back to retrace his steps back to her room, but her voice in his head forced him to turn again. Charles must be out of his mind with worry, so he doggedly went forward.






After telling Charles about Bree, Devin went into his bedroom to shower. He wasn’t surprised when Charles followed him. It was clear that Charles was frightened. His world had been badly rocked and he needed to be near Devin. He stripped and stepped into the shower, talking of anything to reassure Charles that things were going to be okay in his world. He didn’t even blink when he awoke, eight hours later, to find Charles sitting on the chair beside the bed holding his hand. “Hey.  How about finding me a cup of coffee while I get dressed?”


Charles grinned, rose and walked out of the room. Devin was standing at the sink shaving when Charles brought him the coffee.  Charles continued to reach out, his hand touching Devin's shoulders, his arm or hand, needing the constant reassurance that he was there.


Devin was hungry, so together, they headed for the kitchen. Over his breakfast, Devin told Dr. Edmonds, Catherine and Charles all the details. He left out nothing because he knew Charles would questions him for the smallest detail concerning his Angel Bree.  Catherine indicated she had to leave that afternoon because she was due back at the office tomorrow morning, but she would stop to see Bree before heading to the airport. She looked at Charles and saw fresh tears cascading down his face. He abruptly got up and rushed from the room. Devin started to rise, but Catherine waved him back. “Let me.” She followed Charles, knowing he would probably be on the porch.


Catherine took Charles’ hand as she joined him on the porch swing.  “It’s difficult when people leave, isn’t it? I was glad I had this time with you although I regret that Bree was hurt. Do you know being with you helped me handle Bree’s injury? You might not think it’s true but you have been a big comfort during this time. I’m sorry I have to leave you, but I’ll do my very best to fly back next weekend.  We’re family - you, Devin and I - and I want to be here to support you until you have your other sister back. Will it be all right if I come back to visit you again?”


“I wish Vincent and Father would come, too. I miss them.”  His voice was wistful as he struggled with his emotions.


“Hopefully after Bree is all well, perhaps all of you can come to the city so you can be with Vincent and Father. Would you come sit with me while I pack?  I’d like that very much.”


Back in the kitchen, Dr. Edmonds filled Devin in on how Charles had behaved since the accident. He explained about giving him a mild sedative because he was so anxious and nervous. He also said that Angel and Charles had been inseparable.  “I’m not certain who was comforting whom, but that darn cat never left his side, rubbing on him and draping himself over his shoulders. He couldn’t seem to get close enough to Charles.”


“Angel does seem to be attuned to all of Charles’ moods and seems to instinctively know when he is upset.”


“Let me offer you this. What you do is your own business.”  Dr. Edmonds pulled his chair closed and in a low voice he began his speak.






Catherine had been gone for two hours when Dr. Edmonds said he needed to get something, got in his car and drove away. Roughly twenty minutes later Dev took Charles by the arm and escorted him to the truck. “I need you to just sit quietly, don’t worry, and just believe I know what I’m doing.” They pulled into the service area behind the hospital and he handed Charles the brown fedora, complete with the netting attached, that he had made those months previously when Bree had originally been hurt and Devin tried to get Charles to fly with him to New York. “Don’t talk and just follow me. I’m taking you to see Angel Bree. Dr. Edmonds is up there, too.”


They entered the service door, walked down a short corridor, Devin paused at the first turn and lightly drew an arrow pointing to the way they had come and repeating the arrow at the second turn.   “If we get separated for any reason, take the stairs down, turn left and follow the arrows back to the door. Get in the truck and lay down.”  They entered the stairwell and climbed three floors. Devin cracked open the door, looked out and saw Dr. Edmond holding court on the far side of the nurses stations. He grabbed Charles’ hand and they quickly walked the two doors to Bree’s room. Dev stuck his head in and then pulled Charles inside.


Bree gasped in surprise then opened her arms as Charles rushed to her side. Devin stood blocking the door, taking in the joyful reunion as Bree and Charles hugged and cried. “We have a max of ten minutes before the rest of the nurses come back from their dinner break. Dr. Edmonds is distracting the other staff ... hopefully he can keep them entertained.”


Charles continued to touch Bree’s face between kissing her cheek.  Bree whispered and touched him, telling him of her joy in seeing him. Charles asked multiple questions about her leg, wanting to know how he could take care of her at home. He promised that next time he would try to bring Angel to see her. Devin smiled at that bit of news and wondered how he was gonna sneak the cat into the hospital.


“I’m sorry, but we gotta break this up. We have to leave. Dr. Edmonds is going to take you home, OK?  Kiss Bree and let’s make tracks.” Devin watched in total joy as Bree lightly kissed Charles on his lips, telling him she loved him. Charles pulled on his hat and dropped the netting into place, hugged her once more and walked toward Devin.


