The Question About Difference

 

Judith Nolan

 

 

 

{ 999 words }

 

 

 

 

“I’ve never regretted what I am... until now...”

“How...? How did this happen to you...?”

“I don’t know how. I have ideas... I’ll never know. I was born. And I survived... It’s time for you to go back.”

“Tell me it’s a nightmare. That it didn’t happen, that it can’t be...”

“It’s not a nightmare. It happened -- and you’re alive. Catherine, you survived. And what you endured will make you stronger and better.”

“I don’t have your strength... I don’t know how to do it...”

“You have the strength Catherine -- you do. I know you... It’s time.”

“Where are you taking me?”

“You must go back to your world. You have been missed, and they are looking for you. We cannot allow them to find any answers. It is too dangerous for you to stay… here.”

“I know. But, I feel safe with you, Vincent. I wish…”

“Please, Catherine. It cannot be. Change your clothes. I will be waiting for you outside.”

“Very well, if I must leave. But, I’ll miss this place, and you. I won’t be long…”

 

“Thank you, Catherine, for trusting me.”

“You will come with me? Show me the way?”

“I will take you as far as the exit. The place where you will go out. That’s where we must part.”

“I’m not afraid, Vincent. I could never be afraid, of you… When I threw that reflector at you, I was simply surprised by your sudden arrival. That’s all. I’m so sorry that I hurt you. After all you’ve done for me.”

“You could never hurt me, Catherine. Don’t you know that?”

“You’re only saying that to spare my feelings.”

“I am speaking the truth, Catherine. There is nothing you could ever do, or say to me, that could hurt me. There is nowhere in the world I would rather be, than with you.”

“It’s the same for me. Please, Vincent--”

“No, Catherine. The choice is not ours to make. We both have people who care for us, and worry about us. There is nowhere for us to hide from the truth of what we both are. Where we both must remain.”

“Worlds apart…”

“Yes, and it must be so, for the sake of all we hold dear and love. We are not free to choose, Catherine. We do not have the right to ignore all the impossibilities that stand between us.”

“Perhaps, one day, we will meet again. Do you believe that, Vincent?”

“Perhaps. When you are home again, maybe you could light a candle, and think of me. And I will do the same.”

“I don’t need any candle to think of you. You will always be with me. Always…”

“And I with you. We need to climb here. Be careful. Take my hand.”

“Vincent, I know you said, you didn’t know. But, have you never questioned why you are, the way you are? What happened to you?”

“There was a time in my youth, when I could think of nothing else. I felt as if my head was close to exploding with questions. But that time passed. Perhaps I’m never meant to know. I have made my peace with that.”

“If I can help in any way, Vincent. I have money and connections. I could make discreet inquiries for you. I am a lawyer, all I would need are the basic facts of your birth.”

“Thank you, Catherine, but those, too are shrouded in mystery. I’m beginning to understand, that maybe it’s for the best that the truth is hidden from me. I am resigned to my place in the world.”

“There are some more people here. Who are they?”

“This is our world. We are a family. It’s a place for those who have nowhere else to go. They live down here, and we care for them.”

“I never knew such a place existed. I’ve lived in New York, all my life. It’s incredible.”

“It’s where we can all be safe. Take care on these pipes. They can be slippery. Let me cross first, then you follow.”

“Wait!”

“You can do it... give me your hand...”

“It looks too deep and wide…”

“Catherine, it’s all right… Don’t look down. You’ll be fine.”

“I wish I had your faith...”

“I’m sorry, but it’s the quickest way to the surface. We must hurry now, or you won’t be home before dark.”

“Very well, catch me…”

“See, I knew you could do it.”

“A leap of pure faith… And with your hand to guide me…”

“We have a long way to go, and we need to climb a spiral staircase to the upper levels. Are you tired, do you need to rest?”

“I’m all right. I can do it. As you said, I must go back.”

“Good girl. When we reach the staircase, do not be afraid. It may look rusted out, old and dangerous, but it’s meant to be that way, to discourage intruders. It is sound enough.”

“I’m lost already. How will I ever find my way back, to you?”

“Catherine, our worlds are so different. I could never have a place in yours. And you were made to dwell in the sunshine. That is how I think of you.”

“You make it sound so final… so tragic.”

“It is so, because it must be. Go before me now, and don’t look down. Just keep climbing, until you reach the top. I will be here to catch you, if you should trip.”

“Vincent, surely, this cannot be the end? I won’t believe it. I can’t. I want to see you again!”

“The choice isn’t ours to make, Catherine. You must believe that. We are here.”

“What is this place?”

“This is where you go out...”

“Where are we?”

“The basement of your apartment building…”

“We are? Vincent... Your secret is safe with me. I would never betray your trust...”

“I know -- I knew that from the beginning, when you trusted me.”

“What can I say to you…? Vincent…!”

 

 

 ”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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