Beyond the Bridge
Love is the bridge between you and everything
Vincent stood beyond the bridge. And since it was a Topside Bridge, rather than one that spanned the Abyss, he knew he’d almost never stand on it.
On the bridge was exposure, and on the bridge was dangerous. So he knew it was all but forbidden to him.
Under the bridge, with its enveloping shadows, was safer, it was true. But there, he risked being rousted along by a passing homeless person, trying to avoid waking up covered with morning dew, or a miscreant, who needed a hiding place.
So, he couldn’t stand on the bridge. And he couldn’t stand under it.
Therefore he stood beyond the bridge, almost always.
Beyond the bridge was the “safe” place. The place where he could see whatever was coming. A bridge was a “narrowing” thing, almost by definition. I worked as a funnel, as it guided traffic through. By a natural extension of what it was, it forced pedestrian traffic into constricted confines, both under and on top of it.
Wars had been fought over bridges, and campaigns built around them. They were just that important. Vincent knew that as long as he stood beyond the bridge, he could see what was coming. It was the tactician’s advantage.
Is that what I’m trying to do? See what is coming, for us?
If only he could.
Vincent doubted that a war had ever been fought over the Reservoir Bridge, though he was sure a few arguments had been had on it, and more than one breakup. Weddings, too. There was something about a bridge. Something about what it symbolized, maybe. There just was.
It’s the thing that joins one side to the other. A thing that … links. Links one part to the rest of the whole, he mused, as he waited for her.
Is that what I’m trying to do? Join one side to the other? Have our two separate parts be able to create one whole? Is that what I’m wishing for?
He wasn’t sure. Like so many questions, he had no answer to that one, either. It was after ten o’clock, but not yet eleven. She would be coming, soon.
Or, she wouldn’t.
It’s not like that wasn’t a possibility. For that matter, it wasn’t as if that course of action wasn’t the wisest, for her. He knew that. Along with everything else he knew.
The rose he’d left her had been stolen from a rooftop garden. Vincent had to admit that he didn’t even know who the owner was, and for all his claims of honor and integrity (and he was sure he possessed those), he also knew he was something of a thief.
His only excuse was that he’d taken one bloom of many, and that he’d tried to take one past its prime, rather than one that could be put into a vase, and sold. The deep red rose he’d sent her was dark, full-blown open, and close to dropping its velvety petals on the ground. Several of its fellows already owned that fate, as their fallen bounty had lain scattered across the lonely rooftop, pushed to the edge by the New York wind.
Still, he knew he’d taken the flower. Then he’d lain it next to his note, on her balcony; a bit of an apology, to go with his entreaty.
They hadn’t seen each other in a while.
Would she come? She had, before.
But they were still new with each other, and very much learning. And a few prior encounters in no way guaranteed success, here.
He paced in a small circle on the pathway, near a concealing oak. It was the only thing that betrayed how unsure he was.
Would she come? She would, wouldn’t she?
The bond was still something of a young thing, between them, and Vincent was still trying to accustom himself to its vagaries. He knew she was often frustrated, for instance. But he assumed that emotion came from how she felt about her work, more than how she felt about him, or anything else.
Yet, he had no way to be sure about that, as he forced his body back into stillness, and into waiting. Waiting, beyond the bridge.
He knew that if he were a man, he’d be meeting her on the bridge, rather than past it.
The distinction still had the power to rankle. Like a great many things, “being rankled” was just something else he was going to have to learn to live with.
He stared at the small bridge. The bridge that was both entryway, and borderline. The bridge that all but dared him to mount its steps, and stand in its middle, as he waited for her.
There are times when we must walk empty handed, among our enemies.
The tempting line from a rebel’s book whispered, across his consciousness.
He’d become very taken with Brigit O’Donnell’s work, and had read (and re-read) 300 Days unto having it nearly memorized.
There are times when we must leave our safe places, and walk empty handed, among our enemies.
Yet he knew that this was not one of those times.
Exposure for the sake of ego was a foolish thing. There was nothing to gain by being spotted, up on top of the narrow space. And there was everything to lose.
Perhaps he should have simply waited on her balcony for her. If he had, they’d probably have been able to meet that much sooner, and be sorting out whatever it was Kipper had been trying to tell him, about Ridley Hall.
Yet … there was something almost… heady, about the notion that she was coming to him. Because he’d asked her to. Because he needed her. Because he’d written her a note, and attached a pilfered rose. There was something nearly… intoxicating, about understanding that right now, she might be on her way.