Once again, they slipped into the stairwell and ran down the steps.  The grin on Charles’ face didn’t vanish as they hit the door and got into the truck.  They didn’t have long to wait and soon Dr. Edmonds pulled in beside them.  “Don’t wait up for me.  Go to bed at your regular time and we’ll talk in the morning.”  Devin waited until Dr. Edmonds pulled away before he reentered the service entrance.






When Devin re-entered Bree’s room the nurse was there taking her vitals. “Your pulse is a little rapid. Are you feeling anxious?”  Bree looked at Devin trying to suppress a smile. “No, I think I was just a little upset because Devin is late getting here.” The nurse exchanged a guarded look with Devin and then left.


“Thank you,” she softly murmured. “He looked so much better when he left, less scared and frightened. Can we call him when you think he’s had time to get home so I can tell him goodnight one more time?”


Carefully, he leaned over, fitting his mouth to Bree’s and thoroughly kissed her. “Tell me how you’re feeling this evening. Are you in much pain?” His arms wrapped around her as he pressed a kiss to her cheek.


They talked, but neither one of them could keep their hands still as each needed the reassurance of touching. She touched his hair, wrapping it around her finger and he kept kissing the fingers of the hand he held. Their breathing slowed as they were enveloped within the sphere of their hearts; words weren’t needed as they eyes spoke their language of love and encircled them within its cocoon of warmth.


It was close to three in the morning before he left Bree’s room. He had been content to hold her – one arm curved around her head and the other across her body against her arm – as she drifted asleep. She was beautiful, her face free of pain, and he could see the child she had been as she relaxed. He recalled her happiness when she told Charles goodnight on the phone. Minutes afterward she happily sighed and closed her eyes after kissing him. His heart was so full he couldn’t leave, and so he continued to hold her.




Their days became routine as they worked through settling to life at the cabin without Bree. Charles was now fearful of the backyard and it took all of Devin’s patience to get him to return there. He was even more frightened that something could happen to Angel when he walked around on his lead. Catherine called everyday to speak with Charles and he was eager for Friday when she would return. Dr. Edmonds moved back home but came every evening to stay with Charles while Devin went to the hospital.


Devin phoned the burn center, spoke with Ms. Bettendorf, Bree’s supervisor, and told her about the accident. He indicated plans for Bree to return were indefinite as she would likely be recuperating in Maine. Politely, he asked her to send any necessary paper work to him and he would see that Bree got them. After he gave his address, he hung up and called Mrs. Hawkins. He told her that Bree would be away longer than they had planned and asked if she would forward the mail to his address. After that he called all the utilities, arranged for the services to be put on vacation status and asked that billing be made to his credit card. He also phoned Bree’s condo management, alerting them that she would continue to be away and they should continue to contact Bree through the telephone number he had provided.


Catherine’s visit was a godsend for Charles. She wasn’t his Angel Bree, but her open adoration and love went a long way to ease his fears. Except for a brief trip to see Bree, she devoted herself to Charles during her weekend. They played cards and she helped him work with his model ships. Whenever it was time, she accompanied him to the backyard to exercise Angel, romping and playing with the cat until she had Charles laughing.  She told him all the latest news of Vincent and Father, what Mouse and Arthur were doing and how Mary and all the children were. In the evening, she took over reading to Charles at bedtime so that Devin could stay longer with Bree. All too quickly it was Monday morning and she had to catch an early flight back to the city. Their goodbye was tearful but Catherine promised to return as soon as she could and she would telephone.




The day before Bree was to be released Devin frantically cleaned his bedroom, clearing out all the dust and debris that had seemed to accumulate during the two weeks she had been in the hospital.  He kept the washer busy all day doing all the clothes he had neglected. He was grateful Catherine had done all the grocery shopping for him on her weekend with them. Charles was equally busy preparing the living room and collecting all of Angel’s toys that were scattered about.


Finally, Bree came home to the two men who adored her and their world was once again complete. Charles did not leave her side, doing everything he could to make her comfortable. He read to her or just sat holding her hand. He got out the pen light, letting Angel chase it around as Bree watched and laughed.


Her ankle was still very painful, but she knew she was past the worst pain in the hospital. Devin carried her to the bathroom, teasing her about how it was getting old having to haul her to the john. She teased him right back, saying he enjoyed getting a brief look at her bum when he helped get her panties up. Their first day went smoothly as they rejoiced at being a family again.


Charles was reluctant to say goodnight. He returned twice to Bree before going to his own room to be certain she didn’t need or want anything. After reading Charles to sleep, Devin tiptoed into the bedroom to get his pajamas. He slipped into the bathroom to undress in the dark and then crept out. He stopped at the door just filling his eyes with the sight of Bree in his bed. Softly, he sighed and knew he would sleep tonight, something that had escaped him most nights since the accident.


