Magic Mirrors

(Part II - Chapters 6 through 10)



Chapter 6



Father’s face instantly became anxious. “As if we didn’t have enough to worry about!”


After a short pause, the message changed. Peter and Catherine in the tunnels with two unknown men. One armed.


Father froze. “Catherine??!” he exclaimed.


“What does it mean, Father?” Pascal asked.


“I don’t know, but I intend to find out!” he replied as he hurried out into the tunnels.


Catherine, Peter, James and Octavian were hurrying as well. Catherine was practically dragging Octavian down the tunnels as fast as she could. Suddenly, Octavian froze, pulling Catherine to a dead stop. “Someone’s coming,” he said quietly. Automatically, James reached for his weapon, but Octavian stilled his hand. “I don’t think we’ll need that.”


“Father, be careful! It could be some sort of trap!” Pascal cautioned.


“That’s a chance I’ll have to take.” Father countered. “I must determine if this person really is Catherine. Everyone else, stay here. I’m going alone.” Boldly, Father went to meet the group. He hadn’t forgotten how Catherine had risked her life to return his beloved son to him. He owed it to her to show that same courage now.


Father drew closer in the dim light and blinked as he got closer to the group. “Catherine?” he called cautiously.


“Father!” she cried and threw herself into his arms for a fierce hug.


“Oh my dear girl, my dear, dear girl!” he said, barely holding back the tears.


After a moment, Catherine ran over to drag Octavian forward. “Octavian, this is Jacob Wells, the man I told you about. He’s Vincent’s father.”


Catherine!” Father gasped, shocked at her words. But Catherine shook her head. “No Father, you don’t understand! Octavian, please?” she begged.


For the third time in two days, Octavian laid aside the caution of a lifetime and revealed his unique face. “My God!” Father breathed in shock.


“Octavian is Vincent’s uncle.” Catherine explained. “He rescued me.”


“Rescued?” Father looked bewildered.


“I’ll explain later. Now we need to find Vincent. I sensed something terribly wrong earlier. Please tell me I imagined it,” Catherine inquired anxiously.


Father still seemed stunned by the sight of Octavian, but shook off his stupor at the mention of his son. “I’m afraid not. A short time ago, Vincent let out a cry of great anguish and then disappeared into the tunnels. We haven’t been able to find him. I actually feared that he might have somehow sensed you were...” Father paused unable to complete the sentence. “Thank God I was wrong and you’re alive, my dear. I don’t know if Vincent could have survived losing you.”


‘Where can he be?” Catherine cried, becoming a bit hysterical. Octavian stepped in.


Taking her hand, he spoke gently in a dulcet tone much like Vincent’s, but his voice rang with authority. “Catherine, you can find him. I know you think your bond is gone, but I promise you it isn’t. You and Vincent are one, now more than ever. You carry a small part of him within you. Concentrate on that part, and it will lead you to him.”


Catherine fought down her panic and closed her eyes. Taking a deep breath, she began to focus her thoughts. Think about the baby, our baby. Oh, Vincent, I need you. We need you! Don’t leave us! We love you! Inside her, something stirred.


Her brow furrowed, but her eyes remained closed. “I feel cold, but, there’s more! It isn’t just cold. I feel air rushing by me. It’s loud, almost howling. Wait, I heard that sound before!” Rapidly, she opened her eyes. “It’s the Chamber of the Winds. I felt him. Oh, Octavian, I did it! Vincent is there! I know he is!”


Catherine, are you sure?” Father asked curiously. But, it was Octavian who answered.


“She knows. They are joined. If she says he’s there, then that’s where we’ll find him.”


“Well, what are we waiting for?” Peter bellowed. “Let’s go! Come on, Jacob!”


Father appeared a bit dubious, but led the way. Soon, the group arrived on the steps of the Chamber of the Winds, accompanied by many of the curious tunnel residents. Octavian’s unique appearance had drawn a few stunned glances and much speculation, but no real fear, much to his surprise. It was a novel experience.


Everyone began scanning the vast cavern, hoping to catch a glimpse of Vincent. But, it was Catherine who spotted him first. “There he is!” she blurted out, pointing high above them.


