It was a warm Spring evening. A slight breeze stirred, evidenced by Vincent’s hair wisping about Catherine’s face as she lay with her head on his shoulder. Tonight, Vincent was reading from their favorite book – Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Catherine liked to tease Vincent that he fell in love with her reading that book to her during her recovery. He would always smile, neither agreeing nor disagreeing with her gentle taunt.
Catherine loved listening to Vincent read, particularly when she lay with one ear pressed to his chest. She heard his voice, that distinct raspy, low, whisper of a voice, reverberate through his chest. He could read the phone book and she would stay with her ear pressed to his chest.
“ I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.” (*)
It took Catherine a moment to realize that his voice no longer echoed from his chest to her ear. It took a moment longer for her to recall the words he had said, and to consider why he might have stopped. She pulled back from his arms to sit facing him.
“Why did you stop, Vincent? Why here, at that particular passage?”
Vincent cast his eyes down, trying, probably in vain, to come up with a reasonable explanation that Catherine could accept. But he knew she wouldn’t; her legal training and desire to know would demand the truth from him. But at what cost? he wondered.
Before he could utter a word, Catherine spoke.
“Vincent, do you see yourself, and us, our relationship, in that quote?”
Her query was met with silence that she knew meant Vincent was giving great thought to his reply.
“Yes.” A simple answer to a complex question, but the truth.
Her face reflected her crestfallen reaction, as did the slump of her back, as if she was folding into herself.
“Oh, Vincent, don’t give up on us!” she implored. “We have happiness, and there is hope for our dream, there is!”
“I haven’t given up on us, Catherine. And you have brought me great happiness that I never expected to ever have. I have never felt such love so freely given, had acceptance of who and what I am as you have accepted all of me. Yet, I can’t help but ask if fate was more cruel than kind that night.”
“Cruel? How can you feel that fate was cruel in bringing us together?”
“Because I am Beast and you are... not.” He would have said Beauty, but did not want to treat this discussion as a trite recital of fairy tales.
“Yes, you are different, but in all the ways that matter, your heart is good and kind, and you love with all that heart.”
“But don’t we love against reason, when we are two different beings? Does it not go against reason to make all the sacrifices you must make in order to love me? Do we not lack the promise that others enjoy of a future with their relationship? What peace do we have when so many caution us against the wisdom of our love? We are, by definition, star-crossed lovers. We live in two different worlds, Catherine, and the time will come when the pain of longing is greater than the joy our togetherness brings.”
Catherine sat, stunned silent. A lone tear fell upon her cheek and began the trek that gravity compelled.
“Vincent, if this is truly how you feel, then why are you here?”
Seeing the tear and hearing the quiver in her voice, he swept her against him, enfolding her tightly, holding on to the very hope she embodied.
“Because I love you with every part of me, even the part that keeps us apart. You are the air I breathe, the blood running through my veins, the reason my heart keeps beating. You give me life, Catherine, not merely existence.”
It felt so good to be held in his arms, but even better to hear the words she longed to hear from him: he loved her. She knew it before but there was something about hearing the spoken word that lifts up the soul and gives sustenance to the hungry heart.
“Maybe we need to think about how strong our love really is, Vincent. For us to love when it is against reason, against hope, and all those other things, don’t you think that our love is powerful, indeed?” She pulled back a bit to look into his eyes. “We don’t love lightly, expecting little, giving less. Our expectations are great, Vincent. And with love that strong, can anything truly stand in the way?”
They stared into each other’s eyes, lost in the thought of vanquished obstacles.
He pulled her back into his embrace. “Forgive me for doubting.”
She smiled into his chest, hearing the words she had spoken to him that night long ago. “It was just your turn, Vincent.”
* From Great Expectations by Charles Dickens