The day was a call to joy, in Vincent's mighty heart.
“April” printed in black, on his journal page, and a “12” in red, vivid and circled, by his own hand.
April the 12th.
Or, reversed, “the 12th of April.”
April The Sweet and Blessed Twelfth.
No matter which way he wrote it, no matter how he saw the date inscribed in his journal, no matter how it was printed on a newspaper or which way he “heard” the date spoken, in either his “inner ear,” or his outer one, it set his great heart to thumping - even as it set his feet to flying.
It was finally here.
For Vincent, there were all the other days of year, and then there was this one. Every other day, even Winterfest, even his birthday or hers, Jacob or Mary’s, were days which either came before April 12th, or after it.
The Twelfth of April was their day. It was the day. The “dividing” day, in his life, for there were all the days before a very certain April day had happened to him, and then there were all the ones after. The day all others revolved around, whether they intended to, or not.
Vincent’s internal calendar now centered itself around the 12th of April, and he privately considered it the day of his birth.
Not the 12th of January.
The 12th of April.
The other days of the year were important to him, to be sure. All of them were. He knew he couldn’t just brush aside 364 days, waiting for the 365th. After all, every day was a vital one. All days bore their gifts, even as some bore sorrows.
But none of them was this one. None of them meant this much.
Ever since meeting Catherine (as unlikely as their meeting had been), from the first day the word “April” began to appear on his calendar, he could sense his anticipation beginning to build.
April began with a very odd sort of holiday. April 1st was for April fools. (And he almost cheerfully admitted to being one of those. For it was April, and his heart felt almost foolishly light.)
Also, the word “fool” simply meant “novice,” or “inexperienced” in some translations, (rather than “unintelligent”), and he was very content that the description fit him well.
For what experience did he have, in love, really, prior to April 12th?
When the 1st of the month gave way to the 3rd, he knew he was getting closer, and by the time the 9th hit, he knew he was almost home. He struggled to contain his pleasure on the 10th, and by the 11th, he knew he would barely be able to sleep.
April 12th was coming! Who could live, and be unaware of it?
He knew he seemed like an impatient child, begging for December 25th, but this was not December, and it was not the 25th, nor was it any other month, or any other day.
Only April 12th was April 12th. It was a universal truth, a cornerstone, a touchpoint, and a guiding star.
If a compass point could be transcribed as a date on a calendar, Vincent knew that April 12th would be his “true north.” It would be the way he went to find his way back home, the day he ascribed to finally finding his “direction” in this life. (For one either moved toward love or away from it. It was a clearly accepted fact, between him and Catherine.)
Vincent was not sure exactly when he'd begun dividing his life into two parts, all the days before he'd met her, and each incredible one after, but he knew it was so, and he was content to let the distinction stand.
He had indeed been “one person,” before the “end of his aloneness” had commenced, and a quite different one, after. Only he knew how deeply the changes had affected him. Only he knew how right the instinct to hold that April day as nearly holy, for what it had brought him, was. Though others might suspect, he knew, and he was conscious of that distinction.
And since he did know it, he did not pretend, otherwise.
So, there was April 12th. And then there was everything else.
And it was here.
It was a call to go, to move, to run, to climb to dare, and to dare some more. A wish-come-true imperative to leave his home as early as he possibly could, to ascend to her balcony, and to admire her beauty, both inner and outer. A day to admire their beauty, and all they'd become, together. A day to bask in that, and allow yourself to feel it, full force. A day for small gifts, and large reminiscences.
They both knew what this day had cost her.
And then, what it had brought her.
Well, what it had brought both of them really.
For after all, had she not also been “alone,” in her way? Just a bit lost? Just a bit in need of a “true north” of her own? Vincent suspected she had.
He climbed the familiar route which would lead him to her stones. Silent stones. Silent secret-keepers, for all that had happened, upon them.
Was there a better place to find pure bliss, than the quiet stones of her balcony? He mused, as he tugged himself upward. Was there a better place to find joy, and contentment, and… love? He wasn't sure there was.
Silence is the perfectest herald of joy. He thought it, as the metal rungs of the fire escape gave way to the concrete ledges of her roof.
Where is that from? ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream?’ No… wait. That’s from ‘Much Ado.’