On a precarious outcropping, dozens of feet overhead, Vincent stood, the wind roaring around him as it tossed his hair. He looked to be in a daze, as if not truly seeing his surroundings. Catherine gasped as he swayed dangerously. Frantically, Catherine called to him. “Vincent! Vincent! What’s wrong?!! Why won’t he look at me?!”


“Perhaps he can’t hear you.” Father speculated and added his own voice. “Vincent!”

Soon, they were all shouting his name.


“It’s no use! He doesn’t seem to hear us!” Father despaired. Desperate, he turned to Mouse. “Mouse, do you know the way up there? Can we reach him?”


“Know the way, yes. But, long. Take at least half an hour,” Mouse informed him.


“Then, we must make him hear us,” Octavian stated emphatically as he stepped forward. Turning inward, he summoned his own strength. Hear me, nephew. Hear the call of our bloodline. Catherine needs you; your child needs you. You are not alone, Vincent!


Drawing in a great breath, Octavian lifted his head and began to roar. The noise reverberated through the chamber and seemed to expand with each passing second. Soon, it rang from the walls, even dwarfing the howl of the winds.


High above them, Vincent’s trance waivered. After believing Catherine truly lost to him, he had wandered mindlessly until he found himself here. To know Catherine was missing had been sheer torture; but to feel her happy with another man had destroyed him. He no longer had a reason to exist. Without her, he was nothing. Instantly, the sound of a strange roar reached his ears. Finally, his stupor lifted as he realized the roar was not his own!


Wildly, he cast about for the source of the sound. But his attention was drawn by something else: Catherine! At once, his breathing became harsh and he scrambled down to a lower perch before merely jumping the rest of the way. His leap was awe inspiring, and Catherine instantly ran to him. “Vincent!” she  cried as she flung herself into his arms. Vincent grabbed her up and eagerly clamped his mouth to hers.


Everyone looked inordinately pleased except Octavian who looked positively woe begotten.


“What’s wrong, Octavian?” Peter asked in concern.


Then older man shook his head wistfully. “I used to be able to jump like that.”


James snorted in derision.” You sure could, twenty years ago! Face it, Octavian, you’re getting old!”


Octavian huffed in response. “Fine! Just for that, next time I’ll let you fall and save the yak!”


James’s booming laughter rang out over the group. “I have got to hear this story!” Peter exclaimed.







Chapter 7


Vincent was only peripherally aware of the other people present. He was too absorbed in Catherine to notice or care right then. After a short time, he picked her up and cradling her tenderly, headed in the direction of his chamber.


Father moved as if he wanted to follow, but Peter intercepted him.


“Leave them alone, Jacob. They need some time together,” he said.


“Nonsense. I want to make sure that Vincent and Catherine are both all right,” Father blustered.  Normally, Peter would have bowed to Father’s opinion, but this time he held his ground. Frankly, after the past two days, Peter had wished he’d interfered sooner.


Perhaps if he had, things might have gone more smoothly for the young lovers before now. Peter knew all too well how stubborn and unyielding Jacob could be, particularly when it came to his sons.


“Let them be, Jacob. Besides, I for one am ready to sit down. We have a lot to talk about. How about you, Octavian? Let’s all three of us take these elderly joints of ours somewhere more comfortable, like Jacob’s chamber.”


“Speak for yourself, you old sawbones,” Father retorted sourly. Peter decided it was time to unleash both barrels on Jacob.


“You’d better brush up on your pediatrics, Jacob. You’re going to need it.” Peter replied mildly. Father merely looked on acerbically. “After all, in a few short months, we’re going to have to start calling you Grandfather!” Peter finished gleefully as Father’s mouth dropped open and his eyes bulged in shock.  It was high time someone took the pompous old goat of a windbag down a peg, and Peter was ecstatic at being the one to do it! Jacob certainly deserved it.




Two hours later, Vincent slowly approached Father’s chamber. He and Catherine had spent the last few hours talking. He’d been stunned and elated to discover he was going to be a father. Truthfully, he was also a bit terrified. But, he was equally stunned to learn that he had an uncle who had been searching for him.


Just before she finally fell into an exhausted sleep, Catherine had told Vincent how Octavian had rescued her and brought her back Below. Even then, Vincent had been reluctant to leave her. Luckily, Mary volunteered to sit with her while he made the short trip to Father’s chamber.