A woman was coming to him. Because he’d summoned her, however politely and unexpectedly, with a hastily scribbled note, and a purloined American Beauty.
In a few minutes, he knew he’d leave the wooded area he now stood in, for the safety of the nearby tunnel entrance, one barred by a metal gate.
But not yet. Not yet …
Not yet would he confine himself to his stone home. Not yet would he abandon the smell of the pines, or the blackish-blue vault of the sky. Not yet would he give up the moon for a lantern. Not yet would he sense thousands of pounds of rock, over his head, rather than an endless, star shot universe. One full of possibilities.
Not yet, Lord. Oh, not yet.
Something flickered across his awareness, and shimmered, down his link to her.
She is coming to me.
He knew it. Verification of that cast all prior doubts about whether or not she would, into the abyss.
She is coming to me.
That, as it turned out, was a sensation. Like happiness, or sorrow, or pain, or fear, or even nostalgia, ‘Coming to me’ was a sensation, along their bond.
She must have seen his note. She was excited, and in a rush. Anticipation filled her, as did a beautiful sampling of joy. Her happiness was tinged with curiosity, and perhaps even a little concern. Naturally, she wanted to know why he’d left her the note. Especially after what had now been a goodly stretch of time, between them.
Did you know I was thinking of ending us? Whatever it is ‘we’ are? Did you know I was thinking of that, even as I utterly reject it, as a possibility? Did you know I think I still should stay away? Even as I know I can’t? That it would be better for you, safer for you, and also safer for me? Did you know? Or did you guess as much?
My father is terrified for me, and many of my friends don’t know what to think.
But… ah, how can I give up this feeling? This …“You are coming to me” feeling?
He felt her, in her haste, and even though he couldn’t hear her booted footfalls, he fancied that he could, inside his sharp mind. She felt… urgent, and a little excited. She was… anticipating. Anticipating their meeting. Anticipating him.
Then, the feeling of her sudden burst of forward movement was thwarted, by something.
She’s impatient. And standing still. For no reason he could name, his mind “clicked” on the correct reason.
She’s waiting for the elevator. The one I ride on top of, sometimes.
He could all but feel her tapping her well-heeled foot. Her mild chagrin made him smile.
She doesn’t like to wait.
And I’ve had a lifetime of doing that.
He wasn’t sure which one of them was better at it. Or if either of them were, really. The fact that he’d probably had to do that far more often than she did didn’t make him an expert at it. It was simply a necessity, thanks to who and what he was.
It was unwise to mistake his often-stillness for patience. Vincent, more than most people, distinctly knew the difference. Sometimes, he held himself still because he was impatient, not in spite of it. What looked like thoughtful deliberation was often a huge exercise, in self-control.
Especially now, since having met her.
He knew he was growing increasingly restless, the longer he knew Catherine. The more contact he had with her, the more that sensation seemed to grow. He wanted to go everyplace he’d ever been, then push on, a little more. Higher, lower, broader, faster, deeper... He wanted “more.” It was as simple as that.
He knew that he was increasingly captivated by the idea of moving his limits out, past even where Brigit O’Donnell might find prudent. He wanted to go farther.
And still farther.
He still couldn’t believe he’d ever gone to her balcony, eighteen floors up, to leave her a book. Still couldn’t believe that when she’d discovered him, she’d all but begged him to stay.
She’d put her tiny hands in his great ones, and tugged him down, asking him to sit with her, on the stones.
She’d slipped her delicate fingers along his huge ones. His taloned ones. His… different ones. She’d done that, then grabbed hold.
She’d brushed his hand, once, during her convalescence. Back when he’d been feeding her soup. Brushed it, and recoiled, her bright, terrified mind trying to make sense of whatever it was she thought she’d felt.
But that night, on her balcony, she’d simply slid her beautiful, slender fingers along his, found his palm, and tugged him down, as if they had always been friends.
You tugged me down. I don’t think I’ve stopped falling, since.
She hadn’t thought about it, before she’d done it. Hadn’t… considered how distasteful it might be, to hold his gloved … hand. If a thing that had hair and pointed nails on it could be called that.
I wasn’t wearing gloves. And I felt your skin against mine. You followed a sudden urge to reach for me, without thinking about it. And I was never the same.
The wealthy woman who didn’t like to wait, hadn’t. She’d touched his hand simply because she’d wanted to. It had been an impulse. A sweet and accepting impulse.
Did she have any idea how much he wanted the same things she’d said she’d wanted, that night?