The line from Much Ado About Nothing danced in his consciousness, as he travelled. Soundless feet came over the ledge, and paced to the edge of her building.
Silence is the perfectest herald of joy, his happy brain repeated.
He was silent, too. Almost … perfectly so.
A life of stealth had taught him to tread both lightly and quickly, and a life of reasonable caution had taught him the value of a noise-less passage.
Sometimes, his life depended on that.
Sometimes, so did hers.
He stood on her rooftop, and a sudden breeze whipped up, carrying the heady fragrances of spring to his unusual nose. There were fields of daisies in the park, and sunny buttercups, deep, green lawns and clustered wisteria. There were pale magnolias and blushing azaleas. Some early bloomers, like the bluebells, were full blown, and open, while others flowers kept their treasure still undisplayed, locked inside a tight-growing bud.
He climbed down onto her terrace, making no more noise than a moving shadow would.
Her rose bush was in the bud-laden category, and she'd sheltered it against spring tempests, wanting to save every bloom she could of "their" roses. Her unique plant bore no open blossoms, not yet, but no less than fourteen buds were threatening to burst into springtime splendor.
He smiled as he considered the first time he'd ever seen her trying to garden.
She'd been so quiet, kneeling there. So quiet, turning over dark earth, in the huge pot. So quiet that he couldn't help but to grow even more silent, as he'd beheld her.
He remembered that day. Remembered exactly where he'd stood, as she'd been kneeling. He remembered going silent, on instinct.
It was the instinct of the quiet approach. The instinct to embrace silence, and let it bring you something. And merciful heaven, it had. The silence had brought him something: great joy.
Mostly, her back had been to him, as she’d added soil to the huge ceramic container that was still “home,” to the bush. And he’d simply stood behind her, quietly, while she’d worked. Her mind was occupied, as were her hands. He’d remained, still as the slack curtains, not announcing himself; a loving voyeur.
Keep working. You're so beautiful, and seeing you this way is so... unexpected. Keep doing what you're doing. My eyes long to drink you in. Keep kneeling there, your hair pulled back, your hands covered with good earth, your face covered with... concentration. Keep doing that. Keep being you. Please... just... keep being you.
He remembered thinking it, that night. If not the words themselves, at least the instinct for them.
Then she’d turned, and spotted him. And… chuckled at herself. Chuckled at the unlikely picture she’d presented.
Silence is the perfectest herald of joy. I were but little happy, if I could say how much.
Joy had been like that, with her. A collection of moments, often small ones, which somehow seemed to add up to a great whole, a huge sum, a grand, very grand, total. One which had often been accomplished in silence, rather than shouts of joy. One created in soft smiles, rather than peals of hearty laughter.
Every time he watched her descend her ladder, the one that brought her to his world, his heart leapt up, with the bliss of quiet reunion. Every time.
Who knew that joy could often be so… soundless a thing, almost unto silence?
Shakespeare did, apparently.
He’d written as much. And of course, Shakespeare knew everything.
When Vincent remembered the most blissful moments between them, they'd often been accomplished without words. Her mute roses gave testament to that, and he almost absently reached over to cradle the tallest bud, in his hand, and wondered which color it would be: red, or white?
The first night they’d blossomed, they’d done so, together. As if the one had refused to go over the wall without the assured company of the other. Quiet splendor. Such an unexpected thing.
If the moment he'd watched her planting the rose bush was like that, so was the moment she'd placed her hand on his chest, the first time they'd parted at her threshold. Quiet splendor.
Quiet moments. Life-changing ones, too.
Somehow, the two of them were more, far more, than the sum of their individual, disparate parts, and that was a knowledge which kept Vincent warm, inside, even as the April breeze nipped at the high-set cheeks, inside his hood.
He moved closer to the wall, silent and sure. He knew he made no sound. None at all.
Then remembered the time he'd not been able to move stealthily enough.
He'd been delivering Great Expectations, at the time.
For though quiet was his friend, his constant ally, and his stalwart protector, though he'd been raised with the necessity of soundless passage, and lived by its strictures, though he well knew that to be caught Above might mean “to die”…
That night, that one night, he'd not been quite able to pull “silent” off.