Vincent paused outside to collect himself. Inside, someone was talking. Though loathe to eavesdrop, Vincent couldn’t resist listening for a moment.


“I want to thank you, Jacob, for allowing me to stay. I know you don’t have to. Please let me assure you that I would never try to come between you and Vincent. But, if you and he are willing to let me share some small part of his life, I would be grateful,” an unfamiliar voice said.


Octavian, one thing I have learned from my son is that love has no boundaries. I’m quite certain that there is enough space in Vincent’s life and heart for both of us,” Father replied seriously. “More tea?”


Octavian sighed. “Thank you. I only wish I had more answers for you both. But it seems my information is as sketchy is yours. All I can tell you is my brother and his wife were pronounced dead when they arrived at the hospital. The accident reports say they were killed on impact when their car was hit by a large truck. Unfortunately, over the years, many records were damaged or lost and James was never able to track down anyone who was actually there that night. I don't know how Vincent got into that alley. But I promise you, if I had known he was alive, I would have moved heaven and earth to find him.”


“You don’t have to convince me of your sincerity, “Father replied. “Your rescue of Catherine is proof enough. When I consider what could have happened to her, and the child...” Father’s voice broke off, hoarse with emotion. “I can never thank you enough for rescuing them both.”


“Nor can I,” Vincent added softly as he entered the room. Octavian quickly got to his feet. For a long moment, uncle and nephew merely stared at each other in rapt fascination, each caught up in seeing familiar features mirrored in another and reflected back at him.  


Vincent was the first to speak. “Forgive me. I didn’t mean to stare.”


 Octavian merely smiled. “There’s nothing to forgive. I understand your feeling and share it.”


“Seeing a face like mine . . . I just never dreamed, or even dared to hope!” Vincent paused, struggling to put his emotions into words. “It’s so...”


“Disconcerting?” Octavian offered. But Vincent shook his head in denial.


“Wonderful!” he finished reverently. Both of them smiled.







Chapter 8


 Clearing his throat, Father interrupted them. “Vincent, how’s Catherine?”


“Resting comfortably. She’s tired, but seems to be well enough. Mary is with her now.”


“And what about you?” Father continued. “I’m sorry, but I must ask. Earlier this evening, something upset you.”


Vincent hesitated, not sure how much he wanted to tell Father. After talking to Catherine, he now understood that the joy he felt before was actually her own happiness at their anticipated reunion. He also understood that the strange male presence he had sensed was, in fact, Octavian. That didn’t bother him. He was, however, reluctant to reveal that his own overwrought reaction to the thought of truly losing Catherine had been a vague notion of suicide. Frankly, he wasn’t sure Father would or could understand such a strong reaction for his son. Fortunately, Octavian came to his rescue.


“That’s my fault, Jacob. I must apologize to you both. As you’ve probably guessed, I share Vincent’s empathic abilities. Earlier this evening, I became quite upset again about the trauma poor Catherine has endured. I fear I may have been projecting those emotions and somehow Vincent picked up on them through Catherine. I’m guessing he probably mistook it to mean something had actually happened to her,” Octavian spoke up, looking meaningfully at his nephew.


Vincent?” Father asked.


“I thought I had lost her forever,” Vincent answered truthfully. The rest of the story could wait for now.


“Now I’m confused.” Peter broke in. “I was with Cathy when all that happened, and I didn’t understand it then. I thought the connection between you two was gone.”


“So did I,” Vincent replied.


“No, it isn’t,” Octavian countered, frowning. “What’s happened is perfectly normal.”


“Normal?” Father inquired.


Θεός!” Octavian exclaimed, lapsing into his native Greek for the first time. “How stupid of me! You have no way of knowing that, do you?” Octavian moved to stand in front of his nephew and put a hand on his shoulder. “Vincent, I swear to you on my life that your bond with Catherine isn’t gone. It’s only muted because of her pregnancy. As the baby grows, your bond will return; and in time, you will both be able to sense your child as well.”


“You sound as if you speak from experience.” Vincent commented. Octavian nodded in reply.


“I don’t understand, Octavian. You said you had no children,” Father commented.