His hand was on the knob when she called his name and he crossed to her sitting on the side of the bed. “Could I have some water, I’m thirsty.”


“Sure, if you promise you won’t pee the bed.” He heard her giggle in the dark. Knowing how she hated tepid water, he went to the kitchen filled a glass with ice and got cold water from the fridge.  He helped her sit up so she could drink more comfortably.  Afterwards, he quietly sat there just gazing at her, his whole being content that she was beside with him. Her arms reached up to slip around him drawing him down as she kissed him. 


She felt wonderful in his arms, his heart thudded rapidly as he rejoiced in the warm feeling of her mouth on his.  Shakily he grew away, breathing deeply and trying to control his desire. “Would you stay here with me tonight, holding me like you did when we were at my apartment?  Those two nights I slept so deeply while being in your arms, having you next to me.”


He looked down, kissed her again and then stood. He helped reposition her cast so that she lay on her side then walked around the bed and lay down beside her. She brought her head to lie upon his shoulder, her hand over his heart as his arms encircled her body, drawing her close.


His heart rate finally slowed and his breathing became more normal.  The struggle within continued, yet within his heart he knew it was a struggle he would always have until Bree was truly his. Glancing at her, he saw how serene and peaceful she was as she slept cuddled against him. Finally, a semblance of peace seized him and he finally slept.






Most days Bree and Charles were alone together as Devin’s days were occupied at the fire tower located five miles from the cabin.  His duty began at 10 a.m. and he got off at 6 p.m. The weekends were more or less free, but most of the time Devin’s free hours were filled dealing with his software business. He tried to work all day Saturday at his desk so that he could have Sunday free to be with Bree.


Although nothing was said, Charles understood Devin’s need to be with Bree, so on Sundays he stayed in his room reading and writing his weekly letters to Vincent, Catherine and Father. He came out of his room to take Angel outside to play and for meals but otherwise he left the couple alone. Sometime they could hear him talking to Angel, telling him that Dev and Bree wanted to play huggy bear, kissy face and it wasn’t polite for them to invade their privacy. All of this made perfect sense to Charles as he remembered conversations with Dev about privacy and married people.


Early Sunday morning they were all gathered around the table for breakfast. Angel was, as was his habit, tucked inside Charles shirt with only his eyes and nose visible through the one open button of the shirt. Bree smiled at every meal on seeing this phenomenon, although the two of them seemed to feel this was Angel’s normal place. She remembered the first day when she had given Charles Angel and how he tucked him inside his shirt after she had commented that Angel was used to the shared body warmth of his siblings.


All conversation stopped as Charles’ question registered. “What?” choked Devin from his pancake filled mouth.


Charles just smiled as he repeated his question, “When are we getting married?  I want it to be soon so Angel Bree never has to leave us again.”


“What prompts you to ask that?’  Devin sputtered as he tried to swallow his pancakes.


“Well, Dev, Bree said her ankle was healing and as soon as she could walk again, she’d have to go home. Her home is here with us and I don’t want her to go away. She needs to be here so we can protect and care for her. She’s my sister and I want her here forever.”


A look passed between Bree and Devin, both the corners of their mouths tipped up as they smiled.


“Well, to be absolutely honest, I haven’t gotten up my courage to ask her yet!”




“I said I haven’t been brave enough to ask her to marry me yet.  I was trying to wait until things were normal.”  Devin’s voice changed two octaves during his brief reply.


“Oh, OK, I’ll ask. Bree will you marry Dev so we can be a legal family?” Charles smiled sweetly as he made his simple declaration of love in Dev’s behalf.


Bree looked first at Charles and then at Devin and smiled serenely.  “Charles, would you tell Devin that I’d be honored to marry him?”


“Dev, Bree said she’d marry you.” He grinned happily at them.


“I heard her, I heard her!” He grabbed Bree, wrapping her in a bear hug and enthusiastically kissing her. “You really mean it, you’ll marry me?”


“Bree, honestly, I meant to ask. I didn’t want to pressure you while you were ill. I love you so much, more than I ever thought it was possible for me to love. I feel like a fool, but Lord am I glad Charles asked.” His face-splitting grin said everything, all the things that he had trouble openly declaring.


Abruptly Charles stood. 


“Hey, where are you going?”


“I gotta go call Catherine and tell her we’re getting married and then I gotta write to Vincent.” His long legs quickly carried him into the living room and they could happily hear him calling Catherine. His excited voice echoed as he literally shouted his news into the phone. Minutes later Charles was yelling for Dev to come talk to Catherine.






The weeks that followed were busy as endless decisions were discussed. Bree was exploring the possibility of working at the local hospital, which had a burn unit. Ideally, she wanted only to work part-time, making herself available full-time when they received new burn cases. They all agreed they wanted to remain in the cabin in the woods and Devin discussed the possibilities of adding another room onto the cabin with Mr. McWilliams who was the head of the forest preserve. He wanted to add a larger bedroom, another bath and closet for them, then he could move his software business and the citizens band radio out of the living room.