Though living an undetectable life was his norm, though stealth was the difference between life and death for him, the difference between comparative freedom and a cage, he'd not been able to deliver the well-read hardback and just slip away, undetected.
To this day, he wasn't sure if making a small sound on her balcony, that night, was entirely an accident.
And though he wasn't sure he had much use for Freud, he had to admit he might owe Sigmund a little credit.
Did I mean to graze the chair? Did I set the book down, and then, realizing I was about to leave, silently, did some part of me… rebel, at the thought of leaving, as undetectably as I’d come?
He wasn’t sure. He didn’t think he ever would be.
But either by pure accident or subconscious design, she had heard him.
She had. From within her apartment, and distracted by her own concerns, she’d heard him.
Or perhaps she'd just sensed him near and thought she'd heard him, owing to their bond.
In which case it was the bond who got the credit for their Topside Beginning, and Sigmund could go smoke a cigar, for all Vincent cared. Not that he’d ever thought about it, overmuch, one way or the other.
Either way (Or any way), he'd made some noise, either mental or actual. Some breaking of the silence, which caused her to rise from her bed, and come out to see what the noise might be.
At first, she'd found only silent shadows, and a Charles Dickens novel.
And then… miraculously, sweetly, thankfully… she'd found him. And then she’d reached for him.
And Vincent realized how very, very good it was to feel "found" again. To feel “reached for.” How very much better it was to feel “found” than to continue feeling "lost." How wonderful it was to feel her clasp her hands in his, and tug him down to her quiet stones, begging for... well, anything, really.
And so she’d reached, either pleading or bargaining, for a few stolen moments of his time, for his conversation. For his reasons for being there, for his sheer presence. Asking to share a story. Just one story more. Just one more chapter, to complete the one tale, and possibly to begin another.
Just one chapter. Just one.
Sometimes, one was all you needed. It was a fact Vincent marveled over, to this day. One chapter, divided from the more than fifty that had come before it. One dear span of time spent reading that, on one soft night, under one moon, before the one sun rose up, to chase him back down.
And then the last chapter of Great Expectations became much like April 12th had, for him, in that there were all the pages, all the chapters before the last chapter, and then there was that last one.
That last, special one. The only one read in her voice. The one that mattered, more than any other.
One terrible accident, to re-direct a fate. One chapter in One book. One balcony. One incredible woman.
And aloneness? It was gone. Gone, and it had never returned, thanks to one April 12th. One chance meeting, to change a life, forever.
Well, two lives, really.
Vincent knew that there was a place inside of him that could never thank her enough for being the end of his aloneness. Never… love her enough, for that, alone. He held the knowledge to him, as he “felt” her stir, inside.
She was inside her home, now, and as she moved through her rooms, he stayed back, stayed beside the frame of her windows, rather than in front of them - much as he’d done the night he’d brought her the One book with the One chapter.
He wasn’t trying to hide, this time, as he stood there.
Well, not exactly.
He was just hoping to catch an errant, sweet glance of her, just trying to hold that quiet, joyful bit of stillness inside of him, right before their evening together would begin.
Her rose bush stood guard, both silent and pregnant, with its buds. It stood just outside the reach of his hand. The hand she’d kissed. The hand she had dubbed, astonishingly, “beautiful,” as she’d claimed it for her very own.
He wondered if he could tell which thorn had pricked her finger, and then wondered if that meant he wanted to remove it, for its audacity, or bless it, since it had caused him to kiss her injured hand. That had caused her to take hold of his chin and give him firm instructions not to move away.
One thorn. One injured finger. One kiss. One command.
Circumstances had other ideas as to what they might do next, but he’d never forgotten the moment.
She’d looked so… certain, as she’d bid him to stay.
Lady, as you are mine and I am yours...
Movement caught his eye, through the sheers. She was walking from her bedroom to her living room, fastening an earring in.
Her steps were quick, and she felt “rushed,” as if she was running behind. His Catherine was often a bit tardy, the burden of both an active life and a busy mind. She fell behind her time, now and then, even as she moved through her day.
Immersed, as she often was, with this important thing or that, she sometimes lost track of the time.
But she'd never lost track of him. Not even when he'd been lost to himself, sometimes.
She looked down at something that was lying on her coffee table, and she scooped it up, swiftly, not noticing him, in his near-concealment. Her lovely dress was a peach shade that made him think of spring, and warm apricots.