“No, Jacob; that’s not quite true,” Peter observed. “Earlier, you asked Octavian if he had a son.”


“I don’t,” Octavian confirmed with a canine bearing grin. “But I do have four daughters!”


Vincent looked at the man so like him and marveled at his obvious inner confidence. Vincent himself always took such pains to hide even the smallest hint that he was different. Octavian, by contrast, appeared completely comfortable with himself, not bothering to hide anything, even his huge canines, as he smiled. It was a trait Vincent envied.


“Four daughters!” Peter laughed. “That’s another thing I want to hear about. It’s a shame James had to leave us. I was looking forward to hearing about the yak.” Peter yawned. “Unfortunately, I think that will have to wait. Jacob, I sure hope you’ve got one of those guest chambers nearby. I’m about ready to drop.”


“Yes,” Father agreed. “It is quite late, and we’ve all been through a great deal tonight. Perhaps we should all retire for the evening and start fresh tomorrow.”


“I’ll show Octavian to a guest chamber, Father.” Vincent offered eagerly.


“Very well. Good night, Vincent, Octavian. Come along, Peter. There’s a chamber just down the hall. I’m much too old for all this excitement,” Father complained as he and Dr. Alcott departed.


“He loves you very much,” Octavian observed as he watched Father leave.


“Yes, no son could have asked for a better parent,” Vincent replied.


Now alone with his uncle, Vincent found he was at a loss for words. “I have so much to ask, but if you’re too tired...”


Octavian chuckled. “I think I can last a bit longer. Perhaps you could show me to my room, and we could talk there.”


“Yes!” Vincent agreed readily. In silence, the two made the short journey.


“I sense your inner turmoil, Vincent.” Octavian offered as they arrived at the guest chamber.


“You do?” Vincent asked in surprise. Usually, he was the one who sensed things from others.


Octavian merely laughed. ‘Yes. Your feelings are rather...potent,” he replied mildly.


“I have so many questions, I don’t know where to start,” he informed Octavian.


“First, let me show you something.” Octavian offered. Reaching into his coat, he produced a small, somewhat grainy photo and handed it to Vincent. “This is a picture of your parents; my brother Nikos and his wife, Natalya. I have other pictures of Nikos when he was younger, but this is the only one of your mother I have.”


Almost reverently, Vincent took the small photo. In it, a dark haired man had his arm around a pretty, young brunette. The two made an attractive couple. Vincent took in a ragged breath and stared at the picture, studying it intently for several long moments.


“They’re beautiful!” Vincent whispered in a hushed tone


“But something troubles you?” Octavian asked. He was becoming quite attuned to his nephew’s feelings.


“It’s just that I don’t see much family resemblance,” Vincent said softly, unable to hide his disappointment. Octavian laughed again.


“That’s because you take after your grandmother, my mother.” He produced another photo, this one of a family. Another strong, dark haired man held a small boy in one arm. His other arm was around a lovely, blond who also held a child in her arms. Her golden blond hair framed her face, highlighting her high cheek bones and lovely azure blue eyes. In her arms, she held a child that looked to be about five. But, it was his face that drew Vincent’s attention. It was the same one that regarded him now.


“You?” Vincent inquired.


Octavian smiled and nodded. “Scrawny, little thing, wasn’t I? I’ll never forget that day. Mother had just given my father one of those cameras with an automatic timer you could set to take a picture so you didn’t need someone to push the button. He made us all go outside and stand there for almost an hour until he got the photo just right.”


“My family.” Vincent breathed as he sat heavily on a nearby chair. Taking in a great gulp of air, he found his voice again. “And what about my mother? What do you know of her?”


Octavian sighed regretfully. “Not much, Vincent. Believe me; I tried to learn all I could. According to your parents’ marriage license, her name was Natalya Rostov.”


Rostov,” Vincent pondered, searching his memory. “Isn’t that the name of a city in Russia?”


