The Light of the Moon

By Katie A.

Catherine was standing in the paved area just beyond the park access tunnel, looking up at the sky. It was a fine night, a bit cold, but not bitter. The skies were clear, and the stars were visible, albeit faintly. The moon, however, was large, bright, and full. It seemed so close. It made the night magical, full of possibility.

How she wished she could share it with Vincent. He was sleeping, healing from an injury sustained in the lower tunnels on a pipe repair job. At least it wasn’t because of me this time, she thought. All too often, it seemed, Vincent had been injured when coming to her rescue. She felt so bad about that. When Vincent had been so ill, she had even spoken of it with Father, wondering if she might have subconsciously gotten herself into trouble so that Vincent would come to save her. It rattled her badly, and had caused her to make a change in her job. Father had been relieved when she told him of the change.

“Not just for Vincent’s sake, my dear,” he said when he saw the look on her face. “I have become extremely fond of you, dear Catherine, and I was beginning to be VERY worried about you. Peter will also be overjoyed that you have changed your job, I am sure.” He had looked her in the eye, and said, “You must face it, Catherine, you have wormed your way into my stubborn old heart, and I will worry about you just as much as I worry about Vincent.”

He had hugged her then, and she had been glad to feel the solace of having someone to be a father to her again. Peter did a pretty good job, but he was very busy. Father was as close as a walk Below, and always seemed glad to see her lately, she had to admit.

That had been several months ago, and she and Father had remained fairly close, though she was afraid that every now and then her part in the sudden appearance of needed supplies was suspected, and not always strictly approved of. Oh, well. They were working on it.

Tonight, they were both relieved that Vincent’s injury was fairly minor, and he would heal quickly if he got enough rest. Catherine had left Vincent’s chamber for a while so that Father could have some time for necessary care, and for sitting with his son. She had heard there was supposed to be a lovely full moon tonight, so here she was to see it. “For both of us,” she whispered to herself.

She had left the door and gate open when she came out, not intending to stay that long, so she didn’t hear Father’s approach until he was very near. “The moon is indeed lovely tonight, isn’t it?” he asked.

“Yes, it is,” she answered, taking his arm to provide both a little support, and to share a little warmth. “How is he, really?”

Father smiled. “He’s mending already. He’ll be fine. The moon was somewhat tragic for him when he was a child, you know.”

Catherine smiled sadly. “Yes, I know. He told me that story. I still say the little girl was crying because her father was driving away and leaving him behind in the park, not because she was afraid of Vincent.”

Father smiled back at her. “I believe you’re right. Children always seem to find Vincent intriguing. Even when he was a child, it was only those who were jealous of him for whatever reason that teased him. None ever seemed to be frightened of him.”

“I decided to come see the moon tonight so I could tell him about it, see it for both of us, since he couldn’t come up to see for himself, but this is even better. Now I can share it with you, too,” Catherine said, hugging Father’s arm.

“You have such a loving heart, Catherine,” Father said. “Don’t worry about ‘offending’ me with your help. I know that you supplement our shipments from helpers from time to time, and I don’t mind. I am glad you use discretion, though. I would hate for anyone here to get the idea that you would finance whatever they decided we needed. After that debacle with the treasure ship, I’d just as soon avoid giving anyone the temptation to be greedy.”

“I can certainly understand that, Father, and be assured, I would never send down something that I wasn’t sure was necessary, even if it is a bit ‘extra’ I always ask the other helpers what they’d do if they could do a little more, and then I provide the means for them to do that little more, that’s all.” She was so glad to finally get this out in the open between them. She really did love this sometimes gruff old man. He was really such a dear man, so devoted to both his son and his world.

They stood looking at the moon a bit longer, and then Catherine suggested that, as it was so cold, she should go see if she could “score” some hot chocolate from William for them. Father chuckled and said, “My dear, I doubt there is anything in his power to provide that William would ever refuse you. You have quite stolen his heart. You praise his cooking, and obviously enjoy eating it, though I fear he will still say, and I might agree, that you are too thin.”

Catherine ducked her head, ignoring the fatherly concern for her health. Her weight was within normal limits for her height, she was just built on the small side. “I appreciate culinary skill where I find it, Father. Telling the chef you enjoy his cuisine is only right,” she stated. “I’ll meet you back at the library.”

She parted ways with Father at the branch in the tunnel going off toward his library. They had closed and secured the gate again, and waved to the sentry post on their way by.

Jamie, who had sentry duty that night, smiled to herself as Father and Catherine walked past. It was good to see the two people who meant the most to Vincent finally getting along so well. It made things more pleasant for everyone. Besides, Catherine was really good for Vincent. Good for Below, too, Jamie thought. She was a good Helper.

Catherine entered the library carrying a tray with two steaming mugs of hot chocolate and a few of William’s prized molasses lace cookies.

“Oh, my,” Father said appreciatively, “thank you for having this lovely idea, Catherine. I’m going to have to send you off for treats more often. William NEVER sends me these cookies unless I beg.”

Catherine smiled at him over her mug of hot chocolate. “I asked him what that absolutely heavenly aroma coming from his kitchen was, and he said I had to try these cookies!”

They enjoyed their hot chocolate and cookies, savoring every last sip and nibble. Catherine yawned as she put down her mug. “Sorry, Father. Guess I’m more worn out than I thought,” she said.

“Nonsense, my dear,” Father told her, “you have had a long day. Why don’t you go check on Vincent and then go to bed? Let me know if he needs anything.”

“I believe I will,” Catherine said, rising from her chair. “Good night, Father, and thank you. I love you.”

Father got a bit choked up as she leaned over and kissed his cheek after those words. “I love you, too, my dear. Sleep well.”

Father spent about an hour trying to read but instead thinking about how much his relationship with Catherine had improved. He decided it was time to check on Vincent one last time and then get some sleep himself.

The sight that met him as he entered Vincent’s chamber warmed his heart. Catherine had evidently fallen asleep sitting on the side of Vincent’s bed, and had slumped over so her head was above his on the pillow, one hand on his hair, the other on his chest. Vincent had shifted in his sleep so that his face was turned toward her, and he rested one large hand possessively at her waist.

Smiling, and certain that these children of his heart were getting the rest they needed, he carefully removed Catherine’s shoes and lifted her feet onto the bed. She shifted to accommodate this, and Vincent’s hand moved to pull her a little closer to him. Neither woke. Father grabbed the quilt folded at the foot of the bed and carefully covered Catherine against the chill. He then doused all but one candle, and tiptoed out of the room, grateful for having these two in his life. They had both taught him so much.

He smiled again to himself when he found himself wondering when they would ask him about planning a joining ceremony.

He hoped they’d ask him to officiate. Who would have believed he could feel this way two and a half years ago? Certainly not him!

I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong. Brava, Catherine! Father thought as he drifted off to sleep.

The “all’s well” went out on the pipes from all the sentries; William was snoring, and dreaming of tomorrow’s breakfast; Arthur was curled up with Mouse in the Mouse Hole; Vincent was resting and mending, Catherine by his side; and Father was in his chamber.

All was right with the world Below.

The End