She raised her hands up and he realized she was donning his crystal. She turned her back to him so she could look in the mirror, to see how the long, pretty stone looked, nestled against her breast.
And his mouth went dry.
Her back was bare.
He watched her fingers fiddle with the chain, passing it around though the Mouse-made bail to make sure the clasp of the chain would be centered, just on the knot of her spine. There.
She flipped her silky hair out and dropped her arms and Vincent was treated to the gorgeous roll of her shoulder blades.
You are so, so beautiful.
She fluffed her bangs with an absent hand, and reached for her shoes. Taupe pumps, high to accommodate the difference, between them, neutral, to not draw the eye away from her gown.
So beautiful. So very beautiful. And so... mine. So… a part of me, inside.
The dress had a wrap, he discovered, as she snagged it off the couch. A wispy, overly long bit of a rectangle that made her dress choice seem more modest than it actually was.
He watched part of her back disappear, as she looped the cloth around her elbows, and adjusted the trailing ends. It covered the lowest part of her exposed back, now. And he knew with a lover's instinct (though they were not that, yet,) that he wanted the wrap gone, wanted to see the creamy skin bare, again.
Perhaps he could conceive of a way to get her to leave it behind, this evening. Perhaps she wanted him to. Perhaps he’d just dare to rest his palm over the silky fabric, as he squired her here or there, or just stood on their balcony with her, in quiet communion. Perhaps many things. Perhaps everything.
Everything. And everything is everything.
Her mantle clock chimed. Eight o'clock. He was due. She hastily spritzed perfume, her last feminine rite of preparation, and looked toward the French doors, expecting to see him. He stepped away from the wall and into her line of vision, just for the sheer tremor of joy the action always sent through their bond.
Her smile was as immediate as the shimmer of exultation, inside their incredible connection. You are here! You are here! I knew you would come! I was a little rushed, and still, I knew! I was waiting for you, even as I hurried...
It wasn’t heard in so many words. But it was a song her soul sang to his, each time they met. A song it had been singing since ... well. Since that first night she’d read him Great Expectations.
You are here. You are here. No matter how long or short it has been since we last parted, I've missed you.
If she’d been shouting it, he wouldn’t have heard her more loudly.
Vincent closed his eyes as the sensation of her greeting rocked his tall frame, before her actual greeting could.
You're here. It was an excited echo, in his mind. One he felt compelled to answer the same way he’d received it.
Yes. Yes I am. Did you think I would miss this?
She ran to the door, looking happy and free. The wrap he now had designs on was feminine and fetching, a lady's sweet, airy accessory. One he still hoped she would be rid of, before night's end, and yes, the fact that he’d just wished to have his taloned hand on the bare back of the woman he loved was not lost on him, for irony. He just wanted to touch her, however lightly. Just for the joy of feeling his whole palm and each centimeter of his fingers rest on the warm, vivid skin of her back. Just for that. Nothing more.
These are my hands. She’d said it. He knew she had.
Very well, then. They might as well be. Lord knows the rest of me is.
The knob of the door turned, and her grey-green eyes were bright, with welcome. Just one more moment of silence. One more perfect moment of that, before all the other perfect moments could begin.
His slight, warm smile answered her broader one, as she pushed the door open, on noiseless hinges.
In a moment, he knew she'd say his name. Say it in the soft, husky voice that never failed to make his heart skip a beat. In a moment, the silence would be lost, and something else just as beautifully endearing would rush in, to take its place. In a moment, he knew this particular night would trade one kind of perfection for another.
Not just a night. A life.
Great happiness illuminated the blue of his eyes, as he knew she was about to give him the gift of his own name, uttered from her sweet lips. If she had a gift for him, some trinket, some memento, he wasn't sure he cared. For the sound he was about to receive, he knew he would give all.
For a woman in love with him, deeply, thrillingly, ascendantly in love with him, was about to say his name.
I give away myself for you and dote upon the exchange.
He could barely stand to wait for her to inhale, so she could do it.
Then she did. And the silence of the balcony was broken, by her perfect gift:
“Vincent,” she said.
And Vincent lost his heart to her, all over again.
No matter where
you are when silence is exchanged
Illustrations supplied by the author