“I see you know your geography; yes, it is. My friend, James, has always maintained that Natalya was a political refugee from somewhere, perhaps behind the Iron Curtain since he was unable to locate any record of a woman by that name. I lost track of your father for nearly three years so I have no way of knowing where they met. But, they registered their marriage here in New York almost one year before the accident. That much I do know. There’s something else you should know, Vincent. Your father sent me a letter right before his death. I only received it after I heard about the accident. In it, Nikos mentioned how much he loved Natalya and you, his unborn child. Natalya was as excited about you as Nikos was. After your birth, he was planning on bringing you both back to Katos. Your parents loved you very much, Vincent, and I think they would be very proud of the man you’ve become.”


Shakily, Vincent rose to his feet and impulsively embraced the man who had answered so many questions of a lifetime. “I can never thank you enough for everything that you’ve done for me and for Catherine.” He laughed ruefully. “I’m not even sure what to call you; I just know how grateful I am you have come into our lives.”


Octavian laughed. “Why don’t we just start with Octavian for now? We’ll have plenty of time for more later.” Suddenly, he yawned, bearing his own canines again. “Forgive me, Vincent. It seems I may have overestimated my own stamina; I fear that, like Peter, I’m about ready to drop.”


Vincent nodded. “Of course. I need to return to Catherine to relieve Mary. I’ll see you in the morning. Good night, Octavian.”


“Good night...nephew,” Octavian replied gently.


Vincent turned to go to his own chamber, photos in hand. Internally, his heart soared, lighter than it had been in years.







Chapter 9


Vincent awoke for the second time that morning and spent the next hour admiring the most beautiful sight he’d ever seen: Catherine asleep in his bed next to him. Hours earlier, Vincent awakened to a gentle touch on his face and found Catherine staring at him with luminous eyes filled with love. Like vaporous mist in the early morning sun, the fears and trepidations of a lifetime melted away, and he reached for her. Tenderly, they came together in a symphony of passion that ended in happy but healing tears for them both.

After tenderly murmured affirmations of love, they drifted off again into much needed rest in each other’s arms, spoon fashion. Vincent’s clawed hand was resting protectively on the slight bulge of Catherine’s abdomen as she clung vine-like to his powerful arm.  Contentedly, they sighed together and surrendered to sleep.


Now Vincent gazed at her, his eyes drinking their fill of the lovely face he had thought lost to him.  Her head rested on the pillow next to his, her eyes closed in gentle sleep. Up close, he could see the lines of strains and shadowed hollows that marred the beautiful perfection of her sweet visage. Silently, he vowed never to be separated from Catherine or their child ever again. It was fortunate James shot Gabriel. Otherwise, Vincent was certain he would have killed him with his bare hands if James hadn’t.


Almost as if she sensed he was awake, Catherine opened her eyes and greeted him with a blinding smile. Unconsciously, he grinned back hugely, baring his canines much like Octavian.  It was a joyous sight that had Catherine laughing in jubilation. Soon, he joined in.


“Good morning, Catherine. I love you.” He intoned gently.


Her eyes grew luminous again. “Oh Vincent, I’ve loved you forever. Kiss me.” She whispered. Eagerly, he complied. Just then, their kiss was interrupted by a loud growl that emanated from somewhere below them. Blinking, Vincent drew back and grinned again as he realized the sound was coming from Catherine’s stomach. She wrinkled her nose and grinned as well.


“I think the baby’s hungry.”


‘Well then, we’d better head to the dining hall to get you both some breakfast.” Vincent responded as he kissed her nose gently and got out of bed. In short order, he’d located one of Catherine’s tunnel gowns and soon they were both dressed and ready. Vincent pulled her close and cradled her to his side as they headed out into the tunnel, arm in arm.


Predictably, Octavian was up early. Like Vincent, he had a strong inner sense of time and was an early riser as well. He considered remaining in the guest chamber, but the magical allure of Vincent’s tunnel world proved too strong to resist. Quietly, he made his way out into the tunnels.


The first resident he encountered was also an early riser: Mouse. The two froze and paused as they sized each other up. The night before, Octavian’s empathic abilities told him there was something unusual about this young man, but he’d had no time to consider the matter. Now, free of distractions, he sensed an inner disquiet within him that warned him to tread lightly with this tunnel resident.


“Hello,” Octavian greeted quietly. “I remember you from last night. Mouse, isn’t it?”


Silently the boy nodded.


“I don’t think we met properly. I’m Octavian...”