One Saturday evening after Charles was asleep, they sat cuddled together with Bree on his lap. Normally, he avoided this intimacy, but tonight he wanted to look Bree in the eye while he talked. The talk flowed around but it took a while for him to come to the point; to break a life-long secret.


Haltingly, he began by just generally telling Bree how for years he hadn’t known the man he called Father was his actual birth father.  He spoke of their years of fighting and how devastated and demoralized he had been to discover who his birth father was. And the bitter rage, yes, the almost raw hatred he felt. How that had indirectly led him to leave home.


It took some time for him to actually explain that “home” was a series of tunnels under Central Park and that home extended over several square miles of the city. The people who dwelt within the tunnels were, for the most part, wounded souls and disenfranchised refugees from the city that had beaten them or who could no longer survive in the heartless city.


He explained how they had in time come together to form a community where they lived in peace and harmony, caring for each other. How some worked jobs within the city and gave their earnings back to the community that kept them safe and that nurtured their collective souls.


Patiently, he answered her questions, aware that he was blatantly breaking the creed he had lived with his whole life. And just as devoutly as he had kept that creed, he knew Bree would never repeat what he had said. Her honor would not allow it.


“What I am going to say, this last part, may be difficult for you to understand.” Slowly he began to talk of Vincent; where he was found, how he had been brought to the tunnels, and how the tiny, starved and frozen infant had survived against all odds, and how Father had adopted him as his own child. With great care to detail and soul-deep love he began to describe Vincent to her, explaining his unique features; that his teeth resembled fangs and his nails were like claws.


He paused and withdrew a folded sheet of paper from his shirt pocket. Carefully, he unfolded it and then turned it so that Bree could clearly see. “This is a drawing I made of Vincent several weeks ago because I knew I wouldn’t be able to do justice to his profound beauty.”


Bree took the drawing, then slowly with one lone finger she began to trace over the face. “He’s magnificent.”


“He and Charles bonded immediately because of their unique features, as neither of them is readily accepted in our world.  Vincent has lead a lonely restricted life and it wasn’t until he found Catherine dying in the Park, saved her life that he began to live a normal life. Their love is beautiful beyond knowledge, it shimmers and shines around them and brings joy not only to them but to all who see them together. It may be a somewhat restricted life, but it has filled my brother with boundless joy. With Catherine’s love, most of my dreams for Vincent have been fulfilled."


Devin paused, then added, “I realize I have given you much to think about tonight. I don’t want there to be secrets between us, but I hope you understand why the tunnels, Father and Vincent aren’t freely shared. The majority of people wouldn't understand and they are fearful of the unknown.”


Bree nodded in understanding.


“I know you probably want to have a wedding in New York so you can be surrounded by your friends and that’s fine with me. Would you object if we also had a ceremony Below so that Vincent and Charles could witness our union?” he asked. “When you get out of the cast, I want us to travel to the city so that you can meet Vincent and I can show you where I grew up. It’s important that you see and know about my tunnel heritage. Are you willing to do that?”


“I can say that what you have shared is beyond anything I conceived that might possibly be your secret. It seems wild to think there are people living beneath the city, but its New York and I’ve certainly seen stranger things as I’ve traveled about the city. I think I might need some time to digest all of this.”


“But one thing I want you to know, I don’t find Vincent strange at all. Oh, sure I might be startled if I came upon him suddenly but I know I wouldn’t be fearful. Working at the center, I’ve learned never to judge people by their outward appearance. Inside, God made us all beautiful, and I prefer to live in a world that recognizes that beauty.”


Devin was overwhelmed. He had expected Bree to understand but never to the degree that she had. He understood her work allowed her a different perspective of humanity, yet he was completely and utterly surprised when she said Vincent was magnificent. No one had ever referred to him in that way; certainly no stranger.


Softly, he kissed her. Bree was all he had secretly dreamed of throughout all his years alone. She was a woman whose heart knew no boundaries in its love and who would accept his brother and home. Once again, he realized how important it was for him to have Vincent as an active, vital part of his life. For years he tried to deny the love between them, mixing and confusing it with his anger with Father but he always knew that when he thought of home, he thought only of Vincent, his touchstone.


They continued to sit on the sofa and he held her on his lap, both of them needing the physical closeness this brought. There were still major decisiosn to be made and they knew all of them wouldn’t be resolved as simply as this one.


Together, they felt they had faced the fires of fall that had erected stumbling blocks to their happiness. Now they were positive their lives would move forward and, like Vincent and Catherine, they too, would find their happy life.


Both of them realized they would never be alone again and they were prepared to face life together with Charles and Angel at their side.




The End*




*Coming soon Part 5 – “The Ice of Winter”