Elaine Lozano

The French doors slowly opened onto the balcony, as Catherine pushed them wide, the cool evening breeze tossing the loose strands of her honey blond hair. What a welcome change from the stuffiness inside! Her weekend trip for the college reunion had been fun, filled with laughter and a companionship of spirit you only find with old friends, but she was restless to return home. And as soon as she had dropped her bags inside the front door, she was impatient to go outside. Would he be there---waiting?

The full moon above, cast a pale light onto the patio furniture, painting them a ghostly white, as stray stars shimmered high in the blackness. Catherine’s eyes eagerly sought some sign of Vincent, but only stillness greeted her, as she made her way to the edge of the terrace, the faint hum of the traffic reaching up from the streets below.

Lifting her face towards the sky, Catherine’s lips broke into a smile of pure delight, as her glance caught a change across the moon. A black disc had scooped out a small portion of the surface--it was the beginning of a lunar eclipse!

Pulling a cushioned chair near the railing, Catherine sat and propped her feet up, getting a front row seat. She loved the night, and this was an added treat. Resting her head back and closing her eyes to help concentrate, Catherine drew her thoughts together and centered on Vincent--reaching out to him as only she could--wanting him to share this--where are you, my love?

Vincent stood quietly in the embrace of the shadows on Catherine’s balcony. He had been carefully watching her movements since she arrived. He felt a slight pull on the bond as she stretched her mind to him, but Vincent remained silent They spent so much of their time apart that these glimpses of her everyday activity were precious to him. However, sensing her increasing restlessness, he moved slightly forward, his booted feet scraping over the patio stones to get her attention.

Immediately, Catherine dropped her legs to the pavement, excitement bubbling through her as she stood and turned towards him. Shyly, Vincent waited to approach, but Catherine could no longer contain her excitement, and swiftly covered the ground between them, impatient, as always, to be held in his arms.

He enfolded Catherine in the warmth of his cloak, and drew her close, her very presence chasing away the last wisps of loneliness which had surrounded him ever since she left. Catherine wrapped her arms around his waist and lifted her head, catching Vincent as he nuzzled her hair. "Hello stranger", she teased. "Welcome home, Catherine," his husky voice was muted and soft, as if whispering a secret just for her, how good it was to have her back again!

Leading with his heart, Vincent dipped his head, surprising Catherine, as she felt the first stroke of his mouth across her lips. Since her "birthday kiss", Catherine could measure the level of his impatience to caress her based upon these first meetings after a separation He must have missed her quite a lot this weekend! Her eyelids slowly closed as she gave into the warm, melting sensation Vincent was creating with his lips and tongue, making any further conversation meaningless.


Later that evening------

Like a princess in a sultan’s harem, Catherine sat among the multicolored pillows laid out in the corner of her balcony with Vincent reclining behind her, his arms crossed securely across her waist, his cloak enfolding them. They traded comments on the eclipse, and Vincent relayed the latest news of the tunnel community. The moon was all but gone now, just a thin crescent of glowing white light.

For a moment or two neither one of them spoke, each with his own thoughts, watching the night sky before them. Suddenly, Vincent’s arms hugged Catherine a little tighter, as his deep sigh drifted past her ear, breaking into her reflections.

"I missed you while you were gone Catherine, his voice was smooth, contradicting his nervousness. "I felt your presence within our connection--a faint trace of brightness, like the moon above. But the darkness--was strong. It teased my fears with thoughts of you and--there was a man---who called--on the machine-" Vincent’s voice dropped as shame snatched the words from his throat. How could he tell her of his trip last night to her balcony, the answering machine picking up the phone call from someone by the name of Rick, and how much he enjoyed sitting at the reunion dinner with Catherine, and would she be free this weekend?

Catherine sat rigid in surprise. Called? On the phone? Instantly, the answer came to her, causing her lips to draw together in annoyance. Of course--it was probably Rick, the brother of her college roommate. They sat together at the reunion dinner. He was a policeman--probably got her phone number thru the DMV records. She thought she had nipped his interest in the bud, obviously stronger measures were needed, but that could be attended to later.

Slowly, Catherine turned her head, but caught only the veil of Vincent’s hair, as he had shied away from her. Jealousy, loneliness--this was the darkness he was speaking of. The distress in his voice caused Catherine’s heart to catch in her throat. She knew she had to answer carefully. Vincent would analyze and weigh everything she said. A response just to dismiss his uncertainties would not do.

The silence between them continued. Vincent felt an anxiousness start to seep in his mind, expanding his unease. Was he alone in this?

Sensing his struggle, Catherine kept her voice soothing. "Sometimes we can’t control the darkness Vincent--it takes over, feeding our fears when we’re alone. Gently withdrawing her hand from the shelter of Vincent‘s arms, Catherine stretched her fingers toward him, needing to touch, to make a connection. "But you’re never alone, Vincent. Even while we were apart, you felt me with you." Cautiously, Vincent turned his head, as he felt Catherine’s heart rate accelerate in her anxiousness to make him understand.

Her searching fingers finally came to rest on his cheek. "We’ll be tested many times in our relationship, but everything that makes up who we are to each other will give us the strength to overcome these doubts. Never forget--how much--I love you." There it was out. Those three words that changed every relationship.

Vincent brushed his lips across Catherine’s palm--how did she find the courage! She turned each obstacle he put in her path into a stepping-stone, building a bridge between them, forming their relationship. Tears came to his eyes as he felt shame at what he had thought. He promised himself to repay her trust, to be the man she deserved. He felt her ripple of happiness at his display of affection. Nevertheless, Catherine deserved the words. Words, in the past, Vincent had always felt would tie her to him. Now, he realized how cruel he had been to withhold them. He reached for Catherine’s hand, withdrawing it gently from his cheek, and threading their fingers together.

Catherine’s gaze went from their clasped hands, to Vincent’s face, and the breath stilled in her body. She knew from his intense look, what he was going to say.

"I love you, Catherine." His voice was clear, the gaze of his sapphire eyes direct. He did not stumble over the words--they had been practiced so many times.

He had moved through his fear. Together, their strength and her love had guided him. "Again, Vincent," she coaxed him, "Tell me again--" She drew herself forward, so as not to miss any nuance of his voice. She wanted him to repeat it over and over, until she could replay it in her mind, and have captured the depth of his heart in the words.

Shyly, he smiled at her request and complied, lowering his head a little closer, so his lips were but a breath away from hers, and repeated, slowly, "I love you."

Above them the eclipse was over, the full moon glowing with a cool ivory brightness, having freed itself from its shadow. The evening breeze had shifted direction from the north, giving the air a cool, fresh bite, as the night deepened. Catherine’s breath was warm as it stirred close to Vincent’s ear and she invited him, "Would you like to come inside----

The End