Vincent’s uncle.” Mouse finished. “Mouse heard. Mouse hears everything.”


Octavian quirked a small smile. “That must come in handy.”


“You mean it?” Mouse challenged.


“Mean it?” Octavian replied in confusion.


“About not taking Vincent away.” Octavian blinked; Mouse really did hear everything. He paused a moment, weighing his words carefully as he realized how much hinged on the answer he gave.


“Yes, I did, Mouse. These tunnels are Vincent’s home, and everyone here is his family. I would never try to take Vincent away from that. But, perhaps I could stay for a while and get to know him and all of you; that is if you’re willing.”


Mouse appeared deep in thought for a brief time and then he broke into a huge smile.

Vincent’s uncle came to stay; like Vincent’s Catherine.”


Octavian smiled back. “Yes, exactly.”  Somehow, Octavian’s answers satisfied Mouse.


“Okay, good. Okay, fine! “Mouse agreed as he headed down the tunnel, their encounter apparently over. Shaking his head, Octavian continued on, drawn by the heavenly smells he detected wafting in the breeze.


He quickly found himself in what was obviously a dining hall and kitchen. A few feet away, Mouse was grabbing up various food bits and stuffing them into a bag.

A burly man entered from a nearby doorway and bellowed at him loudly.


“Blast it, Mouse! You’d better not be taking my good muffins to feed that mangy raccoon of yours again!”


Arthur isn’t mangy, just hungry.” Mouse replied peevishly as he hurried back out.


The large man instantly turned his attention to Octavian, giving him a once over with a hard stare. For the first time, Octavian actually felt a bit awkward and out of place. It wasn’t a pleasant sensation.


“I’m sorry if I’m intruding,” He offered, strangely feeling the need to apologize.


“So, you’re Octavian.” The man virtually growled. “Heard you saved our Catherine.”


Octavian didn’t miss the man’s use of ‘our’ when he spoke about Catherine. He considered taking credit for the rescue, sensing it might gain him some favor in this man’s eyes. But, Octavian’s innate honesty won out and he was compelled to tell the truth.


Regretfully, he sighed. “I’m afraid not. That was my friend, James. I just helped with the planning.”


Still, his explanation seemed to satisfy the large man. “Name’s William.” He replied gruffly as he put out his hand. “I run the kitchen. Right now I’m working on Sunday Brunch.”


“I could tell.” Octavian inhaled appreciatively. “If it’s anything like that wonderful tea and muffins Jacob served last evening, it will be spectacular!” He sighed wistfully. “I’ve been staying in a hotel since I arrived in New York last month. Needless to say, I haven’t had a decent home cooked meal since I left Katos.”


William nodded knowingly. “Heard you were staying in one of them fancy places. I stayed in one once; nearly starved to death. Food will be up in an hour.”


Octavian grinned as he sat down. ‘Thank you, William. I think I’ll wait right here.”


They both looked up to see a lovely older woman enter. She came over to the two and Octavian stood up, ever the gentleman. Her gentle face lit with a welcoming smile as she introduced herself. “Good Morning, Octavian. William.” She nodded in the chef’s direction. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to meet you last evening. I’m Mary.”


“Not at all! I understood you were taking care of Catherine. I’m very pleased to finally meet you.” Octavian replied enthusiastically.


“I took the liberty of bringing you some of Vincent’s clothing fresh from the laundry. Has anyone showed you our bathing chambers?” Octavian shook his head negatively.


“Well, let me show you where you can freshen up.” She responded.


 Just then, William returned, a large mug and plate of muffins in hand. He plunked them down unceremoniously in front of Octavian. But his weathered visage sported a sly grin. “Most Sundays, Vincent can’t wait either.” With that, he turned and headed silently back into his kitchen.







Chapter 10


Catherine and Vincent arrived at the dining hall to find it unusually full. The crowd gathered surprised Vincent. Sunday was usually a day of rest to be spent relaxing with family and friends in other chambers. It was also William and his kitchen staffs’ day off. Though most of kitchen chores were shared by the entire community, William and his staff made the final preparations and did the actual cooking.


On Sunday, however, a group of volunteers would take over and prepare a large brunch and then a light meal later in the day. William, however, always seemed to be present; unwilling to leave his kitchen to others even for one day. Predictably, the lovers received a warm welcome as they were greeted by many familiar faces.  