He’d tried to leave, but she’d bid him stay.
“No… not yet, there’s still time.” She’d asked him to remain with her, through the dark hours, and he had. She’d wanted him to stay. Was there a sentence he knew, that filled him with more joy, than her entreaty that he not leave her?
I want to touch your hand, more. I don’t want you to leave me, either. I want you to stay, just for a while. A while and forever. Stay. Stay here with me.
He knew he could never ask it of her, and didn’t even want to, for the sake of all it would cost her. He also knew he’d never stop feeling it.
Come to me, beautiful Catherine. Stay near me. Meet me beyond the bridge.
He eyed the low railing, knowing it was a slim guarantee of safety.
The railing doesn’t mean you won’t fall. It just means it’s a bad idea, if you do.
Were they a “bad idea?” He had no answer for that. He only knew they were an increasingly inevitable one, for him. And that for him, this particular “fall” was still happening. And he was somehow perfectly fine, that it was.
Catherine’s current situation whispered itself to him, across their bond. Her impatience was gone, and he knew she was on the move, again. She’d ridden down in the elevator, emerged through the doors, and was even now, making her way across the night swept, verdant park.
Coming to me. She is coming to me. He closed his blue eyes, for a moment, and felt it.
And for a moment, the concerns of the children at Ridley Hall, and what Kipper might or might not have seen or heard, were utterly swept aside, in the incredible power of that.
Coming to me. The sensation actually rocked him back, a step. She was free of any building, and out in the open, She was hurrying through the park, racing across the grass, no roof over her head, no square rooms to confine her, no rectangular box, suspended by a cable, to cage her, then bear her down.
He could all but feel the night wind on her face, tugging at her hair. There was nothing but a good jacket and her own adrenaline, to keep her warm.
Well, that, and the prospect of seeing him.
God, it felt so good to be free. He tasted hers like a flavor, on his tongue. It was cocoa dark, and like that, a touch bitter, mixed in with the sweet. A sharp bite, and a deep temptation, to have more.
The odd words were the only way his mind could translate it.
Did she know she was rushing to meet a rose thief? That she was all but running to meet a man who was not a man, who could only offer her what other people cast aside, or what he could scrounge?
Did she know he’d taken the rose not from a desire to steal, but from a deep-seated need to not ask permission, to give her something? That he didn’t want to consult with a helper, or discuss it with Father, or even ask a friend if someone knew there was a way to do it? That he wanted the rose to be something… just… something, between him and her, not connected to anyone else he knew?
Something private. Something… intimate, even.
He could no more ask someone else for permission to give her a rose than he could ask them for permission to be in love with her. It was unthinkable. Almost… offensive, in its sense of intrusion, of invasion. That, too, he could explain in no other terms, not even to himself.
If there was a price to pay for taking the rose, or being in love with her, then he would pay it. He was already balancing deep sadness, with great joy, as it was. Anything else seemed minor, by comparison.
Father’s warning was not forgotten.
“She can only bring you unhappiness.”
“Then I will be unhappy.”
He felt her drawing ever closer.
Coming to me…
Did she know how much, how very much, he wanted her to keep doing that? Even as part of him dreaded the consequences of it, for her?
Coming to me. She is coming to me. I can’t even meet her on the bridge, yet she is coming to me. Bringing all she is. Bringing all she’s trying to become. Coming to me.
Becoming… to me…
He knew it was an odd thought, to go with the others he’d had, this night.
It was time to hide himself, so that they wouldn’t meet on vulnerable, open ground. Time to lock himself away, so they could speak without fear of detection, or peril, for either of them. Time to move back into the shadows, and wonder if he shouldn’t just keep going, for her sake.
He knew he wouldn’t do that. Because he couldn’t.
She’s coming to me. The same way that… love has been coming to me. Fast, and uncertain. With reserve, yet fierce, with determination. She’s becoming someone else, each time we meet, each time her changes reshape her, a little more.
And so am I.
He knew it was true. There was scant sense in denying it.
Thank you, beautiful Catherine. Thank you for this feeling. Thank you for coming to me, beyond the bridge.
He abandoned the thick stand of trees for the gate, knowing he would be waiting for her.
Waiting for you…
When he knew she was on her way to him, “waiting for you” was a sensation he could almost bear, without complaint. The pleasure/pain of it was a living thing, inside his beating heart.
We’ll endure the pain… and savor every moment of the joy.
matter where you are in your own fairy tale,
Illustration supplied by the author