A Break


She was feeling yucky. Blah. Not quite blue, but maybe gray. Why did January days do this to her? There was a drizzly rain in the air. Mouse had called it "spitting." That was a very good description. The sky was spitting on her.

Why was she so down? As she walked to the subway stop, Catherine Chandler admitted to herself that she was just tired – bone weary tired. She hugged her coat tighter to herself and trudged onward, joylessly attempting to avoid puddles. There would be no one to greet her tonight as she arrived home at the condo.

‘It’s as well that Vincent is away this evening. Maybe it’s time for me to do some thinking.’ Catherine said to herself. Catherine’s joy in her husband and her extended family led her to spend each moment in their presence – when she was not working.

Work. Her work in the DA’s office was taking a toll on her spirit. Her "big bro" Joe had been promoted and she had transferred to the trial division. The work she did was less dangerous but felt more emotionally draining. She did not always feel that way. She remembered the exhilaration of her wins and the satisfaction of helping others. Those moments of satisfaction seemed fewer and far between

Catherine finally reached her cozy yet silent home unlocked the door, and entered the Wells haven. Upon entry, she shrugged out of her coat and boots. She finger-combed her honey-blond hair and set off to the bathroom. Her trek was abruptly stopped by the phone’s ring.

"What time should I come over, Cathy?" It was Jenny! Did she forget a date with her best friend? "I know we don’t have plans tonight but I have a feeling you need some girlfriend time."

"Yes I do, Jenny. Can you pick up some sushi and get here whenever you can?"

"See you in an hour. Time me" responded Jenny’s perky voice.

"Better than Domino’s. See you, friend!" Catherine felt a little better. As she hung up the phone, she took a deep breath and reached out with her soul to feel the sweet link from her heart to Vincent’s. She felt that he too, was well but tired. She sent a message of love between their heartstrings. She felt better already.

Cathy washed her hair then ran a warm bath. Instead of her usual choice of classical music, she put on Lucinda Williams’s "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road." Good music to feel "gray" too. By the time "Still I Long For Your Kiss" played, she was singing along lustily and the hot water had been refreshed many times.

Not long afterward, her friend Jenny arrived to the old condo. Jenny barged in, put down her parcels, and gave Cathy a great big hug. "I had a feeling you needed to talk."

"Yes I do, Jenny, but I don’t know what about. I guess I just need to ramble -- and eat" Cathy said with a slight grin. "Let me make some green tea to go with our feast. Oh goody – salmon skin rolls!"

The friends first gossiped a bit about their friends and family and Cathy gradually relaxed so that her heart took over the conversation. "Jenny – I don’t know what’s wrong. I’m just so tired. Life with Vincent is wonderful, but when I find myself bustling about, I just want to cry. I feel ridiculous because I have been so blessed."

"Have you been to see Peter?"

"No, do you think I should?"

"To quote my bubby, ‘what could it hurt’?’ Jenny replied. ‘But Cathy, I think you have a right to be tired. You have been going non-stop for years. Whenever you take vacation time, you are work below. When’s the last time you just took a week off and read a book that was not in old English? You have been so busy trying to help everyone and show how substantial you are, I think you have been neglecting yourself. Hasn’t Vincent encouraged you to take a break?"

"Yes, but I feel so guilty. But that does sound nice."

Jenny broke in. "I mean a real break. Time not to live by a clock or calendar. How about spending a day at the library, or the mall? Oh, heavens, to get a massage and facial!’

‘Let me ask you another question, Cath. Do you still enjoy your work? What else do you want to do when you grow up? No need to be in a hurry, anyway, about figuring out that last one."

"I admit work has been making me tired. I think the building is sapping my strength."

"Then take a real break – a sabbatical. You really don’t have to work for a living, so enjoy it! What use is a blessing if you don’t take time to appreciate it now and then? Here – I’ll write you a permission slip. But take a real break – no going below to help out the whole time you are off."

"Jenny – you are serious. Let me see that note." She looked at Jenny’s scribbled note. ‘I, Jenny Aaronson, best friend and honorary Jewish mother, give Catherine Chandler permission to take a break.’ Cathy felt tears in her eyes – at both her friend’s thoughtfulness and the promise of relief from doing just that. Maybe she would learn to cook – or refinish furniture. There were so many things in New York alone for her to see and share with Vincent.

"What would Vincent say, or Father? What would the folks below think?"

"It does not matter what Father thinks. I believe it’s a grand idea," rumbled a deep, stirring voice as delicious as chocolate. "Would it help if your husband also wrote a note, too?"

"Hey, big guy!" Jenny said cheerfully. She ran to give Vincent a quick hug while Catherine stared at him, open-mouthed. How did he arrive without her feeling his presence?

"Hello, my dearest honorary Jewish mother" Vincent replied with a grin. Then he turned to his wife. "My Catherine, you are weary." Vincent strode to his wife and sat on the couch beside her. He had barely opened his arms when she collapsed into them. "I did not want you getting up to greet me in the tunnels, as I knew you would have if you had felt my return. It is most fortunate I snuck into my own home, so to speak. I think Jenny’s words have reached you where mine have not. You do deserve a rest, my darling. During this sabbatical you are welcome below, as my dearest and as a beloved helper – but not a working resident."

"But Vincent…"

"No ‘buts,’ my Catherine. Jenny – how much notice should Catherine give her work?"

"Two weeks is customary. Vincent, do you think we can take turns sitting on her to make her do this?" Jenny said laughingly.

"That won’t be necessary. Thanks Jenny." Catherine felt herself on the verge of tears, not quite believing this audacious, liberating plan.

Jenny, ever the intuitive friend, hugged her friend and let herself out. As soon as the door closed, the threatening tears trickled down Catherine’s wan yet lovely face.

"God – why am I crying now? I am such a wuss!" Catherine sniffled.

Vincent was not sure what a ‘wuss’ was but was sure that Catherine was not one. He kissed her tears away then said "No, my dear Catherine. You are valiant and caring. But you are tired. Our years together have not exactly been uneventful’ he said with a wry chuckle. ‘Maybe your weariness comes from your desire to enjoy our happy life warring with your sense of duty. ‘There is a time for everything under heaven.’ Enjoy this time now."

"Carpe Diem" Catherine replied softly. Her eye looked less tired. Her body, now relaxed, molded to Vincent’s perfectly.

"Yes" Vincent said with a smile, and then he bent his head to gently kiss his dearest treasure. There was a hint of passion in their kiss, and also a sense of relief. Catherine was still so tired. Tonight he would tuck her into their bed and hold her as she slept. Tomorrow they would celebrate. Maybe he would take a little break himself.

And they lived happily ever after.