A large group was gathered around the table where Octavian, Father and Peter were sitting. Not surprisingly, many of the children had crowded around as well. Everyone seemed fascinated by Octavian. He and Father were engaged in an intense game of chess.

After greeting them warmly, Vincent and Catherine took a seat at the next table.


“Checkmate!” Father crowed in triumph a moment later. A collective groan went up from the assembled group.


“That’s four in a row! See, I told you he was terrible.” Peter exclaimed.


“I’m not so sure.” Cullen broke in good naturedly. “Maybe Octavian’s just letting Father win.  Surely, no one can be that bad!”


Octavian held up his hands in surrender. “I’m not doing it on purpose, I swear! I’ve just never had a talent for chess. I love the game and enjoy playing. I’m just awful at it. No one in my family wants to play it with me anymore, because I always lose.” he shrugged. “My daughters are the chess players in my family. Even my youngest, Lydia, can beat me.”


When are we going to meet this family of yours, Octavian?” Peter asked curiously. There was a collective pause and Octavian visibly hesitated.


An uncomfortable silence followed and Father felt compelled to break it. “Peter, perhaps you’re rushing things. After all, Octavian has only known about our community for less than a day. It may be that he feels his family isn’t quite prepared to meet us yet.”


To everyone’s surprise, Octavian threw back his head and began roaring with laughter. After a few seconds, he stopped to suck in much needed air and finally found the energy to speak. “I’m afraid you’ve got that backwards, Jacob. I was actually thinking that you might not be prepared to meet them! Any one of my girls can be a hand full. Bring all four of them together, and there’s guaranteed to be mayhem. Throw my wife, Kimberly, into the mix, and anything could happen. I’m afraid your peaceful little community might never be the same,” he chuckled.


“How long have you been married, Octavian?” Peter interrupted.


Octavian sighed. “Twenty six years next May.”


“How did you meet your wife?” Father asked, caught up in Octavian’s captivating way of telling a tale. His answer, however, was interrupted by the arrival of William who plunked another mug next to the chess board.


“Here you are, Octavian. One cup of coffee: strong, no cream, no sugar!”


Ahh.” Octavian inhaled appreciatively. “My thanks again, William. I haven’t had a better meal or coffee this good since leaving home. I may actually survive this trip if I can keep eating in your kitchen! You make the best food and coffee this side of Athens!”


To everyone’s amusement, the burley tunnel cook actually blushed. “Well, I wouldn’t go that far. Just North America.” He replied with a wink.


“That’s our William!”  The witty Cullen quipped. “Humble to a fault.” Everyone laughed good naturedly.


From the next table, Catherine smiled. She could tell by his expression that Vincent was as pleased as she that Octavian had managed to win over both William and Father, the tunnel’s most ardent holdouts against newcomers. His gentle demeanor and engaging personality had endeared him overnight to everyone. She wasn’t surprised. She’d loved him from the first moment she met him.


“Let’s get back to this wife of yours.” Peter broke in. “I, for one, want details!”


Octavian smiled and shrugged. “There’s not much to tell. I met my wife, Kimberly, one summer when she was in Greece as an exchange student. She was traveling to a nearby island by boat when a sudden storm hit and she fell overboard. No one on the boat noticed. I was walking on the beach on Katos and saw her fall. Foolishly, rather than going for help, I tried to jump in and rescue to her.”


“So you swam out and saved her, didn’t you?!” Samantha broke in, fairly gushing teenaged, romantic enthusiasm.


Ruefully, Octavian chuckled and shook his head. “I’m afraid you have me confused with some larger than life hero, Samantha. Truthfully, I got swept up in the current and bashed my head on the rocks. I was knocked out. Kimberly ended up dragging me to shore with some help from James. They’ve never let me live it down or forget it, either.”


Peter laughed heartily. “Well, it’s nice to know you can be as fallible as the rest of us ordinary men, Octavian.”


“Oh, I’m quite fallible, Peter. Having four daughters has made me more aware of it every single day. How do you think I got all these grey hairs? Believe me, I earned every one of them!”




Continued in Part III